Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hollywood Prep: Turning Down A Three-Way

Hollywood Prep is a series of posts of musings/advice for industry folk/industry observers, just in case it comes in handy. If it happened in my own experience and I can share or shine a light on some of the ludicrous or pensive obstacles, challenges or kooky situations that can arise in the Hollywood veldt, I'm glad to! I know what I know... Here we go.... - Karl

Photo by Karl Gibson
Situation: Turning Down A Three-Way

      It was 1998. I was working nights at an office on Sunset Blvd, right across from the Hollywood Athletic Club, on one side, and Cat and Fiddle Pub & Restaurant on the other

     This was 1998, not 2008, so it was still dicey and skeevy sometimes in those graveyard hours, depending on events or parties happening around the area. I'd go out onto the Boulevard on my work breaks and see guys and girls getting arrested for roofing each other, scattered nickel bags in the grass if the fire marshall came to shut a party down, the occasional mid-level studio temp smoking crack behind the CNN building...
     I'd watch the night life pass by as I willed my 5-year plan to come true ASAP and be a working member of the industry. 1998 was Year Two of my plan. I didn't know it but I had three more years to go before side jobs, night jobs, temp jobs would be a thing of the past for a good stretch of time.

     In the evening, before my third-shift job, I was acting in a play, 20 Questions, that was in the midst of a six -month run, between the Tamarind Playhouse (now The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater)  and the West Coast Playhouse. My dressing room at the Coast Playhouse had been the same one Samuel Jackson and David Hyde Pierce had used at points in their career, and if I could have said helpful prayers to their long shed sweat, I would have.

    And so it was one early morning, probably around 3 a.m., that I took a smoke break outside of my office on Sunset.  I had two agents, I'd let my manager go after she couldn't be bothered to see this long-running play I'd booked myself, and I was brainstorming when all of a sudden a huge stretch limo pulled over directly where I was standing alone in front of a huge, painted concrete plant enclosure. I tried to avert my eyes from the limo, assuming the pull-over in front of me had nothing to do with me.  It was late, there was no traffic, the limo was idling. 

   The passenger door of the limo's backseat swung open wide and there he was, an actor I recognized from his past award-winning television run. Next to him was a blonde woman in a lipstick-red, rubber micro-mini. I thought they needed...directions?

   "Hey, brother!" Actor X. said, leaning over in the expansive back seat to talk. "What are you up to right now?"

   "Hi," I answered. I didn't step up to the limo. "Just on a quick break."

   "Well, fuck that! I think you should get in with us and we all go to my place and have a good time. What'dya say? Got me a prime piece of A-list porn star ass, right here," he pointed to the blonde, with a Charo-Angelyne disco ponytail, who flashed lacquered nails and teeth in a cheerful wave as he motioned to her vinyl-crossed cleavage. "Just the three of us."

    The limo engine was running and I  looked at them both with a 3 a.m. on-the-clock gravitas and congenial smile. I could no sooner just leave work and have a threesome any more than I could build a hovercraft from scratch. Then I thought, is he high? I knew nothing of his personal life or anything - I hadn't watched his series in its prime or in repeats. He was a pleasant guy, but the whole proposition was ludicrous and indicative of time in the world I didn't have. Besides, I'd much rather have had the opportunity to act with him than have a three-way. It wasn't even a thought.

     "No, I'm fine, thank you! But have fun you guys!" I said, sounding like a sitcom waiting for the laugh track. What do you say? This was Hollywood! Sunset Blvd! 3 a.m.! Nothing out of the ordinary with the Hollywood Hills looming.

    "I didn't ask how you were," he laughed. " I can see how you are - you look pretty cool. All you have to do is come on! That's why we stopped!"

    "No, that's okay. I'm on a break! You know, like a work break. I work here, upstairs," I said, miming an elevator bank, the big-storied building, my office row... responsibilities.

    "Well, you're no fun!" Actor X said. The blonde lady giggled. "Tell you what: we're not going to bed anytime soon, we'll definitely be up for a while. How about you take down my number and call me when your shift is over and we'll take it from there?"

     I didn't know how else to say no without  being harsh, so I relayed another truth. "I don't have a pen," I shrugged. That should do it, I thought, knowing I'd be seen as lame. Yeppers, I'm no fun, door closes, off they go to PNP. Instead...

    "Well, guess what?" Actor X said, somewhat annoyed, rummaging through a compartment, getting out of the the limo, and striding past me to the concrete planter behind me. "I have a fucking pen, so now what?" He took out a Sharpie and proceeded to write his phone number on the planter like graffiti, in huge numbers, all except the area code. "See how we solved that?!"

     Now that's some serious chutzpah in a 555-5555 world. I couldn't believe he'd put his phone number out there for anyone to casually write down or crank call. He faced me and said, "Now there's no excuse. On your next break, write it down and call me when you're off." He didn't wait for an answer, just smiled, got back into the limo, the blonde winked, and he told the driver to go. 

    I went back into the office, the whole encounter surreal, and apologized for being late, told one of my cube mates, who'd just done a tv-movie with Cybill Shepherd,  what had happened. "And you came back? Here!?" she swooned.

    "Hey, Ros," I called to my shift manager. "Clock me out for another 10."

     I went to the break room, grabbed some 409 cleaning spray from under the sink, went back outside and spent my last break scrubbing Actor X's publicly scrawled phone number off the wall until it was a Rorschach blur. I neither wrote it down or remembered it. I did know he wasn't getting a call back and would think me an idiot, but I did him a solid. Friggin' actors, I thought, separated from him by a gazillion tax brackets and some practical thinking - it's always the cool people that save their asses- as I scrubbed his digits away before morning rush-hour traffic hit.

     My shift ended that morning, I went home and did what I always did after work: wrote cover letters, enclosed head shots (remember that?). No three-way, just my real-life in Los Feliz and the next professional step to get to. I chalked the whole thing up to absurdist comedy, A-list street theater. Seven years later I was inside the Hollywood Athletic Club covering premieres, after-parties and catching up with actors and producers I hadn't seen or worked with in years. Amazing to look across the street... just 15 steps... and know that's where I memorized lines and studied every trade magazine to forge a continuing creative, professional path for myself.
No short-cuts, just a plan.

  So, that's my A-list three-way-that-wasn't story. Trust me, I'm not judging. I'm just saying: whatever you do - stick to your plan. As for audacious, hilarious Actor X. - no harm done. Everybody's happy and working. And you're welcome, brother.


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