Tag Archives: los angeles

DIY: Stay at Home Dan

I returned from Los Angeles late last night where I was shooting a 7-minute version of a sitcom pilot I’ve written with Ben Brooks and Renée Percy. The name of the sitcom is “Stay at Home Dan”; the name of the pilot episode is “Chick Magnet”.

The three of us financed, produced, directed and starred in it ourselves. We had a wicked crew consisting of director of photography John Schmidt, production manager Brandi Wright, sound recordist Sean Oakley, gaffer Carlos Jackson and grip J.R. Latouche. We also had a great supporting cast with Jessica Sattel, Pete Gardner and Jay Malone.

Now begins my favorite step in the process: editing. It’s the part where I finally get to write the story.

Here are some production stills:

Ben Brooks and Renée Percy in Stay at Home Dan

Ben Brooks and Renée Percy in Stay at Home Dan

Simon Fraser in Stay at Home Dan

Simon Fraser in Stay at Home Dan

Jessica Sattel in Stay at Home Dan

Jessica Sattel in Stay at Home Dan

Pete Gardner in Stay at Home Dan

Pete Gardner in Stay at Home Dan

Jay Malone in Stay at Home Dan

Jay Malone in Stay at Home Dan

cast & crew in Topanga State Park

cast & crew in Topanga State Park

33 Feet From The Middle of The Road

It was 4:34 in the morning. Streaks of indigo were reaching from beyond the Eastern horizon to mix with the midnight blue still hanging over the Pacific. Two magpies were atop the neighborhood’s trees, calling out their morning duties. There was no snooze button to make them stop.

Freddy was sheltered from the natural alarm, inside his small dim bedroom, his body stretched out under two thick duvets, his head softly surrounded by four pillows, unconscious, dreaming of a message he would forget as soon as…

The phone rang.

James, Freddy’s roommate, would not answer the phone. James always disconnected his phone from its jack before going to bed.

In his dream, Freddy had been in the produce section at Rock’n’Roll Ralph’s, 7257 Sunset Blvd., tolling the number of pretty girls, when suddenly a head of lettuce began ringing. He looked at it strangely; he’d never heard lettuce ring before. He reached for the head of lettuce and suddenly found himself…

Awake, naked, standing at his desk, halfway between night and day, with a phone in his hand.

“Hello?” came a recognizable voice from the other end of the line.

“Hey,” Freddy replied, wiping the crust from his right eye. There was a pause.

“What the fuck are you doing?” It was Max.

“Hey, I was… uh… sleeping.” Another pause.

“Oh. What time is it there?”

“Four-thirty. Where are you?” The conversation ran at an octogenarian pace, as satellite communicated with satellite over the Atlantic Ocean and into two different sets of civilization.

“I’m at Heathrow.”

“Oh ya, you’re… in Britain, right?”

“Not for much longer, thank God. I fly into Kennedy today.”

“What’s wrong? You don’t like the rain?”

“No, I don’t like the cops.”

“Bobbies got you down?” Freddy asked, wiping the salt from his left eye.

“No, man, the friggin’ parking cops. Lemme tell you –”

“Hold on,” Freddy said, laying the receiver down on the desk, grabbing yesterday’s underwear from the floor and hoisting them up around his crotch.

He sat down on his wonky office chair, pulled a cigarette from the pack on the desk, lit it and returned to the long distance call.

“Go,” he told Max.

“So I’m here for four weeks, right? The production puts me up in this flat in Stepney, really nice place. Jacuzzi bathtub, a little balcony, great view, and, I was told by the production co-ordinator, I had parking so if I wanted to rent a car –”

“Right,” Freddy blurted in mid-satellite transmission.

“I could. And they would pay for it,” Max finished.

Freddy yawned. “So what’d you get?”

“An MG.”

“Nice,” Freddy commented.

“They were paying for it,” Max continued, “so I figured, ‘What the hell? I’ll go all out.’ Now this parking space is actually a pad, y’know, a little area in front of the flat. Used to be grass and dirt, now it’s interlocking bricks.”

“Yeah, I know what a parking pad is.”

“Okay, so I’ve got the MG parked down there and the second day I have it, I go down to drive to set and I got a ticket. They call them Penalty Charge Notices. The infraction says I was parked on the boulevard.”

“Were you?”

“No, the pad is small but the car fits. I wasn’t blocking anything. It’s not even a fucking boulevard; it’s a road. So I figured the ticket weasel made a mistake for some reason, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s in his nature. Anyways, I go to work, come back, go to sleep, wake up, next day, I got another ticket. Same infraction: parking on boulevard.”

“What the –”

“I’m like ‘What the fuck? I’m not on the boulevard. I’m on my parking pad.’ I go to work, come home, I leave a note for the prick on the dashboard: ‘Warden Gupta, Stop giving me tickets for parking in my parking space. Your truly, Max Rasche, Resident, 49 Old Church Road.'”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah for about a week. Then I get another ticket for parking on the boulevard; this time it’s from Warden Smythe-Roy. They switch them up, huh? To keep it fresh.”

Freddy ran his hand over his face, seeing where circumstance was taking his friend.

“So I changed the note. ‘To All Parking Wardens, I am not on the boulevard. I am on my parking pad. Inquiries can be addressed to Simpleton Lanes Productions…’ And I left the phone number for the production office.”


“Anyways, another week goes by, no tickets. Then third week, Monday, I get a ticket for parking on the boulevard, Tuesday, I get a ticket for parking on the boulevard. Wednesday, I wake up. I go downstairs, fully expecting to see a ticket for parking on the boulevard. Guess what?”

“Car’s gone.”

“They fucking towed me. Out of my parking pad! And the only way they could have done that is by trespassing on private property. So I was just fuming. But I had to get to work so I put off all those emotions, got to work late, finished early, luckily, took the tube back home – and what a joy that is. You want proof that dental care in England is non-existent? Take the subway.”

“So what happened?”

“I get home. I open up the phonebook and start looking for who I should call about this – the Transport Committee. I call the number. They say, ‘Oh no sir, we handle the parking meters.’ I call the next number: ‘No sir, we handle the parking lots.’ Third number, parking enforcement – these are the pricks. I get the guy on the phone, I say, ‘I’m trying to find out if my car’s been towed or stolen.’ I give him the plate number. He goes away, comes back a minute later, tells me that the computers are “on the blink” and he doesn’t know if they’ve towed my car or not. So he gives me the phone number for the towing company.”


“Right, so I call the towing company, give the lady the plate number. She comes back ten seconds later, ‘Yes sir, we have your car, that’ll be 120 pounds and I’ll need to see your license.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Slow down, Speed Racer.'”

“She probably didn’t get that reference.”

“No, you’re right, they never had Speed Racer over here. But I was at a loss. One second, I have a car; the next, someone else has taken it and is demanding 120 pounds for me to get it back. I was about to go off, y’know, I was ready to lose it. But then I realized, ‘Y’know what, this lady is just another wage slave, getting rammed by taxes which eat up fifty percent of her income. The towing company is outsourced by the municipal council; there’s nothing she could do for me even if she wanted to.’ So I got the address of the impound lot and hung up.”

“120 pounds?! That’s like 250 bucks.”

“Yeah. But even if I got the car out, I still didn’t have anywhere to park it. I wasn’t gonna park downstairs again and get towed tomorrow and rack up another 120.”

“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let you –”

“Oh it gets better.”

“I’m listening.”

“So I needed to find a parking spot. And the neighbors across the street, they have a parking pad just like mine and they aren’t getting any tickets. So what’s so damn special about my parking pad? So I called parking enforcement back, the guy with the computers on the blink. Someone else answered, a real prick, he was really short with me.

“I said to him, ‘Listen, I’ve got these five parking tickets plus the one waiting for me at the impound lot and they all have the same infraction – parking on boulevard – but the thing is I’ve got a parking pad in front of the place–‘ He says, ‘You’ve got a pad?’ I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘It exists, right now?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it exists, I’m looking at it, right now; there’s the road, there’s the sidewalk, there’s my parking pad.’

“He says, ‘Well sir, the boulevard is our enforceable area. It’s ten meters from the middle of the road.'”

“Metric bastards,” Freddy piped up.

“But here’s the thing – ten meters from the middle of the road is actually inside the house! So if I was to sit on the sofa for too long – say I’m watching Braveheart – they could give me a ticket. Y’know?”


“So he tells me that if I want to park there I’m gonna need a permit. I’m like, ‘Why do I need a permit to park my car on my parking pad?'”

“What’d he say?”

“‘Because it’s the law, sir.'”

“That doesn’t answer your question.”

“I know! Then he starts in, ‘Without the law, sir, anarchy, anarchy –‘”

“Aw Jesus.”

“So I hang up on him, I look in the phonebook again, I find the phone number to call to apply for a front-of-house parking permit. I call the number, out of service.”


“I call the main parking permit number. They tell me I have the wrong number. I’m like, ‘Yeah I know, your other number is out of service.’ She asks, ‘Did you get it out of the phonebook?’ I say, ‘Yeah I did.’ ‘Well that’s the wrong number, sir. There’s a typo in that number.’ So she gives me the right number, it’s one digit off the number in the book. I call them – the front-of-house parking permit people.”


“Yeah, y’know that feeling you get when you go through this bureaucratic bullshit and you get the last number and you know this is the number that matters. Whoever answers this number is the man or woman who can actually do something for you. Well I got that feeling. The lady answered and I was the nicest guy in the world, ‘Hello how are you today? How is your day going? I have something maybe you’d like to help me out with.’

“I give her the address, she goes away for a minute, she comes back: ‘Well sir I have some bad news for you. We can’t let you park there, you can’t apply to park there and you can’t appeal this.'”


“Yeah, they won’t let me park there, they won’t let me ask them to let me park there and they won’t let me complain about not being able to ask them to let me park there.”

“Their ass is covered and their hands are tied.”

“Exactly. So I said, ‘But the neighbors across the street –‘”

“The Joneses.”

“Right. ‘The Joneses across the street have the exact same pad and they park there fine and dandy.'”

“You used the word ‘dandy’?”

“Yeah. I was speaking her language.”

“So what did she say?”

“She said, ‘Well sir, they probably got their permit before the Road Traffic Act was passed in 1991 and your local council took over parking enforcement.’ Apparently, one of the councillors in Stepney thought it would be a brilliant idea to ban parking on all front-of-house parking pads from then-on-in.”


“Who knows?! Maybe he’s a fan of unobstructed interlocking brick. So I said to her, ‘Let me see if I understand correctly… According to the City of London, according to the Grand Dame of the Western hemisphere, I’m screwed?'”

“What’d she say?”

“‘For lack of a better way to put it, sir, that is correct.'”

Freddy laughed and butted out his cigarette, “That’s classic.”

“So for the past week here, every time I’ve left the flat, I’ve had to look at a car-sized waste of space.”

“You didn’t go get the car?!”

“No, I didn’t have anywhere to park it. Plus I couldn’t have gotten it out anyways; it wasn’t in my name. Plus the international driver’s license I’ve been using is hot. I bought it off one of the P.A.’s on the first day of shooting.”

“So the car’s still impounded?”

“I dunno. I told the co-ordinator what happened and she said she’d get someone to take care of it. So I dunno. I’ve been taking the tube to work for the last week.”

“So you don’t have to pay for anything?”

“Oh I have to pay. Y’know what I have to pay for?”


“All the local fucking phone calls I made to try to find out why the municipal government here sucks royal ass. They charge you for local phone calls here! Can you believe it?”

“What a rip-off.”

“I fucking hate this country.”

Bing-bong, Freddy heard in the background of the line.

“I think they’re boarding me now.”

“Alright, well thanks for waking me up,” Freddy said, yawning again. “You’re back in New York tonight?”

“Yeah, this afternoon, New York time.”

“Have a good flight home.”

“Thanks. I’ve got a couple prescription muscle relaxants from one of the other actors so I’m going to have a very good flight home.”

Mr. Sleepy Head

When it was overcast in Los Angeles, it sometimes came as a welcome respite from the dreary monotony of sunshine and stable temperatures. Freddy described it in this way: “God decided to be original today.”

It was for this very reason – originality – that depthless low clouds frightened and confused the mass subconsciousness of those who wielded any kind of power in the California fairytale – it meant they had no originality of their own. Anything new or different or beyond their comprehension frightened them, some more than others of course.

But the source of their terror was always consistent – the other, the unqualified. There were (and are) no real artists in Los Angeles, only artists’ reps. And Freddy had at long last begun to understand the universality of old Tommy S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. He was in it, and he’d sold his soul long ago. He’d cut it up in his own abatoire and practically gave it away from free. And what had he now? But for his memory, which he knew would someday fail, and his health, which he never fully had and what he did have was dwindling with the years.

He’d discovered a 24/7 hair salon four doors down from his 24/7 donut shop. And at 3AM on a Friday morning, he found himself walking to the salon to have his head shaved clean.

He didn’t know why. No one knew why.

The first and previous occasion that Freddy had radically altered his lid was at the age of seventeen. He was living with his mother on the eighth floor of an apartment building (they would live there for a year before moving to the cheaper building beside it). It was three in the morning and Freddy had been tossing and turning for five hours, unable to sleep, without reason.

Everytime he closed his eyes, his brain would go into third eye overdrive. Images and memories flashed at him, something he heard that day, someone he saw, something he smelled, a haunting valve that would not turn off. It confounded him until, at 3AM, drastic measures were needed.

He rose out of bed, stumbled to his bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror. “What’s your problem?” he asked his equally-frustrated reflection. “Why can’t you go to sleep?” he pleaded.

He turned on the hot water and cupped his hands beneath the faucet. Lukewarm, warm, warmer, hot; he bent over and splashed the water in his face, hoping its liquid heat would calm his nerves. He wiped his hands over his face and ran his fingers through the dark brown mop on top of his head. He grabbed the strands and yanked at them with frustrated intensity. And somehow, for some reason that only a wise man would know, that seemed to provide Freddy with an answer.

If he cut his hair, he could get to sleep.

It made absolutely no sense – what one had to do with the other, Freddy did not know. He only knew that he had to try.

He grabbed a pair of scissors from the top left drawer of the small desk in his bedroom. He stood facing the three-sided mirror in his bathroom; he looked at each of his reflections and asked them, “Are you gonna stop me? Are you? What about you? I defy any of you to stop me.”

But none of his reflections could stop him from methodically cutting off lock after lock of his rich beautiful hair, his only true vanity, his hair, the first love-hate relationship he ever had, his flowing uncontrollable hair. Cut, snipped, chopped, hacked, beheaded like royals in 18th Century France, with extreme prejudice. He didn’t know what it was, disguised in self-destruction.

In ten minutes, he was done with it; he brushed the remnants off the counter top, into the sink and sent them packing down the drain with a splash of lukewarm, warm, warmer, hot. He turned off the light and returned to his bed. He then very promptly drifted into the ether he’d so been craving.

Freddy woke up five hours later and prepared for school, not noticing the clumps and clippings of hair that were laid to rest upon his pillow. He went into the kitchen where his mother was pouring herself a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. She took one look at Freddy and, aghast, screamed and spilled her mug of joe on the floor.

“What the hell have you done to yourself?!”

“Oh I cut my hair,” Freddy replied plainly.


“Around three this morning.”


“I couldn’t get to sleep.”

“And you thought chopping your head to shreds would help?!”

“It worked.”

“You look like you’ve been to a cancer ward!”

She was right. He did look like he’d been to a cancer ward. He’d never cut hair before, let alone his own. There were wildly different lengths atop his head, clumps and chunks missing, too short here, too long there. As the old self-effacing saying goes, he looked like he’d gotten into a fight with a lawnmower and the lawnmower had won.

“Whatever. I don’t care,” he told his mother, “I’m gonna be late for school.”

“You’re not going to school like that. Come here,” she instructed him, setting up Freddy’s old childhood high chair for the ceremony. “Sit down, I’m going to try to make you look presentable.”

She did the best she could to give his hair a more common length. There were still four or five large craters in his fallicle topography but the salvage effort was relatively successful. Rodin could not have sculpted the damage better.

Freddy went through his morning classes to the snickers of teenagers who knew no subtlety. But then, neither did Freddy by the looks of things. He stood out like chum stains on a wedding dress (don’t ever get married on a fishing boat).

Some of the “popular kids”, in all their glorious weakness, teased him about having cancer. “And what if I do?!” Freddy sniped back at them. Dumbfounded and skeptical, they had no answers. Even one of his teachers asked him if he had cancer. “No, I don’t have cancer,” he replied, flabbergasted at the teacher’s tactless stupidity. He had only wanted to get to sleep and couldn’t understand or condone the curious attention he was receiving as a result.

By lunchtime, someone had scrawled in black marker on Freddy’s light orange locker, “Keemo!”

The bourgeois insolence!

The unmitigated gall!

The poor grammar!

“It’s spelt C-H-E-M-O, you fucking morons!” Freddy yelled down the crowded hallway and echoed throughout the school. “Learn to spell!!!”

He was maverick at the worst of times.

On Official Dream Business

Freddy had a dream that woke him at 5:30 in the morning. He was in a restroom – the type you would find in a restaurant or small office – a shitter against one wall, a urinal against another, a sink against a third, no stall or dividers, one door.

Freddy (or “Dream Freddy”) was sitting on the toilet having finished his business a moment before. He noticed that the door was slightly ajar; not the best scenario in which to begin a dream.

Of course, as soon as Dream Freddy realized the door was open a sliver, it opened wide and another man entered the restroom. He was tall, perhaps 6’4″, thin, black shirt, black pants, black suit jacket, middle-aged and entirely rude. His entry caught Dream Freddy by surprise.

“Uh, occupied,” Dream Freddy said. But the stranger ignored him, went to the urinal and started to take a piss. “Excuse me!” exclaimed Dream Freddy sitting on the pot, “Occupied!”

The stranger ignored him and continued pissing, his back to the dreamer. Dream Freddy got to his feet, pulled up his pants, flushed. Noticing that the stranger was finishing his business at the urinal, Dream Freddy quickly moved to the sink, hoping to cut the jerk off, force him to atleast wait for the splash of water that would clean his hands.

Dream Freddy turned on the cold water and had his hands under the stream but for a moment before he was shoved aside by the stranger. He was stunned – what had he ever done to this stranger? Was the guy paid to be an asshole? Whose payroll was he on? And what had Freddy ever done to warrant such insult?

The stranger finished washing up as Dream Freddy stood there flabbergasted, then he stepped out as unaware of the first occupant as he’d been stepping in. “Excuse me?” Dream Freddy said as the man exited. The door closed behind him.

“What the fuck?”

And a little voice inside Dream Freddy’s head which was inside sleeping Freddy’s head said, “What are you gonna do about it, boy?” Like a slavemaster or white-hooded motherfucker telling a black man, “I defy you to defy me, nigger!” Like a gob of spit landing in the eye of his spirit. A castration of the authority of oneself. The non-existence of the self. That’s how it felt to Dream Freddy. “Fuck it,” he said and didn’t bother washing his hands. He went after the dream stranger.

As soon as he went through the doorway, he was in a wide open office area, like a bank or library. Without money or books. He was in a university or college of some sort. Cheap mustard-hued industrial carpet, desks and chairs and small filing cabinets scattered geometrically around the vast room. Not a computer or modern office device to be found; no dividers, no interior walls; he’d stepped into the past (or a severely underfunded institution).

Clerks and administrators sitting at their desks sifting through papers that had no meaning, typing words without thought on old oversized Olympic typewriters, transcribing, affixing, posting, wasting their most valuable resource – time to live.

Dream Freddy spotted the stranger making his way through the nostalgic maze of vintage office furniture to the glass doors (reinforced with wire mesh) which led outside.

Dream Freddy turned to a clerk, a pasty white woman in a frilly white blouse with gray hair dyed far too blond for someone of her pallor. A large pair of glasses rested upon the bridge of her nose, their cheap faux-gold chain slung around her neck. Her eyes never left the original copy of whatever it was she was transcribing; her fingers never left the keys – she was a “A-S-D-F-J-K-L-colon” girl all the way. She typed away, something so unimportant that she forgot each word as soon as it had been typed. Sentences meant nothing to her, paragraphs even less. Her life was measured in words per minute. And every word was an average of five letters.

Dream Freddy broke into her world, “Excuse me?”

She stopped; her wrinkled face, plastered with foundation and blush, looked up at him.

“Do you know that gentleman?” he asked her, pointing at the stranger. She shook her head. “I was going to the toilet and he walked in, refused to leave and shoved me away from the sink.” Dream Freddy still could not believe the unmitigated gall.

“What do you want me to do about it?” the old crag asked.

And the little voice in Dream Freddy’s head spoke once again: “What?! What do I want you to ‘do’?! Holy fuck, lady! Does anyone here know what good manners are?! Keep taking orders, bitch! Have a blind/bland life!”

Dream Freddy followed the stranger, pursued him, moving swiftly through the mindless quagmire of typists and obedience.

Then he was outside in the open air. Dream Freddy was walking along a wide concrete corridor adjacent to another building on campus. The building’s shaded glass windows concealed the activities within. On the other side of the corridor that ran the length of the building was a grassy slope with flowers and shrubs, an occasional set of perhaps ten steps which led down to an even wider pedestrian walkway of interlocking brick. An iron railing prevented anyone from trodding upon the grass, flowers and shrubs. Hundreds of students were coming and going or socializing in small groups, eager faces, happy voices, graded.

Dream Freddy followed the stranger, ten feet behind.

“Hey asshole! Hey fucko!” he taunted the stranger. A few students glanced at him – presumably those which had been called assholes and fuckos before.

The stranger kept walking.

“Hey cocksucker, didn’t anybody teach you it’s rude to intrude on someone in the crapper?!” The stranger’s head perked a little – as it occurred to him he might be the one being addressed. “Yeah that’s right, I’m talking to you, fuckface.”

The stranger stopped and turned. Some of the students turned their heads too; most kept moving though. Dream Freddy approached the stranger.

“Are you going to apologize or are you a complete asshole?” The stranger did not respond. He stood there with a small fire kindling in his eyes – a bully or a coward. The same shallow face of the high school senior who had shoved Freddy in the ninth grade, saying “Get outta my way, weasel,” for no other reason than the illusion of superiority. It had taken Freddy another fifteen years to have this dream, a decade-and-a-half of having to put up with these undeveloped problem children, these pathetic creatures buried to their noses in self-pity and delusions of otherness. Poor sods all.

“Are you listening to me, motherfucker?” Dream Freddy asked the stranger, every slur and curse another broken link in a chain. Students moved past them, unconcerned with their argument.

“Are you fucking deaf?! You fuck! I was using the restroom, fucknuts. You come in, you take a piss, you shove me away from the sink and you leave. Are you some kind of fucking moron?!”

The stranger didn’t say anything; he turned and started to walk away.

“Where d’you think you’re going? Hey!”

The stranger continued to walk away, as if Dream Freddy had merely been a dying mosquito buzzing around inside his dew-moistened tent.

“Hey!!!” yelled Dream Freddy, pushing the stranger hard from behind. The stranger stumbled forward a few steps then turned to face his attacker and finally spoke, “Don’t push me.”

“Don’t push you?… Don’t push you?!… Don’t!… Push!… You?!!”

Almost all the students in the corridor had heard him. He had everyone’s attention. But all Dream Freddy saw was this son of a bitch standing in front of him with his fists clenched and ready; his voice silent with power. Goliath.

“Fuck you!” screamed Dream Freddy in absolute rage as his right foot swung up quickly and he fucking hoofed the bastard hard in the gonads.

Whoomp! Time stood still as every student and pedestrian in the plaza who had stopped and watched could hear the sound and feel the force reverberate in their own sex organs. When the stranger crumpled to the concrete, a little part of everyone went down with him.

But even as he lay on the ground in what must have been complete and utter pain, the stranger still managed to conceal any emotion; he was that ignorant. A few students came to his aid; they said nothing to Dream Freddy who stood there wishing the stranger would rise to take a second kick in the nuts, and a third, a fourth, a fifth.

But the stranger did not stand. He had a look on his face that seemed to ask the question, “What am I doing here on the ground?” Pretty much everyone else in the plaza continued on, going about their business, off to lessons, off to learn only those things which can be taught, not those things that must be experienced.

And Freddy, the real Freddy, slowly floated up to the surface of the world, opened his eyes, stilled shrink-wrapped in crusty salt, and saw the dull blue Los Angelean pre-dawn light coming in through a window.

He looked at the clock, jerked off, took a shower, brushed his teeth and walked to the donut shop for a coffee. 6AM and he felt wonderful, magnificent, alive, and most of all, polite.

Call Waiting for Godot

The freeway wound through neighborhoods of broken dreams, its border walls brightened by the mid-afternoon sun which burned through the haze of exhaust perennially consuming the Los Angeles basin. Palm trees stood tall, their arms bouncing gently in the air. A non-fatal car accident had brought the northbound traffic on the 405 to a stand still – thousands of imports, hogs and pickups sat in line for the two-lane conduit past the crash.

A mile back, in an S.U.V., perched the Producer, frowning as he looked out ahead of him. Within the air-conditioned environment of his bastardized Land Rover, all he could hear were the cries of the woman on the other end of the carphone — speakerphone, “ON”.

The Producer sighed.

“Did you hear what I said?” asked the tragic young woman on the speaker.

“Yes, yes,” the Producer quickly responded, “Listen to me, I don’t know why you’re reacting like this. You’re perfect for the role and, ah –”

“But Peter said I didn’t have the depth.”

The Producer rolled his eyes and inched the vehicle forward the few feet the traffic would allow. “Forget what Peter said,” he calmly reassured her. “He’s the director – he’s only one cog in the wheel. And lemme tell you, it’s a pretty big wheel. If I say you get another shot at it, then you get another shot at it. You’re a Playboy playmate for crying out loud!”

BEEP-BEEP went the carphone, interrupting the Producer’s advocation. “Donna, stay on the line,” he told her. “I’ve got another call.”

The Producer tapped the “CHANNEL” key on the pad, initiating his next problem.

“Yeah?” the Producer began.

“Ira?” came the quiet squeak of another young woman.

“Hello! Who is this?” asked the Producer.

“It’s Lisa,” came the emotive reply.

“Lisa, hi, how are you?” The Producer remembered her from the party the other night in that suite at the Marmont.

“I’m terrible. I’m so terrible,” she burst forth with a hiccup.

“What’s wrong?” asked the Producer, though he had always preferred to know what’s right. Sushi, for instance, was always right.

“Everything!” she responded, her voice cracking like a log split by a French-Canadian lumberjack named Gaston. “I auditioned for Peter and I thought it went really well, y’know, but when I asked him, he said — he said — he said that I didn’t stand a chance in Hell. What does that even mean?!”

“Look, Lisa,” the Producer said, inching his vehicle forward. “He’s just the director –”

“I’m talented,” she shrieked.

“I know you are, Lisa,” he tried to calm her. “I wouldn’t be talking to you otherwise.”


Meanwhile, the Director emerged from behind the old oak wet bar on the bottom floor of his home nestled in a corner of the Hollywood Hills. In the gruff middle-aged taskmaster’s right hand was a double scotch on the rocks, not an uncommon sight at 3PM on a Tuesday. In his left hand was a sleek black cordless phone. He casually tapped in a number as he crossed his office/den to the leather chair and rosewood desk by the window.

The Director placed his glass of booze down on a cork coaster, reclined back in his chair and finished dialing. A busy signal. The Director pressed a series of numbers and listened again.

The computerized voice of a woman crackled through the connection, “The line is busy. You will be notified by special ringing when the line is free. Please hang up now.”

The Director pressed the “END” button and put the phone down on his desk. He sipped his scotch and looked out the window at the glorious flora which filled the canyon. He spied someone on a deck several hundred yards away. From beside his desk, he lifted a pair of Bushnell’s. He put them to his sockets and squinted to see the white bikini-clad sunbather.

“Hello,” he whispered to himself, “Back for more, are you?”

The phone chirped from the desktop. The Director remained glued to his subject. Another chirp from the phone. He laid the binoculars down on the desk and shook his head in amazement at the firmness of the hotchie mama across the way.

After a third ring of the phone, the Director picked it up.

“Ira?” he immediately asked.

“No, it’s Steve,” came the disappointing voice. The Director had been playing cat-and-mouse with Steve, the Writer, since the blue pages and they were already on to the goldenrods.

“What the Hell have you done to my script?” asked the Writer. It was not the first time the Director had been asked that question.

As is usually the case with members of the trade, the Writer went on to answer his own question. “You’ve totally rewritten the ending,” he explained. “Instead of an insane asylum, the main character ends up operating a midway ride at a county fair.”

“What’s the problem?” asked the Director, without much concern for the answer.

“She’s an insane mass murderer,” iterated the Writer. “Insane mass murderers end up in insane asylums!”

“Have you ever seen a midway ride operator at a county fair?” postulated the Director.

“That’s not the point,” argued the Writer, not truly knowing whether there’d been a point. He continued, “As far as I’m concerned, this rewrite is completely unacceptable and if this is the movie you’re going to make,” he demanded, “I don’t want my name in the credits.”

The Director picked up his binoculars again and returned his gaze to the sexy young thang on the other end of the lens.


“Uh-huh,” groaned the Director.

“Did you hear what I said?”

“Yup,” concurred the Director, unwilling to play ball with the high-maintenance scribe.


BEEP-BEEP is the only response the Writer heard as he paced around the Ikea decor – Bachelorossen to be precise – in the high-ceiling living room of the two-bedroom apartment on Beachwood Drive which he shared with one of those roly-poly actors from TV commercials.

“Aw Christ, hold on,” muttered the frustrated Writer to the barely present Director, “I’ve got another call.”

The Writer clipped down on the lever of his rotary dialosaurus, dipping down into the waters of ancient telecommunications only to come back up for…

“Hello?” he began.

“Is this Steven Shedbit?” asked a sultry velvet voice.

The Writer was taken aback, his most regular reaction to the providence of a sexy-sounding woman uttering his name. It couldn’t possibly be a collection agency.

“Yes. This is, this is heem,” he mumbled the words.

“Hi,” she said invitingly, “This is Penny Gingerbimbo. I’m going to be playing Jezebel from your script.”

The Actress. Ever since the Writer had read a biography of Arthur Miller, he had lusted for the Actress on every production in which he’d taken part. “Conquest-by-word”, he called it. But there was still the matter of the Director on the other line. Art! Art must be maintained above sex drive!

“Penny, yes. Listen, Penny, I’m on the other –” He didn’t get that far.

“I was reading through your script — great script,” the Actress interjected, “and I noticed that there’s an awful lot of swearing…” The Writer knew what was coming. “… and I was thinking…” The Actress always took a moment after saying this, before continuing with, “Maybe she could be a little friendlier.”

For the Writer, the answer was simple. He’d read the how-to’s and taken several courses in script structure, standard character arc, the 37 basic dramatic situations. He knew the archetype better than anyone, having spent much money on the real thing.

“She’s a hooker.”


“The character of Jezebel is a whore.”


There was a pause – his was of undying patience, hers of confusion.

“I thought she was a nun.”

“She has sex with men under the pretense of sex-for-money then she kills them,” said the Writer, preparing to name off plot points one, two and three.


“Oh, I guess nuns don’t do that,” said the Actress as she reclined on her cushioned patio chair, bathing in the yellow rays which fell to her deck. Bug-eyed shades concealed her peepers from the harsh sunlight while a skimpy white bathing suit revealed her pre-fab body to the same.

From the earpiece of her Nokia came the noise — BEEP-BEEP.

“Oh Steven,” she said, “There’s another call. Hold please.”

She pressed the “CHANNEL” button and continued like the good secretery she once was.

“Hello, this is Penny.”

A nasal middle-aged voice entered the earpiece of the Actress’ cellphone.

“Hello, is this…” A paper flapped in the background, then, “Penny Gingerbimbo?”

“Yes. This is Penny,” she repeated, already wanting to get back to the Writer and the direction of her arc.

“Hi, Penny, this is Sidney Vine,” he introduced himself. “I’m the Executive-in-Charge-of-Production on ‘Killer Hooker Fury’.”

The Actress thought, “Writer? What writer?”

“Oh hello, Mr. Vine.” She did not know how important the man on the other end of the line truly was, but she knew enough. For instance, she knew his title had four hyphens. She knew he was ‘studio’, all the way, to the max.

“Please,” he instructed her, “call me Sidney.”

“Okay, Sidney.”

“Great. Penny, I’m calling to congratulate you on getting the part of Jezebel.”

“Oh, yes, thank you, Sidney.”

“And… well, to be blunt, I think we should get together for drinks. Maybe discuss your role.”

Meanwhile, back in the bumper-to-bumper parking lot improperly named the San Diego Freeway, the Producer had finally calmed down one of his crying women.

“The role involves nudity, y’know? And I think –”

“I do nudity. I’ve done tons of nudity!” the woman revealed, though it was hardly a revelation.

“Lisa,” he cut to the chase, “as far as I’m concerned, you’re the only one who can pull this role off. Let me talk to my people and we’ll set up another meeting, okay?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Alright. I’ve got to go now, I’ve got traffic all around me, travelling at a very high rate of speed,” he said, inching his vehicle forward at 2MPH and returning to the first P.Y.T. crying to him over the carphone.


She was gone; nothing but a dial tone. The Producer clicked off the phone.

Temporarily deflated, with traffic at a dead stop, the Producer glanced out the passenger window at the knoll beside him. A recent work of graffiti had been sprayed on the border wall. It took the Producer a moment to translate the stylized font of the message which read, “Cova Yo Ass” [sic].

It took a moment to sink in but the Producer was soon dialing a number on the carphone.

The reflection of a mirror…

The reflection of a mirror in a bathroom reflecting the reflection of the mirror opposite it reflected in the mirror of a bathroom. Atop the clean smooth marble surface of the counter around the sink sat a soap pumper, a small bowl of mints, a condom dispenser and a think pile of aspiring actress’ photographs from which one could browse while conducting one’s business. The hand towels hanging by the door were emblazoned with the initials “S.J.V.”. Sitting on the toilet, his slacks crumpled to his ankles, was the Executive-in-Charge-of-Production, conducting his business with the Actress on his phone headset while he conducted his business on the head. He was looking at her headshot in his southpaw.

“Are you familiar with the Beverly Hills Hotel?” he asked her.

There was a knock at one of the executive bathroom’s two doors. The more accessible door. The Executive gently cupped the mouthpiece of the headset in his fist before barking, “Dammit, Bernie, I’m on the f’cking phone!”

From behind the door came the shellshocked voice of his assistant. “Sir, you have a call from Ira Gray on line two.”

“Tell him I’ll call him back,” shouted the Executive.

“He said it’s an emergency, sir,” said the muffled assistant.

“Hold on!” the Executive ordered with extreme prejudice then calmly returned to the Actress in the palm of his hand. “Penny, will you stay on the line? I have to take this call.”

“Sure,” she said, displaying immediate loyalty, “I’ll be here.”

The Executive leaned forward and pressed the “Line 2” button on the cordless waistpack clipped to the belt around his ankles.

“Ira, I’m in a meeting,” lied the Executive. “And we’re in pre-production. What could possibly be the emergency?”

“No biggie,” responded the Producer through the phoneline. “Sidney, listen, if anybody asks, we’re still casting for Jezebel.”

“What are you talking about? We finished this morning,” the Executive reminded him.

“I know, I know. But if anybody asks, we still are.”

“Who’s going to ask?” asked the Executive.

“Nobody,” the Producer assured him. “But if anybody does, then ‘Yes, we are still casting.'”

The Executive dropped the Actress’ headshot on the marble floor and scratched his head. “Ira, I’ve got Penny Gingerbimbo on the other line,” he told the Producer.

At the exact same moment, the Director was still sitting in his leather chair looking through his binocs at the attractive subject (who had recently been getting the attention of many men). She too had a phone to her ear.

“Who are you talking to?” asked the Director, to her, to himself, to the silence at the other end of his own cordless phone. Then, a click, and…

“Peter?” asked the Writer, returning to the Director, impatient with the Actress’ absence.

“Uh-huh,” replied the Director, the lens never leaving his eyes.

“I’ve got Penny Gingerbimbo on the other line and now SHE’S trying to rewrite my script!” the Writer complained to ears which had long been deaf to talk of integrity. Instead, the Director expressed jealousy.

“Why the Hell is she talking to you? Hang up on her. Now!”

Then came a long BEEP.

“Steve, hang up on her and come back to me, hold on,” the Director told him, then clicked a button on the phone, taking him over to his second line.

The computerized voice of a woman crackled to the Director, “The line has become free. Your call is being placed.” The line began to ring.

Back in traffic…

Back in traffic, the Producer explained the emergency to the Executive in a logline. “There’s still two more actresses I need to see,” he said into his carphone as he slowly glided past two crunched cars, an ambulance, three police cruisers and six towtrucks hustling for action on the 405.

“But we’ve already cast Penny,” the Executive reminded him, again.

And another BEEP-BEEP from his speakerphone caught the Producer’s attention. The LED display read “Caller Unknown”.

“I know, I know. Just hold on a second.”

The Producer clipped the Executive before he could continue and blindly took his next incoming call.


“Ira, it’s Peter,” began the Director.

Fortuity at last! thought the Producer. “Peter, great!” he exclaimed. “Listen, if anybody asks, we’re still casting for Jezebel.”

“I cast Penny Gingerbimbo this morning.”

“I know that!” uttered the Producer, becoming more frustrated with the world. “But if anybody asks, we’re still casting.”

“Jesus, Ira!” The Director complained, “I’ve got Steve Shedbit whining about script changes, now you’re telling me we’re still casting… I’m trying to remain calm!”

Executive outweighs Director, thought the Producer. “Peter, I’ve got Sidney Vine on the other line. Give me two seconds.”

“Wait, Ira –” was all the Director could get out before the Producer returned to the Executive.

“Sidney?… Sidney?” asked the Producer as he accelerated out of the traffic jam, free again.

Of course, by this time, the Executive had returned to the Actress. “Penny?” asked the Executive from atop the warm padded cushion of the toilet seat.

But he’d missed her by a moment. Needing to talk to someone – anyone – about her role, the Actress had returned to the Writer she’d had on hold. “Steven?” asked the Actress, her skin toning in the sun.

There was no response from the Writer who was on his other line, waiting for the Director to return to his call. “Peter! Peter! Come back and talk to me, Peter!” he said to himself, helpless.

And for one moment in time, one brief but ubiquitous moment, a sound could be heard eminating from every office, every loft, every apartment and home, every warehouse, production house, soundstage, photo studio, every agency and law firm in the City of Angels. The sound of a sigh, a release of air aimed to relieve the tension of everyday life. The defeated gasp of desperation. For one moment, everyone in Los Angeles was frozen in stasis. Suspended from a phonepole or satellite dish. On hold.

With the phone still glued to his ear, the Director slouched back in his chair. He took a sip of his scotch and shook the ice around. “I should move to France,” he told himself. “They’d respect me in France.”

The Producer sped northbound, past the Getty and upward through the Sepulveda Pass. He glanced at himself in the rear-view mirror and affirmed to his reflection, “All you’re asking for is two Playmates at once. Is that so much? You can do this.”

The Executive pulled on the last bit of an already-empty roll of toilet paper. “Bernie!” he screamed to his dim assistant, “Bring me some fucking toilet paper!!!”

“These people know nothing about art,” the Writer warned himself as he took a fresh hit of kind bud from the honeybear bong he’d been given by a friend who was an animator on The Simpson’s.

The Actress flipped through several pages of the Writer’s script. As she skimmed over one key scene, it finally and graciously dawned on her. “Oh yeah,” she said aloud, “she is a whore.”

Originally performed as a comedy sketch, The Rivoli, Toronto, 1997