The Optimist

InterrogationRoom

 From Craigslist 

Acting Coach – One on One (Silverlake) 

Working producer and acting coach seeking new clients.
Reasonable rates.

Gretchen sat in the small room gulping down the water that she received  after much begging. Detective Puzzleman sat across from her staring at her like she was a bug under a glass.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a good cop,” she asked.

“That’s only in the movies. Besides, the only really bad guy in here is you.”

“I already told the other guy what happened.”

“Tell me, but don’t leave out the truth this time.”

“It was the truth,” she screamed, fighting back tears.

Puzzleman sat down and crossed his arms. Gretchen blew her nose and began to tell her story once again.

“I came to Los Angeles three years ago to pursue my dream of becoming an actress.”

Detective Puzzleman fought a smile. The woman was thirty-five if she was a day. Stringy brown hair framed a chubby pale face. He tried to imagine in what she thought she might be cast.

“I had been so busy working that I couldn’t go on many auditions,” she said looking down at the floor. I’d taken a couple of audition workshops, but the casting directors never noticed me.

I was forever looking at the Craigslist talent section. One day, I came across Tim’s ad.”

“What was the ad for?”

“For the umpteenth trillionth time it was for an acting coach.”

“What made you think an acting coach would work if everything else hadn’t?”

“It was a very convincing ad. It said that we would have three one hour sessions together and then he would put together a reel just for me. It said he’d worked as a casting director for 20 years.”

“I would have thought he was a scammer.”

“I did at first. But, I looked him up on IMDB. There was a Tim Harger who is a casting director. There was no picture of him, but everything there was consistent with what he said. He told me that he was in-between agencies and it just seemed like he knew what he was talking about.”

“What were the acting lessons like?”

“They were amazing. He  found the perfect parts for me. An ex stripper in a gritty story about a murder in the 1940’s, a married woman in love with her boss and then there was the scene he wrote just for me about a young lawyer defending an innocent man.”

Detective Puzzleman made a weird snorting noise.

“Continue please,” he said.

“So anyway, I felt a lot more confident when we started to make my reel. We filmed  the scene he wrote just for me. Then he said he wanted me to do a scene with another actor. He said the scene was set in a coffee shop. He said that there was no way we could really afford to have a shoot in a coffee shop as it would have cost thousands of dollars, so we were going to do it ghetto style,” she said making air quotes.”

“Ya, mean just go in there and shoot it without telling them that you are shooting it?”

“Right, so his sister Jill, my scene partner comes over to his house and we rehearsed the scene…”

“So he didn’t have a studio space or anything?”

“Well, no, I mean he was just using his house, right then.”

“Where was this house located?”

“Downtown.”

“He had a house in downtown Los Angeles?”

“Well, his apartment.”

“I see. Did he have a dedicated room for this?”

“Well, I mean he lived in just one room.”

“He was in a studio?”

“Yeah.”

“And you believed he was a successful casting director? Was it a toney building, at least?”

“Well, I mean it was the Rossyln.”

“Oh, the lofts?”

“No.”

“The Hotel Rossyln?”

“Yeah.”

He just stared at her for a long moment. She looked down at the floor.

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to interrupt your story. Please go ahead.”

“Well, We rehearsed this scene from a play in which this troubled woman is thinking about killing her husband. She caught him cheating with her best friend and she can’t forgive him. My character has most of the dialog. Jill only had two lines. She asks me why I want to do it and how I want to do it.”

“What play was it from?”

“It was called Man Slaughter.”

“Who wrote the play?”

“Dorothy Parker.”

The Detective Googled the play on his phone to see that it did not exist. Gretchen rolled her eyes.

“What exactly were your lines?”

“You want me to do the scene for you? “

“I got some time.”

“Okay, well do you want to just call action or what?”

“Action,” he said with a mean smile.

“Up could you que me too. I mean after you say action could you say, ‘How ya been doin’?’

“Action, How ya, been doin?”

“Last night I was layin’ in bed and I was thinkin’ about her.. just her, not him. I started thinking about all the times I confided in her….ya know like when I told her about intimate details of our relationship and stuff. Did she go right back to him and tell him what I said?”

Gretchen played with an imaginary napkin. She seemed to be attempting to cry.

Detective Puzzleman pushed the Twitter app on his phone.

“So, I realized that as long as she was alive I was always gonna… just..I was always gonna be haunted by memories of that…that I was never gonna sleep again. I think I’ve had like twenty hours of sleep in the last six weeks. I can’t eat. I drink and it just it makes me so sick. So I got so crazy that last night I went out and I bought a gun, a shotgun, like for hunting.

This is where my scene partner said would say, ‘are you kidding’ and then I would go on.

I’m not saying I’ll use it or anything. I’m just saying I have it; ya know. “

“So you rehearsed it and then went to a coffee shop to film it?

“Yeah we did.”

“The wait staff wasn’t suspicious when they saw you guys filming?”

“No, we used IPhones, not cameras. People film themselves doing everything now a days.”

“I would think it would be a bit different if someone was filming you.”

“Jill and I filmed each other. First from her side and then from mine.”

“You used your own phones?”

“no, his.”

“I see. How long were you there?”

“About an hour and a half.”

“Did he ever give you the actual reel?”

“No, he didn’t.”

“What happened when you asked him for it.”

“He just kept stalling. After a while he stopped answering the phone.”

“Three weeks after this conversation was tape recorded Samantha Hodgens was found murdered at the Alexandra. You were seen on camera going into the Alexandra.”

“I went to meet Jill.”

“What a coincidence.”

“It was a set up.”

“By who.”

“Tim and Jill.”

“Why would they do that?”

“He wanted to kill his ex girl friend and rob her.”

“Oh come on Gretchen, admit it. You were friends with Jill, you started going out with her brother. He told you about his crazy ex-girlfriend who lived at the Alexandria and had a stash of cash and jewelry. You caught him cheating with her, so you decided to help yourself to the goods and eliminate the competition in the process. Fortunately, his sister knew how nuts you were and tape recorded a conversation she had with you at lunch where you basically confessed to your motive.”

“No, I met him on Craigslist, he did the coaching and introduced me to his sister. We made the reel and then I didn’t hear from him for a while. I ran into his sister outside of my building one day and she told me that if I met her at her room at the Alexandria, we could go to Tim’s apartment and get the reel. “

“Then where is the video you made?”

“They must have erased the video. She must have been tape recording me with the recording app on her cell phone. “

“We found a sawed off shot gun in a locker at the Greyhound bus station, along with a pair of diamond earing belonging to one miss Samantha Hodgens.  We found the locker key in your bag How did it get there?”

“I have no idea.”

Detective Puzzleman got up and told her that he would be right back. Gretchen bust out into tears.  She tried to tell herself that everything would be okay.  She wondered if she would go to jail.  She had a vision of herself rotting away. She imagined being raped and beaten and locked in solitary confinement.

She cried until she couldn’t anymore. She wondered when the detective would return. She imagined that he was preparing for her arrest. She wondered if her parents would get her a lawyer; maybe they would get a good one. Maybe she would have to go to jail for a while and then she would be exonerated. She imagined going on “The View” and being interviewed by Oprah.   Maybe someone would see her and see something in her that would bring her opportunity. She began to brighten as she heard footsteps in the hallway.

Charlie Manson’s Greatest Hits Part I

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Oscar Tubington was a bastard: at least that was the general consensus. When he was 35 he impregnated his secretary Abigail and she had insisted that he leave his wife for her. He didn’t want to get a divorce, but Abigail threatened to go to the authorities about the cocaine that he often romanced his clients with.

His wife had been furious and attempted to sue him for fifty percent of his talent agency.  He hired a team of lawyers and she got a modest bungalow and child support until their ten-year-old daughter turned eighteen.

He and Abigail got married right after their baby was born and they had stayed married for some twenty years and had two more children together. Their marriage ended when Oscar’s car stalled out on the train track and he was killed by an oncoming Amtrak. He went to the afterlife and was sitting in the waiting room to see exactly what came next.

A woman’s voice called his name and he was lead to a small office that contained a woman who was so fat she resembled a lounge chair with a head sticking out of it.  She was sitting on a reinforced loveseat. There was a beanbag chair directly across from her and she motioned for Oscar to sit down. He fell gracelessly into the beanbag chair and introduced himself.

“I know who you are, Mr. Tubington. I’m your judge.”

“My judge? What do you mean exactly, my judge?”

“I get to decide if you go to Heaven or Hell.”

“What, are you fucking kidding me? You’re God?

“I didn’t say that. I said I get to decide where you go.”

“And who might you be?”

“I’m Karen Kraft. We went to Jr. High together. You called me fat and made fun of me because I had a learning disability. I was like ten pounds overweight at the time. As you can see, I developed a horrible eating disorder.”

“This is my fault?”

“You and your friends.”

“I was like twelve.”

“Yes, I know, but so was I. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but you were a complete schmuck. You cheated on both of your wives. You emotionally abused your children and you ran a dishonest business.

“I gave to charity.”

“For a tax shelter.”

“I patronized the arts. I owned a gallery.”

“In Portland. You opened it there because you knew you could get artist and buyers to come from California and buy and sell art in Portland, because there is no state tax there.”

“So obviously. I’m going to Hell.”

“Not necessarily, you may be able to redeem yourself.”

“How?”

“Well, were running a little social experiment up here. You may be able to assist us.”

“What kind of social experiment?”

“Well, we’ve been doing a little study of history’s greatest monsters. We’re trying to find a common thread. We are particularly interested in the cases of Hitler and Charles Manson. “

“Why them?”

“They were both failed artist.”

“Oh yeah, I remember hearing that Charles Manson tried to get into the Monkees.”

“Well, that’s an urban legend, he was in jail at the time. But he did try to make it as a singer and songwriter! If fact that has to do with your assignment. In the world you were a talent agent, yes?

“”Yes! And a good one.”

“Well, we believe that if Charles Manson had been a successful artist, the whole Manson Family Murders may never have happened.”

“So what do you want me to do?

“We want you to travel back in time and make sure that Charles Manson gets signed to a record deal.

“And if I am successful.”

“You’ll jump through that hole and right into the delivery room where you will be reborn,” She said pointing to a hole in the corner of the office.

“And if I fail?”

“Hell.”

Oscar sighed. He signed the paperwork and agreed to go back in to me and see what he could do. He was dressed in an enormous aluminum suit. He leaped off what appeared to be a cliff.

Oscar awoke to the sound of an old fashion alarm clock. The room he was in was pitch black. He turned on the light to find himself in a cheap motel room. He took a shower and dressed in a wide lapel suit that had been laid out for him.

A delivery boy knocked on the door and handed him a San Francisco Chronical, coffee and a bagel. He looked at the date on the newspaper, it was March 22, 1967. He thumbed through the paper and saw that there had been a coup in Sierra Leone and that there had been an oil spill in Europe. He finally landed on the want ads and saw that an ad had been circled for a talent scout in the music industry.

Oscar picked up the rotary phone and dialed the number.

Why Do I Make Less Money Than Jennifer Lawrence?

jlaw

In 2014 North Korea hacked into Sony’s computer system and it was revealed that Jennifer Lawrence and other female actors made less money than many of their male counterparts. Recently, superstar Ms. Lawrence wrote an article for Lena Dunham’s  Lenny newsletter  entitled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-stars.”  In the article she says that she has kept her mouth shut about the revelation for so long because she didn’t want to appear difficult or spoiled.

Ms. Lawrence mostly blames herself for the fact that she didn’t get paid as much as her co-stars.  She acknowledges the fact her problems are not relatable to most woman and says that, when negotiating salaries for “American Hustle” she, gave up early.

“I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need,”  she said.

She also acknowledges that she is not sure if it was her sex or her age that caused the inequity.

She writes that although her financial situation may not be relatable, she does think that many women can relate to letting their desire to be liked get in the way of expressing their opinion and getting something that they want for fear of being perceived a brat.

In spite of the fact that Ms. Dunham gave Ms. Lawrence the opportunity to be heard by a large audience, Ms. Lawrence confesses to an unwillingness to do even one single solitary bit of research for the article.

“We’ve only been able to vote for what, 90 years? I’m seriously asking — my phone is on the counter and I’m on the couch, so a calculator is obviously out of the question.”

Her unwillingness to do research results in the devaluation of her own argument. She writes that one thing the Sony hack revealed was a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a “spoiled brat.” She says that she does not think a man would be referred to as a spoiled brat. If she had just employed Google she would have seen that this was not accurate. Justin Beiber and Chris Brown are called brats all the time.

I am not sure why Jennifer Lawrence was considered the best person to write about this topic, as she has contributed to sexism in our culture by participating in the long establish practice of Hollywood ageism against woman.

In the movie, “American Hustle” she plays a character based on Cynthia Marie Weinberg who was many years her senior. The real Weinberg was not the ditz portrayed by Lawrence if the film, but a key witness in the Abscam case. She was also not an exceptionally glamourous looking person. The role should have gone to a more mature plainer looking woman, but Hollywood is sexist ageist and looksist, so Ms. Lawrence got the part and financially benefited. One might think she was the best actress for the role, but she spend the film going in and out of an overdone Brooklyn accent.

She was also cast in the role of Tiffany in David O. Russell’s  “Silver Lining Playbook.” Other people considered for the role were Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Banks both of whom are closer in age to the leading man in the film, Bradley Cooper. Mr. O’Russell said that in spite of the fact that she was too young, she got the part because her audition was exceptional.

Although she gives a good performance in that movie, I can’t help but think box office draw had something to do with her getting the part. Some of it also has to do with gender, they never would have cast a 21-year old to play the male lead, no matter how good he was.

Much of Ms. Lawrence’s popularity comes from the fact that she fulfills a male fantasy. She is beautiful with a symmetrical face and a perfect figure. Her public persona is of a woman that doesn’t worry about ruining that figure because she drinks, eats and smokes with the best of them. She isn’t overly sensitive like other chicks. She even says fucking several times in the lennyletter.com article. How very ballsy it is to say fucking.  Men see this and believe that she is actually like that and hence the perfect woman for them.

To be fair the male answer to this is Robert Downey Jr. Mr. Downey’s public persona is that of a tall, dark handsome man who is also witty and sensitive. Woman want to believe he is like this in real life and there is someone out there just like that for them. (There isn’t)

The notion that Ms. Lawrence or any of her co stars male or female negotiate their own deals  is preposterous. Any celebrity is like a small corporation and a team of lawyers agents and managers negotiate on their behalf.

Lennyletter.com espouses itself to be a feminist website, it features interviews and articles with prominent woman from around the country. Although Ms. Dunham has been accused of racism there are women of color on the blog.

If you are going to have an article about pay inequity in America there are millions of women who are more effected by this than Ms. Lawrence. There are many women who make less than their male counterparts and some of them may want for food, shelter child support and medicine.

Some of these woman may have been discriminated against and some, like Ms. Lawrence may be afraid to assert themselves for fear of being perceived as difficult. When this fear results in actually financial jeopardy then it is a real tragedy and one worth writing about.

When she decided that she wanted to run a piece on pay inequity Ms. Dunham did not reach out to any of the many working class women around the country. She could have done a little research and found many blogs on the subject.  Instead she specify reached out to Ms. Lawrence; one must ask why she would do this?

Mr. Dunham’s screen persona is that of a delusional, self-absorbed and neurotic young woman who fails at much of what she tries. In actuality she is a shrewd and astute Hollywood power player who is as brilliant a business woman as she is a writer. She knew that by featuring Ms. Lawrence she would get more hits on her website than if she featured some nobody. In fact most of the woman who write for the site are famous.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am.  I am homely, lower middle class woman who works in a call center and experiences looksism and sexism on a daily basis. I want my voice heard and it won’t be. I am more of an expert on this stuff then Jennifer Lawrence. Ms. Lawrence’s article got much press attention and many hits. Only a tiny handful of people will read this post.

If it sounds like I have something against Ms. Lawrence or Ms. Dunham I do not. I am a huge fan of Ms. Dunham’s work.  I think she is another Woody Allen which is the biggest complement I can give to anyone. I actually think Ms. Lawrence is a good actor most of the time, I just don’t think she should have been the first choice to write about this subject.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am late for the graveyard shift.