I called the number the creep on the bus had given me to find that Adrianne didn’t have any audience jobs till Wednesday. She asked me to send in a picture and told me she would get back to me; I never expected to hear from her again. I looked on Craigslist and found a company called Standing Room Only. They were casting audience members for a “revival of a game show that had been popular in the 90s”. I called the number and after being asked my age I was told to be at the LA Coliseum at noon the next day. I wondered what sort of catastrophe lay before me. Would I spend money on a bus ticket to find out it had been canceled or would they take one look at me and tell me to go home? I lay on my cheap airbed all night wondering what would happen. It had been several days since I’d eaten anything but the gas station junk food I’d bought with my Shell charge card.
I arrived the next day to find several long lines of people. My fears of being rejected for my looks were quieted as they were clearly taking anyone. They’re were several street derelicts there including a woman who told me she was going to go to McDonalds at lunch and beg for some French fries and a man who was getting drunk on the whiskey he had hidden in his thermos. There was a nice looking guy there about my age who passed the time in line flirting with a pretty 20-year-old girl who had cut marks all up and down her arms. We waited for two hours before going inside. I was upset to learn that the time clock didn’t start until you were inside. It turned out the show was American Gladiators.
I was handed a large Styrofoam finger and given a seat in between a handsome, but sleazy looking fellow and a plump Hispanic woman. The guys name was Tony he had several tattoos and told me he just got out of jail. He seemed to like me. In fact he made several attempts to grab my hand. He made fun of a woman in front of us who had a facial deformity. He sat in his seat and danced to the loud rap music that was played on the loud speakers. They’re were a lot of people doing this. I felt scared and out of place.
The contests involved ordinary people competing against body builders. Layla Ali was one of the hosts. I couldn’t help but notice that she did not inherit her fathers intelligence. She had a hard time reading from the queue cards. Our only job as audience members was to clap and cheer for the abominable garbage that played out before our eyes. The contestants tried to climb a wall while the Gladiator tried to knock them off.
We were moved around from seat to seat. It was getting pretty late and I began to wonder how I would get home. Tony said he would give me a ride home; I envisioned a date rape. I wondered if I was wearing the torn underwear, because how embarrassing would that be? We were separated at the next seat change but agreed to meet by the front door. I hoped I’d get another ride.
We were dismissed at 10: 30 and didn’t get out until 11:30. In spite of being there for over 12 hours I went home with a mere $70 in my pocket. I went outside and Tony wasn’t there. I managed to get a ride home with a young man who wanted to be a publicist.
I sent Adrianne a picture of myself in full make-up and ended up getting another audience gig. I went to Judge Judy on Wednesday which was even further from home in Hollywood at the Sunset and Gower studios. I found a much better looking more affluent crowed. My stomach knotted; would I be sent home? I gave my name to the woman who was checking everybody in. She gave me a dirty look when I smiled and said hello. I tried to be friendly and she told me to get in line. I would later met many young woman and a few men that had exactly the same personality as she did. I like to call this persona the Standard Operational Bitch. Basically the S.O.B is some little nothing production assistant or low grade casting assistant with their first real paid job in show business. They generally make a few dollars above minimum wage, work crummy hours and take shit from everyone from the talent agent to the directors, to the crew. They had a tendency to take all their hostilities out on the extras and audience workers who were at their mercy.
We filed into the small studio and took our seats. The atmosphere was considerably more pleasant than it was on Gladiator. People in business clothing sat quietly chatting. The show itself was quite boring. Judge Judy has a very quiet voice and if you are sitting in back you cant hear a thing. Falling asleep is common for people doing audience work . The next time you watch one of these judge shows look in the background and you are sure to see a few people dosing. I chatted with the woman sitting next to me who told me about Central Casting. She said if you just went down and registered for $25.00 you could do background extra work on TV. She said with my look I could work every day (really, with my look. Had she been taking opposite pills? Had I gone through the looking glass? The point was moot anyway . I didn’t’ have $25.00. We were dismissed and paid promptly for our eight ours of work. I was wondering where in hell I was going to get rent money when I picked up a Working World Magazine at the train station. I found an ad for survey takers at the Nielsen Ratings company. The job was only part time and they were located in Hollywood. It would be a two hour trip, but I was desperate. I walked to the address on the ad and filled out an application. I was hired instantly and told to be back the on Sunday for orientation.
In the mean time I was booked for Judge Joe Brown the next day. You’d never know it to watch the show, but the man is a a sexist douche. There was a woman being sued by her male friend who bought her a very expensive cell phone and wanted the money for it back. The woman seemed confused as to why she was being sued. Judge Brown told her she didn’t deserve the free cell phone because she was not that fine. I’m not kidding. He was prone to going off on long tangents that had little to do with the subject at hand.
I ate lunch with several other audience members including a girl named Stephanie who told me that her boyfriend was in the military and she was renting a room from some tweker guy in the valley. She told me that she’d told her boyfriend that she was living with her aunt and working in an office. When I asked her why she lied she told me that she didn’t know. I complained to another woman that I worked everyday and still couldn’t make ends meet. I also told her that it made me uncomfortable to participate in reality TV; I didn’t watch it. She told me that it was better than corporate America. (But, this was corporate America.) I spoke to a beautiful, but heavy set blonde named Jessica who would only speak of her hair make-up and nails. Later on she later got in trouble for falling asleep in the audience.
On Friday I worked yet another day of Gladiator. I ran into Tony and I asked what happened to him when he was supposed to give me a ride home and he said he waited for me, but I never showed up. He then had the audacity to hit on me again. I arrived at 10:00 am when weren’t allowed to go in and sit down until noon. Once inside we weren’t allowed to get up for five hours. There were no bathroom or water breaks, beside a thirty minute lunch. I talked to a woman sitting next to me who lived in Long Beach. She said she had been doing audience work for six mouths and didn’t know what she was going to do next. As the evening wore on and Layla kept messing up her lines, we realized that we would not be leaving until 2:30. I had a panic attack . Poor MacBeth would be alone for over 17 hours and there were no buses back to San Pedro at that hour. I offered her $20 for a ride home and she said yes.
Shortly after this a fight broke out in the audience. We were finally given water and bags of peanuts. Not feeding us or giving us water for that long is very Illegal as we were technically background extras and they are required to give us food and water if they were going to keep us on set .
This is something that I would see again and again in Los Angeles; A blatant flagrant, in your face disregard for the law. If you are poor the people in power will treat you as poorly as possible. This is true to a certain extent anywhere, but I never saw people be so blunt about it or so inhuman. I began to understand what had caused the Watts Riots and the LA riots. There is an enormous disrespect for traditionally disenfranchised people in Los Angeles. If you are not attractive you will be discriminated against in the work place. Look on the LA Craigslist. And you will find customer service jobs asking for head shots. There are many companies that will state an age preference in their ads even though this is completely illegal; they just don’t care they have you where they want you. Read the police blotter; its pathetic the cops couldn’t catch herpes from a two dollar whore. In order to meet their quota they will stand on the street corner and give out jaywalking tickets. But, the people they give the jaywalking ticket to weren’t jay walking. They started walking a second before the light changes or something . If you are caught riding the Metro without a ticket on the Redline which goes through Korea Town, Downtown and Hollywood, you will be given a ticket. If you are caught without a ticket on the blue line which goes through the predominantly black areas you will be arrested. I saw this happen over and over and over again.
Everywhere I have ever worked there has been some unfairness. We workers would sit in break rooms or stand in parking lots and discuss the common enemy; the boss. Oh sure there were some ass kissers but the majority of us supported our fellow workers. If you were having a problem it was easy to find a sympathetic ear. You would think that people would get upset about the way we were treated but when I complained about it to my fellow proletarians I was told how lucky I was to be participating in this crap for less than minimum wage. They accepted everything with a drooling, glassy eyed, Prozac induced complacency.
I talked to several people who honestly believed that if they just acted happy and did what they were told some one would see them, think they had a good look and give them a speaking role in a film. They actually believed that this would lead to superstardom. One woman I complained to told me that she was only doing audience work for a few days. She said she was a professional journalist. When I asked for what paper she said she worked for “ The internet media”. ( even if you are paid, blogging might pay a bill or two a month at most. If someone tells you they blog for a living and that all they do they are either lying, a welfare queen, a trust fund baby or a sugar baby.) Here voracious unwillingness to accept her lot in life was typical of LA. Lying was rampant there. I realize people fib everywhere. People fudge on resumes and lie to people the are hitting on in bars all over. But here they would lie when it didn’t benefit them to do so. If the audience member who thought she was a journalist really had any talent or instinct for journalism at all she would realize that there was a compelling story of injustice and exploitation to be told all around her. Instead she scoffed and said she had another job so she didn’t care about anyone else.
Many of the audience members were welfare recipients who needed to make money under the table. It wasn’t uncommon for them to put down a fake social security number on their w2 I Although I worked for them many time SRO never sent me a tax form, they never sent one to anyone.
We were finally dismissed. We stood in line for another two unpaid hours. The woman who said she was going to give me a ride had taken off without me. I offered the same $20 to another co clapper. He was living in his van so I figured home was wherever he landed and my place was only 20 minutes by car. It is not uncommon for people in LA to live in their vans and trailers and cars We went to Hollywood first to drop off a co clapper. In spite of his obviously servile situation he felt compelled to tell me what a great place LA was. The co clapper just couldn’t believe that I didn’t like LA . I told him my story, he still couldn’t believe that I didn’t like LA as there were famous people in LA. (really?)
I got home at 3:00 Am. The poor dog had been holding in his pee for 19 hours at this point. He hadn’t relived himself. I felt like the worst mom in the world. I fell asleep on the airbed which deflated underneath me on to the hard floor below.
The next day I went to the valley to apply for a job with a phone sex company. It was work at home and paid $10.00 an hour. I figured I would work part time for them and part time for Nielsen. I didn’t want to do phone sex full time as I didn’t want any holes in my resume. I Went to The Boulevard Entertainment company which was located in a very nice building in Burbank. I was handed a hiring package and told that I had to work 20 hours a week. I was given a choice of schedules and choses 10: 00 pm to 2:00 am as there were children playing directly outside my door at all other hours. There were several different personas you had to learn, The MILF, The Lesbian, the Mistress and something called Barely Legal.
I woke up on the hard floor of my apartment that Sunday sicker than I had ever been in my entire life I downed some cold medicine and headed for my first day of training at Neilsen. I felt like I was gonna die. My fellow trainees consisted of a high-school girl who claimed to be a straight a student, a pretty Pepperdine grad and a man named Dante who was far and away one of the handsomest men I have ever seen. He had a beautiful voice like that of a professional radio announcer. I thought that if any of us had a chance of making it out of there; it was him. We played a few getting to know you games and practiced reading the surveys. We took a tour of the floor and who did I see but the journalist. I left at 8:00 pm and got home at 10:00 just in time to start my first phone sex shift.
I took the first few calls. They were pretty much as I expected them to be. The trick is to be very subtle at first so the pervert doesn’t flip his wad too soon. The clients paid for blocks of time. You wanted to get them to talk to you just long enough that they go over the block they paid for and have to call back. The normal calls are basically just boring strait sex stuff. I you think its fun like in the movies and you get to play all kinds of characters trust me, you don’t. Most men don’t have that kind of imagination. Some times all you had to do was say hello and you’d hear a grunt and a click. Sometimes you would begin to describe yourself and you’d get the click. Every once in a while you would have to go into details describing various oral acts and so forth. The guys all sounded like they were about 300 years old. After about an hour of “ normal” sex calls I started getting the “barely Legal calls. The clientele of TBE was largely comprised of pedophiles. Technically it is illegal to say that you are under age on a phone sex call. TBE’s way around this was to say that you were eighteen , but you could tell them a story about something that happened to you when you were younger.
My first barely legal call was a man who said he was a teacher. He wanted to know if I had any experiences with teachers when I was a kid. I wanted to hang up. This was sick. I was sick I too. I thought of how nice and comforting a new airbed would be and how good a whole night of sleep would feel. I told him a story aboout how my character had lost her virginity to her high school math teacher when she was only fourteen. Don’t model your daughters after me.