Judge Judy, Phone Sex and the Standard Operational Bitch

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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.

Lauren Conrad and Scam City

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I sent my resume out to as many companies as possible. I took a brief freak out break to talk to my friend La Shawn. She told me that if Shameco wanted to accept my resignation early they would have to pay me for two weeks anyway. I had heard of this law before, but I wondered how valid it would be if they knew I moved to LA without their permission. I called Corporate HR and they said they were sending me my paycheck along with one for an extra two weeks.

I came across one company that did paid petition circulating, they were having an orientation the next day; I felt relieved.  I had done paid petition circulating many times before; it was easy you just stood on a street corner and asked people to sign a form to get a political initiative on the ballot. People are rude to you, but you can make some good money. People had pretty much been rude to me all my life. Plus you got to learn about all the different issues, both liberal and conservative. I liked to pretend to be a real expert on whatever issue I was hawking. I liked to see if I could get people to believe I was really  passionate about  the issues. People in Denver got a little frustrated with circulators as there were always so many issues on the Colorado ballot. It was my understanding that California was the same way.  I got a few phone calls back about jobs and I set up a couple of interviews.

I tried to take my mind off my troubles. I attempted to do laundry. I went down to the laundry  room several times only to find someone’s cloths just sitting there in the machine.  After several hours I took them out and put my cloths in. When I came back to put them in the drier they had taken my wet cloths out of the machine mid wash and thrown them on the floor.

The next day I attended the orientation. A man named Charles trained us.  He had just gotten there from Florida. I couldn’t help but notice that Charles didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. He wasn’t sure how much we would get paid per signature, he thought we would get paid in about a week, but that remained to be confirmed . He handed us all several petitions one was for  parental notification on abortion, another was to end Gerrymandering a third was to reduce property taxes.  He read a brief description of each. I questioned him about who was sponsoring the petitions and he didn’t know. He didn’t’ t seem to know or understand anything about politics.  We arranged to meet in one week and we all went our separate ways.

I also called a woman in who had  a petition to control  growth in Santa Monica .  This meant that I had to do all my circulating there as the signers had to be registered to vote in Santa Monica proper. It paid $3.00 a signature so I couldn’t say no.  I headed out to Santa Monica The  next morning . It took three hours and three busses from San Pedro to get there. I met three different Jesus freaks on the way all of whom felt compelled to share their beliefs with me. Once I was there  I situated myself on the Promenade. I discovered that everyone there was a tourist. I moved over to a more residential area . Very few of the people I encountered were actually Santa Monica residents those who were told me that they didn’t sign petitions as that was the job of the legislature. (The legislature in California took three years to pass a budget and  drags it’s feet on every single proposal that makes it out of committee.) IF they would listen to what I had to say they would riddle me with questions  and then not sign the petition. I left Santa Monica that day with twenty signatures on the growth petition and about fifty or so signatures on all my other issues combined . Between traveling and circulating the day took twelve hours. I went back the next day and got similar results.

I went to the library and a man took the petition out of my hands and questioned me about every thing from the sponsors to the entire history of the issue.  The key to successful petition circulating is of course to get as many valid signatures as you can in the shortest amount of time. Standing around discussing the issues is the kiss of death. The people of Santa Monica are very educated . They are also very wealthy.  They like to think of themselves as very liberal, but they have no real compassion for working people. I felt like telling them that if they really were so liberal  you’d think they would understand that if I didn’t get signatures I wouldn’t get paid and if I didn’t get paid I wouldn’t have a house to live in or food to eat.  Some of them told me I should be ashamed of my self for taking money for circulating petitions. I wanted to ask them what they did for a living that was so magnanimous. How many of them produced crappie TV or porn  or both?

I was standing in front of Whole Foods when a familiar looking woman came walking out of the store. I asked her to sign, but she just glared at me. A photographer  jumped out from an SUV and took her picture; she was Lauren Conrad. Now there’s a woman with a respectable job.

For the next few days I opted to skip Santa Monica and go to Redondo Beach. I really did love being near the ocean. For all my troubles there was something very calming about the sea air. I went on several job interviews, but I never heard back from anyone. I got my final check from Shameco and they had failed to pay me  the two extra weeks that they said they would.

On Sunday, I went to turn in my petitions  at the restaurant we had all agreed to meet in.  Charles was there at the arranged time but told us he had to leave and go to the main office to get more petitions. He let us sit there for over an hour before coming back with the petitions and  gathering the ones we had.  He told us we would be paid in one week . One week later we met in the same restaurant. He kept calling to say he would be there in 15 minutes . We sat there for three hours and he never showed up the restaurant closed down. I began to cry.

“ Don’t cry, pray” one of the other circulators said to me.

“Are you fucking being serious right now! !I ‘ve had it up to here with this city, it’s nothing but scams and bullshit”, I screamed.

I was in no mood to be preached at. Where was I Alabama?  I caught the last bus back to San Pedro with my last dollar. Charles eventualy came by my apartment with a check for $182.00  I couldn’t believe how much time it had taken to make so little money .  A week later he would make me wait for another two hours in the same restaurant and a week after that he would make me wait an hour again . Eventually, he told me that I could just go to the main office in Los Angeles to turn in my work and be paid, by that time there was only a month left of circulating for the year.

The Company in Santa Monica miraculously paid me without hassle and I was able to pay rent for the month of April.

I  found an ad on Craigslist for a a drug trial. It said they were looking for people who suffered  from insomnia. As I had barely slept  since I moved there I thought I might make a good candidate.  It said it paid $3000. I called and was  told that the advertised insomnia study was filled for  now,  but they had and anxiety study that a lot of the same people qualified for. The study paid $50.00 a week for 4 months and I would be testing out a new drug.

She asked me a series of questions to determine if I had general anxiety.

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest,  how  nervous do you feel on an average day?

“Um, a six.”

“Are you sure its just a six, did I hear you correctly?”

“ I mean a seven”.

And so it went. I had no choice, but to go along with it.

I went to the office in Beverly Hills for my appointment. When I got off the bus  the first thing I saw was a woman walking  a dog who was wearing high heals and a dress. The woman was a beauty. It occurred to me that if she weren’t a beauty she would be in a mental institution instead of walking a pure bread poodle down Rodeo Drive.

The psychiatrist running the study told me that I would be taking an Ambian that was divided into ten small doses over the course of a day. He was hoping to prove it had the same effect as Prozac.

On my way home on the bus  I chatted with several people including a man who worked a Dolce and Gabana in Beverly Hills. He told me that he’d waited on some music producer for over an hour. He said she tried on ten suits and didn’t buy a single one. He said she told him she’d call him and she wouldn’t. He asked me how long I lived there and I told him one month.

“Now let me guess you hate it here, right?”

“You said it”.

“I’m from Alabama. I’ve lived here a year and a half. He said. “I hated it for the first year. Things are a little better now. “

“I’m having problems finding a job” , I said.

“It takes about six months to get a job, about a year before you’ll have any friends.” He said.

Six months ? I would be dead by then. I went home and went on Craigslist yet again. I answered and ad for a telemarketer job in Long Beach. I was interviewed and hired by a man there who would only say his name was Tony . He said that I would be getting leads for sales of toner for copiers. I would simply call businesses and collect the make and model of the copier.

People always assume the worst about telemarketing.  Because the calls are annoying people have a tendency to assume that anything you sell over the phone is a scam. I have worked several telemarketing jobs and I can tell you that most of the companies  I worked for were not trying to scam people any more then any other type of advertising or marketing. I sold newspapers and they were actually sold at a better price than you would get if you called to order them. I have sold coupon books that I know worked because I used them myself They were the exact same price as if you bought them at the store; they were nether a great bargain or a rip off.

The telemarketing office in Los Angeles was the first actual telemarketing “scam” I’d ever been involved in.  We would call businesses and ask for the make and the model of the copier. Our boss would call the companies back the next day and say he was with the copier company and was selling toner for the copier at a reduced price if they ordered that day. It was a scam because almost all copiers are contracted and come with free toner as part of the agreement.  We relied on naïve secretaries  who didn’t know toner was free to give us the company credit card.

Our boss was a right wing conservative cokehead. He listed to a combination of Led Zeppelin and conservative talk radio. He was all for the death penalty and harsher punishment for criminals.  He fired me after two weeks.

I was on my way home on the bus when  I noticed a short, creepy man who wouldn’t stop staring at me. He asked my name and asked me if I was  Swedish. He asked me if I was married and I said yes.  We got to talking and I told him I had just been fired. He asked me If I had ever considered doing audience work. I told him I didn’t know what that was. He told me it was where you sat in the audience of shows like Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown and pretended to be interested in the cases. They pad in cash for this.  He gave me the number of a woman called Adrianne as well as his own phone number.

I didn’t realize it, but he had handed me an invitation to the worst unbirthday party I was ever to attend.