Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Carrot Bet

After a few days of what seemed like summer, Sunday was coated in a sprinkling of rain as lazy and flaky as the city itself. Pauly and I emerged from the warm cocoon of my apartment and braved the 59 degree chill to grab a meal at Swingers diner, both of us feeling a little blah-- him with his lingering flu symptoms, me with the dull headache that still plagues me today. We were on the fence about finally seeing the birth-of-the-C.I.A. flick "The Good Shepherd" at Beverly Center, it's three-hour running time giving us the most pause. We'd eat and then see how we felt.

Pauly ordered a cheeseburger and onion rings while I opted for a Cobb salad (sans hard-boiled eggs of course-- I hate them). The salad comes not totally mixed together. The lettuce is coated with the dressing on the bottom of the bowl, while the chicken, bacon, blue cheese, tomatoes, avocado, and shredded carrots are grouped over the top.

Wait a minute... shredded carrots?

OK, let's put aside for a moment the fact that shredded carrots do not belong in a Cobb salad and look at this situation for it's prop bet value. Against my dinner companion, I have lifetime winnings of $120 in food-related prop bets. Each one had a carrot component. So what if we both feel sick.

"How much for you to eat this pile of shredded carrots?"

"$30." My eyes must have visibly lit up. Gotta work on those tells.

"No. $40."

"$40 for you to eat about 1/4 cup of shredded carrots?"


"Dude, that's a bargain. The bottom of the pile is sitting on ranch dressing."

"That's my final offer."

"OK. Let's go."

It took four and a half full forkfuls for Pauly to get all the orange matter down. But get it down he did, and in less than a minute. He only gagged twice. Clearly he's been training for these sort of wagers, so be forewarned-- the positive vegetable EV against Dr. Pauly is on the wane.

"OK. You can say it."

"Ship it!"

"Check, please!"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Force Majeure

I'm spoiled living in Los Angeles for many reasons, the biggest of all being that we hardly ever have to deal with weather. Yeah it occasionally rains here and sometimes that can make the surrounding mountains slide and try to fall on us, but for the most part, we get off terribly easy.

Not so for most of you today, as I watch televised images of snow burying the eastern half of the country and hundreds of people sitting around airports, waiting in vain for their flights to get off the ground.

Today, Pauly was one of them. He arrived at JFK this morning only to find out that his flight to L.A. had been cancelled, the rest of the flights for the day had a 90% chance of also being cancelled, and his best bet for getting out of New York at all was to re-book his ticket for Friday morning. Our Valentines' plans, which included him whisking me off to a beautiful room at the Standard Hotel in Hollywood for two days, were kaput, and the bastards at the hotel wouldn't even refund him for the first night of the room, forcing him to eat half the cost of his extravigant, thoughtful, and undeniably romantic Valentines' Day plan for us.

After having his plans completely ruined, poor guy then had to schlep home from Howard Beach to the Bronx via subway since the cab lines were completely out of control. I don't know how long that took him, but even in good weather it would be a 2 1/2 hour trek. Talk about a bad fuckin' beat.

A force majeure may have separated us for Valentine's Day, but I still have these beautiful roses to look at tonight to remind me of all the wonderful things I am blessed with in life, most of all the man who sent them. A man who ventured out into the Great Blizzard of 2007 and probably re-aggravated his waning head-cold just to try and see me for this silly little commercial holiday. I also have these decadent chocolate-covered strawberries that I made to snack on now, and a quiet Showcase-free night in my apartment to use to write.

So all is not lost. Valentine's Day will just have to wait 48 hours.

Aaron Sorkin Wednesdays: Tina Fey Doesn't Think You're Funny

Everyone's favorite drug-addled screenwriting demi-god got himself dissed at the WGA Awards (via Defamer):

"Tina Fey dissed archfoe Aaron Sorkin Sunday night at the Writers Guild Awards. The "30 Rock" star competes with Sorkin's "Studio 60": Both take place behind the scenes at a show like "Saturday Night Live," where Fey was head writer. Wiggling around the Hudson Theatre stage in a party frock with plunging decolletage, Fey told the crowd, "I hear Aaron Sorkin is in Los Angeles wearing the same dress - but longer, and not funny."
I'm sure Sorkin will have lots of angst about the incident and it will undoubtedly become a plotline on his next show.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Meet Showcase and show your pet some love!

Angelenos, rejoice. After reading about his exploits for the last year and a half on Pot Committed, you finally have the opportunity to meet Showcase, live and in person.

Now the owner of his own pet care company, The Zen Pooch, Showcase is co-hosting a FREE pet first aid and safety presentation this Saturday, February 17th, at 1 PM at the West Hollywood Park near the corner of San Vicente Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd. A pet adoption fair will be running as well, sponsored by Molly's Mutts & Meows and the Best Friends Animal Society, just in case you were thinking about adopting a little critter for yourself.

Showcase will also be autographing his full-color headshots upon request, and for a $10 donation to the Best Friends Animal Society, Showcase will take a photo with you and I'll post it here on Pot Committed.

Who is Showcase? He's the Jewish guy in the moderately gay T-shirt. This is West Hollywood after all.

For more information on the event, hit up the Zen Pooch.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Brandi Hawbaker: Back on the Pole

Vegas strip club connoisseurs, rejoice. Penis-on-back victim and reluctant huggler Brandi Hawbaker is back on the pole, performing at the Spearmint Rhino in Las Vegas, as grinding the $2-5 NL at Bellagio isn't bringing her the sort of cash flow she needs. In her own words, she "made more money in one night than (she's) ever made at any job in an entire week" though early reports of her lap-dancing skills reveal that, well... she likes to bite. In the words of one of her "customers":

It started out pretty normal.....then all of a sudden, I feel her teeth in my chest. Not that hard at first, so she continued the dance. But then before long, CHOMP. A bite big enough that my man boob couldn't keep from reacting. I'm thinking "I may not be that familiar with this kind of thing, but I'm pretty sure this is more like expensive VIP back room treatment." We laughed about it and she explained that the situation was actually turning her on and that she "likes to hurt and be hurt" Shocked Apparently that involved a late-night snack on my flesh!

More sordid stories about this poor trainwreck of a girl can be found on the Neverwin Poker forums, including her bizarre obsession with the very married WSOP Thriller-dancer Bryan Micon.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Dies at Hard Rock Casino

Holy shit-- Anna Nicole Smith is dead! The former model and TrimSpa spokeswoman was found unresponsive in her hotel room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Hollywood, Florida. Her 20-year old son, Daniel died in the Bahamas only 4 1/2 months ago due to a lethal combination of Lexapro, Zoloft and Methadone, three days after Anna gave birth to her daughter, Dannilynn. We're still not sure who Dannilynn's father is-- could be Anna's ex, photographer Larry Birkhead, or it could be that creepy lawyer-turned-"husband" of hers, Howard K. Stern.

The "Breaking News" coverage of Smith's death on CNN has yet to use the word "overdose," but that's what everyone (including me) seems to be thinking. The Defamer loves the CNN coverage so much they're actually live blogging it.

Showcase just offered to drive the both of us up La Cienega to lay some flowers in her honor front of Bobby Trendy's store. Pink ones, of course.

An autopsy will be performed, so it'll probably be a few days before we know what happened. In the meantime, let us remember Anna how she was in life: zany, medicated, bubbly, and hopelessly inarticulate. Viva la TrimSpa, baby!

Edited to add:

2:20 PM-- Larry King makes first utterance of the word "drugs" in the same sentence as the words "death" and "Anna Nicole." It also looks like there will be a legal battle royale over the still-disputed $474 million oil fortune of Smith's dead husband. Dannilynn could be a very wealthy little girl. But who's her daddy? Evidently that photographer dude has already filed for custody of Dannilynn. Whatta mess.

I also just noticed that Grubette got herself a point in F-Train's dead pool for her pick. She is tied for first with Drizz, who picked Barbaro, and someone named Mary! (with an exclamation! point!) who must be a freakin' psychic because she took Yvonne DeCarlo.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pokery Posts

Though I no longer write about it on this space, I still play poker (kind of badly) and write about it (slightly less badly). Check out some of my latest pieces posted over at my swanky second home, Change100 at PokerWorks!

Liz Lieu and the Ladies of Commerce
The Super Bowl
Exit Stage Left: Wirecard, Enter: MyWebATM
January SNG Quest: The Second Half
The River Nine
Viva la Caesar's!
January SNG Quest: The First Half
Jen Leo and the Beverly Hills Homegame

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Only in L.A.

"Only in L.A. would you hear the phrase 'do not bring your headshot to an event' at cater-waiter training. And only in L.A. would there be people who actually need to hear that.

I mean seriously, people. Just show up, pass the spanicopitas, and go."

- Showcase

Page 6 of the catering company employee manual

Please, don't stalk the guests

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Silverlake Engagement

"Silverlake was like, nothing ten years ago. Now it's full of hipsters, cafes and million-dollar houses" I explained to Pauly, as I headed north on a random side street east of Hoover. Rush hour traffic had forced me off the routes I knew, and I was forced to engage in a little last-minute improvisation.

"You're lost, aren't you?" Pauly said.

"Well... yeah. But I know I'm heading north and that's where we need to be heading. I'll eventually fina a street I recognize. Like Santa Monica Boulevard. Keep looking for Santa Monica Boulevard."

Silverlake was our destination for dinner with poker supercouple Jen Leo and John "Schecky" Caldwell. Somehow I manage to get lost any time I try to find that neighborhood. It's like the freaking Brigadoon of Los Angeles. After snaking through some sketchy side streets, I finally did find Santa Monica Boulevard, and took it in the proper direction to the spot where it met Sunset. From there I could rely on numbers to find the restaurant, Cliff's Edge, a romantic little Italian-Mediterranean joint with a woodsy-chic candlelit patio.

Jen and John were already there when we arrived... and they had quite an announcement for us. Pauly already knew, since he and Schecky had spent the last week traveling together in Australia and was privy to the ring purchase, but I turned all squealy and girly the minute I saw Jen's stunning Australian sapphire and diamond engagement ring! (See Calistri's Corner for a pic). After two years, John and Jen are making if official and tying the knot this summer in Las Vegas. The wedding date? 7-7-07! The slot machine! SHIP IT!

Dinner was lovely and delicious. Schecky had the shrimp and saffron risotto and Jen a perfectly tender rack of lamb in a spicy peppercorn sauce, while Pauly and I both opted for beef-- he the filet in a gorgonzola cheese sauce, me the rib-eye with mushrooms and fried polenta squares. Pauly's steak came with a bit of steamed spinach on the side and Jen offered to eat it within minutes of its arrival. Pauly had no objection, since he wouldn't be consuming it without a significant monetary offer on the table.

After dinner, we walked down the street to Good, a neighborhood microbrew-pub for beers and Chinese Poker. I had pint of the Honey Blonde Ale (apropos, no?) and it came in a goblet that was so heavy it took both hands to lift. On my very first hand, I got scooped three ways, putting me 12 points in the hole right off the bat. Schecky took a huge lead and never had to look back. Pauly's bad Chinese poker juju carried over nineteen time zones and the poor guy just couldn't win a hand. I fought valiantly, though and picked up a few juiced hands, including quad sevens and a queen high straight flush to unstick myself and even finish up 6 points. Poor Pauly finished -38 and paid the table on our way out, but refrained from going on MCPT (Mega Chinese Poker Tilt).

It was a lovely evening out in the city and Ms. Leo was especially excited to be hitting the town instead of tucked away in Pasadena. Congrats again to Jen and John and don't get offended if your friends start making wagers on your marriage. We're hopeless addicts and just can't help it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Threading the Needle

"Making a movie is like threading a needle" said Charlie, on one of those nights we were stuck at the office long past Hollywood quitting-time. I was sitting in my usual perch on his brown leather couch. I always said it looked like it belonged in the office of a 1940's private eye, not that of a Hollywood studio executive. But nothing about Charlie was terribly Hollywood anyway, from the rumpled Banana Republic khakis he wore to his leased Honda CR-V that sat parked under a $100,000 painting eleven floors beneath us in perhaps the snottiest parking garage in Beverly Hills. And that was the way he liked it.

The $125 million epic we'd been working on for the last year had fallen apart in the course of four phone calls. The first from the studio to the director saying if he wanted that big a budget, he'd have to cut to a PG-13 rating, the second from the director to his sickeningly powerful agent saying he'd do no such thing, and a third from the agent to the studio informing them that they'd just lost their director AND their star, who would no longer be appearing in this film with anyone else behind the camera. The fourth call took place when the studio called both the agent and the Academy-Award winning director's semi-bluff and said good luck to you both, but we're moving ahead with a lower-cost director and star. A year of buildup, $12 million already spent in pre-production, and the thread missed the needle's hole by millimeters. Charlie and I were back to square one. New thread, new needle, and not a whole lot of time to work with. That director was suddenly unemployed, and needed a new project, and fast.

We found him one within eight weeks and had a cast in eleven. Cameras rolled less than six months later, and I was booking my flight to New York for the premiere less than a year after the script had landed on Charlie's desk.

The great irony here? Both films commercially bombed and the low-cost version of our former $125 million epic ended up three weeks over schedule and $28 million over budget bringing the final cost to... $108 million.

Most things I've attempted in my life have been just like that-- threading a needle.

The first thing I ever wanted to be in my life was an actress. My entire family, of course, hated that idea but I was bound to prove them wrong. I auditioned for every school and church play I could, and ended up with the leads in most of them. When my mom would break it to me in a soft voice that I couldn't do the play because she couldn't drive me to and from rehearsals because she was working, I'd figure out a route home on the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus line. When my dad sat me down and said that he couldn't afford to send me to the local theatre camp I was dying to attend, I saved up my money all year and presented him the $400 or so I had managed to accrue in an enormous roll of tens, fives, and singles with the line "if I can come up with half, well so can you." And I spent that summer, the summer I turned 13, carpooling downtown to the L.A. Theatre Center with this bitch I totally hated just so I could get a ride there and back from her stay-at-home Holmby Hills mom, who drove a gold Mercedes and lived off of alimony.

I was a determined little kid. And even more so in high school. I pushed the acting thing as far as I could go with it. Mom and Dad had put the kibosh on my attending any sort of conservatory/B.F.A. acting program for college. Whatever they'd end up (partially) shelling out for would be "a real school." Which meant theatre programs like NYU, Carnegie-Mellon, and the North Carolina School of the Arts were out. But it didn't stop me from driving myself down to the L.A. Airport Ramada and auditioning for those schools anyway. I didn't get into all of them, but at least I had an acceptance letter or two to prove to myself and to my family that I was good enough to at least get in. And when it came time to choose a "real school" I chose a very, VERY academically "real" place that just happened to have one of the best theatre schools in the country built right in. I threaded that needle perfectly.

I chose difficult schools, difficult majors, difficult interests, and eventually, an incredibly longshot career. After discovering that I wasn't cut out for an actor's life a full two years after declaring my theatre major, I made a quick turn-about and set my sights firmly on producing films. Was it having some disctance from L.A. that made me realize that the answers were in my own backyard all the time? Perhaps. I spent my last semester at school cold-calling studios and production companies about internships and finally talked the right person's ear off at the right time. Diploma in hand, I finished driving the 2,200 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles on a Friday and started my new studio-lot internship that Monday. Three months later, I met Charlie and we worked together, 12 hours a day every day for five of the next seven years I'd spend in the industry.

Then I re-discovered this little game called poker. Talk about another needle to thread! But the game was in my blood. My Nana had taught me to play on a July night in 1987 in her New Jersey trailer park. Swatting away mosquitoes and sweating in the heavy summer air, I watched her destroy a seven card stud game on a picnic table outside Donut Mary's doublewide. Nana called her Donut Mary because not only did she work at the local Dunkin' Donuts, but she'd bring back a free dozen every night for all her "gals." Nana was a force of nature and a natural aggressor both in life and at the table-- a sharp contrast to my mother, her rather shy, demure daughter. Nana always told me I took after her, and she's probably right. She left this earth in 1996, but had she lived through the poker boom, I guarantee you, we'd be playing each other heads-up on Poker Stars and watching the WPT together on Wednesday nights.

Theatre, film, poker, now screenwriting. All endeavors with miniscule success rates. Man do I know how to pick'em. It's little wonder I've been under the care of three different psychologists over the last ten years. Little wonder that every time I see my father that the words, "Change... just RELAX" escape his lips. I've spent my life squinting so hard at the needle's eye that I couldn't see anything else going on around me.

I thought my last year had been about taking my eye off the needle. Racking my focus just enough so that I could see that there is life outside of Hollywood, of Los Angeles, of the stifling air-bubble of the Industry. And at times I was able to. I lived in a casino, I danced barefoot in a field in Tennessee, I smoked hash on the streets of Amsterdam and I took my first vacation since 2001. I started to look at some of the more expensive designer items in my closet and wondered why I had bought them in the first place. To "fit in" with people I didn't even really respect to begin with? Everything inside me shifted.

It was just about one year ago that Hollywood shoved me off the cliff and dared me to climb back up. And I don't think I realized until very recently just how much that fucked me up. That it just took an Uzi to my confidence. And that spilled over into my poker game too, I know it. I haven't felt the same at the table since. Until last year, I had threaded every needle I had attempted to thread, and with relative ease.

Conservative mathematical estimates tell me that over my film development career I read approximately 2,500 scripts and I honest to God head-over heels loved only about 20 of them. Ever. I'm talking like, over 7 years here. I was a tough cookie. And now I'm writing my own. Isn't that hilarious? Seeing as the 20 scripts I liked included masterpieces like American Beauty, Adaptation, and Little Miss Sunshine, I have a lot to live up to.

The next month or so is about finishing the goddamn thing. Seeing if I can live up to my own increasingly difficult expectations once again and letting go of them long enough so that I can let the rest of the story flow out of me and onto the page.

The needle I'm threading now is the smallest one yet. It makes me think of that line from Apollo 13 when Walter Cronkite has that scientist on the news who tells him that if the earth is a basketball and the moon is a baseball and if they're placed 14 feet apart the spaceship has to hit a target no wider than a sheet of paper. That's where I'm at. With writing. With poker. With my career and financial future.

Instead of bouncing off the earth's atmosphere into a ball of flames, those guys did get home. And 24 years after the fact, the film made about them had a Hollywood ending.

I don't have a lot of time left to find mine. But my fingers are crossed.