The Big Man was feted at one of those rubber chicken charity dinners at the Beverly Hilton this week. Every single one of us had to go, and we were spread out across three tables-- Big Film Exec table, TV Exec table, and Little Film Exec table. I got there about 10 minutes late and nabbed two whiskey sours from the bar, chugging one and saving the other before taking my seat at the Little Film Exec table. I'm not the biggest drinker, usually preferring other sorts of libations, but I needed whatever I could get to make it through the next 2 hours of forced socializing with my colleagues and industry peers.
I took my seat and did my best to small talk my way through the salad course, which I didn't really eat. I was seated between two of the Big Man's special assistants, who remarked to each other that they just squeezed in that photo op with the underprivileged kids right under the gun, or else there would be nothing for the slide show. I looked up and images of the Big Man hugging poor Latino kids flashed across the two big screens set up on either side of the stage. Philanthropist, my ass. As more little execs arrived and the table filled, conversations broke out around me in every direction, and something inside me just shut down. My ability to fake it among these Pissed Off Showbiz People just evaporated. I felt more lost than I could remember as I sat there immobile, staring into space and sipping my whiskey sour. After I drained the glass, I excused myself to the restroom. I could kill at least ten minutes in there before the main course arrived.
The bathrooms at the Bev Hilton are super-luxe. Gold and marble everything, with gilded mirrors, white velvet sofas, and real fluffy towels instead of the commoners' paper. Each stall has a brass-handled wooded door that goes all the way down to the floor, and has enough space so the bulimics in the puffiest of designer ball gowns can push their trains sufficiently out of the way before yakking up their dinners. I picked the biggest one the furthest away from the entrance and locked myself in. I sat there for about 30 seconds with my head in my hands, feeling a little panicked and trapped before the ultimate form of comic relief descended from the heavens like a light snow. From the stall next door, I heard the unmistakable sound of lines being blown. I love cliches in action.
When I hear the coke snort sound in the bathroom, I love to play a mental game with myself and try to guess what the bitch looks like. Usually, I can see her shoes in the gap at the bottom of the stall wall, but this being a fancy-pants loo, I'd have to play this one blind. Celebrity? Probably not. Wasn't really that kind of event and most that were there would be schmoozing until the main course. Younger or older? She wasn't doing a damn thing to hide what she was doing, so my guess is older. The quick pace that she made with each line also said veteran to me. Sure enough, a bony, fortyish bottle-blonde in a satin gunmetal dress emerged from the stall, sniffing away and rubbing at her reddening nostrils. No ring, expensive purse. Probably husband-hunting on the $1000-a-plate circuit. I was sad for her.
Back out in the ballroom, dinner was served. Steak, some sort of fish, scalloped potatoes, and grilled vegetables. I ate the fish but the steak tasted odd. While we ate, an auction raged in the background, with people bidding anywhere from ten to a hundred thousand on shit they didn't need. I always wish I had a flashing sign over my head that said "The current bid surpasses my annual salary, no thank you" over my head during these things. After Hollywood's pockets were somewhat relieved of their excess, one of those poor underprivileged Latino kids got up and made a speech. An incredibly eloquent, emotional speech about growing up in a garage in East L.A. and seeing her best friend shot to death by gangs. As she spoke, the eight identically dressed, dark-suited agents at an adjacent table punched away on their Blackberries the entire time.
Finally the Big Man accepted his award (for...what?) and gave the same speech he's been giving for the last 3 years. And the audience was suddenly rapt. I thought about my last 6 1/2 years in the business and the five I've spent at this company and wondered if the future held anything for me in Hollywood. I wondered if I could get it up enough to keep grinding through the development world day after day. I wondered how much longer I could handle being surrounded by Pissed Off Showbiz People all the time. I wondered if I had finally reached my tipping point with Hollywood and all of its fakery, or if this was just another momentary dance with the cloud of malaise and self-doubt that walks three steps behind all of us who spend our lives in creative fields.
I drove home that night wanting to leave the business more than I ever have before. And if I had a dime to my name, I think I would. I just don't know what the fuck I would do.
Of course I felt better the next morning, after the malaise had eight hours to lift and hide back around the corner where I didn't have to look it in the eye. But I know that this coming year will be filled with a lot of soul-searching for me when it comes to my career-- a daunting task for someone who supposedly has known exactly what she wanted to do with her life since age 11.
So needless to say, I didn't play a lot of poker this week. Well... I played SOME, cautiously dipping a toe back into cash games and trying to grind up a little stake for Vegas (T-minus 21 days!). But that's a tale for another post. And I only have about 15 minutes before a meeting with some French director.