Sunday, February 21, 2010

Last Night I...

- Went to the Commerce Casino for the first time in a long time, accompanying Pauly to the boozy WPT Invitational pre-party.

-Saw a lot of C-list celebrities and former reality stars posing for "red carpet" photos in a desperate attempt to stay relevant.

-Was disappointed that Mad Men's Jon Hamm did not make a return appearance (he played last year).

-Caught up with Parvis, Laney, the Wicked Chops guys, Michalski, and other media types.

-Watched Eskimo Clark slither around a free buffet. He liked the chicken-on-a-stick.

-Played in a crazy good $4-8 LHE game with a full kill against a Jesus Freak, a drunk redneck, six Asians, and a very angry Russian dude who played every hand.

-And resisted the urge to break into "She Bangs" as I took this photo of Pauly and William Hung.

For a fuller recap, check out the first part of Pauly's two-part piece on the Tao.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunset Shrink

My psychiatrist doesn't know me.

I understand that this is a pretty strange thing to be said about the medical professional with whom I've entrusted my mental health, but nevertheless it's true. I see her very infrequently, perhaps once a year, for less than 15 minutes a visit during which she asks me vague questions and I reply with even vaguer answers while I suppress all the sassy replies that threaten to burst out of my mouth. Then, she writes me a prescription for another year's worth of yellow pills that have chemically balanced my brain since 2002. It's always the same prescription. It's usually the same conversation. The whole exchange is so utterly brief. It has to be. Those 15 minutes cost $110. And that's with the self-pay discount.

"Oh, I know who you are."
"I guess they did find my chart."
"Yes, they did. So how are you?"
"I'm all right, I guess."
"How is your work? Do you still have the same job?"
"I don't know, what was I doing the last time we saw each other?"
"It says here you were moving in with your boyfriend. And traveling a lot Is that right?"
"So your boyfriend, he's a gambler?"

I pondered my potential responses. Should I tell her about the sports betting? Or maybe his tendencies to fall into Mega-Pai Gow tilt? Or how fucking impossible it is to beat the rake at $5-$10 limit hold'em?

"No. He's not a gambler. He's a writer too."
"But do you still gamble?"
"If you call the occasional $11 turbo sit-n-go gambling."
"I'm not sure what that is."
"Don't worry about it. I sure don't."
"So how's your mood?"
"Like, in general?"
"Just day-to-day."
"Well, I only feel really homicidal when I'm driving behind idiots on Pico Blvd. who are texting on their iPhones or when I'm seated next to a crying baby on a plane. But I have Xanax for that."
"You do?"
"Yeah. You prescribed it for me."
"Oh, I see. I did. Do you need a refill on that too?"

My psychiatrist scribbled out the same prescription she's scribbled for me for the last eight years. It ain't broken so why rock the boat, right?

"Nice view," I offered, gazing at the mountain-to-ocean panorama outside her tenth-floor window.

She showed me out her door. A handsome Asian man in a black suit with a drug company name tag sat outside in the waiting room.

"Jason, so good to see you! Come on in."

He disappeared inside with my psychiatrist as her assistant signaled for my attention.

"I need that $110 now. Cash or check only."

Friday, February 12, 2010

American Idol Season 9: Hollywood Week

Didi Benami, among the Season 9 front-runners after her Hollywood Week performance

It's OK, you can put down the razor blades. The auditions are over. There are no more 19-year old single mothers with sick aunts and learning disabilities for FOX to tug at the nation's heartstrings with. The lucky 181 that left their audition cities with those precious golden tickets arrived in Hollywood this week and the requisite chewing-up-and-spitting out by Simon Cowell & Co. began in earnest.

You knew some of these poor saps had no chance of making it. Vanessa "I ain't never been on an aeroplane" Wolfe showed some country charm in her initial audition, but completely blew it in Hollywood with a tone-deaf rendition of Blind Melon's "No Rain" that sent every pampered Shih-tzu in the Hollywood Hills into a fit of agonizing howls. By the end of the first round, she was back on that aeroplane on her way back to her hick town along with so many others who shared their sob stories in the audition round.

Skiiboski, he of the five felony arrests in the state of Florida? It's the end of the line, baby.

Justin "Cancer Boy" Williams, the Michael Buble sound-alike? Not gonna happen.

Megan Wright, who charmed the judges with her precocious little brother? Sorry, love.

Whip girl? The Jersey sisters? The dude who did the splits and ripped his pants? Freaky beat-box boy? All goners.

Although many of the contestants weren't able to hit the bar they set for themselves at their initial audition, there were plenty who sailed right over it. Lilly Scott picked up a guitar and killed Ella Fitzgerald's "Lullaby of Birdland." Casey James turned out to be a sick blues singer. And wookette Crystal Bowersox blew the doors off the Kodak with a performance of "Natural Woman" that recalled Kelly Clarkson's star-making turn on the same tune during Season 1. And Andrew Garcia did the best rendition of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" since Showcase played it solo on the trumpet at his Bar Mitzvah.

Perhaps the most memorable performance of the lot came from Didi Benami,who sang Kara DioGuardi's "Terrified" well... better than Kara DioGuardi.

For the 96 Idol hopefuls that survived the first cut, the dreaded Group Round awaited. In this stage, it's not so much about how the singers perform individually, it's about how well they can learn a piece of music quickly, work with others, and handle simple choreography. After all, they're going to have to shoot all those Ford commercials and perform those dreadful group numbers.

Naturally there was a girl group that couldn't get their shit together, some seriously mangled lyrics, and at least one idiot who embarrassed himself further by asking the judges for one more chance after he was cut. I was rooting for the quirky Denver group "The Mighty Rangers" who dressed like they were about to rage in the lot of a Disco Biscuits show, but their performance ended up a total trainwreck.

And just to prove my heart isn't completely blackened, I did think it was quite touching to watch Michael Lynche watch the birth of his baby daughter over an iPhone. Steve Jobs can't buy better publicity than that.

Surprise of the week? Ellen DeGeneres is a pretty good judge. She injects just the right amount of levity to the process, while maintaining a realistic outlook . I loved it when she fucked with the contestants, telling them to step forwards and backwards.

Next week, there will be more bloodshed as the 71 remaining Idols are narrowed down to the Top 24. Get your knives out, Hollywood.

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Showcase. He couldn't believe that I didn't remember that Didi Benami used to live in the building next door to us. After a bit of memory-jogging I did recall the other blonde singer who lived with Angelina during her tumultuous breakup with her cokehead boyfriend. She was pale and thin and seemed lost amidst all the drama. She moved out after a few months and apparently, it did her a world of good.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Four Years On

Four years ago today, Hollywood, in the form of a humorless upper-management hatchet man, threw me off the mountain I'd spent the previous seven years climbing.

I wish I could say that I never looked back, and in many ways I haven't, but in reality I look back almost every day. How different would my life be right now if I were a 32-year old V.P. of Feature Production instead of a freelance writer? I'd have a six-figure salary and health insurance, but everything I've learned about myself in the 1,400 or so days I've spent off Wilshire Blvd. tells me that I would be depressed, trapped, and probably alone.

Instead, four years on, I'm happier than I've ever been and still wildly in love with the same man who consoled me that night over 3,000 miles of phone lines as I reeled in shock at the collapse of my former life. That love is better than anything Hollywood could ever give me. Even better than an Oscar? Hell, yes.

For a look back at that fateful day, check out the Pot Committed classic "I gave Hollywood my twenties and all I got was this lousy severance check."