Saturday, February 28, 2009

Honest to Blog!

Oh, Diablo Cody, not you, Ms. Confounding Stereotypes, of all people.

Now, I know Juno isn't everyone's cup of tea, but her good-girl-turns-stripper memoir Candy Girl is hysterically funny and well-written, and her Entertainment Weekly columns are a hoot for the most part -- until you get to this week's edition about her attendance at the Vanity Fair Oscar bash, featuring this particular doodle that can't be undid:
Last year, the legendary Vanity Fair Oscar party was cruelly, shockingly canceled due to the writers' strike. As a 2008 winner, I'd been hoping I'd get to schlep my little gold man to the night's toughest ticket. Where else are you going to see Fran Lebowitz interface with Gwen Stefani? Hollywood generally repels literary types; this is a town where people actually hire other people to write their memoirs. The East Coast intelligentsia rarely leave the shelter of the Waverly Inn to socialize with bubbly L.A. types.

Urgh. Diablo's only lived here for a year or so, but she's got to realize that plenty of authors both well-known and obscure have always populated Los Angeles -- but if she wants to socialize with large numbers of them, the Vanity Fair Oscar party probably isn't the best place. (Or is it? Despite the fact that I am the most popular comedienne of the silent era, I didn't get invited to this shindig, so I'm going by press coverage of glammed-up movie star attendees here. Feel free to correct me if all media accounts are wrong, and the whole thing's a glorified literary salon.)

And the thing about ghost writers is just an unnecessary dig, taking a completely standard publishing practice and somehow turning it into a wry joke about Los Angeles. Because people in every other city are capable of writing a complete autobiography without assistance except the idiots who live here?

But it's okay. We're hearing early reports on Jennifer's Body, and with lines like these, we're sure Joan Didion will be wanting to grab a beer real soon.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Leisure Suited

Literary week continues here at Nobody Walks in LA, with yet another book about a hopeful outsider showing up in our city, seeking out the various temptations he's heard so much about via media stereotypes. It's called Death by Leisure: A Cautionary Tale, and this time it's a Brit, which should shock no one considering the wild n' wooly LA cliches that get imported over there. And the author, journalist Christopher Ayres, is apparently kind of a jerk, according to LA Times:

Growing up in dreary England, his American Dream was a lifestyle, exemplified by the film "Wall Street"; Ayres loved everything about the movie except the ending. "Disappointed? I almost put my foot through the TV screen," Ayres writes. "I was completely on Gordon Gekko's side."

So of course:

Filled with hopeful avarice, Ayres moved to Hollywood as a correspondent for the Times of London. Unlike better British writers before him (Ayres cites Evelyn Waugh and Martin Amis as role models), he arrived in our fair city in pursuit of fast cars, faster women and immediate fame.

And here we get the self-fulfilling prophecy of LA stereotypes: Self-absorbed greedy narcissist hears rumors that we've got vices that appeal to their sort, so they end up moving here and increasing the self-absorbed greedy narcissist percentage of the population. Meanwhile, those of us born and raised here never undertook that particular journey, and consequently are just normal people living in a major metropolitan city.

As would tend to happen when someone relocates to another country based purely on airy promises and fictional characters, Ayres' journey doesn't go well:

Addicted to conspicuous consumerism large and small, Ayres becomes dependent on gourmet take-out and spray tans, abusing the free market system with reckless spending and risky debt. ... Thousands of dollars in the hole, Ayres falls into a "Desperate Period," where spending more buys progressively less. A seemingly inevitable road trip to Las Vegas sees Ayres at the blackjack table, hitting on 19 over and over again, always busting, perhaps a rather too-apt metaphor for his economic dereliction.

And there you go. A chastened Ayres apparently is still here (he's still got the Hollywood correspondent gig, at least), so his story doesn't have the usual "escape from LA" ending. What it does have, however, is a big fat Los Angeles cliche right on the friggin' cover:

The city's aflame! So, Chris Ayres, although I don't think I'd like you much, I do thank you -- for no other reason than the opportunity to use my new Los Angeles is Burning tag another time. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Skin Deep

Well, hello there! Sorry about the prolonged absence, but I've been off on the farm with Fatty shooting my most recent film, A Noise from the Deep. I did a really new and original trick where I threw a pie in Fatty's face -- Max thinks it's really gonna catch on.

Somehow while I was gone, Indie 103.1 mysteriously vanished, which means more frequent KCRW listening, which is great when they're playing music but terrible when they're spewing Los Angeles cliches in an ongoing misguided effort to comment humorously on our city. (LA Times... we're looking at what's left of you, too.)

Now Michael Silverblatt's KCRW program Bookworm certainly sounds like a great idea, but I wouldn't know because I can't listen. I'm too afraid I'll hear the irritating "Through the jungle we will go in books! Books books books!" song from the promos for the millionth time.

And it doesn't help when Silverblatt blurbs his upcoming program, on John Haskell's new Out of My Skin, by saying the book's about "the wily strategies one needs to keep body and soul in Los Angeles." That's right, people. In Los Angeles, it's not sufficient to simply live as one does easily in other, less consistently stereotyped cities. One needs to actually devise more than one wily strategy here in order to keep your physical and mental self intact.

The book's own publisher isn't any better:

Los Angeles. A would-be movie reviewer, looking for romance, takes an assignment to write a magazine article about celebrity look-alikes. After getting to know a Steve Martin impersonator, the writer decides to undertake his own process of transformation and becomes not Steve Martin but a version of him—graceful, charming, at home in the world. Safe in the guise of “Steve,” he begins to fall in love. And that’s when “Steve” takes over. Set in the capital of illusion, this is a story of one man’s journey into paradise—and his attempt to come out the other side.

Check out that last sentence: Just one sentence, yet three full Los Angeles cliches. So efficient! Shall we count? We've got the "capital of illusion" (represented not-so-subtly in the book by the impersonation aspect), the fact that we're "paradise," and that he can't just live here like a normal person, but needs some sort of plan for eventual escape. Which one suspects he will -- as long as his strategies are sufficiently wily, of course.