Business, Life, Money, Movies, Television

Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

Photo May 07, 5 28 41 PM

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90s, Flashback, Photography, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday: Hollywood


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You know, just me and Ann standing atop historic CBS Columbia Square in the mid- to late ‘90s. So much to say about this picture, like:

  • Ann and I were both a little…heavier then.
  • She is most definitely NOT taller than me — she was standing on a box.
  • Capitol Records is on the left.
  • The Hollywood sign can be seen on the right.
  • I could never quite pull off wearing mirrorshades.
  • We stopped here, where my brother was working at the time, to take a quick tour before walking a few blocks to the Pantages Theater to see The Phantom of the Opera for the umpteenth time (and by stating that, yes, I do know the whole thing by heart).
  • If I remember correctly, we also chatted with the co-star of the show, Marie Danvers, in her rented Chevy Cavalier after the performance. It may not have been this time but we did in fact spend time with her and wow, she’s a fantastic, funny lady.

Sadly, the building fell into a state of disrepair and is now slated to be converted into apartments, retail, and office spaces.

And I can guarantee that at least one of those stores will be selling mirrorshades like mine – now considered “retro” and going for $250 a pair.

California, Economy, Free Stuff!, Gadgets, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Money, Phone-Cam, Photography, Shopping

We Survived Coffeegeddon!


thumbnailThere have been a few scenarios in my life that couldn’t have been predicted by a psychic.

The first scenario involved me being in a white Ford Econoline van with two practically complete strangers, driving up Highway 71 from Arkansas into Missouri looking for alcoholic beverages and girly magazines.

Sound outlandish? Believe it or not, it happened in December 1993 when I was working for Wal-Mart and spent two lovely weeks in Bentonville – a dry county in the middle of the Bible Belt. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

The second scenario was when I found myself jogging up Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in the morning with a used coffee maker in my hands.

But that’s exactly what I did today.

Today is National Coffee Day and to celebrate, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was offering consumers the opportunity to exchange their old coffee maker for one of their brand-new single-cup Kaldi machines (retail value of $179.95). The only stipulation was the your exchange had to have the cord still attached and there was a limit of one Kaldi per person.

When Ann saw this on Facebook she couldn’t decide if she wanted to go for a number of reasons. It wasn’t until late last night when she decided that it might be worth the risk of braving the heat and crowds to get close to $400 worth of coffee makers. And with a limit of 2,500 to give out between 11 am – 5 pm, we chose to leave the house about 8:45 this morning.

Driving through the Hollywood area is no big deal to me. I spent many days there as a teenager and know the place well enough to get anywhere. I knew exactly where the event was.

When we arrived in West Hollywood, we saw that the line was already curling about four blocks. To avoid the hassle of parking on the streets and putting money in a meter, we ended up paying $10 to park in the parking lot of The Viper Room. You know The Viper Room, right? Where River Phoenix OD’d? That’s the place.

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Once we parked, we had to lug both of Ann’s coffee makers up Sunset Boulevard and that’s when my surreal scenario took place. In order to get a new Kaldi, you had to get a wristband from one of the event organizers so Ann told me to go ahead of her and Anthony and reserve my place in line.

That’s when I left them behind and jogged up Sunset, fulfilling my surreal experience. I then crossed the street, got my wristband and held our place in line. This was the view looking west down Sunset Boulevard.

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There were still plenty of wristbands by the time I was in line so I called Ann and told her to take their time. They did. Ann got her wristband and we were both guaranteed a Kaldi machine.

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Then the wait began. And it was very hot with spots of shade but nothing we stayed in for an extended period of time. Also, for those who didn’t plan properly (like us), you had to stand or worse, sit on the sidewalks – not really recommended in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the woman in line behind us was nice enough to Ann borrow one of the two chairs she had packed. I stood the entire time. We chatted with her and her family the entire time in line and they were such great people.

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About the only things we brought with us were bottles of water and Gatorade and believe me, they came in handy in that heat. I later ran into a pizza place to grab a few slices to eat while we waited. It hit the spot but again, standing in the heat takes more out of you than what you can put into you. I kept the pizza box and used it to fan us down when we couldn’t find the shelter of shade. And when you can’t, you improvise.

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When the line finally started to move, we saw plenty of interesting things like Mel’s Drive-In

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…a heavily disguised Ford Escape test vehicle (the ovals gave it away)…

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…the KTLA news van since they were covering the event…

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…and then this, which happened right in front of us.

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A woman – sitting on the right in the light blue shirt – apparently had a case of heat exhaustion and needed the aid of Los Angeles’ finest. She was eventually taken away in an ambulance and the situation held up the line for about 15 minutes. The poor woman waited all that time and won’t have a thing to show for it. I hope the Coffee Bean folks can track her down and give her what she was waiting for.

After about three hours in line, we were inching closer to getting our Kaldi machines. Then we finally crossed the final street and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

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We had finally made it. High-fives from the CBTL workers. Once we crossed the threshold we were directed to a table where we turned in our old coffee makers and were given a certificate for the new one.

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We then walked over to what looked like a wall of brand new Kaldi machines, gave our color preference (red, blue or silver), and turned in our certificate.

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And with that, we had our new machines and the wait was over. I tweeted when we got our machines and CBTL responded.

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Ann took the red one and we are saving the blue for a Christmas gift for some lucky person. Despite the heat, it was definitely worth the drive and wait to get something totally free – okay, in exchange for something old. The value of the machines also made it worth the trouble.

Whew, what a day! We’d like to thank The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for offering such a fantastic deal. You put a smile on Ann’s face and no doubt will make another coffee lover’s face light up on Christmas morning. And in this tough economy where there’d be no other way we could even dream of buying, let alone giving, one of these machines, your generosity is greatly appreciated. You have definitely earned our loyalty!

Life, Lifestyle Change

Running the Streets of Hollywood


I’m pretty sure my Facebook friends are tired of hearing about it with all the stuff I’ve posted there, so here’s the last time they will see anything about it – until next year, at least.

I had the pleasure of running a 5k in that ran along the streets of Hollywood, CA. Well, down Hollywood Boulevard and back at least.

The inaugural Hollywood Half Marathon and 5k/10k took place this Saturday and despite its problems (as I will detail later), it was a great time. How often is it that you can run down Hollywood Boulevard with thousands of others and not be a part of a mob of angry citizens up in arms about [insert source of frustration here]?

But as I said, there were some issues that were outlined by some runners later, including:

Parking: Not an issue for me because I rode the MTA trains to the venue and to Universal City Hilton to pick up my bib and timing chip on Friday. Once there, though, I witnessed what other participants would later complain about: traffic going in and coming out of the hotel was disastrous. Not only that, even if you took the train to the hotel, you had to walk up a massive hill to get there. And I heard that finding a spot was next to impossible and leaving the hotel as well as the event itself was almost impossible. Again, I thank [insert appropriate deity here] for the MTA.

Cups: Again, this was an issue that I hadn’t dealt with personally but read about on Hollywood Half’s Facebook page. Apparently there was a serious lack of cups along the half marathon route which did not sit well with many. Being I ran the 5k, I didn’t have the need to hydrate as often as the half-marathoners so I didn’t even notice the problem. Water was handed out at the end of the run as were bagels and bananas.

No Electrolytes: Lack of what your body needs during a long run was also a strike against the organizers of the event. Again, not an issue for the 5k runners. In fact many of them reported no complaints about the event.

All in all, I did have a great time and even set a new personal record for a 5k:

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Is it the best? Of course not, but it’s my best and that’s all that matters to the guy who used to be 300 pounds. For comparison, here’s what I logged on Fitness Tracker.

Honestly, the way I finished, I’m considering a 10k later this year.

Like all inaugural events, it was a learning experience for the organizers to improve upon for next year’s event which I am already looking forward to.

And by then, who knows? I might be running in the half marathon.

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For more pictures from the event, click here.

Career, Economy, Entertainment, jobs, Life, Unemployment Files, Work

Background Break


Background acting has been an extremely enlightening and fun experience, but I’m going to miss it.

I’ve decided that after I finish my job for the show Outlaw tomorrow, I will be taking an indefinite break from this cool little gig. But before I post the reasons why, here’s a quick list of what makes it so much fun.

It’s Not Hard Work: When compared to other jobs I could be working for minimum wage, this trumps them all. It’s about maybe 3 hours of work per day and the rest of the time is spent sitting around while they prepare the next scene.

Free Meals: I don’t think I need to say anything else other than I shouldn’t be eating this much. But it’s soooo good.

8 Hour Days A Rarity: Being on the set for 8 hours is definitely a rarity and you’re usually there a good 12 hours. This sounds good monetarily but again, it is a minimum wage job so at the end of the day, 12 hours gets me a little over $100 a day (on average, minus bumps).

It Shows EDD I’m Trying to Find Work: EDD likes to see that people receiving unemployment benefits are at least attempting to look for work, and this is one way I’m showing it to them. The downside is that I have to claim all of my income and it is then deducted from my unemployment checks.

In contrast to all that, here’s why I’m taking a break. Continue reading “Background Break”

jobs, Life, Movies, Television, Work

Good and Bad News


First, the bad.

I got yet another rejection letter today from another potential employer. I’m beginning to think I’ve got the plague or something. Maybe it’s because I’m not shifty enough to be a car salesman (which was the job I applied for) but meh, I’m still out there trying for anything. With just a few unemployment checks left, I’m *this* much closer to flipping burgers for a living, provided they even want me.

So what could possibly be the good news?

I was booked for my first role as an extra! I will post no details here but the call time for the shoot is very early and not too close to home. That means going to bed very early the night before and waking up very early the day of the shoot. At least this will show that I am working–or making an effort–so that California doesn’t get all pissy and whatnot about my unemployment status. All income has to be reported so it will be deducted from my next unemployment check anyway.

During the interview with the Casting Director, I was asked if I would be opposed to shaving my goatee to play the role of a sheriff. I had no problem with that but replied, “Excuse me?” just because I was feverishly taking notes–a requirement for these kinds of jobs–at the same time. Instead I was cast as a protester so no big deal. I really wouldn’t have had an issue with shaving it off but in hindsight, it was a good idea I didn’t because:

  • One of the requirements of the job is that you must update your photo whenever your physical appearance changes, and this can only be done in person not online. So I would have had to spend my day in line again at the agency just to switch photos. Nah.
  • If I had shaved, I could have just waited for it go grow back and not change my photo but then I wouldn’t have gotten any work because nothing matched. Figured it would be easier to maintain my look and keep looking for work than change it, take a new photo, then if I decided to let it come back, take another one. Too much.

This will definitely give my note-taking skills a test because many, many notes need to be taken for each call. But it’s work.

So instead of sitting around wondering what those yellow signs are for and what’s being filmed, I will now be on the inside looking out.

Fuckin’ eh, man. I’m gonna be in a movie or TV show (it wasn’t specified). How odd is this?

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Life, Movies, Television, Work

Ready for My Not-So-Close-Up


It’s been over a year full of flaming suck for me.

In addition to being laid off, I have had very few interviews for all of my efforts. Two of them, including one for the position of Publications Editor at my former employer, turned out to be a bust and I’m still waiting for the word on one that I went to over two weeks ago. And it’s not like I haven’t been trying–I’ve submitted applications all over the place for positions that did and didn’t pertain to my previous positions as proofreader and writer. One of them, in fact, was for a local grocery chain that was in need of Team Leader, a position that I believed I as more than qualified.

The result? Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received from them:

We have considered your application carefully and unfortunately at this time we will not be progressing it any further. We will keep your application on file for one year to consider for future opportunities.

So despite my management and retail experience, I wasn’t even qualified to manage a small group of people or even stock pineapples at a grocery store. Well, fuck you and your fucking pineapples, man.

And that’s pretty much been the way things have been going all year.

As you can guess, at this point in my life I’m pretty frustrated with it all, but not to a point where I was planning to jump off of a bridge or anything. That would just be stupid, but that doesn’t mean I’m not feeling any more useful on the employment scene, although I have to admit that it sucks to be unwanted.

And just as I was about buy a bunch of oranges and start selling them at freeway exits from a Target shopping cart, a thought came to mind. I decided that if things weren’t going my way, and they damn well aren’t as of now, I was the one who had to start making things happen. My unemployment benefits are running out very soon and I’m not quite sure if I can get an extension so it is indeed desperate times for me.

In addition to still applying for jobs that I don’t seem to be qualified for in any capacity (at least in the discriminating eye of the employer), today I decided to take a step in a direction I thought I’d never go: that of an actor. Or in this case, an extra.

Continue reading “Ready for My Not-So-Close-Up”