L.A. vs. N.Y.: A Tale of Two Cities’ Rivalry

I felt it via cheese

As a British writer in L.A., I do scripts and journalism, but I also write children’s books, adult thrillers and nonfiction books, too. A multimedia man, you might say.

Although I’ve written for publishers such as Macmillan, Paragon and HarperCollins, it’s always been commissioned work that pays well, but doesn’t have my name on the cover.

So, I was given the advice that – if I’m serious about success and building the “Burt Brand” – I should attend one of the biggest book tradeshows in the world, the Book Expo of America in New York City.

On a calculated whim, a couple of weeks ago, I registered myself as press (saving myself the $250 conference fee) and booked a last-minute flight to the Big Apple.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I went with some clear goals: to meet literary agents and get representation; to meet publishers and persuade them to read my work; and to chat to other writers doing the same thing and compare notes.

The Expo itself, at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center, was a huge event with all the major publishers in the world showcasing their books. There were aisles and aisles of possible contacts and elaborate booths dripping with creativity.

I saw fantastic talks by “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, authors Tess Gerritsen, John Grisham and Christopher Hitchens, and even had the privilege to listen to the Duchess of York talk about her new children’s books (the day after her, how shall I say, indiscretion of allegedly offering a U.K. tabloid journalist a meeting with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, in exchange for a large fee).

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (boo, hiss!) also talked about her upcoming book about her family life in Birmingham, Alabama. This, I have to admit, was very moving. She seemed very nervous, too. However, after she’d finished, Stewart came back to the microphone and – pausing with his comedic genius – said: “Don’t. Make. Me. Like. You!”

Very funny. But how did I get on with selling my wares? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

Before this, I wanted to say a little about the entertainment industry’s rivalry between the cities of Los Angeles and New York. As a Brit, I thought I would have a certain amount of immunity from this rivalry — I thought I was more of an observer — but in New York I found I was wrong.

One evening, I was lucky enough to attend a meeting of screenwriters, composers, actors and directors just off Broadway. Everyone was introducing themselves, all of them New Yorkers, and it got to be my turn. I explained I was a British writer in Los Angeles just visiting New York… Whadda mistake-a ta make-a that was!

The room went cold.

Now, I pride myself in being a likable, easy-to-get-along-with kind of guy, and I find it strange when faced with unspoken animosity. But I felt as if some strange “Dark Hat of L.A.” had been planted on my head, a hat that cursed my words from that moment on.

Even though the people at the meeting clearly appreciated the existence and quality of Hollywood’s creative output – and that I just happened to represent L.A. for a few hours – I felt there was an underlying sense that they’d like me to please scurry on back to the West Coast after talking, thank you very much.

Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but take into account this: They joked about the fact I’d come along, saying that my punishment (and they actually used this word, as though I should be taken outside and publicly flogged until I bleed) was to eat a full plate of New York cheese. Yes, really. Kind of torture-by-cheese: fill that Brit-in-L.A. mouth of yours with New York!

It was at this stage they brought out a plate of cheese tacos, cheese sticks, cheese chips, cheese crackers and a whole rounded slab of brie roughly the size of the moon. And told me I had to eat the whole brie.


I looked at my watch, trying to remember what time my flight back to L.A. was.

(If anyone at the meeting reads this, please know you were all lovely and it was great meeting you, but perhaps work on the “making people feel welcome” thing a little.)

After this experience, I was wondering what readers of this blog think about the supposed L.A./N.Y. rivalry? Does it exist and how have you felt it? Has the “Dark Hat of L.A.” touched you, too?

As a relative newcomer to the States, I’m vaguely aware of an East Coast/West Coast rivalry, but I’m talking specifically about the film and TV industry here. It seems to me that, on one hand, there is healthy competition, but on the other there is something else a little more sinister hidden behind clenched teeth.

Tell me if I’m wrong.

Just don’t send me any cheese.

(Oh, and about my Book Expo success, I have a literary scout, an agent and a publisher now reading my work so I’ll keep you posted. Stay well and healthy everyone.)

  • Hethanangel

    Anthony, Sweetie, can we talk? lol

    Are you sure that it was actually that you are staying in LA, or the fact that Britain, British, Brit etc is a bad word on the East Coast right now?

    Perhaps the news hasn't hit the West Coast yet, but errrrm–BP just efffffed our ecosystem pretty bad over here….

    The top spill, and the 6 mile wide under mixture of petro and gas (That BP claims doesn't exist–hmmmm, wonder where those photos came from ;/) is expected to make its way around the panhandle and up the entire East Coast.

    So, since I like you, lemme clue you in on a bit of a secret:

    1) New Yorkers have their own way of doing things. They seem rude, but they don't mean it in a bad way.

    2) Next time you come to the East Coast, tell them you're from NZ or OZ 'cause really, you're lucky they didn't tar and feather you just because lol

    (j/k– but really, BP stations are being boycotted, picketed, and there are groups that would like nothing better than to send everything even remotely British back to Britain and lock the door behind them ;/)

    But I like you ;)

  • Hethanangel

    BTW–Congratualtions on your progress ;)

  • Biff Johnson

    People from New York hate Los Angeles with a passion. Its insecurity and jealously. New York has been usurped. It happened oh… about 100 years ago in movies and 50 years ago in television. They haven't gotten over it. New York is not the center of the entertainment world or American culture, they are a backwater and they really really resent that fact.

    People from Los Angeles don't hate New York or New Yorkers, they're to insignificant, they're not on the radar. It is similar in San Francisco, when I tell people up there that I'm from L.A., I always get a lot of crap. One person accused ME, in a red faced spitting rage, of stealing their (San Francisco's) water. Crazy.

  • Anthony Burt

    Hey Hethanangel!

    Thanks so much for the advice…and I like ytou too! I'm actually wearing a t-shirt with the word “California” emblazoned on it today, just in case!

    And, for the record, I totally disown BP and think they have mishandled both the oil disaster and the media-related backlash very badly indeed.

    Lots of love, Anthony :)

  • Hethanangel

    Hey Biff,

    Is California still a state? For some reason I thought (hoped) y'all had ceded by now–D'oh!

    For the record, movies began in Florida (Specifically Jacksonville), not New York–but that's OK Hon, you are a Cali after-all…

    As much as I hate to admit it, New York (Damn Yankees aka New Yahkahs–[who made that rule that says that when you retire, you have to move to Florida?] UGH!!!)–being the hub of international activity–is ahead of California in more than just the time zone, which is itself 3 hours your senior.

    So rather than be confused Biffy Boy, just go back to your little tiki hut, play with your little beachballs and leave the big kid stuff to the East Coasters who are better equipped to handle it, k?

    As far as jealousy, where is California again? No sweat though, as long as y'all stay in California and New Yahkahs stay in New Yahk, I'll be good with it….o.0

    (Just teasing, Biff ;)

    Huggs back to Anthony ;)