I wanted nothing more than to be at the nucleus of the entertainment business when I graduated college. So, like any industrious kid who’s attracted to the bright lights and beautiful faces of Hollywood when entering the work force, I got a job at "America’s Funniest Videos."
For a couple of years I felt the pain of every father who took a shot to the scrotum when standing too close to a piñata. I witnessed the glee of pet owners across the country when their little friends did something that every single cat, dog, mouse, pig, iguana, and bird normally does, but appeared as unprecedented behavior that could win them thousands of dollars and maybe even a trip to Universal Studios.
Then one day, after another kid kicked a soccer ball through a kitchen window and a teenager rode his bicycle into a parked car and a toddler learning how to walk, smashed into a wall (my personal favorite), I thought, it’s never too early for a vasectomy.
But, I also thought, it’s time to get serious about my career in Hollywood. And when you’re young and want to work in the business of show, but you’re not exactly sure what you want to do, a talent agency -- despite the insanely low starting salary -- is the perfect place to learn from the inside out and find your way around town (but mostly just east of Beverly Glen and west of La Cienega).
I soon found my way through a mailroom, onto a desk, and finally, toward the realization that the agency world wasn’t going to be my dream destination. I didn’t want it. I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t for me. And because of this, I morphed into what was arguably the worst assistant in the history of Hollywood talent agencies. When someone I was temping for wanted me to wake him from a mid-day office nap, I’d knock too loud and get yelled at for cluing colleagues into the fact that a couch was being drooled on when deals were suppose to be going down. When a chopped salad with “not too many garbanzo beans” was requested, I failed to comprehend the exact definition of “not too many,” and excess beans were hurled at my face. When an agent’s wife called (for the third or fourth time without receiving a call back) and I was instructed to say, “he’s in a meeting,” I’d tell her, “sorry, he doesn’t want to talk to you.” I didn’t care anymore. I wanted out. Yet, I still loved the world, I was taken with the action and the beasts that roamed the plush, carpeted wilds of Los Angeles.
It was around this time -- when I had transferred onto one of the easiest desks in the office, allowing me time to interview for other jobs -- that a character was born. He was nameless. He was everyone who was going to succeed in this environment. He was like me in many ways: born in Los Angeles, Jewish, loved all things entertainment; except his ambition and focus inside a talent agency was unmatched. He needed to excel. He yearned to be the next Wasserman; the next Ovitz; the next Emanuel. He would stop at nothing to achieve this. I would stop at nothing to leave work early to watch a meaningless pre-season Lakers game. From the very beginning, we were never the same.
My first, just-published novel, "L.A. Fadeaway," started as journal entries from the point of view of this character. And though the world felt familiar (he and his friends eat at Dan Tana’s, go to film premieres at the Village in Westwood, and work out with trainers at Equinox), it wasn’t real. Yes, within the pages, Dimtri is the maitre d’ at Tower and Mike Simpson represents Quentin Tarantino; but this isn’t exactly our world. It’s hyperbole. It’s Entourage’s younger, demented stepbrother. It was so much more interesting than the banal seconds that ticked away in that quiet cubicle where the phone rang so infrequently, I would check it a few times a week to make sure it was working. I was mapping a new world; a twisted West Los Angeles matrix. It was fun. It was enthralling. It was shoved into a drawer after twenty pages were written and ignored for two years because I got another job and I wanted it to work. I wanted it to be the dream destination I thought I was signing up for at the agency. But it wasn’t - I was still leaving early for meaningless Lakers games.
On one of those nights, during a drive home, I passed the Versailles apartments on Burton Way and Robertson on the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills; a place that meant something, a place the character from the journal entries lives; and I realized I missed him. I needed to know if he actually made it to the agent ranks, if his world was as captivating as I remembered. So, I began again. It began again. The trips to Craig’s after a 12-hour Monday answering over 100 calls, the arguing over the best soft taco in the city, what directors had “lost it,” and especially, how the protagonist would “get it.” I found the dream destination I was searching for; I designed it, but wouldn’t permanently live in it -- he would. And I hope you will too, but only for a handful of hours.