Live and Die in LA
By Beth Lapides
first time I came to LA I almost died. And that was the best part
of the trip.
I didn't come for pilot season. The first time I came to LA, I didn't
even know what pilot season was. In fact I'm still not entirely
The first time I came to LA, I knew nothing of first look deals
or soft passes, packaging agents or call sheets. The first time
I came to LA, overnights weren't numbers that Hollywood lived or
died by, overnights were what I called my one night stands on the
rare occasions that they lasted till morning.
Then again, the first time I came to LA, I wasn't the hardened showbiz
professional I am today. The first time I came to LA I was an NEA-funded
multi-media performance artist and I was on my first national tour,
ready to take on the world, one obscure art space at a time.
The first time I came to LA, I came because I was invited. Someone
in New York liked my work and thought that people in LA should see
it. Which, according to a show I just saw on E!, is exactly what
happened to Ray Ramano. However, in Ray Ramano's case, David Letterman,
the world famous talk show host, was the someone, and network executives
were the people. In my case Dennis Cooper, the infamous gay novelist
was the someone, and the Beyond Baroque Literary Center's mailing
list were the people.
Because of this, the first time I came to LA I didn't stay at The
Four Seasons, the Chateau Marmont or even the Standard. I stayed
at the home of Bob Flanagan. Besides being a brilliant poet, and
on the board of directors of Beyond Baroque, Bob had one quality
which made him the perfect host for my first trip to LA, he was
a masochist. He and his girlfriend Sherrie were in fact, a very
famous S&M couple. That was another thing I didn't know at the
They were lovely and lived in a pink house. Even without knowing
about the S&M, I couldn't believe that these hipsters lived
in a pink house. Where I lived, black was the new black every season.
Pink wasn't a color so much as a question. Pink?! And forget the
pink, I couldn't believe they lived in any house. I lived in a two
room plywood-floored apartment often inundated with big hunks of
black soot which drifted into the unscreened windows from an absolutely
undetectable source. I lived in loft beds and jury-rigged electrical
systems and junkies in the hallway. So Bob and Sherrie's little
house seemed very Ozzie and Harriet to me.
One night Bob and Sherrie said that they were having a party and
that I should find something else to do. That seemed awfully rude.
It's an S&M party, they explained, or of course we would invite
Oh, I'm into S&M, I assured them. I was thinking of some lightweight
bondage I had recently enjoyed.
No, this isn't for you. It's hardcore.
No, I'm into it I insisted, thinking how hardcore could it be? These
people had closets and furniture and curtains.
There will be people shitting on each other.
Ok I said, where do you think I should go?
The night of my LA premiere was fast approaching and I kept asking
when will we tech my show. But the staff at Beyond Baroque was very
non-committal about rehearsing. Very la dee da in a way that no
one I knew in New York was. We all believed that if we worked long
enough and hard enough we could bend the town, and after that --
the world -- to our will. In LA they seemed to believe that what
might happen was in the hands of fate. Maybe it was the earthquakes
and this sense that they might die at any moment. Or the mountains,
which seemed like nature's post-its. Constant reminders of the vastness
of time. Or maybe it was just the crazy warm light, which made everything
pink. And I fell under their spell, and stopped worrying about rehearsals.
They had, after all, been right about the S&M party.
The big day arrived. We set up the projectors and pulled down the
blinds. But the room didn't get dark. So we couldn't run through
the show, because they couldn't see the show. Which is the kind
of problem you don't really anticipate when you are from downtown
New York, where too much light is just never the problem. I died
a long slow multi-media death, that night. Death by slide projector.
After the show, I was whisked off by my cousin Wendy and her misbegotten
first husband who wondered what it was I was really trying to say
with this piece. I stared out the window into the black night but
all I could see was the very thing I was trying to get away from:
my sad disappointed face. They drove me away from Bob and his pain
as pleasure approach to surviving his cystic fibrosis, and towards
their condo and its pleasure as pain approach. I was staying with
them for a few days before the final glamorous stop on my tour,
a daytime performance in a Cal Arts classroom.
I had my days free, but no car and my cousin, like most people who
live in hideous who-lives-there developments, worked all day. Which
is of course who lives there. People who don't have to be there
very much. So, after I'd wandered around freeway underpasses and
California Missions, gotten stoned and done laundry and nursed along
a Satre-esque existential dread for a few days, my cousin was trying
to help me come up with a plan. You have to go to Disneyland she
declared. No I don't I said. I'd never even wanted to go to Disneyland
as a kid. But since I'd landed at LAX everyone had told me I had
to go to Disneyland. Even Bob and Sherrie. So, I finally caved.
I just couldn't take another day in that fucking condo.
My cousin dropped me off at the Granada Hills Ramada Inn at 7 am.
See you at 7 she said. Meaning PM. That would be 12 hours later.
I tried to be open to having a good experience, I really did. But
the dread, the early morning hour and the busload of festive straw
hats were getting in my way.
PAGE 1 2
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|