Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wide awake in Lala Land

Despite being a couple of wholesome, well-behaved gals, Matty Hari and I do tend to get ourselves into some odd situations. Quite often these situations have involved the seemingly glamorous world of film. While neither of us has even been seen on the silver screen we’ve played our small roles off screen, promoting or helping films being made.

Sometimes though all that glistens is not gold.

So, much like Alice through the looking glass, let’s hear the story of Matty Hari in Lala Land…

Last time I guest-blogged for Miss Mythology, I was well and truly immersed in shall we say the more earthy side of travelling.

This next fireside chat starts off as far from the unsanitary dung holes of the world as one can seemingly get – Hollywood – and ends with me smacking the bare backside of a very pissed film producer. 

More on this in a minute.

I want to be the first to say, I hate people who boast well-paid jobs with glamorous overseas travel and swanky hotels. You in turn can hate me because I once had a job like this in LA. And gave it up for the betterment of my soul. Believe me. One simply cannot hang around Hollywood for too long without morphing into a strange synthetic creature, obsessed with smoothing out one’s forehead, maintaining the musculoskeletal fierceness of Madonna and starving one’s brain by eating food with absolutely no carbohydrates.

In short, my job was to draw the attention of rich film companies to the delights of making films Downunder. This included waving a substantial financial incentive under their noses. A typical day would find me pondering the incongruity of trying to convince a multibillion-dollar studio that we were
a bargain-basement location for shooting films. They, in turn, wanted to see cold hard cash, oops incentives, before they would even contemplate setting up their green screens at the end of God’s earth.

One day, I was momentarily distracted from just such a complex negotiation by the view out the fifth storey window: an elephant in the studio carwash being hosed down by what appeared to be a bunch of Guantanamo bay inmates.

This was not to be outdone by another studio meeting where a strange creature was summoned to the room to distribute some documents. She was most likely a female human with rhinoplasty nose type 2, bronzed skin pulled back so tight she had not a single crease on her face, feline eyes, blindingly white teeth, long painted talons, heels that looked like hooves, and boobs like perfect Christmas puddings. She could have been 60 years old. There was no way of telling. 

I watched with horrified fascination as she clip-clopped into the room, smiled without producing a single facial crease, placed the documents before each participant and left. I was the only one staring at her with my mouth open. She was as strange a vision to me as that elephant in the carpark getting his tootsies scrubbed.

But back to my original story. One evening, I was at a glittering event at the House of Blues, hobnobbing with studio execs, film producers and minor celebrities. My job was to look good, be sweet, and garner interest in my country like a board-wearers in Bourke Street inviting you to visit the Pancake Parlour. 

There are two techniques to hook your catch in these circumstances: trip them over with a well-aimed foot, or spill your mocktail (one doesn’t drink on duty) so it splashes nothing but their shoes. Either way, be effusive in your apologies and make sure your accent is thick and sexy. This works for either
gender, although you risk having your head kicked in if you wreck a pair of Manolo Blahniks.

The House of Blues rooms were dark, mysterious, exotic, the music soulful and deep. Hooded eyes, swaying hips, people were intoxicated, sleazy and careless. I ignored all that; I had spotted my prey. No names, but he was from one of the major studios that had yet to produce a film in Australia. Let’s call
him Jack. Jack was being serenaded by an entertainment news ‘journalist’ (let’s call him Dick) and standing quite apart from the hypnotised, orgiastic crowd. A surreptitious bump, trip, splash and thick ‘G’Day!’ were not going to cut it. How to interrupt them and get Jack’s ear about film production in

It was then I came across an aspiring filmmaker whom I had met earlier in the day and impressed with the very simple and almost true assertion that I could play baseball. Let’s call him Simon. Simon was drunk and flirty and a little bit in love with everyone in the room. He saw me eyeing off Dick with something akin to murderous intent, and interrupted me thus:

“Wow, MattyHari, you sure want that man!”

“I can assure you, Simon,” I said a little crossly, “that what I want is for that man to be anywhere but talking to Jack.”

“Whaaaa? Why?”

“Because, I would like to talk to Jack.”

“Babe! I know Jack!” Slight swaying ensued.

“You do?”

“Sure! Let me introduce you!” Before I could protest, he had grabbed me by the arm and commenced cutting a large, outraged swathe through the crowd till we arrived before Dick and Jack breathless and wide-eyed like country relatives at a family reunion.

Till that point, my judgment about handling the representatives of potential export projects had been impeccable. I was careful about what I said, how much information I imparted, what we could offer. I had learned to back off if my listeners seemed bored, drill in if they showed interest. Hard for me, I
didn’t lose my temper at ignorance about my country and pretended to be thrilled by the Claudian machinations of the richest and most lucrative industry in California, when all I really wanted to do was eat toast, have a cup of tea and fall asleep in front of Tony Jones. Usually, I was good. But this time, I had lost control of the situation.

Dick glared at Simon and me as though we were demon spawn, while Jack seemed bored to sobs.

“Jack, Jack!” exhorted my mad captor. “This is MattyHari. She is AWESOME! She is from Austria and plays the bassoon in the Philadelphia Philharmonic.”

Oh boy.

“No, no. Simon,” I interrupted, “I am from Australia and I have played baseball. At school!”

Simon dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “Whatever. Anyway, Jack, how are you, man?”

And then Jack said a few words that can destroy egos, wound souls, wake
you from your sleep and eat at you for the rest of your life. 

“Do we know each other?”

If I could just pause here to explain that a man of Jack’s stature is something in this town akin to a crowned head of state. People bow, scrape and jump to his attention. This is royalty American style. The cut of his suit, impeccably styled grey hair, close-shaved face, and pristinely trimmed eyebrows scream of money, prestige and power. You don’t waste the time of a guy like this. You sprint to get him his car.

Simon blinked, so, so slowly. I felt my smile freeze into a death mask. My drunken ambassador turned to me with a complex look of confusion, apology and disinterest.

“Oh, babe, this is not the guy.” While my brain began to reboot, rewire, search for recovery mode, Simon lurched away, spotting a juicy piece across the room that needed his undivided attention.

I was left there, humiliated by association, speechless and stupid.

Jack turned a gimlet eye on me and said, not overly pleasantly, “So you don’t play the bassoon for the Philly. What do you do?”

I lost all power of cleverness and wit and replied, “…I play the recorder...”

Much later, after I had exhausted all my charms and also the possibility that this man would ever bring a production to Australia, I found myself outside the House of Blues dispirited and annoyed, with a group of Aussie guests waiting for a cab.

We had decided to head to Abbey in West Hollywood for night caps, me to drown my embarrassment in off-duty decadence, they because they did not intend to stop drinking all night in accepted Aussie tradition. But as we settled into the back seat of the cab, Simon sprung from nowhere like a Bacchic
reveller with his pants down and dived across our laps, bare arse shining in the cabin light. 

I had no choice but to slap away that offensive bottom right under my nose, and I confess dear reader that I did so with barely repressed enthusiasm for my earlier embarrassment at his hands. Squeals of laughter and uproar ensued. The driver was outraged, jumping out of his vehicle as though we had unleashed the Ebola virus. We were having terrible trouble trying to push Simon from the vehicle as he and his escaping pants were tangled with our bags, legs, phones and jackets. I was beginning to worry about a paparazzo capturing this delectable vignette for the folks back home.

Luckily, several helpers grabbed Simon by the ankles and dragged him out to screams of “Keep slapping my ass…! C’mon guys!”

It was then I noticed Jack, waiting quietly for his car to be brought around, watching the slapstick scene unfold before him. His face revealed nothing. He stood stonily, like Zeus, surveying the antics of lesser mortals. 

But, sometimes, when I can recall the incident without wanting to sink into a hole,
I reckon he may have been thinking something along the lines of “You know, Hollywood films are not so far from reality after all.”

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