The people of Hollywood

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, August 20, 2015

By Pam Stone

To reply to concerned and well-meaning friends who have bid me adieu from the Carolinas as I headed back west to California, I am aware of the irony that I sound very much like Mitt Romney, who, under attack from the left in regards to those businesses that had robbed pensions and laid off thousands while CEOs escaped with ‘golden parachutes,’ declared, “Corporations are people!”
Because, as I explain when I hear over and over, “Don’t let Hollywood try to get its claws into you,” or “You know how Hollywood chews people up and spits them out,” Hollywood is people!

The concept of the sleazy studio guy with the cigar and the casting couch is a pretty rare anomaly these days and when I think of Hollywood, either here in my hotel or back on my farm, with the exception of the traffic, and, OK, the giant quake in ’94, the yearly wildfires and Rodney King riots, as funny as it sounds, my memories are all highly enjoyable.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Yes, there was the mentally ill, homeless, man who leaped on the hood of my car Рone of dozens halted in a snarl of traffic before a red light Рwaving a machete and snarling menacingly through my windshield as he then crossed the street by jumping onto the hood of the next car, and the next. But there was also a knot of us standing in the kitchen of my church, making sandwiches every Friday to distribute to those on Skid Row.

And after the riots reduced neighborhoods to smoldering ruins, an awful lot of us carpooled down to bag tons of donated groceries, to take to those whose grocery stores had been destroyed. I vividly remember Valerie Harper, bless her, and her husband, running that exercise with the organized precision of a drill sergeant.

Besides Valerie, exactly who is Hollywood? In my experience, the ‘Stars’ make up just a tiny proportion. It’s Tanha, a production assistant who picks me up in her Prius (that I have named, ‘The Blue Angel’) each morning, and delivers me to the set and Nick, who runs me back, in his aged Jetta with the roof covering coming unglued so it drapes over our head like a tent.

It’s the props guy who hands me my prop phone just as I begin to rehearse my scene and takes it away again, when I’ve finished. It’s the set construction guys that I remember from 17 years ago who enveloped me with an enormous hug and told how they both jumped at the chance to work on ‘Coach,’ again.

And it’s new faces, too: those responsible for feeding us (no more damned Twizzlers!), some of the writers, gaffers and cameramen, assistant directors, new cast members – folks that, like the rest of us, show up in jeans and t-shirts and share jokes before hunkering down when it’s time to work, and sit in traffic when it’s time to return to home and family.

Last but not least, it is our show’s creator, producers, director, original writers and returning cast who have made this experience not only tremendously surreal, but wonderfully welcoming. It’s work – don’t get me wrong. It’s serious work, with a lot at stake. If a show gets canceled, all those I’ve mentioned are out of work with mortgages to pay and kids to feed.


But it is also nothing short of a privilege to watch this production run like a well-oiled machine and stand back in rehearsal and watch the comedic brilliance of our two lead actors, laughing my head off despite having seen this scene run ten times, already. It’s a great script. It’s a great pilot.

That’s what Hollywood is – just people. And awfully nice ones, too.