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Tome On The Range

Beverley Hills Adjacent: Extract From Wayne Holloway's Bindlestiff
The Quietus , January 26th, 2019 07:34

In an exclusive extract from his new novel, Bindlestiff, Wayne Holloway takes us on a tour of that strange area of LA known as "Beverley Hills Adjacent"

Los Angeles, 2016

In the argot of Californian realty, (a standalone word and not a slurred take on ‘reality’, although it is also most definitely that), properties not in Beverly Hills but close by are designated Beverly Hills adjacent, spoken with as little pause between each word as possible. There is also Beverly Wood and Beverly Wood adjacent, but you get the picture. Like side pitching a B-level director off the back of an unavailable A-list one, in the argot of film and advertising. In both cases you get the frisson but with a smaller overhead. Just how far this adjacency extends depends on the bare-faced cheek of the sales rep concerned. In L.A. bare-faced cheek sells a lot of real estate.

Meet Tommy X, denizen of Beverly Hills Adjacent. Onetime TV actor in a big network show, cancelled after three series, turned producer, nicknamed Tommy Adjacent due to his Industry aspirations and personal proximity to people way more successful and famous than he is. Tommy is one of many fish in the sea, who, like the rest, swim adjacent to their dreams, which always lie tantalisingly just out of reach. He lives in South Cathay, Beverly Hills Adjacent to the max, with his wife Monica and their four, count them, children. Back east he had been a roommate of David Schwimmer and now his eldest son plays soccer with Tom Cruise’s kid. They had two kids, a boy and a girl, were happy with that, but then fell pregnant with the twins. He took on some commercials, (he has a great head of hair), they paid the bills and then he took more to pay some more bills and the movie world receded into the black blue of the distance, yet never fully out of sight. He went to Scout camp once with his youngest daughter and woke up in a tent next to a groaning seventy-odd-year-old Warren Beatty and his twelve year-old boy.

‘What the hell did I do to deserve this?’ Warren laughed with Tommy over the 7 a.m. campfire coffee.

It pays to have children, right? Just get them into the right school, playing the right sports, and hey presto!

Everywhere this guy turns there’s proximity. He is (unconfirmed, but possibly) actual friends with Laura Linney. Anyway, define what ‘friend’ ‘actually’ means, right? If Tommy puts a call in to Schwimmer, it’s probably 70/30 he’ll call him back, although he no longer has his current ‘cell’ number. Old friends for sure. . .

Monica is a landscape gardener. Vibrant cocktails of colour are her signature and through Laura and her adjacency, their circle expands. To mix metaphors, they keep their heads above water. Tommy drives a leased Audi A8. Parked it once next to Forest Speaks and neither of them could recognise their own car. Same colour, (white), same lease, same inability to remember the license plate. They shared a joke, exchanged cards, well, Tommy gave Forest his. At a meeting later that week Tommy could say, if it comes up, and you can always make anything come up in these meetings, ‘Forest Speaks? Yeah, I know Forest, a great guy, you wanna get to him?’

Hollywood is a casino which operates like an enigmatic Blockchain in which adjacency is one of many currencies which you can spend in the game. Exchange rates are in constant flux, so it is advisable to play with several. The thing is, here’s the thing, most of the floor players are several paychecks away from sucking dicks to pay the bills. Sitting on top of the pile, remote players shall we call them, are the elite who have amassed so many future cheques, leveraged so much projected real estate income from flipping their way to the top, backed by so much offshore investment, with such a diverse portfolio of assets, that the possibility of sucking dick against one’s will, involuntarily, recedes beyond your death and hopefully that of your children, and God willing their children too. That’s the dream. To rise from the gambling floor. No need for comped drinks or rooms, they own it. For the working adjacent, the trick is to know when to put the money in the slot, when to play your hand, and when to cash in your (bit) coins.

For the rest of us the single figure ceiling still pertains. The true adjacency of this business is credit scored; translucent figures shimmering above each person’s head – like the glowing credit poles in Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story – our rating glowing a healthy green for high numbers, amber through the middle numbers and a flat red for single figures and a flashing, beeping blood red for the final countdown like Tommy’s leased Audi A8 parking assist 5,4,3,2, the last paycheck representing as a solid flat-lining red; a synaesthesiastically transposed dead phone line tone your ever-present companion through the last week, day by day, minute by minute.

So, you get the picture. A town with a lot of flashing red lights floating above heads. That’s show business. Dead phone lines and a lot of blow jobs.

Tommy has company for his troubles, some of it good. What I’m trying to say, maybe not hard enough because he’s an easy target in a town full of big fat easy targets, but what I want to say for the record is that he’s not a bad guy, not a bad apple, probably not a bad husband or father in a place where it is difficult to be either. But the erosion, the constant knock-backs, the wearing down of your sense of self-worth, the mirror that lurks, lies in wait in the bathroom every morning and the way in which Tommy finds himself constantly parlayed by others, all of this and then some, adds up to more than a cautionary tale, it’s fucking ‘Ivans XTC’ on methamphetamine.

Tommy’s mother was a Holocaust survivor, from Hungary. Now she deals antiques in Westwood Village (‘Neighborhood Charm, City Style’). As a rich kid in Budapest she rang a silver hand bell whenever she wanted something to eat or a drink. Her nursery was at the top of the house, servants brought it up four flights of stairs. She was six in 1944 and lost a tooth to the whip hand of Josef Mengele as she darted behind him to be with her mother on the railway sidings at Auschwitz. Now her gold front tooth glitters in the West Coast sunshine. Or so the story goes. If you lose a tooth at six, don’t you get a second chance toothwise? Wouldn’t that have been a milk tooth? Maybe the root got ripped out by the lash of the whip, making the gap permanent, so that a tooth could never grow there again. Or the lack of nutrition, the starvation she endured, deprived her of her dental maturity? I don’t know, I’m not a dentist. Anyway, who would make shit like that up?

Then again, there’s no business like Shoah business, right? How many times I gotta say that?

Now the thing is, Tommy’s problems began and ended with his mother. He hated her, she him.

‘Would have been better for the brownshirts to kill me than to live to have a son like you.’ I’m no shrink but this has got to fuck you up, especially in the self-worth department. Is that why Tommy became an actor? To crave affirmation outside of the family? Love beyond the limelight? Can you become somebody else in order to survive being born you?

Either way, Tommy’s mother’s experiences of World War Two twisted her into the piece of work she became, or was it that spoilt six-year-old, high up in her bedroom ringing the shit out of that silver bell, was that the problem? I don’t know. Never met the lady. In these stories there is rarely, if ever, any before the-Holocaust story that isn’t coloured by it. ‘The Holocaust’, a rare historical moment that rewrites the past and rewires the future. Perhaps that’s why Primo Levi threw himself down the stairs forty years after surviving the death camps. Now that’s a desperate way to kill yourself, a stark unravelling of civilisation reclaimed, the horror of what must have driven him to do that, the seizure that must have taken over his body.

That’s what the Holocaust does, it reaches forward and takes you back. Whatever car you drive, however fast you drive it, the repo man will always be ahead of you, waiting with his engine running.

I know Tommy like a face in the mirror. Lies, self-hatred, paranoia, ambition, greed, self-delusion, laziness and a nonrational Arab-hating ultra-Zionism, all tucked away behind a veneer of normality and general good guy persona. And as I already mentioned, great head of hair, a really great head of hair

It’s a heady mix. Not to say a volatile one. A personality that would veer, flip, turn itself inside out from one day to the next, over lunch, between toilet breaks, beats of the heart even. ‘Check please’, who picks up the tab? Somebody has to pay, and this is what you get. The mask slips at every bill time, every check is an axe that falls, and the rest of the time is only the run-up to the next bill. Each one an execution. This is his interior life, his emotional life, how he’s wired, the way this town has wired him.

This is a man, crucified.

You put this Rat King of a fuck-up into the movie business. Good luck. A guy in his early fifties, good looking in a very Semitic way, dark, tanned, looks great in a suit, has great hair, I can’t mention that enough, voluminous even, but whose haunted eyes, freighted with such black bags, tell of a hunt that has always been on, the sunken coal black pits reflect the real Twentieth Century Fox, snarling and feral snapping at his heels and stinking in heat, for it is a vixen and his nose twitches with her cunt stench as he scrambles from one unproductive meeting to the next, from one valet parking to another, ten bucks to ten bucks, that’s twenty bucks for two meetings, and lunches, minimum a hundred bucks sans booze, constantly weaving a way forward, pressing hard towards his goals, from one dodged tab to the ones you can’t dodge, it’s fucking life as pinball with the flippers snapping at your heels, as you, Tommy, are the last ball on the table, bouncing who knows where, triggering who knows what consequences, if any. And the smell of fear, of the hunted, the vixen close and getting closer, that smell, lodged in your sinuses for all time, always a disrupter, wrenching you back, back in time, tossing you forward, forward in time.

This is the guy who landed up with the Bindlestiff script in his lap.

This guy.

His boy plays soccer with Tom Cruise’s son. They stand together on the touchline. They talk soccer. It’s a big thing with L.A. people, soccer. A beautiful world sport, everybody wants it except the American TV advertisers who can’t find a way to throttle it, two 45-minute halves with no commercial breaks what the fuck is that about? The boys are on the same team, the dads on the same touchline. So far, so far.

At the office (a generic pay-by-the-week rental space), a pile of books appeared on Tommy’s desk. Books about Scientology. His wife gave them to him. She popped into the office with them poking out of her wicker tote bag. He was getting shepherded towards Tom. A chunk of their weekly food budget on these books, tuna steaks from Santa Monica seafood skipped without comment that Thursday, a week’s worth of valet parking, two dry lunches even. This guy who loves being a Jew, thinks they’re the best, this ‘Go IDF go!’ type of Jew, boning up on L. Ron Hubbard in the office.

The apex of this story is a movie script stuffed into his back jeans pocket that Saturday morning at kids soccer. It is around this script that the story turns. The script he knows he shouldn’t get out, never having told Tom what he does for a living, as if Tom Cruise can’t smell a producer like shit on his shoe, but as long as it’s just kids and soccer, it’s OK, they can ‘shoot the breeze’. Don’t do it Tommy, don’t go there, don’t speak of what you do, don’t ask him to read anything. I think the script in question is some returning home from war dreck set in the bayou written by and/or starring his buddy from the Star Trek franchise.

Whatever it is, you don’t go there.

‘Hey Tommy,’ Cruise didn’t even open a door with a question like, ‘Had a good week?’ Just ‘Hey Tommy’ leaving him hanging with the only place to go the safety of the touchline and sports small talk.

Cruise wants to be a regular guy, a regular dad for a few hours each week. But that involves you playing ball too, in fact it involves you acting. Without being asked, that’s the unspoken plea of ‘Hey Tommy’. Shit, celebrities pay escorts to piss on them for similar reasons, to be brought down to earth, to feel reviled for a change, like judges in diapers, to be degraded, to feel the boot on the other foot, or however the saying goes. Tom just wants to be treated like a regular guy, or his version of what that means. Hell, he may even know vaguely who you are, but don’t go there. And you know what? Tommy didn’t. ‘Who we playing today?’ is the line he delivered, as scripted, and Tom played it from there.

After a week the Scientology books disappeared unread from his desk.

His son still plays football with Tom Cruise’s, they continue to be football dad buddies. The script in the back pocket stays invisible and tuna steak is back on the menu.

Because Tommy, despite and maybe because of all I have written about him, is a good guy. Or more precisely, has the capacity, to be better than some of the rest. That’s who he is. That’s a tight spot in which to turn. He has the balls to yank himself off the fucking cross, nail by nail, but still endure another crucifixion when Saturday comes.

Fucking soccer, every Saturday morning, an anticipation of more humiliation. For Christmas he thinks about buying his son a basketball, a hockey stick, an anything.

And, by the way, fuck Tom Cruise for creating that bad energy whirlpool, for sitting in the eye of his own storm whilst everyone else drowns. Fuck him, Tommy. For you.

Another story is infinitely sadder and has no negotiable ending. When Tommy finally got to produce a TV show, a pilot that gets picked up, you know what? He was rude and nasty and treated those below him like shit, aping those he imagines were above him, beyond his adjacent ceiling, in a psycho fantasy cliché of how a studio guy should behave, and nobody liked him, or trusted him. They laughed behind his back, at times in front of his face and I saw him turn, get nasty to the little people, runners, interns, caterers, crew, throw his weight about humiliating them and it never has to be like that, but somehow it always is, his beloved Israel surely the shining example of that shit truth, the smell of fear once again defining him, owning him in the American idiom, and send me to hell for writing it.

This guy.

This guy is looking to set up Bindlestiff in this town. Now who would ask him to do that, what writer would allow this to be so? A case of desperation, of cluelessness, above all a Writer/Director with no other option, would be my guess. A guy who was about to run out of dimes, every call he makes put on hold, or stonewalled with ‘Can I take a message?’, like a career flat-lining in a soon to be cancelled hospital soap opera.

A guy just like @waynex.

This guy.

Bindlestiff by Wayne Holloway is published by Influx Press