30 January 2008

Imprisoned by the President

I was held captive in Bel Air today. Trapped. There was no way out. And why? Because that futhermucking Shrub was having lunch.

On my way in to the hilltop enclave, I noticed the odd presence of Parking Enforcement and Traffic Control, and way too many cops. I wasn’t sure what was up — fundraiser, filming, nothing better to do — but there’s always something going on in LA. I don’t bother keeping up the details. Yet, when I got to the street I needed to access, it was blocked by a cop and his car. I rolled down my window to talk to the handsome police officer standing guard. He told me I could not go through, even though I gave the name of the resident I needed to see and the address I needed to reach. I wasn’t asked for ID. He didn’t want to search my vehicle, get my prints or strip search me (too bad, he young and yummy). All he could offer was a smile and instructions to go back down to the checkpoint on St. Cloud.

Down I went to the checkpoint, which was a cop car and a baldheaded Secret Service Agent with a clip board. I explained who I was and where I needed to go. Wasn’t asked for ID, wasn’t searched, but was let through and told they would be shutting down access to the street shortly. He couldn’t tell me when it would close or when it would again reopen. I told him, too bad. There were two more cars coming through to attend a meeting, and they would need to be brought up. He smiled and shrugged. I reminded him that people lived here, and they had a right to that life...something I believe Republicans should understand, no?

Of course, we got a call. They wouldn’t let them up. So we went down and we politely explained that, in spite of that Shrub, we were going to bring these people up, and added two more names to the list. It worked. The others were let in and life went on. That is, until we tried to leave.

There are only so many ways in or out of Bel Air, and none of them are a straight shot. Bel Air is nothing but a weave of winding roads on which one can easily get lost, turned back around, or led to a dead end. Bel Air is situated on a hill. There is no “back way”, no “short cut” and no way I would live there. You are landlocked, too far from the beach and no one really delivers (without a $50 minimum).

I avoided the already-known-to-be-blocked route and went past the party (and the disgusting array of Bentleys, Rolls Royces and other eco-unfriendly autos) and down Bel Air Road only to find it blocked and a line of cars waiting. So, I flipped a bitch and went over Copo D’Oro. Blocked and a longer line of cars waiting. So I called a friend and asked if he knew any other routes. He suggested Stone Canyon. Also blocked with an even longer line of cars waiting. Now I was pissed. It was nearing a forty-five minute wait. The line of cars was blocks long (and there really aren’t “blocks” in Bel Air). We sat there with our engines off and irritations mounting, and I did what anyone would do in my situation. I dialed 911.

911, what’s your emergency?
I’m trapped in Bel Air.

I’m sorry?
I understand the President is here so Secret Service has blocked all the exits. I need to leave and I didn’t know who else to call. Can you find me a way out?

911 transferred me to Parking Enforcement who transferred me to Traffic Control who told me it was LA County in charge of this situation. (And, please note, that when I say “transferred”, I mean “waited on hold for ages before anyone picked up”.) Not wanting to deal with the County, I called someone I thought should have more clout: the Mayor. No, I’m not kidding.

Mayor’s office.
Yes, I’m trapped in Bel Air and I need some assistance.

Excuse me?
The President is in town and Secret Service has barricaded all the exits. I need help getting out. I’ve been sitting here for nearly an hour. It’s bordering on false imprisonment.

Let me put you through to an assistant.
Thank you.

The assistant was actually very kind and helpful. He put me on hold to see if they had any information, explained that the Secret Service had indeed taken over and that he would call me back with any further information. (He did call back, but I didn’t have a signal and he went to voicemail.)

Before we hung up, I asked him to pass on a message to the Mayor for me.

“First of all, he [the Shrub] is not welcomed in my city. I didn’t vote for him, twice. However, if he does come back, because this is a free country, he should remember that. I expect that my Mayor will not let his citizens be held captive in such a manner. We have rights and I think the Secret Service can do their job without blocking streets for such an inordinate amount of time. And if they can’t, then the President can just stay at home, or hold his tea parties at the airport. Thanks.”

The assistant chuckled and said he would pass that on.

I then called a publicist friend to ask about sending out a press release about a hostage situation in Bel Air. I had to entertain myself somehow. I got his assistant who said he had to get permission before he could give out any contact info. Sigh. Shortly after we ended our chat, traffic started and I made my way home, an hour behind in my life.

23 January 2008

So Sad

I don’t know about you, but the wind was knocked out of me when I heard the news that Heath Ledger was found dead. It wasn’t like I was a huge fan. I haven’t seen every film he made. I didn’t follow his career. Yet, it was a stunning loss. How very sad that someone so young and talented would be gone so suddenly. And sadder still that a two-year-old will grow up without her father, with few or any memories of him to take with her. But, perhaps the saddest aspect is that cameras, scandal and innuendo will be linked to his passing for the foreseeable future.

It’s a bit too Anna Nicole Smith, if you ask me. And this young man did not deserve that. Have we lost all dignity and sense of propriety when it comes to celebrity death? Why was Heath’s body bag newsworthy? Did TMZ need to stream live to catch it? The throngs of people gawking on Broome Street were not there with hats in hands, heads lowered to give a show of respect. They were there with cameras and craned necks to get a glimpse of his gurney. For what? Money, if they were members of the slimy media covering the scene. And, if not that, is it something worth noting in one’s journal? Dear Diary, Today I camped out in front of the apartment of an actor who died so I could see his corpse wheeled away. Is that something to tell the grandkids about? Loser much?

Heath Ledger had a public career yet he chose to live a private life. He deserved (and still deserves) our respect and for him to maintain that privacy. Unlike the Anna Nicoles, Britneys, Parises and Lohans of the media-whoring world, he didn’t court the cameras, didn’t ask us to watch his every move, didn’t beg us to notice him. Unfortunately, now the cameras won’t take their eyes away.

It’s troublesome that the masseuse chose to call another celebrity instead of 911, but it’s almost understandable if you think that a call to emergency services will go across the police scanners, which the media lives by. Paparazzi would arrive before paramedics. I am not saying this justifies that action. Not at all. But, knowing how some in the periphery of celebrity will go to great lengths to protect those they work with, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was why she made that terrible decision.

I couldn’t be more a defender of freedom of the press and First Amendment rights, but I don’t think the paparazzi falls under that umbrella. They aren’t journalists; they are freelance hunters stalking prey, baiting them, collecting trophies for prize money. What they do isn’t for the greater good of society. It’s for larger sales on the newsstands. And something needs to be done about them before Britney runs over something more that toes.

I hope that in the days to come, some respect will be shown to Heath Ledger and his family. If not for him or them, then for that little girl too young to understand that she won’t see her daddy again.

02 January 2008

Where the Sun Shines

It occurred to me the other day that we are now seeing the effects of the first generation of “The Sun Shines Out Your Ass” parenting...and it ain’t pretty. Britney’s vagina, for example. Her knocked-up sixteen year-old sister for another. Mischa Barton’s sad mug shot, Paris Hilton weeping in the back of a cop car, and Lindsay Lohan having a little too much fun in Capri after how many stints in rehab last year? I lost count.

It’s easy to point the finger at these girls because they are infamous. They chose celebrity as a career. Not exactly an admirable vocation, nor are they particularly good at it outside of shopping on Robertson and courting the paparazzi. Yet, somehow, with all their access and assets, they seem to repeatedly not choose to take the sage advice of lawyers, drug counsellors or publicists. I’m all about making mistakes...as long as a lesson is learned from them. Perhaps they believe the sun still emanates from their backsides, they are bulletproof, or so damn cool that they can get away with anything and still be loved, admired and adored.

Not quite. Instead, they are mocked, maligned and bets are set on the outcome of their next faux pas or O.D. I don’t think the money is on Britney coming out the other side of this, do you?

It’s asinine; both their behavior and our attention to it. You just want to shake them and yell, “Grow up!” And then you want to shake their parents and yell, “You screwed up.” They aren’t the only ones. We are able to see their kids’ f-ups, but how many more parents are sitting there watching their twenty-somethings flounder thinking they did their kids a disservice? Too many! And they did do a disservice to them and the rest of us who have to deal with those spoilt, dysfunctional brats in the real world. Ugh. I dread going out in overcrowded public.

At the end of the day, those brats are adults now. At a certain point, they need to take responsibility for their actions and grab the reigns in their own lives to get it back on track. It is possible. We’ve all done it (well...most of us have). Take a look at the original, post-modern “Wild Child”, Drew Barrymore. Rehab at thirteen and fifteen. That was followed by starting over (hello, she did a TV movie and failed series) and paying her dues (hello, TV movie and failed series). With a steady climb back, she reached the top of her game, producing as well as acting in hit films. She may not be the Meryl Streep of her time (you never know, though; her career is far from over), but she is working and respected, and that’s more than we can say for the current crop of tabloid cover girls. Then again, Drew was from a generation who knows where the sun really shines.

These celebutards aren’t thirteen or fifteen, but in their twenties (except for the knocked-up one and that’s a column for another day...about birth control and the lack of prophylactics. Where are the rubbers, people?! HIV! Herpes! Hello?!). I have to wonder, when are they going to learn? When they overdose? Wrap their car around a pole? Kill someone? Their careers are on life support already. What is their bottom? As a clue, the sun does not shine from it.

You know, every snowflake is special, unique and beautiful, but that doesn’t reduce the likelihood that it will be trampled on, melt in a gutter or land on some poo. And I’m beginning to think that if one is raised to believe they are special, unique and beautiful, the likelihood that they will be trampled on, pass out in a gutter and end up looking like poo increases exponentially.

Parents, take note. Your kid is not special. Your child is not unique. Your brat is human and flawed and wonderful only for that reason. You have not raised a prodigy. Your spawn is not the next Einstein. Odds are your kid is annoying if not flat-out obnoxious and needs to really embrace the concept of NO. The world is not his or her oyster. The oyster is communal. It is to be shared. And the community should be respected enough not to have to hear your brat scream in public, bang its utensils in a restaurant, or run riot in a respectable establishment. I don’t like your kid when it behaves that way. I like you even less for allowing it. Take it home and let it know it proved my theory: Your kid ain’t perfect. It’s an obnoxious little creature that needs to learn some manners and respect. And the sooner you both embrace that, what a wonderful world it will be.