Santa Monica has long been a home to the television and film industries. Not only do many in the business live here, but our picturesque city is often used for location shots ‚Äî too often if you ask me. Of course I may be biased from a rather unpleasant incident of a few years ago.
It was a summer afternoon during a heat wave and I was walking home from the beach. I was sunburnt, sandy and carrying an umbrella and a beach chair that goes over my shoulder like a backpack. In the heat, weighed down as I was, I felt like part pack mule.
I was about to cross Barnard Way going east when I was confronted by a young woman holding a red stop sign that had a handle. Seeming self-important, she informed me that she was part of a film crew and I had to wait until further notice ‚Äî from her. “We‚Äôre shooting a scene for a Chevy Chase movie,” she said and her tone reeked of “I‚Äôm in show business and you‚Äôre not.”
The odd thing was that as I looked left and right, I didn‚Äôt see any film crew or any vehicles. Or any Chevy Chase for that matter. Feeling ridiculous, I just stood there. After a minute I gave thought to opening my beach chair and sitting down to wait.
I tried to reason with her, but to no avail. I felt like Jack Nicholson in “Five Easy Pieces” asking for a side order of toast. Finally, I figured it‚Äôs only 20 feet, I‚Äôll make a break for it. Just then the young woman thrust her sign near my face. “Can‚Äôt you read?” For a fleeting second I thought I was a victim of the TV show “Punk‚Äôd” and Ashton Kutcher would step out from behind the bushes.
One last time I tried logic. “Look, by the time I finish this sentence I could have been across the street already.” She responded coldly, “Do I have to call the police?” That did it. This was crazy.
“Go ahead,” I said defiantly. She immediately got on her walkie-talkie and I heard her describe me as “potentially violent.” Potentially annoyed was more like it, only forget the “potentially.”
Seemingly only seconds later a cop car barreled down Barnard Way. She glared victoriously, “Now you‚Äôre in big trouble.” Suddenly I pictured myself being handcuffed and shoved into the backseat of a squad car (along with my umbrella and beach chair).
Angrily, the cop got out of his car and I thought maybe he was going to taser me.¬† Instead, he pleaded with me. “She doesn‚Äôt have any authority but just don‚Äôt make a scene, OK?”
As the exasperated cop drove off I should have just gone home right then, but I was too angry. I had just imagined myself getting fingerprinted and having my mug shot taken. Trust me, it would have looked worse than Nick Nolte, whose infamous 2002 mug shot resembled a homeless alcoholic. (No offense to homeless alcoholics.)
“Do you have a supervisor?” I demanded. She glared again before reluctantly using her walkie-talkie. This time I heard myself described as “an old weirdo.” Yikes.
The supervisor was in a trailer at the far end of the parking lot. With my umbrella and beach chair, the last thing I wanted to do was schlep over there. But what pride I had left was on the line.
Much to my chagrin, I had to fill out a complaint form. Frankly, I‚Äôd rather be tasered than fill out a form. Especially when it was obvious the supervisor was going to throw it in the trash can the moment I left.
That was a few years ago. Recently, however, my apartment building lobby and parking lot were rented out to “Mad Men” to simulate a Miami Hotel circa 1960s. It‚Äôs a great show and the thought was exciting. But, the following day, when trucks started noisily unloading heavy equipment at 6 a.m., it got considerably less exciting. Tenants were told we couldn‚Äôt use the lobby, the parking lot, or even our balconies. (Modern-looking clothes conflicted with the period-era show.) So, this was twice Hollywood production had irked me. Once I couldn‚Äôt cross the street, now I couldn‚Äôt get my mail. Grrr.
The next day I checked with Rent Control and city permits and guess what? On private property apparently there‚Äôs no limit to how many times a landlord can rent out his building to production companies. (Great, now I‚Äôve probably given some greedy landlord a new money-making scheme.)
That day when “Mad Men” was here, we were instructed that to leave the property we had to go out the side exit. Grumbling, I decided to walk and see the filming from afar. As I did I kept thinking that I might run into the busybody woman with the stop sign. Of course, that was ridiculous. She‚Äôs probably a director by now.
Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.