Saturday, September 12, 2009

The TV Post: Melrose Place, L.A., Rachael Ray, and other Stoup-id topics

It's amazing, but it took less than a week of being back in New York for 11 days of relaxation to evaporate like mist in the Las Vegas desert.  The three-minute walk from our apartment to the subway resulted in my body slowly morphing into that clenched posture common to boxers as I prepared to do battle with the people who step onto the subway car, unaware that any one of the three million people who inhabit Manhattan on a weekday might be behind them, apparently believing that the middle of the subway car arrives at a destination substantially different than the spot right inside the doors.

Additionally, my walk took me past two episodes of street vomit, which isn't exactly a sight that puts a song in your heart at 7am.  Why does morning in Manhattan bestow sidewalk puke like dew on the Elysian Fields?  You never see puke in L.A., though, to be fair, no one walks in L.A.  Ever.

When I visit Los Angeles I generally stay at the London West Hollywood (formerly the Wyndham Bel Age, formerly the Bel Age, notable for being the site of the fictional West Beverly High School Prom, where Mrs. Teasley found Donna Martin inebriated and almost didn't let her graduate. Ahhh, remember the 90s - when protesting the fictional expulsion of a television character seemed fraught with meaning.  Contrast that to the people holding a Tea Party in Washington, D.C. today to protest something as horrible and destructive as lowering health care costs so sickness doesn't trigger bankruptcy, covering the uninsured so we can reverse the damage we've done to our collective conscience over the past 8 and half years, and stop monopolistic corporations from profiting mightily of the misfortunes of our friends and neighbors.  If you have any confusion over which march I'd be more likely to join, I have three words for you:

"Donna Martin Graduates!")

I love the London West Hollywood.  It's almost entirely white and dove gray, the staff wears impeccable gray suits that make all the women look smart and all the guys look hot (except the dork in the fedora.  It's over.  Lose the hat.) and it's got a Gordon Ramsay restaurant in it, and that guys is crazy, and crazy talented.  Seriously, give me a selection of his appetizers and an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and I'm in heaven.  Plus, last year when I was at the London, John Slattery (of Mad Men, also the episode of Sex and the City where he played a politician who wanted Carrie to pee on him) was there for the Emmys.  Gimme some Slattery at the rooftop pool and I'm a happy blogger.

The best thing about the London - much like my other favorite L.A. haunt, the Sunset Marquis, is that they are steps away from the Equinox in West Hollywood.  It makes it simple to walk to the gym in the morning, except for the fact that no one walks in L.A. and I find myself stared at by all the people driving down the Sunset Strip in their BMWs and Hummers. (Yes, they still drive Hummers in L.A. A lot.  Apparently news of global warming can't make it past the smog.)

Of course it could be because I'm cute.  

Anyway, all this side chatter about L.A. isn't really side chatter - it's quite germane to today's posting, which is about my brush with L.A. this week.  Late Thursday afternoon I received an email from Actors Access, a service which consolidates solicitations from casting directors, production companies, etc, for projects seeking talent.  Though the postings for hosts, sardonic Gay Jews, and neurotic bloggers are few and far between, I've kept my subscription and this week it paid off: a posting seeking Male Hosts, Age 25-45, for the Food Network.

This, for me, is basically like finding the Holy Grail.  All of the concepts I'm developing are related to food (restaurant dining, weight loss, instructional cooking....)  Plus, I'm age 25-45 (and unwilling to be more specific than that, what with my birthday being next week) and male.

So - clearly - I need to find a way to get an audition.

The first thing I notice is that the posting is filed under the Los Angeles section of the website, not New York, which is odd since the Food Network is located less than 60 blocks from our home, in New York's famed Chelsea Market (mmm...Fat Witch Brownies.  Choco-licious.)  I conclude that the show or shows seeking talent are being produced by outside production companies which have pitched, or intend to pitch, the concepts to Food Network.

The posting lists a casting agent, so my first call is to Brette - my co-producer for the tv shows and a casting director here in New York.  I call Brette and she and I do some mutual research on the internet.  We find out that the casting producer is affiliated with a Casting Agency in Los Angeles.  Brette offers to call the agency in her professional capacity - one casting director to another.

After two attempts, Brette calls me sounding a little exasperated.  She's called the agency and been told that Erika, the listed casting producer, isn't there.  She's put on the phone with Robyn (in L.A. it's always Robyn, never Robin, unless it's a British man.)  After explaining why she's calling, Robyn pretends not to hear Brette.  Brette hangs up and tries again, with the same result.

"Relax," I tell her, "I think you've simply encountered L.A. Girl Type #3.

See, I've spent a lot of time in L.A. and there are only 4 types of women in L.A.  L.A. Girl Type #1 is 28 - ALWAYS.  She's an aspiring actress with an apartment in Silverlake, she goes out 7 nights a week, and only consumes pineapple, vodka, and Orbit chewing gum.  If her weight hits 100 pounds, she cuts out the pineapple.  She looks forward to pilot season the way a 7 year old anticipates Christmas, and can't seem to speak in complete sentences without a script in her hands.

L.A. Girl Type II is blonde - ALWAYS - and 34 - ALWAYS.  She doesn't work in show business, has no interest in it, and appears to be annoyed by anything having to do with entertainment.  Her wardrobe costs a fortune, she generally works in sales, and is almost always driving a convertible, wearing a blue suit, or wheeling a black roll-a-board behind her.  She has not had sex since her boyfriend left her for L.A. Girl Type #1.  She is angry.

L.A. Girl Type #3 is what happens to most L.A. Girls Type #1.  She's admitted to being 30, even though she's 36, now works in the industry as an agent or development executive or casting director (ding! ding! ding!) and has, at various points, been a vegan, a Scientologist, and a lesbian.  She is apparently afflicted with a hearing disorder that allows her only to hear male voices.  She wants a labrador and a house on the beach.

L.A. Girl Type #4 is either over 40, overweight, or aggressively unattractive.  She is moving, probably to Montana, or maybe Washington state.

Anyway, I'm thinking that I may have better luck with the Casting Agency, so I call them up.  Before I do, however, I Google the casting agent again, this time finding that she is, or shares a name with, a woman who did two seasons of tv's Big Brother (I LOVE Big Brother.)  Since the casting agency casts reality television shows, Big Brother among them, I take a chance that it's her.

When I call, I ask for "Erika" and, when I learn that there's no Erika there, I ask for Robyn.  Robyn takes my call.  Yes, Erika does some work for her, but more in a freelance capacity; she may be casting this on her own.  "Is she the same Erika who did two seasons of Big Brother?" I ask.  It is.  I convey my sympathy at how badly she was treated by Mike "Boogie" and - a sidebar here.  I really do believe this woman was badly treated and nationally embarrassed by this dork who calls himself "Boogie" and managed to win half a million bucks.  However, when you fall in love on Big Brother, you sort of get what you pay for (though I'm totally rooting for Jeff and Jordan on BB11.)

Robyn takes my contact info and offers to pass it on....

With time to kill while not waiting for the phone to ring, I invite Brette over for dinner and to develop a Plan B.  I love the term Plan B.  It makes me feel like I'm plotting espionage.

I can't decide which recipe to make for dinner, so wind up making both.  What the hell - we'll eat the rest as leftovers.

Recipe #1: Greek Cruise Inspired Chicken:

1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or whatever part of the chicken you like.

Thyme (preferably fresh)

Oregano (preferably dried - yeah a contradiction.  No, I don't know why.  If you want fresh, get fresh.  Leave me alone.)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2-3 Tbsp)

1 medium onion, sliced.

2 cloves garlic, pressed.

Put a bunch of thyme and oregano on the chicken.  Use a lot.  Put Olive Oil in pan.  Get pan hot (medium heat).  Put chicken in hot pan.  Cook until until the chicken is not raw enough to kill you, but don't dry it out - that sucks.  Remove cooked chicken from pan and place in warm oven.  Add onions and garlic, saute until brown and delicious.  Serve on top of chicken.  Good with peas.

Sauce My Mother Might Have Made:

Can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
2 cans of tomato sauce (15 oz ea)
1 chopped medium onion
7 cloves of garlic.  Or 6, or 4 or 9.  Whatever - I like garlic.  Slice half; crush half.
Italian Parsley
Fresh Basil
Fresh Oregano (or dried. Get off my case.)
1 package ground meat - about a pound.  I like Beef/Pork/Veal.

In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp Olive Oil.  Add crushed tomatoes.  Add sauce.  Add herbs.  Combine the ground meat with 1 egg and some bread crumbs, and maybe some onion powder or garlic powder.  Make little balls.  Put them in the hot sauce.  Leave everything on a low flame for a while.  Like an hour. or 3.  Whatever, just don't burn anything.

Serve. (Store leftovers in Tupperware.  Buy it from Dixie.)

I realize I have a bit of a laissez-faire approach to cooking, but apparently this works, as I learn after cooking this feast for Neil and Brette, because Rachael Ray has just won another Daytime Emmy.

Now, you can put me in the camp of people who actually like Rachael Ray and think she's cute and approachable and totally understand why she's famous.  However, she apparently is only capable of making burgers, as everything on her show is a burger.  Hamburger, Turkey Burger, Breakfast Burger (not kidding), Salmon Burger, Burger with cheese crammed into the meat.  I'm exhausted by the burgers.  And by the "stoups" - a cross between a stew and a soup, which is basically a hot wet mess that might as well be a bowl of Chunky soup.

My dinner may not have been much more creative, but it's apparently Emmy-worthy.  So, if you know anyone at Food Network, or someone who can get me that audition - let me know.   Meanwhile, I'm gonna get a sandwich from Lansky's on Columbus Ave at 70th St (yeah, we have leftovers, but I want some Matzo ball soup and chopped liver.  Yum.)  Then I'll be on my couch watching the New Melrose Place - it won't be Kimberly blowing up the building or Amanda torturing Allison, but Sydney's back - and she blackmailed someone in the first five minutes.  Love me some Laura Leighton...


Do this, New York:

When you're in L.A., stay at the London.  I once saw my friend Susan starring in a Target ad on a billboard from my balcony.

Go to Chelsea

Watch 90210.  The original.  The new one kind of sucks.  Buy it at Amazon.

Watch Big Brother.  It's awesome.  Root for Jordan.

Watch Melrose Place and Mad Men (dude, Peggy's smoking pot; little Zoey Bartlet's come a long way.)

Go ahead, watch Rachael Ray.  Even though I totally could've gotten that Emmy (someone get me that audition!)

Eat at Lansky's - the best Jewish deli on the Upper West Side - great prices, less greasy than Artie's, and delicious chopped liver (I know, most people hate it.  But it's delicious.)


Please don't puke on the sidewalk.  So gross.

Don't be L.A. Girl Type #3.

Don't protest meaningful health care reform.

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