When I was in college I studied – among other things – film theory and production. And, until a disastrous Summer co-op in LA in 1994, that’s what I thought I wanted to DO with my life. I’ll expound on that in a bit.
I actually made some pretty cool films, if not technically wondrous. Bear in mind, this was pre-Avid. I was also every man: writer, story boarder, camera loader, director, grip, audio, editor. I was literally cutting the celluloid and taping it back together using either a Moviola or a Steenbeck. So I guess it looked a little Frankenstein-y. But conceptually I had some great stuff. My senior project was, perhaps, my coup de grace. It was a multi-media installation involving 16mm film, video and a dj (my boyfriend at the time). All of the elements were synced together and were supposed to be an autobiography, of sorts. The event took place in the “dance space” on campus (a dilapidated, graffiti covered, shithole) where I recreated my bedroom from home. It was entitled Play Pretties and was a "hit" (amongst the tiny population of my school). It saddens me that it will never see the light of day again – but also sort of lovely in the same sense.
That's me setting it all up, checking the sync.
One of the other films I made was about accidentally overhearing random parts of other people's conversations. I can’t recall the title. I filmed it in a diner in Xenia, Ohio, starring Paz as the girl who is overly affected by hearing the audio clips and two girls that lived in the dorm room next to me as the “offenders”. All shots with Paz were in color and everything shot with the other girls was in black and white.
The dialogue was actual random stuff I had overheard and found compelling in some way. Things like “…that I wasn’t in that fucking car when it went down.” Or “You know old men are dirty.” There was some line about a bathtub or something, but I can’t remember much else.
I used the diner order tickets for my credits.
I thought I was terribly clever.
My Friday ritual of late is to spend hours on end at The Chateau Marmont and write. For some reason I have found it increasingly difficult to accomplish much in that department at home. The Chateau is usually quiet, serene, comfortable, and I’ve always felt at home with camping out here. This Friday, however, I was unaware that it is Golden Globe weekend. The Chateau is packed. I’m sitting a few feet away from
that dude from Dazed and Confused who is now on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (oops) Brendan Fraser, staring through the window at Matt Dillon and overhearing parts of conversation that is reminiscent of any number of scenes from The Player. “Oh, you mean THE Barry Levinson?” “No, LARRY Levinson.” “Oh, right, LARRY.”
WHAT?!?! Actually, wasn't there a JOEL Levinson in The Player?
It all reminds me of that film I made. But here’s the thing – this all also reminds me of that maelstrom of a Summer back in 1994. Right when I was so excited and in love with movies and film. What better place to do my required internship than Hollywood? I even had a good college friend, Emma, already out here doing an internship of her own. She told me she’d help me find a job and had a friend’s place I could stay. I can’t recall if that was supposed to be temporary sofa surfing or if it was cool if I stayed the entire Summer. Obviously I stayed on that sofa the entire Summer. I also never really found a job.
I was also living in Brentwood. Without a car. Hardly knew a soul. No job.
Then, one day, one of the girls I was crashing with did me a solid. I guess she was working with Tarantino and Bender’s company A Band Apart in some capacity. Or maybe the other girl I that lived there was working for Oliver Stone’s company, Ixtlan. Honestly, I can’t recall the details, but I got a gig reading scripts for Stone’s company and writing coverages. For no pay.
The thing was, I came from unusual schooling and a wild, hippie college where I was studying 16mm film production, underground, independent films, modern jazz, juggling, how to pull a massive bong hit and irreverence. So reading scripts called Surfing the Himalayas and all the other Hollywood shite I was handed was literally obscene to me. In addition to that I didn’t know how to write in a non overly verbose and non-academic way. I didn’t know or understand Hollywood. Nor did I want to. I waited with bated breath to leave this town of evil. And I was never to return.
Hey, I was also an extra in Nixon. I played a "sleeping hippie" in the Lincoln Memorial scene. Look for a blonde girl, wearing brown, so rudely interrupted by Anthony Hopkins and James Woods walking down the steps of the memorial and kicking a beer bottle towards her head. That was pretty neat. But I still hated what I saw that that Summer: This machine that makes movies - Hollywood.
That was then This is now. Fifteen plus years later. Now I live in Hollywood, I work in Hollywood, I eat in Hollywood, I drink in Hollywood and I love Hollywood. I AM a Southern Californian.
I remember at the beginning of that Summer, whenever I would walk into a café or store or what have you, I thought everyone was looking at me, checking me out, because I was so cool. Then I realized – everyone checks out everyone to see if they’re someone.
Now, here I sit, at the famed Chateau Marmont, with a glass of iced tea, lillet, and now merlot – on the Friday before the Golden Globes, surrounded by celebrities, agents, and everyone who is supposed to be someone, writing for my little food blog.
Funny how life works.
Anyway, one other thing that happened that ill-fated (or not so ill-fated) Summer, was - in my melancholy, when I wasn't reading, writing, drinking wine or watching Looking for Mr. Goodbar, I was cooking. Nothing fancy, mind you. But even when just making pasta sauces I made a point to chop as many things as possible, stir as much as possible, create food that required as much preparation and tedium as possible. It was like knitting or yoga for some. It was my Zen.
So, in the spirit of that time and this time, and my slightly more advanced kitchen capability, I share with you a dish that requires both knife skills and constant attention. It also seems very Hollywood.
Cremini Mushroom and Meyer Lemon Risotto
2 1/4 cups boiling-hot water
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 lb small cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Arborio rice (8 oz)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Bring stock and 2 cups hot water to a simmer. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté cremini, stirring, until browned, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.
Stir in 1/2 cup simmering stock mixture and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition become absorbed before adding the next, until rice is tender but still al dente and creamy (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.)
Stir in zest, mushrooms, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, Parmesan and pepper to taste. (If necessary, thin risotto with some of remaining broth.) Serve immediately.