My Bumpy Road Through “Hollywood” — The Mean Streets


CITY STREET Photo by Israel Sundseth

Photo by Israel Sundseth

I spent a lot of time on the mean streets of Hollywood. I lived there, worked there, had friends there, I walked them a lot. My screenplay for the feature film EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE—The Story of a Father and Son is set there, in 1998.

The sketchy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Vine Street is a little nicer now, but not by much. There has always been a veneer of potential violence.

It’s a little different style-wise, too. Back in the 1990s, if you saw a couple walking hand-in-hand along this stretch, and that couple was of opposite genders, and if each of them were their original gender, then you knew they were scared tourists separated from their tour group.

The boys from my story were in this environment.

Today, it came back to me.

I was walking along this stretch of the Boulevard taking short videos of several of the ‘landmarks,’ portions that appeared the same as they were back in 1998. The goal is to mimic or composite street scenes for our short film version of the feature film screenplay EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE—The Story of a Father and Son. We are going into production on the short film in a couple weeks. I need to create the feel of that era in the film.

I had walked several blocks videoing several places, and then it became violent. I was videoing a building and some thug thought I had video of him. He came galloping down the block after me, loud and intimidating.

A couple things about this confrontation.

First, his threats diminished slightly by the time he reached me. I guess he didn’t realize how big I am until he got closer. (I’m 6’4”, he was maybe 6’.)

Second, although he was playing perfectly the role he chose to cast himself in—e.g., Central Casting: Large black loud intimidating street thug—I, on the other hand, was not playing the role he thought I should be playing. I may have been wearing my stupid “40-Year-Old Virgin” shirt (that’s a Steve Carell reference; look it up) but I don’t play the scared white tourist role. When he was up against me and trying to chest-bump me, I wasn’t having it.

He was shouting at me to delete the photos from my phone, and I said, “No.”

He started grabbing me. This, of course, is in broad daylight on Santa Monica Boulevard at North McCadden Place. That’s the way it is, still today.

I had been walking, but at that point stopped, turned to him, eye-to-eye, and told him to stop grabbing me.

One disadvantage we both had: neither of us knew how crazy the other might be.

Standing toe-to-toe staring at each other, a couple thoughts flooded my mind because whatever was going to happen next was likely to be messy.

First, I was glad I had started working out at the gym this week, but feeling profound regret for having stopped working out for a couple years after moving to New York City and getting so damn flabby.

Second, and most significant, was my clearly-formed thought while glaring eye-to-eye, our noses almost touching: “I have just been fucked over by the bullshit of a horrifically failed Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and the hell if any bullshit you think you can bring could possibly be that bad.” Yes. Exactly that sentence.

I was prepared for anything that might happen next. It might have been a few seconds or it might have been an hour, I can’t recall, but it was a stalemate. I decided to turn and walk away, not knowing what would happen from behind. I looked back, and he was still just standing there. It was over.

I walked a few blocks further down the Boulevard, to the Target store, and bought—honest!—a spray bottle of Febreze®. My car stinks.

How macho is THAT?

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