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Hooray for Hollywood

My friend John Wight on his days in Hollywood, coping with the rigid class system and its systematized abuse, while scuffling as an extra and writing screenplays.

In my time I witnessed extras being escorted from the soundstage of the sitcom Friends by set security for the crime of arriving for work five minutes late, pleading to be allowed to remain as they hadn’t worked in weeks. I watched old age pensioners being bullied and yelled at by production assistants barely in their twenties for moving too slowly. Prior to working on the movie Minority Report I was instructed by the casting director not to look directly at the star Tom Cruise or else be immediately escorted off the set. I found myself almost being arrested after swapping punches with the producer of a low budget independent movie after he began yelling abuse at me and the other extras.

I lived in Los Angeles for quite a while, The entertainment business, and especially film, is populated in its higher ranks by severely dysfunctional, arrested development personages who delight in making life miserable for their underlings. The abuse is ritualized and vicious.

Actors and celebrities are often even worse. I once did database programming for two Hollywood types whose trajectories were definitely falling towards earth. Yet in both cases their sense of entitlement was quite amazing – as was their deliberate attempt to not pay me because, after all, I was being allowed to breathe the same air they were. I mentioned this to a friend who sold pricey furniture in Los Angeles. She laughed and said, we have this conversation at least once a week at our store – and we never ship any furniture to Hollywood types until we’ve been paid in full first.

  • populated in its higher ranks by severely dysfunctional, arrested development personages who delight in making life miserable for their underlings sounds familiar.