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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Column: The rich man’s champagne

Hello again, my friends.

Over the break, I did a great many exciting and important things like drink PBR, play pool and watch the Ali G show (on New Year’s Eve). My mind was far from anything substantial like this quarter’s classes or what I’ll do when I graduate. I have never worried about that because I usually manage to persuade myself I’ll figure something out.

I was, however, served a reality check when I attended an extravagant Hollywood party in the winding depths of Laurel Canyon. (Some nobodies named Will Ferrell and George Clooney live there.) I went with my mom, who happened to know the host – through a friend.

I felt like some farmhand who ain’t never seen no city lights ‘afore. I ate cheeses I can’t pronounce, saw cars as expensive as my education and drank some kind of alcohol that definitely isn’t champagne. How do I know it wasn’t champagne? It went a little something like this:

Me: “This champagne is great!”

The Elite: “Hmm, yes, that’s a good laugh. Quite rich, yes.”

Me: “What?”

The Elite: “Yes, well, it isn’t champagne, dear boy. Hmm.”

Me: “What is it?”

The Elite: “Oh! Oh yes, what fun. Hmm. No, no we cahn’t tell you. No, no. Perhaps we’ll tell you when you can afford it on your own.”

Me: “What?”

The Elite: “Yes, well, call us when you make your first million.”

Me: “Ghhuh.”

Granted, it wasn’t million-dollar alcohol and they didn’t really talk like that. They told me what it was, but I’d never heard of it and I probably can’t afford it. All I know is that it was golden and bubbly and strong. Eventually, they put me to work keeping the fireplace full of wood.

Don’t get the wrong impression. Most of the people were really nice and it was important for me to meet them because they work where I want to work: in the pictures (that’s what these folks call the film industry).

Take this column right here for example. I write it because they pay me I enjoy writing and having people read what I write. Ultimately, I want to create my own visions in film. Writing will be a big part of it. Hopefully, getting paid will be, too. I like to think I’m pretty good at writing, so I’ve convinced myself it’ll pan out.

What was great about meeting some of the elite people in Laurel Canyon was that they taught me two things: 1) It is possible to achieve this goal, and 2) it sure ain’t gonna be easy (Boy howdy, they said).

I heard stories about lunatic art directors, talent with no concept of reality and people who worked their way up from fetching coffee to ordering coffee through the boss of the coffee fetchers. Some of these elites offered me some real encouragement and some real advice for how a writer can get things done. (I’ll sell the advice for 20 bucks).

I figure it all comes down to paying your dues. Quentin Tarantino worked in a video store and his first film was destroyed in a fire. James Cameron was a truck driver and one of his first films was a movie about killer piranhas. Flying, killer piranhas. Jim Jarmusch got into the Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in English and no film experience. If you don’t know him, check out Ghost Dog or Dead Man.

Anyway, I’ll pay my dues and slog through mire of low-level Hollywood work. I’ve already worked a job where I had to clean up the shit of incontinent, transient drug-addicts at the Davis Food Co-op, and there aren’t many jobs worse than that.

But that’s the future.

For now, bust out the PBR and the pool cues. For the time being, I’ll just worry about slogging through my class on Chaucer, where my professor has already countered all my tricks to avoiding real work in an English class. Maybe they’d work for you; I’ll sell that advice for $10. (It has nothing to do with plagiarism, SJA).

WILL LONG will sign your copies of this newspaper for free so you can sell them for thousands of dollars once he’s famous. He also signs breasts. E-mail him at wclong@ucdavis.edu.


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