The Hunger

I couldn’t help myself. I picked up yet another book from the library about fame and Hollywood. I just want to understand what it is that makes ordinary, not necessarily interesting people all over America think they have it in them to be famous. And why the hell do they all have to come here and clog up the freeways?

As far as I can gather, the average Jane (the would-be celebrities who flock to Hollywood are overwhelmingly female) seeks to become famous – or an assistant to someone famous – most often so she will have something to rub in the face of everyone in the backwater town she came from. Actual talent is not a prerequisite to pursue this dream. Just lots of cold, hard cash. Why save for a college education when all that money could go toward a convention in Hollywood where you can parade around in a bikini for a bunch of jaded talent agents?

My thoughts are interrupted here by a young woman waving a questionnaire in my face. For real. She tells me she is an acting student and asks if I will answer ten yes/no questions about her based on my first impression of her. She says it is an assignment to help her discover her “casting type” and to “find out how people perceive me.” Actually, my first impression when I saw her walk into this cafe was, “That woman looks hungry.” It’s not only that she has so little meat on her bones that her butt cheeks, encased in tight black leggings, look like a couple of candy apples on sticks. She looks hungry for something else, something I suspect she won’t find on the menu here.

I look down at the paper she has handed me to see a list of apparently unrelated statements such as, “This person is of Mediterranean descent,” “…is a nurse,” and “…has committed adultery.” It’s a checklist of the basic racist and sexist stereotypes that are pretty much all that is available to “exotic” types who wish to get into the acting biz. I actually overheard an agent once, an obese, middle-aged white guy in a blue polyester suit, with a combover and wet, quivering lips (it is unnecessary to make this stuff up), recite almost the exact same list to a young, pretty, impeccably dressed Asian-American woman, telling her that as “an exotic,” and an aging one at that (!) she would have the best luck looking for roles as a nurse or a “fallen woman.”

Candy-apple butt is clearly irritated by the smart-aleck question that accidentally falls out of my mouth as soon as I glance at the paper (“Are you sure you’re not actually conducting a psychological survey of all the people who answer this questionnaire?”) and disdainfully tosses her carefully ironed hair, repeating that I just need to answer yes or no, and assuring me that nothing I can say will hurt her feelings. I decide it would be best to refrain from asking her if she has moved here from Spitwad, USA to try out for the upcoming season of America’s Next More Famous Than Any Of You Losers Back Home. She looks tired and angry, in spite of the practiced smile she is now flashing the owner of the establishment, having figured out that I am probably not an agent in disguise. He sits down to answer her questionnaire and she flirts professionally while making a lot of lame jokes (“Can I treat you to something on the house?”) and leans forward to expose what cleavage she can summon up on her bony frame, while giving him the same phony spiel I got a few minutes earlier. “Don’t be afraid of hurting my feelings!” Feelings are reserved for ninnies who can’t bear the thought of being typecast as adulterous nurses, I guess.

The cafe owner excuses himself, and alone at the table Ms. Wannabee’s face goes slack. She looks fatigued, and much older than she did a moment ago when she was forcing her visage into a more placating expression. I want to ask if I can have a copy of her questionnaire, but the look on her face is forbidding as she begins to text furiously, stopping only to fill up a device that looks like a tube of mascara with some brown liquid from a dropper. She sucks vigorously on the end of the mascara tube, inhaling what I assume must be some kind of nicotine-laden substance, forcefully exhaling a cloud of vapor with a large sigh. She stands abruptly, slamming her clipboard of non-feeling-hurting questionnaires into a large bag, flashes the fake smile briefly toward the center of the room, calls out “Thanks again!” to no one in particular, and stalks out of the cafe on her candy-apple sticks, hungrier than when she came in.

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