Plunket in Wonderland

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On the labrynth that is Hollywood

from Chapter Six: “A Mazing Plunket”

“Beam me up, Scotty!”

Paula laughed, as she buzzed her boss.  “Go on in.  Gary’s expecting you.”

Plunket took a cleansing breath and prepared to pass through the final door of the Capital maze (just one tiny segment of the larger labyrinth that is Hollywood) to his ultimate destination, his “reward”—a conversation with the vice president of production at Capital Pictures. Plunket recalled what Buddy had reminded him of the previous day, how fortunate he was to have any job in Hollywood, and (particularly given the tough times) what tens of thousands of neophytes would give to be in his shoes—i.e. privy to counsel with the Hollywood elite—so well protected, buffered, distanced from John Q. Public as a result of decades of constructing the infinite screening devices designed to keep the uninitiated at bay. But what went undetected was that along with the obstruction of the uninitiated came the obstruction of the flow of information from the real world—the same real world that with each film Hollywood was striving to reach at the box office.

There was the guard at the gate, the receptionist to the building, and those for each floor, the assistant to each executive, and the team of executives, themselves—everybody guarding the throne, the  “family secrets,” as if the very act of guarding, itself, was enough to generate value where there was usually only hollow hype. Headed directly for the labyrinth were the innocent, young hopefuls arriving each year from towns like Muleshoe, Texas, all competing against the innocent, slightly older young hopefuls who had arrived the previous year from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, who in turn have been competing with those who had arrived the year before that, and so on, ad infinitum, back to Ellis Island.

And this season‘s crop of bright green spring hopefuls turns late-autumn brown and slightly less hopeful with each undetectable changing of the Southern California homogenous seasons. And with each shedding of leaves comes a more nakedly revealing shedding of hope, as weeks turn into years and individual time schemes for success with each battering ram of rejection get so stretched out of shape that the original plan becomes too tattered and thin to recognize and the transformed version too blurred and painful to comprehend. Whether it‘s the actor or director who can‘t get an assignment without an agent and can‘t get an agent without an assignment, or the writer who‘s too inexperienced to be trusted with a feature or too old to relate to the youthful concerns of the teenage demographic, or just a lowly assistant, reader, or would-be production assistant who can‘t get a job without being in the union, and can‘t get in the union without first getting a job. There are the mazes of each individual studio‘s infra-structure that have to be memorized before passage can even be attempted, while the Hollywood super-structure outside does everything within its omnipotent power to prevent non-members from ever getting in. And lastly, at the final “Fade Out,” just one short block beyond Gatsby‘s green light that in Hollywood gridlock seems stuck on red in all directions, sits the pot of gold, somewhere over the rainbow, the piece of cheese at the end of the eternal maze—ostensibly controlled by the Wizards of Oz—the No-People who are either too spineless to say “Yes,” or too powerless to say anything but “No.”

Trying to remind himself it was good to be alive, Plunket took another breath of stale, smog-filled, air-conditioned studio air, grabbed a firm grasp of the shiny, slippery, hollow, brass door knob, and opened the door leading into the suite of the vice president of worldwide production at Capital Pictures.

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