COMMENTARY: The grid is wobbly. The hills are on fire. Some homeless camps in the Valley have been almost as crowded as CityWalk.
If ever we needed the annual migration of awards-season out-of-towners, it is now.
The Descent of the Visitors—most of them from New York—is my favorite part of the Oscar cycle. Like swallows to Capistrano, they show up on cue as the weather turns gloomier in Manhattan and brighter in L.A. You could hear the first flutter at the Governors Awards in October. AFI Fest, Nov. 14-21 this year, will bring a few early nesters. By Golden Globes night, on Jan. 5, out-of-town reporters, publicists, filmmakers, stars, and hangers-on will be perched in the hotels, restaurants and bars, in off-and-on residence until the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 9. They will be looking, all of them, for a touch of glamour.
Having worked often as a Los Angeles correspondent for New York publications, I spent much time with this flock. They’d want inside gossip, lists of the best parties, and, above all, Oscar tickets, usually at the last minute. Local journalists were expected to play the concierge, and I picked up the tab way more often than not for visitors who had invited me out for a brain-picking over drinks.
But my publication usually paid. And it was worth the price to get an annual look at Hollywood through the eyes of these outsiders. Like most of us, they had come in search of the myth. But unlike those who had been here for a while, they didn’t realize that it was actually in their hip pocket. They brought the myth with them. The best parties were orchestrated in New York by the likes of Vanity Fair or Harvey Weinstein or HBO. The hottest restaurants were whatever The New York Times said they were. As for hotels, the Chateau Marmont would have long ago crumbled in its own dust if it weren’t for New Yorkers who for some reason find magic on the nearly inaccessible Sunset Strip.
But thank God for those illusions. We who live here need a dose of them just now. I only hope our glamour-season visitors can make it through LAX, where the latest bureaucratic brainstorm—a mandatory shuttle-bus ride to a central pick-up point for taxis and share-vehicles—has piled new gridlock on the old. With luck, there will still be Uber and Lyft rides come January: The state has just outlawed contractor arrangements under which the drivers mostly operated. Watch out for e-scooters—they’re filling the emergency rooms. Hotel prices will be up, as local regulators close in on Airbnb. Gas prices are already sky-high, far past the national average.
The streets are half-closed by runaway construction. West Nile virus and typhus are a bit of a problem; but we’re getting ready to ban rat poison. If you’re planning to have a Margarita on the beach, better bring your own reusable straw (the Bed, Bath and Beyond on Olympic Blvd. in West Los Angeles will sell you one).
Don’t look too closely at those tear stains on the red carpet. They’re probably left behind by some worn-out assistant, or by an old-fashioned director worried about streaming. Or maybe it’s because Robert Evans is dead.
But welcome to L. A. We need you, and your glamorous Hollywood myth. Now more than ever.