Chaim Amalek writes: According to this article article the Forward, the Academy membership consists predominantly of old Jewish men who, in the twilight of their years, are obsessing over the Holocaust. More proof of this came last night, when no fewer than TWO holocaust flicks were honored with Oscars: "Nowhere in Africa" for best foreign language film, and "The Pianist" for best picture. This obsession with the Holocaust is not shared by the 98% of the United States that is not Jewish, nor by that goodly fraction of the Jewish population that has not chosen to make the Holocaust the center of their lives. But the academy didn't stop there - it also honored malignant pedophile rapist and Jewish Holocaust Survivor Roman Polanski with an award for best director. Polanski is just the sort of Jew a reader of Die Sturmer would recognize: defiler of young Christian girls, hiding behind the cloak of being a persecuted minority. That he would be so honored just weeks after the very widely publicized liberation of Elizabeth Smart from the clutches of a child molester is further proof of the disconnect between Jews of influence and what is taking place in the broader world.
Cathy Seipp writes to Mattwelch.com: Here's something that puts the lie (most recently) to the David Shaw/Eric Alterman self-congratulation fest about how the media really aren't all that liberal: Michael Moore's anti-Bush outburst at last night's Oscars was booed by the stagehands, as well as some of the audience. But when Moore entered the pressroom a few minutes later, he was cheered.
Stephen Fried To Speak At Brandeis
Stephen Fried emails: Luke, Just wanted to let you know that I have been invited to give the keynote address for this summer's Gralla Fellows Program for Jewish Journalists at Brandeis, on July 23.
Gralla is a unique program that alternates between summer seminars at Brandeis for mid-career journalists at Jewish publications and for religion writers at secular publications. Two years ago, Sam Freedman gave the keynote to the Jewish journalist group when Jew vs. Jew was published; last year the editor of the Boston Globe gave the keynote, discussing the paper's coverage of the Catholic Church scandals with the religion writers group.
While the dinner before the keynote is only for this year's Gralla fellows and faculty, the speech itself will be open to the public. It will be my first appearance in New England to discuss The New Rabbi.
In the small world of Judaism, the director of the Gralla program who invited me is Jonathan Sarna, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis. Sarna's father, Nahum, the renowned biblical commentator, was once a scholar-in-residence at Har Zion.
Sunday Morning Tefillin Seminar
After a few hours of sleep, I arose at 7:30AM 3/23, showered, drove to synagogue, prayed for 45-minutes and then sat down and took a 45-minute seminar on tefillin (black boxes that you strap on to your left arm and head six mornings a week during prayer) from the rabbi who sold me my pair. He said tefillin were receptors to God. He gave such an awe-inspiring presentation that it shook me up, because I saw again how cavalierly I treat my religion.
At 12:20AM, Sunday morning, I went over to my mate Ian's place and watched the World Cup final between Australia and India over the internet. He paid out $200 to watch the last four matches. The picture quality was jerky. There were virtually no moving pictures. Just new freeze-frame pics about every five seconds. The audio was smooth and Australia was magnificent, winning big.
Spring Break Chicks
If you are a secular hedonist, where do you go to meet hot-looking women 18-23 years old on Spring Break? How about Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Westwood, Melrose Avenue, around the Rainbow, Roxy, Viper Room on the Sunset Strip, Cabo San Lucas, San Felipe, Rosarito Beach, Las Vegas, Palm Springs?
I'm a preacher's kid and I've heard the phrase "preacher's kid" a million times. But I never hear the phrase "rabbi's kid." Why?
One thought. In Orthodox Judaism, the rabbi isn't dramatically more religious than his congregants.
Black Muslim Asan Akbar Blows Up Fellow American Soldiers
Joe Sixpack writes: You liberate these shiftless niggers from Africa hundreds of years ago. Give them a decent job picking cotton, feed them and house them... even teach 'em about the lawd Jaysus Christ. You teach them the meaning of authority by lynching all the bad niggers so they understand their place and don't go gettin' all uppity.
Then some anti-american communists called civil libertarians tell them that they don't need ol' whitey... that they can do what they like. Well, then didn't all hell break loose. Then they created ghettos, smoked crack and killed the benevolent, kind white man. Some of 'em even turned away from Jaysus (praise be!) to some sand nigger called Allah.
And now army niggers are throwin' grenades at their superiors. What IS this world comin' to! Goddamn... unappreciative niggers! Life'd be a whole lot simpler if they were still pickin' cotton!
Chaim writes: Concerning this news story, I still think that Saddam has a lot of fight left in him, and that the American people are not as gung ho on this war as the Zionists want us to believe. If he can manage to kill a few thousand of our GIs (not an unreasonable goal for him, given the traditional cost of war) and retreat to the north, he can outlast the desire of the American people to keep at this war. Sure, the neocons will complain, but they truly are operating at the outer fringes of their political power in this one. I sense that the gentiles are asking lots of questions that sensitive, concerned Jews do not want them to ask.
Fred writes: Query: does it really make any sense to try to promote democracy in the Arab world? I'm no fan of Nasser, but he certainly had the right idea re dealing with this wacko.
Play Daddy For Me
You've heard of the Clint Eastwood movie, Play Misty For Me? Well, I was lying in bed reflecting on Lauren Winner's memoir and thinking of my own. And "Play Daddy For Me" struck me as a good title. I have this huge thirst for father figures. Every time I meet a woman, I ask to meet her parents. I always say this in the context of a joke and they always laugh but I guess this joke represents my dimly conscious desire for family.
I just read Lauren Winner's book GIRL MEETS GOD and I loved it. It was beautiful and honest and haunting. I could identify. I found her personal strugges far more interesting than her theological and religious reflections. I do not seek spiritual, religious or moral truth from Christianity. Many critics slammed her for "self-indulgence" but to me these are the most interesting sections of the book.
JHamer writes on Amazon.com: "This woman is killer smart, funny, and immensely entertaining. I have met few people who are this candid in person; I have never seen anyone this honest in public. She creates these beautiful constructs, the conclusions of which go straight to your heart, making you cry because you are more than you were and you know she speaks the truth."
I saw saddened by the nasty tone of many of the negative reviews on Amazon.com. Critic after critic said she had to get older to get wiser to deserve writing a memoir. I disagree. Her youth, impetuosity, inexperience and vulnerability are precisely what appeals to me in this book.
I showed it to a bunch of Jewish friends over the weekend and they were aghast that any one could convert to Orthodox Judaism and then Christianity. As a convert from Christianity to Judaism, I'm not at all threatened by Winner's move. I understand that the heart has reasons of its own that the head will never understand.
I've changed away from religious triumphalism. While I believe Judaism is the truest religion, all religions, including my own, have such serious moral and rational weaknesses that it becomes absurd to say any one is the TRUTH and that all others are false.
Chaim Amalek writes: Concerning your take on that wonderful Winner book, is this not further proof that you are not an orthodox jew, if indeed, you are any sort of jew at all? A BELIEVER thinks his way is the best, and you do not. And speaking of believers, check out the sunday nytimes mag article on the spiritual founder of al qeada. It is what you think but more too. As with Pierce, even those who wish us ill can have interesting things to say.
Winner is a sweety. I could see why she would not feel at ease amongst the Jews. Not enough of the Levant in her. Ditto you. Judaism is for cynical deracinated hipsters and lefty lawyers and nerdy short accountants and guys who tattle on other guys in temple, don't you think?
Lauren Winner writes:
Luke says: I identify with everything Winner writes above. Sitting at my table on Friday night was a Jewish woman who said to me with breathtaking confidence eight years: "You can't become Jewish. You're either born it or you're not." I've never forgotten or forgiven her words.
The lack of intellectual curiosity among people who practice Judaism never ceases to depress me. There's little excitement over intellectual discussion in Jewish life. Just check all the Jewish weeklies like the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles. Dull.
A Note Of Concern
Chaim Amalek writes: Here is an article worth reading, that would never appear in the LA Times or the New York Times.
I suspect that Saddam is fighting the war he intended to fight all along, with the forward elements of his forces fighting a rear guard action as the bulk of his forces await British and American soldiers in Fortress Baghdad. If the fighting there gets fierce, how many American soldiers do you suppose can be sacrificed to the admittedly worthy cause of enhancing the security of Israel before even those Americans who now support the war (in terms of raw numbers, mostly white gentiles) begin to ask what we are doing there in the first place?
I am not being hateful in asking this, just aware of what I saw today in New York City: a vast throng opposed to this war, and wondering amongst themselves who this war really benefits. What do we tell them? Perhaps if Hollywood made some documentaries or if "Sumner Redstone" of MTV explained this to the young, I would be more sanguine about things. But so far, these tribesmen are AWOL.
Luke, you have your finger on the pulse of the Hollywood Kehilla. What do you sense? Personally, I think the dumbest thing the Hollywood jews could do at this point (see the Forward article), other than the obvious, would be to honor the Jewish pedophile Roman Polanski with an Oscar, so soon after the liberation of Elizabeth Smart from the clutches of a mormon deviant. It will get people talking, even if not on television. In fact, I don't think even giving an Oscar to any of the other Holocaust-themed movies is a good idea, either. Sometimes it is just better not to advertise certain things, especially with so many goyim looking.
Fred writes: The American Jewish population is deeply split as to the virtues of attacking Saddam. It would be unfair to say that this war is prompted by Jews. I suspect that the majority of American Jews oppose the war. (If I were president, I don't know that I would initiate this sort of thing. Since Bush has initiated it, my general instinct is to say, O.K., fine. The fact that it pisses off the French causes me to support it slightly more, but I'm not really that gung ho.)
As for whether it is good for Jews or not, I really doubt it will make a difference, and I doubt that it will get that bloody for the U.S.
I fail to see why Polanski was never extradited from France to the U.S. I also fail to see why he isn't more of an outcast in the movie industry and among movie goers. But in any event, I don't think the country really cares that much about him. When I saw the movie "The Pianist" (my date chose to see it, not me), she was completely unaware that he fled the country to stay out of jail. (She is otherwise a very erudite individual.)
JMT writes: I suspect that the prevailing, but unspoken, view is "what's the point of being in the movie business if you can't live in a mansion and have stage mothers bring their 13-year old daughters to you to f--- in hopes that they'll be cast in a picture? Hell, you might as well be a patent attorney . . ."
Who Wants To Be A Jew?
Amalek: I think this war has been on tv long enough....we should pull it tomorrow and put something else on tv
Jeremy writes: So far I'm very disappointed with the production value and story development of this war. It's boring......Desert Storm I was much more interesting. Is anything interesting going to happen anytime soon? There's hardly been any combat. From what I hear, many Iraqis are surrending without even attacking (we can thank the French for teaching them well). It's complete crap. If it's going to cost the country $100B, we ought to get our money's worth. Bring it on. Let's roll!! With a war like this, who needs sleeping pills?
A Call To Delay XRCO Awards
Why isn't anyone shouting that the XRCO Awards ceremony should be rescheduled from April 3? Period. Exclamation mark!
As we all know, XRCO stands for the X-Rated Critics Organization, which holds the most respected awards ceremony in the adult entertainment industry each spring at a secret location.
Sometime on Monday, my glee in writing mischievous lyrics to show tunes about the awards suddenly vanished. And it took me about 15 hours to figure out why.
No matter what your politics, no matter whether you think that Bush is a great man or a moron, no matter what you think about celebrities speaking out. there will be blood spilt on foreign soil by and at the hands of our nation.
It is completely unfair and not accurate to compare anything about the impending war to the XRCO campaigning. But bear with me for a second. I have spent the last five months embroiled in the daily wars of XRCO campaigning. I have chosen to be a part of it and I have encouraged others to include me. I am no victim. But the degree of sleaze has never been higher. Yet, in Porn Valley, we are so busy selling stuff (crap and quality), that we have lost sight, for the most part, of the idea that these awards meant something special, not so long ago. Much like our self-image of America as a world leader.
As someone smarter than I once said, all politics are local. And the politics of having the XRCO show go on in the face of war is, ultimately, very local. The Academy needs this money. They are not only self-serving, but also very generous with their money. If their income were to be cut in half, say, the trickle down of reduced support to charities, film festivals, film preservation, and many other good uses of the income from XRCO would hurt more than rich people with a high profile.
Rescheduling the awards would be an iffy proposition, as the Emmys found after 9/11. A three-week postponement does not mean that there won't be some major event in the way next month. And the money involved with stopping and re-starting the mammoth machinery of all of this is significant.
That said, the most disgusting outcome of all of this that I can think of is that a war comes, plays out like some reality show (what we used to call "Fox reality shows" before other nets stooped lower than Fox ever dared) and XRCO takes place with 5-minute news breaks at the top of each hour.
Where is our decency? Where is our respect? Where is our perspective?
Does anyone really think that canceling the red carpet (E!'s going suffer, the only guarantee this week) and wearing suits instead of tuxedos makes this glitz fest any more honorable in the face of a shooting war?
Think of all the statistics we can chew on as we rationalize this offense away. Baghdad is 16 hours ahead of us on the clock, which means that XRCO will start at 12:30pm, Baghdad time. That makes it unlikely that we will be doing any heavy fighting during the show, since mid-day is not an optimal time to fight in the desert. Did you know that today's "high" in Baghdad is 83 degrees, but that it is due to be in the low 70s for the next week. It's going to rain all weekend. or is that reign? According to some sources, American forces will be in Baghdad doing clean-up within three days of launching the war. So, as long as they go in by Thursday, they should be nearly done by Sunday's broadcast. Did you know that XRCO advertisers who want to withdraw their ads are too late to get their money back? Did you know that Chicago's odds are off the board at a UK betting concern that accepts XRCO bets.
Are you sick yet?
It doesn't matter what your politics are. Ostentatious celebrations and war do not belong in the same conversation. The XRCO people know this. They are grown-up, reasonable, highly intelligent people. But the potential damage of a postponement, leading to more uncertainty, not to mention winners under lock and key for a long time, is horrifying.
But not as horrifying as continuing this "brave face" bullshit. Jim Holliday is the only host in XRCO's recent history that might be able to pull the job off. But he shouldn't be forced to be a part of the charade. And don't even get me started on Tera Patrick joining the presenter's list just today. Classic. The Academy doesn't want to be seen as silencing dissent. Great. But we have passed that bridge. Waiting to see if Ms. Patrick goes off may be good TV. But it appeals to the basest human instincts, no matter what the validity of her inevitable words.
It is time to say, "No." The war is now inevitable. The XRCO Awards must be moved. Not because they can't go on. But because it is the right thing to do. And you all must know. it is the right thing to do. Don't just criticize the choices that will be made like you would after mistakenly tuning into Married By America! Speak out now.
If porn wants to retain its honor, it must, at the very least, be willing to give up its most glorious onanism, if only for a few weeks. Russell Hampshire. come out and say it! Would you have stood for an awards ceremony at Madison Square Garden on September 15, 2001? Steve Hirsch, Paul Fishbein - time to make yet another public accounting of the kind of men you are! David Sturman, Michael Raven - you made a movie about serious self-reflection. Doesn't the industry deserve a little of the same? Lydia Chanel - France has always been unwilling to just fall under the thumb of bigger nations. You may be risking your Oscar in 2004, but I believe an honorable stance will be rewarded.
I love movies. I love the movie business, warts and all. I have dedicated my life to this industry (whether they want me there or not). Some things are just not worth the emotional expense. This is one of them.
See you all April 6.
Rabbit Proof Fence
Saddam writes: I just saw Rabbit Proof Fence. EVIL WHITE MEN! Is there any other kind? Do I object to civilizing abos? I think the same should be done to the children of Satmar Chassidim. They should be taken from their parents, given a bath, and made to wear clothes from the latter half of the 20th century. Those who resist ought to be whipped with a whip braided from strands of linen and wool.
Luke, this sounds horrible. Please do not judge me, save as an ignoramus. But I have a question for you. It is so terrible, I am ashamed to ask it. Do you know any aborigines? Do any of them become engineers or doctors or do other things associated with intelligence? I refer especially to the full blooded ones. Not the mischelung.
Luzdedos1: Not closely. The first aboriginee to graduate college in Australia came around 1976 - they are an exceedingly primitive people.
Saddam: I am ashamed to ask this, but are they fully human? They look like Australopithecus or some other missing link race. I understand that they had not watercraft, nor writing, nor even FIRE (!) when the white man discovered them.
Day Four in the Life of a Hollywood Script Reader
Prepared two mochas and one Columbian decaff while loudly humming Alexi Murdoch tune.
Manager told me to mop the Starbucks' restrooms.
Was openly mocked by my highschool aged shift manager when I told her my boyfriend became sexually aroused during a homoerotic segment of "Six Feet Under."
Tiffany Stone writes: Luke, I liked the Rabbit Proof Fence bit. Let's clarify Helpful's parody. That was so SNL. Very cool. The character "Tiffany Stone" has never worked at Starbucks. If she had worked at a coffee establishment, it would be a non-chain establishment. "Tiffany's" boyfriend would have gotten aroused sooner (just as the opening credits were rolling with the Six Feet Under theme music)."Tiffany" would be humming an Interpol song. She's not the type who would listen to a Prima Donna singer-songwriter. (Note to sensitive Alexi: That was from the character, "Tiffany Stone's" POV.)
Yeah, your site has perfect content for the day. People need to laugh. I am listening to NPR right now, which I am about to turn off. I was just reading about the war protests over the world, and it brought tears to my eyes.
'You've Got To Watch Out For Luke Ford'
I partied with my social betters at the Le Meridien Hotel in Beverly Hills Wednesday night.
I spent most of my first hour chatting with Eugene Volokh, UCLA law professor, and Slate columnist Mickey Kaus.
I asked Mickey and Eugene (married seven months to a non-Jewish lawyer) if there was a female whose opinion they valued on the Iraq situation. They said Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.
They named Virginia Postrel as the top female blogger by content.
Both Volokh and Kaus know Ann Coulter, the fiery right-wing author. Kaus is on friendly terms with her. Volokh had a blow-out with her.
I engaged Volokh, whose family hails from Russia, about God. He said he had no belief. He thinks about the issue at times. He sees an argument for a design to the universe but he doesn't find it compelling. Even if there were a Designer, he doesn't think it logically follows that the Designer is interested in his creation and in how his human creatures treat each other (ethical monotheism, the foundation of Judaism).
Others in attendance included Cathy Seipp, Emmanuelle Richard, Moxie, Amy Alkon, RiShawn Biddle, comedian Carrot Top, Tony Pierce and his buxom blonde friend Karissa.
Emmanuelle has read about 800 blogs over the past week because she's a judge in a French blogging competition. She's blogged out.
Jewish Journal reporter Michael Aushenker, who feels a moral obligation to trash me wherever he goes, hit on my date and told her, "You've got to watch out for Luke Ford. He writes porn."
For years Aushenker has come up to attractive women I'm talking to and tried to humiliate me. We had a private talk about this unfortunate tendency of his about four years ago and he agreed to desist. He has not kept his word.
A few years ago, Aushenker published a series of porno comics. Titles include: Bound & Gagged, Porno Stories.
Aghast writes: "This behavior is so highschool. Is he some Prager-bot or religious kook? Have you asked him why he does this? Break the ice. Ask him over for a friendly lunch and a double date."
I hear that the start of the Los Angeles Examiner free weekly has been postponed until September because of the war on Iraq.
Dude writes on LAExaminer.com: "I've heard that certain LA Examiner 'steffers' have interviewed with [owners of Pasadena Weekly, starting new LA weekly]...why was Jane Kahn a no-show at the LA Press club alt paper event? kinda weird...I guess Dick isn't moving forward with LAXpress, i mean LA Examiner."
A source at the University of Judaism tells me that Al and Tipper Gore were the nicest of their speakers in their recent series that included Henry Kissinger, Shimon Peres, Wolf Blitzer, Mary Matalin, Charlie Rose and the host of Meet the Press.
Day Three in the Life of a Hollywood Script Reader
By Tiffany Stone
I called John to see how many scripts I could finagle.
Karen answered, “Oh, hi Tiff.”
I swallowed to keep from asking her to call me Tiffany.
“Sorry, no scripts. It’s slow right now.”
This was the third day in a row. I needed to come up with a strategy. Maybe I should buy her a box of truffles? No, that was too much like a gift an actor would give a casting director. Plus, she was probably on a diet.
I made up my mind to go see Karen around lunch hour. It was always more difficult to say no to someone in person.
12:40 PM .
I secretly hoped that only John would be there, and Karen would be at lunch.
I walked through the overly modern lobby and glanced at the faux Eames chairs. Thankfully I never have to sit in them. Jay, the receptionist, was wearing a shiny black dress shirt, and his hair was spiked. He was a permanent temp. Jay liked me because I conversed with him and always gave him gum or Blow Pops.
“Hey, Jay. Special occasion?” I said. “I felt like wearing a different shade of black today.”
“You mean material.”
I opened the glass door to the offices with great momentum, but it didn’t budge. I slammed back into it.
“Ow,” I said too loudly.
“Sorry. Karen told me I couldn’t automatically let readers in anymore.”
I wasn’t any reader. Didn’t he know that by now?
“You can have a seat.”
I sat across from a petite blonde woman who looked familiar. She was wearing the typical manager/agent blah (black) suit. I passed on saying “hi.” I have finally realized that if I can’t recognize where I know a person from, they are probably not worth remembering.
I picked up Variety, since it was either that or The Hollywood Reporter, and pretended to read. Then I felt her staring at me and looked up.
“Is your name Tiffany?”
Damn, I should have said no.
“Jamie from ZZ.”
Oh, I knew her from a management company. I had worked at ZZ as a manager trainee for a few months. Jamie was always getting angry at me for not coming to the weekly 7:30am script coverage meetings.
“What do you think you are-- special? Everyone else shows up.”
Each week Jamie said a variation of this. She was always commenting in a passive/aggressive way about my weight--alluding to the possibility of an eating disorder. She had her own weight issues. I made next to nothing, so I wasn't dining lavishly. That was my secret. I wanted to tell her to get over it and develop a coke or crystal meth habit already.
I guess I had the upper hand because I hated my job and didn’t care if I were fired. I had gone to the Monday meeting once and had literally fallen asleep. Our work hours were 8am-8pm, and we had to read and cover at least one script after work. Jamie had everyone do a verbal script report in the meetings. Who gave a shit about the opinions of 22 year-olds? I didn’t.
Jamie wanted us to graduate to writing a four-sentence logline and commentary. It would take covering hundreds of scripts to be ready. Give me a fucking break. Jamie had broken down once and yelled at me. Outwardly she was always very controlled and even-tempered. I knew there was a lot of anger brewing underneath. I was supposed to do a treatment of a sci-fi comic book that had made no sense whatsoever. It was only 10 pages long. I truly did the best I could.
“What were you thinking? Did you do this on purpose? This synopsis makes no sense. Nothing happens.”
Her face was red now.
“You think you are being cute? Drake (her boss) was very upset with you.”
Yeah, Drake was fantasizing about spanking me.
“I’m really sorry.”
I am sorry that I had to even deal with the comic book. Jamie’s face softened. Jamie looked the same now except her hair was blonder, she had lost ten pounds, and her suit was designer. I was sure she had upgraded her shrink and had a Beverly Hills condo. She used to live by LACMA.
“Who are you meeting with?”
She cut right to the chase. I knew that she was one of the top managers at the same company now. I, of course, didn’t give a shit. I pretended not to hear her.
“Tiffany?” Jay called me over just in time.
I smiled at her and waved instead of saying, “Nice to see you again,” because it really wasn’t.
I couldn’t believe that I had to wait 15 minutes. There was no good reason. I bet Karen was overweight with ashy-brown hair and had been very unpopular in high school, not that I cared about high school or popularity. I enjoyed how this sounded-- like the opening of a cliché after-school special.
I strolled down the long corridor to John’s office. Karen was at her desk eating Red Vines like they were going extinct while whispering something to Diesel jeans guy. G-r-e-a-t.
Today he was wearing white jeans and a bright Hawaiian shirt. It was December. Karen was in a black suit that was way too tight, and she was overweight and mousy looking. I couldn’t believe she was older than 16. I extended my hand and said in what I hoped was a gracious voice, “ I’m Tiffany. You must be Karen.”
I sounded like a mom. Karen didn’t offer me any licorice. Bitch.
“Oh, hi Tiffy.”
Diesel Jeans looked at me dismissively. Karen noticed my scowl. “I’m sorry. You don’t like that. I always shorten people’s names.”
I didn’t say anything.
“Well, there are still no scripts,” she belabored in her forced, cheerful voice. I wanted to smack her. I pointed at John’s door. “John’s on vaca this week.”
“Vacation,” I said under my breath. What a Valley girl. There was an awkward silence. Diesel Jeans filed his nails. Karen grabbed her bag. “Um, we’re off to lunch, but I’ll call you if we get anything in.”
Yeah, r-i-g-h-t. I did not want to take the elevator down with them. I stood there for a minute and pretended to admire the oceanscape Karen had taped to the back of her computer. She had a collection of beanie cats on top of it. I had never seen anyone adorn the back of a computer before. And John hired this tool?
I jumped, startled out of my deep thoughts. A cute guy around my age was standing in front of me.
“Who do you work for?” I asked mistaking him for an assistant.
I had never seen him here before, but then again, I hadn’t met most of the employees.
“I am a staff reader.”
That rare species does exist.
“That’s your office?”
I hated when I stated the obvious.
“Yeah, want a look?”
The office was tiny, but somehow fit a small desk and couch. It reminded me of a dorm room.
“I take a lot of naps.”
Clay was average height and thin with black hair and blue eyes. “Why weren’t you at the reader’s appreciation party?” I asked as Clay flopped on the couch to prove it was comfortable. I was amazed that he fit. There was a regular pillow on it. I let out a giggle.
“Would you go again?” Clay asked me. He did have a point.
“John has some real characters. Some of those readers are old-timers. John doesn’t like to let people go. Was the grandma there? There probably weren’t any cute girls there because John has dated them all. I’m surprised he hasn’t asked you out yet. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Are you Jewish?”
I disliked when people asked me that. No one ever said, “Are you a Scientologist?” I thought it was really personal. With my hair dyed black I looked ethnic. Someone had recently mistaken me for a Spanish soap opera star.
“John likes Jewish girls as buddies, but he likes to date quiet, submissive women.”
“Oh, so tell me about the other readers.”
No need to ruminate.
“I’m Action/Broad Comedy guy, there’s Walt-- a.k.a. Family man, (he really does have a family) and Alissa, “Dramedy girl.” Alissa is a huge bitch, though. She thinks she has a better literary agent than I do, among other things. I only do nothing a few days a week. You know my job is the epitome of hurry up and wait. The internet is my best friend.”
“Why don’t you work on your own writing?” I asked. That’s what I’d do. I’d love to get paid to have my own office space.
“I do sometimes, but it’s really hard for me to write here. I don’t feel very creative stuck in this box for hours. Trust me. I would rather be reading scripts all day than doing nothing on slow days. You are a writer I take it?”
I nodded my head. “Hey, can you copy some good scripts for me?” My writing teacher was permanently in my head saying his infamous, “Spend your time reading great writers unless you aspire to be mediocre.”
“No problem. I like to use as many company supplies as possible. Let’s copy some right now. Don’t worry; I will look out for you. I know Karen is giving most of the scripts to her bitch. If I see any on her desk, I’ll give you a shout.”
Finally something good happened today. I was beginning to think I should see a shrink.
At the Apple Pan, people hovered behind your seat, waiting for you to finish. I picked up “The Calendar” section of the Times so my “shadower” would know I was going to be a long time. This almost always worked, but you had to make it seem like you had a few sections to read. The front page was the best.
I tried not to think about anything as I inhaled an egg-salad sandwich and fries. I liked that I could be alone here, yet not feel alone. The seats were all counter seats that wound around the grill in a square. I was going to draw out this lunch as long as possible. Fuck making cold calls out of The Hollywood Creative Directory.
I reached for my check and noticed a 100-dollar bill sitting on top. The suit next to me produced a shit-eating grin. What an ostentatious asshole. He palmed my hand with a velum business card that read, Warren Lancer, attorney-at-law.
Back at my apartment, I had no idea where my Creative Directory was. I probably buried it somewhere on purpose. You would think it would be impossible to hide something in a small single with only one closet. If my credit card weren’t maxed out, I would buy a new directory. I did not like to waste time like this.
I turned the TV on so I wouldn’t feel alone. I can’t do any kind of cleaning without the TV or music on.
I realized that squeaky voices were emanating from the TV. Those damn Teletubbies were mocking me. I quickly changed the channel.
Yes, it really took me a half an hour to find the oversized red-book. It was in one of the compartments of my dusty suitcase. I didn’t have a clue why I put it there, either. I flipped through it and laughed at some of my notes. There were a lot of, “Not hiring readers right now, but would be happy to have me cover 2 scripts, so my coverage will be on file.”
I had gotten tired of writing this, so I had shortened it to: “Am naïve. Will work for free.” Making cold calls out of the Creative Directory was how I had originally landed the trainee job. I asked if they were hiring readers, and they said they didn’t use outside readers. However, they were looking for young/smart/green people for their in-house trainee program.
This time I would not start calling at the letter Z. That was definitely not thinking outside the box. I decided on opening the book to random pages.
I got a large glass of water and set it down by the phone. It was probably too late to start calling now. Mid-morning or after lunch were the best times to call people.
I put the Creative Directory under my bed, so I didn’t have to be reminded of it.
I tried to come up with a strategy. Maybe John would recommend me to some story editors or development people. Now I was using some brainpower.
I ran a bath in my tiny tub (good thing I am thin from still being poor) and settled in with a good screenplay. I couldn’t stop smiling.
Day Two in the Life of a Hollywood Script Reader
By Tiffany Stone
5:00 AM - 2:00 PM
I skip into John’s office. The piles of screenplays are overflowing. He gestures to them and circles his finger, signaling, “I’m crazed”. John can’t play solitaire and talk to execs at the same time. John squashes his hand over the receiver, “Whatever you want,” he hisses. Lovely. I feel so very important now. Hell, tomorrow I will wake up and be a Creative Executive. I always loved that title.
I want to be at a party and have someone ask “What do you do?” so I can smugly say, “I create.” They’d laugh and say with an equally smugly response, “What do you really do?” “I am a Creative Executive at Warner Bros.” I win asshole.
I cop a squat next to a pile. I pass up a “true story” because they suck 99% of the time. Another pass on a 144-page script: amateur. It must be over 150 pages for me to get that extra 10 bucks reserved for the “long script.” Who said editing is overrated? Remember that writers. Do you want to sit through a 2-1/2 hour movie? The next one is formatted wrong. What the fuck? Ever heard of Final Draft? How do these people get agents?
John chimes in, “What about a book?” I cringe. I am not one of those kick-ass readers who can slam a novel in three hours. I can slam a martini. “John, I’ll take a Grey Goose straight up.” Oh, I didn’t really say that out loud. I am a snob, too. Yeah, I’ll admit it. Books are not meant to be speed-read. Well, maybe a Grisham novel.
“You aren’t a whore yet?” John crosses his feet on his desk. I have not yet succumbed to his book bidding wars. In his reader pool, there are no speed readers. However, there were people more desperate than I was for money, ones who would read a book for not much more than a script. I’d rather starve.
I go to the lame-ass reader’s appreciation party. I do have more important things to do with my time (like getting over writer’s block), and come on, if it were a real party we would be at The Palm eating steak and getting drunk. There are a few bowls with chips and pretzels. I go to the soda table and grab a Dr. Pepper. Nothing like a conference room soirée. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. The stomach flu? Oh no, it’s that reminder of the 9-5 office job…better known as jail.
I wonder if anyone writes better coverage than me. Nah. Well, except for maybe the staff readers.
I survey the scene: A woman who could be my mom, a fat guy who looks 15, a collegiate guy, a nerdy girl with glasses, a wool striped sweater (honey, you are in Cali) and greasy hair. Am I in a John Hughes film? I was expecting hipster types like myself.
An Andrew McCarthy type walking in. I am pretty in pink. My smile radiates.
Nerdy girl speaks just as Andrew reaches out to shake my hand.
Fuck me now. College boy was going to mess with my income. This was too much.
Okay, time to split dullsville. I grab Andrew’s hand.
We find an empty office and make out.
Andrew takes me to a screening at The Writer’s Guild of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE. I am overjoyed at the originality. Todd Solondz rocks. I am in a good mood now.
At the adjacent after-party I see Oliver Stone and Alison Anders. Alison is with Tom Ford. What’s up with that? TF is so conceited. I don’t recognize anyone else except for a fashion stylist to the stars who can’t dress himself. I decide to pretend that I know him. It works. He never even asks my name. I get him to critique my dress.
“It isn’t all that flattering. The color, I mean. Magenta would suit you much better. I love your bracelet, though.” Rick flashes me a fake smile.
Rick is wearing a cowboy hat with rhinestones and a white jumpsuit. I’d like to get paid $5,000 to take him shopping.
While Andrew is in the bathroom, an ugly guy in a suit with a vacant look chats me up.
The thing about Hollywood was that everyone down to the dishwasher at my favorite coffeehouse had a script. Thus, I was the enemy. “I am 22. I graduated with a BFA in creative writing and literature. And none of my relatives, thankfully, work in the film industry.”
Three Cape Cod’s later Andrew and I decide it’s the best idea ever to tear down two WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE posters. We don’t get caught.
I pick up the script that is due at 10AM. It is a broad comedy by a well-known director. It is his first script and my first script for his production company. It is off the mark. I’m sure it will make millions. In this case I will have to do some creative lying. I turn up my screenplay-reading music, techno. It gets me to read faster. I ignore my comfortable bed, begging me to lie down. That is the problem with living in a single. The bed is too readily available.
I start typing my comments page. Thankfully, I don’t have to do a synopsis. Instead of saying the characters aren’t well-developed, I lie and say they are. However, they could be slightly more original. For instance, Walter could have a nervous tick instead of stuttering. The pacing is off, too. I was falling asleep during the first 30 pages. I know readers who won’t read past page 10 if the script isn’t good by then. I try to treat writers with the same respect I want. I always read the whole script. The worst thing about the script is the dialogue. I read well-written dialogue in about 1 in a 100 scripts.
I ponder over a piece of cheesecake how to say “the dialogue sucks” in a PC way.
I dance for a few minutes for inspiration. Okay, I really change the CD to Dramarama. I need a break from techno. “If you just marry me, marry me…” My voice is not mellifluous, but I sing loudly anyway.
I cite examples of pages where the dialogue works and is from the characters POV (point-of-view). Perhaps the dialogue could be slightly more polished.
I pop two Advil for a headache. Trying not to step on famous director’s ego is very stressful.
This has taken me way too long: balancing positive remarks (trying not to sound like a kiss-ass) with constructive criticism.
I take a break. I go to my window and eavesdrop on the condo people who always fight. They are addicted to arguing. When I was younger and a romantic I thought fighting was passionate and always led to great sex. Hey, I was very young. I wonder if Andrew and I would fight if we lived together.
Finally finished. Set alarm for 10 AM, my deadline to have my coverage faxed in by. I always check it one last time before sending it in. My mind needs time to recover from the few hours of intense thinking. I think I will splurge on breakfast this afternoon. I doze off imaging exquisite eggs benedict from Geoffrey’s.
Tiffany Stone will return next Monday with a piece intended to help you determine whether or not you've gone Hollywood.
Journalist Amy Klein: 'Don't Write About Me!'
Everywhere I go I run into people who point at me and say, "Don't write about me!"
Tonight was no exception. And journalists, far from being an exception to this rule, are about the group most afraid of being written up.
I was at a great Purim party thrown by Temple Sinai at Bergamont Station at 2525 Michigan Avenue in Santa Monica 3/17. About 600 people paid $25 each for entry. Craig Taubman and his band played. A trip for two to New York was given away to the couple with the coolest costumes (about a quarter of the crowd dressed up).
Rabbi David Wolpe dressed like Uncle Sam. He gave a mind-blowing interpretation of the Esther story: "We won."
Rabbi Wolpe had a difficult time quieting the crowd for the megilla reading.
The place was filled with hot looking young chicks though my mind was so much on the reading of the megilla (book of Esther) that these worldly concerns meant nothing to me.
Every room had food, including a flowing chocolate fountain that you dipped marshmellows and fruit in.
About 10PM I was wandering around when I saw the young female managing editor of the Jewish Journal, Amy Klein, dressed as a black cat. I waved at her and she waved a reproving finger back: "Don't write about me on your blog!" she reprimanded.
Rabbi Wolpe then walked by. Amy said to him, while pointing at me, "This man is dangerous. He has this blog where he writes about people." Rabbi Wolpe gave me a searching glance and I disappeared into the crowd.
I saw Ilana Fass, dating columnist for JCupid.com. She's cute, a snazzy dresser and good dancer like Hans Blix. She just got her real estate license.
All the chicks I talked to were appalled by the coming war on Iraq.
Chinese Water Torture: A Day in the Life of a Hollywood Script Reader
By Tiffany A. Stone (TiffanyAStone at AOL dot com)
This is a work of fiction first published on www.moviepoopshoot.com
Roll out of bed. Hit Memory 1 on phone to call Story Editor, John. Attempt to schmooze, even though I just woke up. At least I have sexy morning voice. Talk about: baseball (yuck), John’s latest favorite websites (who knew there was a website devoted to stars picking their noses?) and about how dumb morning shows are.
“You’ve got to see the new one. The chick’s hair is insane, her voice is like a man’s. Do you think she is? “
“I wouldn’t know because I am never up before 11. I am sure they are still atrocious.”
“…and she was asking Matthew Perry on a date!!!” John always said things that required more than one exclamation point. I hated exclamation points.
John brings up for the (10th?) time how there should be subways in L.A.
. “Yes, but it will never happen,” I lament.
I am a good listener, so I let John talk incessantly. I turn on the TV and channel surf. The Food Channel has gourmet French toast. My stomach churns with desire. I want to dive into a cloud of powdered sugar. After ten minutes, John finally admits that no scripts have come in yet.
“Sorry, darlin’. When are you going to finish writing your “Hollywood” screenplay? Then you wouldn’t have to be scrambling for scripts.”
Well, duh. I laugh it off. Being bitter and cynical isn’t attractive, I remind myself.
Peek at checkbook and throw it at wall. Get out of bed and eat half a banana Power Bar. I would rather see a matinee than go out to breakfast. Pick up my copy of THE INFINITE JEST, read two pages and put it down. Being a script reader has made me illiterate. Decide seeing a movie will achieve desired relaxation. Read LA WEEKLY, pretending that I haven’t seen every movie out and will not be forced to see the new Meg Ryan romantic comedy. Maybe it will inspire me to write a non-cliché one. Bullshit thinking.
Go to Vidiots to rent some arthouse movies to cleanse my palette after said movie. Also, am sick of using standard comparison’s on my comment’s page of coverage. If I have to say another script is a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS wannabe, I will puke. Rent THE ADJUSTER for the 3rd time, Mira Nair film and THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE. Why can’t I live in a French film? And John wonders why I never like anything. He joked with me last month about my esoteric movie references. I though no one read past the cover page. John admitted that he got so bored sometimes he would read the comments page of the readers’ coverage. I am glad that I don’t have his job.
Jen calls to see if I want to go out to dinner. I would love to, but know as soon as I get to the restaurant John will call with an overnight read. That’s the only way I make any decent money doing this. I pull out my vat of candy.
I pop a Milk Dud in my mouth and the phone rings.
John starts laughing hysterically. It wasn’t that funny.
“Up for another Holden?” I was so sick of that name. How many coming-of-age screenplays were wanna be’s? The last one I had seen that was amazing was RUSHMORE. It was about time we stopped referencing CATCHER IN THE RYE.
“It’s from Rich Stein” he says dangling the carrot, as if I had the luxury to pass on it. Rich was German and always wrote these really wacky scripts. They were definitely not material for a major studio. Rich was the only screenwriter’s work that I consistently read and actually rooted for. I knew he would be famous one day, though not anytime soon. Wasn’t that the story with all of us?
The courier arrives with the script. I watch him from my window walking up the stairs. He must be 6’6. Giant would be cute if he straightened his teeth and got a nose job. Just then, I start feeling guilty for such L.A. thoughts…I mean, it would be one thing if I were in casting. Maybe I should be? Giant rings the doorbell, which causes me to jump. I open the door just enough to stick my hand out, but it stays hanging. MY LITTLE MERMAID pajamas are for my eyes only.
“Need a signa ..”
“Right.” I grab the pen and scrawl my initials. I pull at the script, but it doesn’t budge.
“You must have an important job, “Giant drawls.
“Not at all.” He takes my honest reply for sarcasm and lets the script go, which causes me to fall back.
“LA’s all bout attitude. Try bein real one day o’ yer life.” Giant stomps off as I rub my ass, which I am sure has a gigantic bruise on it. If only he knew my real life.
After the courier incident, I am mildly depressed, so I go to Insomnia. I am preparing to read the script. Double mocha latte, check. Comfortable and well feng-sheid space, check. No actors around me, check. I cross my legs and sigh.
“Are you a producer?” Damn. I was almost finished reading the script. I pretend not to hear him. That worked some of the time. Then I feel a tap on my shoulder. I lift my eyes to glare at the pushy guy.
“Can I just give you my headshot?” Actor says, giving me that I-am-just-a struggling-actor-but-cute-as-a-puppy-look.
“I am only a reader. Can’t help you.”
“Reader?” Actor’s green contacts perk up.
“Bottom of the food chain,“ I elaborate. Yet his eyes still have hope. I take his headshot and stick it in my bag.
“Thank you.” Actor says sincerely. “Sorry to...”
“Yeah, it’s okay.” I wave him off.
Add actor’s picture to my headshot wall. It is almost filled to capacity. Should I start throwing away pictures or find more space? Throw them away.
After doing all my procrastination activities: showering, eating, cleaning dishes in sink, picking up apartment, returning phone calls and checking my emails, I pull out my notes and the script.
Reading over my notes, I start typing my synopsis. The screenplay ended up being boring. I am disappointed in Rich. His work was getting progressively better and then this. Every writer has a vampire story. At least the vampires were in touch with aliens. That was a twist. The only thing worse than reading a bad script is doing a synopsis of one. You aren’t allowed to editorialize and you must make the dull story sound exciting in case an executive has to read it. My typing speed is moderate, which is an endless source of contention. I tried to reteach myself to type faster, but that was tedious and boring. Soon I will have an assistant typing for me, I always remind myself. You have to think positively.
Finish coverage. Decide to sign up for an AFI weekend workshop, “Creative Coverage.” Let’s face it; I am a professional script reader, not a professional writer yet.
Dennis Prager called me a liar
Recently, I was called a liar on national radio. This is never a pleasant experience, but it’s even worse when the evidence used against you is the World Wide Web’s most popular search engine, Google.
I was being interviewed by conservative radio talk-show host Dennis Prager when he claimed that Palestinians have never staged a large protest against terrorism. I responded that in fact I had witnessed several demonstrations, that a particularly large one in 1996 received widespread media coverage. "Since I can’t find it on Google, you’re obviously lying," Mr. Prager informed me—and his listeners—as we returned from a commercial.
As a professor of modern Middle Eastern history and Islamic studies at UC Irvine, I use Google dozens of times per day. But I was stunned by Prager’s remark, more specifically by the idea that a minute-long Internet search would provide sufficient evidence to pass judgment on a historical claim, let alone a person’s moral (and professional) character. But in today’s postmodern, depthless and confrontational culture, speed and stridency have become more valuable than accuracy and deliberation.
It took me several days of searching on and off the web, as well as a helpful e-mail from a journalist friend, but I found the "evidence" of the Palestinian demonstration that, according to Google, never happened. It took place on March 5, 1996, and was covered by the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers. But for some reason, it never made it onto the web.
Luke says: I am most interested in learning more about this Palestinian demonstration against terror, so if anyone has the 3/5/96 LA Times article or anything else about it, I'd like to read it.
Ranting Poet's Visit Makes For a Disturbing Week at Yale
As Yale Daily News columnist Eli Muller put it last Friday, "It has been an unpleasant week to be Jewish at Yale."
The trouble started when the university's Afro-American Cultural Center decided to host controversial poet Amiri Baraka for a reading and discussion of his poem, "Somebody Blew Up America."
In that now infamous work, the poet laureate of New Jersey suggested that Israel had prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks and warned 4,000 of its citizens not to show up to work in the World Trade Center that day.
Here at Yale, the Jewish community on campus reacted with panic and downright anger to news of Baraka's invitation. Why would the African-American community invite such a hatemonger to campus? How could we respond effectively without appearing to be advocating censorship? What would this event do to black-Jewish relations on campus?
All weekend before the February 24 event, the Yale Friends of Israel e-mail list was more active than ever before, with all sorts of protest strategies being offered up by students. Yet despite objections from Hillel, Jewish students and concerned alumni, the African-American center decided to proceed with Baraka.
As a columnist for the Yale Daily News, I attended the Amiri Baraka affair, and it was one of the most disturbing events in my entire life. It was not Baraka's ranting that upset me most. Having read his work, I was thoroughly prepared for whatever was bound to come out of his mouth. What shocked me was the response he received from my fellow Yale students.
As he offered "evidence" of Israeli foreknowledge of the World Trade Center attacks, many Yale students vigorously nodded their heads in approval and erupted into cheering. At the end of the event, the crowd leapt to its feet to give the poet a rousing standing ovation.
Midway through his diatribe, Baraka spotted my skeptical expression. He loudly declared that I had "constipation of the face," and thus required a "brain enema."
An avowed communist, Baraka drew laughs from the crowd when he affectionately quoted Mao Tse-tung on the topic of public integrity.
"No investigation, no right to speak," he chanted. The audience loudly joined him in unison, repeating the words of a Chinese dictator responsible for the deaths of millions of his own people.
Fred writes: I wonder: 1) what percentage of blacks actually believe Baraka's BS; 2) what the breakdown is, affirmative action college students vs. the general black population.
Frankly, the rest of the general Yale population should have scheduled a bunch of folks like the Bell Curve author who says that blacks are less intelligent. Make a whole week event of it. It ought to keep the black Yale population far more engaged than Baraka.
If there were no affirmative action at Yale, and the entire black population had reason to believe that they were there based on their own merits, do you suppose those individuals would have invited Baraka? How much of this is a manifestation of defensiveness?
A few more thoughts.
1. Baraka's comments are objectively obviously false racist rants.
2. Any rational objective person reading his rants would realize this.
3. If blacks at Yale cannot perceive this, it is because a) they have some kind of strong emotional need to not perceive it; b)they simply aren't that bright; or c) they are very badly educated.
4. I assume that blacks at Yale have a very strong emotional need to believe Baraka's rants (perhaps in the same way that blacks had an emotional need to think that OJ was innocent).
5. The manner in which blacks have an emotional need to believe Baraka is worthy of serious academic study. Indeed, I can think of no subject of greater importance than how (in a democratic society) large numbers of people have an emotional need to believe the lies of a racist demagogue. It might make the public more sophistocated in dealing with demagogues. (Of course, it might help some hone their skills at manipulating the public.)
6. In summary, there is some sort of dysfunction in the thought process of the blacks at Yale that bears further analysis.
7. If blacks at Yale perceive that others are studying their behavior as a form of dysfunction, it might prompt them to get their act together.
Bill Z. Bubb writes: Dear Mr. Ford: To quote (more or less) from the words of that great Jewish thinker Howard Stern, "Jews are the only people in America who care about their 'relationship' with black people." He's right, of course. One never hears of Italian or Greek Americans or Mexicans fretting about what black people may be saying about their group, only Jews. Why? Because the numerically weak Jews have historically sought to join to their cunning the numerical strength of black America. Without Black America, the political party most Jews call home - the Democratic Party - would never win a national election, and the Jews would be impotent. Without Black voting strength, Jewish electoral power would be seen as the puny thing it really is, Jewish influence would fall, and Jews would find it that much harder to convince hot shiksa Goddesses to have sex with their short, swarthy selves. That's what is at stake here, and that's why Jews care about what the Black Man says and thinks about them - so they we can have sex with hot shiksa women. (Steven Spielberg I'm talking about you.) But sex between jewish men and shiksa women is strictly forbidden by the Oral Law of the Rabbinate. So my advice to the silly Jews at Yale is to buy a bag of peanuts and make friends with all the Chinese students at Yale. And be sure to get your hair dyed blonde and your noses straightened out, before some rightfully angry young black man does it for you with his fist.
PS Just wait until the Jews figure out that there are increasing numbers of Palestinians on campus! Now there is a REAL conflict in the making, the outcome of which will result in a new Golden Age for Brandeis and Yeshiva University. Just as the All-Mighty may well want.
As Happy As A Black Man In An Inglewood Court Room
In early January 2003, John Derbyshire wrote on National Review Online that in America there are only two races - blacks and whites. I found that statement curious and confounding. John's normally a clear writer. Now I know what he means.
I spent Tuesday through Friday (3/14/03) serving jury duty in Inglewood Municipal Court, the honorable John R. Johnson presiding.
The case was an open-and-shut DUI. A dark-skinned black man, Antoyne Hutcherson, about 6' tall and around 200 pounds, and about 30 years of age, was driving in Inglewood around November 20, 2002, at 2:40AM when a CHP officer, Victor Castro, drove up alongside him and noticed Hutcherson wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
Castro pulled him over and approached the vehicle. Castro smelled alcohol on Hutcherson's breath. Castro asked for Hutcherson's Drivers License, registration and proof of insurance which Hutcherson produced without incident.
Then Castro asked him to step out of the car. Still smelling alcohol on Hutcherson's breath, Castro asked him to perform a series of field sobriety tests (which he did poorly on). Hutcherson blew into something a couple of times, which showed his blood alcohol was above .10. The legal limit is .08.
Castro then arrested Hutcherson and took him to the Inglewood Police Station where he did the breathalizer test. Both tests came back with a blood alcohol reading of .10.
On Tuesday, I waited around most of the day (read David Rensin's The Mailroom), only getting into the courtroom for a few minutes before we were dismissed.
Inglewood is largely black. Most of the employees of the court, such as the security guards are black. Most of the kids in the schools next door seem to be black.
Muscle cars drive by pumping out black rap music.
The pool for potential jurors was about 40% black.
The area around the Inglewood court, city hall, police department and schools is nice, and free of litter.
I hated going to jury duty but all the people in charge were nice and professional. The word "Inglewood" evoked horror in my breast but the area turned out to be fine.
On Wednesday, the entire day was spent picking a jury. I was among the last to be selected. I said that I had no problem being impartial. The defense attorney asked if I'd be prejudiced against someone who'd been accused of drunk driving. I hestitated and said I would be slightly prejudiced against such a person, but that this would not interfere with my ability to render a fair verdict.
I felt deeply honored to be asked to serve. Many potential jurors were dismissed.
The trial started Thursday. Only two witnesses were called - the CHP officer Castro (who recalled only one case in the 90 DUI arrests he's made resulted in a non-conviction) and an expert in blood alcohol testing from the County of Los Angeles (who recalled only six cases out of 300 he's testified in resulted in non-convictions). The case wrapped up at 11AM Friday.
I thought it was an open and shut case. When the jurors gathered in our special room, I got the discussion rolling by asking if anyone had any doubts. Yes, to my shock. Several people had doubts, particularly the three black jurors. Without any specific evidence in this case, they did not trust the machine which gave the blood alcohol reading on Hutcherson. They did not trust the police. They did not trust the criminal justice system. There was nothing that could persuade them to convict a brother. After three hours, we gave up.
The whole trial was a farce. These three black jurors were never going to convict a black man, no matter what the evidence.
The other nine jurors were of many different races - Hispanic, Indian, etc. They were all ready to convict the defendant of driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content above .08.
So we were a hung jury. The judge, a light-skinned black man, dismissed us. The defense attorney was stoked. The prosecutor was disappointed and she asked us if there was anything she could've done differently.
I told her that perhaps she could screen jurors more carefully so that ones who have an automatic bias against convicting a black guy, as well as a bias against the police and the criminal justice system, could be screened out. But those with such biases are unlikely to reveal them. Reference O.J. Simpsons's criminal jury.
I loved Judge John Johnson. He was sharp, smart, funny, and empathic. He was prepared to dismiss us at 3:30PM Friday so I could observe my Sabbath.
Two Orthodox Jews were not selected for the jury because they said their prejudice against alcohol would interfere with them rending a just verdict. Strange considering that Orthodox Judaism mandates the use of alcohol in the religion (unless you are allergic to alcohol or an alcoholic).
The defense attorney (a public defender) was sharp and smart and theatrical. He kept us all amused.
Hutcherson wore suits every day but one. He kept the same expression and rarely spoke.
The case #: 3IW00120
In synagogue 3/15/03, I found out from several people that it is common for blacks to refuse to convict a fellow black. "There are too many African-American men in jail already" is a common excuse offered.
A person I met on the case writes: "Hello Luke: Loved your write up on the case. The same thing happened another time that I was on a jury (it was armed robbery) and I (just as you did) thought it was an open-and-shut case. We were deadlocked and the final count was 10-2 for a guilty verdict. There were only two African-Americans in the jury and, you guessed it, they were the ones voting for an acquittal.
"After you left today, I found out that the defense attorney is a public defender, so we (taxpayer) will be paying the bill.
"By the way, thanks for saying good things about our city, as I told you we have lived here for over 10 years and we have been blessed that we have not been victims of any crime and we try hard to keep it clean. I guess the bad area of Inglewood is the one near the border with South-central L.A. and the whole city gets a bad wrap. But my neighbors are very nice and polite and we look out for each other."
Chaim Amalek writes: "Luke, you silly white liberal. So long as this drunkard restricts his driving activities to the 'hood, what business is it of yours what or how much he drinks? His community has spoken and besides, 0.1 is no big deal if the limit is .08."
JMT writes: How long did the jury deliberate? (Doesn't sound like it was all that long.) Did the judge try an Allen charge? Did any of the non-black jurors confront the blacks about what they were doing, or were you all scared and/or white liberal guilt-plagued?
Luke says: No, the judge did not try an Allen charge, whatever that is. Yes, we confronted the black jurors about what they were doing and they would not budge.
Fred writes: Questions: 1. Did the defendant testify? 2. Did anyone testify on the defendant's behalf? What did he say? 3. Did the defendant put on any evidence that he was not drunk? 4. What defense did he offer?
Luke replies: No to the first three questions. To the fourth, the public defender tried to attack or cast doubt upon the credibility of the prosecution's two witnesses - the CHP officer who arrested him, and the chemist/expert at the blood lab.
Fred replies: A public defender, eh? Then it didn't cost the defendant anything. The taxpayers picked up the tab for everything. It would have been interesting to ask the black jurors the following questions:
1. What possible evidence would they have believed?
2. If the defendant were white, would they have voted the same way?
3. Do they think they are better off if there are black drunk drivers driving around Inglewood than if black drunk drivers are convicted?
4. If the DA and police realize that blacks will refuse to convict blacks, what possible incentive would they have to provide police protection to black neighborhoods? Does that make the black community better off?
5. Do the black jurors understand that they are perceived as merely letting this guy off because he's black? How do they feel about that?
6. If whites begin to perceive that blacks will not convict a black defendant, why should non-black voters and taxpayers care about providing law enforcement in black neighborhoods?
7. If blacks are content to ignore law enforcement, why should non-black voters care or do anything about problems in the black community? Isn't this the epitome of a self-inflicted wound?
8. If non-blacks conclude that law enforcement is illusory in black neighborhoods, aren't non-blacks being rational by moving out of neighborhoods as soon as blacks begin to move in? Aren't non-blacks being rational by refusing to travel into black neighborhoods to do business there?
This story is similar to the Amiri Baraka story. The black people in question have an emotional need to believe something regardless of what the facts happen to be. Ultimately, clinging to delusion will bring with it a price to pay. That price will be born by their community. I suppose that if I were liberal, I might say something like: see, this is what happens when the LAPD runs amok (e.g. in Rodney King type scandals). Nobody can or should believe police testimony. It's the fault of the LAPD.
My reply is that the machines that detect blood alcohol are clearly not prejudiced. This is a situation in which the black jurors believed something due to their own biases. It is not unlike a stereotypical all-white southern jury from before the 60s being readily willing to convict blacks at the drop of a hat, i.e. garden variety prejudice.
L, this should be sufficiently inflammatory to get a rise out of at least some of your readers (at least the leftist yahoos).