Friday, January 14, 2011

Driving Miss Crazy

People drive like lunatics in LA. Some of them probably are genuine lunatics. The rest have just been here so long they think it’s normal to drive like a lunatic.

Since we moved to the beach I have to navigate Pacific Coast Highway in order to go anywhere. PCH is a 45mph road through a residential area (in Malibu at least), which people drive along like it’s a freeway. I try to avoid driving on it, by being TLOML’s shadow and only going out with him. If I need to go and grab groceries or post a letter I take my pushbike. I think the adrenalin rush of feeling Hummers motor past me at 70mph makes the workout more effective.

But every once in a while I have to get behind the wheel of Ellen, our trusty Subaru (named for Ellen Degeneres, natch), and go it alone. Today was one of those days. Within half a mile of my home, I saw this guy walking slowly across the road. Only the crazy (or tourists) walk slowly across PCH. It is not a road to be strolling across. I failed to analyse this quickly enough, didn’t realise he was crazy, and assumed he would stop in the median and wait for me to pass. He did not. He just kept on walking, stepping out right in front of me as if I was not there. Fortunately I had slowed, but despite my beeping (Elle’s horn is a little gentle, a sort of Noddy ‘parp’ rather than a big honk) he continued to walk out. I swerved, slowed, and missed him by about a foot. If this guy stays in Malibu, he’ll be dead within a week.

I was still pretty riled when, another half a mile later a guy in an Escalade (because obviously a 4x4 is essential in the difficult terrain and treacherous weather of LA) cut me up. Was I invisible today? He literally pulled into my lane, with no signal, right into me, as if I wasn’t there. The old brake, swerve, beep manoeuvre is becoming too familiar.

Finally, at a light in Santa Monica, I saw another classic example of LA driving. A permatanned blonde woman in a Porsche Boxster, making an illegal left turn across traffic, with her cell phone in one hand, and a yappy little dog on her lap. Nice. It should probably have riled me, but it actually just made me chuckle.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'The' Industry

One of the interesting truths of socialising in LA is the way the movie industry dominates. So much so it’s shorthanded to The Industry. As in, there can be no other industry here.

I notice it every time I meet someone for the first time. In New York or London people ask ‘What do you do?’ so they can immediately pigeonhole you as a banker, a lawyer, the creative type, or something else. I don’t blame them, I do it too. But in LA people always ask ‘Are you in the industry?’ And you know they don’t mean mining.
This must be the biggest city in the world so thoroughly dominated by a single industry that it can be referred to as The Industry without entertainment being specified. Weird.

And the LA glance is a phenomenon I notice everytime I walk into a restaurant, bar or hotel lobby. Everyone turns to check out who has just entered. They want to see if it is someone of note. They give me a quick once over, realise I am probably just a management consultant, clinging to the fringes of a non-Industry social scene, and return their attention to their table. Or, in many cases, to scoping out the other tables. Most – or at least, many – people here are running a constant survey on their surroundings, checking for celebrities, hot producers, power agents, and has beens. I bring disappointment wherever I go, as I lift my Raybans up and take my baseball cap off and reveal that – no, it’s not Charlize Theron going incognito, but a pastyfaced Brit after all.

I am rather proud of my refusal to take part in the LA glance. I’ve lived in London – where most British celebs have been rounded up – for long enough to prize nonchalance over looking like an overexcited tourist or fringe gawper.

That said, when TLMOL and I saw Jodie Foster, with her kids, in Bristol Farms we were pretty excited and I have to admit to indulging in a quick stare. That’s because Jodie Foster is a truly private celeb, so it was like spotting a rare, timid, wild deer. I hope she knew that, and didn’t think I was just gawking like the rest of them.