“A working actress is an anomaly in L.A. Everyone is some kind of model-actress-whatever, but when you drill down, waitress-barista-sex worker tends out to be more accurate.”
The author gives the reader a first-hand look at the lives of the rich and famous and even those of the downtown laden buskers. What the lead protagonist in this book happens to be, is neither. Recently divorced California native Jess Dunne is simply going about her day-to-day working as a barista in a Venice café called The Date Palm waiting for her big break. Jess speaks the truth like an experienced native: a tried, tested, and true native. Even in Los Angeles, the lowest end of employment feels like an audition for a family sitcom on the Disney channel. All tween girls must wear make-up and look older, but not too old while twenty-something’s must look younger and act immature, but not dumb. Guys, whatever age, can do whatever they want, just be fashionable and zany. Oh the double-standard and sexual glorification in all its glory. Unlike other residents, her big break is going from the front of the house where her hardened personality is engaged and her reasonable good looks are taken advantage of; to the back of the house as a chef where her true talents and desires lie. In the service industry at twenty-nine, with fading looks, if Jess doesn’t get her break soon, she may as well be as good as dead in Hollywood. Or she may have to come crawling back to her mother where death would be less cumbersome.
“Hollywood is full of rules that apply to some of the people all of the time, some of the people some of the time, and some of the people none of the time. I sink deeper in the water and wallow in the knowledge that I’ve finally moved up a notch.”
Jess’s mother Donna was a child star and has taken her love for acting and celebrity and pushed it on her daughter. Jess always had the looks, but she didn’t have the charisma, the charm, that certain je ne sais quoi to be referred to as the talent. At twelve-years-old Jess was given a scholarship to an exclusive school for child actors, Olympic hopefuls, math wunderkinds, children of bankers, lawyers and CEOs. Traditionally, no poor kids with little talent were allowed through the doors, that was until Jess was enrolled. Jess became a total misfit in desperate need for acceptance, trying to climb the social ladder with her mother pushing her at the rear. Jess learns from an early age the pitfalls in the pursuit of success when she realizes her chances at super-stardom are negligible after a common, yet unfortunate circumstance lands her on the fabled and much talked about casting couch. Donna’s dream to have Jess on the cover of Star magazine may have died, but that’s not going to stop her from trying.
“I think it’s the flip side of the problem that most girls have with boys, all flutter and insecure about their breath or if you can see that little bulge of back fat over their bra straps. Weirdly, I don’t have that. Boys are easy. Girls see everything and tuck it away to use against you later. Girls smile in your face and then spit in your hair when you bend down to tie your shoes. Boys are Labrador puppies, eager and sniffy; girls are coyotes, lurking in packs for a weak animal to cross their path.”
Jess has fulfilled all the prerequisites of being a star in Hollywood. She shares an apartment in Santa Monica with a working actress which in itself has offered up more than enough a few roles. She knows the in’s and out’s of interior design and haute couture. She has an aspiring middle-aged actress mother that keeps pushing her willfulness onto her and won’t stay out of the way. Really, Jess must be a strong woman to avoid such formidable circumstances; either that or she absolutely hates the life of celebrity. That is until she becomes a personal assistant to an agoraphobic, peculiar (or crazy which ever way you want to look at it) Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar award winner for audio production. The money’s great but the amount of crazy she gets, and the fact that her boss himself is a fourth rate celebrity is too much. Lucky for her she gets a second chance to be the personal chef and assistant for a true A-Lister. Let’s hope this one ends up as she hopes, or will the sociopolitical ramifications of upper echelon celebrity assistants hanging out with friends that have substandard celebrity friends come back to bite her in the ass.
” ‘On my way,’ I say, which suddenly strikes me as a good idea for a tattoo.
‘On my way,’ in looping cursive, somewhere between the edge of my collarbone and the swell of my tits. Not ruling it out. “
This story offers a caricature of Hollywood and all its starring roles, bit parts, and obvious tropes. A place where a swoll guy holding a plant with perfectly manicured eyebrows might scream homosexual in any other city in America, but in Los Angeles he’s just one of the boys. A place where a down and out former commercial actor will fake serious illness to get one last bit of love from their estranged family. This is Hollywood, a world consumed by the overflowing fountain of gossip while the star players go on searching for the mythical fountain of youth in between the tell-alls, the aggressive swarms of paparazzi, the ‘unstare’ stares, and the ripened overweight existence of autograph seekers; somethings got to give. Your opinions of celebrities will most likely be reaffirmed after reading this novel. For the most part they: have an extremely high sense of entitlement, they are self-centered in that the whole world revolves around them, are so egotistical that they question why a girl whose a size 6 is getting a part and not her, are diva-ish to the point of temputure-controlled Chai lattes, and they selfishly require everyone to drop everything in their lives at their beck and call. But what you learn is that just like everyone else you meet in life, celebrities teach people how to treat them. It’s easy to stand up to Mr. Blake from across the street, but what if you found out it was Robert Blake, how would it be then?
“This is the worst thing you can do to a neurotic-brained girl like me, pretending that everything’s fine. I’d rather have a fistfight in the street than Megan’s freeze-out or Eva and Scout’s fake Pleasantville situation. Also, when there’s no one for me to brawl with, I beat myself up worse than anyone else could. I’m such a dirty fighter when my opponent is me.”