Super(ficial), Thanks for Asking.

I grew up in L.A., specifically in the suburbs near the beaches.

More truthfully, we moved there when I was 13 and I left when I was 23, but I figure junior high, high school, and the early college party years inform a person’s life as much as any other. I also still visit the area two or three times a year, since my entire family has yet to leave the state.

Life is pretty normal out there in the ‘burbs. People go to work, raise families, do all the things everyone else does, all without much intrusion from Industry (the catch-all term for jobs in TV and movies). This is near impossible, because Industry is everywhere. There is no escaping it.

In junior high, I knew a girl whose dad worked at a prop house, a place where they keep and maintain every item that might, one day, be needed on set – a telephone from the 1920s, a 1975 Corvette, a covered wagon for a western, whatever.

When I was 15, I went to a cast party for a high school production and met (then) a (future) popular radio personality and sometime actor (Jay Thomas). At a high school cast party. Seriously.

Around the same time frame, a girlfriend and I went to a video store where a highly animated, super geeky clerk weirded us out so much we never went back. When I saw Reservoir Dogs, I realized it was Quentin Tarantino that had given off the creeper vibe back then.

At 18, I worked retail at a chain store which would sometimes share employees between locations. I worked for a few days at a store in Westwood and met or saw several celebrities (whose names escape me now – guess they weren’t that big to me). This is where I learned how not to be an irritating fan girl, by the way, which is a skill I seem to have lost as I’ve gotten older.

Fangirl Moment (crop)
Doc Hammer, me, and Dean Haglund at DragonCon 2007

When I was 21, I worked at a tile warehouse in the Valley and encountered the same, situation, with the occasional star or celeb dropping in to shop (I don’t recall most of them, but I remember Morgan Brittany – I’ve always been a sucker for dark hair and light eyes).

My last job out there was for an entomological supply firm. That’s insects. How close to Industry could that be? Well, did you know Hollywood employs bug wranglers? Seriously. Trained bugs. The dude who handled the spiders in Arachnophobia was a good customer.

So 25 miles and worlds away from Hollywood, the ‘burbs still have to deal with Industry. It’s ubiquitous – you always know someone who knows someone who works for it. Plus billboards, buses, cabs, sides of buildings, video screens, etc. all pimp ads for the latest blockbuster films or television series. I’ve seen advertising like it in other towns, of course, just not as plentiful as in Southern California.

Even Orange County, that bastion of conservatism amidst liberal Hollywood (actually located quite a ways south and west), isn’t immune. Hollywood may have the Industry, but the O.C. has Disneyland, a special yet not-so-different entertainment industry.

Hence, pretty much all of Southern California tends to be a little more shallow and narcissistic than the rest of America, but the ‘Woods – the Hollywood / Westwood / Brentwood area – is a step above.

To say the ‘Woods are superficial is an understatement. West Hollywood is directly adjacent to Beverly Hills and folks there only respond to like kind, if you catch my drift. I once visited the same store on Rodeo Drive on two separate days, just dressed differently, and it’s no accident the preferential treatment came on the day I chose the Chanel skirt and the Hermes scarf. But that’s true of all designer stores – if you look like you can afford it, the level of service is different. Perception is everything.

Hanging out in Hollywood from an early age, I learned quickly no one would take me seriously without a good car, the latest hair, the best makeup, and the perfect outfit, so I scrimped and saved to get all of it. This is when I learned to scour thrift stores for designer clothing, coincidentally. I also stole a fair amount of high-end makeup from the mall. Not proud of it, but there it is.

The one mistake I made is I turned my smarts down. Not off; I just lowered them a bit, because what people in Hollywood decidedly do not want around is a young, pretty, smart blonde.

Yep. My natural color is dirty blonde. With highlights. Hard to picture, ain’t it?

Anyway, when I was 21 and well on my way to my first divorce, my then girlfriend – a Puerto Rican and Greek New Yorker and a stunningly hot firecracker of a woman – and I would spend hours getting ready and head up to the ‘Woods to cruise. Occasionally we saved enough to get into The Roxy, Rainbow, Gazzari’s, or the other clubs that lined the Strip.

It was a rough, filthy, dangerous place to be and we loved it. If it were still that place, though, I wouldn’t return, as I have so often these past 10 years or so. It has changed a lot. It was unsafe and stupid way back when to cruise, park, walk, or generally be on the street after dark. Now my love and I get a room within blocks of the Dolby Theater near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue – best known as the home theater of the Academy Awards – and walk everywhere we like until all hours. It’s cleaner, with better public transportation and services, an entire shopping mall, more police presence, and tourists galore.

One thing that hasn’t changed to this day, though, is that superficiality, so when I visit, I pack better clothes than if I were going to Miami or Dallas. I wear more makeup. I return to the hotel after a day of shopping or visiting family to change clothes for dinner, which I only do in New York and L.A. I always carry a designer purse (thrift stores!), but I take the DKNY instead of the Nine West.

Oh, sure, I could just dress down like everyone else does. It is a tourist area and no one would hold it against me, right? Except in the years I’ve been visiting with my love – who happens to own both a Hugo Boss and a Valentino suit (thrift stores, I tell ya!) – have wandered into opulent private parties by mistake, been invited to secret bars, and attended at least one after hours club we didn’t know was so exclusive until we left and asked around about it.

Try doing that in jeans and a t-shirt.

Not all of L.A. is Hollywood, thank goodness. The suburbs at least try to remain detached and somewhat normal despite being so close to – and somewhat dependent on, especially economically-speaking – the Industry. It’s still superficial all right, but it’s nothing like the epicenter, that Hollywood of legends and dreams.

Surprisingly, the place itself isn’t the top of the scale for me, either. When I can, I attend a great weekly goth night in Hollywood.

L.A.? Superficial.

Hollywood? Super superficial.

Goth club? In Hollywood? Oy vey. Don’t get me started.

The best part of all, though – the ultimate, end of the road, ├╝ber-grande-superficial truth – is that what we collectively call “Hollywood” doesn’t even exist. Only West Hollywood and North Hollywood are incorporated cities. “Hollywood” is actually a large chunk of Los Angeles addresses and zip codes between the two.

Talk about superficial.

Tough to be real in a fake city.

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