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SAG-ging agencies; theater meets gallerista; St. Gennaro’s close-up; the drop-offs

LETTER FROM L.A.: SAG-ging agencies; theater meets gallerista; St. Gennaro’s close-up; the drop-offs

copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier


            The focus of Hollywood dramas seems to be switching from the union to the agents. The SAG elections were, for once, anti-climactic. Some acrimony arose, but not so much that, as in previous years, it was hard to get away from it. Meanwhile, we’re down another agency – the Cosden-Morgan agency has declared bankruptcy, supposedly at the suggestion of SAG. According to one version, the Morgan Agency bought the Cosden Agency, then discovered far more debts than anticipated in their new acquisition. And yet another agent, this one literary, has been accused of embezzling a fortune from one her writers.

            Add to this the failure of other agencies recently and the fact that more and more agencies here are requiring their clients to sign GSA’s (General Service Agreements), and it may well be that, going forward, the aftermath of SAG’s various conflicts will be more visible among its partners than in the union itself.

            The Sacred Fools Theater Company has managed to produce well-reviewed pieces with some consistency now for several years. They are also pioneers in being the largest draw in an area that now includes several galleries and at least one other theater, but has thus far been some ways short of hip. Several Spanish-language store-front churches and a Chilean restaurant have probably been more typical of the area, not to mention the Ukrainian Cultural Center, from which strains of salsa and banda can frequently be heard, but not much in the way of zithers and pipes.

            Now however the area around Heliotrope and Melrose has made a major leap into cultural visibility with an artist’s building that includes Orbetella, a large airy gallery and several artists’ residences. Occupants of the latter include musicians, painters and a jeweler/industrial designer whose work reflects his studies at both RISD and MIT.

            The other galleries here have been much smaller, storefront affairs. A large complex of this sort promises to energize the area into an actual scene, so that we theater types can one day say, “I remember when there was nothing down there but Sacred Fools”.

            New Yorkers may be amused to know that Los Angeles finally has had its first Feast of St. Gennaro. Mercifully, to my tastes, this was confined to the parking lot of a Hollywood church, rather than taking up several blocks of one street. The food included the pizzas, sausage sandwiches and zeppole you might expect in Little Italy, but also some quite tempting looking pasta and other more upscale dishes. All this was laid out in two short alleys, leading to a main stage with a good cover band.

            I don’t know how many transplanted New Yorkers were disappointed that it wasn’t larger, but in my case it reminded me that one thing I do not miss about New York is the street fairs. I’m guessing these still look pretty much identical no matter what avenue they occupy, and include multiple food stands from the same four or five businesses. Los Angeles has its share of fairs, but the city’s just not linear enough for these to become as monotonous as they have in New York.

            One way for an actor to get a good look at L.A. is the ritual of headshot drop-offs. I’ve been lazy about this, but having just got new pictures, I decided to be sure commercial casting directors saw them. So over two days, I drove to the various offices and studios where commercials are cast. Almost all of these have a ‘drop-off’ box in which you can trace the progress of those who have preceded you in this errand.

            To do this route thoroughly, you have to cover the Valley, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. So, for a newcomer, it’s not a bad way to see the town. Since a number of casting sessions are usually on, you also get some idea of what types are doing well just now. This trip around, I was struck by the extremes in age range: lots of kids, a number of gray-haired men. And one that appeared to be for dark-haired Slavic beauties.

            No French-speaking bald guys though. Sigh.