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Not seeing Dennis Quaid; Production bumps; Silver screen at the Blue Whale

LETTER FROM L.A.: Not seeing Dennis Quaid; Production bumps; Silver screen at the Blue Whale

copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier

            I really didn’t feel like going out this Saturday night. I did it for you.

            I thought you’d want to hear about Dennis Quaid’s band, which was possibly playing at the Gate. I wanted to see him myself, too, to congratulate him on his subtle and powerful work in “Far From Heaven.”

            Though the booking didn’t happen, the Gate itself is not a bad place to spend an evening. It’s one of several clubs on La Cienega, with a décor that mixes medieval themes with the ambiance of an old men’s club. The dinner area is cozy enough, with low lights and discreet reflections, a long bar and a small seating area. Saturday they opened the other half, revealing: a disco floor in front of a much larger seating area and another bar, with several small alcoves around it.

            As for Dennis Quaid, well, I’ve seen his band enough to tell you that it’s just a heck of a lot of fun. Lots of rocking oldies and blues. Quaid himself covers the stage with manic energy, hunching down, rolling his eyes and just generally going for it, full tilt. You get the impression this is what he does to keep his juices flowing. And if letting it all out on stage allows him to lay back as beautifully as he does in his latest film, let the good times roll!

            It’s certainly a different experience from seeing Jeff Goldblum, whose jazz band has played around Hollywood for years. Goldblum, at his small electric keyboard, looks a bit like Lurch at the harpsichord, primly picking out chords as he watches his sidemen (and occasional singer) with a bemused air. It’s hard too not to notice the long lines of long-legged women who generally wait to talk to him during the breaks.

            At the Gate, the one long-legged woman I talked to was a French actress who looked like Sandra Bullock. Yet she’d gotten through the summer doing voice-overs (in French – there’s a surprising amount of that work here, often on Hollywood films that are headed over there.) I also ran into an African-American filmmaker whose credits are solid enough for him to have judged scripts for Sundance. While looking for funding for four different projects, he’s getting by as best he can. And a woman who’s worked in set design for years is still trying to move into interior design. She complained that, for what film work there is, kids are coming out of school ready to work for what she did twenty years ago. But she’s not ready to step that far back.

            I quoted her what Gary Marshall says in his wonderful book Wake Me When It’s Funny: it’s fine to take a step backwards sometimes; just don’t advertise the fact.

            Yet the good news keeps coming: production is picking up in Los Angeles. Is this, as was predicted last year, because people are afraid to fly after 9/11? That would probably be the most cynical hypothesis.

            All I can say for sure is that it doesn’t seem to be affecting those around me. Actors still bemoan the lack of auditions. Friends in production still can’t find projects.

            Not that that means life is any easier for those who are working. One exhausted person turned out to be taking the briefest of breaks from working on “Presidio Meds”, which has been shooting four episodes at once, partially because of Blythe Danner’s recent departure and partially because of reshoots (even directors, it seems, aren’t perfect.) When you consider that shooting one episode is pretty demanding, having to do four at once is exhausting just to think about.

            Finally, a recent screening at the Pacific Design Center introduced me to the SilverScreen Theater, whose waiting area looks almost like a disco (or, one person said, the funeral parlor of the future), with silver-brass fabric on a square seating unit and rows of round lights, almost like portholes, along the side. Not to mention a cozy little wet-bar. Stylishly appropriate for the center, an L.A.landmark for designers and architects – even if its dark blue glass bulk has earned it the nickname of the Blue Whale.