They say a little self-love is a necessary thing.
All those self-help bibles and Chicken Soup handbooks, and even Buddha make more or less the same point which, as far as I can gather, goes something like this – “you must love yourself first so that you may love others and so that others may love you too.” Or in the original Sanskrit, “grip thine ego by the shaft and give it a few healthy strokes.”
Of course, this being LA, there are always a few wankers who just won’t let go of that shaft.
In a south Hollywood studio, a fortysomething entrepreneur from Australia is meeting with a couple of TV people, a producer and director, a girl and a boy. Sade’s on stereo singing about “south to Key Largo”. There are ipads on the table and morning pastries. And the entrepreneur – we’ll call him Sean – is telling his secretary to hurry in.
“Come on love, we’ve got an empire to build in here!”
He’s a curious one, Sean. His assertiveness and bravado are a thin mask for his insecurity, his fear that maybe his ideas are as weak as his chin and he might be exposed at any minute. He has all the trappings of confidence, like a suit of armor. He’s a cut-out from a lifestyle magazine in the 80s – the orange tan, flash watch, fast car. He’s even wearing Rayban Aviators, so as to better envision his future, a glorious horizon ahead that he’s trying so hard to believe in – a reality show about himself, Sean The Entrepreneur.
“I’ll tell you right now, I’m not doing some crappy Bravo show,” he says. “It’s too cheesy, it’s too…”
“It’s cheap,” says TV girl. “It’s just tacky. It’s not you.”
This is the first time the TV people have met Sean.
“You’re about high-end fashion, luxury,” adds TV boy. “And you’re an entrepreneur. Way I see it, it’s entrepreneurs who are going to get us out of this recession. So with you launching this website-”
“No hold on,” Sean says. “This isn’t just some ‘website’! It’s an international brand! I’m talking about a product line, a fashion line, events, award shows – you’ve got to… I’ve got a whole vision for this. It’s all in my business plan. I’ll show you in a minute. I’ve got projections like you wouldn’t believe. I know it’s just an empty office right now, but this is going to be massive. Ma-ssive. You guys, if you’re going to work with me, you need to think a lot bigger.”
The TV people nod. “Well I think we could totally go major network,” says the girl.
“Yeah, I don’t know,” says Sean, looking sceptical. “I was thinking more HBO or Showtime.”
“Uh-huh.” TV girl starts taking notes. More nodding.
“This has got to be edgy and cool like my brand. I’ve got this all worked out. I know network’s bigger audiences but I’m not selling… I don’t know. This is luxury. It’s not about how many people, it’s which people. My mate works at HBO, he’s always telling me, ‘Seanie, you need to pitch me something.’ So you don’t worry about that. I’ll open that door when the time is right.”
Sean’s secretary joins the table. “Why don’t we do something like The Office, except it’ll be sort of real?”
“Genius idea!” Sean exclaims. “That. Is. Genius! Except we won’t do a weekly thing, we’ll do a feature film – like a mockumentary where no one knows if it is or it isn’t!”
“We just have to make sure they don’t take the piss!” says the secretary. “You know what those reality TV crews are like.”
“Oh don’t worry about that,” says Sean, shooing the thought away with his hand. “I’ll make it myself. I’ll produce it. We’ll have complete control. It’ll be amazing.”
TV girl looks at TV boy. The secretary looks at Sean. It goes suddenly quiet.
“So when you say ‘produce it’,” says TV girl, “what did you-”
“I’ll pay for it. I could easily go and raise the money, but there’s no time, because this business is getting launched and you guys need to be filming it. Because the documentary is all part of the launch, it’s all figured out. It’s in the business plan.”
TV girl starts nodding and scribbling. “Oh my God this is going to be so great!” she says. “You’d be so good on camera with that Australian sense of humor.”
TV boy nods vigorously. “And you’re better looking than Ricky Gervais!”
“Oh cheers!” Sean rolls his eyes. “Some compliment that is!”
And everyone laughs. Because it’s hilarious. That Australian humor.
Used to be that shameless self-promotion was crass. But times have changed. It’s not gauche to sing your own praises anymore. To package and sell yourself, to make yourself sound fabulous. Self-love is the way, the truth, the answer. If fame didn’t happen, then make it so, pay someone if you have to, it’s the done thing.
I don’t know if Sean ever followed through with his plan. It’s possible that he realized, in a quieter moment, just how lotto the odds for an unknown businessman to make a film about himself and then sell it to HBO. But you never know. Vanity is strong potion.
I recently wrote a story about Chris Mallick, a guy who spent $32 million to make a movie about himself. He cast Luke Wilson as him, and hired George Gallo from Midnight Run to write and direct. And it was mythic the way Mallick’s folly went wrong. In trying to create his legend, he destroyed it – not only did the movie lose $31 million but his business collapsed amid a flurry of online allegations that he stole the money in the first place. (And it’s quite possible that he did, as I’ll explain in another post).
Both Chris and Sean are middle-aged men with fragile egos who moved to LA and made a bit of money. And something happens to guys like that. They spend a few years in the sun, flush with cash and twinkly objects; they get the dentristry and the sports car, and they learn to casually allude to their tax bracket in bars – “Virgin’s first class is so overrated”. And sure enough, the vaginal buffet of LA opens up, the whole whoregasbord smorgasbord, which they take on private jets to Vegas where they will be comped.
But it’s not enough. The life they once drooled over in Conde Nast magazines – not enough.
Even a Sheenworthy rock star bender , complete with goddesses, 7 gram rocks and the Tycoon Suite at the Wynn, as featured in Materialist Monthly, still doesn’t quite cut it. There’s something missing. Something you can’t buy at Barneys, that the concierge can’t arrange for you, something that they’re surrounded by in Los Angeles.
It’s celebrity. They want that Hollywood sizzle for themselves.
Wherever you go, money finds money. One of the biggest perks of wealth – I imagine - is the proximity to more wealth, and in LA that means celebrities. It doesn’t matter if you’re an asshole banker or a dentist or a mattress salesman or an African dictator’s son – it doesn’t matter where your money comes from, you’ll still be able to rub shoulders with the glitzy ones. Some will become friends who invite you over for parties. Perhaps, for a spell, you’ll get to fuck one of them, and, at that point, in the throes of schtupping someone you once saw on People magazine, it all becomes clear – you’re no different to them. You too could be in People magazine.
And you start to listen to those voices. Because the other thing that money buys is sycophants, a huddle of smoke blowers gathered around your ass, saying you should be on TV, you’re a star.
“Oh Sean, you’d be so great on TV.”
“Oh Chris, your life is totally a movie.”
LA has always worshipped the wealthy, but it also fucks some of them up. Which is a beautiful thing. If there’s a moral to this story it’s to admire oneself in moderation. Self-love is a drug and it doesn’t pay to binge. Release the shaft, in other words. It’s a hazard. Especially while driving.
Or to put it more bluntly:
(For those who feel moved to comment, first of all, I love you, and second of all, please do so here rather than on facebook.)