From the Introduction…

to Why the News from Hollywood Always Wears A Tan

While the myth of Hollywood continues to conjure visions of transcendent fame and glamor, the word, I’m afraid, is something of a pejorative in these pages, representing more often than not the opposite of the beautiful and true, in drama and in life. Even to the hordes of gifted and creative people who are drawn here by the money and artistic opportunity, Hollywood tends to become a symbol of an historic power structure that values one thing: box office.

This collection is not just about Hollywood, but Hollywood is seldom far from view, even in the theatre pieces. Theatre in Los Angeles, some of it exceptional and unfairly ignored by the other coast, invariably invites comparison to the hometown industry, with which it competes for attention and talent. It never expects to win that competition, but inversely the glow from Hollywood no doubt explains why some of the world’s leading playwrights, actors and directors come to Los Angeles to present themselves onstage.

Los Angeles is as good a place as any to consider the varying demands and contrasting experiences of theatre versus film, and those differences are examined and discussed in my conversations with Athol Fugard, Martin Sheen, David Williamson and others.

The articles assembled here cling to no theme other than my own resistance to specialization, with a preference for stories whose interest did not always rely on the show business rank of their main characters. The music section betrays my Texas roots and affection for the acoustic folk tradition I first heard as a boy sitting on the floors of living rooms where men and women wailed and flailed above me with passion and harmony. The lingering effects of the cultural upheaval of the 1960s remain a touchstone here and there, evident in the words and work of Robert Altman, Spalding Gray, John Phillips, Paul Krassner and Des McAnuff, possibly lending an elegiac tone to some of their (and my own) recollections.

We are currently in the midst of another upheaval, this one technological, changing the way the arts are reported and publicly evaluated, changing the nature and definition of publishing itself. As cash-strapped newspapers shed staff and resources, “citizen journalists” are replacing traditional critics and other salaried writers in the boundless expanse of cyberspace where admission is free and the compensation also.

Hard to say where this is going and how it will affect journalism as we have known it. But this is not a book of now, it is a book of then. These are dispatches from the late 20th and early 21st century, presenting an idiosyncratic record of time and place and the people involved…

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