Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood

I went this morning.

Oh no, I know it’s Rosh Hashanah. I was supposed to see Sturgill Simpson last night at the Troubadour, with even dinner after at Dan Tana’s, but I felt too guilty.

But my last two years of high school we played the Rosh Hashanah Open.

On a bitterly cold day, while I skied at Bromley and my parents and Wendy did not, my father decided to go house hunting. And stunningly, when they picked me up at the end of the day, my father told me he’d bought. Which stunned me and thrilled me. Stunned me because my father was not that big a spender and thrilled me because this would ensure we came to Vermont and went skiing more.

The house cost $14,000 and change. This was back in ’68. It was down the street from the Equinox Hotel, which was closed at the time but is back in business, in Manchester, Vermont.

And I bet my mother a pair of Head skis that one of the holes of the golf course, which was between us and the hotel, went over the road. She’d never seen such a thing, I was right, and I got a used pair of Head Comps the following fall.

My father made friends with the real estate agent, who turned out to be Jewish, so the following Rosh Hashanah, and the one after that, we went to shul up in Manchester. Want to get that religious feeling? Have so few people in attendance that no one is on the same page during the responsive reading. Oh, they’re on the same page, they just don’t speak in unison. And we went to services the night of and the following morning of Rosh Hashanah back in Connecticut, but in Vermont, the evening was enough, in the afternoon we played golf, ergo the Rosh Hashanah Open. After all, Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be joyful, right?

So I woke up early and went to the ArcLight for the 11:15 show.

Now I left my parking ticket in the car. I realized this as I got out of the elevator on the first floor. You see I’d been scrounging for my energy bars in my automobile and forgot all about the parking ticket, which you need, otherwise you’re going to get charged up the yin-yang.

And on the way back up I got off on the wrong floor. You see the stairs were closed for repairs. And I started to get antsy, was I gonna miss part of the movie? I’m like Woody Allen, I’ve got to start at the beginning, otherwise I’m convinced I’ve missed something.

Then I see people who are obviously going to the ArcLight. So I put it in high gear, I don’t want to wait in line for a ticket. I pass people on the escalators, and I ran up to the counter just before a woman and her two little kids and purchased my ducat and immediately went to the bathroom. That’s right, I’m old, what are the odds I can sit through a three hour picture without peeing? Pretty low.

Actually, I’d had nothing to drink in the morning, I was prepared.

And when I entered the theatre, a big one, #1, I saw the usual beshirted usher ready to give the ArcLight rap. But she didn’t, because I was the only person in the theatre. She said when big movies open, sometimes they start ’em at 9 AM and nobody is there, so this wasn’t the biggest surprise to her, but it was to me.

So I’d picked one seat from center, so I moved over.

And then I realized I was looking up ever so slightly, so I went to the row behind, and then the sound was a bit softer, so I went back to the prior row. I know, it’s OCD, but really, the lower row was better. And I’m constantly checking my pockets to make sure I’ve got all my gear. And it’s then that I realize…

I’ve lost my wallet.

Oh boy. You mean I killed myself to get here on time and now I’m gonna miss some of the movie to look? Hell, maybe I’ll just wait until the end, someone will turn it in, but will I be calm during the show?


There are only two trailers at the ArcLight. At least that used to be the pitch, I haven’t been in a long time, I haven’t been in eons, because it’s just too much of a hassle. I plan, and then when I’m there I wish I wasn’t, my mind can’t slow down.

So I’m standing by the exit, waiting to see… AND THERE’S A THIRD TRAILER!

I rush out to the ticket-taker, has anybody turned in a wallet?

No. But he said lost and found was handled by the concession.

So I walked over and interrupted a man pulling popcorn, but he didn’t have it either.

I went to the bathroom.


And now I’m starting to flip. Forget the money, it’s the credit cards and IDs I’m worried about.

And the trailer is still going, so I whip out the flashlight on my iPhone and look for said wallet beneath the seats in my row and the row behind.

No go, it’s not there.

Now I’m starting to freak, this doesn’t add up, so I retrace my steps from the first of my rows to the second, and on the edge of the concrete, in the row behind, there it is.

So, I could be calm during the film.

Now I paid fourteen something for the ticket. Too much, considering Sharon Tate is gonna be charged seventy five cents in Westwood in 1969. I’ve been to that theatre zillions of times, I used to use my college ID to get fifty cents off, in 1974 the sticker price was $3.50, but then I got too old to use the picture and…

Concerts cost a staggering amount. Maybe fifteen bucks is worth it.

Oh, screw the concessions. I don’t want people eating, talking or checking their phone, if I bother to get out, can’t I watch the movie in peace?

And then the flick begins. It made me want to move to L.A., except I’m already here.

I’m not a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, he never seemed grown-up to me, even when he became so. But he’s got this scene with this little girl where he kills and…

The real star is Brad Pitt.

Now if you’re a woman, you probably noticed him in “Thelma & Louise.” To me he was just another actor, but the women swooned.

But that was thirty years ago. You look in the mirror every day, you see your friends, you notice gradual aging, but you always think of old girlfriends and movie stars as how they look in pictures. But the truth is Brad Pitt still looks pretty damn good, even though he’s fifty five.

But it’s his attitude that kills.

Now male attitude is in question these days. You certainly don’t want to be macho in big business. As a matter of fact, men no longer know how to act, they’re afraid. But here’s Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth and he just doesn’t care what you think about him or what’s gonna play out, he’s got to be himself 24/7. I mean you can see trouble coming. Especially when he makes that guy fix his flat tire, I would have bolted immediately.

But he got there by picking up a hitchhiker. That’s something you used to do. No one would pick up a hitchhiker today. But even Sharon Tate does in this flick. Oh, do I need a spoiler alert? I don’t think so, the movie’s been out for months, not that I want to reveal too much.

But I’m a wuss. If I smell trouble, I’m out of there.

But not Cliff Booth.

Not that he’s doing well, he’s living in a trailer with his pit bull…

That’s behind the Van Nuys Drive-In. I remember going there to see the original “Friday the 13th,” back when you still hung the speaker on your window, before you turned on the FM radio. I was always worried about my battery draining down, but there are no drive-ins left, so I guess that’s not an issue.

And then when we hear that Cliff killed his wife, or at least it’s commonly believed…

Kurt Russell is killer in his role. He’s gotten old, but he’s grown into his skin. And the scene where Cliff’s widow is on the boat calling him a loser…

That’s one of the things I thought about during the whole film. I wasn’t here in ’69, but I arrived not long thereafter. I was never one of the insiders. They were considered a separate breed, it was unfathomable. But some people came to L.A. and some people made it and…

It was very different from today. People took a chance. Today if you’re middle class or above, you don’t. You go to a good school to get a good job and you’re on the track to success right away, you don’t want to be a loser.

Now we all know the women in this film, the hot ones trading on their looks. These are not MBAs, not MDs, these are people who sat in front of the mirror and then used their looks and charisma to snag a man and move on up the food chain, and if you didn’t have anything worth latching on to, you had no chance, no way.

Men have money. Women have their looks.

Oh, of course that’s not the rule, but it is in Hollywood, where no one’s got a CV and no one’s got a safety net, everybody’s making it up as they go along, faking it until hopefully they make it.

So Cliff is worried about losing his job as a stuntman, he ferries Rick Dalton around, but he’s got no other gigs. But he’s not humbled, not broken, he takes care of Bruce Lee and…Cliff is the antihero we all rally around, someone just going through the motions with enough charisma to make it work.

As for Rick Dalton…

He’s seen better days. He laments forgoing the last year of his series for films. And then Al Pacino, as jive as any business guy in Hollywood ever, says Dalton will never get ahead if he keeps on playing the heavy.

This is not working for Procter & Gamble, there is no insurance, it can disappear any day. And chances are you blew the money anyway. And you can criticize these people for their lack of financial acumen, you’d save the money, but you’d never risk it all in Hollywood.

As for the girls in the Family…

They’re too nice. At least at first.

Yes, you’re stoked, you’re remembering the sixties, when we all listened to the same radio stations, watched the same TV shows, you’re nostalgic, and then you remember…this is a shined-up version. The women in the real Manson Family were grittier. As for those who lived here, who grew up here, this was their everyday reality, which was beamed across America, across the world, every night, which is one of the reasons I moved to California. I’d say most people don’t have the cojones, but to tell you the truth, I’m not worried about most people. You want to drive with the top down in the middle of winter, you want society to be fluid, you want to feel the energy…

And in L.A. it doesn’t matter who your parents are, where you went to school. Oh, it might get you in the door, but everybody’s hustling every damn day, are you willing to?

So Tarantino gets the feel exactly right. And the Dolby Atmos is thrilling.

Oh, that’s a point I wanted to make. They’ve got to give up making niche pictures, that’ll never work and it isn’t. It should be all about event pictures all the time, that’s the only way to save the movies. And, like it used to be, with platform releases, they should make it harder to get in, you need to salivate, with only shows at night, it’s got to be an experience like going to a concert.

Did I need to see “Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood” on the big screen?

Don’t ask me that question.

So you’re wondering what the arc is, where the film is going. Then you realize it must be Rick’s career. But there’s all that Manson stuff and…

The flick ends and you go…WHAT?

It was a great ride with no payoff. Oh, there’s the typical Tarantino gore, but in terms of story, it was light, the film was more impressionistic.

Is it because I was overhyped, seeing the movie too late?

I don’t know, I think I would have been disappointed if I’d seen it when it first came out. I expected to be wowed, like “Hamilton.”

So what did I learn?

Well, that movies should be events. And all the money Tarantino spent was on the screen, there were the old cars and nuances… Although the truth is the 747 didn’t start flying until 1970, but that was almost fifty years ago and unless you lived back then and were an aviation fan, you would not know.

And of course Tarantino makes excellent use of music, but…

Going to the movies in 1969 was part of your life, you went on a regular basis, to see “Goodbye Columbus” and “Butch Cassidy” and…this film evoked those times, and on that level it’s a ten, but not in story.

And when it was all over, I called my mother, and she told me how she’d debated going to services. This made me feel guilty. She’s barely ambulatory, I don’t think she’s a believer, and she was gonna go?

So I came home and fired up my browser and went to services online, at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. I’d like to tell you I didn’t surf the web while I was watching, but I’d be lying, and the truth is I rarely paid attention at the temple anyway.

But you’ve got to see this.

Fire up your browser and go to:

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

And then fast-forward to 1:38, that’s one hour and thirty eight minutes. And hang in there until…THEY START TO BLOW THE SHOFAR!

It’ll blow your mind. We just used to have little horns akin to Daniel Boone’s gunpowder carrier. But these rams horns…

Check it out.

So the sun has set.

Actually, it’s been cold in L.A. the past two days, into the fifties at night, but it’s gonna go back into the eighties by Wednesday.

And it’s fall, when the air is pregnant with possibilities.

These things we do to keep the flame burnin’
And write our fire in the sky
Another day to see the wheel turnin’
Another avenue to try

It’s not really the luck of the draw, but luck does play a huge part in it. But really it’s about your personality. That’s what gets you ahead in Hollywood, everybody believes you’ve got the goods if you can get inside.

But that’s a tough road.

Which Rick Dalton is afraid he’s gonna fall off of, and end up in his hometown in the Midwest.

But Cliff Booth will survive. Back when you could make it on minimum wage. But the truth is we’re all scrambling, we’re all hustling, and if you live long enough you’ll hit hard times – career, health, marriage, money…

Yup, life is the luck of the draw. You don’t want to have any regrets. And the people who come to Hollywood to make it, they don’t, they give it a good shot, because they want some of what’s in this movie.

And I can tell you how it’s different today, with social media and cameras.

But it’s more the same, if you can become a member of the club…

But not only is it hard to make it, it’s hard to stay there.

It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll, if you wanna be a movie star, if you want the brass ring.

But someone has to make it, why not you?

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