Goodbye to Hollywood

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It was around the time of the millennium, when there seemed to be a glut of apocalyptical books about Los Angeles crumbling away, that I first read Gavin Lambert’s The Slide Area. I was working as an editor on a website for a bookselling chain, and though my job primarily involved writing and editing book-related copy, I seemed to spend a disproportionate part of each day deflecting phone calls from unlikely sounding Internet start-ups. Keen to pursue what were genuinely referred to as ‘clicks and mortar cross-brand possibilities’, Kim, Toby or Saskia from dogschewybiscuits.com, throwmommafromthevolkswagencampervan. co.uk or eatmylaptopbitch.org would ring up and launch into an impassioned pitch for a site for which there appeared to be little earthly necessity let alone commercial purpose.

Entertaining as this was, the unending stream of wheedling, over-familiar voices soon began to get to me. Gradually I started to adopt Bartleby-esque ruses to get them off the line as fast as I could, as much to preserve my sanity as anything else (no easy task in an office where the technical staff were prone to conducting regular, lengthy and extremely tiresome discussions about the various merits of The Matrix as they tapped away). If callers pointedly refused to acknowledge my initially polite suggestions to go away, I discovered that the best and most enjoyable strategy was just to sit back and listen to their spiel, all the while imagining that I was the grizzled studio executive in Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire The Player. Why I stumbled on this persona, I don’t know. Reality was virtual. My life lacked glamour. The office was in Cyberia (well, Brentford anyway). Whatever the case, I found I could remain as deaf to entreaties to buy banner ads on lastminute.com as Altman’s tinsel-town tyrant had been to proposals to green light The Graduate, Part II.

So it is perhaps not entirely surprising that during this period I became inordinately, disproportionately, susceptible to books charting the seamier aspects of Hollywood. Having already run through Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, Nathanael West

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About the contributor

Travis Elborough is the author of The Bus We Loved: London’s Affair with the Routemaster. At the moment he is spending quite a lot of time with – and money on – old vinyl LPs, but Hollywood producers are advised that the option on a screenplay, Leave Me Alone Ahab (an inspired reworking of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick from the whale’s point of view), is still open.

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