The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #11: I LOVE LA! – Hollywood & the Jewish man-skirt

“Look at those mountains. Look at those trees. Look at that bum over there, down on his knees…I love LA!”—Randy Newman

As soon as we arrived in LA, sleep deprived and still high from the previous night’s triumphant Upper East Side Barnes & Noble Pitchapalooza, we remembered why we both love and loathe LA. The ridiculously Robin’s egg blue sky and the balmy breeze blowing through the postcard palm trees juxtaposed with the stinking smoggy asthtray-breath of LAX were the perfect yin and yang.
Humans are so adaptable. When you don’t fly, the whole airport/plane experience is exhausting, alienating and loathsome. But when you’re flying all the time, it becomes normal. Newark Airport looked deja-vu-ingly familiar when we arrived at 9am, having just been there 12 hours earlier. Six hours in the airplane flew by in a flash. Olive had one minor meltdown, but we were the recipient of the random act of a stranger’s kindness. The guy in front of us lent Olive a tiny stuffed dog and cat that he was bringing home for his daughters. Dog & cat were a total tonic, and soothed our girl as she held one under each arm.
It took about a month and a half to get our rental car, but we met a very cool writer named Amy J. Baker, who had also just arrived with her daughter from New Jersey. She told us her story of getting a book deal with WW Norton without an agent on the basis of a cold e-mailed query. Unheard of! She was in LA to give a lecture at Cal State Northridge. We exchanged our 411 and she emailed us that day. Her book is about a fascinating subject: Parental Alienation.
Our hotel, though neither French nor anywhere near a park, was called Le Parc. It was quite excellent, right on the border of Beverly Hills 90210 and West Hollywood. It had a pool on the roof and Olive was in ecstasy. We swam and dove and frolicked. After we’d been at the hotel a few hours, Arielle asked if there was a bodybuilding event at the hotel. David chuckled and replied, “No, baby, this is LA!” Huge dudes and chicks with silicon breasts and lips out to there!
We had a spectacular meal at Wa, a Japanese Bistro (their words, not ours). Arielle had Spicy yellow tail in a lettuce wrap, sea bass with eggplant, and grilled hot peppers that she had to pass on to David because they were TOO hot! David sucked them down & they burned beautifully. Olive had edamame, sunomono, and grilled shrimp, not to mention many bites of David’s spicy tuna roll. David had a volcanic crab dish that was TDF*. Then we went to Sweet Lady Jane for dessert. Princess cake for Olive. Sour cherry pie for Arielle. And a raspberry tart for David. Dee-Lish! There we met yet another writer: Devorah Cutler-Rubenstein, AKA the Script Broker. Devorah is a screenwriter, former studio exec and script doctor. Script doctor meet the book doctors! She drew Olive a picture of a pony on a surf board with a butterfly that will soon be hanging up in her room @ home.
Saturday it was 80 degrees and gorgeous. We had a boffo brunch at Hugo’s, simultaneously good & good4u. We met a great LA couple there with an adorable baby named Elinor. Mama had magenta hair and a wicked orange tattoo above her right breast. Dad was rocking a nose ring and man-skirt. And baby was dressed like a baby. He too was from, you guessed it, Joizy. Dad told us they were tempted to move back because his parents were involved with a great shul** there. Even book doctors sometimes forget: don’t judge a book by its cover.
After lunch more swimming with Olive. Then it was time for Pitchapalooza Hollywood-Style at Book Soup, one of LA’s great bookstores. After packing 150 people into our NY Pitchapalooza, we were psyched and stoked to Bring It at the Hotel California. Imagine our chagrin and consternation when 2 people showed up. 2!!! But we maintained our Zen detachmant, and heard a great pitch from Katie Schmidt about her years in China: marriages arranged and polygamous, old ladies playing dress-up, being rejected from a clothing store because she was “too fat” (Katie looks like a size 4). It was clearly a great book waiting to happen.
It being Hollywood and all, we did have a few guest stars show up. We had asked our friend Andy Behrman, bestselling author of Electroboy to be on the panel with us. It was disconcerting that panelists outnumbered pitchers. And so it goes. He regaled us with a classic Electroboy story about pitching his book. He was getting rejections from every agent. Couldn’t even get a bite. But he finally got a piece published in the Lives section of the New York Times Magazine. Boom, he was summoned for an audience with one of America’s top agents. He sat down. She said, “Give me your pitch, you have one minute.” He hit her with his best shot. “That was 90 seconds,” she said, “I told you you had a minute.” Despite the rebuke, she took Andy on and sold his book for a really nice chunk of change. And Andy turned that book into a bestseller through pure grit and perseverance (Andy even wore a sandwich board of his book at BEA the year it was released, to his publisher’s large & eternal embarrassment).
Our other guest star was Regina Louise, a client of Arielle’s who wrote a startling memoir, Somebody’s Someone. Regina is one of the world’s greatest story tellers. She regaled us with tales of trying to get her book made into a movie. She told us about speaking at a conference and being approached by a small man who through her eyes looked like a wannabe pimp. Regina is stunningly beautiful, so she is constantly being hit on by men men men. But this slick talker told her he was going to help her get her movie made. That Samuel L. Jackson was making a movie of his story. Regina gave him a “Yeah right!” look and sauntered off after the man gave him her card. Once she got home, she Googled him just to make sure he was the loser she suspected. Turns out he was Coach Carter of basketball fame. And sure enough, Samuel L. Jackson was making a movie of his life. Regina quickly picked up the phone. She called Coach Carter’s publicist leaving a message with who she was. She got a call back and was told that Coach Carter wasn’t interested in speaking with her. Having been through over 30 foster and group homes as a kid, Regina had been up against much worse. So instead of getting frustrated, she got her mojo workin’. She called back the next day with a fake English accent saying she was a journalist from the UK wanting to know the story of how Coach Carter got his movie deal. The Publicist, wanting to get the credit, told her how she had engineered the whole thing. Then through the powers of her charm, talent & pluck, Regina landed on the cover of the LA Times, which eventually led to her very own movie deal.
Yes, we ended up having a blast at our “event”. But still we were humbled. Luckily, as we left, Olive was there to keep us real. She turned to us and proclaimed, totally deadpan:
*to die for
** for non-Jews: a synagogue