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WHAT IT'S REALLY LIKE TO WORK IN HOLLYWOOD: A TV/film writer's response to the NY Times Arts and Leisure front page story

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/03/2016 David S. Simon
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I have worked in tv and film as a writer/producer for over thirty years and this I know to be true: everyone begins as a minority (some more than others) but in the end everybody---every...body...winds up being one.
The truth of Hollywood is that it is the single most segregated city on the planet dressed in a floor length liberal coat.
In essence it is Stephen King High School for the Performing Arts where fear is it's overriding principal (sp) and every one is divided into cliques (white Jewish/black/gay/lesbian/female/etc/etc/etc).
The individual who is not an overwhelming success by LA standards never gets to live the life of an individual. Your job description, especially in TV (I did 20 consecutive seasons of sitcoms) is to make your boss and the show look like the shiny and new Prince or Princess of the birthday party.
It is also your job to keep your mouth shut while you often work for complete knuckle dragging frauds who cannot write their own name.
I worked on one giant hit where I discovered to my delight and horror that the guy in charge was an idiot, who brought his after party hookers to the show to sit amongst the Disney-like audience. We would sit in the writer's room, bang out the beats of the script with dialogue and then he'd have his secretary run out, type it up and put his name on it.
This man is one of the richest men in Hollywood.
I also worked for a woman who was legendary in my world and we were shocked to find out that she too was incapable of writing. In this case I found myself protective and genuinely fond of her so my partner and I covered her butt. No harm, no foul.
But here's the thing: writers in Hollywood in the 40's were known as "schmucks with Underwoods" and little has changed because we are viewed as easy to replace parts once we have been worn down by the friction of rejection.
Is there prejudice in Hollywood? My jokes for the Oscars include the idea of Chris Rock bringing out Matthew McConaughey and asking him to define the night's proceedings. His response: "All white, all white, all white." Hollywood's new blacklist? There are no names on it. Next year's movie? Black to the Future hopefully.
I'm not being insensitive. We comedy guys just go there to figure out how to deal with our shit. It's not disrespectful. It's our way of crying.
Everyone seems to hate everyone else in LA. If you watch an episode of Judd Apatow's incredibly smart show "Love" on Netflix (God you should) the role of the executive producer, in this case a black woman, is incredibly dead on accurate to the point that I immediately relieved my Hollywood in the room night sweats.
A comedy writers room in LA is like being trapped in a Taco Bell dumpster while a group of neglected rats fight to the death over the last tiny morsel of Breakfast Quesalupa.
There are all kinds of less than subtle passive aggressive moves to show utter disdain. In the "old" days a script was evaluated (and rejected) by page five, known as "the Hollywood read" before it was immediately transformed into parakeet cage flooring.
Today you submit a script and the trendy cool thing is to not get back at you at all. Silence is LA's go fuck yourself. I am king!!
And yet, here I am, still doing it---at a safe distance. I have moved back to my native NY (having finally found the car keys I lost 30 years ago) to get the hell out of Mercedes and Dodge, screaming like a woman with her hair on fire...to recalibrate my life.
I am involved in some dandy TV projects---which includes a behind the scenes sitcom set against the backdrop of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in 1972 which I have co-created with my writer hero Paul Reiser (I did Mad About You and My Two Dads). Paul cleverly secured the exclusive rights to the 30 year library and we are working closely with the Carson Company. Working at our pace and having someone as brilliant as Paul leading me down the road of his inspired sweetheart comedy is just an honor and a thrill.
I have written plays, books, and have shot two short films---one not only got a thumbs up from Woody Allen but just won an acting award a film festival right here in NYC. I also teach college and lecture on demand.
Best of all: I rarely, if ever, have to wear pants.
And even better than that: I don't have to deal with anyone out THERE. And don't kid yourself thinking that it's all about youth. Hollywood is still run by old and even older white men who treat youth like it's a hooke you can buy for your America's family sitcom.
Everyone and everything in Hollywood is replaceable. It's not unlike professional sports.
In comedy, unless you are like my dear old brother Chuck Lorre, you are forced into mandatory retirement by 50. You can plod on in dramas because that actually requires a certain amount of maturity and the seasoned embittered perspecitve that comes with it.
As a Jew, I have always identified with my black brethren big time and not surprisingly I did "black" shows like Fresh Prince, Sister, Sister and The Wayans--which I co-co-created with the guys and Leslie Ray. Jews KNOW slavery dude: read up on our history. Come for the monuments, stay for the abuse.
We pretty much commandeered comedy from the beginning of Hollywood time because the pain and humiliation had no where else to go but to the furthest reaches of raucous absurdity and slapstick laughter.
American Comedy...and Superman are JEWISH. I would go on, but go listen to Adam Sandler's Hannuka song and you will get the big picture.
The good news is that Hollywood is about to succumb to the realities of life. Certainly TV is well on it's way given that they head of ABC is now a black woman and Shanda Rhimes is the top producer there. Diversity is everywhere.
The elite in Hollywood are every bit as compassionate and substantial as Cruz, Rubio or Trump...who are nothing more than badly coached middle school actors who are playing the part of president wannabes...or in Trump's case: "Look at me mommy! Look at me! King.
There was a time where Hollywood was completely dominate by Jews: every single studio without exception was run by a member of my tribe. Early on Hitler sent his thugs to Hollywood to get them to tone down the messages built into that world.
I know discrimination. I lived in an Italian/Irish Catholic neighborhood which defined Jew as dog shit with feet. This locally anointed kike was beat up regularly.
To this day Jews around this country and all around the world continue to battle imminent extermination. And yet I remain doggedly Charlie Hebrew.
The truth is the issues are literally not not just a black and white issue. This is an any and all minority issue. Asians, Latinos and women don't have it easy bro.
When Jada Pinkett Smith announced she was boycotting the Oscars all I couldn't help but think of how misguided that was.
Here you have one of the biggest global stages on the world and you are not going to show up and speak your truth? That's like saying, hey, look I'd love to come to your civil rights rally, but I have to get my hair done.
Petulance is not activism. It's you needing a fucking reallity nap.
So doing a piece in the NY Times that highlights the obvious minority struggles is a great start, but it is only a part of the picture.
Much of Hollywood's evil comes dressed in the veiled, the implied and the invisible. There are unwritten laws that you learn to follow without complaint for fear of not being able to work and feed your kids again.
The obvious and giant evil is not always the one that is staring you in the face. There are deadly microbes that can kill you just as fast.
Hollywood needs all kind of vaccinations in order to cure all the less than public abuse that goes on there. Remember it tends to make up it's mind for you by giving you what it decides you want. You have no voice or vote there. They just want your money. And as for the 30 million or so baby boomers out there: you can go stuck your shuffle board poles up your ass because you are less than meaningless.
Fact: You live near mosquitos you are pretty much guaranteed to catch one nasty case of Zika. So that is why I have chosen long distance as my creative sanity shield.
I prefer, at this stage of the game, to write my plays and books and shoot my little films here in my Westchester writer's cave, letting the river whisper it's secrets to me instead of some idiot on a phone at the Ivy,
Sent from my iPad

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