My Hollywood Memoir and Other Fiction      Author's Note:       My Hollywood Memoir and Other Fiction by Steven Key Meyers
Smash-and-Grab Press (2022, paper, 232 pp. ISBN 979-8-9850215-2-3). Cover by
Todd Engel.



I suppose My Hollywood Memoir began with the fact that in high school I had a friend who was the grandson (and handsome spitting image of) one of the great silent movie stars. But contributing was the day or two I spent driving my Beetle around L.A. in the summer of 1972, as part of a 12,000+ mile solo road trip when I was 19 years old. Certainly it’s fleshed out by my later residence in Hollywood. I bring to it, too, knowledge gleaned at one of the worst jobs I ever had, as a wordprocessor at a debt collection agency. What a grimy corner of American capitalism! This particular company, having seen better days, was hoping to be bought out by a competitor; I heard our vice president broach his plan of hiring a corps of temps the day the prospective buyer was to tour the premises to make it look as though the company was lots busier than in fact it was. (I left before that day came.)

Apropos, I remember seeing Dick Cavett discuss the downfall of John Gilbert’s career with Marc Connelly, who explained that the inadequacies of early sound recording and the florid dialogue of Gilbert’s first talkie were to blame. Years later I saw many of Gilbert’s films at the Biograph Theatre on West 57th Street in New York: A wonderful experience. He was a fine actor, and Garbo incomparable.

Sidestep began with a friend’s telling me about the garden-supply mogul in his Indiana college town who privately revealed himself to be the local drug kingpin. The kingpinís plan was to accumulate enough money that he could just disappear and sail the South Seas forevermore. My friend, awed, told me that it came to pass exactly thus: “One day, he simply vanished!” I suspect the he’s more likely to be moldering beneath a cornfield, though, than sailing to Tahiti.

Sidestep’s Sky House I based on the remarkable facade of a house seeming to hang in space over the courthouse square in Paoli, Indiana. When I looked into whose house it might be, I wasn’t surprised to find that it belonged to a member of the locally prominent Cornwell family, several of whom were friends of mine. (Remarkably, the sight of this same house appears to have similarly inspired Darcie Chanís popular novel The Mill River Recluse.)

The idea of using an art gallery to launder money is based, alas, on the all-too-real experience of a Louisville, Kentucky art-dealer friend, whose backer turned out to be recycling the proceeds of insurance fraud. Sidestep’s out-of-town drug dealers are modeled on those who daily resupplied my crack-dealer neighbor in Louisville. Like most of the drug dealers I’ve known, my neighbor was chronically broke despite selling to a steady stream of customers all day long; his cable TV was regularly cut off for nonpayment, sometimes the electricity, too, and when his car broke down it sat out front, never to be repaired. Meanwhile his suppliers brought their murderous looks down the street in caravans of bright old jacked-up Chevies with spinning hub caps.

Big Luck was inspired by my wonderful Mexican roommate in Silver Lake whose citizenship quandary closely resembled Ricardo’s, though I invented my protagonist’s solution, and it uses some real events of my living in Hollywood and Silver Lake. The title comes from the riposte to my saying, “What luck!” to the weary young mother of twin babies as she wheeled them down the street: “Oh yeah,” she said. “Big luck!” The story was born at Manuel’s Barber Shop on Hollywood Boulevard when Manuel’s wife told me about her friend who resourcefully avoided paying taxes on his substantial lottery prize by having a professional gambler cash in the ticket as his own (in exchange for a modest consideration), as the gambler quite legally could offset the taxes with deductible gambling losses. (She said the scheme worked out just fine.)

Into the pot I threw my sighting of Brad Pitt one day in 1996—Academy Awards day, as I recall—at the diner beside the Mayfair supermarket on Franklin Avenue. I was having lunch with a friend, the fine actor who played the lead in my Off-Off-Broadway play, A Journal of the Plague Year, when Pitt walked in and eventually located Gwyneth Paltrow at the only other table with customers (small world: I shared an elevator ride with her mother two years earlier in New York). Naturally my friend was so impressed with the neighborhood (which around that time also provided the setting for the classic Swingers) that he took an apartment at the same strange, Scientology-flavored complex as mine, actually became a Scientologist and promptly dropped me.

The fire is based on a real one. When I lived in Silver Lake the city condemned the sprawling house behind mine and its drug-dealer residents moved out. One night I was just falling asleep when my cats came creeping past to the sunporch, attracted by a crackling sound that I drowsily assumed was somebody walking on the dry leaves of the condemned house’s lawn; when the cats fled down the hall and into a closet, I got up to see what was going on and found myself looking at a 30-foot tower of flame 20 feet away. TV news reports called it “the Silver Lake mansion fire”—it burned down, as did another house two away from mine.

The driver of the Cadillac emblazoned with signs pleading Cast Me!&mdashHollywood anxiety made all too visible&mdashwas locally famous; I even saw a short subject about him on IFC. But I can testify from personal experience that he actually made his living by knocking on doors and in intimidating fashion offering to refresh the address painted on the curb.

And the giddy excitement when a certain pink Corvette drove past? Something I witnessed several times.


Available from your favorite bookseller.   Excerpt (.pdf)   My Hollywood Memoir and Other Fiction
Smash-and-Grab Press (2022, paper, 232 pp. ISBN 979-8-9850215-2-3). Cover by Todd Engel.







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