|As a kid, I’d watch the Academy Awards on a black-and-white TV in my bedroom in Lakewood, mentally transporting myself to the ceremonies to give my acceptance speech. Standing there in my tuxedo, I always thanked my mother and tried to appear gracious while basking in the imaginary glow of my imaginary performance. At the swanky after-party with other famous people, we’d talk about future projects.
As I grew older, I developed an intense interest in Tinseltown’s glamorous and tragic history. E!’s True Hollywood Story became must-see TV. I was captivated by shows about the inner workings of Hollywood, about sitcom sets and movie soundstages. The lives of actors and directors seemed exciting and effortless compared to my nine-to-five grind at a telecom call center. They were adored by millions. I wanted to be adored by millions.
Then, in early 2001, my company sent me to its L.A. office for a week. During my stay, I toured Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip and Mulholland Drive. I was mesmerized: L.A. was a magical, intoxicating universe full of possibilities. Bars and restaurants bustled with the young and beautiful, mansions lined the winding roads through the Hollywood hills, the Pacific Ocean sparkled blue and the sun shined every day. I had to move there.
When I was downsized six months later, I set out for California. I arrived soon after 9/11, so jobs were hard to find. I spent my abundant free time driving past studio walls, mansion gates and nightclub velvet ropes, imagining what lay behind them.
By spring, desperate for income, I was hired as a bartender for a caterer that staffed parties throughout L.A.
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