Living the dream

BEFORE we delve into me and all things related to, let’s just cut to the chase and get to why we’re here: Celebrities! ‘Who have you met since you’ve been in Hollywood?

Do you see Brad Pitt much? Will you tell him I said hello? What’s George like? You know, Clooney. Actually, is Lindsay Lohan fun to go drinking with?’

Brad, not as often as we used to, marriage and all. George, nice guy, busy with work though. Lindsay, bit dull to be honest. (One of those three is true.)

Celebrity wise, that’s about it. Well besides hanging out with the Duchess of York. Randumb enough. It was kind of unusual when I met Tom Jones while belly flopping into a pool. Or that time I gave Gordon Ramsey a piggyback. Oddly enough we’re on the same soccer team now, along with the likes of Barry Venison and Frank LaBoeuf. Jesus, I’m on a roll with all the name-dropping, careful of your toes. Who else?

Woody Harrelson. Gerard Butler. Will Farrell. All people I’ve met from playing soccer up at Robbie William’s five-a-side pitch in the Hollywood Hills. Field of Dreams, as it’s called. Good buddies with Rob, that’s how I met most of these folk. Some man for the banter. Big fan of the Irish.

Speaking of which, Gary Barlow is a big fan of my ability to chug raw eggs. Always have a good laugh with him. Mighty man for a sing-a-long, especially that time in the Caribbean. Got invited to go sail the calm seas on Rob’s private yacht for a couple of weeks. Bit surreal listening to the two of them work on music on a grand piano while I’m panned out on a couch next to them, slurping away on the fruity cocktails being served to me. Obviously chipping in with unrequited song writing advice:

“Instead of ‘the cat sat on a mat’ try ‘the cat sat with a bat’. Change it up a little. Give the people something to think about.”

Both nod along and no doubt furiously scribble the change into their song writing notes. No doubt. After that gem, I knew my work here was done. Finish my drink. Tip my cap. And go run and jump off the back of the yacht into the glistening blue Caribbean sea. Some life. Some chancer! How did I end up here??

“NOOOO WHO ELSE?? TELL ME MORE CELEBRITIES THAT YOU’VE MET!”

OK, Jesus, calm down. Would you believe bathrooms are good place to bump into folk? Russell Brand, for one. Literally bumped into each other as he was exiting and I was entering a cubicle. Now that’s a story. Chris Hemsworth — the actor who plays Thor — bumped into him in another bathroom. Asked me if I had the time, I said I do: Hammer time! Not sure if he got my joke. Kind of had to be there but it was hilarious. But anyway, enough about them, back to me…

So, about three years ago, I arrived in Hollywood with the intention of making it. Not sure what ‘it’ was/is/ever shall be, but by golly was I here to make it. Quite clearly it was what I was meant to do. I had basically been in training my whole life. Everything prior had been leading up to this — it just felt right.

First of all there was the Commerce and German degree I did in University College of Cork — basic show-business training. After that I moved it up a notch and did a masters in E-Business, again at UCC, the now renowned and leading showbiz training institute in Ireland.

With that I jumped into the sea until I saw showbiz land. I rented a PT Cruiser, made my way to West Hollywood, the swankier side of the Wood, and then gave myself two hours to find somewhere to live.

Started with a couple of crazy duds. I met a deranged yet good-looking lady who lived with a lot of cats, including at least one dead one. Then a Mexican lady who had led me to believe was 24 but turned out to be 64. Last port of call was two models who basically lived in Melrose Place. Spanish villa. Gated community. Swimming pool. All very nice… All completely out of my rent budget range.

However, seeing as I only had two minutes left in my self-imposed “two hours to find somewhere to live” window (plus the fact they were particularly good-looking) I decided to take the plunge and go with the models. Shook hands. Signed away my savings. Drove off pretending I had somewhere to go. Pulled into a Denny’s restaurant car park. Spent the night slightly freaked in my rented PT Cruiser (WHAT AM I DOING HERE??). Passed out. Woke up. Moved in the next day. Ready. Pumped. Dancing! Time to go make it.

One thing that quickly became apparent is that everyone in Hollywood is an actor. Or at least claims to be. It’s a great place to reinvent yourself. If anyone asks what do you do, just say whatever you like. How will they ever know, right? Unless, of course, they Google your name in front of you to check your credentials. And then nothing comes up. Now that would be just awkward. Thank God it never happened to me. Ahem.

A key question to ask all these actors is: What have you acted in? In fairness, some are actually actors who get paid money to act. Good work by them. The majority appear to be people who are just in acting school, which to me that is kind of like saying you’re a doctor when you’re in your first year of studying medicine, but what do I know. The rest are those who have it in their heads that they can act. They don’t actually act or do anything about it, they’re just ready if a famous director ever calls them up and asks them to star in a big-budget movie.

(Mr Scorcese, if you happen to be reading this, seriously, I’m ready. Just waiting for your call. My number is four. Phone anytime after noon.)

Back to me making it. First day I moved in to my new abode my neighbour who’s a writer asked me what I was here to do. “Oh well, you know, write stuff and comedy and all that kind of tooraloor. Probably just going to star in my own sitcom. Should be fun.” He gave me a knowing nod, a fake smile and then slowly closed his front door on my face while I was asking him how I might make that happen. Regardless, at least now I had a plan. A goal. A wish? Something. Time to go make it!

Step one: Start a blog documenting my hilarious day-to-day adventures. Like the time Rihanna asked me to pass her the salt in a restaurant around the corner from me. “Salt-n-peppers here” I sang as I handed it over (she quickly moved seats). Or the time I was in the bathroom of a Hollywood bar and Justin Timberlake was at the urinal next to me so we had some small talk about me singing karaoke and then we washed our hands in the sinks, left the bathroom and continued on with our lives as if we had never even met. Now that was amazing.

Step two: Acting classes! “But I thought you didn’t want to be an actor?” I hear you cry. I know, I sigh, I just didn’t really know what else I should be doing. Used my accent to blag my way into as many free ones as I could. Sat. Watched. Observed. Bluffed my way through taking part. Came away with the same thought every time: What the sweet Jesus is wrong with these people? Why are they all a bit off-key? And how come so many are terrible at acting? Even I could do better than that if I just put my mind to it. (This belief leads to me trying most of my endeavours, by the by.)

After a good few free classes in various acting schools, I decided I liked myself too much to focus fully on just acting. All these people wanted to play the roles of other people. I enjoyed being me. I’m that much of a narcissist; I’ll focus on writing roles for myself and play me in each part. Yeah, stick to my sitcom plan. Maybe I’ll start doing stand-up too. Why that’s perfect! Now things were really heating up. Clearly I was making it, right?

On the reality side of things, one thing I was definitely not making — in the slightest — was money. So I had to take scraps of jobs here, there and anywhere I could find them. This obviously led me down the path of becoming a Shamwow salesman. In case you don’t know, Shamwows are basically a magical kitchen cloth that will soak up any spillage, leaving no trace of any stain. They are unreal and I’m not just saying that as former salesman. Try them out.

Anyway, randumbly enough I ended up being a Shamwow salesman at carnivals and fun fairs all over LA. Another way of looking at it is that I became a carnie, which is what a lot of people took out of my experience. Salesman is far more refined. In fact, I was probably the most envied person at the carnival, claimed the guy who hired me.

“Shamwows sells themselves! You will make a killing on all the commission you’re going to make. All the other vendors will be so jealous!” How much per day are we talking here, hundreds? Thousands? “You just wait and see, this is the easiest money you’ll ever make.”

As it turns out, would you believe, Shamwows do not sell themselves. In fact, the first weekend I worked, I made exactly one sale. Seeing as I was being paid on commission only, I think that was about $5. Factor in the $20 on food I spent over the weekend, I actually made a deficit. Minus fifteen, if my maths is right. So that was fun.

My Shamwow career didn’t last too long. Apparently my accent wasn’t helping with the sales pitch. People were too busy wondering: Where’s he from? What’s wrong with him that he talks like that? It really detracted from the Shamwow allure.

So I decided to quit before things got ugly (one day the guy in charge just stopped answering my calls).

Surprisingly I still hadn’t been offered my own sitcom, so my writing and comedy and the likes were not yet paying my way. Needed another job. Must. Make. Money. I know: I’ll become a DJ at a gym around the corner from me. As you do. Never actually DJ’ed before but that’s another story. As was why I became known as Two-Sector, the Russian DJ. Cherry on top, it was also a gay gym.

Did I forget to mention that West Hollywood is also known as Boys Town? Oh yeah. It is. Not a day goes by without seeing at least one guy cruising the streets on his rollerblades wearing just a pair of hot-pink short-shorts and nothing else. It’s like a village full of the Village People. Didn’t know this when I moved in but I must say I am a fan. Really gay means really quite safe, which in turn means there are enough really good-looking women here to keep a straight guy happy. Best. Place. Ever! Three years later and I’m still living here. You should see me on rollerblades now!

One thing I’ve yet to master is the extremely hard task of ordering a hot beverage. Whether it’s my accent, my slurring, or my magnificent mumbles, people still can’t understand me when I order a coffee.

“Cathy? Let me check — Hey guys, does a Cathy work here? Sorry man, no Cathy.”

Thanks. Asking for a cup of tea usually leads to me being introduced to a girl named Bethany. Play my cards right and I at least get a number out of it. By play my cards, I mean just talk. Americans are big fans of the lyrical lilts that pop out of my mouth. Having an Irish accent is still my biggest talent in LA. Well, one of them. Also my biggest weakness. (Again, one of them.)

Maybe it’s time I retuned my American twang and start taking voice lessons again. Only thing holding me back, right? Although, not sure if they even helped me last time. I remember when I told Rob that I had started taking them before he gave me a confused look and asked:

“Vice lessons? What are they?”

Ahem.

Say nothing.

Leave my beautiful vice alone.

On that note, time to wrap this up! Meeting with a production company to go to. You know, writing and comedy and the likes. Why I’m here and all. Must practice how to enunciate my words a few times before I go.

Cathy. Off. Coffee. On!

Mark Hayes is an actor and a former carnie. His first book RanDumb: The Adventures of an Irish Guy in LA was #1 on Amazon Humour in the US and the UK. The sequel RanDumber was released in June with his third book on the way this Christmas. Mark blogs at trickaduu.com and his twitter is @trickaduu. He has been known to say: Two secs there.


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