This week on Inside Culture we visit Los Angeles to spend time with some of its dreamers.
Fionn Davenport begins on Hollywood Boulevard – home to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He’s joined there by Abdul Salaam El Razzac who played Happy Man in the 1990 movie, Pretty Woman.’What’s your dream?”, Happy Man would call out to people on the boulevard and he tells Fionn about his life since appearing in the now classic movie.
Actors dressed as Hollywood icons and superheroes parade the boulevard and they’re paid (a pittance!) by tourists for a selfie. Fionn speaks to ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ who describe their struggle to make a living and the hope that fuels them.
Two Irish actors, Audrey Hamilton and Adam Fergus, are living in Los Angeles and carving out a career for themselves. Agents, auditions, screen tests and (hopefully) job offers make up a busy and exciting life in a town where so many people are pursuing the same dream. They talk about their move to LA and ways to keep busy and positive.
Kevin Miller is a Los Angeles based screenwriter whose parents moved to LA with the dream of being actors. They ran an acting school for 40 years (one of their pupils was Sally Field!) But their dreams of making it themselves didn’t materialise. ‘They got past would be to nearly was’, says Kevin and he tells Fionn about his own disappointments in ‘making it’. He explains the enormous pressure people living in Hollywood are under and how the city thrives on their dreams and has commodified them.
Penelope Spheeris was a film maker producing indie films when her dreams came true and found herself directing the Hollywood runaway hit Wayne’s World in 1992. For Spheeris, however, success was something of a poisoned chalice and she tells Fionn that while she’s glad of the money she has made, she felt that she was selling out by accepting job offers for films she didn’t want to make.
Phil Savenick is a writer and producer and is a man very much at home in Hollywood. He was born in Beverly Hills and still lives there after a long and distinguished career in TV and film. He guides Fionn along his Hallway of Fame – crammed with awards, golden discs and memorabilia from his decades working with many stars. He talks about growing up on a street with Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball and Jack Palance and trick or treating with their children at Hallowe’en. His living room is a shrine to television and Phil has collected many vintage TV sets – easy to do, he says, as they’re largely things people just threw out. His relationship with television and the messages it conveys has begun to change in recent years. Time was when a television set would unite a family or a community but now he worries that the message between reality and fiction is being blurred.
Finally Fionn joins Scott Michaels in his warehouse. Scott runs the Dearly Departed Tours ‘of the dark side of Hollywood’. The warehouse is a museum to accompany the tour and Scott shows Fionn some of the artefacts he’s already collected, including Mae West’s false teeth and a suitcase belonging to Charlie Chaplin. But the most arresting object is the car from which Jayne Mansfield’s body was pulled after a fatal car crash in 1967. Scott tells Fionn the tragic story.
Broadcast on Monday, 05th June 2017.