It’s Friday and I showed just a bit late to Bottega Louie for breakfast, which in my case is a cappuccino. Why I let the annoying guys at the bar buy me drinks I do not know, but it did make them go from annoying to down right pleasant in a matter of minutes and yes this is all well before noon. And yes my beloved readers I am now writing with a considerable amount of alcohol pumping through the system…Last time this happened I set my sights on the disgraceful use of the public plaza at LA Live, but on this occasion I shall compare a Town Hall event Downtown to one on the Westside.
First let me say that Town Hall Los Angeles is a great organization that does a mind-bending number of events and they’ve been here doing what they do for 72 year or so. Currently lead by the engaging Jon Goodman PhD Town Hall should be considered more than just a place for free speech, but really a vehicle to all who live and work Downtown to become involved in what I will label for the purposes of this blog as a civic lifestyle component. Until attending the Town Hall roundtable with James Flannigan, Senior Economic Editor, The New York Times, I did not consider civic events a lifestyle possibility—consider myself corrected. This was simply one of the better events I’ve attended of any kind.
The story begins with Carmen Rodriguez, City National Bank / Downtown Mover and Shaker. Carmen, worried about my lack of civic involvement offered me two tickets to the James Flanigan event. Frankly, I said yes as a reflex knowing Carmen would never suggest anything bad. What I didn’t do was connect the dots that this was the same James Flanigan that wrote for the once venerable LA Times for the majority of my years on Earth. My dad, may he rest in peace, loved reading Flanigan. And as I sat in the conference room with a view, being used for the roundtable, I could see why dear old dad thought so highly of this evening’s speaker.
The topic Mr. Flanigan was speaking on was the bright future of the Southern California Economy, also the subject of his recently released book “Smile Southern California”. James Flanigan, fills a room with warmth and like most downtownsters he’s engaging. Upon the conclusion of the lecture he took questions including several from me. I personally don’t agree with some of Mr. Flanigan’s conclusions, and in his eyes that twinkle quite brightly I could see the “Oh boy I’ve got a live one in the audience tonight.” But a real man like James Flanigan doesn’t run from the challenge of having someone ask tough questions he engages and discusses and the event is better for it. Flanigan is the real deal he can think on his feet—I love this guy. By the end of the night Jon actually threw us out as it was well past quitting time.
Let me apologize to Rob Friedman in advance. I don’t vibe with the Westside or the Westside attitude, which by definition he exemplifies. I also think that anyone who takes the time to speak at a Town Hall event deserves a thank you from all of us—it’s a great way to contribute to society, so for that Rob Friedman I applaud you. But as I pulled into the Luxe Hotel in Brentwood I couldn’t help but feel that feeling given off by pretentious people who think that somehow in the Grand Scheme of Life they are more important or worse yet superior to others. Funny, because the owner of the hotel Efrem Harkham is an acquaintance of mine from way back—he’s a nice guy, so no reflection on him, it’s a culture that is much larger than a hotel owner, a hotel, or the CEO of Summit Entertainment.
As I stood in the patio area in front of the room where lunch was to be held, and no they don’t feed press or validate parking, the breeze blew and colorful leaves dropped lightly—yes this was nice. Rob Friedman approached and with the powers that be at Town Hall I joined an intimate circle of conversation.
“Rob, this is Stan Lerner. He writes for downtownster.”
He did not offer to shake hands. Welcome to Brentwood my friends.
“Actually we met when you were at Paramount. I think Bob Cort or Rowland Perkins introduced us.”
Rob looked less than impressed. “Could have been either,” he responded.
“Funny I remembered him as being a cool guy, “ I thought to myself.
I’ll spare you the next ten minutes of forced conversation. Oh this was good. “Do you have an Amazon Kindle?” I asked, trying to find anything to talk about.
“Well do you like it?”
“I just made six of my book titles available on Kindle. A lot of people have told me it’s great.” I cut myself short.
Rob looked at me with a look that said, “I don’t care that you’ve written one book let alone six.”
And then it struck me. In Downtown we want to engage. We want to know each other. And we want to help each other succeed. Generally in the world of Downtown there is some respect for a writer who has had more than two million people read his blogs, a script in the Museum of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and of course those award winning books —not so when you head West. So there I stood until, thankfully, Rob had to excuse himself to go to the bathroom.
As everyone else ate lunch I worked on “Breakfast At Bottega Louie Part Three” but only until Rob Friedman graced the stage to give his speech. Ironically, the theme Rob was trying to impart was the breaking down of barriers, which he referred to several times as silos. I don’t care for the word, but I’m not going to be churlish because Rob was not impressed by my presence. He also threw around a number of statistics all available through the MPAA, yet interesting none-the-less. The tone? Frankly a downer. THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF FLANIGAN.
I was slightly amused that Rob credited the success of Summit Entertainment to the fact that the company had somehow been designed to have a different culture—no silos. When in fact the success of Summit Entertainment is like so many other companies, nothing too much more than good luck. Rob was fortunate to be taken under the wing of Sherry Lansing at Paramount. (Sherry was lucky way back when that she was a good looking secretary) Summit was funded with a billion dollars back in 2006 when the market was throwing around money. And then the topper, “Twilight”, which is something akin to the after school specials I watched as a kid. But let’s face it, the youngsters loved it and it made a lot of money. But to confuse this lightweight franchise with Star Wars or Raiders of the Los Ark? Bad idea.
After some sophomoric questions from the audience I got one more chance with Rob Friedman—at the door. By the way I had tried to speak with a few other Hollywood folk that were there—all were as impressed with me as Rob, including his publicist. Anyway, I asked Rob, “So what really excites you? What do you think about when you wake up or before you go to sleep?”
This last encounter seemed almost too much for him to bear. “My kids. I think about my kids. And I still like making movies. I go to the movies once a week.”
Up at the valet there was no further conversation. I did notice that I drive a nicer car than all of the Hollywood Big Shots, including Rob Friedman, and unlike theirs it’s not leased. And yeah this is a cheap shot—sorry. You know I don’t go to the movies much anymore. Maybe I just know too much about how they’re made for my own good.