In our continuing Simon trade-off series, Russell Brown celebrates Valentine's Day with a look at his own brand of L.A. Nuts.
Single people in big cities all around the world complain that it's difficult to meet new dates. But in Los Angeles, it really is a challenge. We don't have public transportation, we live in neighborhoods that are spread across a vast landscape, many of us work in creative fields on our own -- the odds really are against you in a particularly unique way. I once had a date with someone in New York, then ran into the same person three times over the course of the following weekend. In Los Angeles, you're lucky if you run into the same person once every three years.
And yet, after living here my entire life, and being a staunch supporter of the many great things about this city, I am slowly coming to accept one of the uglier truths (and stereotypes) about this city. As the complaint goes, we are a city of transplants, of people who come here single-mindedly to make their dreams of fame and fortune come true. You see such creatures hanging out in coffeeshops and at the gym, preparing for their auditions or attending their friends' plays. Many are actors, but others are writers and musicians -- all here to live that Hollywood dream. And those of us who are here for other reasons end up dating them, and learning our lessons the hard way.
Take, for example, a friend of mine from high school -- we'll call her "Sally" -- who recently was dating a woman for a few weeks, and had secretly informed all of us that "this was 'the one.'" We took this new lady into our circle, invited her to our parties, and made every effort to make her feel at home amongst a group of friends who had known each other for years. Sally's been living high off a pretty successful run in her career, her most recent accomplishment being executive producing a well-received and highly-visible independent film. This was probably the greatest triumph so far in a string of successes, and the premiere was sure to be a star-studded event. Sally took the new girl, planning for it to be a magical night to remember: the right date, the job success -- it couldn't have been more perfect. But, as you may have guessed by now, only a few nights after the opening, Sally learned that the girl had been seeing someone else, and stuck around mainly to go to the big event. Gross, right? But certainly not surprising...
Which brings to mind my friend "David," a director who recently had a few dates with an actor/masseuse (a hyphenate that should always -- always! -- arouse suspicion). After buying dinner and taking his young charge out for a night on the town, the two made it back to David's house, and the actor invited himself in for a drink and some recreational pot smoking. After a chaste kiss, the actor told David that it "wasn't going in that direction, and that I'm only interested in dating if it's someone who can help my career." David, confused what the young man was doing in his house, gallantly made his way through an awkward conversation about remaining friends, without asking his date why anyone would want to hang around with someone so shallow, much less cast someone with no soul. But he's a classy guy...
And then there's another gal, "Liz", who is a powerful post-production executive who constantly works on big brand-name accounts. She referred me to a vendor that she uses, and after a visit to their office, I suggested she ask one of the guys in charge on a date. After a few days of encouragement, Liz finally mustered the courage, and was thrilled to get a positive response. The following weekend she spent on cloud nine, excited to accompany the guy to a hot sporting event. I got the call halfway through the evening. Apparently he's married, and wanted to go on the company's dime, so this was a way for them to get to know each other professionally while at the same time catching a great game. Two birds with one stone, right!
All this comes to mind as Valentine's Day lurks around the corner, and my heart goes out to my fellow Angelino singles. It seems to me that there really are the good guys and the bad guys, those of us who enter into a date with an open heart and open motivations, and others who are only there for themselves. Call it sociopathic, call it narcissistic; unfortunately, I'm beginning to call it "L.A." I hate to say it's symptomatic of my native town, but the truth is, friends in other parts of the world don't report such stories to me. Sure, people are often out for themselves -- agendas are not something unique to this little corner of the world. But it's my observation that only in Los Angeles is self-involved opportunism and coldhearted calculation so easily accepted (even expected!) as part of dating currency.
I suppose it would be difficult to totally pinpoint the problem. Perhaps it's all those lonely miles traveled on buses from the middle of the country, or constant rejection at the hands of casting agents, or simply the flighty culture of celebrity that's omnipresent in certain circles that leads to this sharky behavior. The happy news, though, is that generally these tactics don't end up working. The playgirl who just wants to be at the right party, the actor who uses people to help his career, the businessman who uses an advantage to procure some good seats for free -- the reason why they need people is they just don't have the goods on their own, and they know it. With that in mind, be strong, my single friends in Los Angeles. The good ones will find each other, and wave goodbye as the users watch Los Angeles fade behind them from the back of the bus.
L.A. Nuts is a weekly look at the cast of characters that make up this city.