Wednesday, October 06, 2010

In the Land of Lost Violinists

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

"He said you two were screenwriters."

I smirked at my new neighbors. They knocked on our front door the other day in order to officially introduce themselves. A couple, in their mid-to-late 20s, stood in the doorway with warm wide smiles.

"They're obviously not from around here," Nicky said later on.

And from here, meaning Los Angeles, and probably not even from California. They had the fresh-faced eager-beaver look to them. We wondered if this was their first or second year trying to make it big in the City of Angels. And yes, only good wholesome people from the South or flyover states would introduce themselves to their neighbors. Los Angelenos are too self-involved to care about who's around them, unless you've stolen their parking space, then you won't hear from them. The New Yorker in me is a "live and let live" person when it comes to habitation. To clarify: leave me the fuck alone and I will leave you alone. I gotta be honest, I never made an effort to get to know any of my neighbors mainly because I like living here on the sly. I'd rather not have nosy neighbors getting into my business.

However, the folks who will be living above us is another story. We're sorta forced to interact, if anything, because we're in units stacked on top of each other and the noise issue comes into question. Plus, in the past, we've had internal disasters with the plumbing due to our lazy and cheap slumlord in the slums of Beverly Hills. So it was a good thing that they initiated contact. They seem like nice people, which is good. I just hope they can put up with all of our quirky habits like Nicky singing along with Glee, or me shouting at the TV on NFL Sundays while I'm sweating bets or frantically moaning about how much Joe Buck tilts me during Yankees playoff games.

And then there's the smoke issue, let's face it, we're heavy smokers. The former tenants above us were awesome as far as neighbors go and rank among some of the best that I've ever had in my life. If we could live the rest of our lives with those two guys as our neighbors, I'd be totally cool with that. They were two late 20-somethings (or could have been early thirty-something) guys kept similar hours as us. They were respectful, gave us space, and kept an eye on our apartment whenever we went out of town. They were sorta in the entertainment business, both tokers, one of them (if not both) played guitar, got crazy for football on Sunday mornings (both were Tampa Bay fans -- their region of origin because no one in LA is actually from here, with the one exception being Nicky, who was born and bred in West L.A.), and most importantly they stayed up to 3am playing video games, which meant that we could stay up late and blast the TV and/or stereo way past Midnight without worrying about bothering our neighbors. Those two guys were used to our unusual sleeping habits. They loved the fact that we were burners and jammed music at odd hours, although I do suspect that they might have groaned on occasion when I cranked up Phish on lazy early afternoons when they woke up past noon to the bong-rattling bass of Mike Gordon bouncing off the floorboards below them. Hey, I had my own rule -- I only jammed loud music from noon til 10pm. I either listened to music at a low volume (the early morning jazz was never more than a few notches over a "whisper") or with headphones.

"He said you two were screenwriters."

Our new neighbors thought we were screenwriters because that's what our slumlord told them we did. We complained recently about all of the crazy and loud construction at early hours because we had to work at home, so he assumed we wrote screenplays. I dunno if he had any concept of what a poker writer was, but screenwriters are usually the type of writers that would be living in LA, and he also knew that Nicky worked in Hollywood when she originally rented the apartment from him six plus years ago. He's so fucking old that he referred to the film industry as "the pictures." And yeah, it's hard to think that when I first hooked up with Nicky she was deeply entrenched in the studio system recycling trash for the pop culture masses. That's my snarky comment on what she did, a definite cheap shot and sort of a rip off of Woody Allen's joke: "In Los Angeles, they throw away garbage and turn it into television shows."

The post-modern version is "they toss away garbage and turn it into reality TV shows."

Over the weekend, I stumbled upon the film version of Land of the Lost, a semi-erotic-throw back to my youth that started the trend of fawning over blondes, and later led me on the open path that aliens exist. I'll get to that elaboration in a second, but lemme tell you rant about how fucking bad Hollywood is these days. The studio heads are spineless gamblers who are afraid to back original concepts and only place big bets one established brands.

Land of the Lost cost in excess of $100 million for Universal to make the film. They could have made five lower-concept films that would have been more entertaining, but that's how they operate and make financial decisions -- they think that a parody film of a popular 70s TV show would be a way to print money because it's worked in the past. This time, the concept was poorly executed and their $100 million bet was a bust. I knew it was going to be a bombtastic bomb before I even saw a preview. The entire notion of the film should have been an indication for a disaster.

I stumbled upon one of the seventy versions of HBO, but this one was the Spanish language version and showed all films with a dubbed audio. Alas I got sucked into Land of the Lost not because it was funny, but hearing it in dubbed Spanish made it hysterical. Nicky was out running an errand and when she returned, I embarrassingly turned it off, sort of like get caught whacking off to porn, except I kinda wish I got caught rubbing one out to a Sasha Grey fetish video instead of howling over a Spanished dubbed version of a shitty Will Ferrel vehicle.

Land of the Lost had a budget that was "estimated" at $100 million, because in all the places I looked it up, they never specifically mentioned a hard number, which meant it was probably much more and the powers to be were embarrassed by how much they pissed away on the film that barely generated $68 million at the box office. Even DVD or international s ales could save it. Nicky reminded me about advertising and marketing which is another $20-25 million tossed on top. In the end, the film version of Land of the Lost lost millions of dollars. Chaka couldn't save it, neither could the Sid & Morty Kroft branding, nor Will Ferrell's fans, nor the funny fucking dude from Pineapple Express.

I used to watch the original TV show of Land of the Lost on Saturday mornings. It was a simple story about a park ranger and his two kids, a boy and the girl. The girl was named Holly and before I knew what erections were, I felt a pulling in my loins for her blonde braids, as I sat in my tightey whities slurping on cereal in a bowl and wondering why I always felt a little warm whenever Holly was in a scene. I especially got the hot sweats whenever she was tied up. I mean, that's as Saturday morning fetish theatre as you're gonna get.

Anyway, as the story goes, the park ranger and his kids go on a rafting trip and then an earthquake hits and rips apart the earth and the river drains into the center of the earth (or the theory as put forth in the film version -- the earthquake triggered a worm hole). They end up in the "Land of the Lost" where dinosaurs are still alive. There's also an bunch of bad guys named Sleestaks, which are sorta reptilian creatures that walk on their hind legs like humans. But dammit, if Sleestaks were fucking creepy, especially when you are eight years old. Former Detroit Piston bad boy, Bill Laimbeer, worked on the show when he was in high school/college because the studio needed tall extras to play the Sleestaks.

If I was David Foster Wallace, I would insert a two-thousand word long foot note on my unification theory of aliens, but since I can't figure out how to do that on the blog, I'll just use this new paragraph to willingly delve off topic for a minute and explain part of my overall theory of aliens is that the original dwellers of Earth are reptilians, who now live underground, but once ruled the Earth, but many perished during that cataclysm that wiped out the dinosaurs. The reptilians are often mistaken as aliens, when in fact, we're the aliens who invade their planet. The reptilians are in a cold war with the greys (E.T.s and traditional aliens seen in pop culture like on Stargate), who created humans as a genetic experiment by crossing their DNA with monkeys -- hence no missing link. So there you have it -- one of those wild and wacky theories of life and aliens that I've heard many times before in different incarnations and scenarios.

Land of the Lost went with a standard television show formula and added a sidekick, this time it was a furry creature named Chaka. Derek and my friends have a huge inside joke about Chaka, so we always have a little snicker with any Land of the Lost references that include Chaka. At one point during a Las Vegas trip many years ago, both StB and GMoney told people that they played Chaka on Land of the Lost. It's so fucking random and funny and a total retarded inside joke that only drunks and potheads will find any sort of amusement with it, but at the time, we all couldn't stop laughing.

A "Chaka-like" voice was created among G-Money and myself that we use to talk to our friends when we're super wasted, or in an attempt to annoy them, because the Chaka voice is a high-pitched squeal that is both hypnotic and/or highly annoying, but it's funny as hell when we do it. Iggy told a story once about how he was on tilt driving from Indiana to Wisconsin because we got stuck in Chicago traffic while GMoney and I would not speak in anything but a Chaka voice to each other. In a separate incident, I almost got slugged by Nicky on a drive from Vegas to Los Angeles, because I was singing every song that played on my iPod in a Chaka voice. By the time we reached the El Cajon pass (about three hours into our four-hour return trip to LA), she screamed at me as we sped down the mountain and begged not to hear another sing along with Chaka. The Chaka voice was killed that day, and has appeared only once in a blue moon.

You see, Chaka is funny, and Hollywood should have been able to make money off of one of the halcyon TV shows of my youth, but they failed to replicate those warm memories of Saturday morning freedom and innocence (with a splash of burgeoning sexual sensations). Instead, we were force fed an unpalatable post-modern update of something we held dear to our hearts. In a way, the new version was an indictment on what's wrong with us, what's wrong with society, and what's wrong with Hollywood. If the suits at Universal are going to bank on established brands, then deliver on the things that make those brands amazing in the first place. If you want to put a new twist on it, then go for something totally different. It was sort of like Universal had been sitting on a script about a scientist who has a theory that dinosaurs disappeared in a worm hole that they couldn't get made, but they had a shit ton of dough to do a re-make of Land of the Lost, so they forced a marriage between an unrelated script and the re-make.

As a result, we got that trainwreck of a bomb that is only funny if you're stoned to the bejesus and watching it with an outrageous dubbed version in Spanish.

"He said you two were screenwriters."

My new upstairs neighbor was explaining to me that she knew what we did and wanted to make sure we were not disturbed because she is a musician and needs to practice at home frequently.

"I'm a violinist," she said.

Wow, a violinist in LA? That would make more sense in New York City, but LA? Go figure. This city attracts creative people from across the spectrum. She said that her practice room would be right above the room that Nicky fixed up for my office. So, as I'm finishing off the tail end of this post, I can hear some of her notes penetrate the floorboards, while a few notes echo out the window and down the alley. The barking dogs are silent for the first time in I dunno how long, and the sweet sounds of a violin are... comforting.

At least someone in this town is making beautiful art. It sure as hell ain't me, or those fucktards in the studios up in the Hollyweird hills.


  1. Armando3:12 AM

    I used to watch Land of the Lost in Portuguese. That said... Chaka's annoying voice spans all dialects.

  2. michael f.11:18 AM

    ChakaChaka = technical slang for sexy time

    Thanks for the smile my friend. After having a night where things are all to intense, it was truly a pleasure to wake-up and read a story about Chaka and a violinist which is a direct reminder not to take life or myself too seriously. It also reminded me how important it is to enjoy the ride cause everything else really just doesn't matter. Go CHAKA!

  3. Poker Lawyer12:30 PM

    Huge fan of Land of the Lost.  Oh the warm and fuzzies for Holly - Saturday morning fetish theatre, indeed.  Fun read, this morning.  Thanks!

  4. GMoney1:28 PM

    Chaka likes this article but Chaka no like crystal meth(anymore that is)

  5. ZomBParadox1:33 PM

    Ok, I finally made it through a full post, probably because I used to watch Land of the Lost growing up, know who Chaka is and his dialect, and agree about suits without brains in Hollyweird.  good show!