A dead body. A court case. And a cat’s funeral.
Just another average day in Hollywood.
The body at the top of the staircase outside my new apartment in West Hollywood appears to be dead. Very dead. White face, no movement and no response when I poke it. Then, I do what they do on TV: place my two fingers against her neck (I have ascertained that the corpse is female) and turn to the assembled throng (well, non-assembled in this case) and shake my head.
Going downstairs to get better phone reception, I call 911 and explain the situation. Returning to the corpse to await whatever service is on its way, I am more than a little surprised to witness a resurrection before me. Moreover, a resurrection with a very bad nosebleed dripping all over my carpet. “You wanna chill,” says the ungrateful Lazurus.
I call 911 again and tell them of the miracle that has occurred, but stress that the body is still in need of urgent medical attention. The last I see of her, she is in the middle of the road, trying to flag down a taxi. For all I know, she was run down and is now in the morgue, which is where she should have been in the first place. Some people have no sense of drama.
A few hours later, I find myself in court – a place I have been just twice in my life. The first time was as a witness for the police in the UK, when they had decided my complaint against a taxi driver warranted a case for “rude and aggressive behaviour”.
The Appeals Court (he didn’t turn up for the first trial – ok, a tad melodramatic, I admit) put the problem down to there not being “enough charisma” between us. How much charisma do you need to go from Wardour Street to Brewer Street (less than a mile) behind a pane of glass, I asked the dumbfounded police afterwards.
The second time was in LA in 2011, when I successfully sued my landlady for non-return of a huge chunk of my deposit. Everything I put into practice I learned from watching just one TV show: Judge Alex. And so, for the second time in a day dealing with LA law, I find myself in court for the third time: not in the handcuffs (alas) I fantasised about when I first saw the TV show, and not, thankfully, with my being sued for being the judge’s stalker.
Judge Alex used to tape in Houston but is now in LA, and it is not only the best of the courtroom shows, it is one of the funniest shows on TV. It helps that the judge is stunningly handsome, brilliant and witty, and Twitter is packed with legions of swooning female fans; but it is a brilliantly edited show, too.
So, I am on the set and asked where I would like to sit – on or off camera. Anyone who knows me would know they could have just plonked me on the Judge’s bench at the outset and downgraded me from there.
In fact, anyone who knows me will be surprised to learn that I was not fully robed, gavel in hand, shouting “Action!” with the poor Judge locked in a cupboard elsewhere on the studio lot.
So, I am seated second from the left in the front row, and the first person to talk to me is an actor. So is the second. And the third. And the . . . You get my drift. They join lists that provide audiences for studio shows such as Judge Alex and get paid by the day.
“They get paid more than we do,” says RAN 1 (Resentful Actor Number 1 on my left, who has been to every show today), nodding towards the hallowed ground beyond the wooden barrier where he is penned. “When I was a litigator . . . ” he begins. I decide not to point out that he has never been, will never be, a litigator. I also hesitate to point out that he will never be an actor, either, but hold my tongue. (When I returned to see my second show, he was shunted off to “Standing room”. Quite right, too).
Behind me sits RAN 2. She’s a nurse. Not a real one, of course. She has been a “background actor” in several hospital dramas, but is ready to move centre stage.
“Do a monologue – NOW!” shouts RAN 1, a little frighteningly. She stumbles. I think of reciting Henry V’s speech from the Battle of Agincourt, but in the millisecond I take for breath, RAN 1 is already off again. “I’m a Shakespearean actor really . . . “
There is a very handsome younger man behind him who has played a detective (albeit a “background detective”). He has the kind of look that gives me the feeling that he might just make it, and he comes to these shows to network. He claims they have been very useful.
Oh, Hollywood, I love you. The hope.
The cat’s funeral is an altogether more sombre affair. I don’t like cats, but felt I had to support Chrissy, a fellow journalist, in her hour of need. “Mr Love” had been one of her feline companions for 14 years (“Slut”, his mother, lives on, and is very unperturbed by her son’s passing), and had been kept alive by his owner’s adoration and acupuncture, which is big pet business here. The decision to have him put down was a tough one.
My biggest concern is when I get a call from Chrissy saying that Bradley, the homeowner hosting the event, can’t find his iPod with Memory from Cats on it, the number Chrissy has chosen for the funeral, so could I gen up on the lyrics ready to sing.
When I arrive at Bradley’s, Mr Love is in a box wrapped in Christmas paper, with three sunflowers on the top. Memory is playing on the iPod, which has been found. Phew.
Basil, Bradley’s dog, is hovering a little too enthusiastically close to the box, and when we enter the garden for the ceremony, he is locked away.
After Chrissy reads an e-mail from a friend, praising both Mr Love and his owner, I decide to sing. I wasn’t going to waste a morning’s practice, after all, so I go for the Welsh hymn Calon Lan, which means a pure/honest/happy heart. I tell the sobbing throng that it’s a love song. I decide to leave out its associations with being sung on the rugby terraces.
It’s what Mr Love would have wanted.
Like I said. Just another average day in Hollywood.