This piece appears in full at Hollywood Journal.
My first Hollywood job was not actually in Hollywood, but in New York. I was in college; a freshman whose cubicle-sized dorm was covered in wall-to-wall photographs of old movie stars. With black-and-white images of Dietrich, Crawford, Harlow and their fellow goddesses staring down at me, I dreamed of a career in the movies.
Perhaps that’s why I responded to an ad for a job as a locations intern on the set of a movie called The Pallbearer, starring one “Friend” (David Schwimmer) and one relatively unknown actress named Gwyneth Paltrow. I had no idea what a locations intern was, but I knew it would get me into the inner circle of the dream factory. My only previous brush with the film industry came when I was twelve years old and asked to audition for the Al Pacino movie, Sea of Love (they needed a boy my age who could speak Farsi). The day I auditioned, I wrote, “Dear Diary, my life officially begins today.” I didn’t get the part, and my life’s commencement was indefinitely postponed.
My time on the set of The Pallbearer did not start well. I was told that there was no room for me in the transportation van, and that I would have to take the subway to work. This wasn’t so bad when we were shooting in Manhattan. I remember one joyful day when we found a stray dog on the street, and the young actress named Gwyneth adopted him, and named him after the street we were shooting on.
Then the production moved to Brooklyn (the Brooklyn of 1995). While the rest of the crew rode in the comfort of the van, I took the rickety aboveground J train to the set, a cemetery far above street level. My job was to stay on street level with a walkie-talkie. When word came through my walkie-talkie, I was to ask the people of Brooklyn to be quiet because an important film was shooting in their neighborhood cemetery. I was a skinny eighteen-year old club kid in hand-painted, glitter-covered platform shoes. I was, in short, the least authoritative person in the neighborhood, and uniquely unsuited for the internship.
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