Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Mick Jackson | L. A. Story
mining for loveby Douglas Messerli
Roland: Sara just got off a plane from London.
Trudi: Oh, you must be exhausted.
Sara: Yes, I’m shattered, but it’s nothing that some sleep and
a good fuck wouldn’t cure, as my sister used to say. Ha
ha ha. [Everyone stares]
Roland: You’ll have to forgive Sara.
Sara: Oh, it was just…a figure of speech. I’ve been on a plane
for twelve hours with a crying baby.
Drink orders, soon after, demonstrate the flat jokes of Martin’s Los Angeles satire:
Tom: I'll have a decaf coffee.
Trudi: I'll have a decaf espresso.
Morris Frost: I'll have a double decaf cappuccino.
Ted: Give me decaffeinated coffee ice cream.
Harris: I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.
Trudi: I'll have a twist of lemon.
Tom: I'll have a twist of lemon.
Morris Frost: I'll have a twist of lemon.
Cynthia: I'll have a twist of lemon.
The story that follows, filled with a talking freeway sign, an hilariously empty-minded, Venice-inspired L. A. stereotype, SanDeE* (rambunctiously celebrated by Sarah Jessica Parker) whom he meets at a clothing store, and numerous cameo roles by other comedians, matter only as distractions to his growing infatuation with the tuba-playing journalist, Sara.
Just as in most of L.A. films featuring rebels, Sara is a true eccentric in a world of innate outsiders who define themselves most notably by trying to “fit in,” parroting the inanity of a culture that has few true insiders. A bit like Woody Allen, Martin scatters his L. A. snipes in all directions, including Harris’ attempt to get a reservation for the outrageously pricey restaurant, L’Idiot, where he is told he must wait days for a 5:30 dinner, and, questioned by a Maître’d, a banker and others, is allowed only a few choices from the menu.
Harris: [calling the restaurant] Hello, L'Idiot? Yes, I'd like to
make reservations for two for Friday. Saturday? Sunday?
Ah good. Eight-thirty. Five-thirty or ten-thirty? Um,
five-thirty. Visa...I'm a weatherman... yes, I'm on TV!
Renting... I just sold a condo... yes, in this "soft market"...well, I don't see how that's any of your... the low fifties.
When Roland later suggests the same restaurant, he is able to obtain a reservation for the same night.
At moments, Martin actually reaches into the heart of the culture, suggesting the complexity and difficulty of mining a world that is so resplendently deserted.
Harris: There's someone out there for everyone—even if you need
a pickaxe, a compass, and night goggles to find them.
Compared with those around them, the wacky journalists are models of sanity, as they ridiculously attempt to hook up with the wrong people, the interfering and bag-pipe loving freeway sign offering advice and moral insight. And why not? Hasn’t it been created to tell the masses what to do—to slow down, to take alternate routes?
If Los Angeles is a paradise for outsiders—with little of permanence at its core ("Harris: Some of these buildings are over 20 years old.")—then it is natural that Harris and Sara were meant for one another, true Angelenos unable to fit into anyone’s definitions of whom should love whom and how life should be lived. Off-screen Martin married Victoria Tennant in 1986, a relationship which ended, eight years later, in divorce.
Los Angeles, June 8, 2010
We talked about a great many things, but what I most remember is how basically shy and self-demeaning this audacious comedian was. On screen and television Martin seemed totally nonplussed, a man who could dress up as King Tut (a skit, in part, based on a LACMA show), put an arrow through his head, become a swinging Czech brother, or dance outrageously in a satiric homage to Fred Astaire. But in reality, he was a quiet, thoughtful man, more interested in discussing art and ideas than in drawing attention to himself. Our conversation on that one afternoon was, for me at least, a totally pleasant one, he standing in front by a huge silk Indian cloth that Dee had hung upon the wall, while Howard and I shared a friendly discussion with him. Unfortunately, we never encountered him after that.