Sunday, December 13, 2009

Life on the Lot, part 1

"Waitwaitwait.... are we pink or buff?"

No. I am not in West Hollywood on Saturday night.

I'm in my home in Laurel Canyon; Chris O'Donnell, my friend, client, and the star of NCIS Los Angeles, is (presumably) in his trailer somewhere near Venice beach. It's 8 AM, and we're running a scene for the current episode over the phone, and what he's saying and what I'm reading do not match up; we have this confusion --which is not one of tanning-booth settings or skin tone but about the "color" of the most current draft of the script-- from time to time.

(FOR THE UNINITIATED, A NOTE ON SCRIPT COLOR: It's something of a genius system, really: once a color progression is agreed upon --not unlike the Bronze-Silver-Gold progression of Olympic medals-- there's no more confusion about which script is current. If Green comes after Blue, and you got blue pages and see anyone walkin' around with green... you missed the memo, sport. You're out of date.)

Anyway. On a show like NCIS, there can be more than one script revision A DAY. Granted, those changes may be as little as a few lines, but still. Given that we have eight days to shoot those 60 pages (give or take), that's a lot, and they pile up.

P.S.: For those keeping track at home... it's Buff. We get back to work.


I think I need to answer a few questions first.

- No, I'm not dead. I'm in LA. Feel free to insert a joke, if you want.

- Yes, I have a place to live here. So... since August, give or take, Laurel Canyon (technically the Hollywood Hills, north of Sunset Blvd) has been my home. For what it's worth, it's an awesome place (view, fireplace, the whole deal). True story: while I was first walking through the house, I called the owner (now my landlord), Leslie. She's in Jersey and was initially a little confused by my 917 area code-- but 15 minutes later, in the midst of talk of commute times from Weehawken to Sony Music, she said " know what? You want it, the place is yours. Just send me a check."

No app, no lease, nothing. I would not know Leslie if she walked in the room.

- I am here because primarily because my two most long-term actor clients, Eliza Dushku and Chris O'Donnell, both are leads in network series-- Eliza is the lead in Dollhouse, Joss Whedon's show on Fox; Chris is, as mentioned, the lead in NCIS. I am also here because, through a series of details too convoluted to go into here, when these shows were announced last spring I had no place to live in Manhattan. My friends claimed that this was the universe's way of saying, in essence: you've been talking about LA for years-- it's Now or Never, Pal.

I chose "Now." And here I am.


There is a funny thing about moving without thinking it through: one has no idea of what one's life is going to be-- and one (OK, me) soon realizes how completely one (OK, me) has underestimated how much of a life one leaves behind. It's hard, this; the new life, all that.

Fortunately, as some of you know, once in LA I had to hit the ground running-- for in addition to Chris and Eliza, my friend Rick Fox needs "refocusing." I have never, ever met anyone in Hollywood who receives more varied, over-the-transom offers than Rick. And me? Scattered, running-in-ten-directions me-- compared to Rick? I'm friggin' Ghandi, I'm so calm and focused.

So I settle into this new, strange life, a life dictated by call sheets. They come in nightly, and it's always surprising to me how the next day's call sheets for two entirely different shows, halfway across town, arrive in my inbox in within ten minutes of each other. (Honestly, how is that possible?) As one might expect, the Universe seems to conspire to make Big Days (or even Big Scenes) occur at the same time for all my clients. So I toggle back and forth between the two-- who's shooting what, and when-- and where? It's kinda stressful, to tell you the truth. But one does what one can.


Much more to say, but it's late. I'll tell ya more from the plane tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Boston, part two

... yah yah yah I know: it's been more than 24 hours (as promised) since I last wrote. But I've got a good excuse, for my ensuing 24 hours do not start well.

At all. I'll pick up where I left off:

So I'm in bed. I've sent my emails, I've shut off my laptop; as I roll over, I marvel at the fact that I'm so tired as to actually be nauseous. It's my life, I think, finally catching up to me.

Fifteen minutes later I change my mind, for the nausea has overtaken the fatigue. This isn't good.

A few minutes later the nausea has intensified, and now something more: dread. A dread that soon turns into an awful certainty I haven't felt in years: in a few minutes, I'm gonna puke. And puke hard.

Nothing changes about this ritual, or the steps that lead relentlessly to it: the sweating, the shallow breathing, the clenched fists... the desperate bargaining with one's own stomach: please, please, not now... the eternal bucket/toilet debate (and where IS the ice bucket, anyway?)... the mental plotting of the bathroom dash, followed the realization that the mere act of standing will seal the deal and the dread that one has waited too long to sprint.

One forgets how painful it is.

...the first time. After an hour or so of this, as my fingernails dig into the toilet seat and my even my legs, fully extended and tensed, are in on the job, I come to hate my body. I hate the level of pain it can endure. I hate its stubborn insistence that the best thing to do now is, ya know... puke more. I hate the fact that every muscle in my body is tense in an effort to squeeze another drop of God-knows-what from my body--and if I could breathe, I'd scream to my body (really, I would): THERE'S SIMPLY. NOTHING. LEFT. Anywhere. Trust me. I know this.

Finally, it recedes. as I collapse onto the tile floor, drenched in a sweat that trickles even into my ears, I am reminded of a fundamental truth of life: few things feel better than the end of pain.

My last thought before passing out is a prayer that this is food poisoning, for there's a stomach flu going around LA that's got a nasty reputation and I simply can't afford a week of this. Time will tell.

6AM: I open my eyes. The sliver-window in the bathroom has turned from black to a dull, slate gray. Dawn. Crawl back to bed.

A lifetime later (but it's only 9:40!) and my body has decided that one final, just-in-case round is in order-- and as I assume the position, this I know: ain't no way I'm teachin a class today. But by noon, the pain-tide has turned a little, and I decide: Peter Kelley is no quitter. I'm in Boston, Dammit, and I've got work to do. Come hell or high water, I'll rally.

2PM: I call my good friend Steve Stapinski, who's registered in the class, and he agrees to stop by with replenishing fluids on his way in to rehearse. A few minutes later, a knock at my door: a bellman, with a bag containing TWO ONE-GALLON JUGS of Gatorade. (Thanks, Steve.) A little after three, and I'm at the BCA. I make it through class, actually rally a little, and when we exit the BCA...

Now THIS is more like it. THIS is the Boston I remember.

I am suddenly walking fast and my head is down and my hands are dug into my pockets and I am squinting in a futile effort to shield my eyes against the wind-driven sleet that sandblasts directly into my face. As we approach steve's car, Steve-- who can never, ever resist talking to a young woman-- asks the valet whether we are in fact dealing with snow or rain.

"Neither," she says... "it's 'snain'. Snain's the worst."

"Snain." That's a good one. Fifteen years in Boston and I never heard that. I am shivering by the time I climb into Steve's car and I am reminded to never, ever take small miracles like heated seats for granted. Five minutes later I am back in my bed. Two minutes after that, I'm asleep.

It is not, as it feels, ten hours later when I wake up. In fact, it's barely nine PM. But I am on the mend, and I'd earlier heard a rumor that I now must confirm, so I get dressed and manage to head outside.

The rumor is true. The "snain" has turned to snow. Real snow, White Christmas snow. Suddenly, I don't even mind the cold. Suddenly, I know there's only one thing to do. I drop my head, squint... and return to the the Oak Room. I order a ginger ale (but for the love of Christ stay away from those Wasabe peas!), and listen.

One thing about Christmas carols: all the good ones succeed on the level of melody, so they don't need to be sung to be enjoyed. But now, in a bold shift... this new tune is not a Christmas carol, and it takes me a second to place it. It's The Beatles: "Here,There, and Everywhere."

Here's the thing about a Beatles song: every element is by now so iconic --the arrangement, the production, those vocals-- that it's sometimes necessary to hear one out of context to realize how beautiful it is. It's a brilliant choice, this, for it's so simple and haunting and sweet that, in another musical life, it could actually be a Christmas carol. And I get the sense I'm not alone in this thought: for the duration of the song, the whole place grows a little quieter.

It ends, and I decide not to press my luck with another Ginger Ale. One more chin-down walk though a Boston night, and in ten minutes I'm back in bed and once again quickly dropping into sleep, and as I do so I think about my day. Despite its horrible start, I taught a class. I heard Christmas carols. I saw snow. And now I'm in a warm bed.

All of our lives go through times of ache. But even then - or especially then - above all things, Gratitude. Which is the point, I think, of the season.


Friday, December 4, 2009

a short note...

I have to remind myself that for Boston, this is warm.

It's ten PM, or thereabouts. I'm heading over to the Oak Bar at the Copley Plaza for a quiet(ish) glass of wine before bed, and as I scurry across Dartmouth street I remember the essential fact of how windy this place is, so I'm thankful for the relative warmth. I'm remembering from my days in Boston a series of post-Thanksgiving cold spells-- snow turning to ice in early December (I swear!), and days on end of bitter, bone-snapping cold. Not tonight, though, and I bless my good fortune as I slip into the bar.

Which is packed. A confession: there's a kind of sadness to coming alone to a place like this, in Boston, on a Friday night in the Holiday season -- as far as I can tell, it's not only Family Night but Date Night here at the Oak Room, and while I enjoy the dull din of conversation and the piano player's medley of Holiday Favorites (I am, after all, The Christmas Whore...), I'm also aware of my presence as the "party of one" guy who's workin' on his laptop on a Friday night (it's true - since I'm teaching a class tomorrow, this does qualify as a business trip for PK). (It also reminds me of a script idea about a man who goes through life positioning himself next to happiness, based on his hope that happiness is contagious and can, like a winter cold, be "caught" if one is around it often enough). Anyway. I'll probably overpay for the wine, but I don't care-- I've reached a point where I'll gladly pay a premium for a warm spot with comfortable seats.

So what am I doing here? Well, I made a promise to myself on the flight out (where I got the upgrade, again! I'm on a roll, baby! But no wi-fi on Boston flights...): I'm going to try to send "a musing a day" for the next few days, to get back into the swing of chronicling my increasingly scattered, hard-to-describe life. As a few of you have pointed out, it's been a long time since you've received a "PK rambling." I know. Rest assured I've got a backlog of observations about the culture of celebrity, working in network television, "life on the lot", life in Laurel Canyon, all of it. Things are slowing down, so hopefully that will allow me to catch up.

Stay tuned.

Especially since I now see that it's gonna snow tomorrow.