Film Scouts Comment

Hollywood Outsider II: Inside the Studio Gates

by Richard Schwartz
Outside Hollywood, Feb. 2000 - You gotta love the studio commissary.

After all, if you're fortunate enough to get a job inside the gates of a Hollywood studio, that's the only place where you might actually have the opportunity to rub elbows with power. That's right -- waiting in line for the delicious do-it-yourself taco salad, you could very well bump into Julia Roberts.

But, wait, that seems too good to be true. Isn't the whole notion of Hollywood outsider-ness predicated on the fact that you're always subject to a virtual restraining order, a de facto caste system that keeps those envious outsiders at least 50 feet away from those venerable insiders? Then how does one explain the aberration of the commissary (which is, for those of you outside the 310, the equivalent of a company cafeteria)?

A-ha! Let us introduce you to the concept of the "dummy commissary." Not since Oliver Stone uncovered the Kennedy assassination has such a blatant cover-up been exposed.

You think that woman scooping cottage cheese from the deluxe salad bar might be the VP of Development when she's actually a mere mortal, say, a secretary or executive assistant or production assistant. You were fooled, simply, because you're a tray-carrying member of the "dummy" commissary.

Just as Dealey Plaza featured a second, "real" gunman, according to popular lore, most Hollywood studios feature a second, "real" commissary.

Often found adjacent to the "dummy" commissary, the "real, nice (and real nice)" commissary features cloth napkins instead of wet-naps, steak tartare instead of microwaveable Steak-Umms and powerful people instead of lackeys like you and me. It's the last bastion of the traditional Hollywood insider boys' club, which, with the closing of such institutions as Chasen's and the rehab of the Polo Lounge, is losing its time-tested gathering spots. The "real nice" studio commissary (which, in some studios, is even losing its niche appeal to executive dining rooms) basically exists to provide the studio insiders a decent Chicken Caesar Salad without exposing them to the blue-collar contingent or forcing them to brave the midday traffic into town on the 101.

And, you never know, you just might spy a Jeffrey Katzenberg, as we did recently at Universal's "real nice commissary," or Marty Scorsese, recently seen at Paramount's "real nice commissary."

Just don't look for Julia. She's munching on a taco salad delivered by that very production assistant whose elbow you rubbed... and she's inside her private trailer.


Stay tuned... next dispatch: An outsider goes inside awards season.

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