Discovery: Hollywood!

[20 May 2005]

By Glenn McDonald

The native habitat of the US movie and entertainment industry, Hollywood, California is lush and densely populated ecosystem. Home to thousands of fascinating species, the Hollywood landscape is swarming with the strange and wonderful—ruthless predators, docile vegans, majestic failures, and vast roaming herds of Beautiful People. On your next trip to LA, see if you can spot some of these amazing creatures!

The Struggling Screenwriter
Scribblus interminus
Pale and sickly, the Struggling Screenwriter makes its home deep in the burrows of Santa Monica coffee shops, huddled over laptop computers and worn copies of Syd Field books. This odd creature usually exists in a bizarre state of symbiosis with a gainfully employed mate. While the mate provides food and shelter, the nocturnal Screenwriter spends its nights in a kind of fugue state in which it imagines it is reinventing the heist film. Within a year or two of reaching maturity, the Struggling Screenwriter migrates from Hollywood in droves, where it returns to its original family unit in the Midwest and sets up a bedroom in the basement.

The C List Celebrity
Vaguii familiarus
Thanks to mushrooming media technologies, the C List Celebrity is flourishing in the modern era, running rampant and unchecked over the verdant sidewalks and parking lots of Hollywood. Several subspecies have been identified in recent years, including the Screeching Comedienne Harpy, the Prime Time Pageant Show Discard, the Rehabilitated Porn Star, the Bad Sitcom Sidekick, and the frighteningly prolific Campy 1980s Referent. The C List Celebrity has found a successful niche in the Hollywood ecosystem by settling in the endless valleys of basic cable “reality” programming, where it is often fed, clothed and housed for weeks at a time. Oddly, the actual biological origins of the C List Celebrity are shrouded in mystery, but some scientists believe they are hatched beneath the rafters of abandoned Burbank soundstages.

The Studio Mogul
Honcho haedius
Once renown for its glorious pelt of fine Italian suit jackets and seamless hair weaves, the Studio Mogul has found its numbers dwindling in recent years due to internecine struggles and (some say) cannibalism. Now on the brink of extinction, the Mogul fiercely defends its territory with many formidable defense mechanisms, including personal publicists, libel attorneys, tell-all books, and a glandular “stink spray” secretion known as the Eisner Stench. Despite its dwindling population, the male of the species is still considered to be particularly potent—during its annual 363-day mating cycle, the Mogul often attempts to mate with many hundreds of interns and up-and-coming actresses.

The Independent Film Director
Scavengus incessantii
Solitary and cunning, the Independent Film Director maintains its position in Hollywood due to a single but formidable survival skill: the ability to forage surprising amounts of money from maxed-out credit cards, family and friends, and the occasional unwary investor. A relentless hunter, the Independent Film Director can often be seen at industry events lulling prey into submission with passionate monologues on narrative decay and mise-en-scene. When its victims are sufficiently numbed and distracted, the Independent Film Director pounces—socializing mercilessly and fundraising with savage abandon.

The Iconoclast Musician
Hipstrus junkie
Usually found wandering Sunset Strip in packs, grumbling about studio rental rates, the Iconoclast Musician is distinguished by its hipster thrift fashion sense, expensive-looking haircut, and constant air of snide dismissal. Despite debilitating environmental conditions and virtually no income, the Iconoclast Musician nevertheless manages to subsist on a diet of gas station sandwiches, cheap heroin, and the occasional backstage fruit tray. Those who manage to survive the first few seasons usually end up working as record store clerks and attending 12-step meetings in the Valley. In extremely rare instances, Iconoclast Musicians go on to incredible fame and fortune for one to three years, after which they end up working record label A&R jobs and attending 12-step meetings in Beverly Hills.

The Aging Movie Queen
Decrepedi vanitus
Easily spotted due to its polysaccharide exoskeleton, the Aging Movie Queen is driven by a tenacious will to survive. Despite the ravages of age, precancerous tanning rituals, and a lifetime of “recreational” drug use, the Aging Movie Queen cannot be dissuaded from competing for territory at award ceremonies and charity fundraisers. Biologists have noted that this species has developed an inadvertent group camouflage technique in recent generations, as repeated “elective cosmetic procedures” have rendered individual pack members virtually indistinguishable. These days, the Aging Movie Queen derives much of its parasitic nourishment from devotional legions of gay male admirers.

The Eager Young Protégé
Naiveius doomedii
Also known by its more accurate scientific name, the Production Assistant, the Eager Young Protégé typically migrates to Hollywood in huge regional groupings around springtime, having departed various university habitats with Communications and Dramatic Arts diplomas. Hunted mercilessly by many other Hollywood species, such as the Mid-Level Studio Executive, the Sexually Confused Talent Agent, and Colin Farrell, the Eager Young Protégé survives by clustering together in cramped, overpriced West Hollywood apartments and maintaining a moderately toxic blood-alcohol ratio. Many if not most of these hopeful migrants quickly move on to more hospitable climes, but some do remain, morphing into the larval form of the Struggling Screenwriter or emerging after a short dormant period as the Mid-Level Studio Executive’s New Pregnant Wife.

Other notable species include the Hypertoned Body Nazi, the Bling-Breasted Compton MC, and Fat-Headed USC Film Student. Your donation to the Hollywood Preservation Fund is key to protecting these magnificent creatures. Send your check to this author, c/o PopMatters.com. Thank you for your concern.

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/mcdonald050520/