Saturday, March 19, 2005

Marty & Elaine @ the Dresden:
Post-modern life in Los Angeles

Last night I went to the Dresden, much to my surprise and delight, I found that Marty and Elaine were playing. Some of you already know whom I'm speaking of, but for those of you who don't I will elaborate. Remember the movie Swingers?(It came out nine years ago! Can you believe it?) Remember the scene where Vince Vaugn and John Favreau are at this retro looking bar, and this unbelievably eccentric looking older man and woman are doing the most bizarre cover of Stayin' Alive? Well those people, and that bar really exist.

The Dresden, which is about two miles from my apartment, is a restaurant and bar that has been around for over fifty years. Marty and Elaine have been their lounge act for about twenty five years. Marty plays the drums and sings, and Elaine plays the keyboard and flute. They usually have someone playing the upright bass, but sometimes Marty plays that too. The first time however, that I ever saw and heard Marty and Elaine play was not at the Dresden, it was in the movie Swingers, a film which I saw multiple times before I actually moved to Los Angeles. I remember talking to a friend when I was fresh off the boat and how I started gushing when he told me he had been to the Dresden and seen them perform.

But three years later, after seeing them on a number of occasions, I only clapped distractedly at the end of their set, and glanced at them with a muted smile of appreciation; now they were simply providing the background music. What I found more intriguing, was to watch the people who looked like they were at the Dresden for the first time. They were enthralled to be in a locale that Vince Vaughn had once graced with his presence, and giggled with excitement when Marty & Elaine began to play the song featured in Swingers: Stayin' Alive.

I was like that once too I'm sure, but not anymore. Like anything else, when you're around something all the time you get used to it and/or take it for granted. I found myself thinking last night, as the room erupted into applause following Marty & Elaine's BeeGee cover, how funny it was that I was experiencing a reality that I had seen before on film. At that moment it was almost as though I was "in a movie."

They call that post-modern right?

There's that old saying about life imitating art and art imitating life that's quite apropos for describing life in Los Angeles. I sometimes get the feeling when I'm driving down the street in LA that I'm on a huge back lot and that when I'm at a stop light a stage hand might just pick up the shrubbery on the sidewalk in front of me and walk off with it. Famous people are everywhere, most accquaintaces and friends work in "the business", and your local coffee shop will be randomly closed for a movie shoot. There was a time when I would go to Katz's in NYC and talk with my friends entusiastically about how cool it was that When Harry met Sally shot a scene there. Or point out excitedly, the building on Central Park West, where Sigourney Weaver's character lived in Ghostbusters. But I don't do that sort of thing anymore. I've certainly become more jaded since living in Hollywood. I now know that a pop culture icon who appears to be the epitome of cool, may very well treat the people that work for them like crap. That the person who's name appears in the credits when the movie starts may have actually done no real work on that film. That movie stars usually don't stay for more then five minutes at their own movie premieres. If I wanted to I could go to a different part of my neighborhood every day and stand in the exact spot where a film or TV show was shot.

In my time in Los Angeles, I have woken up and laid in bed pondering how my life has come to be what it is today. On those mornings I worry that my entire existence might be an incredibly banal made for TV movie, and that one day a director is going to jump out from behind a dumpster and yet "Cut, let's do another take!"

Living in pop culture land is not easy. It can mess with your head. You may find yourself looking up at the sky trying to make out the rabbit hole you fell through when your plane landed in LAX for the first time.

Still, I don't think I'm ready to go back through the looking glass just yet.


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