So the first thing that happened after the Austin trip was the (major event) that is Halloween.
The Saturday before, I went to a vintage store to buy my costume, which was for a character I made up called The Killer Bride. Basically, an effed-up white dress and veil, plus an axe. You can see the results - and a lot of other, much more amazing costumes here.
The dress was easy, then I had to get some fake blood, a fake axe and a veil. There was only one thing for it, to go to the Hollywood Toys and Costume Store on Hollywood Boulevard.
My flatmate used to work for a famous hip-hop label owner whose brother was in a seminal Eighties rap band (that's all I'm allowed to say!). And said Label Owner was in town from New York, without a costume. So she was tasked with getting him sorted. He was going AS his brother, which seemed very meta to me....
She drove us up to the Toys and Costume Store, which was MENTAL. There was a huge line of people out the door, and inside, it was the biggest costume emporium I've ever seen. Wigs, fake chains, knives, makeup, latex masks, you name it.
So we got my items in no time, bought some fake gold chains for Mr Label Owner and then it was down to the Adidas store on Melrose for the rest of his costume (yes, that was a clue).
But it turned out that he was staying with a big Hollywood director, which meant a drive into the heart of Beverly Hills to deliver the stuff. This director's pool featured in an episode of Entourage a few years ago, and it was every bit as cool in real life. Amazing paintings, photos taken by the director himself featuring all sorts of famous types, cool furniture and objets d'art everywhere, and of course, the pool where Johnny Drama once begged him for a role.
I'm sorry to say that there was no sign of either the Label Owner or the Director, but we did get to meet the Director's two charming Filipino maids. Next time, I'll be taking a swim in the pool... I wish!
That night, it was off to a Green Card party (two British ladies had just become citizens), where the good news was celebrated with champagne (fair enough) and in true L.A.-style, karaoke. I hope their walls were soundproofed!
Halloween night itself was just as crazy as I'd hoped. Everyone gets dressed up and started promenading around in their costumes from about 6pm, while the streets are lined with a lot of very camp performers on stages singing endless versions of Thriller. At one point, the mayor of West Hollywood tried to make a speech flanked by drag queens, but everyone was too busy oohing and ahing at the mad costumes to listen.
I can't do justice to how incredible some of them were - people really went all out. My favourites were the guy with the TV on his head (complete with lampshade), the guy dressed as The Queen, and the dragon.
It was a great night - and the Killer Bride went down well. I must have had my picture taken with 20-30 people. Kind of felt like being one of those guys dressed as Spiderman on Hollywood Boulevard....
On Friday, I went to a screenwriters mixer organised by the ISA, which unfortunately took place in a cocktail bar called Mixology 101, with a DJ spinning (noisy and bad) discs. Hardly a good venue for a load of nerdy people to make conversation and contacts. Having said that, I did meet a lot of people and exchanged some cards. I just had no voice the next day...
Thankfully, Saturday was a quiet-ish day, sketch class aside. I went to an AFI screening of a digitally-remastered Sunset Boulevard at Graumans Chinese.
Now, a few things about this. AFI Fest tickets are FREE, and all you have to do to get them is book them online, and pick them up at the box office. And we all got a goodie bag afterwards, with a copy of the film on DVD and a specially-produced poster. I don't know how AFI manages financially, but I'm glad it does!
Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard is the ideal film to watch in Hollywood, particularly at the Chinese Theater. And seeing it there with a big crowd was something special. Gloria Swanson's terrifying Norma Desmond gets the most laughs, with the biggest ones coming after William Holden's down-at-heel screenwriter tells her she "used to be big". "I AM big!", she snaps back. "It's the pictures that got small!".
But killer lines aside - and this movie is brimming with them - this is a tragic story at heart, about people who can't give up on their dream and head back to Ohio, or in the case of Norma, accept that they're no longer a star. I'd seen the film before, but had forgotten the creepiness of Norma's morbid, crumbling mansion, and the unnerving butler Max. An early scene featuring a midnight burial for a scary-looking pet chimp is straight out of a Hammer Horror.
This is a very dark film masquerading as a comedy, directed by someone who knew just what a high price people are prepared to pay for fame. I loved seeing it on the big screen where it belongs - and if this version gets a wide release, you should check it out.
I'll update again later in the week on the rest of AFI, election night in Hollywood, and a run-down of the (tiny amount) I've learned about comedy sketch writing so far...