Everywhere I go, Angelenos are making unnecessary, totally inescapable noise. Gum cracking, finger snapping, grossly conspicuous phone conversations, line practising, hand clapping, dance-move demonstrating, laughing, talking to themselves and singing. So much singing. Peacocking and presenting for anyone and everyone’s benefit. Look at me! Ask about me! They turn the music up higher in their cars, honk their horns for longer. They sport outrageous clothing and hairstyles. Audio and visual chaos. Even the dogs seem to bark through megaphones. People strike up conversations with strangers. Everyone is an extrovert, taking turns talking about themselves in lieu of actual discourse. Spinning self-aggrandising tales; utter bullshit, big fat piles of transparent lies. Feigning power, wealth and talent. Nobody will ever ask you where you went to school or demand proof of whatever credentials you claim. This city is a hustler’s paradise. Fame and power, or the illusion of such, are the most sought-after currency. It’s hard to sort out who’s actually good at anything. Not that it matters.
This most narcissistic and honourless of pursuits isn’t reserved exclusively for cosmetically disfigured, reality-television bottom feeders. A significant amount of garden-variety Hollywood dreamers are putting their cart before the horse, chasing after the Golden Unicorn of Renown with little or no regard for anything resembling art. Those whose broken homes and small-town indignities have driven them west in pursuit of all the validation that their daddies never got around to bestowing, looking to salve the wounds of having been a fat kid or sexually rejected one time too many before they grew into their ears. And of course, there are the Beautiful ones, not yet ready to come down from that Prom Queen high, taking solace in this technicoloured paradise’s sophomoric social hierarchy.
Fame is now so relative that snagging a shred of it is easier than ever. There’s a spectrum, from the Mega Star to the Curiously Recognisable, the latter achieved somewhat handily by appearing in a television commercial or getting your picture taken standing near an actual famous person. The internet provides additional opportunities for niche notoriety. On a site like Twitter you could be considered a totally big deal because a bunch of people “follow” you, even though nobody glances twice at you on the street. There are so many different ways to scratch the attention-whore itch, how could the self-esteem challenged possibly resist? They – okay, we – share a city, a neighbourhood, even perhaps some mutual friends, with the apex of celebrity. And under these highly unusual circumstances, it is so very easy to become deluded with self-entitlement. I mean, just imagine… You step outside to get the mail and find a 1990s supermodel sitting on your front stoop, smoking a cigarette – “I’ve sat there before!” Sitting across the bar from a comedy hero while she gets drunk alone – “I like to get drunk alone, too! We have so much in common!” You go to brunch every week at the same cafe as your favourite actress and she even said hi to you once – “We’re basically friends now!” You meet a legendary rock musician and he checks out your tits– “He has fucked the most beautiful women in the world and now he wants me, too!”
All those who were once intangible, in the flesh, buying tampons at Walgreens – “I also purchase feminine-hygiene products!” “Stars, they’re just like us!” The physical realness of them – the shattering of the fourth wall – is a heady thing to encounter on a daily basis, even for normal folks such as yours truly. It changes the way you watch movies and listen to music. Not because these people are so different in real life, rather because they are simply in real life. This is the Los Angeles that you’ve already heard about. This part, because all the rest – a radically diverse assortment of humans – tend to get muffled by the thunderous, distracting din provided by the cult of fame-obsessed, aspiring thises and thats. Shouting out their need from the rooftops of West Hollywood gyms. Laughing too loudly at their own jokes. Talking about juice cleanses and all the “projects” they’re working on. Taking photos of themselves. You get the picture. LA is so fucking loud!
Words and pictures by Malina Bickford.