Sunday, January 30, 2011

IF JULIA ROBERTS WON AN OSCAR, WHY CAN'T I?

Well, in the "No Good Deed Shall Go Unpunished" category, we can now add "Catching Cold While Attending Local School Board Meeting"….

I ventured out from behind the protective fichus walls of our desert hideaway one evening last week in support of a group of local teachers who have discovered, in the years since the communications conglomerate Verizon erected a hideous cell phone tower on the playground of their elementary school, that their staff cancer rates are roughly EIGHT TIMES that of the general public.



As if this wasn't shocking enough, the scientist they'd brought along presented damning evidence of the presence of "dirty electricity" on the property -



- as well as statistics showing test scores at the school had PLUMMETED since the installation.



Of course The School Board, comprised of half a dozen failed politicians including the ex-local Police Chief and a couple of his flunkies -



- (one of whom actually announced that "school isn't just about teaching kids….", to audible gasps of disbelief from the assembled) -



- are loathe to admit that they have allowed a Corporate Entity to endanger the lives of the children and teachers under their auspices; thus, they brought in their own "specialist", a doctor who tried to change the subject repeatedly and finished off by comparing the cancerous educators with a group of beans dumped from a can.



She was clearly an idiot.

But the School Board gets $1500.00 per month rental fee for letting this monstrosity hum along next to the children at the school, many of whom are the offspring of persons of, shall we say, "questionable citizenship status", and thus the overwhelmingly white and wealthy folks at the School Board panel are not inclined to knock the thing down.



One does wonder what their response would be should we suggest they send their OWN children to this school….



But I digress.

As you know, dear reader, my interest in social activism rarely extends beyond wondering what to wear to next week's fundraising banquet -



- and this evening was no different. That is, until I saw the NEWS CAMERA TRUCKS parked out front!



Quickly running back home to change into my best Erin Brokovich ensemble (murmuring "my eyes are up HERE…" to anybody who passed by) -



- I returned all ready for a fight; after all, NOTHING accelerates one's career in Hollywood quite like being involved in uncovering some major human rights issue -



- and I figured that this one - featuring not only children but UNDERPRIVILEGED ONES at that! -



- was just the ticket to promote my new film "SMOOCH", airing on the Hallmark Channel February 5th, 9 pm. (But if you've driven anywhere in Los Angeles lately, you already knew that...see billboard below.)



Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the meeting, the TV Crews were already safely ensconced inside; I figured I would have to catch them on the way out, and thus I made my way into the board room. Assuming this would be a congregation of adults, discussing very adult topics, imagine my chagrin to discover the place PACKED with children!



Seemingly thousands of them, squirming, talking…coughing….



Yes…coughing.



Now given that children are, in essence, little more than walking petri dishes full of bacteria -



- it stands to reason that at least half of them were in an advanced state of infection with, at the very least, a cold or perhaps some ghastly strain of influenza involving projectile vomit.



Thus, I took the precaution of staying at the back of the room; thankfully I had brought along a small bottle of anti-bacterial spray and I all but bathed myself in it as the cacophony of sniffling, sneezing and barking reached a fever pitch.

To add insult to injury, it turned out that none of them were actually there in aid of our "Cell Tower Cause"; had they been, it might have helped our case - we could've held one of the wheezing little creatures up as an example of what happens to the human body when overexposed to the aforementioned "dirty electricity".



Sadly, that was not the case.

They were actually there as proponents of some "free learning center", no doubt one of those holdovers from the days of communes and hippies -



- where even the dullest wretch is given hugs and warm cookies for doing nothing more educationally valid than tying his shoes without stabbing his classmate with the penknife he smuggled in from his crack addict mother's purse.



As the Center's instructors fumbled their way through a computer-assisted audio visual presentation (one DOES worry about the educational prowess of a group of teachers who can't operate a Mac…), it became apparent they had come to the meeting to try to convince the Stone Idols before them that they deserved recognition (i.e.: tax money) for their proposed charter school. I suppose it would be churlish of me to suggest that places like this already exist, well paid for with the public coin -



but nevertheless as we watched a seemingly endless slide show of happy, smiling children doing everything EXCEPT paying attention in class, I found myself wondering if perhaps the "Ladders of Hope" educationarium was so named because the only careers for which any of their students seemed qualified would involve operating a ladder.



And while one certainly applauds their efforts at trying to keep these young hoodlums-in-training off the streets between 9 and 5, it would have been much nicer for all concerned had they sprayed the little darlings with a good strong disinfectant before packing them into an enclosed space.



But they didn't. Thus, I find myself burdened with a cold.

I know what you're thinking, dear reader. How can I, Ron Oliver, an Emmy nominee with literally scores of critically acclaimed international motion picture and television credits to my name, be felled by a simple head cold?



Well, here's a little secret: I am JUST LIKE YOU.



It's true!

In spite of what you might think, I wake up in the morning and have my valet put my trousers on me one leg at a time - just like you do! And, probably like you, I am the subject of all sorts of ridiculous "cures" attempted by my Houseboy Panton.



As if the constant throbbing pain in my head and the endless coughing weren't enough, I've had to endure the rather alarming sight of a half naked youth of undetermined ethnicity swinging a baton made of burnt bamboo and chicken feet over my head as he bellows some indecipherable gibberish at the top of his lungs, all in the aid of dispelling the "evil spirit" within me.

Frankly, I'm sticking with the Sudafed.

Of course many of you will remember that the LAST time I had a cold was at the tail end of the aforementioned production "SMOOCH" -



- airing on the Hallmark Channel, Feb 5th, 9 pm - as we finished up our shoot in Detroit and winged our way to San Francisco for a couple of days of exteriors. But that was really the only sour note of that entire experience, and given that I apparently caught the cold due to my close proximity to a certain adorable camera assistant-



- who shall remain nameless -



- even though he couldn't keep his hand out of Daddy's candy bowl (this is, sadly, not a euphemism; he kept shoving his grubby mitts into the ever present dish of Mike'n'Ikes next to my director's chair, thereby infecting all of us with his vile disease...), it was very much a case of "Death Where is thy Sting?"



Joined by The Boyfriend -



- for the finale in the City By The Bay -



- and with the magnificent (as usual) hospitality of Jessica -



- at The Fairmont Hotel Nob Hill -



- it was an extraordinary finish to an utterly delightful project, one that continued on well into 2011 as my editor Zack and I quickly cut the picture and, with the help of some very gifted creative types including my composer on the project Claude Foisy, delivered it to an ecstatic network who promptly shoved us all on stage at the annual Television Critic's Association shindig -



- where we paraded our dogs and ponies, as well as several hundred stuffed frogs, in front of what I'm told is usually a pretty hostile crowd. They must have liked us, though; after a chilly start, my old vaudevillian training came in handy (it is NOT true however that when a refrigerator door opens, I see the light go on and immediately do twenty minutes...!) and we had them laughing in no time.



Now while we are obviously proud of our work on the film, the true highlight of the evening had nothing whatsoever to do with "SMOOCH" -



- (did I mention it was going to be on the Hallmark Channel, Feb 5th, 9 pm?)



- but rather with the guest list at the massive and glorious sit down dinner for several hundred thrown by the lovely folks at the network. Among the familiar faces in attendance ("…ohh LOOK, Luke Perry! Jane Seymour! That guy from that other show, you know the one we used to watch…what's his name?"), as well as my darling cast at our own table, I spotted a radiant beauty chatting with one of my producers nearby and immediately called my old and dear friend The Duchess of Milton.



I knew The Duchess would be thrilled to hear from me.

Duchess: "What? It's two a.m., why are you calling me you wretched imbecile?"

Me: "Put down the Hagen Daaz and listen to me, you stupid cow. Who was your favorite of Charlie's Angels?"

Duchess: (without a beat) "Shelly Hack".

Me: "Hold please for Shelly Hack".



At which point I passed my cell phone to Shelly Hack, who proceeded to be as gracious and delightful as I'd always hoped she be. She spoke with The Duchess for a few minutes and, when I retrieved the phone I heard:

Duchess: "Thank you. I can die now."

The rest of the evening was just as delicious and as The Boyfriend and I returned to our suite at the beautiful Langham Resort and Spa in Pasadena -



- (where I heartily recommend the Massage Services of one rather imposing woman named "Elke" as well as the Bar Services of Gregory downstairs), I reflected on the marvelous few weeks that had transpired, including as they did another one of our legendary Christmas gatherings -





















- and for the first time in decades, a quiet New Year's Eve at home by the fire -



- with nothing more than a bottle of Champagne, The Boyfriend and Crawford T. Manchester, who makes a cameo appearance in my new movie "SMOOCH", airing....



- well, you know when...



All considered, it was a marvelous 2010. One hopes that in spite of the aforementioned and highly infectious little brats -



- I shall live to see the rest of 2011.