I just read in this very paper, Soleil Moon Frye, the little urchin from
Punky Brewster, is directing her first feature - which she also wrote. Don't
worry, children haven't taken over Hollywood just yet, Punky's not 7
anymore - she's 19(!). Since careers blossom and wither quicker than
ever, guys making less money than Devoid Schwimmer and facing "the big
3-0," are in Prozac resistant panic.
And I'm happy for Punky, really I am. But speaking of panic,
TinselTown's got a new kind of blacklist : Are you now or have you ever
been fortysomething? I think it's shocking, the generation that didn't trust
anybody over 30, now can't get anybody under 30 to take their phone calls.
Is it some sort of karmic pay-back?
Too young or too squeamish to relate to ageism? Okay. But who among
us doesn't live in mortal fear of becoming show business' own
worst-enemy, a has-been? Everyone in the industry is in on a pass,
and most of the passes start expiring around age forty.
Those facing a twenty year gap between their piggy bank and their
pension are going skitzo not knowing whether to fantasize about
passing for younger to get the job, or passing for older to get the
pension. "Shouldn't they have socked away more of that dough they were
rolling in a few seasons ago," you ask? Like you're saving yours? This is
Hollywood: 24 hour-a-day glamour jobs deserve self-congratulatory gifts,
like hundred thousand dollar kitchen remodels.
And please, raise your hand if you: 1. Planned ahead for the recession?
Or 2. If you could heat your pool indefinitely if you
were downsized into oblivion tomorrow?
By now we've all heard the horror story about the has-been development
deal millionaires who, after they squandered their FEMA earthquake
chimney repair money at Von's, became the first Freeway Off Ramp People
(FORPs) with snappy signs and no misspellings.
Everyone in show business is hooked on show business, except
there's no longer enough show business to go around. There's too
many Boomers and no boom in jobs. Some of my pals are actually on
the verge of contemplating (gulp!) a real job!
Of course Showbiz is in our blood: We've been getting away with murder;
with work that's like play, salaries higher than our dad's, having our name
on TV, access to easy sex, and fun gloating while relatives-with-boring-jobs
kowtow to us. I could give up everything but the gloating.
It's obvious we need a Twelve Step Program for people who don't
happen to be one of the five hyphenates the networks are doing business
with right now. They're hanging on by the short hairs. They need a non-
suicidal way to say good-bye to the old showbiz dream, and say hello
to the new Bloomingdale's dream.
Since we have a problem with no solution, I suggest we do the next best
thing: put out a PR campaign. Isn't that what Uncle Sam would do? Ageism
victims need a really cool spokesperson like Tina Turner, T-shirts and a
good slogan, such as "Don't Hate Me Because I'm Fifty." That way
everyone's consciousness would be raised, and we'd have fabulous fifties
appreciation, if not jobs.
At Jerry's Deli,I interviewed three men and one woman sitcom
writer-producers. They call themselves "Three Bankruptcies and a
Foreclosure Productions." "Our credits could devour the credits of today's
teen-age exec producer who was a story editor last week," scoffs the
woman. None of them looks a day over 35, but they are mostly 45. They're
existing on residuals, a pilot script here and a punch-up there, but they're
pitching more now and selling less. They're scared. They don't want to
become the next FORPs.
They thought my T-shirt slogan should be expanded to billboards
saying "We're the old farts who made household names out of Timothy
Leary and Lenny Bruce." Or "We were student activists! We rejected
the conventional! We made the world safe from hypocrisy, and this is
the thanks we get?" Or "If it wasn't for us and our generation, there would
never have been a sexual revolution. We were in the infantry. We got
crabs at Woodstock, so you could be gettin' it right now!" Their point was
well taken, although the last one seemed out of sync with the current
I was about to leave when the quiet writer with the crazy eyes seized my
tape recorder and blasted this into it: Listen, the only reason people over
forty are fighting to stay in show business is to make one last killing so they
can get out of show business! You're going to get your punishment!
That's right, you little Gen-X-A-holes who don't believe there was a
holocaust because if it didn't happen in your lifetime, it didn't happen. Hang
on to your tongue studs, because you're about to be squeezed out by the
next generation: The B-Babies. They're only three years old now, and like
you, they were raised in front of the TV. But unlike you, they weren't
exposed to the genius of Seinfeld. They're the generation that embraces
Barney. And they're the trend setters and the taste makers of tomorrow.
They're going to be the new heads of TV development. You're going to
have to pitch your series idea to them. Sorry I won't be there to watch you
squirm, but I'll be laughing all the way to my grave! (MANIACAL LAUGHING)
End of tape
It's obvious we need a Twelve Step Program for people who
don't happen to be one of the five hyphenates the networks are doing
business with right now. They're hanging on by the short hairs. They need
a non-suicidal way to say good-bye to the old showbiz dream, and say hello
to the new Bloomingdale's dream. *
Ms. Miller is an Emmy award winning writer