Register Tuesday | January 21 | 2020

Bin Laden and Me

It's an affectionate nickname, really

Yesterday I decided to take a job shooting a reality-TV basketball show this summer. I had worked on the show two summers ago for twelve miserable days and had vowed I would never do it again, but my bank account disagreed. This time around, however, they want me to go on tour with the basketball team for six weeks, all along the east coast, in a giant tour bus. The money is good and I’m thankful to have a job, but I also know what I’m getting into. It’s like the TV version of those fishing boats that sail out of the Northeast every year for six weeks of grueling labor in the freezing cold. Everybody’s doing it for the money and a few won’t survive.

The show follows a team of the nation’s best “streetball” basketball players as they tour America and recruit a few lucky unknown streetballers to join their ranks by excelling in games held at major sporting arenas. While most of us have never heard of these guys, you would be amazed at the cult following they have; thousands line up for tickets or autographs, and there are even groupies who chase the bus in their cars back to our hotel. It’s utter madness. Last time I was unprepared for the lunacy of it all, the depressing ghetto mentality of the players and their fans, and the loneliness of life on the road. Not to mention the fact that the players were kind enough to give me the nickname “Bin Laden” for the entire trip. Believe me, there’s nothing funnier than someone yelling “Yo, Bin Laden, come here!” in the middle of a hotel lobby. This time around I think I’ll be mentally prepared for the tour of duty. But I’m sure the nickname will still be there waiting for me on day one. We set sail in mid-July.

I celebrated the fact that my summer will be over before it has started by going to a screening of my producer friend’s movie about a talking dog. It’s a family film and I had seen an early version, but I went anyway to show support and get a little face-time with the financier, who is supposedly producing a script I wrote later in the year. The movie probably will appeal to kids, but it was painful to watch at times. They were showing it mainly to distributors who they hoped would buy the film, but I couldn’t tell if anybody there was interested.

The screening was on the backlot at Twentieth Century Fox, which was where I got my very first start in the movie business when I was a sophomore at UCLA. I was in an internship program and managed to land a spot working for a big-time producer in his bungalow. My first day I had wandered around the lot, peeking in soundstages, spotting movie stars, and marveling at the fake city streets. From that day on I knew I wanted to be “in pictures.” That night I took home my very first screenplay to read. “A Hollywood producer really wants to know what I think about this script,” I remember thinking to myself. That was a thousand scripts ago.

After the movie I headed over to a “Rock the Vote” party at the Sunset Room hosted by Ralph Lauren. A couple friends were going so they put me on the list. After I had walked down the red carpet (there’s nothing more humbling than a bunch of paparazzi lowering their cameras at the sight of you), I entered the club, which was packed with girls who looked like Hillary Duff in tiny tennis skirts and Ug Boots. I would say that was a great thing, but for some reason everyone looked VERY young and I actually felt old. My friends, both women, were also probably feeling old, as they sat in the booth and watched the youngsters frolic. Forty minutes later we were headed for the door and our complimentary Ralph Lauren gift bag, containing some sort of eau de toilette and some bath gel. I figure I can give it to my sister as a belated birthday gift.

So the evening wasn’t a total bust.