What If Plan B F**king Works?
by Dani Klein Modisett
I am not Nikki Finke.
Take a deep breath. I am not going to out you, attack you, or tease you with upcoming gossip about someone more powerful and glamorous than you. I am what happens when you move to Hollywood at 26 with some talent and some smarts and an inability to sleep with the right people despite several earnest attempts. I am what happens when you don’t figure out you need a push-up bra until you’re 32 and by then no one cares. At least about your boobs. I am what happens when instead of your own TV show, “Dani!” you get an unexpected life full of children and a husband and school lunches and play dates and also do some work that moves people and makes them laugh but doesn’t make you famous or wealthy. And yet you keep doing it anyway because without it, with just the kids and plates of uneaten chicken nuggets and frozen yogurt stops and endless rides to the beach for surf camp you feel like you would choke from your beautiful family. Or start drinking again which you know would be a really bad idea after the miscarriage bender seven years before. So I am not a person to be feared, unless, however, the truth grates.
They asked me to write about the “soul,” of Hollywood here, a challenge for someone whose stock in trade is being funny, or at least trying to be. I can’t think of a less funny writing prompt. “Soul,” to me, says pain. Whenever I hear a soulful singer, I think, “This guys been through some stuff!” And I don’t want to be the writer in Hollywood who’s been through some stuff. Especially since the appearance of effortlessness seems to be the golden ticket. Who then, would be eager to reveal their “soul”? And yet, I’m thinking that maybe in the same way that my show and book “Afterbirth…stories you won’t read in a parenting magazine,” (shameless plug and yet relevant) and the newer one “Not What I Signed Up For,” (about the challenges of staying married) consistently make people feel less alone in the human struggle to live with other humans, maybe writing about what actually lives under the glamorous rock of the Hollywood image, will mean something to another worker bee like me, living the dream, one Groundhog Day after another.
So we have the basic set up, a twenty six year old girl moves three thousand miles away from home at the suggestion of a family friend who’s a big time movie producer, (okay Richard Gladstein, “Reservoir Dogs,” I don’t think he’d mind me dropping his name) in search of work as an actress. With $300 in her pocket she comes here, sleeps on another friend’s floor in Brentwood for a few weeks until she gets an apartment in West Hollywood with a roommate who wakes and bakes. She gets the waitressing job, takes classes, gets some TV work. She meets some fabulously charismatic men who think she’s cute, but there’s something a little too wholesome, eager, naïve perhaps, to sleep with her. Except for Tom Sizemore, he’s fine with it. (And yes, that might be an embarrassing admission if I didn’t still think he was one of the greatest actors of my generation, which may sound pretentious but so be it. Ours was a brief romance).
Those first few years here don’t amount to much and she leaves town on a Broadway tour understudying Jennifer Grey. Grey is so nice it’s hard to pray she’s too sick to go on. It only happens once, but it’s the Kennedy Center, 1100 people watching the play wishing she were the girl from, “Dirty Dancing,” but who cared. The show lands in NYC just in time for her father’s diagnosis. Cancer. He’s dead eight months later. She buys a plane ticket back to Hollywood where she’d left a car that amazingly still runs. A year, and many boxes of cereal eaten with her hands wearing only underwear in a house shared with four other struggling whatevers, she goes to a party in a bar on La Brea that no longer exists. She’s introduced to a man with a shaved head and a black leather jacket. The drunken hostess slams them together, “You two should know each other, you both went to Dartmouth.” She notices his blue eyes and a hole in his ear where an earring must have been. He asks her what she thinks about the assertion that Jerry Lewis recently made that women aren’t funny. So he’s a wise ass. He’s also from Los Angeles, smokes cigarettes and ten years younger than her.
She marries that guy. He’s an editor for television. She becomes a writer. They have two boys, 5 and 9 and live east of Hollywood in Atwater Village.
This is what happens when Plan B works.