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Los Angeles
L.A. Is Still American Dreamland
by Doug McIntyre [radio host/scriptwriter] 6/5/08

When you're not from here, Hollywood has a mythical quality. But as we know, Hollywood is a physical reality. If you stub your toe on Hollywood, it will hurt.

Sandwiched between the San Fernando Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains, Hollywood oozes through the Cahuenga Pass before spilling into the great L.A. Basin. It's a place where kids grow up, grown-ups go to work, good and lousy things happen. In other words, life is lived in Hollywood just as it's lived in Anytown, USA.

With one notable exception: Hollywood is a dream magnet, a claim rarely ascribed to Wilmington, Del. The promise of Hollywood still draws people like me and people very different from me. We come here from all points of the compass, chasing our particular fantasies.


Doug McIntyre [imdb page] is a former television scriptwriter and producer and is host of McIntyre in the Morning on Los Angeles' Talk Radio 790 KABC, heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. [go to McIntyre Index]

I packed a 22-year-old Ford and drove west in 1985, chasing a writer's dream. The girl who would become my bride came to visit an aunt and uncle and never left. Sixty years ago, a young man with a horn showed up at the downtown L.A. Greyhound station from Florida with a cardboard suitcase and a head full of melodies and more than a little bit of movie stardust in his eyes. This week, our dreams collided.

Penny Peyser, a fine actress and even better mother and wife, agreed that together we should make a movie. We had just left the "Hang Over Lounge" at the annual Sweet 'N Hot Jazz Festival after watching the legendary Jack Sheldon sing, joke and blow his way through another amazing night of live theater.

"Somebody should make a movie about him," one of us said. It took us five years, but now the movie is playing at the Crest in Westwood. The kid from Florida with the trumpet and the cheap suitcase is finally a movie star.

Los Angeles is often portrayed as a superficial, shallow, plastic place filled with vacuous people. It's a disgraceful stereotype passed from one generation of New Yorkers to the next. I know because I came from New York. I heard all the L.A. slanders: "When it's 2:30 in New York, it's 1953 in Los Angeles."

Blah. L.A. has as many brilliant, kind, thoughtful and just plain ol' decent people as any other town. Outsiders confuse Los Angeles with the entertainment industry, which is what most people mean when they say "Hollywood."

The entertainment industry is justifiably notorious for its coldhearted, Machiavellian, duplicitous Byzantine rules of engagement. It's not enough to succeed in this "Hollywood"; your friends also have to fail. The evil Hollywood markets sentiment while trampling those who actually have it.

Yet, as we discovered while making "Trying to Get Good: the Jazz Odyssey of Jack Sheldon," the so-called "industry" is not a monolith; it's a collection of people who have a heartbeat just like you and me. Whenever Penny and I cold-called a big shot, asking for their help in telling Sheldon's story, we were met with universal kindness. This was a movie Hollywood wanted someone to make; it just happened to be us.

FOJs made it happen. Friends of Jack. His genius for communicating a song or a laugh have endeared him to this community. He has received nothing in the way of traditional Hollywood honors; no Academy Awards, no Emmys, no Grammys, no star on Hollywood Boulevard. (Which is the one honor that would please him most.)

You could make a case for every kind of showbiz accolade, but Jack has been awarded something deeper - genuine affection, love really. Los Angeles loves Jack Sheldon because he has given his great talent to this city for 60 years and asked only that we listen and laugh.

So, we did the asking for him. We asked for help in making a film about his life so the world could see his talent and learn something about the soul of Los Angeles. While Sheldon may have been born in Florida, he is a proud Angeleno. He says, without a molecule of irony, "I love L.A.!" This isn't a Randy Newmanish tongue-in-cheek mock tribute; it's as heartfelt as Sheldon soloing on "The Shadow of Your Smile."

So, Penny Peyser and I made a movie about this artist's life, and we are proud to invite the world to see it. If you take up the offer, we hope you'll also see our city at its best. Jack's story is uniquely a Hollywood tale. Despite all the terrible problems we have and the boobocracy that runs the show, Los Angeles is a community of people who are chasing dreams and occasionally catch them. CRO

first appeared at L.A. Daily News

copyright 2008 Doug McIntyre





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