The Writer's Guild of America, West holds a Christmas party where a few hundred writers and guests take over an upscale restaurant. Nobody really knows how many WGA writers there are, estimates go from a few thousand to 10,000 members. The west coast WGA is the largest.
This year it was held at Beso, a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard and co-owned by Eva Longaria of Desperate Housewives fame. Eva also brought pizzas to the writers' strike a few years ago. And while her restaurant is way too upscale for the likes of me and other writer's, we get a chance to hang out where wine bottles rest in a huge glass wall for all to see.
The event is free and we all get one ticket for a drink. Last year, after I used my ticket I bought a Manhattan drink and it cost $16 so you know that was my last drink.
Writer's come in all shapes and colors but mostly are middle-aged men with jeans and occasional sport coat or sweater. Mostly we look like we look at home or work. There were a few suits and some glitter costumes but ordinary is the look of the evening rather than the hipsters who regularly come to Beso.
It's a big restaurant with an upstairs private room and actor/waiters moving through the crowd with trays of beef tacos and thin pizzas. Tables were removed to accommodate the crowd of loud writers and guests.
What's interesting is that I've discovered there are a lot of writers who work on various other things than movies and TV. I met a writer whose job it is is to create questions for Jeopardy, another writes a reality show where he figures out ideas for one of those housewives-of shows. I even met a radio news writer who was in WGA thru a separate guild in New York.
As I mentioned, men are in the majority here and women writers are fewer and minorities even fewer. It's changing a little, but not much.
Talking to writers is never easy as many prefer not to really talk to anyone but their friends. Since both I and my guest Mary are pretty good talkers and we managed to talk to a lot of the crowd. Mary introduced me to Tom Schulman, an Academy Award winner who seemed quite friendly and not aloof at all.
Of course there's nothing like success to make a person humble and there were some of those. I had my deal with the French company that had some good reaction but again the worst thing a writer likes is another writer who's working. Not always of course, but often.
In some ways, the party has the feeling like the employees broke into the owners mansion and are taking advantage of everything. A lot of the discussions I had were from unhappy writers and the lack of work or the lack of respect that writers get.
I've never bothered with that, I always felt that I respected myself and didn't really care what my bosses thought of me and as long as I delivered, that's all that really counts. The truth is that most of the WGA members are out of work, I read a statistic that suggested around 85% of WGA members are not working. That beats the national unemployment rate for any other job, except for actors maybe.
But we choose what we wanted to do and that's how it goes; some of us are talented, others like me are lucky, and still others aren't sure why they became writers. I spoke to one of the actor/waiters who wanted to make some contacts with a writer who could connect him to a producer and I didn't want to tell him the odds of that happening as writers are the last people to be able to help anyone.
There's an old offensive joke wherein a young not very smart starlet anxious to get herself into movies sleeps with the writer.
That's the joke.