Hollywood Is Calling

Hollywood is calling

We had just passed Geras on the way to Castle Primmersdorf by the Thaya. There, with Vesna’s and Jon’s artisan colony I found work, a home, a library and the stepping stone across the border to my Bohemian neighbours and ancestors. It became the home base on my ‘Green Reservation’.

Onwards now, we need to get to Diné, better known to us as Navajo – the land of the people.

(from: The Wind of Fate)

I kept on going back to London for the occasional project, and in 1995 the opportunity arose to teach at a newly founded Language, Performing Arts&Media School in Brondesbury Park.

My friends had started it, the colleagues were great, and the students came from all over the world. On top of all of this, I could afford to concentrate on my other interests and further education. I moved to a lovely tiny street (lined with cherry trees) in West Hampstead that was very conveniently located within walking distance of the Czech&Slovak Social Club.

I had discovered it one early morning after stumbling home from my favourite ‘members only’ late night drinking club, aptly named ‘Latelys’. The ‘Czech Club’ was run by a family (including the granda who spoke German with a Habsburg accent, and freely shared his home made Schnapps) from somewhere near Vranov.

The front room looked like it had been directly beamed from Vienna or Prague around 1900, pictures of “Kaiser Franz” and all. Meticulously dressed elders met there to play bridge, hold meetings and get together for Sunday lunch. In the back rooms around the bar, the air was thicker than in an old steel town in Silesia, with all kinds of smoke curling towards a yellow ceiling.

Members from pretty much every Eastern European and Balkan Nation, from Albania to the Ukraine, Kazakhstan to the Crimea, and of course all regions of the sunken Empire would while away some hours together there.

It seemed that every immigrant eventually found their way to the club. Sometimes it got loud, but very rarely aggressive.

Upstairs were rooms that housed freshly arrived au pairs before they moved on to their host families, or wherever. The Hospodar (a term of Slavonic origin, meaning lord or master) imported the beer directly, Gambrinus and Pilsner. It was a kind of madhouse; it was a kind of paradise.

Suddenly there materialized an influx of artists from Sarajevo, amongst them the surviving crème de la crème of the theatre and music scene. A tribe adrift and full of wild traumatized energy. I got sucked in completely; we lived and worked together in a whirlwind of creative activity. Some fine work was produced, but after a year somehow things came apart at the seams. I had burned the candle at both ends and lost control over pretty much every aspect of my life. Exit, please.

Then, on a Sunday morning in early spring, came the call … Hollywood. Well, it was actually from West Hollywood where Nikolaus, a friend from primary school, who had just completed his music studies at Berkley’s, lived He had scored a job with some production company doing a movie, and asked if I would like to come over to join.

For a moment I looked around at the grass I had burned, and then left without a second thought. The rabbit was on the road again.

The City of Angels welcomed me with drizzle and skies filled with exhaust fumes, but pleasant temperatures, palm trees and my first Mexican meal including an authentic Corona&Tequila buzz, not so bad.

After my New York debacle I had had no inclination to return to the US but here I was now, far away from the troubles at home.

It felt fine, and we started the job right away the next morning. We were asked to help establish a sound studio for the soundtrack of the movie. It was to be built at the producer’s residence in a flashy Hollywood Hills mansion. We showed up ready to go, but none of the people hanging around the property knew what was supposed to happen. There was a lot screaming into phones and animated discussion but no plan.

So we did what we could with what we found and left again. That night we were invited to a Compton music club for a live gig where I almost caused a mini race riot by accident. I was just being friendly to an African American girl. Wrong part of town. As had been one of my mistakes in the Big Apple, I had crossed the race divide naively, not realizing that the ‘melting pot’ still needed to be properly stirred.

You had to be careful about where you went, and how to behave when you got there. Not my thing.

The next day we were informed that the production was halted indefinitely. No reason was given, but those responsible still paid us for the work in full. So I found myself with time to waste and money to burn, and wondered what to do with it. L.A. held no further fascination for me.

Suddenly I had a memory flash of standing by the window of my London apartment, unwrapping the gift that Tamara, my friend from Sarajevo, had given me for Christmas. It was a dream catcher, one of those “Indian” artefacts that are supposed to wear off bad dreams, protect you. It is a hoop with a net structure woven in the middle, decorated, beaded, feathers dangling from it.

People hang them from windows, in their bedrooms or cars. I never liked these kinds of things, but that one was well-made and not kitschy. I turned it around and noticed a tag that read: Handmade in Taos, New Mexico.

I had wondered if I should one day visit that place, and then forgot about it. Now a few months later, sitting in the backyard of a West Hollywood residence, the direction was clear.

Credits

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Hollywood is calling Hollywood is calling Sörn CC BY-SA 2.0

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