Bee Season

There’s more to London’s nightlife than musicals and plays. After you see a show in the West End, why not step into Soho, where you’ll find some of the trendiest hotspots in London. Just around the corner from The Palace Theatre, you’ll find Kettners where you can enjoy some bubbly at the champagne bar or relax and listen to the pianist in this lavish lounge…”

I had a paid gig for the London Tourist Board to promote local businesses to theatre goers who would receive a short DVD when they booked tickets. Of course it wasn’t really a tour of hotspots, because the hotspots don’t need the extra P.R. But I didn’t mind, it was a good gig and it only took two days to shoot. By the end, I knew every street in Soho – no small feat. Besides, I got some good on-camera experience, even if it wasn’t really acting. It’s hard to give an emotional delivery of lines like “With its trendy clothes shops and hip record stores, Soho is the center of urban cool.” Plus it was weird looking straight into the camera when I’d always been taught not to. We shot during the day – I don’t think the tourist board really wanted to promote some of the more interesting late night sights, and they conveniently left Peter Street off their tour.

Later that week, Marcus called and asked if I wanted to get together, so feeling like an expert I suggested Nanobyte, one of the bars I’d passed by while doing the gig. I’d only seen it in daytime when it was empty, so I was taking a chance on what the crowd would be like, but it looked cool enough. “Wardour Street has long been associated with the film industry – it was the home for early innovations in color films,” I resisted saying. I didn’t want to turn into Cliff Clavin, spewing useless knowledge of Soho to anyone who would listen.

Marcus said he wanted to grab a bite and suggested Hummus Brothers instead. Now I like hummus just as much as the next gal, but probably not enough to make a night of it. Luckily, their menu was more extensive than the name suggests. Marcus apologized for canceling on me the last time and I pretended it was no big deal. He gave me the lowdown on his projects in development, the problems he was having getting funding and a grant for which he’d applied. I was reminded just how long it takes to get things done in this business. It took Salma Hayek 10 years to get Frida made. But I didn’t have 10 years. There’s only so long a person can live in this limbo. I decided then I’d give it two more years.

“Lucy… Lucy?” Marcus had caught me not listening. “Let’s get out of here. You up for a bit of a walk? I don’t want to stick around Soho.”

I couldn’t have agreed more. There was something about all those self-important media people buzzing about – especially in summer. At times, it was energizing, but on the wrong day, it was just a reminder that you could get stung.

“How about Long Bar at The Sanderson,” he suggested.

There are eyes drawn on the backs of the chairs so that even if it’s empty, you still get the sense of being ogled.

“You know what, I changed my mind. Let’s stay in Soho. Follow me.” I took him to the least trendy place, the place least likely to be in a promotional DVD: Garlic and Shots. It was a dive bar with goths and bikers and I think I saw a fake (I hope) coffin in the corner. We had a blast and made some new friends who showed us their tattoos and piercings. We were still laughing when we stumbled out onto Frith Street at 2 a.m.

“Did you know that television was invented in the top floor rooms above what is now Bar Italia on Frith Street,” my inner Cliff Clavin couldn’t resist. I could sense Marcus wanted to shut me up, which he did by kissing me.

Reality Bites

On my first paid acting gig, I earned £50 for a full day working on a “TV pilot”. It sounded exciting – six characters living in trendy Hoxton. We’d be filming all day. Sure £50 wasn’t a lot, but there was the hope that future work, at Equity rates, would be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, when I turned up I realized we were being paid to do the writer/director’s work for him. He had no script, no plot – just the idea for some characters based on his friends. He wanted us to improvise as these “characters” all day. I wondered if we’d get paid wages for writing as well as acting. He didn’t even have the characters flushed out beyond a two-sentence description.

He was some rich guy that invented a technology for creating customized jeans and apparently he now had some money to burn. I had to give him credit, at least he was paying the actors something, but it seemed wrong somehow for us to do all the creative work for him in exchange for less money than a house cleaner’s wages.

So I spent the day dealing with a loud actor whose idea of improvising was to make lewd remarks to the female characters and laugh at his own jokes, and other actors who ranged from befuddled to obnoxious.

After this experience, I was a bit skeptical when my agent told me that she had an audition lined up for another show. But I checked the details she’d emailed to me. This one was for real. It was already commissioned by Channel 4 and it was being produced by Endemol. I re-read the e-mail. This could be it – THE break.

I got up early on the day of the audition and did a little warm up at home. I tried to get in the right mental state. I visualized.

I was greeted at Conway Hall by two production assistants: one who gave me a contract to look over and showed me to the craft services table, and one who sat behind a desk, looking trendy.

I was trying to mentally prepare, but I had to take care of business so I read through the contract. The audition was going to be filmed (standard) and I had to agree that they could use any of it in the final broadcast. (Was this going to be like American Idol?) For the use of my audition material, I had to agree that £1 was fair and equitable pay. Yes, right there in the contract I had to agree that the value of my time was £1 per day. I’m sure I could earn more begging on a street corner. In fact, I could probably just find more on the sidewalk if I looked around for a few hours. But that’s not as glamorous as auditioning for Channel 4.

Furthermore, they would not disclose anything about the show: the name, the genre, the format. It was “highly unique” and had “never been done”. Everything’s been done. But what could I do? Here I had a chance to audition for what could be a big break, not to mention a real paying gig.

I walked into the audition room. It was a large theatre space. All the chairs had been cleared out, making the stage look like a gymnasium with a stage. The audition panel sat behind a big, long desk, Flashdance style. The event was being filmed by two cameras at different angles. The panel asked me some questions then had me do a few improv exercises. They laughed at first (a good thing) but mid-way through I was sure I’d misunderstood the instructions and I basically threw a theatrical air ball. I hoped for mercy.

“Am I supposed to keep going,” I asked. I wasn’t sure if they were going to call scene or if I should carry on ad infinitum. I noticed a third camera aiming down from the catwalk. Great.

There was an afternoon group session as well. I felt I really redeemed myself and performed better than most, but in my gut I knew it wouldn’t be enough.

For weeks, I was haunted by images of my horrible audition being used in ads for the show, like the American Idol parade of idiots. They could slice and dice my audition in editing and make it look even worse! I’d have to ask all my friends to keep their TVs off for a week…or plan a last-minute group holiday – to somewhere remote – and invite everyone I knew.

When the show finally aired, I was relieved they didn’t use anyone’s audition material. I was not disappointed about not getting the gig, as the show was a horrible reality show where the actors trick the “real” people into thinking they’ve gone into space. The show, like the contract, was laughable – and not in a good way.

I never did get my £1.

Back to School

Every few months, an actor needs to put something new on her résumé to show she’s been active, engaged in the industry and is thus employable, i.e. not a lazy couch-surfing wannabe who’s hoping for her big break to fly through the window.

I was well overdue for a résumé refresh, but short on time, so I signed up for a few one-day courses at City Lit. An interview was required to get a space so I assumed the class standard would be high.

The first course was called Casting Day. In the morning session, we met with two agents who covered basics like headshots, not paying up-front fees, always keeping your agent apprised of your schedule, etc. They also said to be aware of your “type” because all of your early career work will be “with type”. One of the class members, who had a thick Italian accent, launched into a half-hour debate about how she didn’t want to be pigeon-holed and that she should be considered for the part of, say, an English housewife. The agents couldn’t seem to make clear to her that the show’s writers would then need to alter the script to explain how an Italian immigrant ended up in Cornwall married to a local fisherman. After awhile, the rest of the class gave up hope of having any time left to get their questions answered. We were all just watching the clock in anticipation of our lunch break.

The afternoon session was run by two casting directors who gave a handful of helpful tips. They confirmed my suspicion that audition monologues are only needed for drama school and The Actors’ Centre and occasionally for getting an agent. (Thank goodness because my monologues are getting seriously rusty.)

The casting directors emphasized that you need to be passionate about your chosen career. Bizarrely, a couple of people in class argued this point, again eating into class time with pointless polemics. As it’s not polite to blurt out “YOU’RE WASTING EVERYONE’S TIME”, the rest of us just thought it instead.

The other course I took was Acting for the Camera. We did various exercises focusing on precise repetition of movements, hitting marks, etc. Then we did an Uta Hagen exercise in which you do an activity for two minutes that you would normally do alone at home. The focus was on specific movements, making it look natural, etc. Even in doing two minutes of “nothing”, there is something going on. For instance, we could often infer what time of day it was, whether the person lived alone and what their relationship was with the objects around them (all without any dialogue from the actor).

We all had our two minutes of stage time followed by 10 minutes of discussion about the two minutes. I thought I did pretty well, but nevertheless got a few notes from the teacher. One of the girls, apparently in her first ever acting class, took 20 minutes for her two-minute scene. Worse, she sang along to two stanzas of some insipid song on infinite repeat. I thought about sending the recording to Guantánamo – I know I was ready to confess anything to make the music stop. Later, she happily declared she’d written the song. Eee-gads.

As we worked throughout the day, I started thinking about the tedious parts of acting for the camera. So much of this business is so technical. Could I really be passionate about it?

Towards the end of the class the rookie actually asked the teacher “so, do you think I can act?” The teacher replied with as nice of a non-answer as anyone could muster, but it was enough encouragement for the rookie who declared “well, acting’s not as hard as I thought it would be”. No one seemed willing to burst her bubble.

My bubble has been burst many times, but every so often a little hope is breathed back into it. Like when, after class, the teacher asked me to stay behind. She wanted to explain that she gives really positive feedback to the beginners but always gives more critique to her best students, and that I was one of the latter. I floated out of class.

I might not have learned all that much in those classes, but I got a bit of the passion back, and that was enough.

Six Days Seven Nights

Everyone knows the only way to get a tan without causing wrinkles is to use self tanner. So being in an ageist industry and having a Nicole-Kidman-like pallor, I naturally chose this route to becoming a bronzed summer beauty (as advertised on the bottle).

Shortly after the first appearance of the British sun, when most of the population had pink-tinged skin from their annual first-burn-of-the-season ritual, I decided to try the new L’Oréal self-tanning spray. It would give me enough time to build up a nice color before my date with Marcus the following week.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 1
“Not too much,” I warned Cheri who had volunteered to spray my back. “The can says if you feel wetness, it’s too much.”

“Relax,” she said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”

Visions of her blonde yarmulke rushed to my head. “Okay, but not too much on my lower back. I don’t want it to drip down and look like, well, you know…”

She finished my back and relinquished the can so I could spray my arms and legs – up the arms and down the legs as per the instructions. After standing in a squatty body builder pose to let the stuff dry, I got dressed and waited for the magic to happen.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 2
Surprise! I had so many stripes I could audition for a part in the London Zoo. I unsuccessfully tried to shower some of the color off, and then went for a long run – long enough to get a bright red sunburn on my shoulders.

Self-Tanning Mission – Night 2
“Okay, this should be simple. Just point the spray can and fill in the gaps,” I thought. I did the body builder thing, then went to bed.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 3
Impossibly, the “tan” was now 10 times worse. I looked like I had a skin disease. Luckily, I thought, my calves were okay and lower arms were passable with judicious use of bracelets as distraction.

As soon as I got to the office, I noticed a brown spot on my ankle. Then I noticed the inside of my calves was much whiter than the outside. I had to keep finding excuses to use the elevator (best mirror in the building) so I could see how the different spots were developing throughout the day.

I rode home on the tube and tried extra hard to avoid eye contact with anyone. As I walked toward the exit, I heard people laughing behind me. I was sure they had spotted my multi-colored calves and were snickering. I half expected Marcus to be there when I turned around to check. But he wasn’t, and they weren’t laughing at me.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 4
My self tan wasn’t fading, and I was running out of long-sleeve tops. In desperation, I looked up “self-tan disaster” on a search engine and found they now have products specifically made for situations like this.

I sped to SuperDrug and grabbed a foaming can of disaster relief, and a Nivea self-tan wipe. I figured it would help fill in the gaps.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 5

I was now two tones of fake tan, white in patches and red in the shoulders. I’d gone from pinstripe suit to patchwork quilt.

I ran to Topshop and bought three more long-sleeve tops.

Self-Tanning Mission – Day 6

I was seeing Marcus the next day, so I had to get my skin back to semi-normal. I decided to get a professional spray tan to get a darker color sprayed all over. I found a little place off Regent Street that would hose me down with golden brown after work.

I walked out feeling covered in grease and hoped no one would sit next to me on the number 19 home. The color seemed even, except my ankles. But when I got home I noticed the liquid had adhered to the root of every hair on my arms and seemed to collect in every pore on my body. I looked like a George Seurat painting.

A few showers before tomorrow ought to do the trick.

Self-Tanning Mission – Night 7
Just when I got the color evened out enough to be seen in public, Marcus called to cancel.


When London’s summer finally arrives, a shared joy spreads across the city. Moods are improved and people are friendlier and less hurried. Bars and pubs from Angel to Soho to Clapham have people spilling out of them onto the sidewalks and streets, taking the rare opportunity to enjoy a pint in the great outdoors.

When it gets too hot however, trouble begins. Bus rides become sticky and getting on the tube is like stepping into a high school weight room: stale heavy air tinged with the smell of fresh sweat. The city isn’t equipped for extreme heat – most flats don’t have air conditioning and even the cinemas and grocery stores can’t quite crank it up high enough to provide respite for the masses.

It was in these conditions that I set off for my first audition with the BBC: Crime Watch. I was told I’d be auditioning for the part of the victim and, as I have an American accent, I assumed either the vic was American too, or the role was non-speaking. I thought they’d just show me being shoved into a car or something – piece of cake. I can get shoved with the best of them.

I like to arrive at an audition the standard 15 minutes early. This gives me the chance to get a look at the script (often not provided in advance). If I get there too early, there’s a chance I’ll get called in before my appointment, negating the benefit of early arrival. So when I realized the Central line had “severe delays” due to God knows what weather-related excuse, I decided to jump in a taxi to White City.

I made it to the audition early as planned, only to find out that it was a group audition and everyone else was late due to the tube delays. Plus, they weren’t handing out scripts.

As I sat in the waiting area with nothing to do but delete old text messages from my mobile, in walked what I ascertained to be my competition: blonde hair, pale skin, similar height. She was a bit plump but that might have been a good for the part – you never know.

We had a friendly chat as we waited for the others to arrive. I found out she lived in Brighton and made the long trek to London very time she had an audition. I went to the water cooler for a drink and offered to get her one too. When I brought back our cups of water, she seemed more distant. Mental preparations for the audition, I assumed.

Then I sat down. In a puddle.

“Oh my God, this chair is wet!”

“Is it?”

“Yeah, I was just sitting here. It wasn’t wet before—”

“Well maybe you were only sitting on the edge.”

“I don’t think so…” I spied the half-empty cups on the table from the morning casting session. “Well good thing this skirt dries quickly.”

I knew it would because the last time I had worn it, I got soaked on my way to the Royal Albert Hall and had to stand under the bathroom dryer before the show so I wouldn’t be sitting in a puddle for two hours while trying to enjoy Romeo & Juliet as a ballet.

I moved to stand by the wall and madly flapped my skirt dry. “That fat Brighton bitch won’t get the better of me,” I thought.

Finally the two guys in my audition group turned up. As we walked into the audition room, I knew I would not get the part. With my modest Kenneth Cole heels on, I was about 5 inches taller than both of the guys. It’s not very victim-like, on TV anyway, to tower over your attacker.

At least I went into the audition with a dry skirt – and a clear conscience.

The Singing Nun

Having an American accent in London can be a positive or a negative for an actor: there are fewer parts for Americans, but fewer people competing for them. So I always keep my eye out for castings requesting “native American speakers” (presumably they don’t mean American Indians). My agent sent me on an audition for a low budget musical. I’m really not sure how she got the idea that I’m a singer, but the part was for an American so off I went.

When I got there I found out that the production was for a tour that would take me to Malta for a month. For this month’s work, away from home with no income from a day job, I would earn a whopping £500. Needless to say, I wasn’t too thrilled about the opportunity from the outset. Then I read the part. It was for a singing nun with a Brooklyn accent. I put aside visions of Whoopi Goldberg in a habit and tried to channel Joe Pesci’s performance in My Cousin Vinny for the accent. Even though script was so dated it had Ross Perot jokes in it, the casting director was in stitches when I read the part. After I finished he said he enjoyed my performance but thought I “rushed it a bit”. “You really need to savor the jokes in this wonderful script.”

Yeah, right. “Okay, should I read it again?”

“That won’t be necessary. What sheet music did you bring?”

“Excuse me?”

“What song will you be singing for us?” He motioned to the pianist.

“Oh um, I thought I’d sing a cappella.” I was thinking on my feet. Suddenly, I had flashbacks to two guys in the waiting room flipping through a binder full of laminated sheet music – now it made sense.

The pianist did a few scales and my mind raced to think of a song. I had just seen My Best Friend’s Wedding the night before, so I decided on Wishin’ and Hopin’ because I knew the words – enough of them anyway – and after all I was wishing and hoping the audition would end in a hurry.

When I finished singing, the casting director asked if I knew anything else. I tried to figure out what other song I could fake it through, but then I thought of going away for a month just when things were getting interesting with Marcus. I thought of the £500, which wouldn’t even cover a month’s rent. I thought of Ross Perot.

“You know what, I’m not really a trained singer.”

“Oh, well that’s a shame.”

Yeah, a real shame.

The Naked Truth

I had tried avoiding him, I postponed our meeting twice, but after bumping into him at BAFTA I could avoid him no more. I had to give Marcus an answer about the Marilyn movie. I had to decide whether or not to do nude scenes. This could be a turning point in my career – for the better, or for the worse. Who could forget what Showgirls did for Elizabeth Berkley (or didn’t do, rather)? But there have been enough success stories to give cause for consideration.

Why don’t men have this dilemma? It’s very straightforward for them; other than romantic leads, male actors aren’t expected to uphold unnatural beauty standards and epitomize eternal youth. So guys like James Gandolfini can get a big break and no one expects or wants to see them naked on screen.

Then there’s the thought that your family, friends and that stupid kid who used to blow spitballs at you in high school would see you naked.

I was hashing all this through in my mind while Cheri and I were out for an afternoon run before my meeting with Marcus. We decided that we’d take quick showers and reward our hard work with a mani/pedi at New York Nail Company. Her place was closer so we went back there to get ready. I had second shower because she had to pop her spare towel in the dryer for me. She said it’d be done by the time I got out and she’d hand it to me. So I turned off the water after showering and waited by the door as arranged for my discreet towel service. But just then the door swung wide open to reveal Cheri’s roommate Gina standing there agape. I was in full view, inches away.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” we said in chorus.

We were both embarrassed. Cheri quickly rescued me with the towel, but it wasn’t big enough to cover my entire body AND to bury my head, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t metamorphose into one of the puddles on the floor. I reached down deep for a sense of dignity and walked out of the bathroom.

“Sorry, I was just going to brush my teeth,” Gina muttered without making eye contact.

I ran into Cheri’s bedroom, fell back on the bed and laughed.

“I can’t believe Gina just walked in on me!”

But as I was laughing, I started crying, too. I knew it was irrational. Gina was a woman for goodness sake; I guess it was the shock and unexpectedness of it all. Cheri and I laughed about it while getting our toes done. I picked OPI’s “Royal Flush Blush” to mark the occasion.

I knew my answer by the time I met up with Marcus and decide to finally come straight out with it. Before I could get to the elaborate justification I’d conjured up about Reese Witherspoon and Julia Roberts being the highest-paid actresses and never doing nude scenes, Marcus said “Oh, that? Don’t worry about it, we lost our funding anyway.”

“Oh,” I said “then… what are we doing here?”

Flirting with Disaster

A few text messages, a couple of exchanged voice mails, and Dean finally asked me out on a date. Or was it a date? You never know with these industry things. I didn’t care – we were going to see a movie. Not just any movie – a premiere. It wasn’t at just any old cinema either. It turns out Dean is a card-carrying member of BAFTA. I couldn’t resist calling Olivia to gloat.

“Olivia, guess where I am? I’m in BAFTA.”


“Well no, not really. I’m on a 38 bus on the way to BAFTA. I can’t chat now, I’ve gotta call Dame Judi to see if she wants me to save her a seat.”

“Very funny. How’d you get into BAFTA?”

“Well remember that old git writer Dean? He’s a member.”

“Okay Lucy, he got you into BAFTA, that’s a start, but don’t waste your time if he can’t HELP you, you know get a part in a movie.”

She’s all business sometimes.

“Okay, okay Olivia. Well all I know is I’m headed into BAFTA. BAFTA! Last week, I was not going to BAFTA, and today I am going to BAFTA. BAFTA, BAFTA, BAFTA,” I sang.

I knew I had regressed to playground “I’ve got ice cream and you don’t” tactics, but I couldn’t help it. It’s not every day you get into BAFTA.

I signed in under the one watchful eye of the BAFTA mask and then walked up the stairs to meet Dean. Disappointingly, the carpets were beige, not red. The bar was decorated in a neutral palette and clean lines. It reminded me of the sophisticated W Hotel.

We got a drink and as I wondered where the premiere crowd was, we were ushered into the cinema. The lights dimmed and I glanced around to get a look at the other audience members. There were only about 20 people and not one Dame Judi among them.

Twenty minutes into the film, I realized why the crowd was so thin – the movie was a flop that would probably go straight to DVD if it got a distribution deal at all. I thought Dean must have agreed as he stood up to leave. But it turned out he was just going back to the bar to get another round, and so it continued every 20 minutes until the film was over. By the end we were giggling at every line (probably not the intended response as the film as a mystery).

We parked ourselves at the bar to debrief over another round. I asked him who he thought was more to blame for the disaster – the writer or the director. Dean got serious in a hurry.

“What the writer writes is not always what the director films. It’s a collaborative process. A collaborative BUTCHERING process between the director, the producers and whatever snotty flavor-of-the-month actor they put in the film that thinks he knows how to write better than you… or changes your script around because he can’t pronounce R’s correctly.”

“I see–”

“You know, I once had an actor change ‘irrespective’ to ‘irregardless’. Can you imagine? I had to put my name to that shit.”

“That sounds horrible.” I tried being sympathetic if only to bring the volume of his drunken rant from an eight down to a six.

“Lucy, you’re the only one that understands me. Lucy, I’ve written the Great British Screenplay. I really have. It’ll blow you away.”

“That’s great. Is it in production?”

“I can’t let them butcher it, Lucy, I just can’t. It’s like a child to me. Would you let someone butcher your own baby?”

“Of course not.”

“No one will let me direct it, but I’d rather have it go un-made than get butchered.”

I noticed he was getting a bit teary eyed.

“Will you read it, Lucy?”

“Uhhh, sure.”

“I knew you would, Lucy.”

He leaned towards me to kiss me on the cheek, but knocked over his whiskey in the process. Saved by the Bell’s. I scrambled around for some napkins when a helpful arm reached from behind me and handed me a stack.

“Thanks,” I absent-mindedly muttered over my shoulder while trying to plan my escape.

“Anything for you, Lucy,” Marcus said.

Fever Pitch

At certain times of the year, the entertainment business in this town seems to snap into gear. No one plans to get much done over summer (particularly in August) or over the Christmas period. Then there’s a scramble to get things on the move. January seems to be the month during which all the behind-the-scenes action takes place. So after a seemingly endless dry spell, I now have audition notices coming out of my ears.

Actors are always the last piece of the puzzle, as if an afterthought. It is, like the woefully low wages, all down to supply and demand. You’re lucky if you get a day’s notice for an audition, which makes trivial things like rent-paying day jobs rather inconvenient. I was bemoaning trudging to another round of castings when my writer/producer friend Olivia invited me to a pitching event.

“You get 60 seconds to pitch your idea for a film to a panel of experts. Come on, it’ll be fun – maybe someone will have a project for you.”

Maybe they will, but it’ll be at least two years in development (if it even gets funding) before anything comes of it. But I figured why not, I needed a night out and the venue was on my bus route.

We spent an hour watching hopeful writers, directors and producers boiling their dreams down to minute-long pleas only to be told their projects weren’t commercially viable, were “between genres” or that a similar project was already in development starring Tom Hanks.

Though the pitching was disenchanting, the pitchers of sangria were delightful. Everyone was so busy schmoozing, they didn’t have time for boozing, leaving the limited free quantities to the more resourceful amongst us. Olivia was feverishly working the schmoozer set, so I sat at the bar and started chatting with Dean, a screenwriter. He was a “real” screenwriter – he didn’t even need to be a “/something”. He had a dozen movies optioned and four actually produced – a couple of indies and a couple of big budget bang-em-ups. He was a bit older and, I hoped, wiser than most of the crowd and boy could he talk. The more he talked, the more I drank, and the more I drank, the more interesting he became. I was enjoying his recounting of how he went from driving a forklift to writing – and selling! – screenplays, when Olivia whisked in out of nowhere and swooped me away with some made-up emergency.

Once at a safe distance, she said “Lucy, darling, what are you doing with that writer? You need to be dating a director or a producer. Writing is lonely work – that guy will talk your ear off just because he’s out of the house and has someone to talk to. You’ll never get anywhere with that old git.” Then she repeated, as if I was clueless, or drunk, or both: “Date someone who can help you.”

I knew on some level, she had a point. But I couldn’t help it – he was cute. I pretended to drop my bus pass and stalled just long enough to slip him my card on the way out.