x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

No one cares what you say when you're only a 'Plus One'

In Hollywood, being the uninvited guest has the added benefit of allowing you to be blunt. Then again, no one really cares what you have to say anyway.

I went to a party recently at a giant house out somewhere in the mountains around Malibu. It was one of those classic Malibu Canyon houses - lots of outdoor pavilions and pools and splashing ponds, tennis courts, a golf putting green, and an expanse of open space so large it encompassed, as a passing gardener informed me, several different micro-climates.

So, basically, whoever owned the house and the surrounding property was seriously rich.

Lining the property were enormous stones from some exotic river that had been sent across an ocean in a shipping container, then dragged up the hill by smoking and squealing trucks, arranged along the pathways and then dramatically illuminated so that as the sun set over the distant Pacific, the stones took on a tribal and slightly alarming look.

In other words, it was the kind of place that you walk around and think, instantly, this house belongs to a Bond villain. I expected piranhas in the koi ponds and guys in matching jumpsuits to zip around in special golf carts. I looked around for the secret missile silo.

I don't know how the inside of the house looked - we weren't allowed in. There was a big guy by the terrace doors with a thing in his ear and a purposeful look, and he, apparently, was telling everyone who approached that "the party is an outdoor affair," in a way that suggested that he had memorised the sentence phonetically. Which was fair. It was a fund-raiser kind of thing. I don't think the owner was even there.

Whose house was it? Honestly, I have no idea. I was a "plus one," which is my usual position at these things - I never get invited to anything. The "plus one" is a classic Hollywood situation: you know someone who is invited to a big fete, and on that person's invitation is appended "Plus One," which means they've been cleared to bring along a guest. The good thing about being a perennial "Plus One" is that you get to go to a lot of parties anonymously. You get to be a nobody.

That's also the bad part about being a "Plus One." In fact, I've attempted to make small talk several times at events like this, only to be rebuffed the moment I've admitted my status as a "Plus One."

Walking around the party, no one could really tell me who owned it. And how the owner had become so rich. And it wasn't like I was being subtle, either. I mean, by the second glass of wine I was asking everyone, even the waiters, how did this guy get so rich?

That's one of the only benefits of being a "Plus One:" you get to be blunt. I mean, they didn't invite you anyway, so it's not as if they're planning to invite you back.

He's in the entertainment industry, someone told me. Really, I asked? Is he a director or a producer or an actor or something? I left out "writer" because it's impossible to get that rich being a writer in the entertainment industry, and if it isn't, I don't want to know about it.

No, I was told, he's one of those guys who takes DVDs and repackages them for different zones, and he does a lot of Spanish and Russian language DVD publishing and ...

But by that time I had lost the thread of the explanation, as had the explainer. Which is typical of people like me, who write or direct or act or produce or serve as some kind of executive in some way. We like to think of the entertainment industry as just a bunch of folks like us, with varying degrees of talent and luck. But the truth is, the real entertainment industry is a collection of small businesses that have little to do with the splashy and often money-losing stuff that the noisy people do. We forget that we're a small moving part in a big set of gears.

So what's his name? I asked.

Never heard of him, I said when they told me. Which made sense, because until five minutes before, I had never even heard of the category of the business that he was in. And I'm sure he's never heard of me, either. We're splashing around in opposite ends of a very, very big pool. He's in the end with the river stones and the Jacuzzi jets and the swim-up bar, and I'm at the end with the plastic toys and the noise and the kids who suddenly look away with an abstracted expression.

But it's the same pool. It's the same business. Or should I say, we're both businessmen in a constellation of entertainment businesses. One of us is a small businessman, and the other has river stones all lit up at night.


Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood.