Friday, November 10, 2017

System of a Down – "Lost in Hollywood" (2005)

They take you and make you,
They look at you in disgusting ways.
You should have never trusted Hollywood

The three Shubert brothers – Sam, Lee, and J.J. – moved from Syracuse to New York City at the turn of the 19th century.  “Driven by a seemingly unquenchable acquisitiveness,” writes Foster Hirsch in The Boys from Syracuse: The Shuberts’ Theatrical Empire, the brothers quickly became “the unchallenged rulers of Broadway.”  At the height of their power in the 1920s, they owned or controlled hundreds of theatres throughout the United States and were worth an estimated $400 million.

Lee Shubert is said to have been the man who invented the “casting couch.”  From The Boys from Syracuse:

Near his office, Lee had an elegantly furnished boudoir, reserved for leading ladies and promising ingenues, and a shabby, spartanly furnished room with a single couch where he met chorus girls and soubrettes.  

Lee Shubert in 1908
(What’s a “soubrette”?  I’m glad you asked.  From Wikipedia: “In theatre, a soubrette is a comedy character who is vain and girlish, mischievous, lighthearted, coquettish and gossipy – often a chambermaid or confidante of the ingenue, she often displays a flirtatious or even sexually aggressive nature.”  Lee Shubert seems to have believed that life imitated art.)

“Everybody knew about Mr. Lee’s five o’clock girls,” one Shubert employee told Hirsch. “On matinee days, one girl from the Shubert show downstairs would go up to Mr. Lee’s office, and there’d be one less chorus girl for the curtain call.”

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Over time, the term “casting couch” became associated almost exclusively with Hollywood instead of Broadway.

A 1956 article about the casting couch
F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent the last few alcohol-drenched years of his life as a hack screenwriter in Hollywood, referred to the casting couch in The Last Tycoon, the novel he failed to finish before dying in 1941.

In that book, a young woman tells a struggling writer that she plans to meet with a powerful producer.  She imagines a scenario where someone comes into the producer’s office and interrupts their meeting.  “And you jump up quickly off the casting couch, smoothing your skirts,” the writer says.  (Like many writers, he’s something of a smart-ass.)

Theresa Russell and Robert
DeNiro in The Last Tycoon
Speaking of life imitating art . . . the producer of the 1976 movie version of The Last Tycoon tried to persuade 18-year-old Theresa Russell to lie down on his casting couch when she auditioned for the role of that young woman.

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Movie producers may not have actual casting couches in their offices any more, but the term is still a very valid metaphor for what happens between powerful males and not-so-powerful females in Hollywood. 

While Harvey Weinstein allegedly misbehaved in his office, in his various homes and apartments, in restaurants, and even on a yacht, the most dangerous place to be around him if you were an attractive female seems to have been a hotel room.

His favorite hotel for engaging in monkey business seems to have been the $595-per-night Peninsula Beverly Hills. 

A room at the Peninsula Beverly Hills
Claire Forlani, Marisa Coughlan, Lina Esco, Dominique Huett, Jessica Barth, and Chelsea Skidmore have all claimed that Weinstein was guilty of groping them, exposing himself, or other inappropriate behavior at the Peninsula.  (The first of those reported incidents took place in the mid-1990s, and the most recent in 2013.)       

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Some of you may recall that System of a Down’s “Lost in Hollywood” was one of the first ten songs ever featured on 2 or 3 lines – I first wrote about it way back in December 2009.

The members of System of a Down in 2005
“Lost in Hollywood” was written by SOAD guitarist and vocalist Daron Malakian, who says it was inspired by his memories of seeing the human flotsam and jetsam of Hollywood – like the teenaged runaways who came to L.A. seeking fame and fortune but ended up starring in porn movies or working as prostitutes – when he was a child living in an apartment about a mile from the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

Here’s “Lost in Hollywood,” a brilliant effort that Malakian says is the SOAD song that he’s most proud of:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:  

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