Tag Archives: Los Angeles

I Am Thankful For The Happiest Place On Earth

7 Dec

I have failed you, dear reader. I told you I’d recount my Disney Thanksgiving yesterday, but the day got away from me and…well…that’s the only excuse I’ve got. I’m sorry. And I can’t believe I didn’t post anything yesterday about it being Walt Disney’s birthday! I’m really slipping here… Well, Happy 113th Birthday, Uncle Walt!

As some of you may recall, I recently spent a week at Walt Disney World completely on my own, enjoying the parks on my own schedule, at my own pace and on my own budget. Several people were shocked that I would want to go to an amusement park by myself – especially for a full week – but I had the absolute time of my life. I rode what I wanted, I met the characters I wanted to meet, I ate what I wanted whenever I wanted and I took the time to take photos and soak in the world famous Disney atmosphere and attention to detail. I found myself talking to strangers and laughing and walking around with a smile on my face. It was heaven.

So, when I found out that we had Thanksgiving day off in Los Angeles, I decided to forgo a traditional theatre orphans’ Thanksgiving, which usually consists of 5 or 6 people who haven’t any friends or family nearby getting together and cooking (and is, for the record, always fun and a wonderful way to spend the holiday), to treat myself to a day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.

My mother always asks me, “What exactly do you do there all day?” Obviously she has never been to a Disney park, though not for my lack of trying to get her to one.

Rather than tell you what I did, I’ll just show you. Nothing more exciting than looking at someone’s vacation photos, eh? Enjoy!

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The Final Countdown

5 Dec

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since my last entry. My apologies for being negligent of my tens of adoring fans.

A lot has happened in the four weeks since I last wrote – including, but not limited to, my 38th birthday, a screening of “Big Hero 6” at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, three trips to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, Thanksgiving, a 3-week run of Kinky Boots in Los Angeles and the addition of nearly 6,000 signatures to the Save Cafe Edison petition. And now, here I am in San Francisco – my first time playing this town and also the last city on this two year journey. That’s right, kids…the Merch Whore is hanging up his kinky boots on December 29 to go pursue his own dreams, and it feels really good.

"Big Hero 6" at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California

“Big Hero 6” at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California

I’m still not really sure what this means for this the future of this blog – I still have many stories to share, and I expect my future endeavors will provide much fodder, as well, but I may need to change the name of the blog since I will no longer be whoring myself out as a merchandiser. I don’t know – there are much more important things to consider at this stage in the game, like getting through the next 28 1/2 performances without strangling someone.

Since day one of this particular tour, things have been more stressful than the last three I’ve done. It’s a bigger show, yes, so that’s to be expected, but there has been a lot of unnecessary and avoidable stress, as well. Having a legendary pop star come up and tell you that all of the merchandise you’re selling is “fucking ugly” (sorry, Dad, for the profanity) and that I should be selling in drag on my first day should have tipped me off that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. My grandmother dying two weeks into the run and not being able to go home for her funeral…? Pretty shitty. The immediate and overwhelming increase in workload, while also expected with a show that does the sales that this one has, has been unpleasant and I’m pretty sure has done some damage to one of my shoulders, leaving my fingers numb in my right hand. Add to that a new feature with our credit card system that allows for immediate customer feedback (against which I have no willpower and feel compelled to read everything they have to say about me) and I’d say I’m pretty burnt out.

“What kind of feedback are the customers leaving?,” you might ask. Well…here’s a smattering of the bad ones.

The person working yr [sic] promotion table had no customer service skills at all!!!! Very rude!!!! Selling products is a no brainer but I expected more personality!!!!

“Selling products is a no brainer?” Really? I have a feeling they’d feel differently if I miscalculated their total and overcharged them… Oh, wait…someone did:

I was overcharged by $10.00. I was charged for 1 ornament (20), 1 vocal selections (28), 1 little black book (12), 2 black hoodies (45×2). I purchased and actually received 1 ornament (20), 1 vocal selections (28), 1 little black book (12), 1 black hoodie (45), 1 black t-shirt (35).

I made a mistake. That’s my fault. But rather than just contact our office and request a refund, they decided to complain about me. Forget the fact that the prices are clearly posted on each item and, if they’d taken the time to do the math or, even easier, check the contents of their bag before walking away, there wouldn’t have been an issue. But consumer responsibility doesn’t exist anymore. It’s always the salesperson’s fault.

And one last one…

The salesman that was there was brusque and unfriendly. I almost didn’t buy because of his behavior.

The operative word in this statement is almost. It is quite possible that I was brusque and unfriendly, but as one person selling a few thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise to 500 people in a 25 minute time frame, there isn’t much time for dillydallying. I’m not sorry I don’t have the time to unfold (and refold) every size of every shirt for you. I’m not sorry that I helped the three people behind you in line while you dumped the contents of your purse out on my booth, looking for your credit card. I’m not sorry that I asked you to step aside while you decided what you wanted while I helped 10 or 15 other people who did know what they wanted and had their money out and ready. What I am sorry about is that I’m not sorry, because this job has made me dislike people, and that makes me sad. Some specific people, to be sure, but I’m speaking in more generic terms. This has never been a secret – I’ve never been a big fan of the general public, and from that dislike and frustration came this lovely blog – but this show has been the final nail in my patience’s coffin. I’m done.

But I still made the sale.

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To be fair to myself (and to make myself sound like less of an douche bag), it should be noted that of the 142 feedback entries received, only 5 have been “Not Satisfied.” Five. There are many comments about how fast and efficient I am (and how I need help) and even some noting how pleasant I was to talk to. The thing to note about people is that they generally can’t be bothered to praise, but they leap at the opportunity to complain. And I understand that…I’ve been guilty of that myself a couple of times. I hope that one of the things I take away with me from this job is the ability to understand that not everyone is having a good day (perhaps their grandmother died just hours before they had to come to work, so you wanting a synopsis of what you missed because you were late isn’t very important to them in the grand scheme of things…) and to just let it go.

I am one with the wind and sky.

In addition to the daily stress of the job, like coming in and finding 5 or 10 boxes of merchandise waiting for me at the stage door when I wasn’t made aware that it was coming, there’s also been some internal drama here at the show with people wanting their significant others to come out on the road as my replacement. To the point that one company member actually defriended me on Facebook and has apparently been talking trash behind my back to cast members…many of whom are my friends. Now, this person has never actually spoken to me about the grievances that he holds against me – I’ve just heard it all through the grapevine and he won’t even look me in the eye now – and I feel skeevy and prepubescent even writing about it because I feel like I’m perpetuating the non-existent drama and being just as passive aggressive as he is, but it’s really been weighing on my spirit lately. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people are willing to turn on you when you are no longer useful to them. I don’t make the hiring decisions when it comes to who gets hired, and honestly, I can’t really believe that anyone who knows me would want to take this job from me. I mean, isn’t he one of the ten people who read this blog? (He’s not). No one ever says, “I aspire to be the merch person!” In fact, our head carpenter just said to me a few minutes ago, “Merch and Stage Management: two jobs I would never want.”  I may not make the hiring decisions, but there’s one thing of which to be sure:  I can certainly recommend to my employer that certain people not be hired.

All this drama, and I don’t even get a curtain call.

Alright, so this has turned into one big, negative entry and that wasn’t my intention, though unfortunately, that’s kind of what I’ve been reduced to with this show. So, it’s time to go. I have 28 shows to go – only 25 days – and then I’m free. I’ve already started getting “nesty,” searching for kitchen and living room and bathroom necessities and looking at deals for one of those newfangled flat screened TVs. I’ve started researching housing in Orlando and I’m formulating a plan to get myself down there by February 1st or so. I’m so excited for this new chapter in my life – a complete reboot. I’m nervous, too. Not only will I be leaving my tour bubble after two years (what do you mean, I have to buy my own toilet paper again?!), but I’ll also be looking for a new job, making a car payment and all the other stuff normal grownups around the country have to do. As Little Red sings in Into the Woods, I feel excited. Well, excited and scared.

In the meantime, I hope to enjoy my time in San Francisco, see some sights (I have yet to see the Golden Gate Bridge) and spend some quality time with my friends Toni, Amy and Matt, who all live in the Bay Area.

Tomorrow I’ll do my best to recap what was, quite possibly, the most fantastical Thanksgiving I’ve had in years, including a visit with my future boss, though he doesn’t know it yet…

Me and my future employer...he just doesn't know it yet.

Me and my future employer…he just doesn’t know it yet. Look at the joy on my face!

Happy November From Blah-Blah Land!

1 Nov

Hooray for it!

I can’t believe it’s already November. Of course, who would know it out here in L.A., where the temperatures today were in the low 80’s and half of West Hollywood was out in Speedos last night for Halloween. Apparently underwear and a cute hat constitute a costume in Los Angeles. Who knew? If I wore that, I can guarantee you it’d be the scariest costume you’d see all night.

I’ve traveled a lot in my life – I’m very lucky and grateful for that – but I have to say I’ve rarely suffered from culture shock the way I have here. Tokyo might have been a little more shocking, but only slightly. We’re coming up on the end of our second week here and for the entire first week I was taking public transportation to get where I needed and wanted to go. In New York, that’s no problem. In L.A.? Fuggedaboutit! I’m splitting my stay in two different places – one in a house in West Hollywood with some friends of my boss and the other place is a condo a few blocks away off of Santa Monica Boulevard. The owner of the condo is away for a year shooting a movie, so her place is empty. This is my first real stay in Los Angeles – ever – and while having my own condo in West Hollywood sounds amazing and glamourous (which sometimes it is), it’s also quite disconcerting and lonely being in a new town with no friends and no way of getting around. I’m 7 miles from the theatre and about 10 miles from the rest of the cast and crew’s company housing, which doesn’t sound bad, but distance isn’t measured in mileage here – it’s measured by time. Seven miles could be 10 minutes or it could be an hour, depending on traffic which, in my limited experience here, is almost constant.

I learned the hard way that certain buses that run express only run Monday through Friday and only at certain hours. I’ve also learned that I don’t like being on any corner of Hollywood Boulevard late at night waiting for a bus, but particularly at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. I’ve lived in New York for 12 years and honestly have never felt unsafe, but L.A. is a whole other animal. During my hour-long wait for a bus last Saturday night, I witnessed a young man being chased down the sidewalk by a cop and a small crowd of screaming people. The young man was thrown against a chain link fence and handcuffed while three other cop cars pulled up and blocked off the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Half the crowd was screaming at the guy being arrested and the other half of the crowd was yelling that the policeman was being unnecessarily rough with him. Two other people were subsequently arrested. I walked to Sunset Blvd. and waited for a different bus. By Monday I had a rental car.

I was hoping the rental would solve my transportation woes – and it has, for the most part. L.A.’s is a car culture and this city is so spread out that you really need one to get anywhere. As William Holden’s character Joe Gillis says in “Sunset Blvd.,” “If I lose my car, it’s like having my legs cut off!” Cars bring on a whole other kind of responsibility, however, that are a headache. Parking in West Hollywood is a nightmare unless you have a spot in a parking garage or a driveway, which I don’t, so that means finding parking on the street. As in New York, you have to be aware of the street sweeping schedule – NO PARKING THURS. 8AM-10AM, for instance. You can park there, but you’d have to make sure you move your vehicle before the designated time, and let’s face it – I’m a night owl and I am not getting up at 7:45 to move the car. There’s also a parking permit system in place in WeHo that gets to be tricky. North of Fountain Avenue you need a 6R parking pass, but south of Fountain you need a 7R permit. South of Santa Monica, you don’t need one at all. It’s very confusing and, since I was staying by myself, I didn’t know what any of it meant. Thank goodness my hosts live 10 minutes up the street and were able to fill me in on the whole system.

L.A. is also very laid-back in a way that is completely opposite from New York. People aren’t really in a rush to get things done, which kind of drives me crazy when I’m in a rush. You can take the boy out of New York… All of this, along with a few work-specific things, have put me in a bit of a funk since we’ve been here. I don’t know if it’s the time change or the non-stop sunshine or the flu shot I got last weekend, but I just haven’t felt “settled” here since I arrived, but I’m learning and adapting. I’ve already mastered the “pull into the center of the intersection to make a left turn and wait to go until the light turns yellow” move, which would get me killed in New York. I learn! I LEEEEARN! WAAAH WAAAAAAAAAAH!

She learns! She LEEEEEARNS!!

Things are not all gloom and doom and crazy shootings at LAX, though. I have managed to have some fun while I’ve been here. If you’ve been following my blog or Twitter (@JasonHBratton) at all (and why haven’t you been??), you’ll know that my idea of fun is slightly different than others’, and I’m totally OK with that. I’ve done some of the typical touristy stuff like walking up and down Hollywood Blvd. (in the daylight), stopping to take pictures of all my favorite stars’ stars on the Walk of Fame. I went to (Mann’s Grauman’s) Chinese Theater to snap pictures of all the hand and footprints in the cement. I went to the Griffith Observatory, where a good chunk of “Rebel Without A Cause” was filmed, and took in the amazing view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign. I went to the La Brea Tar Pits and looked at mammoths and saber-toothed cats’ remains and my friend Bert surprised me with a trip to Disneyland on Monday. So I have had some “traditional” fun, but I also spent about three hours looking at gravestones the other day, which I actually found quite fascinating.

Griffith Observatory Panorama 1

A panoramic view of Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

As I’ve said before, I don’t generally get starstruck, but walking around Westwood Village Memorial Park was a bit overwhelming. Celebrity after celebrity is buried there – Farrah Fawcett, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Don Knotts, Eva Gabor, Donna Reed, Eve Arden, Walter Matthau, Janet Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin, Heather O’Rourke (Carol Anne from the “Poltergeist” movies) and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe. It’s a pretty impressive representation of Hollywood in one tiny little cemetery. And now I’m eager to go to the Forest Lawn cemeteries where the REALLY big names are buried. I’m sure some people would think that’s kind of morose and weird, but it’s the closest I’ll ever get to these people, even if they are dead. My friend Joe is a big movie buff and he knows each and every actress to ever win an Oscar. Today I told him I wish he were here to go with me to these cemeteries to find all the stars and he said that it was one of his dreams to do just that. It was a much-needed reminder that, despite how challenging it may be, I am very, very lucky to be getting to travel the way I do and that I am living a dream life in many respects. DSCN8518

Marilyn Monroe’s grave at Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California

I have a list of things I have left to do here. The Museum of Tolerance is high on the list. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is another. I’d like to go to Santa Monica Pier, Malibu and Venice Beach and I have to get to Little Japan downtown. But not before I go back to Disneyland with my pals Tom and Anthony on Monday, lunch with Jill on Tuesday and four shows this weekend. Eek!!

The Power Of Christ Compels You!

21 Oct

Greetings from somewhere over Kansas or Nebraska or one of those flat, expansive states where, from what I can see, no one lives for miles and miles. Today is my first travel day with the company of Evita and we’re traveling from St. Louis, Missouri, to Los Angeles, California for the next three weeks. I was in St. Louis in January with Flashdance, so I did most of the touristy stuff then, not realizing I’d be back for two weeks a few months later. I did return to the St. Louis Zoo because, well…I love zoos and that one is free (and quite excellent). I’m glad I went to the top of the Gateway Arch in January because it was closed for the first week or so of our stay because of the government shutdown, but I had an amazing view of it from my hotel window .There’s nothing much more inspiring that looking out your window and seeing a national monument gleaming in the sun with the Mississippi River flowing beneath it.

A St. Louis sunset as seen from my hotel room window. Not a bad view...

A St. Louis sunset as seen from my hotel room window. Not a bad view…

I got to spend some time with friends from college and even a former co-worker from New York who relocated to St. Louis a couple of years ago. I was taken out to lunches and treated to a fantastic game night of “Cards Against Humanity” that made all of us laugh so much that we had to take a break – and some Aleve – because our faces hurt. This is what touring’s about for me – reconnecting with the people that matter in my life.

Of course, it’s also about experiencing the city in which you happen to be working. Because I had already done pretty much everything I wanted to do in St. Louis the first time I was there, I had to find new things to do. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but I learned that St. Louis was the city in which the events occurred that inspired “The Exorcist.” In 1949, in a small house in a lovely little suburb of St. Louis, a Jesuit priest performed an exorcism on a teenaged boy. The exorcism took over a month and actually was performed in multiple locations, including a hospital at St. Louis University, but the house is the only remaining building associated with the event, so of course I had to do a drive-by to check it out.

My first time seeing “The Exorcist” was in graduate school. The film was being re-released and for the first time, some cut material was being shown, including the famous spider walk down the stairs. My friends and I went to a late showing and we arrived to find the theater absolutely packed with people. We ended up having to sit in the third row, which is way too close in my opinion, but it was the only available option. I had a hard time getting into the film because the four guys in front of us were distracting me. One guy was on his phone through most of the movie, actually answering it and saying, “I’m at a movie! Listen…can’t you hear it?!” as he held the phone up to the screen. His neighbor had put his arm around him and was lighting the tips of the next guy over’s cornrows on fire with his lighter. Anytime anything remotely gross or disturbing happened, they shouted at the screen and then would laugh at themselves or the people sitting around them. Who could focus with all that going on? There was also a baby crying somewhere behind us. Yes…an infant at a midnight showing of “The Exorcist.” When security finally asked the mother to leave the theater, someone in the back row started clapping, which led the mother to come back into the theater with the baby in her arm and she started threatening to fight people. There were a good three or four minutes of shouting back and forth before security finally dragged her out of the building, so I missed a lot of what was going on. But if I have to be honest, the parts that I did see I thought were hilarious. Her spinning head and the awful things poor little Linda Blair had to say and do. I simply didn’t get why people thought it was the scariest movie ever made. When the movie was first released, people actually fainted and threw up during the movie out of fright and shock. I didn’t get it.

I was not brought up Catholic and in my church we were taught that miracles and demon possessions didn’t happen anymore, so the very idea of demonic possession was as frightening to me as the idea of an alien invasion. I thought the movie was fairly shocking, but because I didn’t believe it, I couldn’t be afraid of it. After falling into a YouTube “Exorcist” wormhole late one night and watching video after video and reading article after article about the Exorcist House, though, I felt a little uneasy driving up to it. I don’t think my belief about possession has changed, but…you don’t want to tempt fate, right?

The Exorcist House in St. Louis, MO. The exorcism apparently happened in the upstairs bedroom - directly above the living area with the bay window.

The Exorcist House in St. Louis, MO. The exorcism apparently happened in the upstairs bedroom – directly above the living area with the bay window.

The neighborhood is quite unassuming and, honestly, so is the house, but there’s something very creepy about the place – especially the upstairs window of the room where the exorcism supposedly occurred. I was surprised to see a car in the driveway – I don’t know why I was surprised that people live there, but I suddenly felt very awkward coming to gawk and take pictures of their house – the house where the Devil slept, as it is called in some news articles. I have a healthy appreciation of the macabre and I can totally appreciate and understand spending the night in the Lizzie Borden murder house or spending a weekend in Salem, Massachusetts, but living in the house where the Devil may or may not live…? That’s a bit much for me. And surely they must be bored with all the gawkers like me who want to see “The Exorcist House.” In any case, I took a couple of pictures and got the heck out of Dodge. That night I went home and downloaded “The Exorcist” and watched it alone in my room. I still think “The Silence of the Lambs” is far scarier because I know that there are crazy cannibalistic murderers out there in the world, but I have a healthier appreciation for “The Exorcist” now, too. I still can’t imagine it making me want to vomit, but it did give me a great idea for a Halloween costume…