Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hating on The Hills

Hollywood Assistants like hating on The Hills. Whether we love The Hills, hate The Hills or secretly love The Hills but pretend we hate The Hills, we all love hating on The Hills as Hollywood insiders who just know better.

The Hills returns for its fourth season on August 18, and so do all our reasons for hating on it (with new reasons to surely follow):

Hating on the fakeness of it all: In theory - reality stars, they're just like us. They are Hollywood assistants or interns, they live in our neighborhood and they are transitioning into this crazy place we call Hollywood at the same time we are. Running off of this theory, The Hills should be a pretty close reflection of our lives, so much so that we've all been asked from our friends back at home "Is your life EXACTLY like on The Hills or what?"

Well duh! The only difference is that we're not followed around by cameras! Pretty much every night we're out at Crown Bar or Kress (Because Goa was totally December 2007 and Area is just like, embarrassing), where we DON'T wait in line, sit at our reserved table with bottle service (that we can totally afford) and flirt with our on again off again Prince of Malibu boyfriends until 2 AM, after which we sleep for 4 hours, wake up looking perfect (thank you, live in makeup artists!), head off to work where we don't answer phones (because we're very busy recapping the night before with our office mate – no bosses in sight!) and occasionally jet off to Paris to run major events. Le duh.

The Hills is so fake that even those of us who live for a Lo attack followed by a blank Audrina stare have to hate on it. We take an arrogant joy in being able to one up America who thinks The Hills is fake, by knowing The Hills is fake. You don't really believe that Heidi was promoted from intern to director at a major entertainment conglomerate, savvy event planning friend from Chicago? Well we know this for a fact because we know someone who knows someone who works there! You don't think Audrina has an upper lip, overachieving med student friend in New York? Well we've seen her in person and we KNOW she doesn't have an upper lip (and we don't need a fancy medical degree to make that assessment). It borders dangerously on name dropping, but we know that everyone who watches the show but doesn't live in LA is entertained by our insight, so it's not quite as douchey.

So yes, we can hate ON the fact that it's fake, but we don't quite hate it. In addition to loving pointing out the fakeness, we're kind of holding out for an uncredited writer position on the show.

Hating on the (Maybe) Unpaid Advertisements: It's not the main reason why we hate on The Hills, but from time to time we like to point out what sell outs SBE, People's Revolution, Don Antonio's and The Palazzo are. The MTV producers don't even try to make the voiceover sound realistic when they add in a "Let's go to Hyde. You know, the SBE nightclub by Brent Bolthouse. Hyde is located at 8029 Sunset Blvd and open nightly from…" Ok, it doesn't go that far, but come on. Kelly Cutrone, we know you wouldn't hire Lauren or Whitney at People's Revolution if it wasn't for the air time (you'd totally hold out for Emily, the New York intern). It's laughable, but we have too much fun hating on it to actually hate it.

Hating on the Characters: While we are busy working our asses off to make a name for ourselves in this town, these clowns have built a household name for being a star of…their own lives? We star in our own lives, which, incidentally, are more interesting – where is our $50,000/episode?

Who decided that Lauren Conrad was interesting enough to have her own TV show? We need an American Idol-esque selection process the next time these reality stars are cast. At least on The Real World, MTV actively takes entries when compiling a cast so they have a basis on which to decide who the 7 most mutated social mutants are. The Hills didn't even bother. I mean, just call it "LC and the Seven Bland Dwarfs" and put their storybook names on the screen to add more entertainment: Vacant (Audrina), Dopey (Whitney), Dirty (Justin Bobby), Plastic (Heidi), Slimey (Spencer), Douchey (Brody) and Bitter (Lo). Actually that would make for a great children's cautionary tale book…

We love hating on LC and her posse of self absorbed lame-os, but we can't actually hate them. Consider, for a moment, how important you think you are. Now imagine if over 3 million viewers a week agreed with you, not to mention all the weekly entertainment magazines and club bouncers in Hollywood. If being Bitter the Scrunch Faced Dwarf allowed me to pull in bank and navigate Hollywood effortlessly, I sure wouldn't change it, and I'd agree with America that yes, my life is important enough to be aired for more seasons than My So Called Life.

So love it or hate it, the majority of our Tivos are set to record the upcoming episodes, and we're ready to hate on it for another season. Bring in the clowns.

WHERE: A new season of tears, highly edited facial longing and cat fights returns to MTV on August 18 at 10:00 PM.
COST: A half hour and several brain cells each week

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Hollywood Assistants like margaritas. After a hard day of rolling calls and picking up dry cleaning, there's nothing better than unwinding with a cold drink. These drinks are most satisfying when they are full of alcohol. Because while Diet Coke is delicious, it doesn't take the edge off quite like liquor. One of the best of these drinks is the margarita. Whether it be blended, on the rocks, with salt, or fruit flavored, margaritas are delicious, cheap, and damn strong. I've never met a margarita I didn't like.

Not only are margaritas cold and refreshing, but they also have one of the highest alcohol contents of any drink (besides an actual shot or Long Island Iced Tea, but let's face it we're not in college anymore and can't hold our liquor like we used to). If you want to get very drunk and very drunk very fast then margaritas are the way to go. You have to drink a whole lot of beer to achieve the level of tipsiness in just one margarita. On our paychecks this comes in handy.

One of the greatest parts about living in Los Angeles is the abundance of Mexican food. And luckily with Mexican food comes margaritas. Mexican restaurants are like 7/11s in LA. They're basically on every corner. And like 7/11s, Mexican restaurants have low-priced liquor, not many English speaking people and always a loud group of drunk people.

My personal favorite place in LA for margaritas is El Carmen. This location is loud, dark and always crowded. I can drink El Carmen's margaritas like they're water (which has often gotten me into a lot trouble). But hey, after two of them here I'm like a college girl on spring break. Third Street is my Cancun. Come find me, Joe Francis.

You can't talk about margaritas in LA without talking about the Cantinas. Fiesta and Cabo, I mean. Fiesta Cantina is located in the heart of WeHo on Santa Monica and Cabo Cantina is located on the Sunset Strip (there's also one on Wilshire in Brentwood but that location is better for 'stuff UCLA students like'). You can guess the clientele at each. While both attract different customers, there's one thing similar: 2 for 1's. 2 margaritas for the price of 1! Can you effing believe that? It's like we're back home in New Jersey or something. It's insane. I think 2 for 1's is actually Spanish for belligerence. There's no way you can put 2 of these bad boys back without becoming really wasted. All I can say to that is: we so deserve it.

While the ladies of Sex and the City had Cosmos and the ad execs of Mad Men have Tom Collins, us Hollywood Assistants have margaritas. While we're not fancy enough for gimlets yet not unrefined enough for Mike's Hard Lemonade, margaritas are the perfect compromise. I blame it on Los Angeles for making it so damn easy for us to drink these awesome concoctions so frequently. But really, they're the drink of our people. Because while we might be uptight and diligent minions at work, come weekend (or Happy Hour) with the help of a margarita or two we become ourselves: drunk yuppies just waiting to be rich enough to drink bellinis.

WHERE: Our absolutely favorite, El Carmen 8138 W 3rd St Los Angeles, CA 90048
COST: Around $9. Or $25 for a blender and $15 for a bottle of tequila for the at home version

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Grove

Hollywood Assistants like The Grove. After "The Great Quake" of 2008, we discussed amongst ourselves a meeting place for our friends should the end of the world appear imminent again. This place needed to be within walking distance, because lord knows that the amount of Two Buck Chuck we'd consume if the earth were to shake again would render us unable to drive anywhere. And it needed to have at least the bare necessities to help us put together a new world after an apocalyptic quake (or at least put together a substantial party after a minor shake). We had it narrowed down to Whole Foods and The Grove when the debate began.

If Whole Foods was the emergency meeting place and therefore the origin of our brave new world, we supposed the world would be organic, Utopian, overpriced and healthy. Sounds logical. But The Grove has a farmers' market, so that could sustain us, and several moderately priced restaurants, as most of us never cook. Whole Foods has that great pre-made food section, but The Grove has movies, and we need entertainment. Whole Foods has the vitamins and wine selection necessary to give us the strength to rebuild LA, but if the quake was substantial enough to result in looting, we’d much rather be by Nordstrom and the Apple store. As visions of iPhones danced in our heads, a winner was declared.

The Grove fills the gap in our life that was left when we moved away from the suburbs, and therefore the old school malls with Gaps, Food Courts, and Mall Rats. There are no Mall Rats at the Grove. It’s a bizarro version of the mall, really, because there are only a few stores, and they’re all outside. Outside! Damn, Los Angeles, you crazy. We find ourselves traversing between our affordable past and our out of reach future as we peruse the pricey offerings at the Todd Goldman Gallery while eating a Wetzels Pretzel, drinking Coffee Bean and carrying our most recent purchase: something we could almost afford at Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale.

Although it pales in comparison to the Arclight Theater, The Grove movie theater is still old school classic. Sure, it’s missing the assigned seating aspect that keeps us coming back and overpaying at the Arclight, but it has the ushers in those silly uniforms and ridiculous hats that make us feel better about our own jobs. They just look so miserable wearing a hat with a chin strap that it never fails to bring a smile to my face. You’re also bound to see at least one person you work with on a date with someone you had no idea they were dating, making for an entertaining AND informative outing.

We’re not sure if it can technically be considered part of The Grove, but The Farmer’s Market is yet another quirky draw to our Grove happy place. Where else, other than Super Wal-Mart, can one purchase fresh produce after buying a new outfit? Hidden within the labyrinth of produce and meat are the unexpected gems of Pinkberry, a bar (because grocery shopping is stressful), and a Starbucks. Any institution that has a Starbucks AND a Coffee Bean is top notch in our book. Now if only The Grove could open a Dunkin Donuts…

Whereas the Beverly Center has a greater variety of shopping, The Grove is still the preferred destination. It is the Disneyland to the Beverly Center’s Six Flags. Sure Six Flags has more rides, but Disneyland is cleaner, prettier and snows at Christmastime. Beverly Center is where one goes to shop. The Grove is where one goes to experience. You don’t even need to shop to love The Grove. We’ve spent hours watching the fountain vacillate to the tunes of crappy soft rock while writing on a bench. While finishing the great American coming of age novel at The Grove would be an ideal side effect, really we’re just hoping a few fellow (trust funded male) assistants will see us, sweep us off our feet for a slow dance in front of the fountain, and ask us to marry them because they was so inspired by their surroundings. Is it possible to have a wedding at The Grove…?

Snapping out of our Grove wedding fantasy for a moment, let’s take a moment to appreciate the role The Grove has played in transitioning many of us former north easterners or mid westerners into our first non-winter in LA. As the Christmas season approaches and we’re calling foul on the ironic takes on Santa in Hawaiian shorts lawn ornaments throughout our neighborhoods (We don’t care if it’s hot, Santa, put your daiquiri down, get your velvet suit on and pull yourself together, man!), The Grove brings us snow. Snow and a bizarre dance show with fake Rockettes and children dressed up as presents, all to familiar Christmas tunes, taking place between the iconic movie theater marquee and the aforementioned marriage fountain. We don’t know if it’s Faith Hill singing Christmas Carols, the dancing fountain or the chemically enhanced snow, or the memory of The Hills Season One Christmas Episode, but something about it every year brings a tear to our eyes. And it’s nightly! So anytime you need a winter fix to go along with your Wetzels Pretzel, The Grove is there for you.

In most of our minds, The Grove is an LA institution that has been here as long as the Hollywood sign. Apparently, it didn’t open until 2002. But that’s the great thing about The Grove – it’s our generation’s Hollywood sign. When we have friends visiting from out of town, that’s what we take them to see (“I swear, Tom Hanks shops at THIS Forever 21!”). It’s our tolerable tourist attraction, it’s our mall, it’s our playground, it’s our rock. So, if when the earth shakes again, swing by Whole Foods to pick up some wine and meet us by the Fountain. It may be the end of the world as we know it, but our guess is that the poor man’s Bellagio fountain will still be dancing to the tunes of Phil Collins, and that’s the basis on which we should rebuild LA.

WHERE: 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90036
COST: Anywhere from the $3 parking fee (with validation) to a new iBook.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Open Bars

Hollywood Assistants like open bars. Operating under the same logic that causes me to carry that unattractive bag I was swagged back in 2007, we will drink a selection of thoroughly inconsumable cocktails, as long as they are free. Hpnotiq and Monster? What a bright color, I'll take one! X-rated and Vitamin Water? Sounds healthy, a round of that please. p.i.n.k. carbonated caffeinated vodka and Jolt? I can't think of a better way to jump start an evening. For a group of people who rarely order a cocktail without specifying a top shelf liquor that we can't afford, the open bar is the one time it's socially acceptable to drink – yikes is that Gold Schlager and HiC? – anything the bartender will pour. In our defense, if you saw our paychecks or knew our bosses, you'd understand us getting intoxicated off of free Hi-sChlagers.

Throughout the years, we've become experts in the world of open bars, and have separated them into categories, noting the pros and cons of each:

The Early Bird Special. The Early Bird Special is perhaps the most dangerous of all Hollywood Open Bars. An invite for an otherwise cash bar event will have that small line we all zoom in on "Cocktails compliments of [insert undrinkable liqueur here] from 9-10!" Though fashionably late was invented in California, we have never been fashionably late to an early bird special open bar. In fact we've never been just on time: we're typically circling around the block 10 minutes early until we see the check in table go up. Everyone knows by 9:30 that bar is going to be swamped, and by that time we better have a table full of drinks to last us through the night.

Pro: Great excuse to leave work early. Or...great excuse to make up a better excuse to leave work early.

Con: Oddly not that we drink less…because we sure don't. It's that we try to do all of our drinking for the night in that hour…and there is a HUGE difference between five drinks throughout a four hour party and five drinks the first hour of the four hour party. This knowledge conveniently slips our mind in that hour, and generally returns the next morning as we wake up somewhere next to someone with an equal appreciation of open bars and an equally raging hangover.

Good Behavior Bars: In a world where we mix business with booziness, we find ourselves straddling the fun/appropriate line far too often, especially at Good Behavior Bars. Commonly found in networking events, your boss's charity fundraiser or the local alumni receptions, the alcohol here is meant to act as a social lubricant and ice breaker, and not necessarily as a means to the end of your inhibitions. It's important to distinguish ahead of time if an open bar is, in fact, a good behavior bar, as it will ultimately affect the overall consumption strategy.

Pro: If done correctly, you can leave this open bar with a good buzz and an expanded network.

Con: We never do this correctly, and leave pretty wasted with depleted credibility.

The All Nighter. The Mecca of open bars brings us more glee than Christmas and Hanukkah combined. We've toasted couples who probably shouldn't be together because of the free champagne at their weddings. We've rallied behind charities for just about everything if saving the rainforest means knocking back free drinks. We might have found ourselves at a Republican fundraiser because the GOP knows how to party. Point is, even the crappiest event is delightful when you close your tab and the cost is free.

Pro: Have you been to an All Nighter?

Con: Have you woken up the morning after an All Nighter?

In a city with some form of gallery opening, restaurant tasting, movie premiere, product launch or networking event happening every night of the week, it's important to be versed in open bar etiquette. Here are a few rules we try to follow as we work our way through the world of free alcohol:

1. Just because the drink is free, doesn't mean the bartender is working any less hard. Always have a good number of small bills to tip the bartender for each drink. If the $1/drink tipping cost is adding up too much for you, you might have a problem and should avoid any and all open bars.

2. Never, ever, EVER order just one drink. I don't care if you're just ordering for yourself – you have two hands and you shouldn't wait for last call to use both of them.

3. Pace yourself. Even though some open bars are time prohibitive, the cost of the couple drinks you bought after the open bar was over is a small price to pay to avoid an open bar hangover.

4. Be cool. Even if it's your first open bar (what are you, an intern?), you want it to appear that you can – and do – go to an open bar event every night. While overconsumption is inevitable, just please try to avoid taking "to go" cups of open bar swag.

COST: One raging Hypnotiq hangover.

Trader Joe's

Hollywood Assistants like Trader Joe’s. The economy blows, gas prices are ridiculously high, and you’re still trying to eek by on $8/hour. Sure, you’re above the poverty line, but you’re not really bringing home the bacon. It’s more like bringing home the ramen. Thankfully, there’s a grand emporium that was made for people like you.

If Whole Foods (*cough* Whole Paycheck) is Neiman Marcus, then Trader Joe’s is Target. With affordable prices and a wide and often delightfully surprising selection, TJ’s is one-stop shopping for the average Hollywood Assistant on a budget. And as if that’s not enough, TJ’s is chock full of options that even the biggest kitchen dummy can manage to cook. Guys, if you want to really impress a lady by making her dinner, forget the standard spaghetti and Ragu combo and head to the frozen food aisle. Pick up frozen tempura for the appetizer, goat cheese frozen pizza for the entree, a key lime pie for dessert and you’ll have her undying affection forever…or at least for tonight. But hey, this is Hollywood… you’re not looking for a commitment, right?

But, let’s be honest, the real reason most people go to TJ’s is for the wine selection. At the most basic level, you’ve got your Charles Shaw, aka Two Buck Chuck. It comes in five varietals: chardonnay, merlot, shiraz, cabernet, and sauvignon blanc. It actually retails for $1.99, making it one of the cheapest wine you’ll be able to find anywhere. My friend Chuck can be a little inconsistent… sometimes you get a great bottle and sometimes you get something less than stellar. But please, it’s not like my palate is exactly advanced. And you rarely taste the wine when you chug it.

If you want to really impress your friends, pick up another bottle of something a little nicer for your next game night, dinner party, or pre-game. If you remember to take off the price tag they’ll never have to know it’s from TJ’s. Personally I like to choose wines the way I choose my men: whoever looks the cutest is going home with me. But so many wines carried by Trader Joe’s have really cute labels, so sometimes I face an agonizing decision. Happily, at $4-$6 a bottle, I can justify buying 2…or 3… or 4 bottles.

So if your wallet is feeling especially tight while we’re riding out this latest economic bump and you're counting the days until the start of Obamanomics, stop in at Trader Joe’s. You’ll find lots of budget-friendly options to liven up your normal mac & cheese/Lean Cuisine/canned soup routine. And if money woes have really got you down, pick up a couple of bottles of vino and drink until you can’t remember that you’re in the red anymore.

WHERE: Various locations all over LA. Our personal fave is the one at 3rd & La Brea.
COST: Cheaper than Whole Foods.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Office Crushes

Hollywood Assistants like office crushes. Los Angeles is not very conducive to dating. When your choices for meeting possible suitors are Happy Ending and El Guapo, it becomes apparent that your dating life might need to take a backseat to your career. I mean that’s why we all moved to LA in the first place, right? Unfortunately somewhere along our trip west on route 40 we forgot about our love lives.

Enter office crushes. Nothing makes a day go by faster than having someone to crush on at work. After answering phone after phone and scheduling meeting after meeting, there’s something extraordinarily satisfying about seeing someone you like while you’re doing your menial job. It makes the mundane less mundane and the shitty less shitty. Being able to work in close proximity to that certain someone if just for a few minutes a day makes things at least a little better.

Sometimes office crushes turn into more. Nearly one in three people indulge in an interoffice romance (or so says some random internet article I found on the subject). We don’t know if this includes drunken make out sessions on the weekend, casual sex in the copy room before the bosses come in or an official relationship where you change your, omg!, relationship status on Facebook. I guess it could be a combination of all three. Although, all three can be treacherous. You don’t want to turn your office crush into the ex-boyfriend you hate. Or into the guy who gave you the clap. You also don’t want to become the ‘jealous’ one at work. To your coworker, it was just a hook up, to you, it was destiny. So unless you truly believe you’ve met the future mother or father of your children, you need to take an office romance with a grain of salt. The morning after a drunken hook up with your cubicle mate could be very, very awkward.

But really? Where else are you supposed to meet someone? Ralphs? People only meet people at grocery stores in the movies. LA Fitness? No one would ever want to date me after seeing me sweat. Blvd 3? I’d rather die alone. So therefore we really are sometimes forced to find love at the office; whether it be an innocent crush on the second assistant or a full blown affair with the guy from the mailroom. We’re young and therefore allowed for some hot and heavy office flirting. However, you need to be laid back and not stress about it. Because then it will get in the way of your work. And there’s nothing worse than being heartbroken AND jobless. Also, be selective when choosing who to crush on and who to go after. The last thing you want is the reputation of office bicycle.

WHERE: Offices all over the city
COST: Dignity, self-respect, but hey at least you're getting some

Friday, August 1, 2008

New York

Hollywood Assistants like New York. LA got you down? Tired of sitting in your car for 45 minutes every day to make a 3 mile commute? Terrified that last week’s earthquake was just the precursor to The Big One? Annoyed that every time you try to go shop at the Grove, you must contend with crowds of paparazzi tailing Posh Spice? (Well, it could be worse… The Hills could be shooting there today.)

Then cash in a vacation day or two and hightail it out east. Hollywood Assistants love getting in touch with the “real” world by spending a few days on the gritty streets of New York City. An amazing thing happens the moment you step foot on the sidewalks of NY: you remember you have legs. And that sometimes, legs are meant to be used for walking. In LA I drive to the Ralph’s across the street from my apartment. But in New York, I will gladly walk from Amsterdam & 81st to 34th & 1st Ave. The whole experience is so wondrous to me that I end up prancing down the street like Belle in the opening song from Beauty & the Beast. “Bonjour, good day, Hot Dog Vendor! Aren’t we having a lovely morning, bum?”

LA has its strengths, but NY unquestionably has us beat in a number of categories. First and foremost, you don’t have to drive there. I realize that this is the most obvious point ever. But as someone with a serious love/hate relationship with my car, being anywhere where we don’t have to worry about DD’s, DUI’s, and any other annoying car issue that also begins with a D is a huge plus. Cab, subway, bus, walking, whatever – no matter how many cocktails you down at happy hour, nobody is piloting themselves home. (Unless you have a friend who rides a bike…but that’s just weird.)

NY also has us beat when it comes to food. LA’s taco trucks, fresh seafood, and endless authentic Asian food outposts are all great, don’t get us wrong. But an H&H bagel on a Saturday morning is pretty close to heaven. Bagel Broker is a fine approximation, but even on their best day they don’t come close. Then there’s the pizza, hot dogs, falafel, etc., etc., etc. I’m in a food coma just thinking about it all.

And maybe it’s just me, but NY feels like it is 100x more social than LA. My friends who live in the city are NEVER home. Part of this is probably due to the fact that their bedrooms could fit in my bathtub. If my living space clocked in at under 200 square feet and I could easily walk to 500 bars, I would probably be out drinking martinis every night, too. So maybe I’m just a tad propagandized from growing up with Sex & the City and my current obsession with Gossip Girl. And perhaps I’m a little disappointed that my LA isn’t the same as the LA featured on Melrose Place, The Hills, or Entourage. But everything just seems so much prettier in NY. And real pretty… not like fake-LA pretty. NYC doesn’t have breast implants and hasn’t had a brow lift. NYC is a natural beauty.

But just when I’m packing my boxes and putting all of my furniture on Craig’s List, I remember how much easier it is to live in LA than NY on an assistant’s salary. And then I remember all of the freezing cold winters I suffered through in college and how I swore, as God is my witness, I would never wear a down coat again. LA can be annoying, but come on…. When it’s 75 and sunny on February 1st, what else can you possibly have to complain about? So I’m not shelving NY forever. Just until I reach the point in my career when I can afford a fabulous apartment and an amazing outerwear wardrobe. Until that day, LA will do.

WHERE: 3000 miles away
COST: $350-$400 roundtrip, if you can get a good fare.