Roger L. Simon

Scenes from the class struggle in the Hollywood Hills - or what did you do in the war, Daddy?

For those of you who don’t know, things have been excruciatingly hot out here in Southern California lately with temperatures cresting at 119F in the balmier zones of the San Fernando Valley. The over-taxed power in my aging hipster Hollywood Hills neighborhood (replete with its old Spanish homes and smattering of celebs) has been out since yesterday and looks to stay out for a while, so I am writing this over at my friend David’s house above the Sunset Strip where the WiFi, if not the air conditioning, is functioning. But as Sheryl reminds me: “We should stop feeling sorry for ourselves. We’re not in Haifa.”

Indeed, she’s right. But it there’s one thing that helps you survive war and heat waves, it’s a sense of humor, so for your amusement I will provide this anecdote of my hood in extreme times. A couple of hours ago I returned home to see if the power was back (it wasn’t) and to pick up a few things. I turned the corner on my street, suddenly to be confronted by a woman with her hand up, indicating for me to stop my car. I noticed nearly a dozen other vehicles parked along the sidewalk. What? Was somebody actually having a party with no power, no air conditioning and temperatures in triple digits?!

Next thing I saw was a camera – well, a digital video camera. Someone was making a movie in the heat and it turned out it was one of my more celebrated neighbors – Ben Stiller (a rather friendly guy, on those rare occasions when he’s not on location and we see him) doing the shooting himself, videoing a van approaching from the next street. With no public electricity, he was obviously on a generator. Several other neighbors were standing around observing the proceedings, gossiping and laughing. In fact, it had the festive air of the Brooklyn block parties I remember from my childhood with everybody out on their stoops. The heat had done it.

Ben finished the take and the woman waved me on. I drove down the fifty yards or so to my house, got out and parked. I started talking with another (not famous) neighbor about the power outage and what he had learned from the DWP, when a Tour Bus to the Stars Homes (the over-sized vans that are ubiquitous in the Hollywood Hills) came cruising up the street toward us. The neighbor and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes. These tourists were in fat city – for once they were actually going to see a star in front of his house! I tried to catch their surprised faces as the van drove past me.

But just then, as if an alarm went off, everyone on the block scattered, including Ben. (They must have seen the van.) They were gone so fast, it was hard to tell where they went. By the time the van reached the Stillers, the street was back to normal – completely empty… And even more silent than usual because you couldn’t hear the incessant whir of the air conditioners. The bus lingered in front of Ben’s house for a moment, as they always do, before preceding on, its passengers completely oblivious.