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FROM THIS EPISODE

The C List

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

A few years back, a local television station broadcast an expose of some popular local restaurants. With hidden cameras and undercover reporting, they revealed that some of the most popular Los Angeles restaurants are guilty of some of the most unsanitary practices.

Waiters were secretly filmed licking their fingers and nibbling from plates that were about to be served. Salad tossers were caught sneezing into their hands and then tearing lettuce. Chefs were taped inadvertently knocking cigarette ash into stockpots.

Remember that? The town was transfixed. In a city as scattered and scatterbrained as this one, few events manage to capture the collective attention. Fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes, sure. Now we can add e coli in your tagliatelle al formaggio to the list.

-People are going nuts over this thing,- an agent friend of mine said at the time. I was sitting in his glass-lined office waiting to go to a Dodgers game and the conversation turned, as it did everywhere in Los Angeles that month, to the restaurant expose. -I-ve eaten in a bunch of those restaurants. And you know what? The food was good. I say, if you enjoy it, that should be enough. Some things you don-t want to see being put together. Some things you-re better off not knowing.-

I looked out of his silent glass office, onto the great bullpen of the agency. It was a scene out of a Bosch painting: assistants were scurrying around, agents paced wildly, screaming into headset telephones.

-Sort of like, you should just enjoy the movie or the television show. But no one should ever see how one is prepared,- I said, gesturing to the chaos beyond.

He stared out into the bullpen. -Oh, yeah. If people only knew what we have to do to put a project together. Take about causing explosive dysentery.- That was when, you-ll remember, all over town, restaurants began sporting large blue plastic cards in their windows with their Health Department letter grade.

-Last week,- the agent said, -my wife and I went to a local sushi restaurant. We-d gone there a million times. Didn-t think anything of it. So we-re leaving, I look down, and against the window, way down there, is the Board of Health grade. Guess what it was?-

-B?-

-No. -C.- I-m like, -Holy God, my wife and I just ate -C- sushi.- I mean, -C- pizza, okay, maybe, it-s hot, you know, and fire kills everything. But -C- sushi?-

-Yeah, I-m not sure about -C- sushi.-

-So my wife and I spent the night making each other vomit.-

-Wow. Really? How? Did you watch the DVD of Something-s Gotta Give?-

-No, we-- Funny. Our feeling was, better safe than sorry.

By then it wastime to get to Dodger Stadium. It is axiomatic in Hollywood that anything really important can only be discussed at the very last minute. It-s the same principle which dictates that contract negotiations will break down irretrievably at six o-clock Friday afternoon, only to be revived an hour later, when everyone is hungry and cranky enough to settle. It is also what leads people to begin to reveal incredibly crucial bits of information just as the parking valet pulls up with their car, or, worse, while on the car phone, to say -The most important thing to bear in mind is...- or -They-re offering you the sum of...- just as they head into a canyon where cell coverage is spotty.

-Look,- the agent said, -We represent a piece of talent that-s got a network relationship.-

He tells me the name of an actress who has recently declared during a television interview that she communicates with creatures from outer space. She has also, according to certain press reports, been in and out of drug rehabilitation several times. These things, though, don-t really matter. Only one thing does.

-Is she funny?-

He shrugs. -Not really. I mean, I don-t think she-s ever done comedy.-

-So she-s crazy and she-s not funny.-

-Right.-

-But she-s got a deal,- he says. So are you interested? Please say -yes,- because I already told them you-d take a meeting.-

-Not interested,- I say without pausing.

-She-s A-list, I-m telling you.-

I immediately picture this actress standing outside the studio gates, eyes drooping in drunken half-sleep, wearing a bright blue -A- around her neck. -Sorry,- I say, -But A-list isn-t what it used to be.-

Well, that's it for this week. Next week, we-ll dole out career advice. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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