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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

The first time you drive onto a studio lot, the first time the gate lifts and you glide your car into the little fortress of money and cool and casual assurance, you feel like you've...won.

The lottery, the big sweepstakes, the everything.

In fact, the whole experience is like a little story – you drive up, give your name and ID (these days, anyway; in the old days, you just gave them your name) and you wait – wait for your name to appear on the list, wait for the little nod, wait for the gate to lift.

And then you had the whole day to wander around – you could get there early and get lost on the lot, watching the golf carts zoom by, seeing the little clumps of terrified executives hustle around. You could stick around and have lunch at the studio commissary – nobody stopped you, ever, because if you were on the lot it was like you were in the business. Even if you weren't. Yet.

It's such a great moment, that first time, that even what happens next – the sitting in the waiting area, the sweatiness, the pitching or auditioning or outright begging, or even, as it's been for me these days, the Byzantine, barely comprehensible directions about where to park – nothing can really ruin that feeling: here's who I am, they're expecting me, and the gates lift.

Talk about your metaphors.

When I started in this business, back in the McKinley Administration, the best moment of a person's career was when the guy at the gate recognized you, and lifted the gate as soon as you made that left turn off of Melrose and into the entrance. Turn, swoosh, wave to the guy – I felt like I owned the place.

And then September 11, and suddenly it was all about ID's and magnetic keys and guys with mirrors looking under your car for bombs. As if terrorists really would target a collection of drab stucco buildings spread out over hundreds of acres. About ninety percent of any movie studio lot is old clothes and junk furniture anyway, so it would be like blowing up a huge garage sale.

And also: anyone with enough motivation to blow up a movie studio probably has a deal at that studio. This is Hollywood. The people we need to worry about are our friends.

But last week, driving onto a studio lot, I saw something new. The guy in the security booth checked my ID, then printed out a little sticker for me – you know the kind: you're supposed to wear them on your clothing, but nobody ever does. It just brands you as an outsider – but the sticker had a large red ”Stop” sign on it. And after he printed it out, he took a smaller white sticker and stuck that over the ”Stop” sign on the big sticker, covering it up.

So now I had a sticker allowing me to walk onto the lot, but on that sticker was a large red stop sign you couldn't see because it was covered up by a smaller sticker.

I took that sticker, shoved it into my pocket, parked, went to my meeting, went home, emptied my pockets on my desk...

And the next day, I looked at the sticker. The big red ”Stop” sticker was now clearly visible. The little sticker on top of it had, overnight, become transparent. The sticker had invalidated itself, automatically, through some kind of ink technology. Yesterday, I could get onto the lot. Yesterday, I was welcome. Yesterday, the gate would ride.

Today, not so fast. Today, Stop.

Talk about your metaphors.

And that's it for this week. Next week, we'll get very very hot.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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