My love of carbs means I’m not ‘uplink prepared’

On balance, I'm not as bad as the guy who hired a full time satellite truck, writes Rob Long

Hollywood watch

A magazine editor once gave me a piece of advice: “Never pass up an opportunity to be on television.”

Which is probably good advice if you’re the kind of person who looks good on television. Usually, I end up looking awkward and fidgety.

The kinds of television shows on which I appear are mostly of the low budget kind – cable news outfits, foreign network bureaus, that sort of thing. That means I’m stuck in an isolated video booth with a buzzing earpiece, staring into a camera lens. The low-rent make-up person has reliably caked too much make-up on my face and over-rouged my lips, making me look a little like a sad circus clown on his day off.

Obviously, I do my best to avoid watching the results of this kind of thing later. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. Sometimes I actually see what I look like on television: tired and fat.

“Don’t I look tired and fat?” I asked a friend of mine after an appearance on a cable talk show.

“Well, yes,” he said.

“I meant on the show,” I said.

“Well, there too,” he said.

So, despite the magazine editor’s advice, I often pass up opportunities to be on television, mostly because I never pass up opportunities to eat bread and sugared carbohydrates.

This, I’ve discovered, makes me kind of rare these days. Appearing on television is America’s favourite pastime. At any given moment, it seems, one half of the country is watching the other half on the small screen.

I have friends who have a swanky summer place out in East Hampton, the exclusive beach area on the far end of Long Island. They will often beg me to spend a few weeks out there with them – or is it the other way around? I never can tell – and it’s one of the great pleasures of the summer.

For years, as we walked along the path to the beach on a Sunday morning, I’d notice a large satellite lorry parked in the driveway of an enormous beachside mansion. The owner, they told me, was an investor and dabbler in publishing. But what he really wanted to be was a pundit on Sunday morning political chat shows. And the best way to break into that part of show business, he realised, was to be available pretty much all the time.

Booking guests onto those kinds of shows is a nightmare, apparently. Guests drop out at the last minute – mostly the important ones, of course, tasked with running the country’s business – but especially in the summer, when everyone in Washington and New York heads out of town for the weekend.

But this guy, who has no real insights or valuable contributions to make to any conversation on public events, nevertheless has money, which enables him to hire a satellite lorry every weekend to sit outside of his house in readiness in case one of the Sunday political talk show bookers should call at the last minute. He neither gave up his beach weekend nor his daydreams of becoming an Important Pundit. He simply hired a lorry, put the word out, and waited. He was, in satellite terms, “uplink prepared”.

That was a few years ago, and in the meantime it seems like everyone is in on the game. We’ve all got mobile phones with cameras attached, Twitter accounts, Instagram feeds. We’re all, if we want it enough, on the cusp of stardom. We’re all uplink prepared.

Well, not everyone. Some people, like the gruesome and objectionable owner of the basketball team, the Los Angeles Clippers, seem utterly uplink unready. He was recently recorded without his knowledge making a slew of unhinged and racist remarks to his girlfriend, making him the one person in America who isn’t aware that the microphone is on. So it’s probably more accurate to say that some of us are ready for our close-ups, and some of us most definitely are not.

I’m somewhere in the middle, I think. I wouldn’t want anyone following me around with a camera because I don’t need any more hurtful reminders about my problem with carbs. And I wouldn’t want to be recorded either – not because I’ll say anything truly objectionable, but because I suspect that when I’m not making inarticulate noises at my co-workers, I’m screaming obscenities at other drivers. I may string a sentence or two together, sort of like what I’m doing now, but I assure you, even then, I won’t want to reread it. My voice, even in a newspaper, sounds fat and tired.

Rob Long is a writer and producer based in Hollywood

On Twitter: @rcbl

Published: May 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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