The Cable Awards Show

by D. Darteo Sommese

The Cable Access Awards

by D. "Darteo" Sommese

It is Sunday and I wait to make that awful trip downtown to the train station to pick up my friend Sabrina, who will be presenting an award at the Cable Access Awards Show. She is a well known personality in the small show biz scene in an area somewhere in the provinces below Los Angeles County. I think we had the same agent once.

The person who answered the phones at the agency connected us about 10 years ago. She got me a modeling job. I was the perfect counterpart for the mature model options she was exploring at the time. On this particular job, we were the mature models, and we had a younger set with us. It was a TV spot for TJ Max Stores, but the hilarious part was that it was for Mexican Television, so they drove us across the border to Tijuana and taped us in some hilltop TV station.

Sabrina is still horrified by the memory of women's bathroom and having to get dressed in there. What I remember most was that the studio was small but amazingly clean. It was fun none the less, and we all had our 15 minutes of fame. I have known Sabrina since then and I call her from time to time. She came to San Francisco for the art opening I had when I completed my masters degree, and braved the awful rain to come and join the party. Sometimes I think there is no event too small for Sabrina to want to attend. They all come under the heading of potential opportunity to advance herself. She shamelessly self promotes and no task is too humble. She follows every career lead and always sees the positive side of some pretty rotten situations. Sometimes I have to admire this sort of whitewashing, but normally find myself calling a spade a spade. After all we do have "truth" to consider. And where did I ever learn that the truth was a good thing? Most people in Hollywood seem to really HATE it!

Sabrina runs a modeling school when in actuality most of her modeling career, is what they say about Malibu ....more a state of mind than anything else. She is a full figured woman pushing 50 and does an amazing amount with non-standard model material. She does have the knack of being rather photogenic and her photo's always look fantastic. No one seems to mind that she looks a lot better in her photo's than she does in person. What might be missing upon an initial observation, Sabrina fills in with dialogue. After a while you just start to believe her hype. It's a wonderful facility for a person in show biz to have. I know she doesn't make all that much money, but I suppose her husband's salary fills in the blanks. The man must be a Saint to put up with a wife that is always chasing rainbows. She is basically a person with a good heart and charmingly pushy nature.

Union station in Los Angeles, was built right on the edge of what once was the original Pueblo de Los Angeles. Olvera Street, was the main street then, Now it is lined with ethnic shops and restaurants. It is still seems to be the center of a lot of what goes on in the Mexican community here in Los Angeles. There was some sort of Mexican Fiesta going on in the park across the street from the train station. It was good to see that there was still some life there in the old city. The music blared from the loud PA system across Alameda Street and I thought about how lucky Sabrina was to have music playing upon her arrival. How perfect. She was zipping up the coast on the Amtrack's "San Diegan" to attend the Cable Access Awards. She did a little cable show somewhere down there, where she interviews celebrities and local yokels I suppose. What celebrities? Anything that walks, talks or crawls. Anyone that has ever been on a TV qualifies as a celebrity.

Downtown Los Angeles on a weekday is a nightmare of snarled traffic, but on a Sunday you can actually drive from point "A" to point "B" with little effort. I strategically parked so I could see anyone that came out of the main doors of the station, read the paper and listened to the loud Mexican music, while I waited to catch a glimpse of Sabrina. There must have only been 15 people on that train because the crowd dispersed quickly and Sabrina was left standing there. I must say, as a model/spokesperson she always projects an attractiveness about her, but just to paint an accurate picture of her with words, I would have to mention again, that she is more of the full figured variety of model, rather than the leggy tall thing, that the word model might bring to mind. I called to her and as she walked over to my truck. I surmised the she must have been in a wild mood or raided Fran Dresser's closet, because she had on three layers of mis-matched clothing all with a variation of a leopard print on them. She also wore a leopard skin head band with a fall of hair dangling from it, giving her that Nubian Gypsy look. I began to think that I was a bit overdressed in my sport coat and slacks until she informed me that those were only her traveling clothes. I thought the overdone animal print might have been an attempt to ward off any unwanted advances on the train. Unless of course the person might be into the jungle boogie look. It really didn't matter because we were going to the Holiday Inn, which was right smack dab in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard. You can not dress wrong for that location. Little did I know that Sabrina would need up to 45 minutes to do the wardrobe change from traveling gear, to long black dress, which she did in the woman's bathroom off the lobby in the Holiday Inn. Show people feel that it is OK to change anywhere, I've noticed. I found it odd that she spent 3 hours on the train and did not think of doing her hair then. The fall of hair, was a mistake, and even though I took if for the real thing, (who knew!) I realized Sabrina looked great in all her pictures because someone else did her hair. She came out of the Holiday Inn bathroom in all her black on black embroidered elegance. A reincarnation of a wealthy matron circa the early 1920's. She had a wide black embroidered hair band that went across her forehead and the fall of hair all pushed to one side, sort of like a fountain a hair gushing out of one side of her head. It was fashioned in a style that one does not see often these days. You have to love a person that can feel comfortable in any fashion weather real or surreal.

We made our way up to the conference room on the 23rd floor. We were greeted by a portly gentleman named Joel in his mid forties and his slightly shifty looking twenty-something son. The kid was definitely not a chip off the old block, because daddy was real straight arrow. I found out later he was the mastermind behind the whole cable awards show idea. Joel seemed quite light on his feet for a man his size and busily took the various groups of people to their seats. He had arranged everything. This was Joel's show, his idea....his toys..... A showman he was not.

I stood at the door with Sabrina as she took it upon herself to be the Gypsy greeter. I was introduced to a woman that looked like an orchid colored B52. This woman was into some serious shoulder pads. I don't really know, but I think shoulder pads probably look more attractive on taller woman. Wide and low to the ground looks better on a sports car. I have noticed that people that donate their time to their own cable TV show are an eccentric bunch. Speaking of which, Sabrina introduced me to a man she identified as her video editor. I could not help but notice, because I am in danger of having the same problem, that his navy sport coat, could never ever hope to be buttoned. His stomach cantilevered so far over his belt, it would prevent buttoning from ever happening in this century. If his sport coat were a building, the Department of Health would have condemned it long ago. I have really never seen a sport coat in this condition. It seemed that it might have been hung near a construction sight from the looks of the white powder that was falling from under the fold in the collar...... What the hell was that! ....... I will say this, the white powder sort of took your mind off the all the food stains though. I am sure that it had never been cleaned in all the 25 years of it's sad existence.

The title Cable Access Awards projects a grandeur that is not really associated with this particular event. One wall of the conference room was a very long Cinemascope window, the view was spectacular, if the size of the room wasn't. More people filed in, including about six women dressed in some rather wild square dancing outfits. "That's the Israeli dance group, that is from Orange County, not Israel", Sabrina offered..... It made perfect sense to me........ I asked if they had a show on cable and Sabrina said, "no", that they were the entertainment. Neither Sabrina nor I could figure out where 6 grown woman were going to dance in a room completely filled with long tables, but she intimated that Joel did not want any suggestions, he liked to run things his way. Sabrina was very curious to know where the people were from that were coming into the room. All were from the same area Sabrina and Joel were from. It became apparent that Joel only had awards for people that worked at his station. The awards show could have been held anywhere, but I guess awards and Hollywood kind of go together.

The people that filled the room were like all people everywhere, all different sizes and shapes. I don't know, there seemed to be a sameness about them, some unifying thread. As if somewhere in their lineage, someone might have been impregnated by a space alien or two. There was this other worldly quality about them Ed Wood, the 50's transvestite film maker, might have enjoyed. There must have been 75 to a 100 people there. I was introduced to each one at the door by Sabrina who was introducing herself to them. She was quite good at this really, exchanging cards like the good business woman that she is, trying to advance herself in any way, shape, or form. At the same time she was taking mental notes on how these people could be useful to her in the future. I was introduced either as her "actor friend" or her "professor friend". I go sort of blank , when the exact "truth is tossed out the window. I spent most of my energy trying to mentally protect myself from any flying bullshit that might be ricocheting off the walls. I seem to meet people that can tell one tall tale after another and never blink an eye. It must go hand and hand with show business or something.

Sabrina and I were placed right up front where the microphone and the projection screen was . Joel had changed into his Tuxedo and was gliding around the room, reminding me of Peter Ustinoff playing King Herod in a Tux. The people seemed famished as they all lined up for the snacks that were being offered, which consisted of a tray of those awful tumbled carrots, celery sticks, olives and broccoli bits. There was enough there for a family of 8. The 75 or so guests paid $40.00 each, made a 2 hours drive, and used a tank an a half of gas, for this particular privilege. By the time Sabrina and I got to the table the woman in front of us had eaten the last bit of green on the plate, which happened to be part of the bed of lettuce that cushioned the vegetables. Sabrina, is like myself, and would never want, to have a party where the food runs out, an ethnic thing. Horrified, she went off to find Joel to suggest that he send down for another tray of vegetables. Sabrina came back to me in a trance-like state to announce that Joel's' reply was, "If you snooze you loose" A sort of modern day, "let them eat cake". It was written clearly on Sabrina's face that even her ever constant blind optimism was beginning to crack. The truth is really a very pervasive and annoying thing to have to deal with.

I think the right word for the way Joel handled and organized this debacle would have to be "ineptitude" He did not even have the presence of mind to have someone there with a video camera to record the event for broadcast....On what else?.... Cable Access! I couldn't believe it. My 200 year old grandmother could have done a better job putting this together. For some reason Joel had pre-taped the "who-was-nominated-for-what-presentation." When the people that won the award heard their name, they came up to the front of the darkened room, accepted their award in the dark, and went back to their seats not being able to say a word, because the tape was still running and more awards were being announced. To make things as awkward as possible, they had to duck in front of the screen on the way in and the way out. It seemed that Joel had only rented the room for so many hours and he was not going overtime. He tapes the nominations for this reason. That tape, by the way, was a disgrace to video editing in general. A five year old child could have done better. When I asked Sabrina who put that tape together she resumed her trance-like state and said, "Joel." I know I have show business running through my veins now, because my blood began to boil. This is no casual thing I have for Show Business, after all this time, I believe in it's traditions and purpose. The purpose is to give people a "good " show and the tradition is to entertain. If you can't walk the walk, don't talk the talk.

The tape mercifully ended. In the dark, Joel went up to the microphone and began reading the names of people that would receive a certificate. Everyone who did not get an award got a certificate with their name on it. Rather than ask someone to turn on the light, Joel struggled in the dark to read the names, half hiding himself behind the projection screen. At this point I could not stand it no longer. I jumped up and opened the curtain to let in the light and that beautiful view. I asked Sabrina, "Why is he hiding behind the screen like that?" She went blank again and said horrified, "I don't know." Where the hell did Joel come from, I wondered. Had he never watched broadcast TV? And how did he get through life without having seen an awards show! What a moron. I was embarrassed for him. Why didn't he just bring the microphone out to the center of the space for godsake!

I sort of lost it at this point. I could stand it no longer! I just spoke up and ordered the woman with the gigunda shoulder pads to "get that microphone and move it to the center." I guess she agreed with me, because without a word, she just went up and pulled the microphone to the center of the only open space in the room, while Joel followed as if his lip was frozen to it. Joel continued to read from the enormous list of certificate winners as he followed the microphone. Sabrina got one and so did the guy with the groaty sport coat, who at this point, seized the moment, grabbed the mic from Joel, and began reading from notes he had scribbled on the back of an old legal size envelope. The man got a Xeroxed certificate on cafe colored card stock for godsake! I am not kidding, he thanked his high school shop teacher and he was forty something at least. The speech and the list went on and on. Joel was beginning to panic, as the man in the spotted and stained sport coat became real emotional when he got to the names of his mother and father on the list. To my utter horror his eyes became fountains and the tears began to flow. Now I was in shock. The rest of the room was paying absolutely no attention to him. I figured they might have known him from before or something. Then he thanked most of all, Joel himself, the wonderful man who believed in him and made it all possible. Joel seized the moment himself and grabbed the mic, before the guy in the sport coat knew what hit him. Someone came over to the emotional man in the sport coat, and patted him on the back until he was moved off gently into the wings sobbing.

The screen was cleared and the tiny open space was made ready for the "Not From Israel", Israeli dancers. I guess they figured six full figured woman would never be able to twirl in so small a space because only three got up to perform. After much slapping around of the portable CD player, one of the woman announced that they were going to do an Israeli dance to Gentile music, which happened to be a high percussion version of Silent Night, of all things. This could only happen in Los Angeles! The woman for all their size were quite light on their feet. They bounced on their toes and twirled with arms flung wide, using ever so graceful hand motions, which I had to duck out of the way of from time to time, since I was sitting so close. One of the ladies deodorant must have failed her, because as she twirled and I ducked, the wind kicked up, would transmit a rather pungent odor as her armpit sailed over my head. OH NO, not another turn....please! The dance mercifully ended, and they did....Oh no!...Another dance....My God...Not another one! They did get a nice round of applause and were all smiles as they made their exit. God bless them. Joel then announced that there was time for anyone else to get up and speak, but we all had to be out of there in 20 minutes. Ugh! " Let me the hell out of here" I was thinking, when Sabrina remembered that she hadn't eaten all day and offered to buy me dinner. I absentmindedly sprang from my chair and started pulling her towards the door immediately, lest she change her mind. I was surprised that she did not want to stay and talk, but I figured later, she wanted to be out of there in case the guests might have thought that she had anything to do with the debacle.

We walked down Hollywood Boulevard to a restaurant across from the Chinese Theater where the foot prints of the stars are imbedded in cement. Sabrina was disappointed with the show and was frustrated that Joel wouldn't listen to some of her suggestions about how to run it. "Just shut-up and look pretty" is was what he said. She said he held all the cards at the access channel, so she could not fight with him or she would not get her own show. When I asked her how the people that received awards were selected, she said, "I don't know, I guess Joel had someone pick them." Oh! So Joel charges people money, and after the trophies and the hall are paid for, he keeps the rest. Some racket!.....But who cares really, after all, weren't they all awarded in Hollywood. A dream come true. Now when they watch the "real" thing on TV, they will all be able to relate. Just then, Sabrina's bracelet got caught in her hair piece as she went to place her tea cup on it's saucer. Her hair piece came flying off her head and lay limp in her lap like some deflated furry animal. It was just as I suspected, she looked better with out it. She was stricken, her wide eyes darting left and then right to observe who might have seen her hairpiece fly in her lap. What I thought was really unusual was, she had named her hairpiece! She called it Fifi! Lord have mercy on Tinsel Town!

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