My dad was the first assistant director on Lebowski, and I remember walking into a big warehouse where they were filming a fantastical dream sequence. Leggy girls with headdresses made of bowling pins stood in a line, and the cameraman lay on a skateboard, rolling between the girls’ legs and shooting upward. So this is what my dad does all day long. I remember feeling small. Very small.
I remember crazy parrots flying around the set of Paulie. My dad introduced me to the stars: Jay Mohr, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, and Cheech Marin. Then I hung out in the shadows and watched them make movies. Hallie Kate, who was younger than I was, sat nearby reciting lines and making best friends with her costar, a green parrot. I had to leave by 5:00 p.m. to do my homework.
My dad ventured back into television with Chicago Hope, the medical drama. Pretty soon, Adam Arkin was starting to know my name. His daughter and I became friends. One day, Hector Elizondo bought the coffee truck for the day, and drinks were on him. My dad couldn’t step away from the set, so Hector walked with me to the truck for a hot chocolate. Walking around the Fox lot with a TV star was pretty cool. I was ten. It was awesome. Mandy Patinkin was also on Hope. He was nice, but the coolest part of my dad working on that show was getting a LaserDisc copy of The Princess Bride signed by Inigo Montoya himself.
One morning I met Sally Field. She was so little. All I could think was, Oh, my God. I am shaking hands with Forrest Gump’s mom! When I met Gary Sinise, I had a little déjà vu: Oh, my God. I am shaking Lieutenant Dan’s hand.
After a while, they just become people. Meeting celebrities is still cool, but when your dad is kind of a big shot on set, you learn to control your excitement.
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The first time I went to Pacific Beach, I fell in love. I walked up and down Garnet Avenue and couldn’t believe this was where I wound up. Why didn’t I do this sooner?
L.A. is too Hollywood and too fast paced. San Diego is our escape from the gross city. We find relief on the beautiful beaches.
Los Angeles is full of small-town transplants who come looking for a flashy role on the big screen. They have high hopes of something fabulous. They buy their first pair of heels, their first pair of designer sunglasses; they get a fresh haircut and take some headshots. They’re ready to be famous. Growing up in Los Angeles, you know that doesn’t happen.
On set with my dad, I’ve watched the extras do their thing. They sit in the baking sun, waiting for the PA to tell them to line up and walk 12 feet across the shot and get paid 80 bucks. That’s their big break. So, they call their family and best friends and tell them to make sure they tune in to Grey’s Anatomy to see their big break, only to find out their scene has been cut. Or that guy in the red shirt with his back to the camera is what they got out of it.
I could have started as a PA, making photocopies. I could have spent my days living in the shadow of my father and grandfather. I could have been running around making sandwiches with the crusts cut off for the latest TV star and going to get Pinkberry for the next big name.
But I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to make my own mark in the world. I wanted to stand alone and not be successful just because of my last name.
Working in the industry wasn’t for me. I needed something new.
Where L.A. is full of new arrivals with high hopes of stardom, San Diego is full of new arrivals with high hopes of big surf. People are here to relax. They want to smoke some reefer and chill. L.A. is so not-chill. L.A. is full of busybodies and Bluetooths.
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When I was old enough to spend the entire day on set with my dad, he was at the Los Angeles Police Academy, next to Dodger Stadium. It was the breeding ground for L.A.’s finest, and he was there filming. My dad had introduced me to Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson earlier in the day. I wasn’t too familiar with Donnie, but when I met Mykelti, all I could think was, Oh, my God, I am shaking Bubba’s hand from Forrest Gump! His bottom lip even jutted out a bit from all those months of playing Bubba.
While the crew was setting the next scene, Donnie and Mykelti were standing around. Donnie walked over to me and took my hand.
“What was your name again, sweetie?”
“Hayley,” I replied coyly.
My cheeks flushed because, well, let’s face it, those Wahlbergs are an attractive bunch.
He took me in his arms and started twirling me around. We were ballroom dancing in the middle of a shooting range. He was singing “Hayyyyyley, Hayyyyyleyyy” as we spun in circles. The crew watched, smiling and laughing. I was getting dizzy, but I didn’t mind because I was in the arms of a handsome man. I tried not to think about my lack of ballroom attire: tan Dickies, a purple tee, and an ugly sweatshirt I loved at the time.
When we finally stopped spinning, Bubba was there to catch me. I was in a celebrity sandwich. And as if they’d planned this all along, the wardrobe guy snapped a Polaroid of Donnie, me, and Bubba with huge smiles on our faces. Everyone cheered. They both hugged me. And then they went back to play kick-ass L.A. cops. Like that was normal.
One hot Los Angeles morning, my dad and I ventured to the Los Angeles Coliseum, where he was on location filming an episode of CSI: NY. Base camp was in the middle of the field. And who was directing this episode? Emilio Estevez. During lunch, he and a couple of crew members were tossing a football back and forth when my dad and I wandered onto the field. As my dad talked to Emilio, someone tossed the ball in Emilio’s direction. He tossed it to me. I tossed it back, saying I wasn’t good at throwing a football.