Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Piece of Cake

I was watching one of the Bourne movies the other night. I don't remember which version, but it was the one where Jason Bourne takes out three guys in the span of 1.6 seconds. Anyway, I happened to catch the end credits.

Turns out one of the Executive Producers was Frank Marshall. That name rang a bell and now you're about to find out why.

Before I found my niche in life as a Corporate Word Prostitute ("Wanna go on the air tonight?" "I'll show you my call to action" "How about a half and half? Half manifesto, half anthemic spot?") I was a kitchen manager at Cowboy-themed restaurant in West LA. We did ribs, chicken and steak on a huge open air display BBQ. People would literally line up on Santa Monica Blvd. waiting to get in.

My boss was smart enough to capitalize on this popularity by renting out the restaurant for private events, mostly movie wrap parties.

The first film we did was Poltergeist. It was a huge affair with more than 300 guests, including Steven Spielberg. Not to mention the kids who starred in the movie, many of whom strangely died at an early age.

Also strange, at least to this young ex-New Yorker, were some of the rituals that took place at every Frank Marshall wrap party. You see, before the shindig had started, a crew from a Hollywood bakery showed up with a delivery. They had in their van, a giant sheet cake. How big, you ask. The cake literally had to be brought in on an old door. It was 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. And took four grown men to carry.

I suppose a cake that large made sense if everybody in the party were to get a piece of the Black Forest Chocolate Cake. But they didn't.

As was their custom, after dinner Frank Marshall would address the cast and crew. He'd thank them for their efforts. He'd perform a little amateur magic, to the delight of all who had seen it a hundred times before. And then the cake would be brought out and placed in front of him. Just before he would make the first ceremonial cut, two production assistants would run up behind Frank and push him, face first, into the oversized sheet cake.

Frank would flail around in the cake until chocolate, whip cream and strawberries found their way into every crevice on his body. He would act surprised, but everyone in the room, with the exception of yours truly, knew it was coming. And they howled accordingly.

It was Hollywood's equivalent of the bucket of Gatorade toss on the head coach.

It didn't make sense to me then, but it does make sense to me now.

Sure, no one got a taste of the cake --the busboys and I might have snagged a piece that didn't get trampled -- but the crowd got something even more delicious, a moment of our sheer exuberance and laughter.

These days, Hollywood, advertising, and business in general, are all ruled by the bean counters, the cost analyzers and the fun-sucker-outters. I doubt very much that a line item for a $3000 cake, that would never get eaten, would pass the budget gestapo.

And that's the real shame.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Yeah, can you imagine Mr. Bean of the procurement department approving a giant cake? "I suppose we could do a box yellow cake, no frosting." It's gotten so bad that a certain client I worked with actually had procurement choose a photographer. Not from choices we gave them mind you. They got to pick any photographer they wanted. I suppose I should just be happy we didn't end up with the Sears Portrait Studio.