The Stuff of Dreams

The following text, first published in the Daily Telegraph, has been written by Stephen Fry, british actor, novelist and writer of articles for magazines, newspapers and radio. It contains more than 110 ( a hundred and ten ) American film titles, dating up to 1990 or so...

Welcome to L.A. This above all is a place stranger than paradise. Being there, with Sunset Boulevard around the Corner, one cannot help but run the gauntlet of emotions from intolerance to suspicion and fury. It's a wonderful life, to live and die in L.A., but I confess to feeling that I am an alien amongst aliens in an alien nation. It is angel city but I'm no angel.

From sunrise to sunset the blue skies shelter people carefree, rich and famous, or at least rich and strange; they shelter scenes of notorious wealth and power, interiors and estates where even the gardeners wear livery. But the awful truth is that there is a different story, for the sun also rises on ordinary people, on the misfits scarred by poverty; on loveless, violent streets and on the men and the women who find themselves cornered like the rats they are treated as. They are the outsiders, missing out on the real glory.

Call me indiscreet, but I wake up screaming and breathless when I think of how this deranged bedlam teeters on the edge of sanity: pet parfumeries, bra museums, outdoor air-conditionning, a wedding for dogs, all done without a trace of irony, by the beautiful people of this over the top heaven.

When the adventurers of the past, the gold diggers, first decided to go west to the promised land, the general idea was to find the motherlode. Things change: the descendants of these explorers still share this frantic greed, but it has turned into an indecent obsession with the mirage of fame. They are given over to it hearts and mind, body and soul, flesh and blood. Los Angeles is not of this earth; it's a boom town for dreams that money can buy. Everyone believes with the burning frenzy of the moonstruck that they too can make a splash and become a giant legend, if only fortune deigns to smile. The conversation you pick up from the starstruck lounge lizard and the beguiled barfly always revolves around hitting the big time or the struggle of keeping up the desperate mask of pretence that they have already jumped on the bandwagon of easy money and easy living. Family life, security, every normal impulse is sacrificed one by one in this ruthless quest for miracles.

It's not a safe place; the crazies and ruthless people who run it show no mercy, they hire and fire with caprice and in cold blood. They hold nothing sacred but the sweet smell of success. The verdict of future generations will probably be harsh. I could go on singing the dispraises of Los Angeles for ever, but I'm on dangerous ground because, bananas as it may sound, I love this magic town.

I forget who first exposed the natural truth that if you look hard enough beneath the surface tinsel of Hollywood you find... more tinsel, but he overlooked the city's saving grace. In the end, the real genius of Hollywood is that the tinsel is perfect tinsel. The producers at work in the glitter dome may only turn out trash, but it's model trash. They have already turned alchemy inside out and discovered the formula for the most important of secrets: taking real gold, dull and useless as it is, and transforming it into the shining dross that millions like us need: the stuff of dreams.

And here... the solution !