April 06, 2005

Hollywood Glossary

During a group discussion via e-mail, a pal of mine wrote:

“I don't really pay attention to any celebrity culture (except maybe music) and part of the reason is that you hear and read stuff and you know there is more to it, but the publicists spin it and you don't know what is what. For example, I really did think that the one Olsen was exhausted and had an eating disorder. Drugs never did cross my naive mind.”

Hollywood has always had its own vocabulary; special phrases that read all innocent to those of us browsing People in a grocery line, but serve as secret code to those in show business. As the decades fly by, the exact meaning of Industry short-hand changes slightly, but the gist remains the same.

For example, in 1930’s Hollywood, an actress suffering from “exhaustion” was recovering from an abortion. By the 1950’s, she was a drunk sent to a dry-out tank. By the 1970s she was a coke head sent to rehab, and in 2005 she’s…well, still a coke head, but most likely under legal drinking age (of which she also does way too much of).

Deciphering this arcane language is possible if you are a student of Hollywood history (Rock Hudson euphemisms fill a text book), or have a good memory about what was originally said in the press vs. what is revealed in their autobiography 15 years later. Here’s my first pass at the Hollywood Dictionary; additional phrases will be added as they make themselves apparent.

Exhaustion = cocaine or problem drinker

Haven't even seen coke = stopped using it and gained some weight

Flu = oxycontin or vicodin

Food poisoning = heroin

Eating disorder = near-lethal doses of prescription drugs and non-prescription narcotics

Pneumonia = AIDS

Confirmed bachelor = he’s gay

Eternal bachelor = he’s bi-sexual

Gal Pal = her lesbian lover

(The actor) cares about the craft of acting, always asking questions = the actor was a difficult little psycho

I wrote the part with (blank) in mind = I’m kissing ass to keep sole screenwriting credit

Best work I’ve ever done = this movie is going to tank, and I’ll be trashing it on the press junket for my next movie

My most challenging role = director/co-star was an ass hat

I’m basically shy = I was forced to do this interview

I don’t read about myself = my publicist does that and summarizes for me

I don’t watch my own movies = I obsess over every little detail of me in the movie

Nothing is more important than my children = journalist’s question reminded me I have some

When my time is up, I’ll go gracefully = I just got a brilliant new agent who’ll make sure that never happens

I want to direct = On the set, I get so bored, like, sitting in the trailer all day, and wouldn’t it be cool to have something to do? like, telling actors what to do? I could do that, right?

I’ve just started my own production company so as to have more control = Rather than my agent doing it, I’ll actually read a few of the scripts that are sent to me, and then I'll buy cool furniture for my "business office." Oh, and it's all tax deductible!

Young Actor: I plan to take time off to go to college and get a degree = Hey, it worked for Jodie Foster, and I'm as smart as her, right?

30-something actor: I’d never do plastic surgery; I want to age naturally = I’ve recently begun a regime of subtle nips, tucks and injections.

Television Actors: I love coming to the set. We’re like one big, happy family = I wish every one of them would get busted for “exhaustion.”