Daily Breeze, March 22, 2002

(Missed) Adventures with Corey

The stories behind the stories you didn't read

 

BY COREY LEVITAN

ILLUSTRATION BY TOM SORENSEN/DAILY BREEZE

 

      It's been a year since I began this column -- a year of flying planes, racing cars and trying my hand at gangsta rap.

      But my greatest adventures weren't had strapping into an Indy pace car without knowing how to stick-shift, or trying to get a Cessna off the ground with no flying lessons.

      They were had trying to get nearly all these ideas, and dozens more, off the ground.

      You'd think people wouldn't mind doing essentially nothing in exchange for a front-page feature article advertising their business, seen by more than 100,000 potential customers across L.A.

      But even the columns that made it to print were touch-and-go for weeks, requiring more pitch meetings and reassurance calls than the next TV series from a former cast member of "Seinfeld."

      "I promise you, the only person who gets made fun of is me," I invariably ended up repeating, even after sending tens of my previous columns demonstrating that sad fact.

      This is the story of the stories that didn't make it that far.

      For me, the most disappointing was my missed adventure working at Hot Dog on a Stick, a snack chain I pursued more doggedly than Hank Aaron baseball cards in the third grade.

      Serving people always makes a good read. You get to interact with real characters, and there's a lot you can screw up when you aren't trained properly (as time constraints insure I never am).

      But serving people while dressed like a freak is my Holy Grail. A big, colorful hat and skimpy shorts? Hot dog, indeed!

      For 6 months I called the Hot Dog on a Stick at the Del Amo Fashion Center at least twice a week, asking girlie-voiced high school students if I could talk to their manager. The manager, whose name was different every time, was never available.

      "Umm, we're busy now," the voice usually said. "And how did you get this number? It's unlisted."

      I'm a journalist, I explained. I'm omniscient and evil.

      Finally, during one lucky late-night call, I nabbed a manager. Although Melanie said she had to clear it with corporate first (usually an "Adventures With Corey" death knell), she seemed game and proceeded to conduct a pre-interview over the phone.

      "Do you have any tattoos?" she inquired. "If you do, you'll have to cover them up to work here."

      I have no tattoos. There's no point, since you couldn't see them through my thick body hair.

      "Do you have any thick body hair?" she asked. (I know. What a coincidence!)

      My arms and legs are so hirsute, they resemble breaded chicken parts when I'm at the beach.

      "Do you have a bushy beard?"

      Wait a minute. Was I applying for a job or answering a computer dating ad placed by a female with creepily specific hair issues?

      Melanie wrapped up the interview.

      "The Hot Dog on a Stick uniform is our special trademark," Melanie said. "Why do you want to wear it?"

      I told her that my columns always come out better when I'm dressed the part. That way, I can really do a good job and give the best level of customer service possible.

      Yeah, that's right, I gave the hot-dog chick a load of bologna. And I'm pretty sure she bought it. I began practicing my "the condiments are over there" speech.

      But when the application Melanie promised wasn't in the mail a week later, I called to see what was up.

      "Oh, Melanie doesn't work here anymore," a girlie-voiced high school student said.

      Perhaps she was fired for missing a spot while waxing her legs.

      A consoling soul told me she remembered once seeing someone dressed as a hot dog in front of the Wienerschnitzel in Redondo Beach. It was a distant runner up to Hot Dog on a Stick as far as conducting costumed frankfurter business. But at least it would allow me to riff more with the customers. (Remember the episode of "Sex and the City" where that walking sandwich got fresh -- and not just "Subway fresh" -- with Miranda?)

      "Hi, I'm calling from the Daily Breeze," I said to the woman who answered the phone at the big W.

      "Hold on," she said. Within 20 seconds another woman informed me: "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and try again."

      I rang back.

      "Hi, I must have gotten disconnected, I'm calling from the Daily Br----" was all I could get out before getting hung up on again.

      I called back. I was starting to enjoy this game.

      "We're not buying any ads!" screamed the woman. "Now stop calling here!"

      Later, I learned that Wienerschnitzel has no hot-dog person standing in front of that restaurant, at least none it pays to do that.

      Then it dawned on me: If I'm already talking body-hair removal and dressing up to look foolish, why not go all the way?

      Texas Loosey's is a Torrance eatery where waitresses in shockingly less-than-complete cowgirl outfits serve mostly male patrons with shockingly less-than-complete sets of teeth.

      Hey, the only person who gets made fun of is me IF THE COLUMN GETS WRITTEN. But these columns never did.

      The manager I met with at Texas Loosey's, Pedro, was supportive. Understanding the publicity value of having a good sense of humor, he gave me the green light to put on the red light.

      But the owner of Texas Loosey's was considerably less loosey-goosey.

      "We take our costume very seriously and don't want to denigrate it," he told me. (Apparently, he has never seen his company's costume.)

      "Every Halloween I have hundreds of requests for people to rent it, and I have never let them," he continued.

      Still, this doesn't top the most unexpected blow-off I ever received -- at least outside of my romantic life. The ultra-mod lobby at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood features a "Slaughterhouse Five"-like glass cage, with carpeting and a mattress. Inside, either a good-looking female or male model pretends to go about bedroom activities as though not in the middle of a hotel lobby.

      I've seen the models variously sleeping or reading books, sometimes in their underwear. And I've often fantasized about the comedic activities I could pretend to go about as though not in the middle of a hotel lobby.

      But, after numerous phone calls requesting to be that model, a publicist responded with this email: "The vitrine is not available for things like this, unless you have a budget for a location fee, which would be approximately $500 to use it for two hours. Let me know what you think and I will see what I can do."

      Hey, at least I learned a new word, vitrine. I'll be sure to use it during my first adventure as a pretentious person.

      I also wanted to write about takingstandup comedy coach Judy Carter's class,after which graduates get to perform on stage at the Improv in West Hollywood.

      I already wrote some killer material.

      "Why aren't the sinks on the outside of public restrooms?" I penned. "You stand there soaping your hands to kill the germs, then dry off with a nice, clean paper towel. For what? So you can grab the handle on the door touched by everyone who didn't wash their hands?"

      OK, so it wasn't killer. But there was no losing. Either I killed, or I had a funny article about getting killed.

      "Come down and take our free class and see what we're about," Carter emailed me.

      I did, and the presentation was cool. But afterward, I asked Carter how I could sign up for the course without paying the $500 fee.

      "You can't," she said. I explained that I had no budget for these articles, that I'm lucky my paper even lets me write them, and that the exposure they offered was worth more than $500 in advertising to her.

      "I'm sorry, but we just don't have room in the classes for a freebie," Carter said.

      I had my revenge, though. I happened to be in the Improv audience weeks later, when Chris Rock showed up during one of Carter's graduation ceremonies. He was trying out new material and wondered aloud why the club was so packed for a Monday night.

      "They're teaching comedy?!" Rock screamed. "You can't TEACH comedy! How much you pay for this class?"

      Someone screamed, "four ninety-five!"

      "Four hundred ninety-five dollars or four dollars and ninety-five cents?" Rock asked, continuing his harangue. "Who is teaching this class? Judy who? Who the hell is that? If you're paying her $500, I can probably get $5000 a pop!"

      "Chris knows very well who I am," I overheard Carter mumble to a friend later.

      Although I walked in woefully lacking a professional comedy degree, my audition for the TV show "Blind Date" had to be one of the funniest of all time. That tape is probably at the center of a shrine in their production office by now. I followed every rule of bad taste I know they love, since the guys they pick are always jerks bent on expressing their desire for sex within five minutes of knocking on the girl's front door.

      "The way to get it is to pretend you don't want it," I said.

      But "Blind Date" never called back. My friends doubt it was because I was too much of a jerk. (That's impossible.) It's because I admitted to being a journalist.

      And that's too bad, because I was tailor-made for "Blind Date." Even on my real dates, I see balloons pop up with those bloopy sounds whenever I open my mouth.

      Fortunately, there were still adventures for the taking in TV land. When I read that the corpses lying around the funeral home in "Six Feet Under" are molds of actual people, I wanted to be one -- to write about how it feels to lie still while the plaster hardens, then see my death likeness sliced into on primetime HBO.

      Actually, it was one of the show's producers who ended up doing the stabbing, into my idea. But at least there was no pain. Executive types in Hollywood make their living by rejecting creative types, so they know how to finesse it.

      "That's a great idea," said the woman. "But those are real actors who pose for those molds. You wouldn't happen to be in SAG, would you?"

      I should have joined the Screen Actors Guild that day, whatever the dues, just so I could have had my corpse mold made.

      Then I should have slapped a Texas Loosey's outfit on it and sneaked it into the Standard Hotel vitrine, where I could have asked people in the lobby whether they thought my crossdressing twin brother looked ill after eating a Wienerschnitzel hot dog.

      Now THAT would have been an adventure with Corey.

 

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