Why H’wood resists R&R

Driven by insecurity, anxiety and workaholic instincts, Hollywood’s denizens keep grinding through summer while the rest of the world frolics on holiday.

Here’s the dirty little secret about August: It’s the most dreaded month of the year. In Hollywood, that is.

In Paris, of course, everything’s already shut down for summer. Even the waiters and cab drivers are on holiday because there are no American tourists to abuse. The Germans are all in Italy, the Italians in Sardinia, and the Brits are scattered across the globe.

All this only further depresses those left in Hollywood. They know the rest of the world covets summer vacation. They also know it’s downright restorative to lie on a beach with a good book. But, by and large, they can’t spur themselves to get out of town.

Of course, they aren’t alone.

Americans as a whole are shaving vacation time, in contrast to their Euro brethren. New data suggests that at least one quarter of all Americans take no vacation at all.

Statistics of this sort are misleading, to be sure: Given the current economy, most people don’t take vacations because they don’t have a job.

Denizens of Hollywood, however, have unique rationalizations for avoiding vacations or reducing them to a three-day weekend. I had lunch with an agent last week who acknowledged he was simply too insecure to take a holiday.

“What if a client had a crisis and I wasn’t around?” he asked defensively.

He quickly added that he wouldn’t know what to do on vacation anyway. Indeed, the very thought of vacation sends him into a panic. A silent cell phone is more threatening than a SARS scare.

Another agent insisted that he’s found the perfect vacation spot: the Hamptons. Everyone on the beach is reading a script. There are more deals closed at Hamptons cocktail parties than during lunch at the Grill. Steven Spielberg spends his time looking at dailies. After a week in the Hamptons, says this agent, he can tell people that he’s been away when, in truth, he’s managed to work even harder.

Now that’s Hollywood’s idea of vacation heaven!

Given this negative impetus, it’s easy to find excuses to avoid taking a holiday. Entertainment is a year-around industry, after all. Pilots are shooting. Movies are starting up. The studios are opening their summer blockbusters.

Since careers are on the line, who wants to go away?

The answer, of course, is that it’s always possible to get away if you’re truly motivated to do so. Indeed, Hollywood would be a lot less grumpy if vacations were mandated.

Someone has to take the leadership to make this happen, however.

If CAA alone announced it was shutting down for the last two weeks of August, the entire town might follow suit. Skip Brittenham would promptly go fly-fishing. Wolfgang Puck would stop opening new restaurants. Chuck would stop parking cars. Nate ‘n Al would go on safari to hunt wild pastrami. By Labor Day, everyone’s attitude toward life would be a lot healthier.

Come to think of it, I should take a vacation, too.

Do I have to?

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