By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Linda Serraris > Bartender > Red Lion Tavern
Photographed by Ted Soqui
I’ve been working at the Red Lion for one year, and working as a bartender for about five years. Before that I was working in a law office as a legal assistant. I quit to go back to school and have some freedom. Working here is a lot like working at Disneyland — you have to get into character. The bar has something special about it. We call it jokingly “the diner at the end of the galaxy.” The dirndl skirt is a requirement, except on the patio during the wintertime, then we’re allowed to wear pants. I don’t have any complaints about the dirndl. It keeps your clothes from getting soiled — with kegs and stuff, the beer can get all over your clothes.
One friend of mine went to a party after work in her dirndl, and there was a girl there in suede pants and leather boots who said, “I love your outfit!” So she said, “Really? Let’s trade!” So they swapped outfits, and my friend got to wear the leather, and this tough girl walked around in her dirndl skirt all night.
We do everything — we bar-back ourselves, we stock, we keep track. I take turns with the other girls bartending and waitressing. I can carry three plates. One on my forearm, one in the other hand and one in the hand by itself. Some girls can carry four — they stack ’em like Shiva. They make me jealous.
There’s something really great about working in the service industry. If you’re someplace in your head and don’t really feel grounded, to actually do manual labor brings you back into yourself. And you get to not just meet people, but really getpeople. People come in here to just sit and be and ponder life. We’re serving anesthesia and saying it’s going to be okay. If you don’t feel like talking, you don’t have to, but it’ll affect the bar that night. It’s better to be on, and pour a magical elixir over the crowd.
Enrique Banuelos > Barber > Banuelos Barber Shop
Photo by Larry Hirshowitz
I give a no-frills haircut. Mostly men come in here who want a haircut and that’s it, nothing else. That’s what they get in a barbershop. I charge $9.50 and up. Most are repeat customers I’ve had for 30 years. I’ve watched them grow up, some of them, or grow old. Some of the guys came in here with a lot of hair and now they don’t have so much. Some of them now have hair growing in places it shouldn’t — nose, ears, eyebrows. Everywhere but upstairs.
Years ago, I worked in catering at the Miramar Hotel. I was the assistant manager there, and I used to close up. I made good money. But I wasn’t home until 3 a.m. on weekends, and my wife said, “Hey, what about me? The money’s all right, but I’d rather have you here.” My wife is a cosmetologist herself. She works on hair, too. So I went to school to become a barber.
You don’t see too many barbershops anymore. The hair-salon business has done damage to the barber industry. I do just about okay. Anybody who works with their hands won’t become a millionaire, but I do a little better than some because my wife and I do everything — cleaning, bookkeeping, everything. That way I don’t have to pay taxes and employee costs and all that. It’s a lot simpler.
I enjoy the talking to people, the laughter around here, the B.S. about sports and all that. But mostly I just enjoy my independence. After all these years, it would be hard for me to go to work for someone else. I don’t think I could do it again.
Jody Hutchins > Best-Boy/Grip > IATSE Local 80 Photographed by Jack Gould In the old days, the ’30s, the guys from the studios would go down to the docks and hire guys there. They’d go down and say, “Come on over to MGM tomorrow and bring your best boy.” So that’s where “best boy” comes from. The early grips would carry these bags, called “grip and gos,” with all their tools in them. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
My job is mostly manual labor, but it also entails ordering and taking care of the equipment, hiring and firing the crew, and delegating tasks. The best boy is the lieutenant of the grips, and the key grip is the general. I fell into this job six years ago and decided that I liked it. I wasn’t seeking to be a grip, I didn’t go to film school, or any school. I had a friend who was working on a movie, and it was low-budget, straight-to-video, and they needed a guy. I went in and worked cheap and hard.
Grips do rigging — we put the camera anywhere you want it, on a motorcycle or on a boat, or off the edge of the cliff. I like rigging on the fly, and using ingenuity and whatever I have to do the job. Sometimes it’s kind of a MacGyver situation — say we’ve got our truck full of gear and the director comes up with an idea, “Let’s put the camera under the car” or “Drop it down an elevator shaft.” And we see what we’ve got, and what it takes to do it, and usually we do it. Directors are sometimes unrealistic about what can be done, but we usually pull it off anyway.
I’m currently working on a cable series. You generally start out on independent films and go on to TV, then Spielberg calls. TV is good work, but independent films are a little harder. On an independent film you’ve got a director and producer who have vision, and they don’t care if they don’t sleep, don’t get paid, and run up their credit cards. But for all the technicians this is a job, the way they make their living.
I work long hours, about 250 days a year. I worked 80 hours last week. I’m the first there and the last to leave. Sometimes it can be dangerous. Generally, when you hear of someone dying or getting injured on a film, at least half the time it’s a grip. That guy who was killed on The X-Fileswas a grip, and those guys on that Disney movie who got electrocuted. I’ve never seen a bad injury, but backs go out — it’s a pretty physical job. And I’ve heard that grips die within five years of retirement.
I’d like to be done by 50, and be into some other thing. Maybe designing rigs, or selling custom rigs. I never was much for movies, and I’m still not, really. I’m not a big movie guy. But I like what I do.
Kathie Kadziauskas & Buck Holiday > Crime-Scene Cleaners > AAA Crime Scene Steam and Clean
Photographed by Robert Yager
Six years ago, a friend of mine in Chicago had a friend who shot himself, and one of the things he had to deal with was how to clean up. I thought, this is something a family should never have to do, and when they asked me to come over and help, I did. When I got back to California in 1994, I checked around to see whether anyone else was doing it. I was astonished that no one was. I always had an entrepreneurial kind of bent, so I started a business.
Some of the jobs really get to us, especially the ones that involve children, or the ones that are particularly senseless. Most of our jobs involve suicides, and sometimes you’re standing there just like the family, saying, “My God. This person had everything. What would drive them to this?”
Sometimes the jobs are just really, really, really gross, like a lot of blood and body fluids. One time we had to go into this house that was a trash house. The guy was still alive in the house, but he hadn’t had plumbing for three years. All of the toilets were full; he was using the bathtub as a toilet and also defecating in the backyard in piles. That job took us two 10-hour days.
Every job we do is a biohazard, and the State of California considers what we clean up medical waste. There are a lot of physical dangers — Hepatitis B and C, meningitis, tuberculosis — so we go into a job wearing Tyvek® water-repellant suits. We’re protected head to toe, and everybody has their shots.
I worry more about the emotional effects of the job than the physical hazards. We always have a debriefing at the end of the day when we can all talk about what we saw and shake out the cobwebs. I have a crew, and I have crew chiefs, and when I start burning out on a job, I just send my crew chiefs out and take a break. And if it gets to them, I do the same thing. But there’s also a lot of satisfaction in this work. You have a really positive, immediate impact on someone’s horrible situation. When we’re on a job, there’s nobody in the world they want to see more than us, but once we’re done, they never want to see us again.Continued...