By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
Rosie describes herself as the Oakwood’s Auntie Mame, though the kids may see it a bit differently. “No matter what event you go to, she’s always there announcing things,” says Elyse. “I think the kids fear Rosie more than they fear the security guards. She has a microphone in her office in the North Clubhouse, and it’s like the voice of God telling us to be quiet.”
A good number of recent divorcées who are seeking comfort in the Oakwoods’ fully furnished units, and the occasional top-level Fortune 500 executive in the process of relocating, also call the local Oakwood complexes (there are a dozen in greater L.A.) home.
Oh yeah, and of course there’s the Mumbler. “We’ve got a lot of weird old people here,” explains Brittany Robertson, a shockingly petite 12-year-old with a gorgeous face, who has just done a national Mattel commercial and a independent feature called The Ghost Club, on which Elyse happened to be a production assistant. “We got one real mean guy that just hangs around all day and mumbles. He’s all, ‘blah, blah, blah, TV’s-out-of-order, mumble, mumble, mumble.’”
Hallee’s father, Mike Hirsh, a 56-year-old, retired Marine lieutenant colonel, who now dedicates his days to shuffling his daughter to auditions and sets, says that there’s a good side and bad side to living inside the gated community. “The good side is it’s a lot of kids that are like-minded and quasi-protected. You don’t feel bad about them running around the Oakwood at night, the security guards know them. The downside is the backstabbing. It’s a little Peyton Place.”
Along those lines, Caitlyn confesses that when she first arrived, “The core kids weren’t all that impressed. They were like, ‘Oh, she’s just one of the pilot-season kids, she’s just gonna be here for a little while and leave.’”
“She was a bit overwhelming at first,” admits Elyse, who next week starts work on a low-budget horror movie, in which she gets to slit her own throat.
“For some reason we started to really respect her,” says Hallee, slurping from a large iced mocha at Priscilla’s, a Riverside Drive ice cream and coffee shop that offers a safe haven for the vehicle-less Oakwood kids who thrive on sugar, caffeine and Ms. Pac Man. Priscilla’s would make the most excellent location for a TV show: It’s very Friends-y, very prime time, filled with former soap stars, chess players, and acting students from the studio next door.
“It was amazing, the main reason was, she was very persistent. She knew we didn’t like her and she didn’t just give up. She just kept following us around and saying, ‘I’m Caker.’ And now she is like the coolest one here.”
“We have a lot of cool conversations, I swear to God,” Hallee assures with another slurp. “You’ve got to hear us at like 4 in the morning.”
“Do you guys have crushes on any of the guys around here? What about that cutie behind the counter?”
“I don’t like him,” says “Caker,” casting her eyes dramatically to the floor. “He wouldn’t give me free gelato.”
“He wouldn’t accept her flirt,” says Elyse. “That’s all you need to know about Caker.”
“Some people would say I’m a slut, but I’m a flirt,” Caker explains, licking a chocolate gelato–filled spoon clean.
“What’s the difference?”
“Sluts sleep with the people they flirt with. I just think it’s funny.”
“We’re exaggerating, it’s not that bad,” says Elyse, who shared a two-bedroom at the Oakwood this pilot season with a 12-year-old and her grandma.
This afternoon, a number of regulars will drop by the girl’s small round table: “Mitch,” a “writer” who used to live in Maui and now lives in his van with his dog; “Mark,” who last week pitched the girls a celebrity cooking show idea that featured Ricky Martin; and Luke, Frankie Muniz and a leggy Canadian named Jessica who had a bit part in Muniz’s film Agent Cody Banks. One of Luke’s other best friends, 18-year-old Chris Marquette, who plays Linderman in Freddy vs. Jason, and who looks eerily like a mini–John Cusack, will also do a swing-by.
One of the other aspects of life at the Oakwood that can add to its Peyton Placeness, or worse yet, Survivor-like quality, is that everyone doesn’t always achieve the same level of success at the same time. For example, two of Luke’s best friends, Chris and Frankie, both of whom Hallee has known since she was a little kid, have been working nonstop recently, whereas Luke hasn’t booked an acting gig in a while.
“I’m so happy for them,” says Luke, sincerely. “It’s wonderful. But when all my good friends are working and stuff, it’s difficult. It’s true, to some extent it’s trashed my self-esteem. But, obviously, I have enough faith in myself to be out here doing what I’m doing. It’s sort of that spine-of-steel mentality.” Luke admits there is also an art to dealing with those who have achieved less than yourself professionally.