By Hillel Aron
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By Jill Stewart
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Paul Sapiano’s condo off Vine is the most pimped-out pad to be found in Hollywood since Austin Powers wrapped. Faux-gold statues of King Tut stand on glass shelves; crystal chandeliers hang from high ceilings. The walls are papered with purple-velvet paisley swirls offset against a lighter maroon background. The only thing bigger than the big-screen TV in the living room is Sapiano’s shiny black (with gold rims) 1970 Lincoln Continental, which sits in the parking lot below the building.
Sapiano is the director of The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down, which plays June 30 through July 6 at the Regent Showcase Theater on La Brea Avenue after debuting earlier this week at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He invited me to his pad because “that’s where things begin” — things, in this case, being a tour of the film’s subject matter. Guide is a portrait of Hollywood’s club scene broken into vignettes with titles like “A Fool and his Baggie are soon separated” and “Fauxmosexuals” that provide the neophyte scenesters with such advice as the correct technique for suffocating a coked-out blabbermouth with a plastic bag.
These were hard-earned lessons for the 34-year-old Sapiano, a dapper Englishman in white pants, a white V-neck sweater and a thick gold chain. The aspiring director came to California because “growing up in England I thought Hollywood had the most chicks, the most money and the easiest work.” Only that work turned out to be doing commercials — bladder-control drug spots primarily — which Sapiano found, oddly, less than fulfilling. So he compensated with partying, more partying, and even more partying. While he still has plenty desire to party, he also wanted to prove to his mother that a decade’s worth of clubbing wasn’t meaningless. “Now I can say, ‘See, Mom, see the film, it wasn’t a waste, it was all research.’ ”
We start at CineSpace, which is appropriate because Sapiano shot here, among other nearby locales. The bitchy doorman who hassles those coke-fueled frat boys in Guide is the same bitchy doorman who whisks us past those same coke-fueled frat boys. Inside, beautiful people parade by to offer hugs and hellos. Many of them, and many more we’ll soon meet, invested in Sapiano’s film. It was supposed to cost 400 grand and ended up costing over a million, meaning Sapiano is mortgaged to his eyeballs and terrified to boot. “That shiny big car you saw in my parking garage,” says Sapiano, “if this shit doesn’t work, I’ll be living in it next year.”
While Sapiano busily introduces me to several hundred of his closest friends, I overhear a buxom blonde with so many piercings she looks like she was recently attacked by fishing tackle proclaiming, “I know, it’s not very punk-rock of me, but really I wish I had bought them just a half size bigger.” Soon after that, a Flock of Seagulls–type fellow leans against the bar and says, “Look, he’s cousin to the brother of the brother of Mark Ruffalo.”
On the way to Star Shoes, Sapiano tells me the golden rule: “Clubs east of Cahuenga good, west of Cahuenga bad.” With “bad” being defined as “those assholes west of here won’t let you sit down unless you buy a table and a bottle and that’s just fucked.”
I must have shaken 100 hands tagging along with Sapiano. But just when I’m getting cynical, and starting to think that if one’s goal is to become Hollywood club royalty — to be able to skip lines, get high and get laid — then making a film in real clubs and casting more than 180 real clubbers is a pretty good way to go about it, Sapiano claps his hands together in obvious appreciation and shouts: “Look at them, all these kids just look so damn happy. Look at those tattoos. They’re just all trying so damn hard to figure out who they are and how they want to be in this world.”