What Bret Easton Ellis's book American Psycho did to materialism and Wall Street power — or, really, what Upton Sinclair did to the meatpacking industry with The Jungle — Los Angeles native Jordan Okun attempts to do to Hollywood with his first novel, L.A. Fadeaway.
While Hollywood certainly has been ridiculed before, this novel is geared toward Entourage fans who cared more about power agent Ari Gold eviscerating his assistant Lloyd than seeing Vincent Chase screw yet another skinny, buxom 20-something.
Set in an unnamed Los Angeles talent agency, it overs all the back-stabbing, verbal abuse and stealing that one must both give and receive to rise from the depths of the mail room to success as an agent. Everything from accounts of water bottles hurled at assistants' heads to instructions to smoke out with a major client are included — not to mention the obvious drugs, in-office affairs and restaurant, bar and celebrity name-dropping that is to be expected.
The novel is narrated by an unnamed, rich 20-something from an industry family (his dad is a studio head) who could be any of the millions of slick, power-hunger kids who are equally skilled at perfecting a designer wardrobe on Mom and Dad's dime or scoring dinner reservations at Dan Tana's and waiting in line at Toast on Sundays as they are at screwing over high school friends and stalking potential clients to get ahead. He and his friends get exorbitantly drunk or stoned near-nightly, go to Laker games to check out the industry members in the audience and obsess over bowel movements, Jillian Barberie's labia, box office scores and executive salaries.
Yet despite all this, author Okun says he still has some friends in the industry.
“The funny thing is my agency friends love it the most,” Okun, who worked in the ICM mail room and as an assistant from 2003 to 2006, says from his home in West Hollywood. “It's such a narcissistic town, of course they do. And I mean the celebrities who've read it who have cameos in it love it. It's disturbing to a lot of them, but I think they really appreciate it. I hope I'm not black-listed. I'm hoping people have a better sense of humor than that.”
Okun says he started writing his novel as journal entries during the end of his ICM tenure as a way of “dealing with that disappointment and knowing” that the agent life — a life he thought he wanted, “wasn't for me … I started writing these first-person passages from the point of view of the kid who would survive in that kind of environment.”
And what does it take to survive in a talent agency?
“At the core, it's just an unbelievable amount of ambition,” says Okun. “This is an incredibly lucrative business, being a talent agent, but you really have to give it your life 24/7, 365. You have to be driven to want to help creative people. I think one of the things I was dealing with when I was there was assisting getting people's jobs, but the kind of jobs that I wanted.”
Okun says he the book is “loosely based” on his family friend who runs the anonymous @AgentTrainee Twitter (who has Tweeted actual or near-actual lines of dialogue from the book) as well as on “a lot of other people's stories that I've read and researched and things I've heard.”
“There's a fair amount that's kind of Hollywood lore that I've kind of heard, but at the end of the day it is fiction,” says Okun. “It is satire. There is a lot of exaggeration and fiction that goes into it. I think people see a lot of different people in different characters, so a lot of it is representational I think.”
L.A. Fadeaway was released September 11. As of this writing, it has yet to be optioned.
Jordan Okun will sign copies at 7 p.m. tonight at Book Soup and at 12:45 p.m. September 30 at the West Hollywood Book Fair.