Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Checked Out Dotcoms

In 1998, a group of frat house flimflam men from Disney Online convinced billionaire grocer Ron Burkle to waste $120 million of his money on a lame-brained new media project buzzworded as an "entertainment portal." Somehow professional hoodwinker Mike Ovitz was involved, but his hare-brained scheme to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles took precedence, and his involvement was nominal at best.

It took about a year-and-a-half for the baseball-cap-cabal to burn through all that other-people's-money on inflated executive salaries and Friday afternoon beer and cake parties, but on the voodoo economics plus side of the equation, they gainfully employed over one hundred otherwise unskilled writers, artists, coders and a French guy named Fabrece.

I was fortunate to be among their numbers as a "Movie Writer." (As opposed to a "Music Writer" or "Gaming Writer" and for a brief period, "Books Writer".) It was the best job job I ever had, although I didn't recognize it as such at the time. I made a decent, steady income watching movies, writing about movies, interviewing people who made movies and drinking at the scotch bar downstairs everyday from 4 to 6 Happy Hour!

My days were spent watching DVDs and writing, and my nights were spent at screenings and premieres, watching the latest theatrical releases. Weekends were consumed with interviews and press junkets and occassionally awards shows and film festivals. They were fifty- to sixty-hour work weeks, but seriously, you call that work?

Then, the flimflam man stopped riding scooters around the office, already on to the next bamboozling. Layoffs started and continued until the company was sold, not for the content, but for the databasing system the coders had developed for inputting, updating and managing content.

Shortly thereafter, the Dotcom Bubble bursted, and hundreds of thousands of unskilled douchebags like me went on the dole, and cush jobs like this disappeared from the landscape for five years, resurfacing only when the technology finally caught up with the fantasies of first-wave Internerds.

But for a brief stint, I made money hand-over-fist doing something I dug. I got to interview Angelina Jolie, Forest Whittaker, Denzel Washington, John Waters, Jim Jarmusch, Vincent D'Onofrio and dozens of others, and even got yelled at by Morgan Freeman. Plus, I met my chick on this gig.