John Ridley's L.A.
Author, TV and Film Producer Gets the Los Angeles Lowdown

Aug. 6, 2001 New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Los Angeles is the one that's always dreaming. And few dream it better than John Ridley, an NPR commentator and author of several novels including Everyone Smokes in Hell and Love is a Racket. The Oliver Stone film U-Turn was based on his novel, Stray Dogs. Last season, he was a writer and producer on the NBC television series Third Watch.

John Ridley
John Ridley
Photo: Terry Johnson

On Monday, Ridley talks with young screenwriters about L.A. as a writer's town; Tuesday finds him on a tour of a talent agency, from the mail room on up; Wednesday is all about traffic -- on the freeway and below ground on L.A.'s little-known subway system; Thursday's offering is a look at the people who work behind the scenes on the set of a TV series; and finally on Friday, John writes a radio drama based on patrons of a local casino.

Monday - Writer's Town

audio Listen to Ridley's conversation with four L.A.-based writers.

The scene: The Insomnia Cafe on Beverly Blvd. Surrounded by wannabe screenwriters tapping on their laptops, John Ridley chats with four real L.A.-based scribes:

"Los Angeles is just an amazing and incredible place...It competes with New York for diversity and for stimulation and I hate to say culture, but I'm going to say culture."

Julie Hebert, playwright/director

Andrew Reich, co-executive producer for the hit NBC sitcom Friends; Julie Hebert, a playwright and director, currently working on the NBC drama Third Watch; Rob Adetuyi, screenwriter/director, who wrote the story for the film Turn It Up; and Johnny Cho, screenwriter, currently working on several unnamed projects. They talk about what it's like to be a writer in this town. Adetuyi, a native of Canada, sounds very much at home in L.A., and mentions "taking meetings." But Cho confides there's "very little that's glamorous about being a writer."

Tuesday - Talent Agents

audio Listen as Ridley checks in on his talent agency.

John Ridley takes listeners on a tour of his talent agency -- from the bottom up. Elizabeth Yeomans, a wide-eyed intern in the Endeavor Talent Agency mail room, hasn't seen a bad script yet -- but she's only read three so far. Then there's Jason Alisharan, former child actor and now an assistant agent, who is infuriated by Hollywood people who pretend to be more important than they really are. Finally, there's veteran agent Philip Raskind, who doesn't mind telling Ridley what it takes to be a great agent, but who dances around the question of what kind of car he drives.

Wednesday - Traffic Above and Below Ground

audio Listen as Ridley talks cars and mass transit.

Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station
Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station
Photo courtesy L.A. MTA

Speaking of cars, John Ridley visits the Petersen Automotive Museum, home to exotic cars like the Batmobile and Frank Zappa's Rolls-Royce. Museum director Dick Messer says he can't bring himself to sell any of his 12 personal cars. "I talk to my cars... They're part of me," Messer says. Ridley also ventures into the little-known Los Angeles Metro subway system, where people are flocking because of high gasoline prices and traffic congestion. "There's a crush of traffic and it's only going to get worse," Metro spokesman Ed Scannel says.

Thursday - Behind the Scenes

audio Listen as Ridley goes behind the scenes at Resurrection Blvd.

John talks with "below-the-line" workers on the set of the Showtime series Resurrection Boulevard. He sheds light on the important but largely unsung crew members, including lead man Pete Washburn, fight coordinator Jimmy Nickerson, production assistant Latha Risso and assistant coordinator Michael Caccamise.

audio Hear more of Ridley's interview with lead man Pete Washburn, who makes sure the sets are ready for shooting.
audio Listen to assistant coordinator Michael Caccamise, who says life in Hollywood isn't all that glamorous.
audio Hear Jimmy Nickerson, the show's fight coordinator and a veteran stuntman, describe the proper way to get hit by a car.


Friday - Radio Drama

audio Listen to Ridley's radio drama.

Ridley visits the Hollywood Park Casino and takes inspiration from the scene and the patrons he talks with to write an original Morning Edition radio drama. Read the script.

Other Resources

audio Listen to John Ridley pitch a show to the television networks, on Morning Edition, July 6, 2000.

audio Hear John Ridley discuss his love for writing about Hollywood, on Morning Edition, Feb. 11, 2000.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Petersen Automotive Museum

I-405, San Diego Freeway

Showtime's Resurrection Blvd. Web site

Hollywood Park Casino