Friday, October 31, 2008

KEVIN SMITH MAKES A "PORNO" (aka My meeting with Kevin Smith!)

The latest film from one of comedy's raunchiest filmmakers could be his breakout from cult status
By Carl Kozlowski 10/30/2008
Zach and Miri are two people in their late 20s who suddenly realize they've accomplished nothing since finishing high school. Coming up on their 10-year reunion, their lives consist of dead-end jobs and an apartment where the hot water and electricity just got cut off. Even worse, they're about to be evicted amid a harsh Pittsburgh winter and, after all these years of living together, they've never hooked up.
These are dire circumstances calling for unusual and immediate action. After encountering a classmate at the reunion who appears to be rolling in dough and admits to being a gay porn star in his own highly successful string of self-produced films, Zach takes it as a sign that his and Miri's way out of poverty might be to gather up their other impoverished friends, hold some auditions and create and market their own porno.
What could go wrong?
That's the premise of "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," the eighth and latest film by writer-director Kevin Smith. While the film is undeniably raunchy, it retains the central sweetness and emotional truth at its core that has been the trademark of Smith's fiercely observant comedies over the past 14 years since his debut indie-film sensation, "Clerks." More importantly, the film marks Smith's first true cinematic foray outside of the "Askewniverse," his term for the fictional city in New Jersey populated by many of the same recurring characters in most of his films.
In fact, by picking stars Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks and Craig Robinson from the talent stable of fellow raunch-comedy auteur Judd Apatow ("The 40 Year Old Virgin," "Knocked Up"), he's aiming to create a major comedy event that could be his first breakout beyond hipster cult status.
In an interview with the Pasadena Weekly at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Smith explained his decision to head to Pittsburgh and take some comedic and cinematic chances.
"When we finished with ‘Clerks 2' [in 2006], it felt like we're done with the Askewniverse, that I said as much as I can with this world. Now that that was done, I felt we were free to go anywhere and tell any story and I wanted to step out of Jersey -otherwise people are gonna say ‘he made another Jersey film,'" says Smith. "I also wanted to find the last place in the world where people would think to make porn, and Jersey didn't seem like it. I thought you can conceive of people making porn in Jersey, but western Pennsylvania in the dead of winter doesn't seem like a place where people would make porn at all."
Smith noted that he has been seeking to do a comedy set in the porn world ever since he finished the film "Chasing Amy" in 1997, but was inhibited by thinking that fellow writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson had made the "perfect" porn-world film the same year with "Boogie Nights," and he "didn't want to step on his turf."
Ultimately, Smith found his inspiration when he saw Rogen's supporting performance in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and decided his solution was to "make a movie on the periphery of porn, where porn wasn't the main function but just color and background dressing."
As a bonus, Rogen's appeal as a "chubby," average-guy leading man gave Smith the sense he had finally found an onscreen stand-in for himself and helped him write the screenplay from a more personal standpoint.
"He didn't even know I wrote it for him until I was finished with it. I thought he might have gotten too big to do it, but five minutes after I emailed him to ask if he was interested in reading the script, he wrote back," Smith recalls. "He said, ‘When I first got to LA, my agent asked me what I wanted to do, and I said star in a Kevin Smith movie.' So he read the script immediately and got onboard."
While most of the film is straightforward, highly verbal and very funny, the actual dilemma of how to handle the central sex scene between Zach and Miri hung over the set throughout the shoot.
"It's always gonna be dicey, but shooting fake porn was easy because you've got naked people flopping around on each other, and in terms of shooting that sex scene between [supporting actors Katie Morgan and Jason Mewes], she does porn for a living and he's been pretending to do it since he came from the womb. Those two were totally game for it," says Smith.
"We put Seth and Elizabeth's scene in the last week of production so they spent a lot of time together and in case they had to take their clothes off, it wouldn't be as uncomfortable. It also gave me lots of time to think about how I wanted to shoot it.
"On the day of the shoot, I'm driving to the set to shoot that scene and I thought it's not about sex, it's in the connection they make and you read it in the eyes, not about the body. I told them, ‘You guys can wear all your clothes and I'm just gonna shoot your faces,'" Smith continues. "Before the moment of relief kicked in for them there was a moment of outrage. She was like why the fuck - she worked out six months to get ready for the big scene, and he was like, why the fuck did I shave my back? But then they were relieved they didn't have to do it nude."
Ever since his first film, "Clerks," in 1994, Smith has faced battles with the movie-ratings board, which often threatens him with a dreaded NC-17. The issues usually center on his raunchy dialogue rather than any onscreen sex or violence. With "Zach and Miri," he won an R rating through the ratings appeal process, without making any cuts. He attempted a detour into cleaner family fare with 2004's extremely underrated "Jersey Girl," about a widowed father learning to raise his daughter and find new love again, but he believes it will be a long while before he steps out of the R-rated zone of comedy again.
"No person or movie is ever one thing totally, so you want to make it multi-faceted as much as you can while still maintaining a balance of genres," Smith explains. "If they're looking for the romantic comedy that they heard this movie is, and they see a bunch of dicks and boobs in their face, they're gonna be like ‘Where the hell is the romance I heard about?' It takes its time getting there, and I can't say I know the exact equation, but I know it for myself. But as far as language, I want to write films that are real to the way people talk, and this ain't a PG-13 world."
A surprising twist in the battles over "Zach and Miri" came over its ad campaign, which the ratings board also oversees for all movies. In Philadelphia, the city refused to allow the billboards to be carried at all, while in Boston a child studies expert argued publicly that the posters should be taken down. After having several run-ins with the board over any depiction of the stars' actual faces or bodies, Smith and his team ultimately decided to put out posters of stick figures intended to represent Rogen and Banks.
"I find it disconcerting people have such a hard time with a word like ‘porno.' It's not like we actually slapped pornographic images on bus stops - you've seen the poster with stick figures. The poster is actually more text than graphics," says Smith. "But the point of the child studies expert was the stick figures get their attention and they read it and next thing out of their mouth is ‘what's a porno?' I got a 9-year-old. Who can't answer that question for that kid? They ask me, and I say it's a grown-up movie, not for you, you'd be bored anyway. Someday you may like it, but there's no Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, or any of the ‘High School Musical' cast, so you're not gonna give a fuck about it anyway."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Every night i watch David Letterman run a clip of President Bush screwing up a speech. But what's worse? Stammering a little, or the types of things Joe Biden has done on the campaign trail?

Most of the following are funny, but I doubt Letterman will ever spend one evening spotlighting Biden's screwups the same way he has Bush.

One thing that isn't funny is Biden's insane lapse of judgment on Oct. 19 in Seattle, where he said if Obama is elected president, he will almost immediately be challenged with an international crisis that will test his strength and character.

"We're going to face a major international challenge," Biden said. "They're going to want to test him, just like they did John Kennedy. They're going to want to test him. ANd they're going to find out this guy's got steel in his spine," Biden said. He then asked the crowd to "gird your loins."

First of all, who says "Gird your loins" anymore?! What the hell does that even mean?! Are you running to be leader of the Spartans, or 21st century Americans?

And what kind of dumbass says that "if you elect my partner, the world's gonna jack s*** up"? As a very funny editorial cartoon says, John McCain should air that footage and say "I'm John McCain and i approve this message."

So, Obama fans, get ready, set and go gird your loins! You asked for an international crisis and shortsighted leadership, so you'll get it!

Meanwhile, other Biden gems include:

His history lesson how to handle economic crisis:
"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed," Biden told the CBS Evening News on Sept. 22.

But Herbert Hoover was president in October 1929 when the stock market crashed. FDR wasn't elected until 1932, and television made its debut a decade later, in 1939.

He doesn't even trust himself in the job:
At a campaign stop in Nashua, N.H., on Sept. 10, Biden said Obama may have been better off had he picked Hillary Clinton to be his running mate.

"Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Let's get that straight," he said. "She's easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me."

Arise, and walk! Heal thyself!
On the campaign trail in Columbia, Mo., on Sept. 9, Biden asked State Sen. Chuck Graham to stand up for the crowd. "Stand up Chuck let me see you!" Biden said to Graham - who is in a wheelchair. "Oh, God love you, what am I talking about. You're making everyone else stand up though, aren't you pal." Biden then asked everyone in the room to stand up for Graham.

Hey, nice gesture. But if I was in a wheelchair I think the last thing I'd wanna see is a roomful of hundreds or thousands of people doing exactly what i can't - stand- and call it an honor.

If a Republican said either of these, they'd be run out of America. A Democrat says them, and it's cute and gets rewarded with the job of VP.
When talking about his eventual running mate when they were still competing for the Democratic presidential nomination in January 2007, Biden said this about Obama to the New York Observer:

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African American man who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy," Biden said. "I mean, that's a storybook, man."

He quickly retracted the statement, explaining, "Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican Party has produced at least since I've been around," he said in a conference call a few days later. "And he's fresh. He's new. He's smart. He's insightful. And I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the word 'clean.'"

And I LOOOOOOVE donuts, especially when served by Hindus:

In June 2006, at the outset of a run for the presidency, Biden joked on camera, "You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

When the video hit YouTube the next month, Biden's office defended him, saying, "The point Senator Biden was making is that there has abeen a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades."

Yeah, right. Indians. In Delaware. Is ANYONE from Delaware???

The funny thing is, a completely unrelated story from England noted that Biden, who had 2 brain aneurysms in the past, doesn't ever reveal his current brainscan results when he has a physical (every other candidate gives out the info fully.) Makes you wonder if he's trying to hide the fact his brain isn't functioning at all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

RADIO IS A SOUND SENSATION (or how i stumbled into a show on the #1 talk radio station in America)

This Friday night at 1 a.m. I am finally accomplishing the first step in a dream and launching a radio show that I'm cohosting with the two funniest mofos I know, Jake Belcher and Brant Thoman.
We've been working on demos for our show, "Grand Theft Audio," since December and have developed what the head of programming at KRLA AM (major LA radio station) said was "one of the funniest shows I've ever heard" and also praised as "I've never heard a trio of hosts work before, but that was fantastic." It's a funny talk show bagging on the news of the week from a NObama/largely libertarian perspective.
KRLA was our first choice for a show, and we were referred to them and were thrilled to share a station with Dennis Miller (not so thrilled about Bill "YOU follow traditional values, while I gamble away millions" Bennett, or Dennis Prager, Laura Ingraham and some other TOO-right people). But six weeks after meeting with the head of programming and getting our rave comments from him, and selling ads to get on, we got the rug pulled out from under us because a different station exec listened in and heard me describe Sarah Palin as "the hottest politician in America" and "she looks like a naughty librarian." Apparently the Christian audience of their Christian-owned station couldn't handle hearing such things. (I'm a Catholic and am stunned by this).
So we not only called a lawyer; we also called KABC, America's #1 talk radio station and wound up with an all-around better situation: way less censorship, cheaper airtime and SEVEN TIMES THE AUDIENCE!
So we record tonight and launch Friday at 1 a.m. with plans to be at midnight by January and onward and upward from there! Tune in to KABC 790 AM Friday at 1 a.m.!!!


Sarah Vowell is one of the funniest writers in America and is also the voice of the "The Incredibles" character Violet and a star on NPR's "This American Life."

Check out my interview with her, about her new book "The Wordy Shipmates" here:

HOW I GOT INTO JOURNALISM (a tale of deceit, treachery and a really odd psychiatrist)

I never expected to have to calm down a busload of elderly Polish illegal aliens in this or any lifetime. I certainly never expected to have to do it in the name of the Republican Party and Bob Dole. But sometimes you’ve just got to step up and be a hero.

The year was 1996, and the month was August. It was two days after the end of the Republican National Convention, and I was involved in the first colorful adventure of my journalistic career. Actually I wasn’t really a journalist yet – just a smartass 20-something guy from Chicago who had sweet-talked my way into helping both Bill Clinton’s and Bob Dole’s presidential campaigns – but what happened that day wound up becoming the launching pad for the rest of my life so far.

I had grown up in a highly political, and highly conservative Republican household in Little Rock, Arkansas – one of the most diehard Democratic hotspots in the country. My father had fled Poland, and he drilled an intense hatred of Communism and a zealous love for America’s craziest Cold Warrior, Ronald Reagan, into myself and my three siblings. To him, anyone who didn’t embrace Reagan’s nuclear-weapons doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction was a Commie and a weakling.

I drank the conservative Kool-Aid throughout my growing-up years, even becoming president of my high school Young Republicans. I tingled with pride as George Bush senior vowed “no new taxes” and nearly wept as he described his vision of a “thousand points of light.” (Bear with me.) We were so caught up in the magic of it all that we even visited New Orleans during the 1988 convention despite the fact that we weren’t even delegates – just so we could be near all the excitement. To hold these views in a city so opposed to them meant we had a passion that bordered on zealotry.

But by 1996, I was hopelessly cynical. George Bush HAD raised taxes after all. I had also been jaded about the FIRST Gulf War, wondering what we were doing worrying about a little country called Kuwait that no one had ever even heard about before – just like Vietnam. I also hated Clinton because I’d grown up in Arkansas, and once out, I never wanted to think about that state or any of its leaders ever again. Besides, I’d served him popcorn once in a movie theater and the man insisted on so much extra butter that he actually said “I want you to hit it til I tell you to stop.” Not only did I feel sexually harassed, but he wound up asking for 15 squirts of butter – a horrific amount that I will never erase from my mind. Suffice it to say that I was a Ross Perot voter in ’92.

My favorite movie of all time is “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and I had spent the past decade since its release learning how to sweet-talk and scam my way into events, just like my hero. And so I decided to see what would happen if I tried to pull off an election-year gag beyond compare: I called the Chicago headquarters of both candidates and said that I was the son of an immigrant and was raised to believe that each man – Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, depending on who I was speaking to – was the greatest living American politician, and that I would do anything to help them get elected.

The reason why I wanted to do this so badly was admittedly unusual and deeply personal: I had just begun performing stand-up comedy in Chicago a year before, but yet I was terrified of crowds and what the strangers in them thought of me. I ultimately had a meltdown on stage one night and wound up getting a shrink.

The shrink was an elderly Frenchman named Antoine Rousseau who had an accent that would confuse Inspector Clouseau. Dr. Rousseau said that NORMALLY, he’d tell someone who’s afraid crowds not to engage in a career field that involved performing in front of them. But he could se I wanted to do comedy too badly to ever stop. So he asked if there was something I could do to stand out from other comics and build my self-esteem that way.

I told him I had written humor columns in college back in Texas but thought no one in Chicago would give a yokel from the South a break. Dr. Rousseau said it was time to prove myself wrong. He assigned me to find something funny to write about, hand it in to him and he’d mail them to the city’s 4 main papers and see if one would buy the story and help me prove I could be funny my own way. The idea was that If I could succeed in print, I’d feel special and start having more confidence performing.

So I called both the Dole and Clinton campaigns because as cynical as I was about politics, I still wanted to see a campaign from the inside and how I could scam the professional con artists we call politicians in return. I wanted to take them for as much fun, access and free swag as possible while doing as little as I could in return. I would be the Anti-Volunteer.

Amazingly, both campaigns were thrilled to hear from me. I went two-for-two with my phone calls and was invited by the Dole campaign to help out with a quote-unquote “very special” event: riding a bus down five hours to the state capitol that Saturday morning to the Illinois State Fair, where Bob Dole and his running mate Jack Kemp were going to be making their first appearance after the convention.

I had to show up at 7 a.m. outside a Catholic church to board what I thought would be an old school bus, or even worse a church van, but instead turned out to be a tour bus worthy of rock stars. Swank seating and multiple coolers full of beer and food awaited me inside, with a TV screen hanging above every row for our private viewing pleasure.

But one thing seemed strange: as the campaign workers handed us our supposedly homemade signs to wave at the rally, I was the only person saying “Thanks” – in English, at least. Everyone else around me was at least 80 years old, spoke Polish and seemed to only know two words in English: “Dole” and “Kemp.” And they learned THOSE words only because the workers led them through a repetition rally in which they yelled only those two names out, over and over, before letting us board.

Granted, we were in Chicago, where there are more Poles living than any place on the planet outside of Warsaw itself. But something was fishy about this, probably a game of Hold A Sign-Get A Green Card. Yet before I could really take note of it or get out of the situation, my mind, eyes and heart returned to the vast quantities of free beer. I also was stunned to realize that, despite Bob Dole’s usual Republican yammering about Hollywood’s corrupt values and sleazy entertainment, we were going to be treated to free video screenings of Jackie Chan’s R-rated chopsocky fest “Rumble in the Bronx”, followed by the James Bond film “Goldeneye,” in which the female villain crushes men to death with her thighs. Ah, hypocrisy!

Barreling down the freeway, surrounded by my father’s fellow countrymen as they sang Polish drinking songs, yelled at the TV screen and drank enough to shut down a brewery, I knew this would be a special day. The idea was to get everyone as rowdy and demonstrative as possible, and the Republicans were surprisingly adept at their mission.

We screamed and chanted our way through the rally, and afterwards I repeatedly tried to get a photo in with Dole and Kemp. Only they weren’t exactly posing for me. As they moved through the crowd, I followed along from about 2 feet away like the famed film psychopath Travis Bickle that Robert DeNiro played in “Taxi Driver,” repeatedly snapping off-balance photos of their heads as I went. Finally, a couple of Secret Service guys had enough and I got a great action photo of them coming towards me with their arms outstretched.

I’m no dummy. And the State Fair was otherwise lame. So I clambered back onto the bus for the ride home, where all the Poles got themselves even drunker and rowdier – to the point where the bus driver finally pulled over the bus in the middle of a highway rainstorm because he simply couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

And that’s when a female Asian campaign volunteer tried to get the crowd to shut up via microphone and instead broke down crying. I was amazed at the power of my elders, but I still betrayed them because the woman asked if anyone there was bilingual – and I was the only one to stand up, walk to the front and save the day.

Grabbing the microphone, I barked out a childhood scolding my mother had given me countless times but which I barely understood: “Prosze! Chee-ho! Shaddai!” meaning Please! Be quiet! Sit down!” Incredibly, they listened and then gave me a round of applause to boot. The girl wiped her tears and said, “Thank you,” as I posed for a dramatic picture, smiling in front of the crowd of my waving fellow countrymen.

I came to realize that the day had been one long bizarre and cynical exploitation of my countrymen. The Republican Party that claimed to oppose illegal immigration had just used about 50 of the hardest drinking aliens on earth as drunken cheerleaders for their shameless cause.

But that was nothing compared to my Democratic adventures. I was told to come to a meeting at an unmarked location – a rented loft located directly above the city’s prime drag queen revue – and undergo an orientation speech and have my picture taken for a photo ID and FBI background check. I thought they would find out I registered Republican and would kick me out on principle. But amazingly, I was called two days later and told that I was in the loop. If I agreed to volunteer for three shifts during the Democratic Convention – which was being held right there in Chicago! – I could get free passes to prime parties and even a night in the convention hall.

The best thing that happened, though, was my discovery that the hotel headquarters was located literally two blocks away from my Dilbert-dayjob office. Looking out my window over Lake Michigan, I could see all the layers of security – boats, trucks, helicopters, and even rooftop snipers – whetting my appetite for the excitement to come. And for that week, despite the fact that I hate wearing suits, I dressed to the nines each day and snuck into the Sheraton Hotel before work, on lunch breaks and after work. America’s most powerful politicians and journalists were there and I had a photo ID that enabled me to be waved in and meet them!

Growing up in the relatively small city of Little Rock, I had dreamed of fame and moving in power circles, not knowing if I’d ever get my chance, but suddenly here it was.

So what was my big duty with the convention? Hopping into an unmarked rental truck and driving through Chicago’s infamous Lower Wacker Drive – the underground home of some of the greatest chases in film history, from “The Blues Brothers” to “The Dark Knight” – in order to deliver 15,000 handmade signs to the Union Center convention hall. Better yet, we were given a special government-security clearance notice that we were allowed to show any police officer who attempted to pull us over for speeding or reckless driving, overruling their ticket or arrest in the name of the federal government!

This was like giving an alcoholic keys to the Miller Time brewery and saying have a good overnight stay. We could do ANYTHING we wanted on the coolest street outside of the Autobahn – and bobbing and weaving through traffic at about 75 miles an hour, we took full advantage.

And once we dumped those signs off and signed our paperwork to prove we did it, we kept driving recklessly all over Chicago for the next four hours before our literal Get Out of Jail Free card expired at midnight. Don’t judge me – we were working for the President!

Did I lift a finger to help the rest of that week? Hell no! I had my badge already and had gotten my girlfriend a volunteer gig distributing passes for the parties and convention hall. I made sure she snuck away 2 extra passes to everything, from the Al Gore and Clinton speeches to the parties that were packed with so many odd collections of celebrities I felt like was walking through a live-action “Simpsons” episode. There was Bill Maher, over there was Richard Lewis, then ooh look Olympic legend Carl Lewis! And holy crap, while running across Planet Hollywood to meet Billy Baldwin, I almost tipped over Tipper Gore! This time, a different set of Secret Service goons were coming towards me before I abruptly decided to call it a night.

Being amid all the stars night after night was amazing. I had grown up addicted to letterman and had dreamed of someday having my own show. To mingle with the stars seemed like my dry run for greatness. Best of all was Richard Lewis, who not only posed for a picture for myself, but learned I was an aspiring comic and wound up grabbing me to pose in photo after photo for strangers, like we were a comedy duo or frat brothers at a keg party. When he signed his autograph, he wrote three words I’ll never forget: “Never look back.”

I taped those words to my computer screen at work for the next six months before rising them as the inspiration to quit them as the inspiration to quit my Dilbert day-job and pursue writing full-time.

For just as Dr. Rousseau had hoped, my account of my bipartisan adventures did sell on my first try. It kicked open the doors to my career today and while I remain skeptical of the people our parties nominate, I have developed a renewed passion for politics whenever a truly different voice – a Ralph Nader, a Ron Paul – comes around.

Did I stay too long at the fair? Who’s to say – but one thing I know is that that day at the fair has stayed with me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"WHAT ARE YOU, CAPTAIN SAVE-A-HO?" (aka my weirdest misadventures on the Los Angeles public transit system)

“Someone needs to call the motherfuckin’ police! Three motherfuckers been stabbed up in here!”

I never expected to hear those words in my life – especially not while peacefully waiting for train home on a Wednesday night. But sure enough, it was 10:30 p.m. at the Universal City train platform – a place I had previously harbored fond memories of from another night, when an insane Brazilian man with no shoes wandered back and forth attempting to hug everyone while exclaiming, ‘Welcome to Universal City! It is the place where people come from all over the universe! Let me give you a hug of welcome!”

I avoided that guy that night. And I sure as hell wasn’t about to try and get too involved in the attempted triple homicide that apparently lay before me. As the crowd on board what I now lovingly recall as the Midnight Meat Train came pouring out and running for the exit escalators, the people around me on the platform who were waiting to board just stood in confusion.

After all, we wanted to get home. WE hadn’t seen the alleged stabbings occur. Maybe it wasn’t too big a deal after all. Maybe the stabber had just run off the train, leaving it safe for us newbies to board. Maybe the stabber had offed themselves, making it a double murder-slash-suicide combo. Or maybe they would now be sitting peacefully, having already stabbed who they wanted and now wanting to just go home themselves. As the woman on board kept screaming for the “PO-lice!” I snuck around the crowd and looked through the window to find a skinny 20something Latino guy in a white T-shirt spattered with blood.

It looked like a gusher. I’d seen enough episodes of “ER” in my time to know that this wasn’t a good situation to get involved with. There was also a pair of feet laying flat on the floor, the rest of its body hidden behind a row of seats. I didn’t really wanna see what else was there. So I backed away, found the emergency call button for the authorities and pressed the button.

The operator came on quickly: “Whats the problem?”

“Um, there’s someone claiming that three people got stabbed on board a train here at Universal City.”

“Are you sure this happened?”

“What, do you want me to get on board and launch the investigation?”

“There’s no need for sarcasm, sir.”

“But there IS need for a fucking cop! Send somebody down here!” I cried out, as the original woman started wailing again, “PLEASE! Someone get the PO-lice!”

The operator finally listened. “We’ll send someone in five minutes.”

My job was done. I ran for the escalators myself.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been called upon to save the day onboard the Metro- aka the City of Angels’ public transit system. I had previously been given the title of “Captain Save-A-Ho” onboard the 180 bus from Hollywood to Pasadena one night in March 2007 when I called upon both the Highway Patrol and the Glendale Police Department to pull over the bus after a guy had smacked his girlfriend square in the nose and continued to taunt her as she tried to stop a gusher of blood. As six squad cars finally pulled the bus over and the guy was led away in cuffs, he cried out “What ARE you?! Captain Save-A-Ho?!”

It was one of my proudest moments in life. In fact, I almost made a T-shirt to commemorate the occasion.

The other name for the transit network of buses and trains in our fair city is MTA, which I’ve come to realize in five years of riding really stands for “Must Take Anyone.” And while I haven’t been to a state fair in about 20 years, I have to say that every single day or night on board the LA transit system makes up for a lifetime of midway carnival geeks.

I’ve seen it all on board here, often with one of my best friends and personal sidekick, Heather. I have to ride the system because I had a sleep disorder so close to narcolepsy that I’m a menace to society anytime I try to get behind a steering wheel. She, meanwhile, had been a college student whose parents decided to pay for her education and her dorm room while leaving her on her own in terms of personal safety.

Together, we’ve come across all manner of humanity: a black gay dwarf named Chucky who dances for pocket change on board the 217 bus Saturday nights in Hollywood; or our dear friend Kent, an erudite fiftysomething gay man who has tried for the past three years to convince me that we could be more than friends, and forcing Heather to play my girlfriend on numerous occasions just so he would LITERALLY get off my back.

Then there are the people in costumes. We’ve seen a guy in a giant Tigger costume, a teenage dweeb dressed in Jedi robes with a light saber who muttered “It’s a living” in a pissed-off voice when I said he must really be quite a “Star Wars” fan. We’ve seen white men in curly ‘fros that would put Black Panthers to shame. Or a guy who looked like Kato Kaelin with Keith Richards-worthy wrinkles, who rolled his tongue out to reveal the wrapped up packets of heroin he hides in his mouth to avoid the police each day.

But our favorite had to be the black transvestite who was built like an NFL cornerback yet managed to look rather stunning in a glittering purple dress and a wig that made he/she/it look like one of Tina Turner’s backup singers. The best part was when they went from talking seductively in a woman’s voice to barking out “Hold that train!” like he’s Barry White on a killing spree.

You learn a lot on a train, or especially on a bus, in LA. I’ve been privy to conversations between criminals and their friends, in which a guy fresh out of jail and still wearing a City Jail uniform shirt is already hatching his next big crime spree after running into a fellow ex-con buddy who’s now a security guard. Another time I got caught sitting directly between two guys from rival gangs who recognized each other from the time they spent in prison together, and nearly decided to restart their rivalry and attempt killing each other right then and there. When I asked if I could please slip out of their way, they finally calmed down and laughed about it, before agreeing to tutor me in prison slang and the best way to start a car without a key.

THAT”S info you need for the real world, and it’s only a buck 25.

We’ve seen aging strippers attempt to pole dance on board train cars while other passengers begged her to keep her clothes ON, street preachers telling us how to get saved while making us feel extremely endangered, and a black man in Chinese robes who jumped off the train car at each stop before busting a few dance moves and leaping back on again.

Ah, but one can’t forget the scents on board either. Aromatic splendors abound, strange smells that can be found nowhere else thanks to the mysterious mingling of humanity, nasty leftover food and general lingering haze of alcohol that hangs in the air like an old closet filled with mothballs. It’s so bad that a fantasy of mine and Heather’s is to spend a day riding the rail system while leaping on and off cars and spraying Febreze into the air. The only thing holding us back is wondering if we’d confuse and startle people with actual fresh-smelling air and have them thinking we were waging a mobile terrorist attack instead. .

Last year, amazingly, the MTA announced that it was named the best transit system in America. How this happened is beyond me. Or if it really IS true, it makes me weep for our nation and fuels my desire to move to Canada the moment our presidential election is over.

The MTA brags about this victory, with splashy onboard ads that show pictures of happy, smiling people gazing into each other’s eyes while saying “Take Metro to Flirt.” Now anyone who’s ever ridden the MTA more than twice knows that there’s NOBODY onboard that you’d want to flirt with, including me. I once had a drunk Mexican guy nearly puked on me while I was wearing a suit on board the 2 bus on Sunset on a Friday night – and that’s the closest I ever want to come to exchanging bodily fluids with ANYONE onboard the MTA.

Other ads say, “Take Metro To Go Out” or “We’ll Get You Home Safely.” I’m sorry, but if I had a choice, I’d still take my car. I’d rather risk a drunk driving ticket because at least in my own personal vehicle I won’t have a bum pass out on my shoulder.

Even worse are ads that say “Take Metro to Shop”, featuring Paris Hilton holding a gold handbag she just spent $5000 on on Rodeo Drive. Yeah, I’m sure the first thing she’s looking for after a shopping spree is the next bus or train. They should be a little more realistic and say “Take Metro to Shop” while showing a closeup of someone’s hand turning purple from holding 52 plastic bags from the 99 Cents store. That’s MY reality.

But is there ANYTHING normal, or pleasant, that happens aboard the MTA, you ask? On occasion there’s a driver with extra flair and personality, like a guy named JB who treated his riders with such friendly attention that they formed a club called The Loco 180 and rode together night after night for years, trading funny stories between JB’s illegal stops at Hooters to buy chicken wings for everyone onboard or for equally illegal 7-11 Slurpee runs.

There’s also the opportunity to learn about all types of people. Not just the freaks, but sometimes you can have a conversation in the same bus ride with a young couple from Sweden and an Iraqi refugee. It’s almost like attending the UN without having to spend the money for plane fare. At the same time, mass transit is our ultimate social equalizer, the last true vestige of honest democracy in action as you come to realize that ANYONE – truly ANYONE – can sit right down next to you and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. I think that every presidential candidate should be forced to ride the Los Angeles MTA for a year as a test of character and courage and as a way of seeing the REAL America in a way that small-town diner photo opps never will.

People say that mass transit is the wave of the future, even here in LA. As gas prices soar and the environment goes in the toilet, more and more of you – yes, you, the supposedly normal, suburban yuppies and middle and upper-class homeowners – will be adding to the mix and experiencing the exotic wonders of a Los Angeles bus ride for yourselves.

My only advice to you is threefold: 1) always carry a cellphone for emergency phone calls to the authorities. 2) sneak a can of Febreze into your purse, backpack or briefcase for those emergency “special moments” when you just can’t take the actual scents on board anymore. And 3) always have a camera at the ready, whether by phone or otherwise, to record evidence – either for the inevitable police investigation, or at least for your friends and family who just can’t believe what you saw that day.