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"The very next morning Peter and I checked out of the Ramada and it was off to Stanhope’s pad, which was not nearly as extravagant as I had imagined."
TOMMY JAMES made the Big Move to Los Angeles.

#2 IN A SERIES . . . . . NEW BIG MOVE EVERY MONTH! In his third Big Move, Tom Ryan wrote, "It's time to start practicing the fine art of dropping a name." I asked him how important this skill really was and he assured me it was imperative that I master it and do so quickly. So far, the only name I’ve dropped is Tom’s, but I’ll get you with some more in a moment and even more throughout the run of my Big Move. Over the next few months, I plan on dropping names more often than Doug Stanhope drops his pants.

Fifteen months ago, Mitch Hedberg pulled me aside in the green room at The Punchline in Atlanta. He told me, in his unique cadence, "You are wasting your time working the road. You need to go to LA and get representation." I didn’t believe him back then, I thought he was just patronizing me. I still don’t know if I should move here, but at least Mitch believes in me. He reiterated the same sentiments this past January when we again worked together, this time in Birmingham. So Mitch thinks I can be a success. Now I just hope someone else sees what he does.

I landed at LAX on February 25 with the intention of staying until I found an apartment. My friend and fellow comedian Peter Grumbine met me in LA and upon our arrival we checked into the Ramada on Santa Monica Boulevard. After a quick shower (not together - although I know two guys sharing a hotel room in West Hollywood sounds fishy) we called comedienne Tanya Lee Davis. Tanya Lee suggested we go to Dublin’s on Sunset as comedian Ralphie May was having a birthday party.

We’ve been in LA for three hours and already we’re going to parties-- I love this town. The best thing about this party was that it was also a roast of Ralphie. One of my favorite comics, Jeffery Ross, was there and I couldn’t help wondering if his attendance is required at each and every roast, no matter how famous the person. Evidently if someone is to be insulted by a group of friends and cohorts, Jeff Ross must be present. I hear he just roasted Dutch Boy paint salesman of the year, Karl Darwin, in San Jose three weeks ago. And he’ll be roasting plastic surgeon, Dr. Stephen Resnick of Beverly Hills, on May 11.

The highlight of Ralphie’s soirée, for me at least, was when Doug Stanhope saved Peter Grumbine and me $700. Doug and I have worked together on the road a few times and I look forward to doing so again this June (when I will definitely have to buy him a few beers). He saw me at the bar, walked over asked what I was doing in town. When I told him Peter and I were in LA looking for a place to live, he invited us to stay at his apartment rather than pay $100 a night for our hotel. Although he was going off to Aspen in a few days, he said we could stay while he was out of town and only asked that we "pay it forward" and offer help to a comic in need down the road. I vowed that I would, just not for hacks.

The very next morning Peter and I checked out of the Ramada and it was off to Stanhope’s pad, which was not nearly as extravagant as I had imagined. I pictured Heff’s place, scaled down a bit, but instead was welcomed into a simple 1BR apartment that offered no Jacuzzi, no vertical brass pole, and no 24-hour naked Twister sessions with barflies he’d met about town. There weren’t even any sex toys lying around. He must have cleaned up before we arrived.

Looking for an apartment was not easy. If you are planning on moving to LA let me give you a word of advice: Don’t waste your money by paying for one of those online apartment finders. The lists aren’t current and they’ll lead you on a wild goose chase. I’ve made plenty of poor buying decisions in my lifetime (like the time I bought that Plymouth Duster) but rarely have I felt as ripped off as this. The only other time I’ve been duped this badly was when I paid for a ticket to see "Turner and Hooch." If I ever meet Tom Hanks, that guy owes me six bucks.

We learned that the best way to find an apartment was to determine which neighborhood we preferred and, after narrowing down what streets we liked, drive around looking for any "For Rent" signs. Locating "For Rent" signs in LA is easier than spotting white trash at a NASCAR event. After two fruitless days of calling numbers from the $60 website listings, Peter and I discovered that simply hitting the streets and jotting down numbers was far more productive, although not without some problems.

Driving in our rented Oldsmobile Alero, we drove up and down the streets in Doug’s neighborhood and called the phone numbers we saw posted outside buildings with vacancies. I found out two things: Not every landlord is so eager to rent his unoccupied units that he’ll call you back, and those that do call back rarely speak fluent English. I’d say that for every ten calls I made, maybe three people responded. I made dozens of calls and in the first four days I only had the opportunity to inspect nine apartments. Worse yet, everything in my price range was either too small or was in worse shape than the Evans' dwelling on Good Times.

On the fifth day of searching I finally found something that I liked and was sure my wife would love. It was $75 a month more than my predetermined budget, but I couldn’t let $75 get in the way, could I? It had everything: plenty of closet space, off-street parking, two full bathrooms, a dishwasher, a fireplace, and a hot tub on the roof. Just don’t tell Stanhope about the hot tub. I don’t want to be evicted because he wants to run around my building in the raw.

The next day, Peter signed a lease for a huge studio in Hollywood up near the new Kodak Theater and we had two nights to screw around and relax before we returned home to gather our belongings. Unfortunately, our final night in town was anything but relaxing.

We planned on going to see the early show at the Laugh Factory, but a horrible accident ruined our plans and our evening.

For those of you who don't know, the Laugh Factory asks that its patrons line up along the side of the building, around the corner on Laurel. With this being Saturday night, there was a large crowd gathering with a line that extended nearly 50 feet and was four or five people wide.

At about 8 PM, I made a call to my wife so that I could arrange for her to pick me up at the airport on Sunday. Tired from an earlier strol that began at Stanhope's place, I leaned against the building. Just as I was giving her my flight info disaster struck. What looked to have been an early 1980's burgundy Cadillac came screaming southbound down Laurel, jumped the curb, and plowed through the line of comedy fans waiting to get into the Factory. I don't know for sure, but it seemed as though at least 20 people were struck. Bodies flew everywhere and the crowd screamed in terror as they did whatever they could to avoid this maniac. After slamming through the crowd the driver continued on to Sunset, hit a blue Honda and kept on going Southbound on Laurel.

I've never been in such a surreal moment. The car missed Peter and me by mere inches and this only because I leaned up against the wall to make that call. In retrospect, it appears as if my being lazy finally paid off.

My heart pounded for upwards of 30 minutes thereafter. I couldn't breath. Peter was speechless and people all around us continued to cry and scream. LAPD arrived very quickly, but not fast enough to apprehend the driver. I don’t know if he was ever caught, but I do know that at least one woman was very seriously injured. She was bleeding from her head and unconscious. Paramedics cut through her clothes and began to work on her, and it was at this point Peter and I decided it was time to go...literally. We went back to get our stuff and drove right to the airport so that we could fly stand by. There was no more fun to be had that night after surviving such a scare. It was time to get home and plan the move. HOME Back to the Top