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Hollywood Witches Paperback – June 24, 2010
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Thomas M. Sipos was born in Queens, NY, and graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A. in film & TV.
His stories and articles have appeared in Wicked Mystic, Cthulhu Sex, 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, Indie Slate, Sci-Fi Universe, Liberty, the Santa Monica Daily Press, American Outlook, Midnight Marquee, Horror, and Filmfax. He's taught at the UCLA Writers Extension and at The Learning Annex.
He belongs to SAG and AFTRA, and has performed in over 70 productions, usually as an extra, sometimes as an actor. He lives in Los Angeles.
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If you are amused by celebs, tabloid culture, New Agers, etc., you'll love this book. If you've wondered what it's like to be a film extra (it really sucks), a wannabe actor (it sucks not quite as bad), a suit (it sucks with privileges), a creative (it's great, but you're terrified of losing your job), a paparazzo (it's fun--some of the time),... that's all here. It's shown warts and all (actually, mostly warts) based on the author's experience as extra, actor, screenwriter, tabloid publisher, ... Told thru a fantastical and very funny tale of the occult, it's an intimate but unsympathetic inside-out view of how things work in everyday life in LA.
Not surprisingly, hypocrisy is a central theme. Dustin Hoffman once mentioned one practical principle of his comic acting technique: behavior is what people do, language is what they say to cover it up. Much humor in Hollywood Witches stems from unrelenting cynicism about what people say vs. what they do. Diana the Witch, the villainess, for example, feels spiritually elevated since she has a drop of American Indian blood, yet she is disgusted by her squalid grandmother who gave her that blood and never talks to her. Scores of New Agers at a conference scene disdain materialism, yet their retreat is at a posh resort near Palm Springs with high-end catering. And so on. The hypocrisy of the Industry writ large is also exposed. The movie and TV biz, for example, publically supports "diversity in the workplace". Yet, per real statistics cited in Hollywood Witches, very few minority actors actually get work in movies or TV, and even those few are generally given stereotype roles. The Industry also projects sympathy with the working stiff, yet actual labor practice with extras, wannabe actors, etc.--a theme of Hollywood Witches-- is often atrocious. One wonders if Hollywood Witches will never be filmed because its exposures cut too close to home. But, there is hope, the filmmakers could still cut out the provocative parts or pervert the message to show the opposite of what is intended, as has been done with other books. That would be in the spirit of the culture depicted in Hollywood Witches.
Sipos's text is less sympathetic than Hoffman's remark. The latter was marked by wisdom of age and surety of experience. Hoffman, a non-believer, suffused it with a charitable spirit that forgives even willful evil. It is unclear how forgiving Sipos is. Like Hitchcock, he appears as rapt by the dark brooding of Roman Catholicism as by the fanciful decadence of Hollywood Babylon. Catholicism and lapsed Catholicism is an important subtheme of the book. And we cannot tell if Sipos's humor is of rebuke or of enlightenment. Redeemingly, the humor is not so reflexively cynical and pessimistic that it gets depressing, as can happen when you listen to certain stand-up comedians too long. Sipos has not yet abandoned enterprise and self-realization. The cutting remarks and wry observations in Hollywood Witches all stem from genuine experience and honest acceptance of life as it lies before us. And he does admit positive findings for example, the optimistic, happy-ending vision of mainstream movies is said to be sincere, as those movies are made by successful people who have made it.
Sipos's incisive comments on women are particularly valued. For example, "Many women love to poach other women's men." When charges of adultery are brought up against a male public figure, we sense an immediate and powerful reaction of much of the female population against him. These women quite naturally identify and sympathize with the wife being cheated on. But, you may have wondered, with these widespread sentiments, where does the endless supply of mistresses come from? The answer is Sipos's comment: if the wife suffers because she loses something valuable in her husband, by the same token, the mistress gains something valuable hen she takes him as a lover. This sort of thing is rarely stated in our mass media, but is very important in life and is found in Hollywood Witches. Not being one myself, I can't say if Sipos's (not entirely negative) views on women are absolutely accurate, but I can say, every thing I used to believe about women, then learned the hard way was wrong, he already knows.
Few if any works, certainly not Hollywood Witches, have the inexhaustible depths of the Holy Scriptures. But Hollywood Witches does share the quality of the Old and New Testaments that certain passages make you stop and think a long time. The chapter on tabloids, for example, begins with a quote from Orwell, "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: the rest is public relations." There follows a compelling case that tabs, far more than the MSM gushing and fawning before celebrity and established power, represent the true journalists of our day. Indeed, the paparazzi are the most honest people in Hollywood Witches, at least they don't lie to themselves. Another deep theme of Hollywood Witches is "Every In-Group requires an Out-Group". Extras feel superior to common slobs who have never been on a film set; wannabe actors feel superior to extras; stars feel superior to wannabes; within stars there is hasbeen vs. hot now, B-list vs. A-list; and so on. The Star System works because hordes, as to the illusion of Maya, cling to a need to belong. If you give up dread of being an outsider and lust to be an insider, you relinquish much pain in life. Even the metaphysics of the witches in this book is well done; it's something like Crowley's Hermeticism. If, like me, you prefer to stay remote from any kind of Satanism, this book gives you some notion of the content without having to read any demonic works yourself. Like Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, Hollywood Witches goes beyond conventional thinking and can unravel some things you previously took for granted.
Some features of Hollywood Witches evoke high literature. For example, at the opening, the female lead, Vanessa, is dressed in black to audition for a role as a nun. But black, of course, means she is simultaneously a witch! Satanist, as well as S&M, get-up historically derives from clerical garments. Vanessa later unwittingly becomes a witch, but also clutches her crucifix throughout protecting her from evil. So there is effective symbolism and theology. I only give four stars because the novel has an episode where the hero is seduced by Diana (a hot chick), but refuses to sleep with her, since he's still in love with Vanessa, his (not nearly as hot) ex-girlfriend who's dumped him. The episode is integrated into the plot, but still, talk about a Hollywood cliché in a book otherwise so utterly skeptical about that institution.