The queue was long and I felt the excitement as I walked forward. “It’s like the first Iron Man movie, ”the guy behind me said, adjusting his mask,“ but that ticket was easier to get. “
It wasn’t a Marvel thriller, we knew that. We were on a vaccination line, tents lined up in long rows, quills ready, needles in hand.
Welcome to Hollywood 2021, with production debuts hanging in the balance, careers in limbo, and rumors swarming the ranks of powerful actors: are lines skipped in exchange for “donations”?
Is the deployment of vaccinations as annoying as it sounds? “I’m afraid to tell anyone what I do for a living,” says a friend who recently became a Covid adviser on a streamer.
Peter Bart: Hollywood agencies attack politicians but must be careful to protect their representative
Full Disclosure: I did my combat duty this week. I got the photo but I made the mistake of talking about it. “Did you cross the line?” I was asked. “How much did it cost you?”
In fact, I am clean. I had my vaccination with a few thousand others. But I realize that the queues for the plans are tortuous (250 million are waiting their turn) with computer problems as infuriating as the protocols (I’m old, that helps). Appointments are confirmed and then canceled. “Your second shot may be even more of a challenge, but you should do it in case new variants appear,” advises Dr. Fauci, immortal for his ubiquity as well as ambiguity.
“From soup to nuts, the whole process fell apart,” observes Dr Gregg Gonsalves, a medical ethicist who admits his guilt because he qualified before his 86-year-old mother. “The guilt of survivors is becoming a major issue,” says Stephanie Hall of Keck Medicine at USC.
The list of priorities is deemed controversial, but the results are clear. If you’re rich enough to live on Fisher Island, Florida (the richest zip code in the country), you and your neighbors are in luck. If you are traveling in Alaska, you will probably score one; if you are of color, expect to be upset by your vax because black viral death rate is double that of whites.
Los Angeles has been a particular mess. A week after mass vaccinations began at Dodger Stadium, protesters shut it down – they were hostile not to the criteria but to the vaccine itself. “Scamdemic,” cried the signs.
“These protesters are crazy,” observes a showrunner with a banner lined up for Netflix. His show, like others, became familiar with test-driven start and stop rhythms. Covid advisers remain pinned to their computers, prepared for dire warnings. Since Tom Cruise’s infamous London blowout, stars too have been obsessed with Covid protocols – at least the ones that work.
Hollywood residents aren’t widely listed under the “essential worker” guidelines, but the assembly line needs them. Careers are on the line, and in Hollywood, there are always people with good plans. A donation of a few thousand dollars can generate instant recognition in some “charitable” organizations. If you’ve had a gunshot and two weeks later are desperate for a second, a source can be found, but it may involve a drive to a place you’ve never been – Beaumont, CA or Wasilla, AK.
Then there’s the more exotic Knightsbridge Circle, the London travel service that can take you to the Emirates and even embark on a desert safari (membership in the service is expensive). Dubai has become Covid’s Casablanca thanks to its user-friendly travel services. “My AmEx black card is ready and I am ready to travel,” says one talent agent.
There are also more mundane access points. There are reports that Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue, WA and Morse Life Health in West Palm Beach, Florida have been hospitalized for donations of $ 10,000.
In official vaccination centers, however, priority lists complicate procedures. Oregon officials admit concern over data showing people over 60 are responsible for 90% of Covid deaths, but the state is vaccinating teachers of all ages before the elderly. In New Jersey, regulations put heavy smokers at the front of the line.
I can afford to see it all with a bit of detachment, of course, since I’ve already lined up and received my photo. Well not really. California could run out of vaccine again or reassess its protocols. Vaccines will now be shipped to Walgreens and CVS, but their phones are a problem even in normal times. My computer has yet to provide any information about my next move or any next mutations it might offer some protection against. You can at least count on Dr Fauci for his reliability. Or at least for its omnipresence.