• February 5, 2023

‘I went from Hollywood glamour to food donations’

By Susan Hornik
Business reporter, Los Angeles

Image rightsGetty ImagesImage descriptionThis year’s Hollywood Awards Ceremonies have gone online, which means there are no major hospitality staff events taking place

Hollywood’s annual awards season is usually a profitable time for the many people who work behind the scenes.

Event planners have big, glamorous receptions to organize, waiters in Beverly Hills serve hundreds of celebrities at various parties, and numerous publicists bring their talent down the red carpet.

But with the pandemic that has changed the awards ceremonies – which are all virtual now – and canceled parties, many jobs have been eliminated and people are unemployed.

Before the Grammys are held remotely on March 14th and the Oscars next month as well, we speak to workers in Tinseltown who have had to find other ways to make money.

David Beenen, former banquet waiter

50-year-old Beenen, who has been with the Beverly Hilton Hotel since 2001, has waited for everyone from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to Kate Winslet and Judi Dench.

Image rightsDavid Beenen Image descriptionMr. Beenen says the past year has been a “heavy pill to swallow”.

The hotel usually hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony and also hosts many other Hollywood events.

“I originally came to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career,” he says. “I was hired by referral and wanted it to be my side appearance until my acting career began.”

While Mr. Beenen’s acting career never blossomed, he had a child in 2006 and the Labor Awards Galas became his full-time career. “I’ve had a front row seat to the success that acting can bring, but I’ve never tried it myself.”

As a single father, he said he felt “confusion and panic” at the beginning of the pandemic, completely unsure of his future. “First and foremost, it was about taking care of my daughter. Here we are a year later and … I’m still laid off, as are all of my event colleagues.”

Mr. Beenen says he was grateful for the hotel’s support. “My employer has really risen, running grocery trips for its laid-off workers and handing out generous gift cards.”

Nevertheless, the past year was “extremely challenging”.

“The federal unemployment allowance I bring in is only half of what I made while working. It has been difficult to earn rent, pay my bills, and provide food for my family.

“I’ve been several months behind on rent and other bills. I’ve transitioned from a high-octane, lucrative Hollywood career of glitz and glamor to unemployment and food fundraising to survive. It was a difficult pill to swallow as a man.” very hard on yourself. ”

Since major personal awards ceremonies do not take place for a while, Mr. Beenen is strongly considering a career change.

“Being a waiter can be an unfriendly industry to age into. I’ve considered becoming a librarian to counter the overstimulation I’ve seen in award-winning galas in 20 years.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Beenen remains cautiously optimistic about his future. “After a year of isolation and reflection, I am more than ready to do something again!”

Michelle Pesce, Hollywood DJ

Before the pandemic, Ms. Pesce played records at post-awards show parties.

Image rightsMichele PesceImage descriptionMichelle Pesce Says She See “Light At The End Of The Tunnel” Now

In the past year she has focused more on her talent agency Nona Entertainment, which represents more than 40 DJs.

“Our industry is devastated and our sales are 80% below what it would normally be,” says Ms. Pesce.

“A lot of DJs have focused on virtual sets or made money in non-music-related ways. People having to pay their bills and getting tips on streamed sets are great, but it doesn’t cut for most unless you have $ 1,000 plus Subscribers. ”

She says things are getting better now and personal DJ sets are on the horizon again. “Three weeks ago I finally saw a change. We received more new inquiries than in the last 52 weeks.

“People are starting to hug the light at the end of the tunnel. And they are definitely ready for a good party.”

Fernando Darin, former boss

Fernando Darin had only been a chef at Los Angeles upscale Patina – the longtime caterer for the Emmy Awards Governors Balls dinner – for a few months before the pandemic caused it to close.

Image rightsFernando DarinImage descriptionMr. Darin has had a long and successful career as a chef

“I was so excited because I set up something very special,” he says. “A few months later we got the message that the restaurant had been closed permanently and that it was difficult to accept.”

Mr. Darin is no longer a chef and has decided to go back to his roots – to make music.

When the quarantine began, he got much closer to a friend who produces film music. “I was interested in the work he was doing.

“Suddenly I interned with him and learned a few cool tricks – producing and arranging film music.”

Music has always been present in his life – he got his first guitar when he was seven – but this is the first time he’s tried to make a living from it.

“This is a really new field of work for me,” he says. “But like everything else I’ve ever done in my life, I proceed with low expectations and a lot of commitment. I’ve renovated my home studio and that’s where I spend most of my days now.”

Image rightsFernando DarinImage descriptionFernando Darin is currently working on music soundtracks

Mr. Darin has often wondered if he would be preparing large-scale gala dinners again if Hollywood ever got “normal” again.

“I’ve been asked this question a million times over the past year. Of course, I miss being the captain in the kitchen on a Saturday night, or the adrenaline rush of serving 4,000 people at Emmys.

“That was a big part of my life and I’ll never forget it, it’s like the girlfriend you had when you were a teenager.”

Charles Joly, mixologist

The famous cocktail maker has created and served signature drinks at the Oscars and Emmys for the past five years.

Image rightsCharles JolyImage descriptionCharles Joly specializes in barware design

He says his heart breaks for the hotel workers who continue to live shift after shift, depend on tips, and most of them have no health insurance.

“I’m really grateful for that [had] At this time there are some projects going on [the pandemic hit] So I didn’t pull the rug all the way out from under me, “he says.

Last year, Mr. Joly had time to work on Crafthouse Cocktails, a bottled beverages business he co-founded more than eight years ago.

“We had to change focus immediately as most of our partners were affected,” he says. “No more concerts, sporting events or flights meant we had to find other ways to get our cocktails into people’s hands.

“A side effect of the pandemic is that people were drinking cocktails at home. We were able to direct our efforts towards retail partners, online stores and liquor stores.”

Another key project that Mr. Joly has been involved in is developing his own line of bar tools and glassware.

He was also able to hold cocktail classes and said, “Along with people who bake bread and pursue other hobbies during the quarantine, many also learned to make cocktails.”

Melanie Walton, publicist

Missing out on celebrities walking down red carpets that were no longer there, Ms. Walton was shocked when she became unemployed.

Image rightsMelanie Walton (left) with singer LedisiImage descriptionMelanie Walton (left) with singer Ledisi is currently exploring a career in the music business

“I’ve worked on big red carpet shows for over 15 years. The job security that I thought I lost.”

“I found it necessary and effective to do awards ceremonies. It was my way of contributing to the beauty and art industries while looking cool. I initially felt embarrassed and broken when the pandemic rocked my river.”

Last year, Mrs. Walton began to appreciate the opportunity to reflect on her life choices, priorities, and the value she placed on things that really didn’t matter. “I have prayed and read a lot and had many conversations with God.”

With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in communications, a cosmetics license, and a real estate agent, she’s always ready to try something new – and started studying law last August.

“However, I quickly found that the idea of ​​being a lawyer fascinated me more than the law itself.” So she returned to another career that she had before – hair styling.

Ms. Walton would also like to go back to her musical roots and has started a production company called MW Entertainment. “It’s an exciting time, I have so many ideas!” She says.

Jack

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