Hol­ly­wood is Hol­ly­wood what­ever its lo­ca­tion!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Rick Wayne

Once upon a time when I was still based in Los An­ge­les, Cal­i­for­nia, a vis­it­ing Egyp­tian friend and body­build­ing cham­pion ex­pressed to me his im­mense ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all things USA! USA!—in par­tic­u­lar the way Amer­i­cans were, as he put it, “free to come, go and do as they please.” In his own coun­try, he sighed, “the peo­ple can say any­thing they want, as long as no­body is lis­ten­ing. They do as they are told. On the other hand, Hol­ly­wood keeps them happy.”

Ac­tu­ally Hol­ly­wood, sta­teed­ited and other­wise, makes the whole world sing, laugh or cry hap­pily. It’s the rea­son Hol­ly­wood ex­ists: to re­move peo­ple from their mis­er­able re­al­ity; to in­spire ex­u­ber­ance, how­ever ir­ra­tional and short­lived. There be­ing no such thing as a free lunch, even in the land of make be­lieve, mak­ing peo­ple happy, if only for a cou­ple of hours every few months, turns out to be a pretty lu­cra­tive busi­ness. Which ex­plains why the likes of Brad Pitt, Jen­nifer Lawrence, Chris Hemsworth, Ben Af­fleck, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ John­son and Mor­gan Free­man are paid count­less mil­lions to be pre­tend bare-knuckle box­ers, pre­tend sol­diers, pre­tend out­erspace mir­a­cle work­ers—even pre­tend God.

To be fair, Hol­ly­wood has never pre­tended its pur­pose is to al­le­vi­ate poverty, not at home and cer­tainly not abroad. Ac­cord­ing to the show­biz bi­ble

Hol­ly­wood Re­porter the vast ma­jor­ity of the 100,000 or so Screen Ac­tors Guild mem­ber­ship earn less than $1,000 a year from act­ing jobs. Yes, you read that right. Most ac­tors, re­gard­less of how tal­ented, keep the wolf from their mo­tel doors as fast-food servers, Ve­gas hook­ers, bar­tenders, party dec­o­ra­tors and over-am­bi­tions body­guards to the es­tab­lished stars.

As I say, the busi­ness of Hol­ly­wood is as a non­stop pur­veyor of im­pos­si­ble dreams. Once you’ve walked out of the cin­ema at the end of a movie you’re on your own; back to your roach mo­tel and what­ever gets you through the night.

Hol­ly­wood in Saint Lu­cia, at any rate our tan­gi­ble Hol­ly­wood, as op­posed to pre­tend Hol­ly­wood, op­er­ates by the same rules as the so­called film cap­i­tal of the world. (Cu­ri­ously, one or two—that prime min­is­te­rial phrase again!—of our more de­prived com­mu­ni­ties were named af­ter the gilded Amer­i­can en­clave, which may be in­dica­tive of a par­tic­u­larly sick sense of hu­mor, cyn­i­cism be­yond mea­sure, or, to bor­row from our own Derek Wal­cott, “minds in­ca­pable of metaphor.”)

Not that the first-time vis­i­tor at his or her air­con­di­tioned ho­tel is likely to hear many com­plaints from the ever-smil­ing help. A long time ago the greater part of our pop­u­la­tion had been cal­cu­lat­edly pro­gramed to “for­get your trou­bles and dance.” More Hol­ly­wood; more pre­tend­ing all’s well when ev­ery­one knows “you catchin’ your roy­als!” like the rest of us.

What a panacea the mir­a­cle mix of cheap in­tox­i­cants and end­less free hours turns out to be. So busy are we cel­e­brat­ing non-events, mostly myth­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal, that we are left lit­tle time for de­press­ing con­sid­er­a­tions.

The lat­est mis­ery re­pel­lent is sold as the Saint Lu­cia Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val. In slightly dif­fer­ent for­mats it was ear­lier branded as Saint Lu­cia Jazz and Saint Lu­cia Jazz Fes­ti­val. Born in 1992 of the late tourism min­is­ter Ro­manus Lan­siquot and now UWP leader Allen Chas­tanet, the event was of­fered to the un­ques­tion­ing gullible as a tourism booster. How much it was ex­pected to cost was never a con­sid­er­a­tion, nei­ther its profit po­ten­tial. In­deed, its ad­ver­tised pur­pose was to guar­an­tee the is­land’s hote­liers full houses, if only for a cou­ple of weeks, at a time when most re­sorts are half empty. As for the reg­u­lar pop­u­la­tion, the vast ma­jor­ity were al­to­gether un­fa­mil­iar with the mu­sic that had made world fa­mous the likes of Miles Davis, Count Basie, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Sarah Vaughan and Nina Si­mone.

De­spite ap­pear­ances over the years by such as R. Kelly, Akon, the Jack­sons and Mary J. Blige, it fi­nally dawned on the pro­mot­ers that Saint Lu­cia Jazz

was an arm and a leg and liv­ers too while at­tract­ing fewer and fewer en­thu­si­asts from the mu­sic’s birth­place, the UK and Canada; that an in­creas­ing num­ber came from the re­gion and Looshan di­as­po­ras here and there. Alas, by that time car­ni­val, as we had known it for eons, had been re­tooled, de­ra­ci­nated from its Len­ten con­nec­tions—and Aqua Ac­tion drowned—for rea­sons al­to­gether ar­cane.

As I say, since the show was never con­ceived as a profit-mak­ing ve­hi­cle, no ob­vi­ous ef­fort was made to avert the mas­sive losses. The im­ported lead­ing per­form­ers were paid sus­pi­ciously high sums, by un­con­firmed ac­count tax-free. There have been per­for­mances pre­sented by lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions, al­legedly se­cretly funded by gov­ern­ment. In any event, small won­der that the pro­mot­ers have never de­clared the amounts in­vested or the re­turns from such in­vest­ments.

For cer­tain, by 2014 the main au­di­ence at “fes­ti­vals” staged at Min­doo Phillip Park, Fond d’Or, La­borie and Soufriere were from the re­gion—most of the credit go­ing to Kas­sav mu­sic and musicians.

That most lo­cal hote­liers har­mo­nized over the draw­ing power of the fes­ti­val, that by 2013 had all but lost its jazz com­po­nent, was hardly sur­pris­ing. This year, it seemed no stone was left un­turned in the tourist board’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to make the event’s 25th an­niver­sary (by its var­i­ous names), that seems to have co­in­cided with our sil­li­est sea­son, ab­so­lutely un­for­get­table. At any rate, not for­got­ten be­fore Polling Day. By all ac­counts at­ten­dance records were bro­ken (a truth that some cam­paign­ing politi­cians doubt­less will wel­come), never mind that the lead act proved less than sat­is­fy­ing.

Alas, hardly had the cur­tain come down than harsh re­al­ity con­fronted the Hol­ly­wood delu­sion. Right there in Derek Wal­cott Square some young peo­ple, in­clud­ing at least one vir­gin, were de­bauched at gun­point, a hor­ror that ev­i­dently proved less wor­thy of the jus­tice min­is­ter’s com­ment than that the show at Pi­geon Point had been in­ci­dent-free, thanks to the min­is­ter’s strate­gic de­ploy­ment of po­lice per­son­nel.

Marc Anthony and his Amer­i­can show­biz col­leagues re­turned home a tad richer than they were on ar­rival, leav­ing many of us a lit­tle bit poorer than we were be­fore we forked out to hear Anthony sing for the less than one per­cent of his au­di­ence that un­der­stood Span­ish.

Mean­while the im­pact of IMPACS con­tin­ues out of con­trol: the be­lea­guered po­lice are protest­ing a mag­is­trate’s de­ci­sion to hold an in­quest into five fatal po­lice shoot­ings af­ter the prime min­is­ter had al­ready had his tele­vised say on the in­ci­dent; the na­tion’s re­cently ac­quired im­age as a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous for Brits, stands unim­proved; U.S. State Depart­ment sanc­tions against our gov­ern­ment for its ap­par­ent re­luc­tance to pros­e­cute IMPACS threaten to bite deeper; un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures con­tinue to be a ma­jor na­tional headache and our jus­tice sys­tem is so bro­ken as to ap­pear ir­repara­ble.

Ah, but another elec­tion­time car­ni­val looms. Another ex­cuse to for­get our trou­bles, step into our tight­est thongs and show-all Span­dex while we party like it’s 1999 when nearly ev­ery­one be­lieved what the tourist board put out in our name was gospel.

Can Jazz in the Square ever be the same again? Can the square that bears the name of Derek Wal­cott and fea­tures busts of our two No­bel Lau­re­ates be res­cued from its re­cent his­tory? Or is the park des­tined to be a re­minder of our worst char­ac­ter­is­tics?

Philip La Corbiniere: By his own words the safety of Saint Lu­cia Jazz & Arts Fes­ti­val pa­trons at Pi­geon Point was all he cared about. He ac­tu­ally ad­mit­ted to re­porters who am­bushed him on his way to par­lia­ment that he knew noth­ing about the rapes in the square two days ear­lier.

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