I moved to L.A. in the early ‘80s. Can it be that the early ‘80s is really that long ago? I remember nostalgia for the ‘50s when I was a kid, and it seemed like ancient history. And the 40s? The War Years. They seemed like another planet. Well, that was as long ago to me then as the 80s are now. Sigh. Amazing.

Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles with my wife because New York wouldn’t let me in. I had a brother in New York and I thought I would stay with him ‘til I got a job and a place to live. That didn’t seem like too much to ask. After a few months I realized that neither were forthcoming.

I wanted to be a writer. And an actor. I’d written a number of plays in college and had them produced. One had attracted the attention of Ulu Grosbard, a prominent director of theater in New York. He also directed a few really great movies. THE SUBJECT WAS ROSE. STRAIGHT TIME. GEORGIA. THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN. A real legend.

The play he read was an early piece of mine called BURIAL CUSTOMS. It was about a funeral director in a small Virginia town. (Since SIX FEET UNDER came to pass, there’s no reason to revive it now.)

Well, he said to me that he really wanted to produce it as his next play. I went to his office in Times Square and, at 24, I saw my future rising up to meet me. I would be a playwright. Whatever that was. I would be a young success!

I visited the theater where he was directing a show. It seemed so exciting and so real. I still remember walking the streets of New York and feeling like I’d made it. (Not that I felt I deserved it – but that the doors were beginning to open for me…)

Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Grosbard’s interest dwindled and I had no other “in” to the theater world. It was as if I’d gotten a glimpse of fairy land and then it was snatched away from me.

So I was back in New York with nothing. My girlfriend (we wouldn’t marry for a year) and I were sleeping on my brother’s couch. He was married and had a kid. We couldn’t impose on them forever.

There was only one other course to take. I could move to L.A. and try my luck there. My other brother was an executive with Crown Books (remember them?) and they had stores in L.A. So at least I could get a job.

My wife’s aunt lived in L.A. so at least we’d have a place to land while we looked for more. It was either that or go to graduate school and I couldn’t afford that. So we took the plunge.

We drove out to L.A. from Virginia. In the winter. In a old Dodge Volaré. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single tank of gas…


Phoef Sutton

Phoef Sutton

Published novelist - living in South Pasadena, California with his wife Dawn and his daughters Skylar and Celia.
Phoef Sutton