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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Today Claude, tomorrow me?
David Willis
By David Willis
Los Angeles

Journalist David Willis is taking six months off from work at the BBC to try and make it as an actor in Hollywood. In his second diary entry for the BBC News website, he takes comfort from a security guard's good fortune.

David Willis
Will the Yellow Pages offer any pointers to David Willis?
For the first time in his life, Claude couldn't care less where I parked my car.

"Hey David, guess what? I've got a new job!" he shouted as I wound down the window. "I'm gonna be a star!"

For a moment I wondered whether daily exposure to the harsh California sun hadn't left one of the Prospect Studios' longest-serving security guards a little delusional.

Claude is a gentle giant of a man who takes his work seriously. It was not unknown for members of the BBC's LA staff to wrangle with him over parking outside our tiny office on the Prospect lot.

"But you're a security guard," I replied fatuously. "You haven't got the first idea how to act."

With a smile the length of the Hollywood sign and a swagger that would scare a hit man, Claude lifted the barrier with a flourish. Today not even the blindingly obvious could dampen his mood.

All alone in his cramped wooden booth, Claude had used his influence wisely. Every day when a particular casting director would arrive, he would find a space for his car.

One day the casting director was looking for someone to play a doctor in his show and invited Claude to audition.

Talent agents

The show was Grey's Anatomy, a hospital drama which follows Desperate Housewives in Sunday night's primetime schedule.

It has an audience of more than 20m, and Claude is now part of the cast.

Prospect Studios entrance
A security guard post helped one acquaintance hit the big time
When I saw him a few days ago in the tiny wooden booth he has occupied for six years, he was too busy taking phone calls to haggle over where I should leave my Honda Civic.

Talent agents were calling, some offering to waive their 10% commission in return for his signature.

Union representatives were courting him, old girlfriends were coming out of the woodwork.

Old editions of the Los Angeles Times which once littered the booth had been replaced by the industry bible Daily Variety.

And when he wasn't coming to terms with his newfound stardom, he was mentally spending his new salary - surveying property ads or plotting his next vacation.

Man of Steel

It is stories like Claude's that draw people here.

Never mind that of the 120,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, roughly 80% are out of work at any one time, or that most of those who do work earn less than dustmen and dishwashers.

Charlize Theron
Charlize Theron was discovered while trying to cash a cheque
Here the belief endures that anyone with talent, application and a certain amount of good fortune can make it in the movies.

Just look at Charlize Theron, spotted by an agent while cashing a cheque on Hollywood Boulevard, or Stephan Bender, the Missouri teenager cast as the young Man of Steel in the new Superman movie.

If they, and Claude can do it, my thinking is that I can too.

Your correspondent has spent way too long on the wrong side of the velvet rope. It is time for my red carpet moment: I'm ready for my close-up.

While I scour the telephone directory for acting classes, Claude is serving out his notice.

We will all miss him immensely - but at least I'll have somewhere to park.


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