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Veiled truths in black and white—and purple

Going Down in La-La Land

Haworth Press

$16.95; 252 pages

“Going Down in La-La Land” is a breezy read about a wannabe actor’s downward spiral in Los Angeles. A roman à clef, this novel is so thinly veiled at times that some of the names have been changed only barely. When author Andy Zeller who appeared in the films “Celebrity” and “The Fluffer” features a main character named Adam Zeffer who appears in the films “Celebrity” and “The Voyeur,” it is not a coincidence.

But this is not a bad thing either. Whether Zeller—that is, Zeffer—is exorcising his demons from his time spent in Hollywood and the porn industry, or if he has deliberately created a fictional narrative out of experiences he actually had is not the point. “Going Down in La-La Land” is less about chronicling the life of an out of work actor than it is a cautionary tale about the depths of despair one can sink to.

Leaving New York for El Lay, Zeller hooks up with his best gal pal Candy, whom he met on a low budget horror film called “Sect of Lucifer” (“Satan’s Menagerie,” perhaps?) She is a vivacious and voluptuous woman who has trouble finding good men and decent acting roles. Like Adam, she’s looking for a solution to man and money problems. These characters get along like an ersatz Will and Grace, watching Mae West films and drinking too much to keep themselves amused when the chips are down.

Adam spends the early part of the novel trying to find work, and after an unsatisfying and unsuccessful job, he ends up working in the gay male porn industry as Adam Zee. First he does office work, then he strips to do a solo photo shoot, then he is asked to—ahem—perform in a film, “Bobby Steelhard’s Hollywood Garage” (“Billy Herrington’s Body Shop”), which he does.

Significantly, “Going Down in La-La Land” is not a poison pen letter to the blue movie industry. Zeffer acknowledges that it’s a professional business, where conditions are rough, the people are friendly, and fucking is just part of the job. In fact, to make extra money, Adam allows himself to be hired out as an escort to fuck wealthy clients with mixed results. While one rendezvous with a billionaire goes badly, another with a closeted TV actor turns into true romance.

Zeffer’s engaging style makes his fast-paced narrative entertaining, and there is some fun trying to guess what really happened, and who is being referenced in the characters. The author admits, “fifty percent is fabricated and fifty percent inspired by real-life…part of the fun is to keep people guessing—it lends an air of mystery to the whole thing.”

Furthermore, “Going Down in La-La Land” is peppered with sexy passages, detailing every erotic dalliance. Zeffer’s pages also tend to run toward the purple, as when he writes, “I felt the oversized head of his throbbing cock meet my chin, then my cheek, and the next thing I knew the hot, wet flesh of my tongue was smothering the red tip of his beautiful dick. I sucked in my breath as my mouth enclosed itself over his enormous shaft, covering it like a blanket and submerging it in my hot saliva.”

While “Going Down in La-La Land” has enough sensual passages to satisfy readers looking for a hot read, the point of the novel is clearly in Adam’s maturation, and recognizing the responsibility of one’s decisions.

The morality tale format does have its drawback. The characters are so black and white that no one, except for Adam, has any real development. When Adam trusts Candy with sensitive information, there is no possibility of betrayal. When a man Adam works with reveals a drug problem, there is no possibility of recovery. And when a man breaks-up with Adam, there is no possibility of reconciliation. Zeffer’s only ambiguity is the identity of the character who leaks Adam’s background in porn to a newspaper during a critical moment in his career. Yet as easy as it is to harbor a guess as to the culprit given the situations presented prior to this moment, Zeffer doesn’t reveal whodunit.

“Going Down in La-La Land” certainly will make readers glad Zeffer created a record of his experiences in Hollywood—especially since he is publishing it as pure fiction.

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Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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