Being Out There

By Sandra Dijkstra

Being an agent on the West Coast generally conjures up images of Irving Lazar’s huge eyeglasses, the most intellectual aspect of Hollywood.

We are a horizontal lot; we don’t do elevators well, so we have fewer chance encounters of an editorial kind. Yet, we do see the big sky, which is often bluer out here and can inspire acts of great courage (or foolishness).

The day is definitely longer out here—"there" for most of you. Until a few years ago, when Jon Galassi told me I didn’t have to work so hard, I began my day at seven am on the phone, hoping to retrieve that elusive three-hour difference. Then, at five pm, the West Coast calls poured in, with film-land finally chiming in after six.

Now, a bit older and wiser, I recognize that we may always be three hours behind, but you are already asleep when we are still thinking brilliant thoughts! And sometimes, the call from "out there," or the overnight package from the Coast can get more attention.

Being "out there," we West Coast agents have another supreme advantage: Our holiday beaches are not crowded with name authors and publishers, which means we don’t have to work ALL the time.

Our days are blissfully lunch-free, most of the time. When the odd editor ventures out here, the rule is broken, but mostly our noontimes are NY primetime, and we are womaning the phones. This reduces our calorie intake and sharpens our appetites for meaty deals with editors sleepy from long lunches. And, when we flash through New York, we are consumed, though mostly in expensive restaurants.

California was reported to be sinking into the Pacific when I began just over two decades ago. Since then, it has erupted and blazed and deluged us with Nature. Yet, being "out there" still has its advantages, the greatest of these may be the ease with which we can remember for whom we work: our authors.

Just as the DC press corps can get too cozy with the Administration, lunching and whining and dining and golfing together, so our NY confreres and soeurs risk contamination by too-frequent contact. Familiarity can breed contempt, so we remain blissfully ready to take the measure of our business partners from a distance.

Then, too, being 'out there' confers the huge advantage of allowing one to see the sun set on the Pacific…where the future lies. Rather than gazing northward, I let our Hollywood co-agents walk the Avenue of Stars for us, while I contemplate contemporary and ancient civilizations and their newest literary expressions. (These days, e-mail makes our communications easier and speedier, further minimizing the time difference.)

Indeed, the virtue of being virtually 'nowhere' is inestimable. Del Mar does exist, though it is neither a ‘burb of LA, nor a burg of San Francisco. Six miles north of La Jolla along the sea, one and a half hours south of LA by train, a half-hour from Tijuana, two hours west of the Anza Borrego Desert, Del Mar is a tiny village really, even though Anthony Robbins hustles and Deepak Chopra heals the wounded from here.

When I began to practice the art of agenting, my first New York friends warned me, "You’ll never be able to do it from 'out there,' you'll have to move to New York.' Many of these same friends now warn me against this very move. Contrarian that I am, this advice worries me, but I won’t give in. Being 'out there' is habit-forming. Besides, it is said that four of the top ten book markets are based in California, and I’d rather be where the action is!

Being truly 'bi' is so fashionable anyway these days, but I don’t know if that includes 'bicoastal'! Born in the Bronx and schooled in Berkeley, I do know this: You can take the New Yorker out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the New Yorker, no matter which coast she calls home!