My birthday. I speed in my old vintage Jaguar towards a small dinner party and hastily turn from Doheny onto Sunset Boulevard. A motorcycle cop pulls me over. He has no clemency with the date and issues me a ticket. In California you can redeem certain traffic violations by going to traffic school for a day. Almost everyone I know takes this option, otherwise your car insurance will increase dramatically.
Los Angeles offers a colorful variety in traffic schools. Most frequented are the comedy traffic schools. Two years ago I have visited the comedy traffic school and had been irritated all day as it was never funny. This time I made another choice; the gay and lesbian traffic school, because it fitted well with research I want to do for a new UK low budget film LOVE IS THICKER THAN WATER.
My class consists of twenty violators. Ronald, our teacher – specializes in cartoon voices: an actor. Traditionally the first question in any traffic school will be: “Who are you and what’s your violation?” Ronald’s first question is: “Who are you, what do you want to do and do you have a steady relationship?” Half of my class has a steady relationship, the other half don’t. Three-quarters wants to work in the film industry – hey, we’re in Hollywood – but nearly everyone has a job on the side to survive. As soon as my co-violators hear that I have directed Drop Dead Fred (in a grey past, but cult films have no sell-by date), they give me a spontaneous round of applause. Several have seen the film and liked it.
Instead of the obligatory video with car-accidents caused by alcohol abuse, Ronald shows a Doris Day compilation. It results in singing and dancing and lots of flirting of the assembled traffic violators It was touching and heartrending to be part of this group full of joyous and very supportive people. But I felt more and more uncomfortable. Am I an intruder? A spy? Is it time to confess and do a reversed coming-out?
Cowardly I keep my mouth shut and enjoy the day. Towards the late afternoon Ronald had to ask final questions –in fact this was the official exam— He made it into a dating game. Everyone in the group has to throw a dice and then move over as many people as the dice indicates. Then you sit down on the lap of that person and you ask him or her a personal question. On my lap lands a huge truck driver and he asks me out for a date. “I am not gay”, I confess. “Are you thinking about becoming gay?” the truck drive wants to know. “No”. “Are you bi-sexual”” Ronald inquires. No again. “Drop Dead Fred is still a marvelous film”, the woman on the chair next to me belts out, and she gives me a hug and a kiss.
After comedy traffic school I made immediately ten new violations in the next half hour out of sheer irritation. After the gay and lesbian traffic school I stick to the rules for at least three weeks. Then the script for LOVE IS THICKER THAN WATER is finished and filming in the UK can start.
Editor’s note: Ate de Jong is very modest. He has just launched an Indigogo campaign which I think you you should support here.