If you’ve ever read an inter­view with Josh Becker then you know that he’s ruth­less­ly hon­est.  He doesn’t spare any­one in his pre­sen­ta­tion of the truth, least of all him­self. These traits serve him well in Going Hollywood, an auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal tome that flies in the face of the expect­ed con­ven­tions of the gen­re.  It doesn’t sing the prais­es of the title loca­tion nor does it apply rose-col­ored glass­es when it looks back at the past.  Like the author, it has a mind of its own when it comes to what it is sup­posed to achieve.

For starters, Going Hollywood doesn’t fol­low a con­ven­tion­al rags-to-rich­es tem­plate.  Instead, it just focus­es on a few years in Becker’s life, long before he became a suc­cess­ful direc­tor of t.v. and fea­ture films.  It begins with the 18 year-old Becker rent­ing his first apart­ment in Los Angeles, in the heart of Hollywood.  He’s with­in walk­ing dis­tance of Paramount Pictures but his sur­round­ings don’t resem­ble any kind of dream fac­to­ry.  Instead, it’s a slum pop­u­lat­ed by the kind of peo­ple your par­ents would for­bid you to asso­ciate with.

Thus begins the dis­man­tling of Becker’s Tinseltown dreams.  In short order, he dis­cov­ers that mov­ing to Hollywood doesn’t a film­mak­ing career, the local film schools are most­ly use­less and no one around him knows how to break into the busi­ness.  He chal­lenges him­self to become a writer as he enjoys some skir­mish­es with famous peo­ple, fre­quent vis­its to revival the­aters, the occa­sion­al bit of sex and a whole lot of drug use.

When he real­izes that his dreams are fad­ing and he’s about to become anoth­er Hollywood casu­al­ty, Becker packs it all in and decides to hitch­hike to Alaska so he can gain some life expe­ri­ences to fuel his flag­ging writ­ing career.  When he reach­es his des­ti­na­tion, he doesn’t find the mag­ic key to writ­ing or film­mak­ing suc­cess — but what he does find shapes his ambi­tions and his future.

Like any mem­oir, Going Hollywood had the poten­tial of drift­ing into episod­ic dull­ness or navel-gaz­ing attempts to jus­ti­fy the sig­nif­i­cance of his expe­ri­ences.  Thankfully, the book nev­er suc­cumbs to any of those temp­ta­tions for a num­ber of rea­sons.  The first is that Becker is a dis­ci­plined scribe: his pac­ing is lean, his prose is descrip­tive with­out get­ting clut­tered and his autho­ri­al voice is like­ably unpre­ten­tious and self-dep­re­cat­ing.

Also, his short tenure in Hollywood pro­duced a lot of mem­o­rable anec­dotes: a high­light in this area is a sur­re­al cross-coun­try trip to help a neigh­bor score a big ship­ment of dope so he can sur­prise his on-again, off-again girl­friend in Miami.  The hitch­hik­ing tour to Alaska is also packed with inci­dents that cov­er the gamut from hilar­i­ous to fright­en­ing.  Most impor­tant­ly, he nev­er holds back: whether he is chron­i­cling a trip to a mas­sage par­lor fund­ed by grand­par­ents’ Christmas mon­ey or how he shocked a doc­tor by man­ag­ing to con­tract scurvy in the 20th cen­tu­ry, Becker tells it all and finds the humor in each sit­u­a­tion.

That said, there’s more to Going Hollywood than just vic­ar­i­ous thrills.  His expe­ri­ences in Hollywood and the lessons they teach Becker will be eye-open­ing for any­one who has nev­er lived in the City Of Angels.  The trip to Alaska real­ly puts it all into focus as Becker is forced to con­front his atti­tudes about life, film­mak­ing and his illu­sions about the pri­or two sub­jects.  As he explains the real­iza­tions he came to from the­se expe­ri­ences, it allows him to lay out some good com­mon-sense phi­los­o­phy that will be of use to any­one inter­est­ed in pur­su­ing film­mak­ing as a career.

Becker would go on to big­ger and more col­or­ful adven­tures once he start­ed direct­ing films — sto­ries that are chron­i­cled in an ear­lier auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal book called Rushes — but Going Hollywood is worth­while to any­one who’s enjoyed Becker’s work as well as those inter­est­ed in an hon­est, often wit­ty look at what life in Hollywood is like at the entry lev­el.