Before I begin this letter, I must preface one thing, I hella *heart* Oakland. Always have, always will. (I have the shirt to prove it – see above) I remember when my parents packed up our GMC truck and made the 2 day drive from white bread Chisholm, Minnesota to Oakland. It was April 1984. As an adorable child, I was oblivious as to what this city would have in store for me. I was unaware of the growing pains that it would cause me. I was incognizant as to amount of time I would have to spend defending it to southbay douchebags and SF elitists. But it all happened. I endured 2 teachers’ strikes during the course of my k-12 education, I witness Jerry Brown’s reign as the gentrification czar from 1999-2007, I watched my beautiful city rise to the number 5 most dangerous city in America in 2008. All the while, defending it to every Chuong, Dick, and VBeezy out there.
Now, I have earned my right to bitch. When you allowed Czar Brown to tear down all the shops along Jack London Square to build up all those luxury condos, which no real Oaktowner can afford, I said nothing. When you allowed the City of Fremont and Cisco Systems to fly into town and sweep our beloved Oakland A’s off their shaky playoff feet, I remained sidelined. When you kept pushing more money into the police department instead of funneling money into social services and preventative programs for youth to address the problems of crime and drugs in the city, I cried silently among friends. When I didn’t get callbacks for the two jobs that I applied for, I wasn’t bitter- I just went on to get a post graduate degree in hopes to impress you to get an even better job. But now that you’ve frivolously mismanaged public funds and practiced years of nepotism in your hiring process, and are currently $42+ million in debt, I may never get a chance to impress you.
But the reason I’m writing this letter today to the city leaders of Oakland (I use the term leaders loosely), is to address the controversy circulating around about the possibility of HBO using our dear city as the set of their new television series. The Hughes Brothers, yes love them or hate them, are back and have developed a new HBO series drawn out of their 2001 documentary “American Pimp.” The premise of the storyline is based on a 35 year old pimp struggling to retire from his hoe-hagging profession, but finds himself in too deep to just get out. The new series titled “Gentlemen of Leisure,” will follow the footsteps of another HBO series, “The Wire.” Like The Wire, which uses Baltimore as its backdrop, Gentlemen of Leisure will use our beloved Oakland as the stomping grounds for the daily comings and goings of the show.
The show is slated to start shooting in 2009, but executives have been unable to attain city permits to allow them to set up shop. Why? Because City leaders don’t want a show about pimps and hoes dragging Oakland’s good name through the mud. Reality Check: we have no good name. When you’re listed as one of the top five most dangerous cities in America, when your homicide rate is well over a hundred every year, when you have city officials who practice nepotism and greed, you not only don’t have a good name to the outside world, but those who live in Oakland have grown weary of the City’s reputation and “good” name as well.
I understand the concerns of glorifying urban life in ways that irresponsibly promotes drugs, unsafe sex, and violence in our already deteriorating and blighted communities. But as a realist, I also understand the need to capitalize on opportunities to spur economic growth. Oakland continues to struggle financially. Perhaps stop over paying lazy city workers and unethical city administrators would be a start to rectifying the financial turmoil. But in the meantime, maybe allowing HBO to set up a production crew in the Town wouldn’ t be such a bad idea. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is going to start a world wind of economic growth for the City. I mean, I’m still not even sold on professional sports team being an economic stimulator for any city (but I love me some A’s and Warriors, so I won’t even go there). I do think it would serve to benefit the City of Oakland to have hundreds of people in the City who will patronize our local shops, sleep in our hotels, and pay us big bucks to film on our streets. I don’t see too much harm in our local landmarks making it to the small screen on a national scale. If the only reason that city leaders oppose the filming and use of Oakland for this show is because of the fear that it will give Oakland a bad name, well, shit, we already have one, so why not capitalize on it? Here are some all around benefits I see to filming “Gentlemen of Leisure” in Oakland:
1. Film production folks will eat in our restaurants, shops in our stores, and shit in our port-o-potties
2. Our local landmarks will get recognition on television, thus free publicity (ie. Hello Deli, Juniors, Katz, etc)
3. Oakland will become a recognized contender as a possible filming location for big movies
4. They are not developing anything fixed, like luxury condos, office buildings, or professional sports stadiums or practice facilities- again no diss on my bay area teams, so it’s not taking the place of any other economically beneficial infill development.
5. The possibility of me getting a walk on role, preferably a speaking role. (SAG card here I come. Hellz yea, cbruh!)
So as someone who loves Oakland more than the Podunk town that she currently resides in, I urge you, “leaders” of Oakland, let them film the show within your borders. Reap the benefits of the sales tax and transient occupancy tax and costs of filming permits that will come your way. Because if you don’t open your doors, some other crime-plagued city in southern California will.