the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Never Let Them See You Sweat


Thanks to everyone who made such nice comments on my “friendship” post.  I almost deleted the post after I published it, since I thought it was too wimpy – but I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m especially pleased to learn that I got other bloggers to think about the subject, including JJ, Ashbloem, Nicole, and Ascesis.  Even though we all live in different parts of the country – and world – we all have similar experiences in life.

Not all the responses to the post were positive.  One of my film school friends said it was a terrible idea to make myself look “bad” (meaning needy).  He’s a big fan of the maxim, “Never let them see you sweat.”  One of his favorite books is a self-help book by a professional jury-picker who writes about the “secrets” of stacking the jury by reading people’s dress, posture, and mannerisms  The book offers advice on how you can manipulate the world by using your dress and body language.  In my friend’s view, each individual is a private business that needs to be successfully marketed to succeed.  It is essential to show yourself in a positive light and never say anything bad about yourself… including your need for more friends.   The best way to get friends is to become more successful.  Then, friends will be knocking at your door.  Not surprisingly, my friend works in the entertainment industry.  

I understand where my friend is coming from.  The entertainment industry can warp your mind.  Nothing turns my stomach more than having to go to a “Hollywood” party.  Fear and desperation permeate the air, no matter how successful the group.  The reason:

Careers in Hollywood rise and fall faster than Pamela Anderson’s boobs when she’s bouncing on top of Tommy Lee in that sex video. 

The worst possible thing to say at a Hollywood party is “I’m out of work."  Everyone is afraid of catching the disease, like leprosy.   So, everyone (and I mean everyone, including the waiter handing out the cocktail franks) is “in development.”  No one believes this, but as long as no negative energy is released, everyone is relaxed and the party can proceed normally.

Keeping positive in Hollywood is not easy, or cheap.  People try to fight negativity by spending tons of money at the Learning Annex and the Scientology center.  I understand the need for this.  It’s so easy to get down on yourself that you sometimes need an outside source to help you delude yourself.

When I first move to LA, my neighbor was a pretty red-haired actress.  I wanted to ask her out, but I was too shy.  She wasn’t getting the acting jobs she wanted, so she started going to this EST-Forum type group to bolster her self-esteem.  And it seemed to work.  She didn’t get any more work, but her positive attitude went through the roof.  All of a sudden, she “knew” she was going to succeed.  There was no room for doubt.  She stopped talking to her regular friends because they were a “negative influence” who didn’t “believe in her abundant potential.”

While I was glad she was happier, I found her attitude adjustment a little creepy.  I also was concerned about the cost of all these “seminars” she took.  There was a new seminar almost every week, each costing a couple of thousand dollars. After each seminar, she would ask me to attend her “graduation.”  I kept on finding excuses not to attend, but there was a new graduation after each seminar, and I was running out of reasons.  

Finally, I agreed to go to one of her graduations.  I had no interest in this group at all, but I figured if I went, it might help me in my quest to see her naked and – well, you get where my mind was at.   I knew this group was probably cult-like.  Someone even warned me that they would try to “brainwash” me.  But I wasn’t very worried.  While some cults might appeal to me, I’m way too cheap to actually pay thousands of dollars for one.

My neighbor and I went to the group’s headquarters in Westwood.  The minute we got there, they shuffled all the “guests” into another room totally separate from the graduating students.  The door was locked and we never saw them for the rest of the evening.  Some graduation! 

A young guy with a well-trimmed beard stood in front of the guests, waving his finger at all of us.

Bearded Guy:  “You… all of you…are fuck-ups.  Every single one of you… Fuck-ups.  You don’t know shit.  And if you think you know shit, you know even less shit.”

One of the guests giggled.

Bearded Guy:  “What the fuck is wrong with you, fuck-up?

This was so weird that I was actually intrigued, as if I had stepped into a real-life movie about crazy people in California. 

“Finally,” I said to myself, “I’m seeing the real Los Angeles.”

The bearded guy kept on ranting about how fucked we all were.  Two female assistants handed out sign-up sheets where we supposed to write down our addresses and phone numbers. 

My mind wandered to thoughts about my actress friend.   I guess I wasn’t going to see her naked, after all.   It was clear that one of the "graduation requirements” was to drag another clueless victim into this nonsense.  But what bugged me the most was – why me?  Did I really look like such a “lost soul” that she thought I would go for this?

I got up to leave.

Bearded Guy:  “Where are you going?”

Me:  “I’m leaving.”

Bearded Guy:  "You can’t leave until we’re done."

Me:  "I’m really not that interested.  I’m sorry."

Bearded Guy:  "You should be sorry, you no-nothing fuck-up.  You signed up to be at this graduation ceremony."

Me:  "What graduation ceremony?  This… this… is just an excuse to get new clients.  And stop calling me names.  You’re rude… and I know what you’re trying to do.  I took psychology."

Bearded Guy:  “You really are fucked up.  Sit down.”

Some burly bouncer type stood in front of the closed doors.  For the first time since arriving, I got nervous.  My mind raced, trying to figure out what to do next. 

Me:  (to myself)   Should I just sit down and listen?  What could happen in an hour or so?  Or could something happen… I can’t be brainwashed in an hour?  But, wait… maybe I’m being brainwashed already?  Maybe I’ll become like one of those prisoners in the Stanley Milgram experiment I wrote a paper about in college Psych class?

Suddenly, I stopped thinking of my college psych class and reached into school memories that went even further back —  to my sixth grade civics class.  I remembered some speech I gave about the Declaration of Independence when I was chosen as my school’s “Citizen of the Month.” 

I turned and faced the bearded guy as defiantly as Patrick Henry must have stared down the British.

Me:  “This is a free country.  I have rights.  Have you read the Declaration of Independence?  The Constitution?   In 1789, something was written called the Bill of Rights.  Have you heard of it?  In it, it says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  There is free speech in this country.  And there is the inalienable right for me to move freely throughout this country.  And if I want to walk out those doors right now, I WILL walk out those doors.”

I marched to the doors.  The bouncer moved aside.  I opened the handles to the door and left.

I never brought up this incident to my actress neighbor.   I never scolded her or blamed her.  I understood that this craziness was important to her.  She needed this boost of confidence to make it in the entertainment business, even if she had to pay thousands of dollars for it.   And several years later, after we lost contact with each other, I did see her in a small speaking role on “Will and Grace.” 

So, maybe my film school friend is right: “Never let them see you sweat.” 

Maybe next time I want to write about Sophia, or my sex life, or my friendships on my blog, I’ll just say, “It’s in development.”


  1. Anne

    Isn’t letting us see you sweat is the whole point of a blog?

  2. Lauren

    Don’t let LA’s past time of stroking your own ego get to you. I’m glad I got out when I did.

    And it is not just in Hollywood that the idea of being unemployed feels “catching”. I love the scared look people get when I tell them I do nothing. There’s not much sympathy out there for a stay-at-home-girlfriend.

  3. ashbloem

    Once again, your post reminds me of my own experience with a cult. But I won’t post it today. Then I’ll seem like a creepy copycat stalker. But someday….

    People are crazy. It’s a real shame you didn’t get to see her naked after all that.

  4. The Moviequill

    I went to Barnes n Noble looking for a book on jury-rigging…they sent me to Home Depot

  5. introspectre

    Holy crap, that was totally psychotic. And really, how good could she possibly have been in bed to be worth all that? What if she didn’t get off? Would she start telling you what a fuck up you were?


    I like my sex straight up, without the psychosis. Well, maybe some PLAY psychosis, but not the real thing!

    As far as never letting them see you sweat…

    You know, I don’t think that’s true. Seeing someone else’s humanity can be terribly endearing (funny thing, I just posted about that last night).

    Your firm school friend may have a point about not appearing needy, but there is a HUGE difference between being honest and coming off as needy. Being honest about your needs is brave, but whining hopelessly about your needs is pathetic.
    You were being honest. And we all loved it.

    On another note, I think if I lived near Hollywood I would end up a raving street lunatic. Seeing people walking around in their plastic boxes would freak me out. I’d have to shake them up somehow. Wear a gorilla mask and stand in traffic singing the theme song to Mr. Rogers or something.

    Then people could drive by and tell me what a fuck up I am.


  6. introspectre

    Ah, that was supposed to be FILM school friend, not firm. They might be firm as well. I don’t know.

  7. M.A.

    That meeting sounded like a truly horrible event. It’s sad that one has to buy self-esteem in LA or anywhere for that matter.

    But now, when people ask why my dissertation isn’t finished, I’ll simply say, “Oh, it’s in development.” Yay! Thanks, Neil.

  8. Fun Joel

    Come on now, Neil. Everyone knows Pam Anderson’s got too much shit pumped into her boobs for them to ever bounce!

  9. modigli

    What’s really crazy is that you were the only one to actually get up and leave! Wow! What a freakish experience. It makes Scientology and Kabbalah water look normal!

  10. Neil

    By the way, I think this is what the group was called —

    (although I guess they were still using “EST” techniques)

    From what I read, EST was getting in trouble, so it was re-packaged into this.

    As uncomfortable as the experience was, any time you get a story out of something, it’s good!

    And, alas, yes, I think the redhead actress was probably very good in bed. Cult members make the best lovers. They’re very focused.

  11. anonymous city girl

    I know this probably was not that point of your post, but the whole freedom speak was really hot!

  12. Neil

    ACG — You should see me use that speech in the bedroom when I’m wearing my Revolutionary War tricon hat and carrying my musket.

  13. anonymous city girl

    I’m thinking the last thing I want to hear in the bedroom is “And I’ll walk out that door if I want to!”

  14. Charlie

    I wonder how many poor saps actually got brow beaten into signing up for the classes. Did the speaker leap around stage with a hands free microphone telling you to “respect the cock,” like that Tom Cruise character in Magnolia?

  15. meme

    oh-my-god. my mom made me and my sisters do the family version of lifespring (same shit, different name). then countless friends got sucked up into est, lifespring, landmark forum, etc. and they would call me and say things like, “how can you put a price on eternal happiness? what’s 1500 bucks when you have the key to your future success?” those hapless suckers were just telemarketers without a paycheck. i say go drink your kool-aid, put on you nikes and shut up.

  16. Megan

    HOLY SHIT! No wonder my last boss was so psycho; she tried to get us all to sign up for Landmark seminars all the time because she was a “believer.” (And yes, the job was in Santa Monica.) I thought it sounded “cultish” when I read the brochure. Now I’m just happy I said I wasn’t interested…and then I quit!

    As far as “never letting them see you sweat” goes, I’m a big believer in the opposite. I don’t mean that I want to be around people who bitch and moan about everything, though. I just really love the beauty of honesty. When people are unashamed to share their flaws, that’s what makes them beautiful to me. Why would I want to waste my time being around people who are always masking themselves and never allowing me to truly know them? I could buy a friend for that if I wanted to!

    Well done, Neil.

    Oh, and regarding that “friendship post,” I was going to suggest that the SoCal bloggers have a get together, but I changed my mind. Sometimes it is easier to be honest with virtual strangers than with friends. You have more to lose when real contact comes into play. Besides, what if meeting you made me lose my blog-crush on you? 😉 (Did you like the winky there?)

  17. Jack

    I have never felt the need for one of those classes. Some people have a hole inside and just don’t know how to fill it.

    And I admit to having considered creating my own motivational program. But I’d probably feel guilty taking money for offering common sense advice.

  18. Pauly D

    I sweat all the time. I don’t know what to do about it. Possibly botox injections. That could work.

  19. anonymous city girl

    I had little desire to visit LA before, and it’s pretty much all dwindled away now.
    The LA entertainment industry sounds simular to the movie/tv scene on the east coast. And that’s the reason after a few production gigs in that meduim, I went running back to theatre work… it doesn’t even seem like the same basic industry. Besides a few “extra” gigs here and there when I’m not doing anything and could use the scratch, I really don’t have any desire to do any movie/tv work.

    And Megan – I think we all have a blog crush on Neil. 😛

  20. ms. sizzle

    I think that whole “never let them see you sweat” thing has its place but for the most part, being real and showing your true self generally pays off more than being closed off and contained. the more you “sweat” the more it gives others unspoken permission to just be their damn selves.

    This part is my favorite: “Cult members make the best lovers. They are very focused.”

    I am gonna laugh about that all day!

  21. jenny

    part of being human is showing vulnerability. yeah maybe if you sweat and smell like a hippie, it’s better to not see you sweat. but all-in-all, being real will win you more friends than never letting them see you sweat.

    and EST, i am not sure i can be objective on this subject. the mother of my best friend when i was growing up was really into EST. she created her own mens and womens workshop weekends after doing EST trainings. suddenly she was “powerful and successful”. for her it seemed to work as she was making a lot of money and had herself a name. but it kind of freaked me out how cult-ish they were about stuff, like language. she would go around saying “i got it” about everything. and i kept thinking… what does she -get- exactly? i’ve heard from people that Landmark is not as militaristic as EST was…but still…why do people need this stuff to feel good about themselves? i won’t get all crazy spiritual here…but you gotta find happiness within yourself, no workshop or training is gonna do it for you.

  22. Edgy Mama

    They’re called Large Group Awareness Trainings or LGATs. Unfortunately, I have more experience than I would like with them (via my spouse). I had a similar experience when attending a “guest” night. The group leader got in my face, and I got right back in hers. She wasn’t cursing, but I WAS!

    BTW, Neil, the Pamela Lee simile is CLASSIC!

  23. danielle

    Brainwashing doesn’t sound all that bad… I mean, my brain could use a good washing after living in Lala-land, and from all the lies that politicians and certain media outlets are pushing these days.

  24. Claven

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I love LA retards. DC can be almost as bad. Around there lawyer types talk about how many hours they billed last week the way some guys talk about how much they bench press. When I moved back there for a job that didn’t materialize (I had already been a lobbyist in my previous go round there), I would tell people that I did nothing and that I aspired to do even less. I sucked many girls into conversation simply because I wasn’t a tool.

  25. inky

    Most importantly you gotta do what YOU gotta do. If you listen to others like dip shit Jenny did on BIG BROTHER look where it gets ya? Right back in the big ole chair of eviction. Be true to yourself and your friends will still be there for you. 🙂 Have a good weekend, inky

  26. JJ MacMillan

    When someone I know reveals a flaw, I always smile like I find it endearing, but then I make a mark by their name in my secret black book so I’ll remember not to be friends with them anymore.

  27. Brooke

    You may be a fuck-up, but you are one fucking good writer.

    I wish I had been at that “graduation”. Those are the type of people that I truly love shredding to pieces. One of the great things I have found about getting older is that I really don’t care what people think of me anymore. Call me a fuck-up? You say that like it’s a bad thing! I know I’m a fuck up! I’m proud to be a fuck-up! Life is about fucking-up!

    Or is it that life is about fucking….

  28. Jason W.

    Damn, Neil, I think I need you as my mentor. And Mr. Edwards probably has lost my vote.

  29. Mik

    Your post reminded me of Wil Wheaton’s book “Just A Geek”.

    Glad you stood up for yourself, unfortunately I may have had a little less class in the same situation and kicked the bouncer in the nuts. Or maybe I would have envisaged myself doing it and never actually getting up the nerve to do it!


  30. Bad Maria

    So the fact that I simply cannot live without my dose of Neil Kramer on a daily basis and that I’m turning my friends onto CitizenoftheMonth doesn’t mean I’m brainwashed right? Right? oh, and where am I supposed to send the check?……

  31. leesepea

    Nice pit shot.

    I’d hate to be the one doing his laundry.


  32. brando

    one time i was at a party and i said, ‘I have leprosy.’ And really, where I’m from, THAT’S the worst thing you can say. Cause then they think you’re out of work. And no one wants to give you a hand.

  33. mrsmogul

    That’s absolutely true about the entertainment industry. The more successful friends I have, they more I get inspired, unless they take my projects then I want to beat them up 🙂

  34. Josia

    Just write a movie about your friggin’ life already and get it over with!!

    I can’t believe I read every single word on these posts and ALL the comments!

  35. groovebunny

    Yikes! Cults are everywhere. Glad you found the courage to walk out of that brainwashing meeting despite the burly, bouncer guy!

  36. Nancy French


  37. Diamonddille

    Wow , that must have been an experience, to find someone actually cared enough for you they tried to get you to not be like the other 95% of people who don’t have what it takes to succeed. Look at any profession only the 5% really succeed. Think maybe they want to survive, because they realize, if the other 95% don’t take some responsibility and get some real abilities, someone will eventually come in here with real guns forcing you to do what they want? It takes someone who cares, to take the effort to get one to change, when they are down with that part of society that don’t want to change as they are not aware enough to see they have to if they want to survive better. If one wants to just label something bad, and go on about there business, of not growing any more and label the groups that realize you can grow, who do you think will lose out in the end? It takes a lot of effort and diciplain to change. Those that do find it worth it in the end. Most are so unaware,they don’t think there is any change. For those remember you are a spiritual being and you will be trapped to the level your at for ever unless you grow, to a spirit, there is no time, but to you, there is, and if you don’t want to experience a better life, ok, just remember the wino at his level is totally content, with his bottle of wine, man is content with his materialism, but just like you can see the wino isn’t really happy, someone who has grown spiritually can look at man at his current state, and can’t help but want to help. It is along ways to God. If you knew you wouldn’t be content staying the same day after day. The things you really want in life will come if you grow. For your income to grow you have to grow. Sorry that is a truth. Say it is a lie, the ones that see it and do something, growing, Those that are not, label it a cultor your crazy or call it a lie and stay the same, others know better They are just trying in ther own way to get you to see. Your kid doesn’t want to go to piano practice either and can call the teacher all the names he can think of, but there is a real truth and that truth will only cause you to grow, as long as your growing, keep on that route, just realize there are lots of ways to be a bango player, be it Roy Clark OR Roy Orbeson, who cares they both become musicians. Some ways are just faster is all. Every one wants you to be able to see what they see, that is natural, If you quit looking because you think you already know, then you won’t grow any more. If you become your self and are at the level of God, That is another level of knowing, just check out your abilities, that will let you know if your really growing or not..

  38. Petitedov

    Have you seen Marvin Goes to Dinner? There is a great scene spoofing the same thing. David Cross plays the “inspirational” leader. Quite funny. I’m glad you got up the nerve to leave.

  39. Neil

    Diamonddille — I appreciate you leaving me a comment, but I have no idea what you just said, and I have an advanced college degree. It seemed to be something about me wanting to be a banjo player.

    PetiteDov — Thanks. I never heard of it. I’ll check it out.

  40. la.dauphine

    That sounds like an f’ed up place you went to, but it certainly wasn’t the Landmark Forum…

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