“Friends” in Hollywood

You know the old saying about wanting a friend in Washington?  Buy a dog.  Well, it's entirely the opposite in Los Angeles.  Here, everybody has lots of friends.  It seems everyone is your friend.  Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious. The city is no more (or, in fairness, probably no less) friendly than any other big North American city.  My point is about the vernacular.  In Los Angeles 'friend' can mean business associate, someone you know, someone you met once, a guy you've had a couple of email exchanges with….Truly, people never say "I know someone over at Warner Brothers" it's always "I have a friend at Warner Brothers".  It's never "I know that director" it's "that director is a friend of mine".  Upon my first brush with this practice it irked me as I saw it as fake and disingenuous.  I assumed that people were bragging about who they knew and embellishing the truth.  However over time I came to realize that that wasn't actually the case, at least not entirely.  The word really has a different meaning here.  When people talk about 'friends' they often aren't really claiming to know that person socially, or that they see them on the weekends, or have their home number.  They would even be surprised if you made that assumption.  To them, when they say 'friend' they mean it and expect it to be understood by the listener as 'someone I know'.  It's taken on a more nuanced meaning in this context.  (Recently, I was mediating a disagreement between two parties and each of them said to me of the other, "Well, he's a good friend but…" when it was clear from their interaction that they were anything but.  In contexts like these it can be a very curious affectation that pushes the boundries of any normal understanding of the word.) 

We all know that different part of the country use different words ('soda' vs 'pop') and many industries have their own specific vocabulary.  I'm not sure which one of those two possibilities is at work here.  I'm curious if entertainment workers in New York use the work 'friend' in the same way it's done in LA or if people in LA who are not in the entertainment business (I hear there are a few of such people) use the term as I describe above?  Is it geographic or industry specific?


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