Back from a four-day trip to L.A., where so much was happening I didn’t even feel the 4.8 earthquake despite always being worried I’d get caught up in one of those and be like Debralee Scott jiggling on that airplane attempting to land in Earthquake.
With almost no time to rest, I was picked up by my friend Corey in his candy-apple red convertible. Corey claims he isn’t rich, but I don’t believe him—he’s “Republican. With some Democratic tendencies. But mostly Republican.” I’ve only met him once, but he’s one of those friends with whom you fantasize you’re in a deep friendship with thanks to a great first impression, regular e-mails and Facebook fixes. In truth, it’d been about three years since I’d seen him, all the more reason his offer to drive me from L.A. to Laguna Beach just for a small art exhibit was charitable in the extreme. In fact, his business is charity; the reasons I can’t believe he’s a Republican just keep mounting.
The drive was idyllic. I’d feared a too-windy journey, but it felt great and I acquired an instatan. On the drive out, we pretty much slandered half of Hollywood—he felt bad, I did not—and talked about ways my job could and will intersect with his.
Traffic was miserable (it’s no wonder this town voted for an undeserving movie called Crash as Best Picture one year) so we didn’t arrive for over two hours, whereupon I stuffed my fat face with Mexican food, the first of many bodily infractions. The restaurant's urinals gave me this hard-sell:
As we left, two sexagenarian broads in tight white clothes and with white-blonde hair and garish makeup were admiring Corey’s ride. “Please tell me you aren’t looking at it because you hit it…?” he asked. “No, we just love it!” the longer-haired, Mamie Van Dorenesque one said. “How much was it?” “Not as much as you’d think,” he replied, uncomfortably. “Thirty thousand,” “That’s even less than my Mercedes!” the harsher, shorter-haired woman (I thought Penny Singleton was dead?) exclaimed, apparently unaware that she was bragging; of course it was cheaper than a Merc.
As I plopped into the passenger seat, she said to Corey, “You need a blonde in it.”
Gee, thanks! I thought, sitting there as brunette as could be. Though I consoled myself with the realization that they perceived Corey, tall, well-proportioned and comfortably below most people’s gaydar, as straight. Still, it was all I could do to avoid blurting out, “There are blondes, ma’am, and then there are blondes.”
The gallery was small and unassuming, but the show—Champions of Modernism III—was fairly big in scope and ambition. Featuring the work of Rudolf Bauer, Irene Rice Pereira, Hilla Rebay, Rolph Scarlett and others, I’d been attracted by its Seymour Fogel content. I bought an original Fogel about seven years ago in a shop specializing in art deco and mid-century modern furnishings; at the time, it was a significant investment, but in the interim it has turned into a bonanza for me (and my apartment has sunk to an all-time low, so my financial luck evens out a la Jerry Seinfeld), so much so that it was worth a drive to Laguna Beach to see more of his stuff even if I had absolutely no means by which to buy anything.
The gallerist politely showed us around and didn’t seem thrown by my freshly-out-of-mothballs shorts. The Fogels on hand were half the size of the monster I own, yet were obviously all major works. Two closely resembled Mondrian (pictured, inset) and two others were fascinating 1970s sand paintings. As I took in the Fogels and the other Modernists, a traffic cop approached my friend’s convertible, which seemed to be getting way too much attention that day.
The cop, a humorless man in shades called Officer Fallah, started by citing Corey for forgetting to put change in the meter. Our fault! Then he drummed up a minor citation for the way in which Corey chose to display his plates. A draw. But finally, he determined that Corey’s registration had, unbeknownst to him, expired. “I’m going to have the car towed,” he told us with cold finality. We were going to be stranded in Laguna Beach 20 minutes before the DMV closed.
After some calm discussions (I’m surprised I didn’t flip out and more surprised the gallerist didn’t), and after making sure to mime calling a tow truck—it felt like we were being tested, dared to become angry—Officer Fallah told us he was cutting us a break and extending Corey’s registration 12 days. Corey, relieved, went to shake his hand, but Fallah waved it off mid-sentence, informing us, “I don’t shake, Sir.”
Needless to say, we immediately drove back to L.A.
My evening was taken up by meeting two work colleagues who are a part of what I call my Dream Team; in all my years at my job, I’ve worked with some great people and some not-so-great people, but never have I had every member of my team be so valuable and such a joy to work with. We met at the Geisha House (pictured, inset), a short walk (what’s that?) from my hotel and a scene to boot. Is it a positive thing when you're eating in the same room as the formerly cracked-out lead singer from Crazy Town?
Next up was my stated goal for this working trip—sleep. Never travel across the country just to avoid having your dog wake you up at 5:45 each day—the truth is, I only grabbed an extra hour or so.
Eerie graffiti near Flaunt Magazine's office, reminding me of the "Smiley Face Killings."
The next day was as beautiful as the first, dry and sunny. I took advantage of a free morning to walk all up and down Hollywood, guydarring the place to within an inch of its life and checking out the musty old memorabilia shops that venerate Hollywood stars despite being on Hollywood in Hollywood; could the owners really be starstruck by any of the famous faces on lobby cards for sale in their shops? Or would seeing one of them be about as exciting as posing with a grown man dressed in a soiled Spider-Man or Homer Simpson suit as the tourists happily do in front of Hollywood & Highland?
In the early afternoon, I hit 25 Degrees, the burger joint housed in the Roosevelt, with an old friend. She’s expecting a child, which is nearly as unimaginable to me because it reminds me she's over 10 years younger than I am but "already" procreating. It's as distressing as the fact that all of the people I write about and eventually meet are young enough to be my children. I think people who never have kids are always bowled over by the concept that others do, and that said kids are eventually adults and yet still half our age.
No sooner had I retired to my room than Corey and two other friends kidnapped me for Lunch #2. I didn’t have breakfast nor would I have dinner, so I guess the quesadilla doesn’t count, even if it was loaded with cheese. This bitching session was even more fun than the first, laced with Hollywood gossip of the variety that I could never publish…the best kind!
I spent the evening at a work event, albeit one of the variety that will be rather more fun to write about someday when I’m free to than it would be to write about, say, a convention or stockholder’s meeting or retreat.
I got less sleep this time…José warned me that Hyphen and Sash had taken over my side of the bed and were waking up even earlier than ever in my absence; maybe the dread of that was keeping me from sleeping past 7?
Sunday was the big day; I was in L.A. for one of the biggest events my company has ever been involved with. It was not going to be make-or-break; had anything gone wrong, it would just have been disappointing. But I was still nervous. To get my mind off of it, I went on an epic walk, strolling down Highland until I hit Santa Monica, then following that all through WeHo until there was nothing of it left to see.
I’m not a big fan of L.A., but I was enjoying the change of pace and weather. I think I like it more and more each time I go, which is rarely. Like in the memorabilia shops, there is a funereal, faded quality to the buildings and their adornments (or lack thereof), juxtaposed with the summer-year-round color palette you often find in seaside cities. And everywhere you look, there is Marilyn Monroe, who is the perfect Hollywood emblem, always sunny but with a darkness that radiates from within, and that comes from the knowledge that the gaping smile is almost a death rictus. They say a massive earthquake will send the city into the ocean one day. Even if it never happens, the threat of annihilation informs the place. (As I typed this, outrageous turbulence momentarily rocked my plane. I’ll speak of it no more.)
A happy encounter—as I made my way, a guy ran out of a building calling my name. “Matthew? You’re Matthew, right?” He looked familiar, but all nice-looking guys do, because each attractive feature (whether a fetching smile, good hair, buff body or whatever else floats your boat) has already been seen and appreciated and duly notes on other attractive men thoughout your time on the planet. This one introduced himself as David, who comments on my blog so much. I could not believe I was in L.A. for two celebrity events and a photo shoot and was ruminating about the unkillable fame of Marilyn and I was being recognized myself. Thanks, David! You made my day.
I wimped out and cabbed back. I kind of had to, considering I’d walked almost two hours and I had to get over to NoHo for the aforementioned photo shoot, also off limits for discussion but suffice it to say I was surrounded by cute, hot, handsome and/or beautiful men and puppies.
My cabbie (yes, I call cabs in L.A.—they must have like five cabs in service there, all manned by Russians with no sense of direction) got me back to the hotel just barely in time for me to change into a new jacket for my massive event. Long, juicy story short, it was a big, big success, despite the small earthquake that occurred in the middle of it, not that anyone felt it. I had so much fun meeting people I’ve been covering for months or years and/or seeing some I’d already met again that I didn’t even mind that in order to maximize the benefits of it I had to stay up back in my hotel room until the wee hours of the night sorting images and sending out e-mailed instructions. José’s craptop (just kidding, it was appreciated) was presenting me with DISK FULL errors or I might not have slept at all, editing videos to post. As it was, I didn’t go to bed until 3, got up at 7, then managed, with some effort and using an old trick, to sleep again until 9.
I had not one but two lunchmates lined up for Sunday, but both bailed on me (one was sick, one found out his license was suspended—I guess this was the trip of car transgressors), so I walked around, bought José a shirt (nothing for the dogs, my salty feet will have to suffice) and pigged out at The Grill on shrimp cocktail, a grilled chicken breast and a baked potato. It was my only actual meal of the day, so let’s hope the calories were chewed up later on.
I had a for-a-change charming and sweet Russian cabbie who drove me to LAX. He cheerfully told me to live in New York was his dream and asked if it was the same day in New York as in L.A. He and his wife are planning to visit NYC—it was either that or Hawaii. I am thinking that if he can even consider the two equally, NYC is probably the one for him. I, as a Manhattanite, would choose Hawaii in a heartbeat.I noticed an absolutely stunning guy in his twenties or early thirties. A dirty blond with a five o’clock shadow, he was wearing the loosest gray sweats (something track & field) and flip flops, and was lounging in his seat in a way that said, “Please photograph me.” I sure tried. Once I boarded, I started reading the final part of Sam Staggs's Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life and was shocked that the gorgeous guy turned out to have the middle seat next to my aisle, and turned out to be a very friendly, smiley Brit (yes, he has all of the above and an accent). Best of all, each time he would get into or out of his seat (not often enough), his sweats would droop dangerously, revealing a sculpted ass peeking out from skintight, colorful fundies. He was actually (almost) too close for me to successfully iPhone on the plane, but not close enough for my taste. Hey, José had the dogs to cuddle.
Our third seatmate arrived and turned out to be an equally sexy (but less friendly-seeming) version of the first one, also with his ass hanging out (I don’t care what anyone says, I hope that trend never ends). He was the brunette model, also unshaved, flashing a hairy chest and abdomen. I felt kind of lucky and also kind of tortured. And also unchallenged. I’d found beauty hidden all around the desert mirage that is L.A., and now it was falling into my lap.
During the flight, the attendant made merciless fun of my blond seatmate for daring to ask for a Dr. Pepper ("Dr. Pepper? We've never had that. Never in all my 23 years!"), even going so far as to later announce over the intercom that they only served Coke products. Next, the same woman presumed he was Aussie due to his pronounced British accent (makes sense). I told him, "Some of us can tell the difference," and suggested he ask her (she was white, but American-sounding) if she were black. He enjoyed this, so I got to see the smile—it was a hair less satisfying to behold than the crack. As embarrassed as I should've been slobbering over him with my asides, at least I could feel better knowing the stewardess (she was old enough to have been that before a "flight attendant") had her own bad case of the Billy Budds over him.
I didn't make it home until 1:30 in the morning, and found the dogs about to fall off the bed in anticipation. I told them I hadn't missed them but they wouldn't believe me.