Lisa, Bianca, Claire and I are at BondSt at the Thompson Beverly Hills for drinks on a Tuesday night—which according to my cab driver is the new Standard Downtown, which is the new Roos. I don't know about that, but Lisa is on the prowl. She's a firm believer in refreshing her catalog of lovers every time she changes her wardrobe and it's starting to get chilly in Los Angeles.
“It's like this,” she tells us, taking a sip of her gin basil—which is (according to her) the new mojito. “Men here are not like men out there. There is something very wrong with men in Los Angeles. I think it has to do with the kind of people the place attracts. They all have some incredible, glaring flaw. If you don't force yourself to clear your slate, you run the risk of settling. And you should never settle, not until you find something worthwhile. I'm not cynical—I'm just aware.”
“Who are you scrapping?” Bianca asks, taking a sip of her Manhattan.
THE HEALTH FREAK
Lisa has been seeing Shane, a reality TV has-been and model, for six weeks.
“He's making me crazy. The guy works out every morning and night. He watches everything he eats. We can never go out unless he's checked out a place. You would think all that attention would make him confident in his health? No, the guy is always dying. There is always something devastating—the other day he found out my toothpaste had high-fructose corn syrup in it. Who cares? It's toothpaste. Are you eating it? Just spit it out and get over it! I am not brushing my teeth with that baking soda paste. I think it's disgusting. But fine, I'll let him keep some of the stuff at my place. Problem solved, right? No, now it's something else, like refusing to kiss me after I've put my night cream on because—don't I know?—Epidermal Growth Factor causes cancer.”
Claire leans forward, “are you using ReVive?”
“Mia turned me on to it, it's amazing. I keep laundering my pillow cases obsessively because I swear to God, I shed my entire face overnight.”
“Doesn't it feel delicious?”
“I love it,” Lisa says. “But Shane hates it. He hates everything. You know what I've realized? It's not really about health in Los Angeles. No one really cares about being healthy—they're obsessed with illness and death. A dying person is the center of the universe. It's just narcissism and self-obsession, made palatable—made noble. I'm over it.”
“He sounds like a nightmare,” says Claire, taking a sip of her martini. “They're all a nightmare. Los Angeles is a beautiful nightmare.”
“This sounds juicy,” I comment, reaching for my coffee. “Weren't you in love last week with—who was it?”
“It feels like a movie,” Claire says.
“Wait, I thought this was why you liked him?” I ask.
“Well, who doesn't want to live in a movie?” Claire responds. “Last night we were Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart. The night before, we were Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando. It's such a theatrical undertaking. The lighting is always perfect. Everything feels unreal. There is a song to accompany every touch. He positions me when he kisses me. I look at him when we're in bed and I hear voice overs. I feel like I'm losing my mind.”
THE PR FLAK
“I dated someone like that once,” Bianca says. “Completely possessed by his career. He was in PR and even pillow talk sounded like an elevator pitch. He told me he loved me one night, looking over the city from his place in the Hills and I could just see him standing before a sea of people saying 'I love you,' with such emotion that everyone believed it was true and meant individually for every single one of them. It was all pretty words. So I gave him pretty words right back. We built a relationship out of spin and hot air. We were getting married, having 2.5 kids—all of it.
“People looked at us and wanted to be us. But it was all bull. Nothing ever happened. We were seeing other people without telling each other about it. Everyone could see it but no one believed it because we were such a good act when we were together. Before I married Jeff a friend of ours saw me and him out late one night and she asked us what I was doing and I told her it was a business meeting even though I was practically on Jeff's lap. She didn't doubt me. That's how good the PR guy and I were when we were together. The PR guy and I are still friends, and every time we see each other, we talk about our wedding and it still feels so real, but it never was.”
“Maybe that's how people love in Los Angeles—it's like we're all playing a part. That's why it all feels so disconnected,” I muse. “Well, that and the fact that 95 percent of the time, we're encapsulated in our cars, somewhere on the 405.”
THE A-LIST ACTOR
“Actors have an ability to make you believe everything they're telling you,” my friend Melissa says me the next day over chocolate bread pudding at Craft. She's a recovering celebrity reporter.
“He was just so tortured,” she tells me about a certain famous actor we'll call John.
“I couldn't resist him,” she says. “He would look at me with these eyes and say, 'you and me, we're going to do this, right? We're gonna be real, right?' and then he would go shoot on location somewhere and I wouldn't talk to him for weeks. We went on four dates but they went on for days—it was so real and intense. Then I got picked up by a tabloid and they wanted me to cover his latest scandal. I couldn't for obvious reasons and I lost the gig. I called him about it—not to complain, just to vent and left him a voice mail. He called me back from a movie set—I forget which—and he went ballistic thinking I was blaming my career failures on him. He told me he'd call back later but that night he was arrested for drunk driving and I never heard from him again. I left a note with his assistant while he was in jail, which means he never got it, but whatever. I was over Los Angeles after that.”
THE GREAT MYTH OF THE “REAL” BRETHEN UP NORTH
“Girl, you can't date anyone in entertainment or publicity,” my friend Tricia had told me over the phone a few days before as I crossed Santa Monica Boulevard toward Cafe Marie for an afternoon prosciutto sandwich.
“What is that noise?”
“Santa Monica during rush hour.”
“Girl, you can't walk in this city, it isn't healthy.”
“I live in this neighborhood, am I supposed to cab for two seconds?”
Tricia sighed. “Do you want to make it here? Don't walk and don't date people in Hollywood.”
I was almost run down by an SUV with tinted windows. On the sidewalk, I turned to look at the car as it sped away.
“Hollywood is different. You have too much knowledge. We don't care about knowledge, we care about information, you get what I'm saying?”
“You know what you need?” she asked. “You need a founder. A smart guy in tech, a real guy who cares about that stuff in your head. You need a founder. I'm going to get you one. Girls like us, we know too much for Hollywood to get us. We'll go find some founders. Come with me to San Francisco, I'm going in a few weeks. Don't worry about the flight. We'll get someone's plane. Henry has a plane. Do you know him? He's cute.”
“He owns a plane?”
“Oh, honey, no one actually owns planes anymore—unless they're Google,” she paused for a moment. “Do you know Dave? He's cute.”
After her L.A. stint, Melissa had fled to San Francisco, but she's nostalgic and considering her return.
“My friends tell me, 'Melissa, you have to tone it down, you're too L.A.,' but I could never just wear black and do layers at the same time. That's not me,” she says as we leave Craft. “San Francisco is progressive but restrictive, Los Angeles allows you to be yourself no matter how neurotic you are.”
I want to ask her whether maybe it's not just the men in Los Angeles who are impossible, but all of us, men and women, but just then, we're mobbed by a flood of paparazzi.
We've accidentally stumbled on a shoot for a film and we can't really tell whether the paparazzi are really paparazzi or extras for a scene.
That's the thing about Los Angeles. You never know if a crash, a shooting, or a fight are real. Is it happening or is it a movie? Don't look at the cameras. Cut. Can you say that again? No, that doesn't fit into the script. Wait, is this really happening? Do I have to sign a release? Is this real? Do I love you or have I just cast you because I think you'd be perfect for the part of the person I'm supposed to be with? Hello? Are you still there? Jesus, where's my organic baby arugula salad?
Dating A Minor Mogul by Annie Bruno: “Not long after moving from New York to Los Angeles, I met a Minor Mogul (MM) in an upscale grocery store, first hearing his voice before actually turning to look at him. He was speaking loudly for what seemed to be my benefit, complaining about the half-and-half. Where was it? Did they even make it anymore? This is what powerful men in their 40s are like in Los Angeles, in the new century, traipsing through grocery stores in Hermes sandals, with messy hair and beautiful skin, speaking loudly, pretending to make fun of themselves. He could make half-and-half appear if he wanted to. He just wanted to groan about it. He just wanted to hear himself, alive, in a grocery store, momentarily powerless, knowing that would be the essential ingredient to attracting someone like me.”
Fooddigger Blogger Dinner at BondSt by Caroline On Crack: “Of course since this was a dinner with bloggers, the cameras were always out. So many food porntastic shots to be taken! Unfortunately since the room was “romantically lit” we took to using tea lights and mini flashlights to light up the shots. Yes, thankfully it seems most food bloggers don’t use flash anymore. But every now and then our cameras’ preflashes would cockblock each other’s shots. Oh well.”
Newsflash: Many Men Want to Marry, Settle Down by Liz Rizzo: “So now we have men who no one wants to trap and women who feel they can't settle down without losing themselves. How will our world ever go on?”