L o s A n g e l e s L i m b o : Essays & Notes on Years of Servitude in the Holy Land.
The Red-Eye to Los Angeles.
Comfortably seated forward-cabin, headed for my past and future home, Los Angeles, I tilt my head to catch a better view of the man seated next to me.
He is scary.
He is Carcharodon Megalodon–the prehistoric shark equivalent of a T-Rex.
His face and posture inspire such terror that, being a film employee of no status, I don’t dare wake him up so I can go to the restroom.
You can feel his power vibes emanating.
I could be wrong – he might be a Limo driver, but I wouldn’t bet these three thousand Frequent Flyer miles on it.
This part of the cabin seats at least seven entertainment executives, at the moment, and I can spot them without effort: over fifty five – pushing sixty five – cashmere sweaters, perfectly combed-back hair, the James Caan of today look – that California suntan with liver spots that men in power achieve after owning a house in Bel Air for a while.
And the Don Simpson five o’clock shadow; ahhh, the Don Simpson five o’clock shadow…
On a normal Flight from anywhere to anywhere, you might converse with the passenger seated next to you, and, when broaching the subject of “what you do for a living”, would invariably be greeted with a “Oh, fascinating! I loved that movie”.
I will have to wait until I land somewhere else to hear those words, I’m afraid, because if I told Charcharodon what I do for a living, he’d stare down at his shoes.
This plane is full of the people I have often worked for, but never met.
Big Hollywood hot shots have restraining orders out on any and all film employees who have names they can’t pronounce.
The very cute flight attendant (rare occurrence on an American Airline,) comes around to take our meal order, and I ask for the “shrimp”. My fellow traveler, whom she’s not afraid to wake up, opens his eyes and speaks for the first time, in a grave, low decibel growl that sounds like a two mile high Transformer robot telling Tokyo Citizens to evacuate:
“I’ll have the Beef”!
I go over my order mentally. I gave myself away: “the shrimp risotto” …You dumb ass; I forgot that YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!
I want Kate “stewardess” Bosworth to come back so I can change my dish to Godzilla–rare, in a pool of blood, with hot potatoes.
That’s right buddy, I got my fake Mont-Blanc ( $10 on Lower Broadway ), I can poke you with the sharp end; I’ll give ya’ Red Eye…
The Paul Williams of Malibu, (Part One)
Paul got me to start smoking Cuban cigars in London,
in the Summer of ’95, at Brown’s Hotel.
It was HE, and not Sir Ridley, who helped me down the path of this
expensive habit — one albeit better for your health than cocaine, if not cheaper.
Today, he brought over two Cigars given to him courtesy of Charlize Theron.
I unwrap my Cigar, and take a whiff.
Paul laughs: “They haven’t been Bill Clintoned” !
The Paul Williams of Malibu, (Part Two)
A Friend Through Thick
At some point, I dial Paul’s number.
’Can’t come to L.A. without looking up Paul.
Paul is a true time-tested Show Business friend.
In the Seventies, he was a force in the New-Hollywood movement.
He discovered Jon Voight and cast him one minute before Midnight Cowboy happened.
I’ve known him over twenty years, now.
Paul is a deep and just man, and he’s got a great big soul. A genuine revolutionary, with deep grounding in the kinds of philosophy I like.
Also the only person I know who not only was friends with John Lilly, but married his daughter, had a daughter with her who now makes movies too. I really do know how to pick my friends.
“How’s your lady friend?”, I ask, “The one who slipped on a wet floor and broke her knee, after that Westwood Premiere, who needed me to testify on her behalf”?
“Oh”, he replies, “She’s a friend through thick”.
In the pause, I think the phone went dead.
“She’s a friend through thick”, he repeats…
I get it: “Oh, I see!”
He continues: “She was a good friend, for a while, then, I hit hard times”…
– “But then I got lucky”, he adds, “She developed a big ass, now, so she did me a favor when she threw me out; I escaped just in the nick of time”!
– “What”? , I ask, “just like that”?
Frankly, I thought she was a beautiful middle age woman, and I have no idea what he’s talking about, but most of all, it hasn’t been that long since I saw her last.
“How can someone…transform so… rapidly”?, I inquire.
“Bad Karma”, Paul replies without skipping a beat, “You cross the Bhoddisatva, his stomach is gonna end up on your ass”!
I laugh till it hurts at least once a day; I know some funny people.
Quit my day job
It was there all along.
I never really found a way to give it room.
Because I am often mistaken for an “Artist”(our language makes few distinctions,) I let people assume that my “so-called-art” reflects all they need to know.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, the reason I’ve come to hate drawing so much is that I express nothing with it.
Movie Deities hire me for a week end, or for a year, to laugh at their jokes.
Drawing gladiators and space aliens isn’t my thing; I lied.
The writing, though–
It’s all there.
Sorry if I’m not what you thought.
The Paul Williams of Malibu, (Part Three)
I meet Zoe at PACE on Laurel Canyon.
We picked my last night in Los Angeles this year to
share a few hours, eat, enjoy a glass of Valpolicella…and talk about life, love,
food, staph infections and Black Widow bites.
The Restaurant is warm – “twee” – as they say in London.
Very French-Countryside, actually.
I feel as if I am outside of the realm of time, for a bit, at least.
Zoe tells me that she broke up with her boyfriend two days ago, but that he took it very well, and that he will be her friend forever.
Then, she volunteers that he checked himself into the hospital.
His hernia finally ruptured yesterday.
Any connection, I ask?
…When I get the boot, I prefer balling my eyes out, personally.
Zoe is bright, funny.
Zoe has directed three movies, already, at the age of thirty, and she says that she turned down DUDE WHERE’S MY CAR – Part II.
I think about that: turning down a job directing…
Zoe is preparing a documentary on Autistic Kids, and I have been thinking of a way to get Judy to meet her.
Judy might like to meet some of my high achieving women friends — either that or she might well not.
At any rate, Judy might enjoy being involved in making a film about a subject that she knows something about.
Would Judy ever consider coming to LA?
Zoe seems to think it’s a good idea.
I’m trying to picture Zoe’s life in Laurel Canyon; I’m trying to imagine growing up with Paul…John Lilly…
I’m trying to imagine Los Angeles as the Ground Zero of my life.
Zoe talks very freely of her intimate battles with Great White Sharks, Arachnoids, Boys and Men.
When she broaches sex, she is raw. Imagine Dr. Ruth as a beautiful athletic blonde banned by the F.C.C. — and without the accent…
In her eyes, I see her mother, Barbara, then I see Paul, her dad…
Zoe tells our pretty waitress: “You have made our dining experience very enjoyable”!
Zoe is rich.
The Somber Hills of Fortune (Part One)
Funny thing happened, as I flew across country.
New York seemed to bring the deeply introspective self right out of me.
Since I arrived in Los Angeles, my left brain has shut down – more or less.
My entries seem to be more photographic and concise.
I almost can’t think anymore.
Benedict Canyon is a historic setting; half a mile south of here, Bobby Evans brought home Ali McGraw.
I stomp sacred ground.
There’s also something both awesome and sordid about these hills.
I’m surrounded by Multi Million Dollar properties. What am I even doing here?
Something has shifted. This is the Los Angeles that has always been highly conceptual to me, but never remotely accessible.
I have changed, somehow, since I last lived here.
I am in the middle of something that I never saw before. Inside and Out.
I used to run after things – now, things seem to come to me.
A blink of the eye.
A slight shift in my vision; almost imperceptible…
I lived here for years, way back when, and it now seems like I have never been here at all.
I used to be someone who worked in Hollywood.
Even the sound of this is bizarre.
It was me, but it isn’t me.
I feel something I haven’t touched in a very long time:
The perception that this journey was going to change everything in my life before it had even begun.
In a way, I have missed these lynchpin moments – back in the first American days, two decades ago, they seemed common place.
Then they faded.
Shortly after Judy left New York, I remember the days turning dry, and memories of those years now look like empty shells.
I am going to be scanning life for vital signs, in the days to come…It’s as if something major is about to happen, or pass me by.
I am hold out in a big empty house on Benedict Canyon, unable to feel where home might be, or where it is that I am supposed to return to. Strangely, none of this matters…
I am more than ever lost in the Here and Now, as if this instant could hold forever.
If Los Angeles wanted to swallow me, right this minute, it could.
I was worried I couldn’t get around, until I had properly renewed my expired driver’s license; a prisoner of Benedict Canyon, miles away from anything. I didn’t even have a star map to help me figure out who some of these neighbors were. It was me and the dog. And the pool.
Mark called from New York, one morning, said:
“Tell your movie producer guys to give you the Number to an Escort Service; ask the expensive hookers to give you a ride”.
Save Los Angeles
They’re all worried about Terrorist attacks on LA now.
There’s no target in LA…Just vast suburban sprawl…A glowing
grid of gold and green heads of tiny pins shimmering down below.
Now, if you nuked New Zealand, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, and Mexico…
That would really mess up the film Industry!
Humbert of Brentwood
Zoe rests her arm on my shoulder.
“You wanna hump my twenty four year old half-sister, don’t you?”, she whispers.
“You bet,” I answer.
“But she’s only Twenty Four!”, she objects.
Claudia, Zoe’s half sister, is adorable, indeed, but the one I’ve really got my eye on is Jen – with the white cotton skirt and the cowboy boots – that’s a genuine L.A. look, she’s got going, something presumably made popular some years back by Sheryl Crow. Jen is pure sex and giggles…
She seems soaked in liquor, fuzzy and sensual, and slightly cross-eyed.
Claudia is clearly the most beautiful girl in this colorful patch, but what Jen lacks in sheer beauty, she amply makes up for in raw flesh. She is dousing the place with pheromones. I can feel the trail of chemicals in the air; I can smell them. A lovely sight all around, and a sure sign that I am aging.
“But Jen is only TWENTY”, Zoe tells me…“Twenty!”… “She’s a Baby”!!!
It’s Zoe’s Thirtieth Birthday in this posh Brentwood apartment, and Zoe, like any woman out of her Twenties, wants to torture a man by pretending she doesn’t understand the appeal of feminine youth in bloom: “Why would someone like you want a girl of twenty?”, she begs to know.
“Someone like me”… What am I; some stuffy middle-age philosophy bookworm? We’re actually the most deranged!
I mull the question over. I weigh my words. I am trying to be truthful, because I know Zoe, of all people, will bust me if I lie.
“What exactly,” I ask, “would make Jen more desirable if I were to wait – say – fifteen years, to start ogling?” — “Let’s face it, she’s at peak sexual appeal at this point…Her satellite will never broadcast a stronger signal”!
“And one more thing”, I add, “I see the way she rolls those thighs – She’s no baby, Zoe – In fact she can probably teach me how to strut like a man on my way to her school – This girl lives in L.A., for god’s sake, she’s probably been a live-wire since the age of twelve”…
Indigenous Jen brushes past us on the way to the liquor table.
“Girl, you’ve got the ass and you know it!”, Zoe yells out.
Jen looks back at us grinning. Boots , flesh, white cotton skirt; deadly combinations.
“Can I rest my case?”, I ask.
“Fair enough”, Zoe concedes.
Zoe is in fact gaslighting me, it turns out: she volunteers, “Guys ten years younger than me, always seem intimidated – when all I can feel is their heart pounding against me – I’m usually afraid they’re gonna keel over and die”.
– “Oh, so you date twenty year old guys”? , I ask.
– “Sure, but they don’t know what they’re doing; it’s just a physical thing. They’re cute at that age”…
I shake my head. I’ve been had – again.
She warned me that Dominique Swain would be there, knowing that the mere possibility of meeting an actual Lolita wouldn’t be lost on my inner Humbert-Humbert.
It’s a good thing that we’re not back in ’62, and that Sue Lyon was not the one I saw riding up in the Elevator, earlier. As it is, I curb my enthusiasm, and act graciously as ever — on the surface; inside, I’m a mess. It will take me days to recover.
Zoe is like a young queen, beautiful and radiant, gliding across the room greeting her guests with ease – A peck on the cheek, here – a bold chuckle there – She reminds me of Lana Turner.
Later, on the patio, she tells me that she regrets that she’ll never know what it’s like to have a cock, as an appendage. Dominique “Lolita” is intrigued; she joins the conversation.
I am the guy from DREAM ON, traveling back forty years in time.
I decide that the Now has more to offer.
I confess that I have never wondered about having a vagina of my own; I’m usually happy enough with the “rental” option.
Still, they lament that they will never experience the indignities of erectile dysfunction, so I tell them they that yes, they very likely will! Then, I suggest they rent FIGHT CLUB, and buy a copy of THE RAG & BONE SHOP OF THE HEART. That, I tell the girls, should be enough to help them understand men…
Then, I realize I forgot something and I think to myself, “If only they could see what I see, right now”…