Monday, 9 February 2015

In Case I Forget To Tell You

The ghostly trio
Lips is squinting at his mac screen whilst Stephen changes the water in the vase that he has somehow managed to cram a tree in to. I stand at the counter working my way through a box of pastries I bought at the La Brea Bakery.
I had to wait a while to get served because – Remember Scrooged? The Bill Murray film? Well, there was that homeless man in it who was very childlike and had a button nose. He freezes to death and comes back at the end as an angel. You remember. Well HE pushed in front of me at the bakery. He wasn't acting in that film, that's exactly how he is, childlike and a bit lispy.
“I'll take a muffin and cwoffee pleathezzz.”
He's not my first celebrity sighting but he's definitely the sweetest.

We went to see Dame Edna's Farewell Tour the previous night and I'm still giggling about one bit where Edna goes to an Ashram to find herself;
“It was during a morning yoga class whilst I was doing the downward dog that I had an epiphany. I realised I just needed to love myself more.” She makes a sad face and then breaks in to a huge grin. “And possums, I couldn't have been MORE successful! I can now see myself through your eyes! Aren't I wonderful!!!”
She constantly refers to the people in the cheap seats as 'The Missers' as in 'Les Miserables' and tells them to hold on tight to the wall and not clap lest they should plummet to their deaths. Funny fucker. At the end of the show Barry Humphries comes on as himself and chats to the audience. He'd been sat at the table behind us at dinner before the show and we were all weirdly a bit star struck by him. As we leave Lips and Stephen decide I need a pair of Dame Edna glasses despite my protestations. I'm then made to wear the glasses and pose in front of a life size poster of Edna whilst they amuse themselves taking pictures.

'Okay, that's booked,' Lips says.
'Whath bookthed?' I mumble through donut.
'Las Vegas.'
I'm so excited I don't react at all. Just stare unblinkingly until Stephen nods at me.
'We're really going to Vegas?'
Lips nods casually.
'We're booked in to The Cosmopolitan, you have a smoking room and we have tickets for Cirque Du Soleil's LOVE.'
I kiss Lips and do what passes for an excited dance – I basically nod and shimmy my shoulders a bit. My knees have been KILLING me for the last week and I'm hobbling about like an old crone.
'I'm overexcited,' I say. 'I need to go and lie down for ten minutes.'
Backup Mimosa

They've ruined me those two. Completely. Stephen popped out the other day and left me by the pool writing. But before he went he made me a mimosa. And a back up mimosa on ice. It's alarming how quickly I can adapt to that kind of thing...

We go for a bite to eat before meeting Barbara, an old work colleague and friend of Lips, at Chateau Marmont. I've been really wanting to go for a drink at the hotel because it's iconic and I've read a lot of biographies in which people have overdosed there. I associate it with John Belushi whom I love. When we arrive there are paparazzi stationed across the road.
'It's the Grammy's this week,' Lips explains. 'Lots of celebs staying here before the ceremony.'
Security establish regretfully that we're not on the list and they're 'at capacity'.
Lips phones Barbara who comes out and waves at us. Security see her and immediately let us in. As she's not staying at the hotel we're curious to know why she has such sway.
'Oh, I've been drinking here for years.'
I watch as famous people I couldn't recognise in a line up strut past me. They all look about twelve.
We head up to the bar and settle in to big armchairs. The place is exactly what I thought it would be; Dark, elegant, cosy and slightly 70's in its attitude.
A woman with white curly hair walks past and Barbara tells us she's a brilliant photographer. I've never heard of her so she googles some of her work which is easily recogniseable.
There's a garden area through the doors to our left under a high stone archway. A long table has been set up and people are sat with white flowers on the table and bottles of wine, smoking and chatting. The party is in honour of a tiny elegant blonde sat at one end whom I'm later told is Michelle Williams when she glides past us on her way out.
I order a cocktail called Big Trouble. It's bitter and awful, like a negroni, but I drink it anyway. I let Stephen choose my next one and he picks a Daisy Buchanan which is basically gin and elderflower and suits me perfectly.
Barbara is a sweetheart, funny and clever. She works at HBO (I think) and tells us stories about Sarah Jessica Parker's frequent presence at work. Apparently she's very nice and very tiny. She tells me about her son Atticus whom I will be meeting at brunch on saturday. She shows me a video of him. He's five and adorable.
I head downstairs, slightly tipsy, for a cigarette. There's one other man there smoking and he waits a beat before saying hello. We have an animated natter for about ten minutes and part ways. I recognise his face, I know he's famous for something but I couldn't for the life of me tell you who he was. He was oddly fascinated by my trip to Australia and asked a lot of questions about crocodiles.

The following day Lips is finally finishing jury service (he was guilty) and the three of us are spending the day in Malibu.
Whilst Stephen attends an acting lesson in the morning I wander down the promenade in Santa Monica window shopping and smoking. A man approaches me.
'I'm sorry Ma'am but you can't smoke here.'
I look up to see if there's a ceiling I've missed but can see only blue sky.
'But I'm outside...aren't I?
'Yes ma'am but you can't smoke on this street.'
'Just this street?'
'That's right. You can smoke on the next street or along one of the alleyways here but not on this actual street.'
'Okay...' I scurry in to an alley and find the rest of my people dragging on fags and looking a bit gimlet of eye.
At a loss for any proper way to thank Lips and Stephen for all the spoiling of me I decide to buy them a book each. Yeah, that'll cover it. I pick two Raymond Carver short story books.
Lips arrives and I give him his. He immediately dashes in to Barnes And Noble and buys me a copy of one of his favourite books.
I text my niece in Malta: “I've bought champagne, I've bought books. Short of making them something out of antacid pills I'm sunk.”
She writes back: “Make a matt out of your pubic hair. That way they'll know you really put something of yourself in to the gift.”
She says I made her this way.

As we drive along the coast Lips tells me that Malibu is where all the beautiful people are. And all the plastic surgery too.
We arrive and have a Bloody Mary at a place called Hank's so I can see the view of the ocean and all the surfers. We then head to a Cuban place for lunch. I don't see any beautiful people. I see a lot of scary thin miserable looking women in expensive clothes that hang off their scrawny arses. One woman completely freaks me out. She's got to be about sixty judging by her neck and hands. From behind she looks twenty. She's wearing low slung tight jeans just above her pubic bone and has huge fake breasts. Her hair is long and blonde and her face is smooth and line free but slightly puffy looking. Her lips are full and sensual and her eyes are old and sunken. She's such an optical illusion I can't stop watching her. She's weirdly coquettish, almost shy which just adds to my deep sense of unease. I see her several times as we wander around the shopping area. She's alone, wandering too, with a skimmed something or other with a straw which she takes frequent sips from. She looks lonely, like she needs a bear hug. I watch her flutter about nervously before climbing in to her red sports car and driving off to god knows what.
Sunset at Nobu
They take me to Nobu on the beach where we drink champagne and watch the sun set. It's so lovely we stay for hours and end up eating at the bar. I have a Lychee Martini and offer a taste to Stephen who sips it and nods;
'Yup, hate it. Couldn't hate it more.'
He doesn't mince his words that one.

The following morning we're up at 7am, Lips immaculate as always, me staring in to space with a coffee and a fag. We're having an early brunch with Barbara at Cecone's. We drop Bradley and Andersen off at the “Posh Pets Hotel” where they don't give us so much as a backward glance.
When we get to Cecone's Barbara is there with her husband Darin, their son Atticus (who's smile makes even my atrophied ovaries wheeze briefly in to life) and a friend called Amy. Amy and her wife live between New York and Venice Beach. She's dry and funny and we discover we're on the same flight to london on monday.
I go to the toilet and when I get back Barbara is grinning at me.
'So I hear you're planning to meet a cowboy in Vegas and get married by Elvis.'
'Yes, that's correct.'
'Not going to happen,' Lips assures me.
'But - '
'Thea, no.' Stephen says in the same tone he uses when Andersen Cooper pisses inside the house.
Darin hugs me and says bye with the following wisdom:
'Have a great time. Be bad.'

We leave and head over to Rodeo Drive. I'm on the phone to my mum as they hand the car over to the valet.
'Mum, I'm going to Vegas!'
'That's nice dear. Give Lips and Stephen my love.'
'MUM. I'm going to VEGAS.'
'I know. I can see the headlines now: “I lost my child to Vegas.” Don't marry anyone.'
'But - '
'And don't drink too much. And don't gamble away everything you own.'
When I get off the phone Lips says;
'Do you know where we are?'
I look up. It's a posh hotel.
'This is the Beverly Wiltshire.'
'It's nice.'
'It's where Pretty Woman was filmed. I thought we could have a mimosa here so you can see it.'
Honestly, I couldn't love him more.
I dash inside and look for Richard Gere.
We sit at the bar and watch people come and go. There are monuments of champagne everywhere.
Again, because of the Grammy's it's heaving with people in huge sunglasses looking like they really don't want you to know that they are very famous and therefore wearing sunglasses in the complete lack of sun glare to make sure you don't recognise them...and their entourage.
I turn to Lips and quote Pretty Woman:
“In case I forget to tell you later, I had a really good time tonight.”
He rolls his eyes and gives me a kiss.
'C'mon, Doll. We better head to the airport.'
Stephen suddenly looks panicked.
'Where's you luggage?'
'Here,' I say pointing to my satchel.
'That's it!?'
'Change of knickers and a toothbrush.'
'Wow,' he says conservatively.
It's time to go to Vegas.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A Stroll Down Sunset Strip

I wake to a text message from Lips:
“There are baked goods down here.”
I scurry downstairs to find banana muffins and warm quiche which I eat standing at the counter without a plate. It's 9am and Lips has already dealt with a hundred work emails, walked the dogs, done two loads of washing, met a friend for coffee and brought home breakfast.
This is why he has a pool and I don't.
He heads out to jury duty and I take the Cooper Brothers for another stroll.
I get back to find a gift bag on the side. There's a picture of a beastie on it and the slogan “Party MONSTER!”
'That's for you,' Stephen says. 'It's nothing. Really.'
I pull out all the tissue paper and find some bubble bath, some 'reverse the damage' bath pearls and three different kinds of antacid pills.
'Ah reckon if you mix the Pepacids with the chewy ones and throw in a Zantac you'll be all good.'
'Oh Stephen, you had me at “Pepacids.”'

He sits next to me on the sofa cuddling the dogs. Bradley Cooper was the first and he's calm and passive. Anderson is the younger brother and he's fucking mental. Stephen is cuddling them both simultaneously with varying degrees of success.
'I love you both equally but differently,' he says. 'Is that a kiss Bradley Cooper? Well thank you so much. That's very nice. Okay. Okay. Anderson. Anders – Okay that was a bite. We're gonna have to work on that....'
I spend a lot of my time laughing at Stephen. He's actually really quiet and self contained but once you tune in to his frequency he's completely hilarious. He keeps up a constant patter of quiet comic observations that floor me several times a day. They are frequently at my expense which I consider a huge compliment.
Whenever he thinks something is shit or terrible or a really bad idea he calls it 'interesting'. It took me a full three days to realise he was insulting me on a number of levels every few hours.
Poor Lips is now definitely on the Jury and has to be in court five days a week from 11.30 till 4.30 which scuppers some of the plans we've made.
He's gracious about it and offers what I'm sure is a symbolic gesture:
'Perhaps you guys should go to Vegas without me...'
Stephen doesn't even blink. 'Okay. We'll miss you.'
'Seriously,' Lips says. 'You should go.'
'I heard you. And we will miss you.'
When we were walking up Runyon Canyon Stephen noted how many people had their dogs off leash.
'It's so dangerous. I mean it's a pretty steep incline down the side there. A friend of mine walked his dog up here and it just hurled itself off the side. He had to climb down there and carry it back up because it wouldn't move. It took hours. I don't know what I'd do if one of ours did that. I'd be like: “I love you Anderson! Good luck. I'll miss you. Thanks for all the good times.”

I've been in the garden writing with dogs keeping guard of my feet all morning when Stephen returns from the gym.
'Feel like a stroll down Sunset Boulevard?'
'We could stop for a coffee...'
'...or a cocktail...'
We race to the car.
We amble along in the afternoon sun and he points out famous places.
'That's Chateau Marmont right there...we'll have to go for a drink there before you leave. That's The Viper Rooms where River Phoenix...well you know. Oh and that there is The Saddle Ranch Chop House, that's real famous. You will have seen that in a lot of films.'
'Are there cowboys in there?' I LOVE cowboys.
'Sure, but mostly it's the bucking bronco that draws people in.'
We stick our heads in the door. The place is kind of fabulous. And sure enough there's a mechanical bull right in the middle.
We stop at The Standard Hotel to have a drink by the pool. It's a fancy place with hanging chairs and beanbags but the prosecco arrives in unbreakable plastic flutes.
'Interesting...' Stephen says.
We sit and talk about our families. We've both lost our fathers, him much more recently.
'...I flew back and was sat on the floor by his hospital bed. I was exhausted as I had been for the past (he laughs) 14 years. He wakes up sees me and says: “Son you look tired, why don't you get in the bed.” He was...'
'He sounds wonderful.'
'Yeah, he was.'

On the way back we see a girl in a short tight skirt and high heels staggering around on the sidewalk. She leans heavily against a wall opens her purse, pulls out a baby bottle of vodka, downs it and staggers on.
'Oh shit. Should we...'
She disappears around a corner. It's like something out of a dark movie.

When we get back Lips is home and we head out for Pizza locally. The food is always so good and usually features brussell sprouts in at least one dish. It's the new kale apparently.
They tell me about a great one man show they saw called 'Buyer and Cellar.' It revolves around the idea that Barbara Streisand has a Mall in her cellar purely for her own use. She pops down regularly to browse and 'buy' things. In the monologue the man who works in the mall says that she comes down and picks something up and asks how much it costs.
“I'm thinking, this lady is nuts! So I say 400 dollars. Streisand blanches. I'd never pay 400 for this! I'll give you 300. She's crazy. She already owns everything in here. I say: Well I'd never sell it for that. She leaves. Crazy lady. She comes back a few minutes later victorious. “I found a coupon!”

Lips gets advance copies of all the Oscar possibles on DVD. We go back and sift through them looking for something to watch and settle on The Imitation Game.
As we wait for Lips to send some emails Stephen sips coffee and stares and the blank TV screen.
'I have got to get him to teach me how to use the remote for this thing. Or when he's on his next trip I'll just be sat here like this...I may have to start reading....or perhaps I could write a blog...I've got things to say...'
Benedict Cumberbatch is good in this and I've almost forgiven him for season two of Sherlock.
Keira Knightley gurns her way through yet another performance that could have been done better by almost anyone else.
There's a great quote that's repeated three times: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
By the time Benedict has invented the first computer, shortened the war by two years and been chemically castrated for being homosexual we're all ready for bed.
'I can't believe what lightweights we've become,' I say.
'I was just thinking that!' Stephen laughs. 'We're either balls to the wall or in bed by ten. What is up with that.'
We have The Dame Edna Farewell Tour tomorrow night and that will not be an early one. We're all excited about that.
'And we need to check flights for Vegas on saturday,' Lips drops in casually.
Could Vegas actually happen? If it does I'm going to marry a stranger just so I can have my picture taken with Reverend Elvis.
'That is not going to happen,' Stephen states.
'It could happen.'
'It will not.'
'I could slip away whilst you're gambling.'
'We'd find you. I would rugby tackle you to the ground, ahm tellin' ya.'
'We'll see.'

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Clench Your Hoo Hoo

Calvin is a large man with a big voice. When we arrive he is still moving himself from his wheelchair to the piano seat and we stand outside looking at the suburban streets of Van Nuys whilst he gets himself settled.
'Come in y'all,' he calls through the window.
He has a shock of white hair and a slightly curly beard. His eyes are bright blue and mischievous.
'And what brings you here today?'
'Stephen thought I'd enjoy a lesson with you.'
'Have you had any other training?'
'Does karaoke count?'
'Ha, no. But how lovely.'
He tells me his story from humble beginnings at William And Mary to his good friend Glenn Close convincing him to head to NYC and be in a play. He's worked with a lot of people. He drops a lot of names. He sings for me and he is magnificent.
'Okay let's do some scales and see what your range is.'
We start low and stop when I am screaming like an angry cat.
'Wow you have a really low voice, you're in Elaine Stritch territory there.'
'So what am I?'
'An Alto. You can sing in the soprano range but it's not your happy place.'
He wants to push me up a little higher and I just panic and squawk.
'You can't worry about sounding terrible, you have to open your head and throw the sound forward. When you're approaching the highest note clench your Hoo Hoo.'
'Clench my what now?'
'Your Hoo Hoo.'
'Oh my God.'
He has a deep rumbling laugh.
He's talking about technique and cites Alison Jiear as an example. But he pronounces her name 'Jeeer'.
'It's Jy -Ahhhh,' I say.
'Oh you've heard of her?'
'Heard of her? I've been goosed by her. Richard always uses her to try out new material.'
'Richard Thomas the composer.'
There's a seconds silence before he explodes.
I've just name dropped one of my best friends. I feel no remorse what so ever.
After a ten minute interlude in which he tells me how many times he's tried to get the rights to put on Jerry in LA we get back to the lesson.
'I think Bette Midler will suit you real well and I have a particularly beautiful song you're going to learn right now. It's called “Hello in there”, do you know it?'
'I don't.'
By the time Stephen comes to fetch me we are bellowing the song out together and I can't help but grab hold of his head and kiss him.
'That was SO much fun. Thank you!'
'Oh my pleasure. You have a nice voice, darlin'. If you're ever back in LA do come by again.'
He gives me his card.

Stephen has brought me a bottle of water - 'I drank half of it though' and a brownie.
I clamber in to the car.
'I can't help but notice you didn't open the car door for me. You're dropping the ball.' I sniff.
'It's the least you can do. You are destroying me.'
Lips has to entertain clients in the evening so Stephen and I make plans to see a movie at The Grove, grab a burger and go and support Gasparin at the showing of the second episode of Ellen's Design Challenge.
We are getting over the hedonistic weekend, actively not drinking and trying to hold our shit together.
'Stephen can I just suggest that whatever film we see tonight, it should be light and fluffy. Nothing too dark.'
'No shit Sherlock. That's the most profound thing you've said all week.'

A couple of hours later I'm sat by the pool pretending to be a writer when Stephen pops his head out with the cinema listings.
'Paddington is on.'
'Absolutely not.'
'Or there's some Jennifer Lopez thing that fits with our time frame.'
'That'll do.'

We drive to the The Grove and park right by the door.
'That never happens,' Stephen beams. 'Good job!'
Armed with popcorn we head in to the cinema screen. It's practically empty. We find our seats which are right next to a man sat on his own. As there are only six other people in there it would be creepy to sit right next to a stranger, for all concerned.
'Those are our seats,' Stephen says. 'But we'll just use the row behind.'
The big tightly wound looking man pulls out his ticket.
'No this is my seat.'
'No, it's fine,' Stephen says. 'We'll just sit behind you cos...'
The lights are dimming and the man has misunderstood us but it's empty, who cares.
We sit. The man gets up walks to the end of the line, checks the row letter and comes back.
'What's your seat number?'
'It doesn't matter,' I say. 'It's just we would have been sat right - '
'Cos this is my seat. I'm in the right seat.'
'Yeah, it's fine. The place is empty,' I say.
'I'm in the right seat. Maybe YOU got it wrong.'
He sits and continues to mutter.
My rational mind tells me to ignore him. The still slightly fragile from the weekend part of me thinks there's a good chance we're going to get stabbed. I glance at Stephen who is blissfully ignorant of the imminent danger, munching on his popcorn.
'So what's this film about?' I whisper.
'No idea,' Stephen mumbles happily through a mouthful.
'What's it called?'
'The boy next door.'
'Oh, sounds sweet.' Maybe it's a rom com.
A woman sat on her own in the row in front of scary dude is talking quietly on her phone.
He stands walks over and tells her to get off the phone of get out of the god damn cinema.
Stephen is engrossed in a trailer and misses it.
Well, as long as I can outrun him I'll be okay. There is no way I can outrun Stephen but I have the advantage of knowing there's a chance I will have to so I'm in with a fighting chance.

The film is not a rom com.
It's a violent graphic thriller about a 19 year old boy who stalks Lopez and kills everyone she loves.
spoiler alert
She kills him in the end by stabbing him in the eye with an epi pen then gouging his eye out, dropping a ton of concrete on him and leaving him in a burning barn.
These stalkers never go down easy.
Poor Glenn, all she wanted was to be loved. Poor rabbit, all he wanted was not to be boiled alive.
No one wins in these situations.
The credits roll and I remove my bag from my head and turn to Stephen.
'What part of “light and fluffy” did you not fucking understand?'
Stephen giggles.
'That was crap. Let's get our burger on.'
As we leave we see the scary dude standing aggressively in front of one of the staff shouting:
'It is NOT OKAY to use a phone in the cinema!'
The woman on the receiving end of his wrath is also there.
'You're a fucking psycho!' She says and stomps off. Bold move.

We go for burgers at the Short Order and mine is messy and falls apart and I'm covered in sauce.
'Good job this isn't a first date,' I say.
'Yeah, it would have been a last date too. You missed a bit.' He indicates my entire face.
We're pissing around in a tourist shop when a text from Lips comes through:
“Tom Ford is sat in the next booth. He looks immaculate.”
I'm trying on a variety of comedy roadkill hats. Stephen takes a picture of me with a skunk on my head and texts back:
“You're with Tom Ford. I'm with this.”

We stand and stare at a water fountain for a leeetle bit too long.
'Wow, it's just like Vegas,' Stephen says with absolutely no inflection.

He tells me a fabulous story about his “crazy” cousin.
'The whole family were heading to his wedding. We're all dressed up, hats an' ev-ery-thang and as we're walking up the path to the church we see him on the roof, absolutely hammered in his morning suit with a bottle in one hand. He hollers down to us: Good news an' bad news! Bad news, the wedding is OFF! Good news, the Partaaaaaay is ONNNNNN!'

We go and meet Gasparin and his friends and watch the second instalment. Gasparin made a lovely side table and we all clap.
'Your game face is slipping,' Stephen points out.
It's time to head home.
I climb in to bed with a copy of Valley Of The Dolls. The cover is a close up photo of a bubblegum pink glittery mouth, the teeth biting down gently on a pill.
This is going to be good, I think. And promptly pass out.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Super Bowl And The Bottomless Mimosas

It's sunday morning, I still have last night's make up on and I look ten years older than I did yesterday. Even the dogs, who normally greet me with manic enthusiasm, are giving me a wide berth. I skype with my niece in Malta.

'The whites of my eyes are slightly yellow, the antacid pills aren't working anymore and my piss looks like tango. I half expect it to come out with a lime wedge attached.'
She laughs at me which always makes me feel immediately better and asks what my plans are for the day.
I slump. We're having brunch. This means more booze and before lunchtime.There was some sinister talk about a 'Bottomless Mimosas' deal.
'And of course it's the Super Bowl today,' she informs me perkily.
She squints at me.
'You do know what a Super Bowl is don't you?'
'….sport thing...?'
'Good luck.'

Christine comes to fetch us. I don't even bother with make up. I just cover what I can of my face with my Elvis shades and put on my 'Los Fucking Angeles' T – Shirt which sort of sums it all up really.
'Where are we going?' I ask as we clamber in to the taxi. (It's not actually a taxi, it's something called an – I Think – Uber. You find someone in a car nearby on an app and pay them to drive you somewhere by credit card. They're just people. Not taxi drivers.)
'We're going to church,' Lips says.
At this point I'd welcome it to be honest.
We get to our destination. A restaurant called 'The Church Key' – very funny Lips.
We go in and find Gasparin waiting for us. Gasparin is a lovely man from Venezuela who lives here and has just participated in a new TV show called “Ellen's Design Challenge”. It's a reality TV show in which six interior designers battle it out with each other making fabulous things with the end goal being a cash prize and a spread in a design magazine.
The show has just started airing and we attended the first showing. Gasparin is riding the wave of excitement about it all and I let him chat to his friends for a full 45 seconds before draping my arm around his shoulder and saying:
'So, Ellen. As fabulous as I think she is? Or a monster?'
He tells me all about the show and her (she's even lovelier in person) and a nice young woman with a trolley approaches us and makes a round of Mimosas for the table. (Yeah, 17 dollars for as much as you can drink. It would have been rude not to. Which reminds me of something Keir once said: Well, at least Thea died doing what she loved – being polite.)
I have my first ever biscuits and gravy breakfast with sunny side up eggs and turkey sausages. S'goooood. We then have these ludicrous brioche donuts for dessert. I now know what sin tastes like. I finish my (insert quantity of choice here: __) mimosa and we say bye to Gasparin and Lips who has another meeting with clients. Stephen, Christine and I get another car and go to a restaurant called something mexican where we are greeted by a woman who used to be Miss Nevada and is now a tequila rep. Christine knows EVERYONE in the booze related world. And she is hilarious. We've been in each others company for a couple of hours and have spent most of it laughing.
Miss Nevada/Tequila Rep greets us warmly.
'I'm so glad you could drop by! I hear you have a bit a day planned so I'm real happy to be able to pour some tequila on you before you head off.'
We are given margaritas which are the best I've had. Christine turns to me super casual:
'Oh lord,' Stephen mutters.
She's like an evil twin and I just know if I spent a significant amount of time with her she would ruin me. And I wouldn't complain.
'The bar we're watching the game at is....dark. There are like NO windows. It'll be great.'
We get in another randomly driven car and this time we have a man from New York with us. He's promoting a brazilian drink and I can't for the life of me remember his name. I'll call him 'Fun Bob.'
The bar – Three Clubs – is indeed dark and reminds me more of an Irish Pub. There's food everywhere. Popcorn, pizza, burgers, big bowls full of M&M's, Haribo and peanuts.
The barman, Jo, is another good friend of Christine. I take one look at him and turn to Stephen who now seems to have the ability to read my mind:
'Yep, he would have been perfect for you. He's just your type. You're too late though. I checked and he is wearing a wedding band.'
Jo tells us about his baby Henry who has croup and then tells us, at Christine's insistence, a great joke he made up.
'How many mixologists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? -
Well, that all depends on what level of light you want and what kind of voltage you're working with. I mean how many power sockets do you have and what kind of room are you lighting? Will you be having a dimmer switch or a regular.......'
He just keeps going with variables. He's funny. Dammit.
I obviously know absolutely nothing about sports so Stephen gives me two stock phrases to repeat at anyone who steps in to my path:
'Go Patriots!'
'How about that Tom Brady huh....'
I try it out a few times and people slap me on the back and say things like 'Hell yeah!' And 'I know right!'
Christine spots some stickers with beer bottles on them and her face lights up.
'Are those transfer tattoos?!'
Jo shakes his head.
'Stickers. I know right, almost cool.'
'Got anything for me?' She asks.
He hands her a novelty double straw. She rips the packaging open and thrusts it into her cocktail.
'Don't you threaten ME with a good time!' She downs the drink.
I haven't bought her a drink at all since meeting her and feel that now is the time.
'Fancy a shot of tequila?'
'Sure! Tequila or...MESCAL!?'
I think Mescal might be the answer she's looking for. We get one for Jo too. Shot glasses aren't even shot sized here. It's just a glass of pure spirits. Stephen point blank refuses to partake in this madness.
We switch to beers for a while. And then back to cocktails. There's some mixologist joke going on between her and Jo to do with Apple-tinis which I'm gathering are a pain to make. Now ALL I want is an Apple-tini. Jo is a good sport and makes us a round. Then there's some more shots. Another Apple-tini. At some point Fun Bob disappears and comes back with a whole bunch of tacos and mexican food which we eat like savages. (Stephen insists he saved us from a much worse fate by bringing that well timed snack).
The game goes on in the background and at some point Katy Perry arrives on the back of a mythical beast.
By the time Lips gets out of his meeting and joins us we're talking largely in clicks and hoots.
'We missed you! We love youuuuuuuu!'
'Oh Gawd,' he mutters and gets a beer.
Christine has been talking all day periodically about 'When you move to LA.' She would literally kill me. In about a week. She says she can get me a job. Zoe has also offered the possibility of some writing work for her company. Lips does that Jewish shrug of his. 'I can see you here.' Stephen too is onboard. 'You have talents. You could achieve something great here.'
Truth is I couldn't live so far from my family. I'd miss them so much. But I might return for a few months if there was some work for me. I could see that happening. LA has a way of seducing you in to believing anything is possible.

When I wake the next morning I know for a fact that I will not be drinking today.

I go downstairs and find Stephen leaning heavily against the kitchen counter. For the first time since I arrived he doesn't look like he stepped out of a catalogue.
'Ha Ha! You look like shit!'
His head slides down in to his hands and his shoulders shake gently.
'You are killin' me girl.'
I feel a little smug. I've broken Stephen.
'Ahm just gonna take the dogs for a walk and then we'll take you over to Calvin for your singing lesson okay.'
He smiles at me with pure evil.

Burlesque, Cigars And A Near Death Experience.

I sometimes make notes on my phone to remind me to put something particular in the blog. After a fortifying cup of coffee, two Advil (my constant companions on this trip) and a little blue pill that stops you getting acid reflux for 24 hours (margaritas) I check my notes. The only note from the weekend is:
Stephen: “Put THAT in the blog beyatch!”
Curious. I'm going to have to retrace our steps.
It's saturday morning and Lips and Stephen return from the flower market with something that is the shape and size of a small tree. Lips heads off for a meeting with some clients from China and Stephen begins what I can only assume is topiary so that he can fit the small tree in a big vase.
'I thought we could take the dogs for a hike up Runyon Canyon when I'm finished here?'
'Sounds good,' I say.
He looks down at my converse.
'You're the same size as me right? An 8? You wanna borrow some trainers, proper ones?'
'These converse got me across the northern territories in Australia. I think they'll survive a walk up a canyon in Hollywood.'
'Alrighty then.'
We park somewhere in the Hollywood Hills and congratulate Anderson Cooper on not vomiting in the car. He gets terribly carsick and spends every journey with his face out of the window salivating and dribbling like a tap trying to keep his lunch down whilst Bradley Cooper looks on mournfully.
There are A LOT of people here doing the same hike, also with dogs, but in contrast to us most of them are wearing lycra and sprinting up what I now notice nervously is quite a steep incline.
It's really beautiful though, hard to believe you're in LA, so close to the city. I look up to a hazy peak somewhere in the distance high high up. There are people stood there looking down at us ants. Well there's no way I'll be going that far so I'm not too worried.
As good fortune would have it Anderson is so happy to be out of the car and in nature that all I have to do is hold on to the lead and let him pull me up the hilly paths. There's really very little energy expended on my part. Until about half way up an hour or so later when he looks at me with what can only be described as disappointment and starts trotting slowly by my side. The walk gets harder. People heading the other way stop frequently to admire the dogs and I take the opportunity to bend over with hands on knees and drag in a few much needed lungfuls of air.
We see a famous rapper stood chatting to his acolytes. A man that looks like a greek god cut out of marble jogs past us and my head does a 360 turn.
'Don't worry,' Stephen says. 'You'll see him again.'
Sure enough twenty minutes later he runs past us again. HOW?
'He's doing a circuit of the canyon.'
A bit further up we see the rapper again. At some point he must have run past us but I missed it through the curtain of sweat that is now my face.
I look down to the side and have a wave of vertigo. We're really high up and there are no railings.
The Adonis runs past us again and he's perilously close to the edge. I almost want to grab his legs but I don't have the energy to expend.
About a week later we reach the top. That tiny point in the distance I saw when we started. I can't believe I made it and am still alive.
My Rocky Moment
'Good job,' Stephen says.
I feel it warrants more but merely nod. It's all I've got left.
'It's a little tricky on the way down,' Stephen offers tentatively.
I don't see how down can be anything like as hard as up.
We begin the descent. I quickly realise that a combination of 'down' being basically a sheer drop and my now acute vertigo might make this a bit challenging.
Stephen gives me Bradley Cooper's lead because he's less boisterous than Anderson and I stand a small chance of not being dragged face first down a mountain.
I'm sliding on the grit and there's nothing to grab hold of.
'Is this what you were thinking when you offered me some proper trainers?'
Stephen nods. I think he's trying not to laugh at me.
I slide again and start screaming.
'It's fine! It's fine! I'll just inch down slowly on my arse.'
Stephen bursts out laughing and grabs my hand as I try to lower myself in to a sitting position.
'No you don't! You stand missy! You are not sitting in the dirt on your ass. Not on my watch.'
Fuckery fuckety fuck.
I should point out that throughout this debacle thin athletic people are sprinting down the hill past me.
I take it one step at a time. As does Bradley who gently moves forward an inch and then sits and waits for me to catch up.

We get home and I have the best shower of my life.
Lips is back and we're heading out for a light bite before meeting Christine the bartender who is going to take us to a club she's working at.
We have some delicious bits to eat at a place called Odyn And Penelope and Christine drives us to some lot in a back alley. We walk down a darkened alley until we reach a big 1950's fridge. The man outside greets Christine affectionately and opens the fridge door which turns out be the entrance to an achingly cool 1970's club called 'Good Times'. Inside is just as fabulous and it's heaving. The bartender knows Christine (they all know each other here) and refuses to take our money. We have a drink in the garden where there's a small caravan set up as a bar serving 'Boozy Cones' – slush puppies in a cone with tequila poured over them. We only stay for one and then head off again. Another dark alley with a seedy looking entrance and over the top a gaudy neon sign that says La Descarga. But there's a queue of at least sixty people. We don't have to queue because of Christine who I'm rapidly coming to love. A nice man asks me for my ID.
'I don't carry ID with me,' I say. 'I'm forty.'
He doesn't assure me that I look much younger. He just smiles.
'If you don't have ID you can't get served at the bar or start a tab.'
I nod to Lips.
'Can he be my responsible adult?'
'Sure,' he smiles. 'Be good.'
We go through a dodgy metal door and up some rickety stairs. The walls are yellowing and it has the feel of a crack den. When we get to the top we find ourselves in a tawdry living room. Low lamps cast an orange glow. There's worn sofa, an old wardrobe and a picture of Che on the wall. There's even a half drunk cup of something and some unopened mail.
A girl appears in a tight red dress and greets us.
'You been here before?'
I shake my head.
'Welcome. Please don't take any photographs and feel free to smoke. There's a great selection of cigars.'
She opens the wardrobe which is full of shirts and pulls them to one side. There's a drape of sorts which she pulls back. We walk through and find ourselves on a balcony looking down over a bar rammed full of people. There's a cuban jazz band in one corner and the place is already heaving.
'This is the best Narnia ever,' I say.
We head down the spiral staircase and go to the bar. Christine has already racked us up three mojito's, pint sized. She waves away Stephen's Amex. We'll not be paying tonight.
I walk around the corner to find the ladies and walk in to the cigar bar. I've been to Cuba and this is as authentic as anything I've seen there. There's ceiling fans turning slowly. Old leather chairs and low tables with ashtrays on them. A man is sat in the corner with his arm loosely draped over a girls shoulder. She's clinging to him like salvation and he's chewing a toothpick. He gives me a slow wink. People are selecting cigars from a glass cabinet and a few girls in cocktail dresses are moving their hips lazily to the music.
I have a cigarette and pinch myself.
I head back to find the boys waiting.
A man is making his way through the dense crowd playing a trumpet and he's incredible. Everyone is cheering and screaming, me included. He finishes and points up to the balcony. A girl in a sequinned bra and knickers begins dancing and the music starts up with the rest of the band playing too. Strangely there's nothing seedy about it. She's an incredible dancer and at one point is shaking her bum so fast you can no longer see it.
The mojito's come on tap and we dance and laugh for hours.
There's a moment where we're all dancing, the burlesque girl is spinning at the speed of light, the band seems to be everywhere around us and Christine has her head back laughing at the moon. The world is a perfect bubble of hedonism and everything is bathed in gold. Stephen catches my eye and roars:
'Put THAT in the blog beyatch!'