I have been in LA long enough to learn that, if you shoot up Cahuenga out of Hollywood, you don’t have to merge onto the freeway unless you want to and can ride the surface street all the way to Barham, my magic carpet home.
For all practical purposes, LA is a big speakeasy, full of codes and secret passwords, hidden entrances, great mysteries…ghosts. All that amazing Ray Chandler stuff didn’t come from nowhere.
Foggy lately, and I like it. Gumshoe weather. Seems to fit the season and water the poinsettias, even as we wait-wait-wait for another good and much-needed rain. The fog greens things up, which is a sign of the holidays in Los Angeles. That and all the fried Christmas decorations in the parking lots at the malls.
Is everything better fried? Not Christmas wreathes.
In the name of hydration, I had a couple of gin martinis with my pal Roswell the other night, deep in the belly of the beast, at that new place Musso & Frank, which is sort of a clubhouse of Old Hollywood.
We warmed our hands on gin martinis. Roswell is a raconteur, spinner of tales, teller of jokes. He orders a martini as if reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, with reverence, and olives on the side and citrus along the rim. The barkeep got it mostly right.
Then he told an Oprah Winfrey story that made her come across as both a bit of a monster and a bit of a genius, and you could see from the story why she’s had a career.
The short version: A TV producer, in describing how slender a little house was, said during the taping of a local show that “this house is so skinny you actually have to go outside to watch ‘Oprah,’” or something to that effect, which is a great line, but apparently displeased the empress.
The punch line, as delivered by Winfrey, was “elephants never forget.”
I’ll tell you the full story some time over a martini at Musso & Frank. If the place lasts. In LA, the first 100 years are always the easiest.
Ran into my old pal Glover there too, and there was a guy ordering wine who looked like George Lucas.
Roswell, meanwhile, is personal chauffeur to a Very Important Person. And I think to myself, “I feel sorry for rich people sometimes, they’re so isolated. But if you can have a chauffeur like Roswell, that might make all that money worthwhile.”
He’s a sagacious sort, can read the mood, and knows when to chat with a passenger and when to shut up. He’s the sort of driver you’d find in an old Katharine Hepburn movie, the kind she’d pour her heart out to when Clark Gable duped her.
And he orders a good martini, then picks up the check and saunters down Hollywood Boulevard like he owns this town.
And tonight, he did.
Cutting it a bit short today as I race off to Vegas with my buddy Marky-Mark to catch a football game. As it happens, my sister will be in Vegas too. She’s been married to John Madden for nearly 40 years. So there’ll be some stories. Not good ones. Just stories. Mostly, my goal is to keep Marky Mark out of the sports books and the seedier clubs and not to wager the mortgage on Syracuse basketball. Wish me luck. I’ve failed at lots of easier tasks. Meanwhile, have a great weekend. Please don’t forget that we’ve re-stocked the gin & tonic glasses, this year’s hottest holiday gift. Info here: ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!