What am I doing Drinking in LA?
It is a pleasant December evening in Los Angles and I am on a post-prandial stroll through the city streets. I have spent the day shooting swimwear in the Joshua Tree national park and while the rest of the crew have dispersed to their various evening appointments, I dined alone in the restaurant at the Sunset Towers hotel.
Now it’s just before 10pm and, to walk off the meal and the two martinis, I am exploring the area near my hotel – the somewhat less expensive Standard hotel.
As I pass the forecourt of Norm’s 76 Service station on Sunset, a heavily built man in a tight black t-shirt breaks off his conversation with a younger man leaning on a shopping trolley and beckons me.
He is, he tells, me a bodyguard and his name is Mr Muscles. I nod. It seems reasonable.
“I’m living in a hotel that costs $95 a night and I already have $40,” he says, beaming with the sort of positivity found as standard in infomercials. “Anything you can help me with would be just great.”
There is a pause as I consider this. I reach into my pocket hoping for a note of small denomination. As I withdraw my hand under the slight blue light of the Mobil sign, we both look down and see a $10 note. We look at each other and I hand it over.
I have no idea why.
Clearly grateful, Mr Muscles beams me a smile and hands me a card from a tight pile held together by an elastic band.
“This is me,” he says. “If you need a bodyguard give me a call.”
There is another pause as we briefly consider the idea of me needing a bodyguard.
“I was also in Spiderman – the first one,” he adds as if to reassure me my money is well spent.
We shake hands and I walk on. Mr Muscles strides off towards another potential benefactor.
LA is a fantastic city, a magical city – the climate is great, the architecture interesting, the geography and style ever-changing. Of course it is huge but, like London, like any city I guess, it is a collection of smaller places. Driving back from the shoot our make up artist, Adrianne Herbert, stuns me with her knowledge of almost all the city’s routes. Along the way back into the city she points out a succession of great bars and restaurants that no outsider would ever find. The choice is huge and each one she points out I want to visit. It would take me weeks.
A few minutes after taking my leave of Mr Muscles I find myself on Santa Monica Boulevard and inadvertently stumble into what turns out to be a police raid.
A number of police cars have stopped in the street, their lights flashing. Another drives around into an alley behind the building. The whole scene builds right in front of me but none of the other (admittedly very few) people around seem to think anything of it.
A female officer, her hand on the pistol in her holster, takes position just in front of me. Despite the presence of the holstered gun, she appears relaxed, casually chewing in some gum.
“Is it OK to go through?” I ask. “You’re not about to draw your guns or anything, are you?”
She contemplates me briefly then shakes her head and waves me through, along the pavement in front of the building.
A few seconds later I look up to see a crowd of around five officers crouching down by the far corner of the building, just a few feet ahead of me.
“Dude!” hisses one, his gun in the air, “what are you doing!”
“I asked your colleague if it was ok. I didn’t think you were drawing guns…”
Several of the officers look almost sheepishly at their weapons. The lead cop looks incredulous.
“Dude, just get out of here…keep going! Keep going!”
As I pass they crouch down still further awaiting instruction from the squawk of a radio. I don’t wait around to see the results and although I feel faintly protected from the bizarre reality by the last effects of my second martini, I quicken my pace.
The rest of my night walk, past car showrooms, antique shops, down-at-heel dime stores, the obligatory Starbucks, offices and only one or two actual homes, is uneventful.
I arrive back at The Standard to find a velvet rope has been applied to the entrance along with a doorman. Inside the reception area the place is alive with people and music. People spill out to the pool area holding cocktail glasses while in a corner a DJ holds court. Everybody is young and dressed with casual beauty.
Behind the reception desk in what looks like a converted fish tank, a female model in a bikini lies reading a book and listening to an iPod. She seems oblivious to the commotion and most of the people seem oblivious of her, apart from one or two who point and take a picture.
For a moment I contemplate another drink and trying to infiltrate the party, which is just another club night at the hotel. But even in my black linen suit and crisp shirt, I am just not the sort. Nowhere near cool enough or beautiful enough or foolish enough.
Then, looking down the street at the palm trees and the lights, I wonder about taking a cab to one of the nitespots (never a nightspot) Adrianne pointed out. Instead I nod at the doorman and go up to bed.