When I was with my boyfriend, (now ex) and I got to know his kids better, I marveled at their impeccable timing; better than any Borscht Belt comic. Their opinions were unfiltered, and they were often unsolicited.
One day, I sat down next to my boyfriend’s son in the living room, and settled in for some mindless (is there any other kind?) television watching. Out of nowhere, he asked, “Have you ever worked on movie sets?”
Startled, I whipped my head around. “What?” Hearing this innocent nine-year-old boy say “movie set,” made me laugh. It had been years since I’d worked on a movie set, and for a moment, I forgot that I actually had.
“Yes, I have.”
He continued. “Have you ever met any famous people or celebrities?”
I rarely talked about my life in Hollywood with my boyfriend and his kids, and I wondered what had prompted these questions.
“Sure, I’ve met famous people and celebrities.”
“Like who?” he asked.
And with that, my mind went tabula rasa. After a slight hesitation, I replied, “Cyndi Lauper.”
He crinkled his tiny face, disappointed. “Who?”
I should have seen that one coming. He was relentless. “Were you in any movies like you see in the movie theater?”
One minute we’re watching Alvin and the Chipmunks and the next, my résumé is being called into question. Was he going to ask me for references next? Again, I hesitated because I had forgotten my own credits.
I stared at this cherub. I was so nervous being the Girlfriend Mom. I wanted to see where the role would take me but I also didn’t want to forget how I got there; in a living room with a child, who was interrogating me like a murder suspect.
I looked over at him. “Okay, you got me, I’ll talk.”
My writing partner and I wrote a screenplay that received all kinds of Hollywood buzz; the kind of buzz that first-time screenwriters dream about while they’re writing in smelly corners of the only Starbucks in town that doesn’t have a restroom. I always wanted to be a card-carrying member of one of the most exclusive clubs in Hollywood, if not in the entire free world.
A top agent signed us, and we dined with studio executives and producers who pitched us movie ideas. “A ballet dancer succumbs to lethal plantar warts and is forced to make a tough decision: live with constant pain or go under the knife, which could lead to infection and end her dancing career. While lying on the operating table, the anesthesiologist professes his desire for her and her warts. They fall in love, but the operation is botched, and she never dances again. It’s Erin Brockovich meets Black Swan by way of Love Story.”
One day we had a meeting with Courtney Love. She wanted to pitch us a movie idea. It was surreal. I was green to the ways of Hollywood, but the effect that being noticed can have on one’s ego? It’s astonishing. I walked a little bit taller. I got so ahead of myself that my shadow struggled to keep up.
Ms. Love was coming off a string of box office hits like The People Vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. She was a serious and couture-wearing actress now; no longer known just as Kurt Cobain’s wife and the lead singer of Hole.
We rendezvoused at Ms. Love’s home in the Hollywood Hills. I expected tall hedges and barbed wire fences, and then realized she didn’t live in a prison. She’d didn’t even have a gate; even my parents have a gate.
Her manager greeted us at the front door, and as she ushered us in, my partner whispered to me. “We take matches or something from the bathroom as a souvenir.” She was always joking.
I thought it would be nifty if we had a trinket from Courtney Love’s commode. My friend Katy brought me back rusty nails from Cher’s new Malibu beach house when it was under construction. She and her wife were friends of Cher’s, and they knew what a huge fan I was, so they brought me a memento. It was supposed to hold me over until they could set up an actual meeting with the Dark Lady herself. I’m still waiting for my face to face. (If I wait much longer, it’s going to be surgically enhanced face to surgically enhanced face.)
We sat on Courtney’s tailored linen couch in the library, and I already imagined future meetings with Ms. Love as our relationship blossomed. I lived in Seattle for a year and a half during the early days of grunge, so I already felt a kinship. Never mind that I spent most of my time there working backstage on such distinguished theatrical productions as A Shayna Maidel at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.
Ms. Love sauntered into the room, looking fabulous. Her conservative blond bob, Dolce & Gabbana leather pencil skirt, Burberry blazer, and, I believe, newly sculpted nose screamed, Here I am, motherf’er.
From the moment she said, “Hello, nice to meet you guys,” to our departure an hour later, she was effusive and long-winded. “Did you know that this was Ellen’s old house? I had it redecorated, natch. Do you like the Stickley chairs? Have either of you read Proust?”
Before I had a chance to recall what Proust had written, she was discoursing on the virtues of anal bleaching. She insisted that we go to her favorite place Pink Cheeks on Ventura Boulevard—because who doesn’t want a pink and refreshed-looking butthole?
SIDE NOTE: I left this part out of the story because he was a child.
We stood up to leave, and walked to the front door. I looked in the direction of the kitchen, and caught a glimpse of Courtney’s daughter, Frances Bean, who was six years old and looked exactly like her father.
In the end we failed to impress Ms. Love, and the experience became just another in a long list of pitches, promises, and potentials.
Shortly after, my partner and I parted ways due to creative differences. I remember during one of our last conversations she said that I was being didactic. I shouted back defensively, “No, I’m not.” I might as well have added, “I know you are but what am I?”
I had no effing idea what didactic meant and I looked it up in the dictionary when I got home.
Didactic: intended to teach, particularly in having moral instruction as an ulterior motive: in the manner of a teacher, particularly so as to treat someone in a patronizing way. Okay, maybe I was.
My boyfriend’s son sat up on the couch, looked at me, and cocked his head. “So you weren’t in the movies?”