So when New York got so humid my glasses fogged up getting out of a cab, off to LA I went.
I popped 2 Benadryl on an empty stomach that knocked me out cold for the entire flight, so I was groggy and emotionally unavailable when my brother Harry and sister Lucy picked me up at LAX.
When we got to my parents’ house in the Valley, the five of us sat around the table noshing and catching up, I smoked a couple of cigarettes in the backyard lair of Sammy (the half Chow, half Golden Retriever, squirrel-chasing freak) and crashed.
I woke up craving sugar around 5:30, did some damage on a large Humphrey’s yogurt with mixed-in peanut butter cups and oreos, smoked another cigarette with Sammy and went back to bed for a couple more hours, until Natalie and Jonnah (aka Our Lady J) came over around noon to dive into the eclectic set of songs we’d been emailing and conference calling about over the previous weeks. Jonnah had cooked up some amazing arrangements, although we were all stuck on what to do with “Love Child,” and cut it.
Drove with my Campanile-obsessed brother to meet Lucy and her boyfriend for dinner. Sandwiches. In one of those super-spacious LA restaurants. Weird. I would have preferred a barbecue in the backyard.
After dinner, Harry and I ditched my parents to meet some of his friends for yogurt on Ventura Blvd. Sat next to the one girl in the group and chainsmoked as she did while she regaled Harry and his guy friends with an in-and-out-of-and-back-into-Rehab story. Still wishing I was in the backyard.
Natalie and Jonnah came over early the next day. We cut another couple of songs (and added one) and moved the order around a bit. Reality dawned. The seemingly wide stretch of time between Friday morning and Monday night’s first performance would be mostly eaten up by Legally Blonde. Changed a couple of keys, finessed a couple of endings, zhuzhed a couple of transitions. Worked on the banter. That was particularly satisfying — patter is the most challenging aspect of cabaret. Friday, it felt like four years of collaboration between me and Natalie paid off.
I drove Jonnah back to Los Feliz, which was slightly traumatizing, being my first time behind the wheel in a while. Driving my dad’s car gave me driving-dad’s-car anxiety. There was like no traffic on Santa Monica and no speed felt right. I was going 39 when I crossed Cole Street so I took that as a sign that I was okay. Shout-out to Cole, “Heyyyy…”
Lucy and I went with our lesbian aunts to see Liza at the Hollywood Bowl, stopping on the way to pick up bento boxes from Susan Feniger’s Street. It was Liza’s At The Palace minus the back-up boys.
Grateful it wasn’t some LA Philharmonic pops concert with scores from the Harry Potter movies and the Gypsy overture. Liza was unsurprisingly scatterbrained, but she really locked into some numbers. I love the Hollywood Bowl! Worked there as an usher the summer before college.
Lucy came home with me to my parents’ house. We argued about sitting inside and had a short version of our usual catch-up. The next morning we took Sammy for a hike on Fryman Canyon. All the fit Los Angelenos made me think of all the LA publicists I dated (uh-huh) and their cute bodies and cute clothes and cars and houses (where I broke stuff) and of the life I can imagine with one of them as my cute LA boyfriend. I lit up a cigarette. Lucy thought I was nuts, but Sammy was exhausted from hiking in all that fur on the hottest day of the year. I got to have my moment.
We got back to the house and I jumped in the pool. Kind of a shock to the system, the cold and the water up my nose, but refreshing enough to repeat a few times that afternoon. Lucy agreed to hang with me outside, if under an umbrella. Smoking downwind and baking in the sun, I was in the cancer seat!
Went to the Abbey to meet my old Bowl-friend Kristin. We reminisced about long-distance drunk dialing each other to belt out showtunes, smoking weed in the parking lot of the Cerritos Performing Arts Center before a Liza Minnelli concert, and caught up on the past and made future plans.
I stopped in the remodeled West Hollywood Pavilions to pick up some produce, cruise the hotties, and then headed back over the hill to barbecue with Lucy and her boyfriend and my best friend Debra.
Wonderful, mellow night, eating in the backyard with music playing and wine. Lucy scurried about serving us on hand and foot, so happy to have three of the most important people in her life, bonding. Got a little tipsy and held court after dinner, sitting away from the table to smoke, on a stool at the barbecue counter, and let myself be goaded into delivering the (famous?) Carol Channing story where she calls Betty White “a cunt.”
Everyone left, and I started to feel a little of the LA isolation. It was a gorgeous night out, my background vocal pop playlist was still shuffling away, but I wanted company without having to drunk drive. Posted a facebook status saying I wanted someone to come over, but nothing worked. Pulled out my brother’s bong for some herbal inducement to just enjoy the evening and it worked – me and Sammy chilling under the stars.
Sunday, Debra and I went to see Natalie in the matinee of Legally Blonde. Weird to be back at the Pantages (the site of most of my childhood national tour experiences – Les Miz, Starlight Express, Raul Julia and Sheena Easton in Man of La Mancha, etc.) which once represented Broadway to me and now seemed like just a cheesy outpost of bus-and-truck not-quiteness.
Natalie kicked ass and we enjoyed watching her sign autographs for the little fan-girls after the show and then ran across town to meet my bigtime blogger friends, David Hauslaib (queerty) and Trent Vanegas (pinkisthenewblog). My alcohol tolerance was down in LA – I had one glass of wine and wound up promising to stage a fifteen-minute Michael Jackson tribute for David’s birthday party in New York later this month. Anybody moonwalk?
Lucy and our oldest friend Zach and I ate dinner at “California style” Chinese Chin Chin on Sunset Blvd – delicious and sitting outside on Sunset. The perfect late summer LA experience. Zach is straight and a Republican and generally kind of freaky by any standards, but that Three Musketeers childhood connection we had remains. Favorite bon mot of the night: Zach informing me that he is “the only person who had a No On Prop 8 poster in the window next to a McCain banner.”
At tech the next day, managed to run through all Natalie’s numbers. Thrilled to see what amazing voice she was in. John Hill, who wrote some “special material” and was making a guest appearance in the show, was delayed flying in from God knows where. We went over our scheduled tech time to get in some rehearsal with him. I made a quick costume change and sat down for a relaxing drink. The work was done and I felt good about it. I could just let go of all the pressure and trust the people on stage to do their jobs. Love those moments in directing.
Grabbed dinner at a sushi place across the street with my beautiful friend from college/now-gaymous TV star Darryl Stephens. Then we went back to Vermont so I could begin greeting various various peeps who came to the show.. Thank God it was sold out with a long line of people hoping to be squeezed in. Some of whom were turned away. Come back next Monday! Natalie and Jonnah really delivered, earning two standing ovations by the end of the night.
We all stuck around a bit to schmooze after the show and then went to Eleven to watch the premiere of the new episode of The Battery’s Down, featuring Natalie and John Hill, among others.
Its creator and star, Jake Wilson, is cute and impressive in his go-getter-ness. Cool to see this very New York thing with all these musical theatre people happening on Santa Monica Blvd, in the middle of the LA gayborhood. As soon as I walked in, Scott Nevins came up to tell me a Lorna Luft story.
There may be no place like home, but home is where the heart is.