Twenty minutes into searching in vain for a parking meter on La Cienega, I give up and illegally park in the Norm’s lot up the street from my destination. The yellow light from inside the diner bounces off of the black asphalt and angled white parking lines. It is the last normal and balanced thing I will see for the next hour. I shuffle between cars, hoping that a manager or parking attendant hasn’t seen me.
Veronica and Alexis are already inside, surrounded by black and white photographs from an old and dead Hollywood photographer. The crowd is wrinkled and creepy and looks like what happens when you stay in Los Angeles too long and you never make it. Used up, gray hair, eager eyes. On the walls are photographs of vintage Hollywood royalty. Black and white. Marilyn. James Dean. Elizabeth Taylor. Everything no one here actually is.
I don’t know why I am here, or who has extended the invitation to one of the three of us. We are the youngest in the room by at least fifteen years. We are also in the midst of a strange sausage fest: most of the people here are lecherous men, some of whom we will be properly introduced to by the end of the night (a total of 33 minutes).
After scanning the walls of Frank Roth’s photography and noting that Veronica closely resembles one actress and fancying myself similar to Ursula Andress, we venture into the back of the building where more old people are congregated around food and booze. The spread is decidedly Ralph’s supermarket fare: trays of shrimp cocktail, a whole fish (gone largely untouched), cured salmon, fruit plates, white bread, Swiss cheese.
A woman approaches us. She is wearing all black and her nose has the chiseled angles of an unnatural kind. Her accent is vaguely foreign: not Russian, not Middle Eastern, but somewhere in between. “I am a matchmaker,” she says. “Are you ladies single?” Alexis giggles and drinks her white wine. Veronica lies and says she is taken, which she later rescinds upon the woman’s mention of a particular someone that might be good for her. I laugh and bury my head in my hands because I can’t believe this is happening.
“I get the best men. Rich. Successful. They dress nicely. No one meets in bar’s anymore,” she says. Veronica retorts that she still does and that’s her problem. After it has been established that Veronica will be the most cooperative with this theoretical situation, the woman with the fake nose zeros in on her. Veronica is wearing a plum peasant top with jeans and studded boots. She got her hair done yesterday next to Lydia Hearst and she still has makeup on from her job today. My hair is too messy for this matchmaker. I am wearing shiny rain boots and imagine I don’t look like her idea of “expensive.”
Madam Matchmaker asks Veronica what her type is. “Dirty, but not actually dirty.” I could have told her that. After mentioning she has a thirty-three-year-old musician on her roster of most likely pathetic, socially inept gentlemen that would be perfect for her, she hands Veronica a business card and leaves. I feel on par with a prostitute just having been in such close proximity to this woman. Once I walked in on Heidi Fleiss drinking white wine in a hotel room. She was wearing a powder blue pantsuit and crazy eyes. This was kind of like that.
It only gets worse from here.
We stand alone, drinking and eating shrimp cocktails off a paper plate, until daring man approaches. I can’t remember what his opening line is, but a few sentences in he is rambling on about how we must have height competitions at home. Of course, because this is what tall girls do. This makes no sense; nothing this man will say to us over the course of the next twenty minutes makes sense.
He is Middle Eastern and his accent warbles along through broken English and terrible jokes. The man is also a fantastic liar. And I don’t mean fantastic in the terms of being good at it. I mean it as he is totally and completely the most ridiculous human I have ever met. His first fib comes in the form of his occupation.
“I do fashion consulting for Elle Magazine.”
Uh, huh. I look down at his shoes and know immediately this man has nothing to do with the world of clothing. Veronica points down at her own shoes and says, “Yeah. Sure. Okay, then who makes these?” The man stares down at her leather heels pocked with grommets. It is a fashion game of Russian roulette. “How could I tell that?” he asks. We assure him that if he were actually in the industry he would be able to tell what designer this was just from looking at them. He ponders further. “Gucci,” he says.
ERRRRR. Wrong. Try again.
The liar doesn’t care that he is busted and continues on with his aggressive assault on my vomit reflex. Veronica gives him another chance. “What was your favorite collection this season?” I sense that very rarely has this man actually been asked a question with “collection” and “season” in it. I feel like he hears “fuck off” and “douche bag” with greater frequency.
Next, he moves on into assuming he knows what type of guy Veronica goes for. “Rich and good looking,” he says. I chime in, telling him that he is incorrect in his assumption and Veronica only goes after dirty and ugly boys with bad mothers. None of my jokes go over well, and it is obvious that I am the third wheel cock blocker – the “grenade” if we’re going to get all Jersey Shore up in here. This, of course, is his perception of this situation if his perception of it is that he actually has a shot with Veronica. He does not.
Finally, he asks Veronica’s name. I know what is coming because I know Veronica. “Victoria,” she says and extends her hand. I want to get the hand sanitizer Alexis found earlier and apply it to Veronica’s whole body. It’s a similar instinctual reaction as when a mother catches her child eating M&Ms off of the floor of a JC Penney. “What a fancy name,” he says. I stroke her fur jacket and tell him it’s a fancy name for a fancy girl.
A few seconds later Veronica breaks form and tells him her real name and says that she can’t lie. To which I think, “Yes you can” and “Why the hell did you just do that?” His response is the last of his before we make our way to the bar, laughing and horrified: “Oh? Veronica? That is porn name!”
The girls refresh their glasses and we walk back into the gallery. We are stopped by a silver haired man who looks like the sixty-seven-year-old version of Christian Bale in American Psycho. “Can we take your picture?” he asks. He is flanked by a smaller Asian man with a camera and a notepad. I glumly cooperate. This guy is like the geriatric Cobra Snake, and I want nothing to do with it. As I shimmy up to get closer into frame, the old man raises his hand to my face and asks if he can move my hair. Um, no? The following responses run through my head.
1) You’re a weirdo and I hope you don’t have grandchildren.
2) I like my hair the way it is, dirt bag.
3) I can do it myself.
Despite my greater desire to be a raging diva bitch, I go with answer 3 and quickly pull my own hair out of my own face with my own hand. The Asian “photographer” takes our names down, thanks us, and walks away. Veronica asks the old man what the photographs are for and he hands her the second business card for the evening and says, “This is a very popular blog in Hollywood.” He leaves and Alexis grimaces, saying something about how we’re going to end up on the Internet tomorrow with our heads Photoshopped onto the naked bodies of whores.
Veronica needs to smoke so we go out on the sidewalk. The girls keep their plastic cups of wine and I ask if that’s legal because I don’t think it is. All of a sudden the Middle Eastern man reappears. The conversation goes something like this.
Him: Can I give you my business card so I can buy you dinner so you forgive me?
Her: I’m not looking for a sugar daddy.
Him: Good. It cost me cheap date and I love that.
[Veronica reads his card]
Him: No, Kay-vahn.
Her: Are you Israeli?
Him: Yes. You dated Middle Eastern Man before?
Her: Yes, but I got tired of walking five steps behind him.
Him: For the record, I am the future emperor of Persia.
Her: You know Persia doesn’t exist anymore, right?
Him: (Laughs) Three abortions under my belt. I take credit for it. I make the baby. She make the abortion.
At this point, I am entirely confused and borderline offended. I think this guy is trying to tell us that he has no heirs to his fake throne yet and that he wants to impregnate Veronica and make her the empress of Persia.
His friend George, an overweight Russian man with hands I don’t want to shake, comes out and introduces himself, at which point it is my cue to leave. I give the girls hugs, turn on my heel, and take off – yelling at Veronica to take notes if anything further happens in the “Ridiculous Los Angeles Bullshit” category of our lives. Because it’s always a shame to miss out on that, you know.