Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Anything For Love

My house guest, who is 18 and English and adorable, and with whom I celebrated, quite enthusiastically, national pizza day, asked me tonight why anyone would ever live anywhere other than LA. "Why on earth would you even consider moving to England," he asked. And I recited the litany of reasons that I loved LA: no weather issues, no need to carry a coat, an umbrella, gumboots, access to the ocean, mountains, trees, a world full of possibility, a vibrant art scene, sunshine, did I mention sunshine? You know, just to support it, because it is a city I love. LA IS my lady, and all that. And what a wonderful place it is. But then I realized, in the immortal words of Meatloaf, that you'd do anything for love. I'd live on a mattress in a one room shack in communist Russia if it meant I could be with the man I love. It's funny that, isn't it? And by the way, England has beech trees, ancient oaks, Sunday lunch, Dr Who, Liberty, chalk and clay, flints, burial grounds, beacons, owls, bracken, plum trees, many kinds of apple, walled gardens, marks & spencer white cotton knickers in three packs, proper butchers, ghosts, colefax & fowler, farrow & ball, lots of old churches, graveyards filled with flowers, my father's bones, my mamma, sloes, damsons, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberry canes to thin, the best brother in the world, roast pork and treacle tart in Therfield, bridle paths, meadows filled with grass and buttercups, and the man I love.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

As the weather has become unseasonably hot in Los Angeles, my thoughts drift towards ice cream, particularly this one from Mary Berry, made by my awfully clever sister when I was in England two weeks ago, after a thoroughly delicious and huge Sunday lunch. It's light and delicious and quite the best homemade ice cream I've tasted.

50g (2oz) meringues (broken)
300ml (half pint) double cream
Rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 Line a 900ml (1½ pint) pudding basin with cling film (this quantity can also be made in a 450g (1lb) loaf tin).
2 Lightly break up the meringue into chunky pieces. Whisk the cream lightly until it leaves a trail in the bowl, add the lemon juice and rind and lemon curd to the cream. Then gently fold in the meringue.
3 Spoon the lemon meringue mixture into the pudding basin, cover with cling film then freeze for at least six hours. If the ice cream has been in the freezer overnight or longer it has to be brought to room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before turning out on to a plate. Dip a sharp knife in boiling water before slicing (or just scoop it).
4. Serve with raspberry coulis (or fruit).

delicate creatures in awards season

We are delicate creatures, we humans. We require certain things to ensure that we function properly. Food and water, of course. Sleep, and plenty of it (catnaps are not counted, though my grandmother swore by them, and my ex-husband has a siesta every afternoon on a rickety old canvas camp-bed he keeps behind his desk for this very purpose). Communion with nature (or you may call this a spiritual connection; I believe in AA they might call this a belief in a higher power but for me just being in the trees is enough to stop me in my tracks; it is the thing that takes away the ego, the leveler, the great gobsmacker.) And creativity. We make and do as human beings. We read or write, we knit or sculpt, we plunge our hands into the dirt and wait for tomatoes to grow, we nurture life (in my case I find it hard to kill anything, even ants or spiders), we express ourselves, sometimes even through sport. And we need to love and feel loved. I am not sure that a life without these things is possible, nor whether it is desireable.

It is a relatively modern notion that the job we do is supposed to be something fulfilling to us. Jobs were what you did to live, and work is supposed to be hard. Driving on the 118 today, one of my very favorite freeways, I noticed a large truck with the license plate ILV2PLM. He was a plumber. I took a good look at him as I drove past, an admiring look. How lovely, I thought, that you like your job so much that you've chosen to declare it on your license plate. I'd like a plumber like that, I thought, someone who adores their work, because then, surely they'd do good work.

I love my work, mostly for the camaraderie of it. Yesterday was the Oscar nominees luncheon and while all the nominees were crammed into the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton, having had their pictures taken and being screamed at by adoring fans on the way in "Leo, Leo, LEEEEOOOOO!" they sit at little round tables with fellow nominees, feasting on rubber chicken. Downstairs, in the restaurant by the pool, my people, the publicists and press agents, some from studios, some personal, eat salads and burgers, and drink ice tea and generally catch up. I adore the people who do what I do. I had lunch with an old friend and we talked about the job. "The job." It's a strange one. It's an intimate one. In order to do it well, the relationship has to be extremely close. One has to live and breathe the vision of the client, especially in the case of writer/directors. Our job, this very specific job we do with our sometimes grumpy, sometimes mercurial, often brilliance-glimpsing director clients, is to try to get inside their heads, so that we can advocate for them, so that we can understand the artistic vision and articulate it for other people. This is not suited to everyone. For some, the sheer ickiness of having the mantle of someone else's vision around one's neck is too heavy. It comes with its own unique set of problems, of course, but in order to really do the job, it is necessary to absorb the imagination and the inspiration of the artist. And yes, I'm aware how mindblowingly pretentious that sounds.

And then there's the getting them into the parties part of the job. And the picking them up off the floor and dusting them off when they're blindingly drunk. Let's not forget that.

However reluctant a member I am sometimes, we are part of our own little community, a community where photographers and security people and journalists and pr folk know and respect each other. It's our little eco-system. We're all trying to do our job as best we can, sometimes under the most ridiculous of circumstances.

The Hollywood Reporter has a party every year after the nominees luncheon at Spago, the ritzy Beverly Hills restaurant owned by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Why the day of the luncheon? Because the actors are all in town, and it's strategically placed in the voting period that even the most reluctant of talent is willing to go out and have his picture taken. I'm always amused walking down red carpets with directors. Let's face it, they are the most interesting of all talent (there are of course some notable and wonderful exceptions, some of them my friends, but by and large, most actors aren't that interesting or, to be fair, particularly bright, but they do shine like diamonds, and dress divinely and wear pretty jewels, and have gorgeous, toned, bodies) but directors and writers are interesting. They think about the world, they have a perspective. They read. They are able to hold two opposing views in their heads at the same time. So it is quite interesting when the more fluffy (I'm trying to be kind here) decline to interview the directors when the question is asked. "I don't think so. Not today, honey," they say, scooting very close to vocal fry.  Exceptions are the rock star directors, but they have to own that status. I'd say that Tarantino is a rock star, and, this year, Iñárritu has earned his glamrock status. The party is fantastic. There are glittering gold curtains and cute waiters, and tuna tartare in little brandy snap cones, glasses of fizz and custom cocktails, photographers, starlets, old Hollywood glamor, and a fair amount of gorgeous Swedish interlopers. Last night, Sam Smith performed. He was a not very well kept secret, but as if on cue, the Hollywod crowd surged towards him, glasses in one hand, mobile phones in the other, recording his every quivering tremor. (My brilliant moment was to try to hold the phone and a glass of champagne in the same hand, drenching my friend Chris in a shower of bubbles). It's a good party, an A-list event. You catch up with people who haven't replied to your emails, and you kiss each other and forgive. You see people you have no intention of seeing until next year and find yourself saying "we must have lunch." And sometimes you're surprised by the sweetness of genuine conversation and proper human connection. It's funny how it's blaringly apparent, isn't it? It gives you a rather lovely warm glow afterwards.

And it makes it all worthwhile really, doesn't it, that warm glow, that acknowledgment that we are delicate and fragile creatures, but that we're not alone in it. That everyone is playing the same game, behind the fierce Adele eyes and the large signature watches, and the right Manolos, that there is real humanity and genuine kindness.

Of course the whole thing is ridiculous. We just wink at each other. We should have our own special ring and handshake, really, like Pierre and his freemason friends.

Onward, as I say to my clients. Only onward.

Friday, January 22, 2016

January might be the cruelest month

I've forgotten how to read. I'm actually being serious. I spend so much time on email, I am so addicted to my devices, to screens, that reading has become a challenge. And I'm someone who used to get through two books a week. There is a certain amount of shame attached to this. I'd like to pretend that it isn't the case. I'd like to break on through and tell you that I spent this weekend conquering "A Dance to the Music of Time" by Anthony Powell which I've promised my beloved that I would read with him. The truth is, I'm on page five, and I'm finding the prose very dense. Perhaps I should pick up some Jackie Collins or Jacqueline Susann and just go for it. Perhaps I should ban myself from the phone and the laptop. It scares me. It's not just not reading, it's the state of mind that it puts one in, the dumbing down of one's mind when it's not concentrating on other worlds, other stories, other realities. I buy books and I don't read them. How much reading did I do over Christmas? None. I put the pile of books out and I cracked a couple of them a couple of times. That was it. I am no longer a reader. I can't bear to even say it. I am no longer a reader.

Poetry, for some reason, I can read. Every day I manage to read a poem or two. Poetry still translates the world for me, transforms me.

January, it must be said, is surely the cruelest month. Talk about mixing memory with desire. I can't wait for it to be over. I want the green buds of spring, more birdsong, longer days.

I walked tonight, a little too late. Darkness fell a half hour before we were back, and I had to light my way with a torch (on my phone of course). The dogs were placid and happy and the moon rose over Studio City with a slight rainbow in the dark blue sky. I love being out there on my own with my girls. I love listening to the birds that only sing at dusk, the chirrupy buzz of the freeway in the distance, the owls. I wanted to stop and sit and meditate, but a voice kept saying, is this really a good idea, being out in the dark in the middle of LA, surrounded by serial killers and weirdos. I practised saying "my dog will rip your balls off" but then I thought that sounded a little hysterical, so I calmed my voice to a Lauren Bacall drawl and said "Don't underestimate my dogs. They attack on command." Of course I'm praying all the time that my dogs, who I've spent years teaching not to jump up on strangers, and to be polite when there are guests in the house, instinctively take on their primal roles and try to kill anyone that would harm me. And all the time, the owls are hooting gently in the bare branches of trees, just below Mulholland.

There are turnips in my fridge. My mother and I are so alike. She has swedes she is going to mash for lunch on Sunday when her girlfriends come over. I am dreaming of mashed turnips. Last night I stayed up after a few girlfriends had come for supper because I couldn't find one of my silver pudding spoons. I had eleven. I needed twelve. I washed and dried them, hunted under the chairs, the table, in the bin, in the garbage disposal, was somewhat distraught. It's such a ritual, one I've inherited from my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, to count the silver back into the drawer. And a spoon was missing.  Ned, who's home because he sick, opened the sliding door between the children's bedrooms and the hallway and said, "I've got your teaspoon. You gave it to me with the flan." And thus, like my mother, and her mother before her, I could go to bed feeling happy and resolved, and also delighted to have spent the evening with excellent women. We at chili, and Mexican flan, and Caesar salad made with the whole, light-colored inner leaves of romaine, doused in a dressing of egg, buttermilk, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and lemon, my take on my ex-mother-in-law's Caesar dressing. The buttermilk is in the fridge. It's actually Norwegian kulturmelk and I steal tiny glasses of it all day, as my mother does in the summer house in Norway. It's in my bones, this strange love of weird dairy products.

I miss my love. He is in London and he speaks to me all day long. The thin, silk thread that connects us by a gentle tug on the wrist, exists, and he is aware of it, and he tugs on it, so incredibly gently, just enough for me to know that he is there, all the time. And even when he sleeps I feel them there, next to me. I don't know what this is. It's very unusual and I am very grateful, I know that much. I hear his voice on the end of the phone when I wake up, sometimes even before my tea, and it's deep and kind and gentle and I wonder how I coped with anything before he was there.

And so, because of him, I will battle on with Powell, and I will read the first volume of A Dance To the Music of Time, and I will break this horrible cycle, which I believe comes from anxiety and work, actually, having to know all day long, even in the middle of the night, what is happening in my small, enclosed world, that of Hollywood. I'll break it this weekend. Because he's doing it with me. And that is kinda great, you know?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

-- Pablo Neruda

Friday, January 15, 2016

We are the dead

"But I love you in your fuck-me pumps
And your nimble dress that trails
Oh, dress yourself, my urchin one, for I hear them on the rails
Because of all we've seen, because of all we've said
We are the dead
One thing kind of touched me today
I looked at you and counted all the times we had laid
Pressing our love through the night
Knowing it's right, knowing it's right"

From "We are the Dead" on Diamond Dogs by David Bowie

Monday, January 11, 2016

He blew our minds

It's an unusually sad day, one of the saddest in recent memory.

David Bowie has died.

This information is very hard to process. Does someone like Bowie give in to the banality of death? Or, as others have suggested, was he just passing through our little blue planet on his way to somewhere better?

I'm floating in a most peculiar way, dipping in and out of Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane and Low and Ziggy Stardust, unable to do much work today, immersing myself in his massive, beautiful talent, so very sad, tears coming and going. I have never shed tears over a celebrity death before, not Lennon or even Lou Reed, but this one I'm taking personally. It is personal. He was the soundtrack of our youth, every song, as my friend Vivien points out, represented a love affair, a moment. Every single song takes us back to a particular place, a specific time. When I was 19 I was sure he was God. Not in a silly way, not in a drunken, oh wow maybe Bowie could be a deity way, profoundly, insistently. I thought he knew something that no-one else knew. His lyrics were magic, each word imparted with intense meaning. He spoke to ME.

And I find I'm not alone. Today, I'm surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who think this is personal, who believe that Bowie spoke specifically to them. He was a refuge for the freaks, the outsiders, the dorks, the people who didn't fit in. He sucked the humdrum out of life as a teenager in the English countryside, made us dream of glamour and transcendence and glitter, and blew our minds. He was everything.

And only a few days ago I was driving with the man I love through the cold, blue sunshine of Joshua Tree, windows rolled down, singing Life on Mars at the top of our lungs, holding hands and smiling as the sun flickered through the desert. And he knew the words too. All of them. How is this possible, I thought, to be in love with a man who also knows and loves Bowie as I do. This could be the most perfect day (it was January 1, 2016). This could be bliss.

The Guardian's Bowie Playlist


"Don't believe in yourself, don't deceive with belief
Knowledge comes with death's release

I'm not a prophet or a stone-age man
Just a mortal with the potential of a superman
I'm living on
I'm tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien
Can't take my eyes from the great salvation
Of bullshit faith
If I don't explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it on the next Bardo
I'm sinking in the quicksand of my thought
And I ain't got the power anymore."

--David Bowie, Quicksand

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Tables Turned

The Tables Turned

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books; 
Or surely you'll grow double: 
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks; 
Why all this toil and trouble? 

The sun above the mountain's head, 
A freshening lustre mellow 
Through all the long green fields has spread, 
His first sweet evening yellow. 

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife: 
Come, hear the woodland linnet, 
How sweet his music! on my life, 
There's more of wisdom in it. 

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! 
He, too, is no mean preacher: 
Come forth into the light of things, 
Let Nature be your teacher. 

She has a world of ready wealth, 
Our minds and hearts to bless— 
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health, 
Truth breathed by cheerfulness. 

One impulse from a vernal wood 
May teach you more of man, 
Of moral evil and of good, 
Than all the sages can. 

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; 
Our meddling intellect 
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:— 
We murder to dissect. 

Enough of Science and of Art; 
Close up those barren leaves; 
Come forth, and bring with you a heart 
That watches and receives. 

-- William Wordsworth


Wednesday, December 09, 2015


I can't write, I said. I don't know what to say. Why don't you, quite simply, talk about what happened in Tewkesbury Abbey? he said. I could, I thought. I could try. I could try to explain what it feels like to be standing next to the man you love, tall and elegant and in a black coat, like a character from a Powell Pressburger movie, in one of the most beautiful churches in England, while evensong is being sung, amidst bells and incense, and choirboys, amidst pomp and circumstance, and the Lord's Prayer, and a collect I vaguely remember from my childhood. I could talk about wanting to hold his hand but feeling the eyes of the congregation on us because we were the interlopers, the outsiders. But I didn't care. It was evensong, and Anglican, and I was there to be anointed, amongst the chalk and the clay and the stiffness of the English people, and the weird, starling-like voice of the vicar leading the prayers. And we sang Advent hymns and his voice was that voice men do when they're in church and they know they can't quite hit the notes, definitely basso profundo, deep and serious, and it made me want to hold his hand even more. I didn't dare look at him, but stared intently at the beautiful blue and red ceilings and tried to remember the nicene creed without looking at my prayer book and giving myself away. I fiddle in my bag for a fiver to put in the collection and wondered whether inflation had dictated that a fiver was being cheap.

And we managed to do all the right things, faced the right way, ducked our heads in prayer, nodded respectfully to the cross, pretend to be dutiful Anglicans, and left without mishap, into the freezing Gloucestershire night, and finally I slipped my gloved hand into his and wondered whether kissing someone among the gravestones was disrespectful. A fine example of a Norman facade, he said. We laughed. He kissed me. We need an onion, I said, for the bubble and squeak.

Happy birthday, Dalton Trumbo

Have you ever been up in your plane at night, alone, somewhere, 20,000 feet above the ocean?... Did you ever hear music up there?... It's the music a man's spirit sings to his heart, when the earth's far away and there isn't any more fear. It's the high, fine, beautiful sound of an earth-bound creature who grew wings and flew up high and looked straight into the face of the future. And caught, just for an instant, the unbelievable vision of a free man in a free world.
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/14819-Dalton_Trumbo
Have you ever been up in your plane at night, alone, somewhere, 20,000 feet above the ocean?... Did you ever hear music up there?... It's the music a man's spirit sings to his heart, when the earth's far away and there isn't any more fear. It's the high, fine, beautiful sound of an earth-bound creature who grew wings and flew up high and looked straight into the face of the future. And caught, just for an instant, the unbelievable vision of a free man in a free world.
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/author/14819-Dalton_Trumbo