The first person I saw was Arianna Huffington…
On the east coast it’s the Hamptons. On the west it’s Malibu.
And if you haven’t been to either, you’ve got no idea that it’s even further over the top than you think it is, if you think of it at all.
Where I grew up, in Southern Connecticut, there was a ferry to Long Island.
I never took it. The Hamptons were only a hop, skip and a jump away, but this is when you yearned to go to the Cape…Cod that is. The hoi polloi went to Hyannis. Yes, where the Kennedys were. I remember going there as a child and then right before I started college, just after I’d purchased the Moody Blues‘ “A Question Of Balance.”
In reality, this was the turning point, from credible to repetitive, but I didn’t know that yet, I hadn’t fully immersed myself in the LP, which was packed up back in CT, there were no iPods, never mind Walkmen. And I would have liked the record to keep me company, because it rained three and a half of the four days.
But it never rains in Southern California. Certainly not during the summer. Sure, happens every once in a while, but your odds of experiencing it are only slightly better than finding Bigfoot.
Now it used to be that Nobu was in a shopping center. A mess of buildings near the city center. But then it moved to the beach.
But the ocean is not the star.
Right next to the restaurant is a structure that’s been unable to find its way. It recently became a Soho House.
Wanna know how someone’s a poseur?
They go there.
They don’t have their own house at the beach; they think the trappings make them fabulous. But the reason I mention the Soho House at all is now you can’t get into the parking lot. I’m stunned some techie hasn’t disrupted valet parking. The college-aged workers shuffling the Lamborghinis and the Porsches were completely flummoxed. We waited nearly half an hour to get out, and it wasn’t only us, Jeffrey Katzenberg had to wait quite a while for his Tesla.
So the first thing you encounter is the hangers-on.
Impossibly thin women, not far beyond puberty, hanging with their scruffy boyfriends. That’s right, the more the women put on their look, the more casual the boys become. Then again, do these women really want to trade up? At Nobu, you go to be seen, your goal is to worm yourself inside. That’s L.A. In New York you cobble together a resume and work your prep school connections to get ahead. In L.A. you spice up your image, practice your line of b.s., and then go on duty.
But you can’t get close to the movers and shakers. Some of whom come with their bodyguards.
We had the best table in the restaurant, even better than Larry Ellison‘s, and he owns the place. You see my dinner compatriot had done the manager a few favors – that’s how it works – even still in the music business.
But we were not household names.
Arianna and Larry were at the same table. Two away. And then I realized their dinner companion was playwright David Mamet; he had his back to us, but I recognized his glasses and his square frame. And…I wanted to be there, to get in on that conversation.
I hate Arianna, she’s a tireless self-promoter.
And I used to love Mamet, before he skewed to the right politically. Have you seen “House Of Games”? That’s enough to hang a career on. As for Larry? He earned it. That’s right, he started Oracle – hard to argue with that.
But I was becoming deflated.
Now it’s Nobu. Used to be Ma Maison. There have always been places you could see the stars, if not quite rub elbows with them. Which is a thrill if you grew up in the suburbs. The closest I ever came to a star back home is when I saw Bette Davis autographing books in Klein’s on the Westport strip. Nobody I grew up with was famous, and when I first moved to L.A. I’d go up and say hi. Now I know that’s a no-no and I never do.
But when you first get here you have dreams.
Forty years later I was confronted with the fact I’d never be an insider; I’d never get to the right table. I’d never hang with the famous names. Sure, I’ve met a bunch of musicians, but they no longer rule. And to tell you the truth, I always get uptight in the aftermath. They e-mail and they phone. Exactly what am I supposed to say to them? It’s like the door has opened but I’m paralyzed – I can’t walk through – I don’t have the skill to just be one of the guys, to be fabulous and use each other to get ahead…to bask in each other’s glory.
I’m still just…nobody from nowhere, a gulf between me and them and wide as the Grand Canyon.
But then Justin Timberlake sat down next to us. With his bride Jessica Biel and the aforementioned Katzenberg and his wife. They could not have been closer, but they were still so far away.
I remember seeing JT when he was still in ‘N Sync. Now he’s a power player. How did he do this? What’s in his DNA? How did he become so comfortable in his own skin?
Michael Milken shuffled by to a seat close to the water but not so desirable. Billionaire investor Sam Zell wasn’t quite in Siberia, but he didn’t have an A-table. Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins was behind us, but…I don’t think anybody recognized him.
Not that there were many looky-loos.
If you were out on the patio on a Saturday night you were already someone, maybe just not enough of a someone. As for those inside and at the bar…the ones looking for their chance, never mind those on the deck outside, they couldn’t get close. Hell, as we waited for our cars a guy came up to Timberlake and started talking like they were best friends and Justin looked over his shoulder to his bodyguard and…
You don’t want to be this famous, you really don’t.
With the paparazzi flashing their cameras at you as you get into your car. Yes, that happened, stardom is an eco-system.
As Arianna, Ellison and Mamet got up to leave I realized it was British-American actress/songer-songwriter Rebecca Pidgeon, whose back I’d been looking at (David’s wife). She was walking right by me and…
She’s Jasper’s cousin. I could have reached out and made the connection.
But I didn’t. She was in a bubble. Sashaying and smiling and…
I was so close yet so far away.
And my wife Felice wondered why they even came.
To see and be seen.
Used to be different in NYC. The rich stayed separate.
Now, despite flying private they like to take their victory laps. They like to strut amongst those less fortunate, to illustrate their power, to survey their domain and their place in it.
And if you live in L.A. or New York you know this.
If you don’t…
You’ve got no idea what’s going on.
Take some Trump and Bernie voters to Nobu on a Saturday night and there’d be a spontaneous revolution. If the less than fortunate ever got to see how the other half lives… Not those housewives play acting at being wealthy on national television, but the truly rich movers and shakers… They wouldn’t be able to process it.
I’d like to tell you the food was bad, that everybody looked worse in person, that they were all jerks.
But the edibles were stupendous.
And everybody looked like their picture.
And when JT got up to say hi to the newly-arrived Jamie Foxx you told yourself…I wanna get me some of that.
But it kept being reinforced that I was too old, that I’d missed my chance.
Yes, you can put them down. Criticize their career path. State that you’re just as happy and they’ve got nothing over you. But they do.
Celebrities rule. And put a recognizable face together with money and you influence the government, you tilt the playing field. And America is all about the dream, almost all of these people are self-made. So, when you’re confronted with the truth you wonder…what happened to me, how come I didn’t make it?