This past Christmas Eve was the first that I didn’t spend with my family. I wish I could tell you there was a good reason. That something pressing came up. I wish I could tell my family that. But the simple fact of the matter is that holiday travel is outrageously expensive. The obvious high jacking of prices by airlines, during the most traveled time of the year, is pure terrorism on the senses and bank account. So I just couldn’t afford it. Far and away from the hearth and home in Baltimore, Maryland, I was to spend my 2013 Christmas Eve in Hollywood.
Since relocating to Los Angeles (read: Burbank) in April of 2013, I’ve had a few “over the hills” sabbaticals. There have been some Comedy Store gigs, a random night at the Cat & Fiddle, a surprise Robin Williams set at The Meltdown with Jonah & Kumail show. But this time felt different. Starting with the fact that our drive was not severely retarded by an event at the Hollywood Bowl and we made it to Sunset Strip in record time. Distance is of no importance in Los Angeles. Travel is measured by time, and often brushed off in conversation. If someone says they’ll be there in 15 minutes, be prepared to wait. No one gets anywhere in 15 minutes in Los Angeles. Ever.
The night began at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. My fellowship consisting of myself, my roommate, and a mutual friend were made to pay a cover, very much in the spirit of Christmas. Its proximity to storied concert venues such as the Roxy and the now defunct Key Club, has allowed the “Rainbow Room” to promote itself as a hangout of rock stars. I cannot vouch for other times, but let me assure everyone that no rock stars were present this evening. Well, that is not entirely true. The grizzled gentleman, seated at the upstairs bar, could potentially have been a bassist for Mötley Crüe, back in the day. Maybe the much younger girl chatting with him was aware of this fact, as he fervently described to her another road story from the Welcome to the Theater Of Pain Tour back in ’85, two whole years before she was born. More likely, they were both just two completely random souls spending their Christmas Eve at the Rainbow Room, along with the rest of us. There was a fish-tank. There was a table-top Pac Man arcade game. There was a conversation about my shoes, and how white they are, and how Russian that is of me. I guess you can take a man out of Moscow, but you can’t take the Moscow out of the man. We didn’t stay for long, and we didn’t try the pizza – which I’m told is good there. At this point we could’ve chosen to bob and weave for a few rounds up and down Sunset Boulevard. But when you’re boxing with Hollywood, you go for the knock-out. You go to Chateau Marmont.
I’ll spare you the significance and history of the place, it is well documented. Entering Marmont’s front courtyard, on the left side, there was something resembling an outhouse with its front door kicked in. This housed two security guards that looked like, had there been a door, were responsible for it. One of them, fully knowing the answer, inquired if we had a reservation. And whether in the spirit of Christmas, the lack of bulky camera equipment, or my Cindy Lou eyes melting their cold hearts, they still let us in.
After another rousing game of “Do You Have a Reservation” with the front desk inside, we were finally seated at a table on the perimeter of the restaurant, precisely where those without a reservation belong. I ordered a Moscow Mule. And while 18 (eighteen) whole dollars is absolutely excessive for some vodka and ginger beer, I was not paying for the drink, I was paying to have the drink there. There, where only a few dozen feet away John Belushi had overdosed on a combination of cocaine and heroin. I know, I said I would spare you the history. I lied.
We struck up a conversation with two, seemingly uninterested, ladies at the table next to us. They answered questions in small bursts, eyes constantly dancing around the room. They didn’t come there to meet us. Maybe a Robert Pattinson, or an Adam Levine, but not us. But as their disappointment settled in, within the hour the five of us ended up having a cigarette on a small patio outside the tented area. A patio previously omitted by the front desk when asked where we could smoke. We likely needed another reservation for that part. The girls, obviously, have been here before.
And that’s when it happened, during a discussion of the latest home gardening techniques (I will seriously spare you this one), the flaps to the patio parted and noise over-flooded the murmured conversations previously occupying the atmosphere. That’s the only way I can describe it. Noise – at least a half dozen voices loudly talking over each other, pining for the attention of a singular source.
My back to it all, the situation was exacerbated by someone repeatedly bumping into it. As I looked at my companions with annoyance, I noticed it was mirrored with curiosity. So I turned to discover the source, and there she was – the Tsaritsa of Twerking herself, Miley Cyrus.
At this point, my previous celebrity run-ins have been limited to fist bumping an orange jumpsuit clad Method Man in downtown Baltimore. On break from his latest interpretation of Calvin “Cheese” Wagstaff in The Wire, and referencing the glass one-hitter pipe clutched in his hand, he politely inquired where he could “smoke this” in privacy. I also once shared pistachios with Woody Harrelson. We didn’t talk, just happened to reach for the same bowl of nuts at crafty service on the set of Game Change.
Of all the patios in all of Hollywood! Here was a 21 year old at the forefront of popular culture. A net worth of most small countries, and more money in her bank account at any given moment that I’m likely (read: definitely) to see over my lifetime. She literally could have been anywhere in the world on this Christmas Eve. And bring us all with her. Yet there she was, a goal-line QB sneak away. Without so much as a sorry for bumping into my back, she was gone. And she’s right, others would be so lucky to have her bump into them. Shortly thereafter, gone too were the two debutantes we had met earlier.
As we walked out of Chateau Marmont, commenting on the quality of the urinals (they went all the way to the floor!) and paper towels (very absorbent!) in the bathrooms, my friend still deliberated whether or not to find and ask Miley for an autograph, for his daughter. My roommate didn’t show a sign of caring. And I did the only sensible thing I could. I texted my twelve year old sister – [just met miley cyrus!], fully aware that I didn’t, really. But hoping the awe she experienced waking up to my text would somehow temper the fact that, for the first time in her life, her older brother would not be home on Christmas morning.