My roommate invited me to a gathering of songwriters. Said there’d be people there who were once big deals. I put on my best pants (too-snug black jeans) and souvenir Indian bangle, and off we went in her Batmobile. So-called because it was a sports car and she tore down the street like a kid with raging hormones instead of a female way past menopause.
We were picking up a good friend who she said was “over the hill.” Weren’t we all. But she was referring to the Hollywood Hills above the la-di-da Sunset Strip — L.A.’s version of Times Square.
As we were ascending, roomie told me the friend’s husband was a big deal at two TV sitcoms that were huge when I was growing up: That Girl, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. That explained the fancy address.
Ask your parents or grandparents and they’ll tell you: Those shows were the Sex and the City, True Blood, American Idol, whatever your favorite, of their time. The friend’s husband — this one guy — helped define the sitcom genre and paved the way for other greats like Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, Friends, Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. I know, I know, Curb is improv, but it’s still that cornball humor I adore.
So there I was in Mrs. Sitcom’s house. It may not be showy, but definitely said money. I tried to look nonchalant as I read a New York Times article that mentioned Mr. Sitcom.
I got the impression they were no longer together. She was doing her thing, which included making a documentary about crop circles that my roommate told me was very convincing.
We were joined by another friend, an attractive woman around the same age as the rest of us, with perfect platinum hair and figure. She’d moved to Mexico, she told me, because she wanted to find her destiny. Destiny says she’s a “miracle worker” who, along with her business partner, loves helping people in dire straits, especially those about to lose the roofs over their heads.
We all took Mrs. Sitcom’s luxury wheels back down to Earth to the songwriting thing at a bar-slash-restaurant in a rundown Hollywood strip mall.
The girls liked the fact that dinner was only around $10. There was a reason for that: the menu was, as Mrs. Sitcom and I both agreed, awful. I was ravenous and started to go for the only thing that seemed substantial: pasta Bolognese.
Roomie looked pained when I told her what I was ordering. “Wait, that’s got meat in it, doesn’t it?” she questioned.
OMG. I wasn’t cooking meat in her kitchen; I was eating it in a restaurant. I’d only known this creature for 24 hours and didn’t want to get into a fistfight in front of Mrs. Sitcom, Destiny, Michael Bolton’s former back-up singer, and a packed house.
To extricate myself from the situation would be too much of a hassle. Besides, I was rather enjoying this voyeuristic night out in Hollyweird. “It’s only sauce” I croaked, and then ordered Caesar salad instead.
Roomie amazingly didn’t say boo when Mrs. Sitcom and Destiny split a pepperoni pizza. It looked plastic to me, but must’ve been OK because Mrs. Sitcom requested a doggie bag.
The Caesar salad was, not surprisingly, tasteless. “I’m trying to find the Caesar in my salad,” I said cheerfully, while my stomach growled from hunger. After many moments of silence, Destiny piped up and said, “Hey, I get it. That’s funny.”
The entertainment didn’t start a moment too soon. Singers as young as 17 took the stage, hawking CDs and iTunes sanples, thirsting for that really big break. They were already old hands at their craft, having started at the ripe age of 14. Such tales of woe. Mostly bad breakups. (How many could they have had?) But one youngster attempted to broach a deeper topic: juggling normalcy with bulimia.
Another who looked at least 25 — a veteran — worked the approving crowd with her Australian accent and winning smile. She was better than the girls but sounded like an Amy Winehouse copycat at times, IMO. My roommate, never one to keep her opinion to herself, was outraged that I would compare the two.
“She’s nothing like **Amy Winehouse. Amy Winehouse is horrible!” said my songwriting roomie, almost stamping her foot. Turns out she’d never actually heard Winehouse sing.
The Aussie was followed by guys who’d had big hits in the 70s — Undercover Angel, Midnight Fantasy and Smoke of a Distant Fire. Songs I didn’t care for then and couldn’t get enthused about now.
They were followed by the author of Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady, made famous by Helen Reddy. Pretty song, upon reflection. The kids’ stuff paled by comparison.
But, as my roommate reminded me, everyone has to start somewhere. She was one of the ones fawning all over the Aussie.
Meanwhile, I was trying to engage Mrs. Sitcom in comedy talk, hoping she would reassure me that classic sitcom humor still had a future. “Borscht belt humor is dying,” she declared, shifting the conversation to the young Australian singer’s charms.
It was getting late and the songwriting group cleared out, making way for the usual crowd of young bar-hoppers.