The ride towards our new home from LA X airport was strewn with skinny, impossibly tall truffula, sorry palm trees (Dr Seuss fans that was for you) the air hazy with early afternoon smog. Regardless of the traffic our foursome were beaming from ear to ear. Well at least I think thats what my niece was doing underneath the tears of shock, excitement, more shock. I ask her whether she wants to go home and that makes her giggle so we know its not pangs of sadness at least. Her hair has been straightened on request so that she is utterly prepared for her chance meeting with Leo di Caprio strolling as he does down the streets of LA. San Francisco now disappearing into history. The rather wide, rather tall, rather henchman-like Frank drove us to the airport, making Cory chuckle the whole way. As we approached the airport we got onto the subject of films. He tells us his favourite is Bambi, then he corrects himself by siting Lion King as his true number one. I wonder whether he does not coin that one to get on the right side of ladies.
When we arrive at our condo, a colleague from the show greets us, being as its his pad. Having lived here several years he is now round the corner in a bigger pad. It is roomy, has a full kitchen with one of those stoves that has the grill plate at the centre, a fat american fridge and generally space and light enough to swing a cat. Or a Sam. There is a little patio beyond the french doors of the lounge with a trickling fountain, a recliner and the tinkle tankle of a metallic wind chime. It is perfect.
Niece unpacks in our walk in closet (gasp from her and a twirl) whilst Sam dismantles the sofa to begin his gym class. Cory runs off to pick up the car and mum dreams up dinners and parties at the new pad. We four bundle into the car on Dad's return and stop in for a quick caffeine top up before braving the Grocery Store. Ralph's, round the corner, walkable (gasp number two!) is a respectable sized shop in which we wreak havoc, Sam with his mini be-flagged trolley running the aisles with his Dad and Enz and I fighting an unresponsive arthritic trolley. She keeps her shades on. You know, just in case. We have nick named her Hollywood. Filling up on the good green stuff we come across a small watermelon. I read the sign beside it: "Personal Watermelon." I pick it up and walk around the aisle sheltering it under a pretend anorak as if protecting it from the paps. My niece and I break into a cackle.
Several dollars later we are shoving our loads into a boot, into a parking lot, across a parking lot, up some stairs and into fridge. I do a two point pirouette and whip up a carbonara. We inhale it just in time for Rachel and her fella to pay us a visit. Rachel is a breezy, gorgeous blonde Liverpudlian now settled here and a good friend of Cory's from Producer days back on Drury Lane. She and her fella waltz in all California sunshine with a bottle of red in hand and make themselves at home in about 1 minute flat. It's like we just saw her yesterday. They fuss about Sam, he reels lists of his talents and demonstrates most of them. In the first five minutes. All three are rather taken with each other. A little while later, all of us chomping cherries with the aid of a cherry chomper - a gadget I found at San Fran airport that squeezes stones out them in a japanesey plastic robot figurine - that delighted Rachel and Sam no end, she casually talks about heading to Vancouver to meet with a friend who is filming. Amongst their plans will be a dinner date with her friend's producer Leo di Caprio. My niece almost falls off her chair. Then cries a little. Then laughs. Rachel, also an uber fan, promises to get a signed photo of him for her. This time my niece moves to the sofa to regain composure and Rachel joins her to talk of all things Leo. A lovely way to get to a new city, hanging with friends.
The next morning mum is all a quiver. I have the first of a number of meetings lined up with the head casting director at one of the big networks, responsible for casting a vast number of mine and Cory's favourite shows. I flick my hair from here to there, breathe in, try on quite a few clothes, jiggle about, dangle with eyeliner, sport a bit of a shimmery thing about my shoulders, don my favourite shoes and hope for the best. The family are hugely supportive and rally around making sure I get there on time. The mottley crew bundle into the car, boy tye died and fedora'd, niece all straightened hair and sunglasses, Dad in the first thing he found in his suitcase and mum poofed and puffed and exciteable. We find the studios, narrowly avoiding disaster when the security guard asks for my id and I realise I have nothing on me in my professional name. I have visions of being sent away. Luckily the men are in a jovial mood. Even the man at the car park of the studios jokes with us. He tunrs to the boy in the fedora at the back and asks,
"You do math?"
"Yeah!" boy says, "What's that?"
"Listen, there are three fishes, one drowns, how many are left?"
Mum and Dad jittery and excited begin to fumble with their fingers gesturing to Sam how he could work it out, he look at us suitably bemused. "Two" we hint, whispering.
"Three!" he shouts
"That's right!" says the man "Cos fish don't drown!"
Geesh. Way to calm the auditionee.
Onwards we go, me finally jumping out whilst the crew cruise to find a spot. Pass the security guard once again and onwards through glass double doors. At the desk an exuberant security lady with a big blow dry flashes me a smile sends me to the third floor and wishes me luck honey. I step into the lift and a 6ft 5" tall and wide guy jumps in. He asks me if I am British also? I tell him yes. He tells me he is from Camden. He has a beautiful african name which takes me a few tries to get right. Every inch of his wideness says African royalty. Then there's a bottomless pit of a voice to match. Down the corridor we waddle, littleish and large, and exchange stories on the couch of the waiting area. The women on reception here look real. No blow dry. No high fashion. Subtle lamps around their stations, plants, pictures. Candles. Eventually the diminuitive casting lady comes out and calls the African prince in. It is about twenty minutes later when he exits and I am called in. I am asked to sit on the sofa. She leaves for a moment to go and talk through something with the women out front and clear up a casting query. They are looking for someone querky it seems for something. She returns with my cv and photo in hand. The first thing she says to me is that someone has told her she must meet my husband. I can't wait to relay the message and facilitate this. She asks me about pretending to be Eliza Doolittle. I tell her about that, my Sardinian creature, our travels. She tells me I remind her of Rita Tushingham. She is also interested in the fact that green card is in the hand. She hands me some sides to read to check out my american accent and gives positive feedback. I notice her square brown tortoise shell glasses. They match her brown linen smock. Outside the day is a little cloudy. Inside her shelves are lined with folders of everybody's favourite shows spanning several decades. Brilliant. Our meeting comes to a natural, but unhurried end and I return to the troupes.
I find them zig zagging down the side walk of Studio city, niece with shopping in hand, boy waving a fake moustache. Who knew Urban Outfitter's marketed themselves on such a wide age span! We trundle on, withering in hunger till we find a sushi joint. In we go, past the Koi carp pool. The eccentric sushi chef greets us with a welcome in Japanese that sounds like he is just about to chop us in half. We sit at his bar. Gazing over the menu I catch his eye.
"What is spicy tuna?"
He looks at me with a scrunched brow and then spits,
"It's spicy tuna!"
Cory is somewhere at my feet holding his belly laughing. Eventually we opt for the dragon roll, not without some eyebrow raising from chef. As he is cutting and rolling he yells over to his colleague in perfect Spanish for a couple of tempura prawns. In fairness the dragon roll was utterly melt in your mouth. Sam inhaled his cucumber one. Niece even tried a few pieces before her noodles rustled up.
On our drive into Hollywood we found out that every strip mall has a sushi joint and a pet grooming centre. I have yet to come across sushi for pets. Give me another week. I've only been here a few heartbeats. We had a few hours free so took the time to catch the afternoon rays walking along Hollywood boulevard in search of our favourites star's star. We found a lady selling star maps. No sign of diCaprio. we ask where his star is. She tells us he does not have one. My niece's face drops. She then adds that Julia Roberts also does not have one, because, apparently, she does not want one. We decide Leo has opted out in the same vain as Ms Roberts. We look for Buster Keaton instead, passing Charlie Chaplin on the way. The sea of tourists wading around the Chinese theatre (oscars people oscars!) is overwhelming. My threshold for touristing is about 2 hours, so, approaching our limit, we stop off at Skoobys for a hot dog and lemonade. Best in California, the sign said.
Then it was time for Dad to head into work. the young'uns and I rustled up some dinner. Dad left early for sound check trying to keep his nerves in tact at the prospect of Mel Brooks being in the audience that night. Critics, new theatre, Brooks and Stroman. The show was a hit. The cast made them laugh in the right places and the reviews sent out by the publicist today were all very positive - with lovely mentions of Cory to boot!
Today saw the second of my meetings, this time with an agent. After a rally around my wardrobe (walk-in!!!) I chose the same as the day before. My hair tustled yet again up and down and round to fall in the same place as it started. I am hoping I can stay the rock chick end of Velma from Scooby Doo just till 11.30 at least. Four of us arrive, still psychadelic and fedora'd and suitably sunglassed. I wait but a little while at reception, greeted by a lady with a fiercely black bob and funky glasses. The agent comes out not long after and we chat fairly informally about everything and nothing and work and life. We laugh. He asks me to forward my website to him at the end of our interview. He also tells me an Iranian client of his from London does fairly well out here. I take this as a good sign. He tells me LA can be a tough nut to break. That you have to meet casting directors about 8 times before they audition you proper. He talks about choosing the right place to live in the city and his nine year old daughter. I leave hopeful and send him a jokey email with info about my site. He sends a jokey email reply telling me not to email and drive at the same time and that he will be in touch. Fingers crossed. There are a couple of meetings that will hopefully come through in the next week and one confirmed for mid august. More hair tustling to come....
When I reach the street I find a famished family waiting for me. We head to the street van parked in front of us. Gastrobus. It serves organic freshly farmer market sourced ingredients and a tiny menu of luscious sandwiches. Girls chomp a thai wrap, boys have sweet potato fries and a tuna melt. We all spill it over ourselves on various bits of clothing. Even the fedora gets a drip. Then, stomachs full we set off for the movie star homes tour.
Down on Hollywood Boulevard again we jump into a 12 seater van which literally has had the top chopped off and a canopy put in its place. The cheeky chappy Alex, actor turned stand up turned tour guide drives us up and up and up into the Hollywood hills. We snap pics of Shirley Temple's home bought when she was 11 with her own money by her parents, Marilyn's old pad and Lucille Ball's home. When we pass Leo's house, well, hedge to be precise, my niece forgets to breathe so I snatch her camera and snap it for her. Onwards we wind through the narrow Hollywood hill streets passed picture perfect homes nestled together fairy tale like amongst bouganville and palms and roses and cacti. Each a little peachy slice of LA heaven. Each a distinct style, colour, shape. The sun is beaming down and it does not seem real. Down we go towards Beverly hills. We gawk at Rodeo Drive. The guide begins talking about star spotting. He sounds like the ranger that took my family and I on a safari in South Africa. Someone says he has spotted Venus Williams. Tour guide makes a de tour round the block to go back and check. This time everyone is snapping their cameras. Boy is enjoying the ride, pointing out cars and colours. The four of us are on the back seat being blow dried by the cool wind gushing in at us as we cruise through West Hollywood and eventually back down to our starting point.
As if that wasn't enough excitement for the day. On we go to a friend of Cory who is doing very well out here in movies and appearing as a regular on a very popular drama series. He lets us in to his lofty home and straight out to the pool where his children are cavorting in the water. His wife joins us and we laze by the pool for a moment. Sammy is in awe of their ping pong table. They rush around lamenting their lack of toys for the boy, but he is in boy ecstasy. Sun, outdoors, dad, ping pong balls. Is there anything more to life? They play back and forth, rolling it to each other on the ground whilst we all chit chat towards dinner. At the local pizza joint. Sammy, having begun to form a nice bond with their little girl who showed him their pinball machine, piano and karaoke machine is telling her all about his hat and his show and and and. They drop us home when Cory leaves for work with a promise of seeing us again, and, should we feel comfortable, the offer of dropping Sammy off to play if Cory and I want to have a lunch date alone one day. Howszat?!
All in all some very exciting few LA days. Tomorrow we don't have to be anywhere in particular at a definate time all morning and I am secretly looking forward to a morning to recoup in baggy pjs to charge up my batteries for future hair tustling. Till then, I will enjoy the sofa with my niece, wait for the big boy to get back, have a midnight snack and take in the crisp LA evening air from the patio screen door.
I really could get used to this....