Hollywood Suitcase

When I was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno after my first book came out, not a single one of my techno-retard friends taped it and neither did I. It finally fell to my old friend Bob Steed, who is a partner at a prestigious Atlanta law firm and really should have better ways to waste his time, to track down a DVD for me. Today, I keep it in a drawer all by itself. It’s a hallowed thing, the DVD of me on Jay Leno. I’m wearing a vintage early ’60s turquoise-blue cocktail suit my friend Grant bought at a thrift store for $25 that afternoon.

Earlier that day Laura Dern had called. I had simply answered my cell phone and it was Laura-damn-Dern on the line. I still don’t know how she got my number. She wanted to meet me because she’d sent her assistant out to buy my book and it was sold out in Hollywood. So she was calling to see if I had an extra copy she could come get, which I did not. So I said I’d give her my friend Grant’s. I could hardly hear over him in the limo – “I think I saw Tanya Harding,” he kept hollering. In the end, Laura told me to keep her in mind if the book ever got to the film stage, to which I said “of course,” though I was pretty certain I was safe from anything that fabulous from ever happening to me. The next time I saw seven months later at Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills, sitting around a conference table with her agent and two producers. Grant was with me again. We’d flown in from Atlanta earlier that morning.

I was so nervous on the flight over, I couldn’t think about the upcoming meeting, so I thought about my well-packed suitcase instead, because, when faced with a test of my capabilities, I find comfort in recounting something I can do very well, and as a former flight attendant, I can pack with the efficiency of an orphanage warden.

I assess everything before a trip that I’m certain I can’t live without – such as my electric percolator and my collection of propane-powered curling irons — then I cut that pile in half, then I pack half of that, and even then I always have twice as much as I need, especially if I am traveling with a baggage addict like Grant, whose suitcase is so big it looks like he simply put a handle on his house. He even brings his own specialty lavender-and-mint shampoo even though the small bottle of dish-soap grade battery acid the motel leaves for you in the shower works fine.

“Lemme borrow some of that super-wuss, $100 shampoo,” I yelled at Grant from the bathroom of our room at the Beverly Laurel Motor Lodge.

“Bitch, get your grubby-ass hands out of my suitcase,” Grant said.

This was now our third trip to L.A., Grant always came with me in order to give the film executives a feel of the “chemistry” that spawned the material. And here we finally were, at the top of the mountain, there with the blessing of the HBO gatekeepers that had allowed our passage. HBO had finally granted us – me and Grant — an appointment with Carolyn Strauss, the head of original programming, the woman responsible for Six Feet Under and Sex in the City, with a real-live movie star committed to play the leading role. “Here we are,” I kept squealing.

We were in our rented PT Cruiser that looked exactly like mine back in Atlanta, which I thought was hilarious because Grant hates my PT Cruiser and wouldn’t be caught dead in it, yet here he was holding my hand in one right outside our motel as were about to head to the HBO studio for the most-important meeting of my life so far.

“Here were are here we are here we are!”

“Calm down,” Grant said to me. “Look at me,” he took my hand and commanded my gaze with those blue eyes like two tiny planet Plutos in the middle of his big, freckly-assed face.

So I was looking at him like he told me to, and I was expecting him to say something, but he didn’t. He just kept holding my hand and looking back at me with that expression he has, the one that says, “I got no job, no dreams, no aspirations, I’m the happiest man alive.” I think a lot about that moment, because since then there have been many more meetings and a lot of Hollywood hype that resulted in optimistic but still-undefined production dates. But I look back at that day in the PT Cruiser, all of a sudden it hits me. I can see it as clear as day. Hollywood or no, my life was well-packed.

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