A friend of mine, Jeff, invited me to dinner last Friday night. “Where are we going?” I asked.
“The Soho House. You’re going to love it.”
I had never been before and wanted to see what the hype was about. Jeff, as well as others, had spoken of it many times. One of the most exclusive locations in town. It occupied the top two floors of a Sunset Strip hi-rise. I agreed to go and got dressed. I changed multiple times, finally deciding on jeans and a black sweater. At the last minute, I changed my shirt again. Jeff arrived and I walked outside to meet him. He was wearing leather pants, his black boots and a black shirt. We drove into West Hollywood.
“This is your type of place,” he said. “People go in t-shirts and jeans. The last time I was there, David Beckham was sitting at the next table, wearing sweatpants.”
“Who are we meeting?” I asked.
“A friend of mine, Gidget.”
He told me about her. She was an American living in Berlin. Her family owned art galleries and fashion houses. She belonged to The Soho House in Berlin and had been grandfathered in to the Los Angeles location. She was bringing her friend Luca, a German actress, “with a very thick accent,” Jeff said.
He pulled into the parking garage. The attendant, a man wearing a purple, floral Ascot, didn’t speak a word to us and refused to make eye contact. He handed Jeff a ticket and we pulled to the valet line, stopping behind a silver Maserati.
“You know it’s crazy when the ticket man wears an Ascot,” he said.
We stepped out of the car; the valet handed Jeff a ticket. “Remind me to get this validated before we leave. I always forget and have to pay twenty bucks.”
Our reservation was for 8:30. We were twenty minutes early. In the lobby, the woman at the desk, a pretty African-American woman, greeted us.
“Who are you here with?”
“She hasn’t arrived yet.”
She instructed us to take a seat in the lobby. She couldn’t let us up without being accompanied by a member.
“They’ve always let me up before,” Jeff said. “We’re going to look like a couple of losers, sitting here.”
We sat on the couch by the elevator. I glanced at the decor: dark-stained shelves lined the walls, filled with antique books, bundled in stacks of four or five and tied with thin, brown string. I read several of the titles. “Scribner’s Magazine,”“24 Horses,” “The Shelter Book.” Other oddities rested on the shelves: a copper antique fan, a miniature grandfather clock, a pair of wooden shoes and a shoe polish box with “Driftwood Diary” painted on the side.
Jeff called Gidget to see if she could help us. She said she would call the front desk, and added she was on her way. A moment later, the woman told us we could go up. We stepped into the elevator, along with five other passengers. A silence fell over the group. Elevator etiquette. It was a long ride to the penthouse.
A winding, marble staircase greeted us when we stepped into the lobby. A glowing sign on the wall read, “Everyday’s an audition.” At the top of the stairs, we passed a drum kit and grand piano. “We’ll have to come back when there’s a band playing.”
“This is incredible,” I said, entering the lounge. Glass walls surrounded it on all sides, giving sweeping views of Los Angeles and its outlying cities. Century city, Santa Monica and Hollywood. I saw the Westwood Plaza spire in the distance.
A table in the corner suddenly became available. A couch, three chairs and two stools. It should be big enough for our group. We waited for the men to wipe it down and charged over to claim it.
“I’ll give you a tour when the others get here. There’s a restaurant, a movie theatre, and a photo booth where you can get your picture taken.”
Gidget and Luca soon arrived. Gidget was dressed modestly, wearing jeans and a sweater. Luca, on the other hand…a black blouse with nothing underneath, cut low enough in front to leave little room for speculation. Jeff was right: She spoke in a heavy German accent. She gave him a kiss on the cheek. I stood and shook her hand.
Another woman arrived. Monique, a blonde with jeans and low-cut top.
Jeff offered to show us around, and Luca and I accompanied him. He showed us the restaurant first. As soon as we entered, I forgot we were on the penthouse floor of a Hollywood hi-rise. The decorators had captured an outdoor feel: a terrace garden area, featuring olive trees and a retractable roof, lit by candles, either sitting on tables and or in artificial beehives hanging from the tree branches.
Luca said she needed to use the restroom, and Jeff and I returned to the table. Two men had joined our group, sitting on stools. Louis, who spoke with a thick French accent, and Marcel, also French, wearing a black v-neck t-shirt, black leather jacket and spiky, gelled hair. Another man, Johann, approached the group and Gidget greeted him in German.
What I noticed was that Gidget spoke like other people write. She conversed briefly with Johan (again, speaking German), then turned to Marcel. “I hope you don’t mind, but I looked at your Facebook profile. You are a very accomplished, learn-ed student and professional. You earned a PhD in mathematics and then went on to a successful banking career. But you gave it up to pursue acting. I am extremely impressed by your resolve, and would love to hear more about what inspired such a decision.”
Jeff and I, meanwhile, spoke to Monique, a cosmetic dermatologist’s assistant.
“What’s the difference between a cosmetic dermatologist and a plastic surgeon?”
“We can only make incisions. Also, cosmetic dermatology isn’t permanent. We do mostly Botox.”
“What does Mike need?” Jeff joked. “Cheekbone implants? Or how about me? Should I get liposuction, maybe around the waist?”
“If you get it done, you’ll have to stay the same weight the rest of your life. That’s what people don’t realize. Otherwise, the fat will go to another storage place on your body.”
“What if it goes to my hand?” Jeff said. “I’ll have the fattest fingers you’ve ever seen.”
“Who are some celebrities that have visited your clinic?”
“Oh, I shouldn’t say…”
But of course, she did. “Last week, Cyrus Price came to the clinic. (Note: big-time movie star, comedies.)
“What did he want? He makes a living off being chubby and goofy looking.”
“He had some bumps on his cheeks. He wanted to know what products were high in antioxidants and peptides. ”
“You’re better off not knowing. I don’t think any man should know what a peptide is,” she said.
“Who else has come in?”
“Yesterday, we did some work on Marcus Paul.” (Note: big-time movie star, dramas and action films.)
“What did he have done?”
“I thought if you got Botox, you weren’t able move your eyes or eyebrows afterward.”
“Not if it’s done well.” She jutted her face forward. “See.”
“You’ve had it?”
“Of course. It’s one of the perks of the job.”
Luca returned. I didn’t realize she had left. “Gerard Butler is sitting two tables from us.”
We craned our heads to look. Sure enough—Gerard Butler, a few feet away. Gidget, Jeff and I took a walk to see who else we could spot. A young man stood near the bar, sloppily dressed, wearing long, greasy hair and a fedora hat.
“That guy’s got to be a Beastie Boy or somebody,” Jeff said. “No one dresses like that unless he’s a rock star.”
A woman walked by, wearing one of the shortest and tightest dresses I’d ever seen. It looked to have been cut at the hip.
“It’s a sausage casing,” Gidget said.
We laughed. I had never heard that before, but it seemed appropriate.
“I always get self-conscious when I’m here,” Gidget said. “I know I shouldn’t, but it still happens. Before I leave home, I can’t decide on an outfit. Then when I’m here, I never feel like I’m dressed well enough or am as pretty as the other women.”
“I know what you mean,” I said. “I tell myself, ‘These people are as just insecure as everyone else. But I still get self-conscious and judge myself.”
“It never fails.”
I needed to be up early the next day, so we decided to leave early. Jeff and I said goodbye to everyone, then made our way to the lobby. “Don’t forget to validate your parking ticket,” I told him.
In the garage, the line was several deep for the valet. Jeff gave the attendant his ticket and we waited. I looked at the row of cars: a Maserati, a second Maserati, a Porsche and a Rolls Royce.
“That’s David Cooley,” Jeff said.
I looked. A nerdy looking man, probably in his sixties, wearing gray hair, glasses and a pink sweater. He was accompanied by a gorgeous blonde. She couldn’t have been a day over twenty-one, most likely a model, wearing a super tight dress. A sausage casing.
“He founded ImperiLux. He’s worth thirty billion dollars.”
“How do you know that?”
“I’m in finance. He’s one of the richest men in the world.”
Jeff walked over and held out his hand. “David Cooley…big fan.”
The man gave him a courtesy smile and shook his hand.
“Can you hook me up with some stock?” Jeff said jokingly.
The courtesy stopped there. The man brushed him off without a glance. He turned and walked away.
The valet pulled Jeff’s Range Rover to the curb and we climbed in. “You should have stopped at the handshake,” I said. “Did you see the nasty look he gave you?”
“He probably thought, ‘Why is this obnoxious Chinaman bothering me?'”
“That’s a microcosm of life,” he said. “If that guy didn’t have money, he’d never be able to get a woman like that. I guarantee you she’s a hooker. He probably paid $20,000 for her. And he’s got a wife and three kids at home.”’
The next morning, he emailed me a link to a Forbes article written about Cooley, as well as another article detailing his pending divorce, which was predicted to be one of the most expensive settlements in history. He had cheated on his wife with a 45-year-old mistress. Now, it seemed, he was cheating on his mistress with a $20,000 escort.
Microcosm of life, I guess.