I’m going shopping with one of my best friends and I am terrified. He and I have known each other for 20 years. We met acting in an independent film that never saw the light of day. There’s a saying in show business that when a project is a hit, everyone involved ends up hating each other, but failures have their own unique bonding power. It’s true. It’s like you made it off the Titanic on the same lifeboat.
That our friendship has endured can also be chalked up to our having met before the tsunami of money and adulation overtook his daily life. But between his work, his extensive vacation schedule and that he’s taken up flying, there are few times and places on this Earth when we are in the same city at the same time.
My friend has asked for my help in picking out a birthday present for his wife. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to get together. I genuinely enjoy his company, plus, to be the confidant of the super famous is a privilege that confers a sense of importance on the receiver. It’s the Hollywood equivalent of being granted an audience with the Pope. Still, the famous come with their own set of rules. I am instructed to meet him at an expensive boutique in Beverly Hills that has so few items on display, it’s like they are exotic animals in a private zoo.
“You’re late,” he notes when I arrive 20 minutes past the appointed time. I am tempted to tell him that my son was hit by a bus just to see his reaction, but I’m not that good an actress.
“I am so sorry, traffic was worse than usual. The 405 Freeway was closed for Carmaggedon.”
“Oh yeah, it’s a bitch.” His features soften and he nods in agreement. In Los Angeles, commiserating over traffic is conducted with the same solemnity as the lack of transparency in totalitarian dictatorships is debated elsewhere around the globe.
“A purse will be perfect,” I suggest feeling strangely energized. Such is the thrill that the anticipation of spending large sums of cash can create. I have never spent more than two hundred dollars on a handbag. The only way I’d pay $10,000 for a bag is if it contained $9,750 in cash and gave me a hot stone massage. I am carrying a well-worn satchel fashioned out of a recycled plastic tarp. My bag has a shoulder strap made from a seat belt. I’m sure that the salespeople assume I am his assistant.
I spot something that seems like it might be perfect. It’s a boxy black leather bag with an understated elegance. It also has a price tag of $20,000. Even my friend admits, “It’s outrageous,” and I am strangely relieved to see there is a limit. I pick out a puffy caramel colored tote. I inquire if I may touch it and find the texture soft and creamy. It’s like butter. I’m tempted to bite into it.
It’s also so pillowy that just stroking it makes me feel sleepy and I am tempted to lay my head down on it. But I hold my self back, because this brioche-shaped bag has a price tag of $6,000, and I can’t afford to risk drooling on it.
“It’s a keeper,” I announce with relish, exercising an executive decision with my companion’s credit card. As we start to exit, he turns to me and says, “Thanks, this was great.” “It was really fun,” I sing, still high from having spent so much money, even if it wasn’t mine.
We say our good-byes, head off to our separate cars and it seems like a badge of honor that I have gone shopping with someone who is loaded and I can handle it. I head back across town where the air is hotter, the streets are dirtier, and the hair is several shades darker. As I pull into the driveway of our home, it occurs to me that my entire house could fit inside my friend’s master bedroom and that I will either need to paint the exterior or make sure that the sun has set if he ever comes to our place. My friend cannot come to our house and sit his oft-photographed posterior on our sagging cushions. My friend cannot use one of our one-and-three-quarters bathrooms. Our downstairs bathroom is tiny and with his big head (most actors have large domed heads), he will think it even smaller. He can’t possibly go into that wee room. I will need to expand that loo before he comes over. Retile at least. I don’t want him to feel sorry for me. I also know he’s never coming to my house. That is how it is with our rich and famous friends; we go to their homes, but they do not visit our humble abodes.
You’ll see them at a party and you’ll be laughing and talking politics and they’ll say, “I don’t know why we don’t get together.” But you’ll know why. You might live on the same block for seven years during which time you share major holidays and glasses of wine and swim in their pool. When they tell you they’re frustrated by their square footage or are considering adding a bridge from the master bedroom to the pool, you’ll know as soon as their TV series gets picked up for a fifth season they’ll be moving to more luxurious quarters and that when they do you will not hear from them regularly, if ever again. You will not vacation together. Your kids will go to different schools, and you will find yourself stuck in traffic wondering if you will spend your golden years in a dusty apartment with no air-conditioning, and a view of the parking lot in an industrial suburb of Los Angeles known for its preponderance of meth labs. You’ll look up at a billboard looming over the roadside and see a familiar face staring down at you. You will find it hard to believe that you and they ever breathed in the same air, shared confidences, laughed so hard at a lunch table together that cola came out of your noses or that you can be found in clips on YouTube in a lip-lock with that very same person. And that is what it means to be Hollywood Adjacent.
Annabelle Gurwitch is the is the New York Times Bestselling author of I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50 from which this story was excerpted with the permission of the author and the publisher, Blue Rider Press.