Whoopi and I were standing at the bar outside the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. It was a gala night and we were attending a charity event for the American Spinal Research Marathon. The bar was crowded with people. Whoopi was wearing a silver dress; I looked great in my tuxedo.
I stepped up to the bar.
The bartender squinted at me. “Another double-vodka?”
“Lay it on me, baby.”
Whoopi poked me in the ribs. “This is your last one, okay?”
I nodded slowly. “All right.”
The bartender handed me my drink. I thanked him and put a $5 bill in his tip jar. Whoopi gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“I’m going to the ladies room. Meet you back at the table?”
I took a sip of my drink. Whoopi walked off through the crowd. I watched her give a quick hug to Anjelica Huston. Then I turned and walked into the Ballroom.
At the entrance to the Ballroom I stumbled across Geraldo Rivera. He was surrounded by a film crew. They were preparing to interview Keanu Reeves. The film crew had hoisted a camera into place.
Suddenly a spotlight switched on. Geraldo and Keanu were bathed in bright light. I took a sip of my drink and walked over to Geraldo.
Geraldo gripped a microphone and shouted over the noise of the room. “We’re LIVE with Mr. Hollywood himself, Keanu Reeves. He’s about to be raffled off for the American Spinal Research Bachelor Contest.”
Keanu grinned. Geraldo smiled and turned to Keanu. “You’ve made some very successful films: ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Bill and Ted,’ ‘Johnny Mnemonic’…”
“Don’t forget ‘Speed,’” I said from off camera.
Geraldo glanced at me quickly and turned back to Keanu. “…And of course, ‘Speed.’”
Keanu nodded. “Right.”
Geraldo switched the microphone to his other hand. “Now, tonight you’re here for a good cause.”
I took a sip of my drink and stepped next to Geraldo. I put my hand on his shoulder. “Hey Geraldo…can I just say that my buddy Keanu was tremendous in ‘Speed.’ Just tremendous.”
Geraldo shot me a quick look. “Uhh, thanks.” He turned back to Keanu. “I guess some people are very fond of ‘Speed.’”
Keanu shrugged. “Yeah.”
I patted Geraldo on the back. “You know, Keanu is the face of Hollywood.” I smiled at the camera. “Keanu is better than DeNiro, better than Nicholson, better than Redford—”
Geraldo nodded quickly. “Yes, okay, thanks.” He tried to pull away from me.
I kept smiling. “And ‘Sweet November’—what a masterpiece…Did you see it?”
Geraldo paused. He stared at the camera blankly. “Uhh…”
I nudged him. “It’s a masterpiece, right?”
Geraldo looked at me. “Well, maybe not a masterpiece, but…”
Suddenly two security men pushed me away from Geraldo. I clutched my drink and pulled away from them.
I drifted back into the crowd
Whoopi and I were hanging out at Oprah’s party up in the hills, and we were sitting on a couch in the sunroom. We were sipping Blundetto champagne, laughing and talking. Whoopi had her hand on my knee. I took a sip of champagne and said, “You know what, baby, let’s see how long we can go without talking.”
Whoopi exploded with an incredulous laugh. “WHAT?”
“No really, baby, let’s see how long we can sit here and not talk.”
“I dunno. Just to do it.”
“Well, let’s see if we can do it. I’ll bet you can’t sit here for ten minutes without saying a word.”
“Oh come on.”
“But we’re at a party. We’re supposed to be talking.”
Whoopi shook her head. Her bracelets clicked around her wrists. She kissed me on the cheek. “You are so crazy–you know that?”
She took a sip of her champagne. “All right.”
I took a sip of my champagne. “Okay, ten minutes. We’ll use my watch–”
“No, not ten minutes. That’s too long.”
“All right–but we can drink champagne while we do it.”
“Okay.” Whoopi took another sip of her champagne. “But what are we betting?”
“Oh, right…umm… If I win, you have to go up to Aaron Spelling and kiss him on the lips and say, “Baby, I’ve got a Melrose Place that’s just waiting for your big 90210.’”
“Yup, that’s what you gotta do.”
Whoopi took another sip of champagne. She paused. “All right. I can do that.” She nodded to herself and giggled. She took another sip of champagne. “But if I win, you gotta go over to Sylvester Stallone and say, ‘Sly, you have the brains of a twinkie.’”
“ARE YOU KIDDING?”
“Nope. If I win, you gotta walk right up to him and say, ‘Sly, you make cheesy movies and you got the brain of a twinkie.’”
“I have to say all that?”
“`Cause you were complaining about him, like five minutes ago.”
“But that’s ‘cause he started talkin’ trash about Roseanne.”
“Yeah…all right.” I raised my champagne glass. We clinked our champagne glasses. “Here, I’ll count us in and we’ll look at my watch.”
“But you be ready to kiss Aaron Spelling.”
“We’ll see.” I rolled up my sleeve and straightened my Rolex. “Ready?”
I waited till the second hand reached the 12. “Okay… NOW.”
I sat back on the couch, holding my champagne glass. Whoopi sat back against the couch. She exhaled softly.
A moment later, Heather Graham drifted into the room. Her lips glistened with red lipstick. She paused to adjust her mini-skirt. I took a long sip of my champagne and watched her. Heather smiled at us. “Hey, where’d you guys get the champagne? What I wouldn’t give for some champagne right now.”
I bolted out of my seat. “You can have mine.” I handed her my champagne glass. “It’s only about half-full. But mmm-hmm, it’s delicious.”
Whoopi jumped up from the couch. “AH-HAH–you talked.”
I spun around. “Huh?”
Whoopi poked me in the chest. “You talked. You couldn’t even wait thirty seconds.”
“Oh.” I shook my head. “No, no–that doesn’t count. The bet was that I wouldn’t talk to you.”
“No, no–you said we couldn’t TALK for five minutes.”
“Right. We couldn’t talk to each other.”
Heather looked from me to Whoopi. “What the hell are you guys talking about?”
Whoopi stepped in front of me. “Sister, what you see here is a man who can’t keep his word. We had a bet that–”
I shook my head. “No, wait, wait–”
Whoopi pushed me away. “Check this out. We had a bet that we wouldn’t talk for five minutes and if I won he would go–”
“No, no, no, the bet was, we couldn’t talk to each other.”
“No, no.” Whoopi pushed me away again. She looked at Heather. “It’s like this. He lost the bet and now he’s trying to talk his way out of it.”
Heather frowned. “What a pig.”
“Oh, come on.”
Whoopi nodded. “It’s true. He can’t keep his word.”
I tried to grab her arm. “I always keep my word.”
“Not this time.”
“Oh come on…”
Heather turned to Whoopi. “What’d he bet?”
“Shoot, girl. You wanna know what he has to do?”
“Yeah.” Heather smiled. Her lips were wet and shiny. “What’s he gotta do?”
“Well…” Whoopi paused and downed the rest of her champagne. “He’s gotta go up to Sly and say, ‘Boy, you make cheesy movies `cause you’re dumb as a twinkie.’”
“No, no–it wasn’t exactly that…”
Heather squinted at me. “You have to walk up to Sylvester Stallone and say that?”
I shook my head. “No, it’s not like that.”
Whoopi threw up her hands. “See what I’m talkin’ `bout, sister? He’s just a boy–he’s a scared boy. He can’t keep his word.”
Heather frowned. “God, I hate men. They’re so weak. I like guys with strong you-know-whats.”
Whoopi laughed. “I hear that.”
I took back my glass of champagne from Heather. I knocked back the little bit that was left. “I’ve got guts.”
“No you don’t.”
“Yes I do.”
“No you don’t.”
I looked from Whoopi to Heather. “So what are you beautiful ladies telling me–I gotta go tell Sly he’s an idiot?”
They both nodded, “Yup.”
“Jesus.” I kicked the toe of my shoe against the floor. “He’ll twist me into little pretzel bits.”
Whoopi waved her hands in the air. “Then you should pray to the Lord for some good luck.”
“God…” I put my hand to my head. “I’m a condemned man.” I stared at the floor.
Heather put her arm around me. “Oh, don’t be sad. I’ll go and visit you in the hospital.”
“Sure.” She looked at Whoopi for a moment. “We both will–won’t we?”
Whoopi nodded. “Yup.”
I looked at Heather. She had beautiful, sparkling eyes. “Really?”
“Yes. I’ll come and see you. I’ll read to you. I’ll give you sponge baths.”
My hands began to tremble. “Wait, wait, I’m starting to have palpitations. Could you repeat that last bit?”
Heather laughed. She poked my arm. “Oh, stop. You’re gonna be fine.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that the sponge bath thing–my God…”
Whoopi threw up her hands. “The boy is just so helpless.”
Heather smiled. I raised my empty champagne glass. “Let’s get more champagne. Then we’ll go talk to Sly.”
We started to walk out to the back veranda. We passed David Lane and Drew Barrymore. They were deep in private conversation. Whoopi grabbed my arm. “By the way, sailor boy, you’re talking to Sly by yourself. Don’t you mention my name.”
I nodded my head. “All right…”
We stepped out onto the veranda and crossed over to the bar. My friend Joe Guerriero was leaning against the bar, sipping a glass of wine. He saw me and grinned. “Hey, man…let me tell you something…it’s all about timing, baby.”
I nodded. “I hear that, Joe-Joe.”
Joe picked up his glass of wine and drifted away. Heather looked at me. “Who the hell was that?”
“I think I did an audition with him once.”
I turned to the bartender. “Three champagnes, please–two for these lovely ladies, of course.” Whoopi rolled her eyes. The bartender poured us each a champagne. I tipped him a $10 bill. Then we walked down the back steps to the courtyard.
Heather took my arm. “You know, you’ve got a lot of guts.”
I squeezed her shoulder. “Baby, I’ve got lots of things.”
She laughed. “You are such a cheeseball, you know that?”
“But you love me.”
“Come on? I don’t even know you.”
“Of course. I just met you.”
“All right, then. I’m gonna give you two days.” I held up two fingers.
“Two days for what?”
I took a sip of my champagne. “In two days you’re gonna be begging everyone you know for my phone number.”
“Oh… right…Of course I will.”
Whoopi tapped us on the shoulder. “Look, there’s Sly.”
I looked. Sly was standing near the swimming pool, talking with Bruce Willis, James Coburn, and James Caan. He was wearing a black suit, black pants, a white shirt. Instead of a tie, he had a bolo cinched around his neck.
“Come on, don’t back down on us now. This is gonna be funny.”
“Who’s gonna be laughing?”
Heather squeezed my arm. She smiled and looked into my eyes. “Come on. Be my big strong man.”
“Oh, jeez.” I gulped down my champagne. “This is like…”
“Here, give me your champagne glass.”
I gulped down the last of my champagne. Then I handed my glass to Whoopi. I glanced at Sly. “All right. See you on the other side.”
Whoopi pushed me. “Oh, stop. You’ll be fine.”
Whoopi patted me on the back. I set off for Sly and his friends.
I rounded the swimming pool and walked up to Sly and his gang. They were standing in a narrow circle, smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. James Caan was saying, “…Yeah, but Randy Newman speaks to the common man. That Reilly guy–he’s more of a hippie. I can’t dig his stuff. I wouldn’t want my kids hearing that crap.”
“Damn right,” said James Coburn.
“Yeah,” said Bruce Willis.
I stepped up to Sly. His back was toward me. All I could see was the enormous, tight girth of his broad sport coat. I tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey, Sly–if you have a second…”
He turned around and faced me. He clenched his jaw and stared at me. “Yeah?”
“I was hoping you’d have a moment. I’m supposed to pass a message to you.”
“Make it quick.”
“Well, if you have a second, maybe we could step over there…”
“No. What’s the message?”
“Well, there’s no need to interrupt your whole conversation. We could talk over there.”
“Look pal, speak your peace already.”
Bruce Willis pointed at me. “Yeah. Whatever you gotta say to him, you can say to us.”
Sly nodded. “Right.”
“Well then…it goes like this…it seems I agreed to make the following observation and pass it along to you.”
I paused. They were all staring at me. I glanced around quickly. Whoopi and Heather were watching nearby.
“Okay, here goes. You see, Sly, you make cheesy movies and you have the brain of a twinkie.”
I held my breath. Sly squinted at me.
“What did you say?”
“Well, I can repeat the message if you want–”
Sly pushed me hard in the chest. I stumbled backward. He pointed at me. “You got some kind of problem, pal? You wanna start something in front of my friends?”
I pointed at Sly. “Hey, soul brother, don’t push me. It’s just a joke.”
“What the hell do you–”
Bruce Willis pointed at me. “What’s your problem, man?”
Sly never took his eyes off me. “You wanna go right now, pal–right here?”
“Actually Sly, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I’m pretty much a bad-ass dude myself. I dunno if we need to start fighting, `cause I’ll get some shots in, I’ll tell you that. But let’s talk about it. If I say, ‘You make cheesy movies,’ I’m just–”
Suddenly James Caan stepped in front of me. He pointed his cigar. “You’re friends with Burt, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
He shook his head. “Then why are you pissing off Sly?”
“It was a joke. I was supposed to walk up to Sly and tell him–”
Sly poked my chest. “Who told you?”
“Who told me what?”
Sly grabbed the front of my sport jacket. “Who told you I make cheesy movies?”
“Well, no one–I mean, anyone who goes to the movies can tell–”
Sly raised his fist. “I oughta pound you–”
James Caan grabbed Sly’s arm. “Hey, Sly–easy. Take it easy.”
“You hear what he said to me?”
James Caan pushed Sly away from me. “Look, Sly, back off. It’s not worth it.”
Sly pushed me, then stepped back. He pointed at me. “You better watch it, pal.”
A crowd had begun to gather. James Coburn stumbled between us. He took a swig of his whiskey. “You know what, guys? There’s only one way to settle this. I got gloves in the trunk. You guys’re gonna put `em on. You’re gonna box.” He took another swig of his whiskey. “Only way to settle this thing.”
Bruce Willis nodded. “Yup.”
Just then, Oprah ran up to us. She was livid. “Hey–what the hell’s going on here?” She glanced quickly from me to Sly to Bruce. “This is supposed to be a party. What the hell are you doing?”
Sly pointed at me. “He started it. He came over here and started making fun of me.”
Oprah squinted at Sly. “What?”
“He did it. He started the whole thing.”
“Well, so what?”
“He said I make cheesy movies.”
“You do make cheesy movies.”
“Yeah, but Oprah–I mean, I don’t give a shit if you say that–”
Oprah glared at Sly. Her eyes narrowed. She pointed a finger in Sly’s face. “Don’t-you-ever-use-profanity-with-me. You hear me?”
Sly looked down at the ground. “No, no, I’m sorry. I just meant–”
“I know what you meant.” She turned and stared at me. “So what’s your problem?”
I put up my hands in a gesture of innocence. “Look, Oprah, baby, it’s not what you–”
Oprah squinted at me. “What’d you call me?”
“Oprah–I mean, that’s your name, right?”
“You called me ‘baby.’”
“I call everybody ‘baby.’” I looked around, searching for agreement from the crowd.
Oprah pointed a finger in my face. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll never call me `baby’ again. Is that clear?”
“Sure thing, ba–” I had to stop myself. I nodded. “Sure. Anything you say.”
Bruce Willis gestured at Oprah. “Hey, Oprah, if I can just say something. I mean, this guy came up to us and–”
Oprah pointed at Bruce Willis. “Don’t open your mouth again.”
“I’m just trying to–”
“I don’t want to hear it.” Oprah looked around at the assembled crowd. “All right, everybody. Let’s go back to having a party. Just forget about this. Let’s all have a good time.” She put her hands on her hips. “And somebody find Steadman. Tell him I want a glass of wine. I’ll be in my office.” She walked off.
I glanced around at everyone. Heather and Whoopi were watching me. I glanced at Sly and then walked away.
I started to walk back to the bar. After a moment, Heather caught up with me. She grabbed my arm. “You were so brave. I couldn’t believe it.”
I nodded. “That’s how you gotta be, baby. It’s a tough world out there. You can’t let–”
Heather squeezed my shoulder. “Let’s go hang out with Whoopi. We’ll get some drinks.”
“Sure thing, baby.”
We headed off to the bar.
A week later, I went to Regis’ birthday bash at Fro-Zen. It was a buffet sushi party. I was drinking sake with David Duchovny and Joe Guerriero. We were discussing Kathie Lee Gifford’s new soul album, ‘I Honestly Love You,’ which was playing over the restaurant’s sound system. Joe was just remarking that Kathie Lee’s voice sounded “wetter than paint” when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I spun around. It was Regis. He squinted at me. “You have a second?”
“Sure, sure.” I nodded at him and turned to Joe and David. I held up my glass of sake and toasted them. “Excuse me, fellas.”
I followed Regis to a quiet corner near the bar. He was sipping a martini. He gestured at a stack of stereo speakers in the corner of the room. Kathie Lee was scatting doo-wop phrases. He pointed at one of the speakers and shook his head. “No matter where I go, I can’t get away from this.”
I nodded. “I hear you.”
He took a sip of his martini. “I wanna talk to you a moment.”
“Listen: Barbra’s Streisand’s here and she really likes you…”
“Oh, man, not this…” I shook my head.
“Listen to me. She really likes you. She met you at Molod’s or something and—”
He poked me in the shoulder. “Let me finish, okay?
I nodded. “All right.”
Regis looked at his martini for a moment. He stirred his olive. “Somehow, she’s really fallen for you. I don’t know why. But she really likes you. And since she’s here, I want her to have a good time.”
He stared at me for a moment, waiting for me to say something. I nodded at him. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Go talk to her. Be nice to her. Show her a good time.”
“But she’s not my type, man.”
“She’s a sweet girl.”
“I don’t want a sweet girl.”
“Look, just do me a favor. Go have a drink with her.”
“Aww, Reeg. You sure about this?”
Regis pointed his finger at me. “Go-have-a-drink-with-her.”
I kicked my shoe on the floor. “All right…” I sighed. “Fine. I’ll go talk to her.”
“That’s the spirit.”
I downed the rest of my sake and exhaled. “Where is she?”
“Right over there.” He pointed to the other side of the bar.
I looked over and saw Barbra standing near the bar. She was wearing a long brown evening dress and a string of pearls. I nodded to Regis. “All right. Here goes.”
Regis patted me on the back. “Go to it.”
I walked up to the bar, near where Barbra was standing. I leaned toward the bartender and ordered a double-sake. Almost instantly, Barbra spotted me. She hurried over and grabbed my arms. Her nose brushed my ear as she gave me a kiss on the cheek. She squeezed my shoulders. “Hi darling. How are you?”
I smiled. “Fine, baby. How are you?”
“Just terrific. Just wonderful.”
“Great. I’m glad to hear that.”
The bartender handed me a double-sake. I put a $5 bill in his tip jar. I turned to Barbra. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Oh, no. I don’t drink.”
I took a long hit of my sake. It was nice and warm, the way I liked it. Barbra looked at the sake for a moment, then looked at me. She touched my arm. “So what’s new with you? You look great.”
I took another hit of the sake. “Yeah, you know…Some auditions and things. Working on a couple of projects. You know, the usual.”
Barbra smiled. She was staring into my eyes. “That’s wonderful. I mean, you are so talented. Anything you do must be grand.”
“Yeah, you know…Just working it.”
She touched my arm again. “Let’s take a seat.” She gestured toward the stereo speakers. “I don’t want to have to shout over all the noise.”
“It’s Kathie Lee.”
I nodded. “All right.” I slugged down the rest of my sake and put the glass on the bar. I started to wave to the bartender. “Let me just get another drink…”
Barbra grabbed my arm. “No. I don’t want to share you with a drink.”
She tightened her grip. “Come on.” She began pulling me toward one of the small tables in the back corner. I made a last glance for the bartender. But Barbra was tugging my arm. I gave up and followed her to an empty table.
A small orange candle was glowing in a glass cup at the side of the table. We sat down. Barbra looked into my eyes again. “The last time I saw you, we were having dinner with Burt and Loni.”
“You gave me the tie you were wearing.”
I lifted my hand to take a hit of sake. But there was no glass in my hand. I looked at my empty hand for a moment. Barbra reached across the table and took my hand. She looked into my eyes. “I kept hoping we’d run into each other.”
She held my hand tightly. “Yes.”
“Well, that’s great.” I nodded and looked away. “Yeah.”
I felt Barbra staring at me. I nodded and tried to think of something to say: “So…yeah…what’ve you been doing with yourself?”
Barbra smiled. She touched my fingers. “Mostly yoga. Some reading. That kind of thing.”
Suddenly Barbra’s cell phone rang. She let go of my hand and reached into her purse. She gestured “One moment” and flipped on her cell.
“Yes?…Uh-huh…Yes, I ordered it…Oh, well please tell Alia to sign for it, okay?…Just leave it in the kitchen…Okay…Grazie. Ciao.” She closed her phone and stuck it back in her bag. She turned back to me. “Where were we?”
“I don’t know.”
I was thinking of a warm sake. But Barbra was looking at me. After a moment, I stumbled for something to say. “Umm…what was the phone call?”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Ohh, just some leather I ordered.”
“Yeah. It’s nothing.”
“Leather, like for what? Like furniture or something?”
She smiled to herself. “Well…not exactly.”
“I like leather.”
“Yeah, leather’s cool.”
Barbra smiled. She looked at the table. “Leather’s not always cool. Sometimes it’s hot.”
I paused. “Umm, ‘leather’s hot’…how’s that, baby?”
Barbra reached across the table and took my hand again. “If you wrap leather tight enough, it can start to sweat.”
I nodded my head. “Yeah…I guess that’s possible. There’s, like, water vapor trapped in it, or something…”
Barbra shook her head. “No. It depends on who you wrap the leather around.”
She squeezed my hand. “It’s like whip cream. You spray it on someone and it starts to melt. Sometimes you have to act quickly.” She looked at me.
I nodded. “What do you do when it melts?”
“I don’t let it melt.”
She was staring at me. I stared back. “How do you keep it from melting?”
She paused, then licked her lips.
I squinted at her. “I don’t get it.”
She licked her lips again.
Suddenly my heart started to beat faster. I felt a tiny bead of sweat appear on my forehead.
Barbra grinned. “But whip cream’s only good if you have an hour or so.”
“That’s why I prefer candle wax.”
“Or tree cuffs.”
“Oh, right.” I leaned forward. “French or Thai?”
“Thai. Always Thai.”
A drop of sweat rolled down the side of my face. I looked into Barbra’s eyes. “You like radiators?”
Barbra’s body suddenly convulsed in a spasm. “Unhh…” She blinked her eyes. “I love them.”
“What about carpet fibers?”
She leaned forward. Her breasts hovered above the edge of the table. “The thick ones.”
I felt myself shudder.
Barbra let go of my hand. She reached under the table and touched my knee. She stared into my eyes. “Do you like mirrors?”
“Only in the bathroom and on the ceiling.”
Barbra’s fingernails dug into my leg. “And towels?”
“Rolled-up like a tube.”
Barbra stood up. My heart was pounding. I pressed my hand against my chest. She leaned over. “You don’t use pillows do you?”
Barbra stepped away from the table. “Let’s go.”
I jumped up, almost knocking over my chair. We hurried to the front door.
It was the Barry White CD that put Candace Bergen in the mood. We were at my place, fooling around on my green leather couch. I’d switched on the ceiling fan disco light. As I kissed Candace, flashes of silver light darted around the room. I unbuttoned her shirt, then stood up and walked over to the kitchen. I opened the fridge and cracked open a Budweiser. I slugged some down. “Ahh…”
I could hear Candace rolling around on the couch. Her pants were making rubbing noises against the leather. I stuck my head out of the kitchen. “Don’t start without me.”
I walked back out to the living room. Candace’s hair was draped over the armrest of the couch. I sat down next to her and put my hand on her leg. “You want a sip of my beer?”
She took a sip of my beer and handed it back to me. I took another sip and rubbed her leg. She looked up at me and squinted. “You know, I just figured out why you look so familiar.”
“Yeah? Why’s that?”
“Weren’t you in that commercial? The one with the woman scrubbing the bathtub?”
“Yeah. That was me.”
“And there’s these guys in football uniforms, and they suddenly appear in the bathtub. They’re the cleaning team.”
“Yeah, that was me, baby.”
Candace started laughing. “You were one of the football players.”
She tried to sit up. “Which one were you?”
“I had the blue uniform on. No helmet. I was the quarterback.”
“Right.” She nodded her head. “But you looked so much thinner.”
“It was a couple of years ago.”
Candace laughed. I put my arm around her and helped her to sit up. I looked at her. “You know, I’m not really interested in commercials. They’re not the right vehicle for me.”
“What’s the right vehicle for you?”
“I need a serious project, like a drama.”
I stood up. “Come on. I’ll get you a beer.”
Candace lifted herself up from the couch. I steered her toward the kitchen. Barry White’s voice was purring from the stereo speakers.
Candace leaned against my shoulder. “It’s so dark in here.”
“No problem.” I walked over to the coffee table and switched on my Suzanne Somers Commemorative lava lamp. Red light oozed through the room.
“Does this help?”
Candace stepped away from me and looked at some of the photos on the wall near the kitchen. “You have so many pictures of yourself.”
I finished my beer and grabbed two fresh Buds from the fridge. I handed one to Candace. We cracked our beers and took a few gulps. Candace looked around my condo.
“God, this place is like the inside of a spaceship. I feel like I’m in a UFO.”
I took a sip of beer. Candace swayed for a moment. She walked out to the living room and stood over my black vinyl massage chair. “What’s this?”
I walked up behind her and put my arms around her. “That’s my Cool Papa massage chair. Only 3,000 of them were hand-built by Cool Papa in his lifetime.”
I rubbed Candace’s stomach.
“And what’s that?” She pointed to my Bob Ketler smoke machine.
“Oh, that? That’s my smoke machine.”
“What’s it for?”
“It makes smoke.” I walked over and switched it on. After a few seconds, a thin mist of smoke began to waft along the floor. “Sometimes I like to set a mood.”
“Come on.” I took Candace’s hand. “I’ll show you the bedroom.”
I walked her down the hall. Her bare feet stumbled in my purple shag carpeting. She looked down at her feet. “Wow, look at that. The carpet changes color as you walk on it.”
“Yeah. It’s static-charged.”
I pushed open the wood-paneled door to my bedroom. I reached in and switched on the fluorescent track light along the left ceiling mirror. “Here we are.”
Candace stepped into the bedroom. I followed her. She paused for a moment and looked down. “The floor feels weird.”
“Oh yeah, it’s sheet rubber. Easier to clean.”
She turned to look at the full-length poster of me next to my lucite dresser. She pointed at the poster. “You look a lot younger in that, too.”
“Yeah, maybe. I was a lifeguard back then.” I finished my beer. “You want another beer?”
Candace lifted her beer. “No, I have this.”
I walked over to the mini-bar next to my night table. I reached into the cooler and grabbed a cold wet can of Budweiser. It was the last one. I cracked it open and took a sip.
Candace looked around the room. “I don’t see a bed.”
I jumped up. “Oh, right.” I ran over to the closet doors and slid them open. I pressed the electric switch that automatically lowered my vinyl Murphy bed. The motor in the wall made a slow groaning noise as the bed lowered to the floor.
I pointed to the bed. “Here you go.”
Candace tried to sit down. She lost her balance and fell off.
I reached to help her stand up. “Sorry. I forgot to tell you, it’s a water bed.”
“A water bed?”
“Yeah. Cool Papa built it about a year before he died. It’s the only vinyl, fold-up water bed in Burbank.”
Candace sat down slowly on the bed. She adjusted herself to the rhythm of the water. “Wow.”
I sat down next to her. I took a sip of my beer. “How’ya feeling?”
“A little tired.”
“Well, you’re in the right place.”
I pressed a button on my night table to lower down a pair of velcro-leather handcuffs. “Put these on. I’ll give you a massage.”
Candace looked at the handcuffs for a moment. “What are these?”
“Handcuffs, baby. You know, to hold you in place.”
“Are you serious?”
She looked at me for a moment. “Why don’t YOU put them on?”
“Yeah. You put them on. I’ll give you a massage.”
“You think so?”
“Sure. I’ll tie you up.”
I nodded. “Let me finish my beer.” I took a few more swallows and gulped down the rest of my beer. I crushed the can and tossed it through the mini-basketball hoop attached to my bathroom door.
I smiled. “You want me to take off my shirt?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Why don’t you do that?”
I unzipped my shirt. For a moment the zipper caught on one of my chest hairs. I yanked hard and pulled the zipper all the way down. I threw the shirt on the floor.
Candace reached across the bed and began wrapping the leather straps around my wrists. She tightened them and closed the velcro flaps. She looked at me. “You could get out of these if you had to, right?”
I nodded. “Sure thing. Probably take me 15 minutes. Maybe less.”
Candace began walking out of the bedroom.
I called after her. “Hey, can you get me one, too?”
I waited for Candace to bring me back a beer. She seemed to be taking a while.
I tried to swing my head around toward the living room. The handcuffs were too tight. “Candy?…”
Just then I heard the front door open and close.
Whoopi called me at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. She said that she needed a date for Sally Struthers’ Annual Hungerthon Dinner that night. Would I go with her? She promised that there’d be a full dinner and lots of wine. I said, “I’ll be there, baby.”
I was supposed to meet her at 7 p.m. at The Regency Hotel. That left me time to cram in a full workout at Biceptual, the new gym that Richard Gere had opened with Tom Cruise. I drove over to the gym and spent an hour on the bike. Then I lifted weights for about 30 minutes. By the time I finished my last set of free weights, I was feeling incredibly weak. I was ravenous with hunger and my arms felt like lead. As I showered, my legs began to stiffen from the exercise bike. I dressed as quickly as I could, then squeezed into my Hyundai and raced over to The Regency.
I was running late by the time I arrived at the hotel. I ran inside and found Whoopi waiting for me at the bar. She was talking to Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher. They were debating whether or not Winona Ryder looked exactly like the kid in ‘Lord of the Rings.’ Whoopi jumped up as I greeted her. She gave me a big kiss on the cheek, then quickly introduced me to Brad and Ashton.
Whoopi handed me a glass of wine. We said a hurried goodbye to Brad and Ashton, then walked quickly to the ballroom.
As we stepped into the hall, Whoopi nudged my shoulder. “You look all buff.”
“Yeah, I just got through working out. But listen, I’m starving. When do we eat?”
“Soon. We just have to wait for Sally to make a speech. Then they’ll serve dinner.”
“All right. I hope she makes it quick, though. I’m starting to get lightheaded.”
Whoopi poked my arm. “God. You’re always such a baby.”
We walked to our table and took our seats. I noticed Drew Barrymoore and David Lane sitting next to us. They had their chairs turned toward the podium. We sat down.
Just at that moment, the whole room stood up and began applauding as Sally Struthers stepped up to the podium. There was a long round of clapping. Then everyone sat down.
Sally looked out at the audience and paused. The room fell absolutely quiet. Someone coughed at a nearby table.
Sally looked down at her speech for a moment. She cleared her throat. “Eight million,” she said. She paused for a moment as her voice echoed through the large hall. She repeated herself: “Eight million.” Then she looked out at the audience and said, “Eight million children will die of hunger this year.”
I turned to Whoopi and whispered, “Eight million and one if I don’t eat something soon.”
Whoopi put a finger to her lips. “Shhh…”
Sally began to launch into her speech. It was something about hunger in Africa and Asia and a lack of running water. I took a sip of my wine. It went immediately to my head. I felt a sudden tightening in the front of my skull. I knew that I needed water.
There was a glass of water set in front of me on the table. I grabbed the glass and drank the whole thing down. Then I looked around for a waiter to pour a refill. I couldn’t spot one. But I noticed a large metal waiter’s tray resting on a fold-up stand next to our table. It was holding a half-empty pitcher of water. I leaned over and grabbed the pitcher. I poured myself another glass of water.
Sally talked on. She was mentioning something about the United Nations. I began to feel light-headed. My blood sugar was getting too low. My head and neck felt uncomfortably warm. I turned to Whoopi.
“Hey…I gotta eat something…I’m getting lightheaded.”
Whoopi waved me away with her hand. I leaned toward her and whispered, “But I’m really feeling faint.”
Whoopi whispered back. “Why didn’t you eat before you got here?”
“I didn’t have time. I had to get to the gym. And you said they’d be serving dinner.”
“Why didn’t you eat a power bar or something?”
“I forgot to.”
“Well then, that’s your problem.”
Whoopi sat back in her chair. I took a deep breath. I leaned back in my chair and slowly exhaled. I began to massage my forehead.
Sally’s speech continued. She passed the 10-minute mark. Little parts of her speech filtered in and out of my consciousness: “World Health Organization…50,000 rations per day…if we sit idly by…vaccination teams…hookworm and ringworm…agriculture department…wheat and grain surplus…”
After a few more minutes I turned to Whoopi. “I think I’m digesting my spleen right now.”
“Oh hush up.”
“But I feel faint.”
“She’ll be done soon.”
“Yeah, but when?”
“I don’t know.”
I sat back in my chair and began to glance around the room. I spotted Lindsay Wagner and Andy Garcia sitting at a nearby table; Lindsay was yawning. I turned back to Whoopi. “I’ll bet everybody’s just waiting to eat.”
Whoopi looked at me. “Yeah, but they’re behaving like adults.”
“But I’m really feeling faint…I gotta do something…”
I looked around the room. At various tables, I could see people fidgeting and yawning. I noticed Lee Majors sitting at a side table. He was holding his head in his hands. He looked exhausted.
Sally’s voice droned on: “a concerted effort…political involvement…for just pennies a day…”
A wave of nausea rippled through me. I felt close to fainting. I looked around at another table, then noticed the waiter’s stand parked next to our table. It held a large silver tray almost two feet in diameter.
With the last of my strength, I lifted myself out of my chair and stepped over to the tray. I could feel my heart pounding mightily in my chest. All the blood seemed to drain out of my head. I began to see gray.
I picked up the tray with my left hand. My arm trembled from workout fatigue. I held the tray up in the air like a mirror. Then, with a quick punch of my right fist, I gonged the tray as loudly as I could. It sent an enormous metal boom reverberating through the hall.
Instantly the whole room jumped. Everyone turned to look.
People stared at me. I nodded at them and quickly replaced the tray on its stand. Then I sat down next to Whoopi; she was covering her face with her hands.
At the podium, Sally stumbled for something to say. For a moment she looked down at her speech. But then she interrupted herself. “I think…uhhh…we’ll, uhh…we’ll finish here and…just…thank you…”
The audience stood up and began to applaud. I turned to Whoopi. “See, now we’ll get to eat.”
I sat back in my chair and waited for dinner to be served.
When I returned to L.A., I was scheduled to have a lunch meeting at Ed Silver Productions to discuss Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming project, “Arsenal: The Return.” Ed himself would be there; he wanted to make it clear that if I worked with Sly, I would have to avoid any of the ‘negative energy’ I’d displayed at Oprah’s party.
On the way to Ed’s office, I stopped at Kroger’s Deli and grabbed a turkey sandwich and an iced tea. Then I started walking along Hollywood Boulevard.
As I started along the sidewalk, I spotted Julia Roberts and her curly auburn hair walking a few yards in front of me. Julia had just stepped out of Artine’s Big Salads and was striding along the sidewalk carrying a brown lunchbag. I hurried off toward her.
Near Vine Street, I drew up next to her. As I did so, I leaned toward her and said, “UH-OH…LOOK OUT…my takeout lunch is RAPIDLY catching up with yours, and…look out…it’s taking the lead now…and…WHOOSH…it’s leaving yours in the dust…” I turned to her and smiled, giving her my ‘I’m-as-good-as-candy” smile. Then I pivoted and started to walk past her.
But Julia whirled at me. “JESUS. WHAT THE HELL?”
I slowed down and looked back at her. “What’s the matter?”
“YOU ASSHOLE. YOU SCARED THE HELL OUT OF ME.”
“Baby, I’m not that scary looking. Some people think I’m kinda handsome—”
Julia pointed a finger at me. Her hand was shaking. “I thought you were a terrorist or something. Don’t you know what’s going on in the world? What the hell’s your problem?”
“Oh come on. I was racing your lunchbag.”
Julia squinted at me. “WHAT?”
“I was racing your lunchbag. And mine was clearly winning. Freddie and I were passing you like a Volkswagen stalled on the Santa Ana.”
Julia put her hand to her forehead. “God, you’re just some nut.”
“No, I’m not. I used to race Tom Hanks along Los Feliz all the time. He’d have a chicken salad on wheat bread from Paco’s. I’d have a burrito from Si Senor. A burrito’s much more aerodynamic. I’d leave him sucking wind like a gullyfish.”
Julia started walking away from me. Her shoes made rapid click-click sounds on the sidewalk. I called after her. “Uh-oh, Julia’s making a late surge…”
I clutched my lunch and started racing after her. I was amazed: Julia was moving just like Ben Affleck at The Swizzle Stick. I shouted after her, “Baby, no one’s taken me in almost seven years…YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN’T HIDE…” I began to really move. “I’m carrying a Lyman’s 32-ounce Iced Tea, and I’m STILL gonna catch you…No one’s gonna take me on my HOME TURF.”
Soon I was sweating. But I was gaining ground. I watched Julia switch her lunchbag from one hand to the other. I recognized that move: she was beginning to falter. It was only a matter of time.
I stepped through the Del Rey intersection and, by the next corner, had drawn up parallel to her. I nodded quickly. “Thanks for playing.” Then I breezed past her.
I hit the sidewalk and accelerated, leaving her trailing in my wake.
I’m personally acquainted with Keanu Reeves, having worked with him in ‘Speed.’ (I was the third SWAT team cop in the subway during the final chase scene.) In all my time of working with Keanu I’ve always been extremely impressed with his fitness routine, his fashion sense, and his dedication to craft. I remember bumping into Keanu outside Panna Szazza in Hollywood, about two months after we’d shot ‘Speed.’
I’d just stopped at Larry’s World of Protein Shakes, to pick up a Soy-Guava Muscle Builder. Keanu and I were both trying to park our cars in the same spot along Sunset Boulevard. He started to inch his Mercedes in front of my Hyundai. I leaned my head out the window.
“Hey Keanu—I’m parking here.”
“Dude, I was here first.”
“No you weren’t.”
“Yes I was.”
I took a sip of my protein shake and climbed out of my car.
“Look, you know I’ve always respected you, baby. I mean, damn, ‘Point Break’ is, like, one of my favorite movies. But lookit: I was already backing into that spot.”
“No you weren’t, dude.”
“Yes, I was. I had my reverse light on.”
“But you didn’t have your signal on.”
I paused and took a sip of my protein shake. Keanu looked at the shake. He pointed to it.
“Dude, is that a Larry’s shake?”
“That’s good stuff.”
“Anyone who’s into protein shakes is all right with me.”
He gave me a funny look and repeated himself: “Anyone who’s into protein shakes is all right with me.”
Suddenly I felt light-headed. I tried to look at Keanu, but he was gesturing with his hand. He smiled at me. “You’re about to drive away.”
“I’m about to drive away.”
“This isn’t the parking spot you’re looking for.”
I nodded. “This isn’t the parking spot I’m looking for…”
“Keanu Reeves is a great actor.”
“Keanu Reeves is a great actor…”
“Just go about your business.”
“I’ll just go about my business…”
I smiled, got in my car, and drove away. Anyway, it’s important for people to realize what a brilliant actor Keanu Reeves is, and what an important contribution he’s making to cinema.
Films like ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ and ‘Sweet November’ prove that he is the most important actor in Hollywood.