Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This Place Was Made For Sex: My LA Book Tour, episode one

I’m back from my Amorous book tour to Hollywood, and I have to say that while I certainly cooked up quite an eventful journey for my sexually curious protagonist, Lydia, thanks to her, I’ve enjoyed some very interesting adventures of my own! The Amorous Woman has taken me to some places I never dreamed I’d go.

Last Thursday, September 25, I packed up some copies of Amorous Woman, my blue satin cheong sam and a big box of naughty fortune cookies and jetted off to the Bob Hope/Burbank airport for my whirlwind visit to America’s grand illusion factory. My first impression when I got off the plane was that it was much hotter than foggy Oakland—in the 90s in fact—so I quickly shed my businesswoman’s jacket and slipped on my sunglasses. I found my van service and sat in the sweltering heat for about fifteen minutes while the driver waited for potential customers who never materialized. Then we headed off towards the Beverly Hills Hotel—a two-night stay was an early holiday gift from my older sister who knows how to get good deals on that sort of thing.

The journey was rather like a trip through America’s class system. First came Mexican strip malls, then modest ranch homes. Gradually the road ascended into some real hills and that’s when I began to see the mansions, some perched precariously on platforms jutting out into thin air. By the time we got to Beverly Hills, the houses were more along the lines of the upper middle class houses I knew from my Washington D.C. youth, but I’m sure they cost millions. Many had for-sale signs—a sign of economic hard times, no doubt. Before I knew it, however, we were pulling up a wooded driveway to the low-key entrance to the historic Beverly Hills Hotel. Several fresh-faced young men in pink polo shirts greeted me and took my luggage and I was ushered into the lobby, which again was well-appointed but homey rather than grand in scale. I was waved over to the reception desk, the lone guest to require attention.

Another good-looking young man (all failed actors, I wondered?) welcomed me to the hotel and told me his name was “Brendan,” just like the kid in “Beverly Hills 90210.” Or was that Brandon? Anyway, the young man noted that my paperwork had been taken care of by someone else, and asked when I wanted maid and turn-down service and which papers I wanted to be delivered in the morning. I had a choice of four, but took only the L.A. Times so as not to seem greedy (that vice would rear its head later when I stuffed my luggage with the toiletries, slippers, laundry bags and fruit). Then the reception clerk asked if this was my first time at the hotel, I said yes, and he offered to guide me to my room and show me around. This seemed part of the custom, so I said yes and followed him to the elevator and up to the second floor. We chatted a bit—I was determined to seem as if I “belonged” in a low-key, I went to Princeton kind of way—and he mentioned my room was one of the best in its price range. I wasn’t sure how to reply to that—I should hope so? Goody? I’ll tell my sister she’s getting her money’s worth?—so I just nodded and smiled.

We walked down a very air-conditioned corridor with white wainscoating and a leafy wallpaper in the pink-and-green color scheme of the hotel. My room was 209 and my guide instructed me on which way to turn the old-fashioned key. I did not gasp out loud when I stepped inside, but secretly I did whisper a “wow.” The room was HUGE with an entry hall, complete with a sconce vase with fresh lilies and a walk in dressing room closet.

To the left was…what should I call it? A living room and bedroom combined. The bed was a grand, romantic affair, a four-poster draped in white gauzy fabric, and not for the last time did I think: this room was made for sex. The rest of the room was filled with a sofa and coffee table, upon which a footed plate of fresh fruit beckoned, a desk, flat screen TV and plenty of windows overlooking the bungalow area.

The check-in clerk led me over to the large bathroom, clearly built for two, to show me how to raise the vulvular curtains over the tub remotely and manage the various light switches.
I was preparing to tip the bellman, but I wasn’t sure if it would be an insult to tip this guy, so I merely said my thanks and he disappeared with a cordial smile. If anyone knows if you’re supposed to tip in this case, let me know. I hope I have a chance like this again some day!

Wow, this is getting long and I’m about thirty minutes into my trip. Soon afterwards, I met my sister and her husband for lunch in West Hollywood. We had grilled scallop salads at a place called Petite Four on Sunset. It was delicious, plus I was hungry. Then we went to the Hollywood Museum in the old Max Factor building where we had to turn in our cameras first before we could wander through the rooms Max himself had designed to judge the complexions of redheads (green), blondes (pale blue), brownettes (pink, I think) and brunettes. Each was filled with vintage make up and a scary looking beauty appraiser which used metal probes to determine the location of your features and how make-up should be used to nudge them toward the ideal.

The other floors held actual costumes and props from some of Hollywood’s classic films. The basement had a Halloween feel, including Hannibal Lecter’s cell and some mummy movie paraphernalia. I’d recommend the place, although it was not exactly cheap—except perhaps by Beverly Hills Hotel standards.

Afterwards, we all retired to our rooms and I was determined to get my money’s worth. I took a bath to shave my legs since I knew I’d be wearing shorts, then took a shower to wash my hair so I’d look nice for the reading at Hustler Hollywood that night. I even put on make-up I’d bought at the Shiseido counter a few weeks before—the specially lighted makeup mirror at the hotel came in quite handy. I met my sister at 7:30 for the short ride up Sunset to Hustler Hollywood, where I would be reading at In the Flesh LA, hosted by Carly Milne, author of Sexography, a moving and funny memoir I could not put down!

Hustler Hollywood—it sounds like it might be sticky and sleazy, but actually the atmosphere was more like a Barnes and Noble. There were lots of role-playing costumes and more whimsical items out front. The back held the sex toys and adult videos in bright packaging. Their motto on the glossy shopping bags is “Relax…it’s just sex,” which I kind of like, given the sexophobic nature of our culture. The reading took place in the spacious, well-lit café and Carly had brought delicious mini red velvet cupcakes. Free coffee and pumpkin pie squares were also passed around throughout the evening. In the Flesh on both coasts aims to appease every sensual appetite!

Carly was a warm and gracious hostess and it was a thrill to meet her in person. I also saw the wonderfully generous Eden Bradley again who would be another of the six readers that night (I'm standing right next to her in the photo). We’d met through Robin Slick and had dinner in San Francisco this past spring and met up again at RWA. I also met in person the wonderful writer, Stan Kent, who’d just flown back from Europe and often hosted the event when Carly was away.

I’ll admit I was nervous as I waited—the reading went in alphabetical order and I was last, making me wish I’d kept my maiden name, at least for the event. The theme was adolescence and each reader had her own gift to offer, humor and pathos in equal measure in keeping with the topic. Eden’s sneak preview of her forthcoming novel Twenty-first Century Courtesan was definitely spicy and had me wanting more and soon!

Finally it was my turn. As I approached the microphone, I noted that the crowd was quite generous—maybe forty people. Not just friends, but others had wandered in from the store. Frankly I didn’t really see them as I gave my little introduction to set the scene. When I read I tend to focus on a few friendly faces for my eye contact and leave the rest to their own devices. My passage was definitely one of the dirtiest of the evening—I read the hairbrush scene and the actual defloration with Mike--because my heroine was over eighteen! My sister said the whole audience was quiet, which could be good or bad, I suppose. However, one wonderful person named Valerie came up to me afterwards with a newly-purchased copy of my book to sign (it’s one copy at a time in this business, let me tell you). She told me I was wonderful, so let’s believe her!

Still jazzed from the performance, we stopped by the world-famous Polo Lounge for a fashionably late dinner. There you can dine on $39 Wagyu beef hamburgers and hope to eavesdrop on some Hollywood power brokers making a deal. I didn’t see any that night, but frankly, I didn’t care. I was feeling pretty cool myself!

I went back to my room to discover the turn-down service fairy had done her work. A tiny plate of pecan-cinnamon cookies sat by the bed along with pink laundry service bags, which I tucked into my suitcase along with the hotel logo pens and notepads (the pens look cool, but don’t work so well). I slipped on my plush bathrobe, wiggled my toes into my complimentary matching slippers and surveyed my room like the temporary celebrity I was. This room was definitely made for sex. When I travel I like to muse about who stayed in my room and what they did there. I know exactly what most of the guests did in this room. I could hear the ghosts of Hollywood whispering their naughty secrets.

I expect there will be a story or two to come out of this. Stay tuned.

Coming next on Donna’s Amorous Book Tour Report: no-tell hotel, getting busted by the boys in pink, a Mad Men lunch and other yummy Hollywood adventures….


Neve Black said...

Ooooh, Donna, thank you so much for the update on your Hollywood adventure. You look and sound so it like a dream coming true, Princess, D?

I'm there with you in spirit.

Donna said...

Thank YOU for reading my very detailed report, Neve. You probably did feel like you were right there with my moment-by-moment report ;-)

I'm glad to have the company!

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow, it sounds so awesome! Thanks for the report! And lovely pictures too. I'm so glad it sounds like you had a good time!

Also -- this Valerie sounds like a sharp cookie. ;) Glad she connected with you!


EllaRegina said...

WOW! Can you write a guidebook to the ENTIRE WORLD? That was fascinating!

Vulvular curtains! You ain't kidding!!!

Question: What is the difference between a "brownette" and a "brunette"?

Mahvelous, dahling!

More! More!

Craig Sorensen said...

Sounds like an excellent trip!

Thanks for sharing your experience so vividly!

Anonymous said...


"Can you write a guidebook to the ENTIRE WORLD?"

Seriously, I am still laughing. That was so delightful!

Donna said...

Yes, that would be quite a job, EllaRegina, but isn't that what writers are trying to do each in our own way? I'm glad you all are enjoying my lengthy descriptions. Which reminds me, we'll be able to talk in person VERY soon!

Donna said...

Thanks, KM. I'm hoping to have my second installment tomorrow.

Btw, EllaRegina, I think brownettes are sort of the light brown end of the brown hair and brunettes are the darker, sultrier side. I'm a brownette. But I'd never heard this word before the Hollywood Museum! Yet another thing I learned, lol.