By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
There is a girl in the aquarium at the Standard Hotel. Actually, the claustrophobia-inducing glass box mounted behind the front desk is more like a terrarium; it holds no water or marine life, but it does contain a sleek chaise, and the aforementioned stupefying human female. Her head is shaved bare, and she wears a long cotton dress, a Yamamoto, maybe, or a deceptively chic flea market score. Despite her cramped habitat, this living art installation seems happy enough; she stretches out like a reptile and casually accepts a call on her cell phone. I wave at her. She waves back and assumes the lotus position on her perch. It's midnight in West Hollywood, but Boxing Helena musters a 1.21-gigawatt smile for my benefit. The alignment of her teeth is flawless.
"Are you checking in?" the whippet-thin man behind the desk asks in a SoCal monotone. I don't answer. I'm waving limply at the bald girl in the box like a kid ogling a wombat at the Minnesota Zoo. Besides, I can barely hear the dude; there's a Gorillaz tune being played at warehouse-rave volume by a teenage DJ stationed five feet away. Models, submodels, actors, agents, and celebutantes mill about the chilly Sixties-modern lobby, zooming on coke and $12 martinis and wearing white jeans that fit like semigloss paint. A few revelers are curled up in large Plexiglas globes suspended from the ceiling. The entire room is darkened, but for the luminous girl-terrarium looming above like a sadistic David Fincher set piece. According to my temporal lobe, it's 2:00 a.m.--I'm still on Cornpone Standard Time--and my eyelids are lead aprons. I push my credit card wordlessly across the desk and wonder if the beds are as spartan as the decor.
My manager, Manager, had advised me to book at the Standard. "It's inexpensive and it's on the Strip," Manager had told me during one of the 17 extremely urgent phone conversations we'd shared in the prior week. I soon discovered that "inexpensive" meant "$200 a night for a single," but I decided to unclench for once in my life and shell out for luxe lodgings. During the harrowing, 75 mph Death-Cab-for-Cody taxi ride from LAX, I'd envisioned a plush, tasteful lobby, smiling attendants, perhaps the muted tinkle of a jazz pianist playing nocturnes for incoming guests. Instead, the cab had screeched up alongside what appeared to be a nightclub, complete with crowds of tanorexic bitches flanking a velvet rope at the door.
"No," I'd said patiently. "I need to go to the Standard Hotel."
"This is the Standard Hotel," the driver had replied, popping the trunk.
Having successfully checked into the Hotel California, I head down the hallway toward the elevator, dragging my cheap suitcase behind me. An inscrutable art film is being projected on the white wall ahead; it's kind of like sleeping in the new wing at the Walker. My room is extremely cold both aesthetically and literally; there's a Warholian silver space chair in the corner that I photograph immediately. The bathroom sink is traffic-cone orange. The bed feels like a plank. I love this hotel. It has as many sharp edges as I do. I begin calculating how many more screenplays I will have to sell before I can afford to reside at the Standard permanently, like Royal Tenenbaum but with a killer tan and back-end points.
I pick up the phone and call my husband Jonny. I hate to wrest him from the arms of Morpheus at this hour, but I need to hear his voice.
"You made it," Jonny says groggily.
"Chick in a box," I say.
"They have this chick. In a box. At the hotel."
"Is she alive?"
A few weeks prior to my departure, my humorless shrink back in Minneapolis writes me a special scrip for a popular anti-anxiety med. (Talking to strangers gives me unsightly stress hives, and I'm predictably freaked out about meeting with studio moguls on unfamiliar terrain.) My husband and I like to heckle the TV commercials for this particular drug, which features a pouting animated blob who smiles beatifically once his serotonin has been regulated. I've been popping my pills like any compliant neurotic and now, alone at the Standard, I suddenly find myself with a gut-shredding stomachache. It's bad. Alien-bad. I curl up on the unyielding bed and clutch my abdomen, gasping in pain. Turns out I'm one of the pitiful 10 percent who experience extreme side effects with this stuff. I switch off the space-age lamp on the nightstand and shudder into a fitful sleep.
Two years ago, when I was working as a peep show girl and blogging daily about the pitfalls of masturbating in a booth for a living, I met Manager via a brief and professional e-mail. He'd discovered my blog, the Pussy Ranch, while surfing online. He told me he worked in Hollywood and wanted to know if I'd ever considered writing a screenplay. I hadn't, but I had written a slender, cynical memoir about my tenure in the sex industry. Though I anticipated an anticlimactic end to my correspondence with Manager, I mailed him my manuscript. This powerful stranger in California pulled strings accordingly, and before my eyes could even adjust to the blinding light of salvation, I had a six-figure book advance, an agent, an attorney, and, of course, Manager.