Of Hotels and Hollywood

Spoiler alert: It was LA. Specifically Santa Monica near the ocean, which is my happy place. As you recall from the prologue, I was last here at the beginning of March 2020, just days before everything collapsed. I’ve been itching to get back, not least of which because I have several dear friends here whom I’ve been missing, well, dearly. And though this area has been hard hit, I sense LA is turning a corner.

When my grandpa arrived in LA by train in 1945, he dropped my grandma, who had MS, and my 2-year-old dad off at their apartment, then came to Santa Monica and just stared at the ocean for hours. I know the feeling!

But before I start praising the friends I’ve been seeing here (and there is much to praise!), let me first praise my hotel, Le Meridien on Pico and 5th. It’s just awesome. Safe, but maintaining those fun boutique touches like at the pool (see two photos down). And the front desk called a few minutes after I got to my room with the complimentary glass of rose (yes please!), just to see how I was settling in (very nicely, thanks for asking!). I’m already a loyal Marriott member (Platinum Elite and gunning for Titanium status, yo), but this really cemented the love. I’ll definitely plan to stay here again.

No, I don’t know what it means either. But I love my balcony!

Now, let’s turn to three remarkable individuals I saw on my first full day in LA: two of whom are already dear friends, and the other whom I met because of a mutual love of ice cream. In the morning I went down to the beach, already filling with boarders and bikinis, and just sat in the sand for a bit, closed my eyes, and felt the sun on my face. I stocked up on some supplies at Whole Foods (flavored beef jerky is a new obsession) chatted with my manager about the exciting Hollywood news (I’ll reveal as soon as I can, promise!), and then headed out for my first meeting.

I’m the one furthest to the right, thanks for asking! (Actually, I’m probably closer to the one on the left, but never mind.)

Thanks to Clarence and Google Maps, this was the first LA trip in which I did NOT get hopelessly lost, and I was delighted that so many friends were able to meet in person, either because they are already fully vaccinated, we were able to gather safely outdoors, etc. It felt so good to be able to see (and hug) my friends again!

First I met up with Sanyee Yuan at the Franklin Village location of  https://vanleeuwenicecream.com. Sanyee and I typically rendezvous at the very cool Bourgeois Pig next door, but they closed at 4 and we didn’t want to be rushed, so ice cream it was. . .and getting ice cream is hardly a hard sell for me! (I suggest the Peanut Butter Brownie Chip flavor, though many folks also love Honeycomb).

Sanyee is one of those brilliant Harvard folks I was mentioning in my last post — so smart she created her own major, and so talented as a screenwriter/actress/voiceover talent/host/trivia goddess that she doesn’t even need to have a car in LA (the truth of her carless life is even more hilarious — check out her website below for more details). I was honored to write a recommendation for Sanyee to the Universal Studios Writers Program (Universal, are you listening?), and, as I said during our conversation, “I’m just going to sit her and be impressed with you.” But on a serious note, Sanyee has also handled not only COVID, but also the wave of anti-Asian racism and hate, with courage and caring. She’s a real Raya of light (I say that because Sanyee was one of the voices in the amazing Raya and the Last Dragon!)

This is Sanyee, who has thoughtfully saved the last bit of ice cream cone for this photo. Check out her website at http://sanyeeyuan.weebly.com and be as impressed with her as I am!

However, ice cream also unexpectedly brought a new friendship (though maybe that’s not so unexpected — ice cream always brings good things). By the store’s tip jar there was a trivia question: which singer’s work was featured on theWhen Harry Met Sally soundtrack? I knew the answer instantly (do you?), and so claimed the prize that ice cream scooper and star employee Sam Hendrian had promised: a poem or short screenplay on any subject. I chose short screenplay, of course, and gave Sam the topic of Paul Revere. Within a day, Sam had e-mailed me his very fun and fresh take on that broad subject, and I encourage everyone to follow his budding career — I’m a good judge of talent, and Sam’s one to watch.

Anyway, after ice cream I hopped in the car and headed off for dinner at https://ladybyrdcafe.comin Echo Park with my dear friend Deborah Lee Smith. Deb is best described as a mega-mensch, but also a total badass actress/producer/screenwriter talent. And like I said, I have an eye for talent, especially among women and people of color whose voices have traditionally been sidelined and silenced in Hollywood.

This is Deb. She’s awesome. Discover more of her awesomeness at https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6606770/. on twitter https://twitter.com/deborah_lsmith?lang=enor Instagram https://www.instagram.com/deborah_lsmith/?hl=en.

Deb is such a mensch that after getting me thoroughly drunk (I do not drink often), she proceeded to have her way with me by. . .asking me to break story on a screenplay she’s developing based on her experiences in the Australian construction industry (told you she was a badass!). Deb also commissioned me last spring to co-write with her a drama based on the extraordinary experiences of her grandmother and her great-uncle during World War 2. It’s called STELLOOLA, and is best described as a SAVING PRIVATE RYAN on the home front. Deb asking me to write this was really important during those terrifying months of March and April 2020, and I’m forever grateful to her for it. Plus, the script turned out really well, and we ended up doing some work on it while I was in LA, which I’ll describe more in my next post!

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