On Saturday night I went to a Global Green fund-raising dinner at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The organization was presenting a Lifetime Achievement award to this guy, eco-architect William McDonough, who gave a great, short speech. “I’m a designer,” he began. Visibly moved, looking out at the crowd. “And as a designer, I have to ask myself, What is my intention?” He elaborated on that — I wish I could remember him verbatim — opening up the issue of how we, as a species, are designing this planet…and our intention behind the design.
Since I can’t quote him directly, I’ll quote from this interview I found with him in Newsweek:
The Industrial Revolution as a whole was not designed. It took shape gradually as industrialists and engineers figured out how to make things. The result is that we put billions of pounds of toxic materials in the air, water and soil every year and generate gigantic amounts of waste. If our goal is to destroy the world—to produce global warming and toxicity and endocrine disruption—we’re doing great. But if the goal isn’t global warming, what is? I want to crank the wheel of industry in a different direction to produce a world of abundance and good design—a delightful, safe world that our children can play in.
At one point he referred to a solar-heated project he designed when he was still a Yale undergraduate — a project he designed and built in Ireland. “That should give you an idea of my ambitions,” he said, then added darkly, “there is no sun in Ireland.”
At my table, various introductions were made and a guy dressed in head-to-toe denim — making a certain, pointed statement in a room of men and women in suits and gowns — noted with widened eyes that one woman at our table was quite pregnant…and there was a glass of red wine near her plate. When they introduced themselves and shook hands, he bypassed the pleasantries and lit right into her, trying for a tone of ‘amusement’ that was anything but: “Are you drinking wine?”
She was looking tired and uncomfortable to begin with, and I could see the flash of irritation on her face as she debated being Polite and then realized she didn’t have the energy. “Yes,” she said, in that same amused-but-not-really-amused tone of voice, “I’m drinking lots and lots of wine.”
To soothe things over, the woman sitting to her left brightly mentioned that when she was pregnant, she drank wine now and then, and both her children turned out very healthy and her son, well, he’s four and a genius, so…
The pregnant woman sipped her glass of diet Coke — the glass of red belonged to the person next to her — and said, pleasantly and loudly, “Actually, I’m not drinking wine. I was just irritated by the question.”
Her husband chuckled.
The guy in denim sat there and looked self-righteous* and they didn’t exchange any words or probably any eye contact for the rest of the dinner.
There were many people at my table — and the event in general — from the Bay Area, but the two women to my right were Los Angeles creatures through and through. They had the expensively worked-on look of aging model/actress types, but turned out to be bright conversationalists, and I enjoyed talking with them. They weren’t ex-actresses after all; one was a publicist, the other one had taken a biology degree at UCLA, decided against medical school at the last minute (“I come from a family of doctors, so it was always the assumed, expected thing”), and now had her own talent agency.
I was fascinated by her face. It was a beautiful face, but as she was talking parts of it just didn’t seem to…move, and her beestung lips seemed oddly stitched on. It was interesting to compare her to Julie Delphy when the actress came onstage to present McDonough’s award, and her face appeared on the huge screen right over our table so everyone in the room could see her. I was struck by the natural beauty of Julie, all the more so because she was allowing herself to actually mature.
It’s easy for me to say now, as a thirty-three year old who gets mistaken for younger, but man. I hope that I, too, can resist the evil Botox. (I know that some women in their twenties get the stuff on a regular basis already, so I’m doing fine so far.)
I asked the publicist, “So who’s your absolute dream client?”
“I already have him.” She gave an airy smile. “George Clooney. I wouldn’t want to date him, but in all other ways he’s an absolute dream.”
Clooney just rules this town. It’s amazing.
I said, “Who’s your nightmare client?”
She laughed. “Everybody else.”
*He must have been from the Bay Area. I love the Bay Area — I used to live there — but God, I became familiar with that type.