always say yes

Last night we had our Notorious Neighbor and a handful of other friends over for dinner — including A*., the actress from Studio 60 I met through her brief flirtation with N.N. — we ended up going to see the movie Borat together and have been steadily bonding since then. A. just booked a “small dark indie film” with Chris Klein and Fred Durst but she’s also trained in improv (and capable of many accents — she booked the first job she ever went out for, on Days of Our Lives some years ago, because she looked and spoke Italian). The only rule I know about improv is something I picked up from a Tina Fey interview — something about how you “never say no, always say yes” to whatever ridiculous premise gets thrown your way and however it develops. This appeals to me. The moment I knew in my bones we would be friends was when we were standing in a Mexican airfield waiting to board a private plane back to the States and, barely knowing each other, completely straight-faced, we carried on an increasingly absurd conversation about jets — how A. was thinking of trading in her pink paper jet, and I was helpfully advising her to explore the possibility of owning an invisible one, much like Wonder Woman’s. Last night before sitting down for dinner A. and I got into that groove again, riffing off her indie film, and the “always say yes” premise guided the conversation into a kind of weird and very dark direction, until a couple of people started looking at us askance: What in the hell are you guys talking about?

Wine flowed and things got rowdy — my husband E and N.N. became embroiled in this ongoing argument about which country has the second largest untapped oil reserves. At the end of the meal we were restless and energetic and the night was still young and other friends had a confirmed table at nightclub Les Deux, so why not go there? N.N. scoffed — “If we’re going to go to a club, we should go to Hyde,” he said.

“We don’t have a table there,” someone pointed out, plus it was much too last-minute to get one.

He spread his hands in the air and took on a look of mock self-importance that got us all laughing. “I can get us into Hyde. C’mon. Are you kidding?”

Hyde is a small, highly exclusive lounge off Sunset, constantly mentioned in the tabloids, not least because it’s where Britney Spears has recently been flashing her nether regions while climbing in and out of expensive cars. I’m used to the line of photographers edging the sidewalk outside the entrance — you see the paparazzi hovering around certain clubs and restaurants, mostly, but every now and then you’ll encounter them in the middle of the day, hanging around an office building in Beverly Hills, say, waiting for someone to come out of a botox or laser hair removal appointment — I’m also used to being completely ignored by them. But I’ve also never pulled up to a club with someone like Notorious Neighbor. When we got out of the car, instead of turning away in total indifference, several photographers swarmed in closer. I found myself looking directly into one camera, held by a dark-haired woman who didn’t say anything to any of us; I don’t know if she took the shot or not but the camera seemed trained on us — on me — for an unusually long moment and it was a bit like looking into the barrel of a gun. Until finally I looked away. “Oh no, it’s you,” someone yelled out playfully at N.N. as the velvet rope parted and we all went through.

Inside the club he seemed touched with a bit of self-loathing. Or maybe just a generalized loathing. “This place sucks. I hate these places. I hate how they make you feel so special at the door, like it’s some big important deal just to be in here.”

A. wanted to smoke, so she and I made our way to the back of the lounge and up a narrow twisting staircase onto the narrow porch, which runs alongside the building and overlooks the street. She fell into conversation with someone she knew, a director from her show, who was also talking to a short rather elfin-looking man with a familiar face and voice, who introduced himself as Chris. I don’t remember much about the conversation, only that it was easy and relaxed and I enjoyed it, enjoyed the banter. Afterwards, when Chris shook my hand and I said, “Lovely to meet you,” I thought I detected a slight change in his face, like he realized I’d recognized him after all. “Lovely to meet you too,” he said.

When we left the club, I said to E., “I had this completely random conversation with Chris Kattan out on the porch.”

I was expecting him to be a bit disdainful — E. has little patience with celebrity sightings — but instead he said, “Really?” Kattan was my favorite on SNL, and E. liked him too; and regardless of how he feels about celebrity culture, he has a high respect for comedy.

*Not Amanda Peet, who’s also brunette, stars on the show, and has a name that starts with A. In case you were wondering.


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