the actress and the pop star

The actress and the pop star had yet to meet in the flesh. She was with me that night and he was elsewhere: different club, different state of mind. I’ll come find you, he IM’d her, except hours passed and he went home instead, pleading ‘social meltdown’. She expressed misgivings. She’s a smart woman, going into this with eyes wide open, but the one thing she did not want was someone who turned out…erratic.

A mutual friend introduced them. The pop star is British but lives in LA and has done so for several years. He recently came off a tour and some less-than-stellar dating experiences. He is tired. But the friend thought they’d be a good match. He’s funny, she’s funny (as well as deadly gorgeous). “But a lot of these guys don’t want a funny woman,” she has pointed out to me, more than once. “They see it as competition.” This doesn’t seem the case with him.

She came with me to a dinner party in the hills above Beverly Hills. She’d invited the pop star along but he had observed quite astutely that dinner parties are hideous things. Afterwards my husband and I drove her along lush winding streets to the pop star’s house (her own car was unavailable due to Friday night hijinks). He came out to meet us. I saw him through the car window and his image was so familiar that I reflexively waved hello as if we knew each other.

He was smaller than expected. Famous people often are. He was well-dressed and poised and charming, but his sleeves didn’t hide his tattoos (later, he would show me the tattoos on his belly, the first ones he ever got and, he added, the only ones that don’t actually mean anything) and of course there’s the face. He has the face of a fighter, who’s lived hard and wild and taken some blows in return. He makes Justin Timberlake a soft suburban child in comparison. He does not seem like someone who grew up in — or near — the kind of neighborhood he currently occupies, but wears it now with the practiced ease of the self-made, reinvented man.

I was surprised to learn that he lives in my city — I’ve been listening to his music for years, ever since I picked up one of his CDs in a music store in Heathrow between flights. He always seemed so cheekily, defiantly British it felt unnatural to imagine him anywhere else. But LA draws his kind. He’s a member of a tribe I’m becoming more familiar with: fiercely driven, iconoclastic, gifted individuals who by the time they hit their early thirties have achieved a lifetime’s worth. Once the smoke clears and the noise settles down and they can finally hear themselves think, they look around and tally up and say, Okay. That’s done. So what now?

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