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Friday night I did not quite get to a party at the Playboy Mansion. Friends of mine — Ryan and Joanna — were down from San Francisco for the weekend and suggested going. Rather, Ryan suggested going. Joanna and I agreed with some reservations, not out of any particular feminist principles so much as aesthetic ones. We feared the cheese factor.

And so it came to pass that I found myself in a borrowed, scanty silver racecar-girl jumpsuit and my own beloved boots. “I can’t believe I’m in this outfit going to this event,” I muttered in the car on the way there. “This is not how I see myself. I mean, this is not how I see myself seeing myself.”

“The truth hurts,” Ryan said.

“Yes,” I agreed woefully. “Yes, it does.”

I’ve been to the Mansion once or twice before — it’s about a five minute drive from our own neighborhood. It’s often rented out for corporate events that don’t involve nakedness of any kind. I remember a thing a few years ago involving people dressed in ape costumes greeting your shuttle as it pulled into the drive, so I’m assuming it was connected to the premiere of the remake of Planet of the Apes.* My most vivid memory from that event was wandering around drinking a gin-and-tonic and feeling bored and cold. Although I did enjoy the apes.

Once we approached the Mansion, the car edging its way through parked cars and SUVs and a Hummer limousine, all of them discharging attractive costumed women and dismayingly tacky men, a security guard informed us we weren’t special enough to access the party that way. We had to drive all the way down to Century Plaza in order to get on the shuttle that would drive us all the way back to the Mansion. Since certain individuals within our party are used to buying tables at clubs and the VIP treatment that comes along with this — the gods forbid we ever stand in an actual line at least for any longer than the minutes it takes someone to come out and greet us and personally escort us into the place — this was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm. Ryan pondered the nature of the tickets he’d purchased and grumbled, “Why didn’t someone try to upsell me? They could have made a lot of money off me!”

And so we found ourselves in Century City**, wandering an underground parking lot, trying to figure out where we were supposed to be.

Then we saw the line.

Hordes of mostly young to youngish people — who weren’t nearly as cute as the people seen walking up the road to the private Mansion entrance — lined a back wall, a thick knotted rope of humans running up to the registration table. A ton more people milled around the table. Since our plan had been, as Joanna put it, “Get into the party, have a few drinks, look at the people, and leave”, we quickly realized that it would take us longer to wait in line for the shuttle bus, get into the shuttle bus and get to the actual party than the time we had planned to spend at the party itself.

Ryan inquired as to how much it would cost to buy a table, which was about the amount you’d expect, plus slightly more.

So we decided to cut our losses. Told the driver to take us back to my house, where I swapped my costume for a more respectable sweater-dress. Joanna changed as well, and Ryan took off his hat, mustache and pistols to become again, as he put it, “a guy in a suit”. We went on to the Hotel Bel Air— where Ryan and Joanna were staying — to drink caipirinhias and champagne in a wood-paneled bar with a fire in the fireplace and a man playing piano. Not such a bad plan B.

* Estella Warren, the blonde Chanel model who starred in Apes, is the only other person I know of in LA who hails from my hometown of Peterborough (Ontario, Canada). My homegirl!

**Century City was originally intended to be one of LA’s many ‘centers’. Located just west of Beverly Hills, it’s basically a couple of big sleek hotels, a sprawling office park and outdoor shopping mall. Like pretty much everywhere else in LA, including downtown — especially downtown — it is no longer referred to as a ‘center’ of any kind.


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