All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
Lemme just start off by saying, I am not a fan of Beverly Hills. In fact, going west of La Brea freaks me out & I scuttle back to the east side as quickly as I can on the rare occasions I am forced to cross the great divide. But, the other day, my good friend, Thomas Kelly (best selling author – see here & successful television writer & producer of Blue Bloods – see here), happened to be in town & was staying at the Four Seasons. In Beverly Hills. He offered to buy me dinner at the modern Italian restaurant there if I dared come that far west. Pissing & moaning, I agreed. Ungrateful wench that I am.
The restaurant is huge & has an enormous bar area & a lovely outdoor area – pictured above. That night, Some Like It Hot was screening silently behind the fountain.
The menu is pretty interesting & reflects very few of your average Italian selections.
The most fascinating thing to me on the menu is a thing called CRUDO – or Italian sashimi. We tried two. The Tonno – for $12
and the Kampachi – also $12.
Tom preferred the former – myself the latter. While we discussed this – I noticed a man – my stalker – in the dining room. I couldn’t believe it. Every time I had a nice meal on the west side – this fucker was there. How did he know I’d be there? It was getting problematic. You may have heard of him. His name? Larry Flynt. Yes. Larry Flynt is stalking me.
It all began at the Beverly Hills hotel. I was there celebrating my friend’s birthday. Minding my own business. Then Larry rolled in. Took a place at the table next to ours – so close I could almost touch him. I tried to pretend I wasn’t sneaking peeks at him every few minutes but, I must confess, I was a tad starstruck! I admire this king of porn for his left-wing, political activism and I determined that I had to do something I had never done: approach the man & tell him I admire him. My friends all forbid me to bother him but as I consumed overpriced wine – I became infected with an overconfidence that was, in fact, ill-advised. As we sauntered through the dining room post-meal, I let my friends get ahead. I was gonna do this thing! My heart was in my throat as I approached Larry’s table. I tried to clear it – no no avail. “Excuse me, Mr. Flynt,” I croaked. “I am sorry to interrupt your meal but I just had to tell you…”
Blah blah blah. They all sat there politely while I delivered my tipsy & unrehearsed bullshit and once Larry generously said simply, “Thank you,” I took my leave of their presence. I felt like a retard but fuck it. He is the king of PORN, after all. Who the fuck is he to be the arbitrator of appropriate behavor? At least my vagina wasn’t showing.
Anyway, the next time I was on the west side – I was at the Newsroom Cafe. This was during the primaries in 2008. I was a huge Dennis Kucinich supporter. My dinner companion was late and, as I sat at the bar waiting for her, I scanned the room, idly. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Who is that striking red head in the center of the room?” I looked around the room some more but my eyes kept coming back to her. It was as if someone had shone a light directly upon her – like a statue in a gallery. “Holy smoke! That is Mrs. Kucinich!!!” I realized. I immediately looked to her companion and – you guessed it! It was Dennis Kucinich!!!! I had to approach him. I had to tell him I admired him & supported his campaign & that I would volunteer. Sure, my Larry Flynt contact had been awkward & regrettable – but this was Dennis Kucinich. In campaign mode. It was his JOB to be harassed by the people. Why couldn’t I be one of them? I stood up as I built my nerve for the approach & it was then that I noticed there was a third person at the table. Yeah – a third person. Larry fucking Flynt! WTF was Larry Flynt doing there? I couldn’t approach Dennis Kucinich and say, “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t usually do this…” because Larry Flynt was sitting right there. Larry Flynt sitting there & just waiting to call bullshit on me! “Don’t buy her shit, Dennis, ” Larry might say. “She ruined my dinner just last month at the Polo Lounge.”
As I sat back down, thinking better of my plan, I noticed 3 or 4 Men in Black types sitting around the room at tables alone. Drinking water. Security. Of course Dennis Kucinich has security. He is a friggin’ presidential candidate! I envisioned my shy approach to Dennis’ table & the resulting sudden counter attack or some incredibly bone crushing Diamond Dallas Page smack down….an encounter far less friendly than this one:
I sipped my wine & threw stink-eye at Farry Flynt – even though he’d just saved me from a likely assault at best – a felony conviction at worst. Who knows what they do to people that make sudden moves near political candidates? Who knows how many unsuspecting constituents have been disappeared?
As it turned out – the security was there with Larry Flynt. Curious. I know – because they led him out and did not return. Once my stalker left – I did – ultimately – approach a very accommodating Dennis Kucinich but the only campaign workers they wanted were door to door canvassers and I’d rather eat fresh cat shit (my equivalent to ending up with a Republican president? Hmmmm…) than go door to door peddling anything – even for an hour.
And now, here he was again – at the modern Italian sushi restaurant at the Four Seasons! Larry Flynt. My arch nemesis. I went to point him out to Tom but Tom was engaged in selecting overpriced wine for our pleasure & I didn’t want to impede that. I turned back to Larry. He was gone! Just like that. The ninja bastard. Well played, Flynt. Well played. But there will be other opportunities & will not be caught again so flat footed.
Next on the culinary adventure was the kale salad thingy.
The Culina Caesar. It was little more than an overdressed Caesar salad lightly peppered with bit of kale but the olives in it were high end and it was pretty good, indeed! Just don’t expect anything healthy, light or any experience of kale.
Next – the squash blossoms (didn’t photograph well) and the octopus.
Again – these were heavier than I expected – given the whole sashimi theme here but the zucchini blossoms were yummy. The octopus – which I experienced as squid (in the dim lighting) seemed more traditional in flavor & texture to what you would get at a nice Italian restaurant. I wasn’t a huge fan. Then – in the sober light of day the next day – I saw the photos. Are these guys intact baby octopuses (octopi?)?
After looking at these images – I will never order a baby octopus ANYTHING. Ew. I feel terrible!
At one point – I looked out the window beside me – past my Prosecco – and who (whom? Let’s not get too anal here, OK?) did I see walking outside about to take a table?
Another of my idols – Chris Matthews. I did NOT photograph Chris Matthews at Culina.
Watch Chris Matthews give a right-wing radio ignoramus the most brutal televised beating I have ever seen:
Click that link & watch. So satisfying.
Tom Kelly must have been feeling the wine, too, because when I pointed out the arrival of Chris Matthews – he suggested I go introduce myself. Despite the support in making an ass of myself from Tom & despite the fact that Larry Flynt was nowhere to be seen – I elected to remain seated – firmly atop my dignity.
Oh no! Then MORE food came! Tom had a veal chop (and no, I didn’t chide him – though I thought things) & I had the branzino. I love branzino – and I miss chicken piccata – a lot. It seemed a good choice. And it WAS!
Here is the Flintstone-sized veal chop:
You will be surprised to know – Tom could not eat all that veal and I put my moralizing aside to bring the balance home to my dogs. They were pleased.
As we pondered dessert – because, after all, we had only eaten 7 courses between us & two bottles of wine & spent about half the GDP – we noticed an elderly woman at a table nearby – all by herself. She had finished eating but we heard her order a Lemoncello. We invited her to join us. And she did!
Ah, what can I say about Ms. Lillian, born 1928, married twice, 5 daughters, once-attorney now independent real estate agent? She was delightful! We all sipped after dinner drinks & shared a combination of gelato flavors & various life stories until it was past midnight & time to go. Tom asked for the check and, it appears, was able to pay it without having to take out a line of credit on his home. Whew! And – thank you, Tom! That was one DECADENT meal!
As I fetched a cab & invited Ms. Lillian to share it – Chris Matthews approached. Fine. He didn’t approach me – but he entered the foyer. Tom, punk that he is, approached Chris Matthews to tell him what a huge fan I was of Hardball (Chris’ show on MSNBC). I am a fan. It is true. Chris good-naturedly shook my hand as I sheepishly kicked at imaginary dirt. Chris’s trademark blonde hair was disheveled – with an Alfafa spike in the back – and that seemed to me to be very charming.
With that – I got into my cab with Lillian, dropped her off two blocks away – and began my final adventure of the night – my ride home with my Chinese cab driver with English so broken – he was like a racist & almost impossible to understand cartoon.
I never got his name but I know he moved from mainland China to study chemistry. A long time ago but he refused to say when. “I give you enough clues!” he kept insisting. He said something about the war – and for reasons I cannot remember – I am sure he meant WWII but I don’t remember what it signified. I believe he went to school in Chicago. Became a chemical engineer. Retired. Became a taxi driver because, while it didn’t pay very well, it allowed him to work alone – the way he prefers. He doesn’t like people & dealing with their idiosyncrasies, it seems.
He then began to fill me in on old movie stars (something I am unusually informed about already) and the history of some of the landmarks we passed – like the El Royale. He was impressed that I knew some things about that building which he did not. He also told me that actors need to be good at dealing with the idiosyncrasies of others. He used the word idiosyncrasies about 10 times during the ride which was hilarious because it highlighted his accent to scandalous proportions. If I spelled stuff phonetically here – it could be my Mukaka Moment and I don’t want to come off like the racist arse George Allen did (is). Also – idiosyncrasies isn’t a word that comes up every day. It is funny hearing it so much & blended into sentences void of appropriate prepositions. Only big words for taxi guy. No small words like in or to. But – that is not important. Taxi guy told me certain actors were exceptionally talented at this – dealing with idiosyncrasies – actors like (and I quote) – Robin Williams, John Travolta & Christian Slater. They, it seems, have natural talents NOT artificial talents. I never had a chance to get that explained. His favorite movie is a Bruce Lee film he has on video cassette but he also enjoys films from the forties & fifties. Sabrina, for example.
As we pulled up to my door, taxi man had one more thing to share. “You know,” he said, “I asked John Travolta if he ever had affair with Olivia Newton John – from the film Grease. He said he did. But very brief. Very brief! Bad timing.”
“Really?” I asked, impressed.
“Yes, bad timing,” he repeated and shook his head solemnly.
“What do I owe you?”
Miraculously – the taxi from Beverly Hills to Hollywood was only $25. Incredible! I handed him thirty.”
“Oh! Thank you. That very generous. Healthy tip.”
“You’re welcome,” I said and, unsure how to make my exit, I added, “That’s too bad about John Travolta & Olivia Newton John.”
“Yes, yes. Bad timing.”
And while he pondered the missed opportunity those two actors shared in the seventies – I slipped out of the cab & into my front door.