Misadventures in the (213)

Misadventures in the (213)

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by Dennis Hensley
     
 

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What Tales of the City did for San Francisco, Misadventures in the (213) does double for L.A. in this audacious, satirical tale of a struggling screenwriter, his media-whore best friend, and their circle of celebrity-seeking pals.

"(213)?" you'll likely ask.
Well, the area code, of course.

"Misadventures?"
Just the high jinks

Overview

What Tales of the City did for San Francisco, Misadventures in the (213) does double for L.A. in this audacious, satirical tale of a struggling screenwriter, his media-whore best friend, and their circle of celebrity-seeking pals.

"(213)?" you'll likely ask.
Well, the area code, of course.

"Misadventures?"
Just the high jinks underemployed Tinseltown wannabes are usually up to. Like making off with fish from Tina Louise's koi pond. Or harassing Alicia Silverstone with tales of watermelon-loving porn stars. Or auctioning off Andrew Shue's chicken wing and Heather Locklear's lip print for charity. You know.

Packed with Hollywood life lessons and more B-level celebs than you can shake a casting sheet at, Misadventures in the (213) is a brilliantly witty dagger straight through the heart of the L.A. entertainment machine.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this comic novel of Hollywood's outer circle, essentially a book-length version of Hensley's (lightly fictionalized?) gossip column for Detour magazine, the in-joke is more than a gesture it's a lifestyle. Celebrity-crazed Craig Clyborne has an edge over the other L.A. schemers and dreamers he hangs around with. His best friend is Dandy Rio, the sexually voracious, hilariously Machiavellian star of a new sitcom. The book's plot, which involves Craig's moving to Hollywood to peddle his script, is just a device from which to hang various sketches, mostly about Dandy scheming, alternately, to bed various stars (for example, Bill Maher, the host of Politically Incorrect) and to redeem her career, which, midway through the book, begins to bomb. Dandy is by far Hensley's most enjoyable creation: Craig's always-a-bridesmaid litany of disastrous dates (with a waiter, with the son of a game show host, with the star of a rock 'n' roll band) soon grows tiring. The novel's considerable gag sense and rapid-fire one-liners will be best appreciated by fanatics of TV trivia; others, especially those outside (213), may start to feel like intruders on an infernal party line.
Library Journal
This titular first-person escapade stars some Hollywood staples: a gay wannabe screenwriter and his pals, who include a busty nympho sitcom star, a still-struggling chunky actress, a randy studio flack, etc. These folks, like author Hensley, are singularly celebrity/brand-name obsessed, and this first novel is constantly amusing, smart-alecky, and bitchy. Of course, it's endless fluff, paper-thin, but it's also almost over before it all starts weighing a ton and sounding like what it is: Hensley's cobbled-together columns from Detour magazine. Not recommended.

--David Bartholomew, NYPL

Austin Bunn
Misadventures in the (213), the debut of Detour columnist Dennis Hensley, may be the first novel that really should have been a Web soap opera: It's woefully episodic, feverish for attention and utterly confused about just what makes the medium interesting in the first place. Since the medium we're talking about here is the bound, papyrus kind, it makes for rough going when the novel reads like shorthand for some other form -- the chatty coverage of a hyperactive B-movie. But the structural problems here are just the beginning. Hensley's opus is so shallow you could wade in it without getting wet.

Hensley's alter ego is Craig Clybourn, a soi-disant "Hollywood clichT: the new kid on the cul-de-sac with a script to schmoose." Craig, an ex-cruise ship worker, arrives in L.A. to bang out revisions of his screenplay "Deck Games," fumble his way out of the closet and support the never-ending sexcapades of his friends Dandy (a sitcom star), nber-publicist Miles and his earnest pal Ulysses (who seems to be commuting over from another sensibility entirely).

Hensley is the kind of writer whose characters "devour the new issue of Movieline," compete to be on "Circus of the Stars" and seem unable to process the world without referring to the Olsen twins, Adrian Zmed, Charo or the rest of the human patio furniture of Los Angeles (the back cover provides a handy list of the book's "special guest stars"). Hensley even makes his rallying cry explicit: "Give me E! or Give me Death." Not surprisingly, AIDS, addiction, even River Phoenix's sidewalk martyrdom make no appearance in the book, save for one lethargic, attenuated suitor -- who turns out to be a malnourished vegan.

Hensley, it seems, was brought up on reading script treatments, but the failure's not entirely his fault. L.A.'s an easy target, and better writers like Bret Easton Ellis (OK, marginally better) have, like him, inadvertently created valentines. For all its flat depravity, "Less Than Zero" still came off as romanticized. Misadventures wants you to giggle along, and this is where the novel really chafes. In a typical passage, Hensley writes, "Claudia glares at Cliff, who's leaning on the chain-link fence like an overgrown Outsider looking on as an octet of spirit-pushers in bra tops spell out victory, which, for your information, is 842-8679 on the telephone keypad."

The jacket tries to connect Misadventures and Armistad Maupin's far more tender and touching Tales From the City, but the real precursor is Douglas Coupland -- and by comparison, the Canadian author is a Proust of pop-cult. I'm not a huge fan, but at least Coupland can be credited with some of the first and best integrations of contemporary media and fiction ("Generation X" and "Microserfs" come to mind). At least Coupland is listening. In Misadventures, the compulsive nattering of brand names, TV shows, bands, gum and guest stars are place holders for the work of description and observation. The props of Misadventures lead such brief half-lives that it'll be a wonder if two years from now anyone will get the expired references. Salon July 14, 1998

Paper
Dizzyingly fast-paced...a pop-culture panacea.
Instinct
This summer's funniest read.
Kirkus Reviews
Vacuous, gossipy-gay, MTV-voiced debut novel meant for readers hip to all the sub-level film-folk and soap actors mentioned in Premiere and Entertainment Weekly and on Hard Copy and Entertainment Tonight, by a columnist for Detour magazine. Craig Clybourn, an assistant director for Empress Cruise Lines, gives up his job and heads for Hollywood, summoned there by his friend and old college chum Dandy Rio, who left her role on the Lifestream soap for her own sitcom, That's Just Dandy. Dandy depends on Craig, although she goes through men as if attacking stalks of bananas. So he squats in ground-floor digs that sport a stagnant swimming pool while he writes his first script, Deck Games, about his old cruise line. During her lonelier hours, Dandy has Craig escort her about. To pay the rent, meanwhile, Craig temps, often at Jupiter Studios, where he also photocopies his screenplay at the nod of his fag-hag boss, Carolyn. When he auditions for the game show Razzle, Bink Darlington, the show's dashing hetero host, asks Craig to date his gay song-and-dance-man son, Damon, who plays the live Aladdin for Disney's stage show, and the story proceeds to get stuck in dense L.A. lifestyle reportage: arch chat, chat, chat. Craig has no luck selling Deck Games until he's in a car accident with famed Dandy, who gets a broken leg and tons of get-well cards from Molly Ringwald, Ben Vereen, Brooke Shields, and Josephine Taylor Thomas. For his part, Craig gets script inquiries and at last a sale. He's in heaven until the first day of shooting, when he discovers that all his dialogue has been translated into Italian: Deck Games will be an Italian movie, never to be seen here. Caviare for those whoslurp up glitterprint. Nathanael West it's not. (Author tour)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688171285
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/28/1999
Series:
Harper Perennial
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.69(d)

Read an Excerpt

My biggest fear has always been that if my life were to pass before my eyes during a moment of life-threatening duress, it would be rated PG. Now that it's happening-with a furious sixtyish redhead in a floral jumpsuit named Loretta aiming a shotgun at my palpitating chest-I decide I might as well go for a PG-13 and swear a little.

"Oh fuck," I gasp.

"It's all your fault!" Loretta hisses. "And now you're going to pay." A part of me always knew this day might come. I've been an assistant cruise director for Empress Cruise Lines for nearly five years and, as such, part of my job is to hand a loaded trapshooting shotgun to passengers who can't even control their own bladders. An accident seemed inevitable. But this is no accident. This woman wants me dead.

I catch the eye of my fellow assistant cruise director, Mitch, who gives me an I'm-going-for-help look, then disappears inside.

"What's my fault?" I stammer, trying to stall for time.

"Don't play dumb with me," Loretta growls, as she circles the gun around, causing everyone here on the Aloha Deck to do what might best be described as the opposite of the Wave. When she finishes, she returns the business end of the shotgun back to me. I watch in frozen horror as her wrinkled trigger finger starts to contract and I entertain my last hope: that after I'm gone, Valerie Bertinelli might be willing to cut her hair and play me in the TV movie.

"Prepare to die," Loretta says.

"No . . . no . . . no .. ." I cry.

"Well, then we also have nice tortellini."

I slam open my eyes to see the perplexed face of a redheaded woman, but this one's young and not nearly so unfoxy. And she's not wielding a gun.

"That's fine," Isay.

The flight attendant slides over my pasta dinner and moves on to the next row.

"Are you okay?" asks the blond housewife type sitting next to me. "I think you were having a nightmare."

"Yeah, I was," I respond, in regards to what in the last four months has become my version of a recurring Vietnam flashback. "But I'm fine."

"Are you from Phoenix?" she says, referring to our destination.

"No, but I went to college at Arizona State," I say between bites. I'm actually from a small town in northern Arizona called Holbrook. Though geographically qualified, Holbrook was left out of the song "Route 66," a fact that I've always resented. Perhaps there were just no kicks to be gotten there.

"Wow! I work at ASU," says the woman excitedly. "My name's Rhonda Whiting."

"Craig Clybourn," I say with a smile so forced that I might just as well be back on the Lido Deck emceeing a limbo contest to Buster Poindexter's "Hot Hot Hot."

After our dinner trays are cleared Rhonda decides she wants to show me pictures of her adorable spawn. I ooh and aah politely, then start digging in the seat pocket in front of me, hoping to find something to read or inject.

"What did you study at ASU?" she asks.

"Broadcasting," I say as unenthusiastically as whenever someone asked me that question at the time. It wasn't that I didn't have any interest in broadcasting. Quite the contrary. But at the time, planning for my future took a backseat to going to movies, hanging around with my friends from the theater department and playing bass in my roommate Ulysses's garage band.

"Where do you live?" Rhonda asks as I thumb through a left-behind copy of Star magazine I was lucky enough to find behind the barf bag.

"Phoenix now, I guess, but I'm moving to L.A.," I say before glancing down to the tabloid and noticing a familiar face. With this woman here, I nearly add.

There, under the headline "Would You Be Caught Dead in This Outfit?" is my best friend since college, Dandy Rio. Sporting plaid bell-bottoms, a crochet top that even on the page reeks of thrift store, and a big fuck-you smile, Dandy seems to be replying, "You're damn right I would."

I smile when I recall the day Dandy and I met back at ASU. It was at the first rehearsal for the theater department's spring '88 production of that old toe-tapper Anything Goes, in which Dandy and I were partnered together in the chorus. Looking like a brunette Ann-Margret circa Viva Las Vegas in black tights and a clingy fuchsia sweater, Dandy burst into the room with such panache that I could practically see the cartoon thought bubble that appeared over the threatened lead actress's head, which read, "Who does this bitch think she is?"

"Do my tits look big in this sweater?" was the first thing Dandy ever said to me.

"Do you want them to?" I replied.

"Of course," she answered.

After rehearsal, we went to 7-Eleven for a Slurpee and while we were checking out, Dandy picked up the Star, opened it to the "Would You Be Caught Dead" spread and said, without a trace of irony, "Someday, Craig, that's going to be me."

Since then, Dandy's been caught dead more times than I can count. "She's on my show," Rhonda says, imbedding a Lee Press-On nail into Dandy's forehead. "I can't stand her."

"Rhonda's show" must be Lifestream, the daytime drama that Dandy's been on for nearly six years doing double duty as twins Nola and Manohla Hughes. Dandy's big break came via Milt Greene, a smarmy New York agent whom Dandy endeared herself to on one of his annual talent scouting visits to ASU. Perhaps endeared is the wrong word. A better word might be, um, blackmailed, since Milt had nothing but malice for the would-be starlet until the moment when, in a last ditch attempt to get him to give Dandy's monologue a listen, we caught the Star Searcher banging some blond business major in the bathroom at Sky Harbor Airport. Dandy agreed that she wouldn't tell Milt's actress wife about the indiscretion if Milt would represent her in New York for six months. Five and half months later, Dandy landed the gig on Lifestream. The day after that, she changed agents.

The last time I saw Dandy was nearly four months ago. She and a handful of her photogenic cast mates had come on board the Regal Empress to shoot a few scenes and sign a few autographs as part of a special Lifestream Takes to the Ocean cruise. It was on the day she arrived, while strolling down a cobblestone street in Old San Juan, that Dandy announced she was leaving Lifestream to move to L.A. and star in her own sitcom.

"The network guys like it when I do funny stuff on the show," she chirped. "They want the sitcom to be ready in time to be a midseason replacement. You have to come out there with me, Craig." Dandy flashed me a mischievous smile, then shouted, "Cocksucker!" before disappearing into a gift shop.

It wasn't until a few seconds later that I realized Dandy wasn't calling into question my murky sexuality, but giving the appalled tourist couple videotaping a few feet away a nice audio souvenir. It was a pastime we'd indulge in repeatedly over the next ten days.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" wonders Rhonda.

"Not anymore," I shrug, as though the only girlfriend I ever had didn't dump me my sophomore year at ASU.

After two semesters of cohabitative bliss, would-be ballerina Michelle Lee (not the one from Knots Landing, the one from hell), ran off with the hirsute hoofer who played Rum Tum Tugger in the touring company of Cats. Hence Dandy's nickname for her, "The Catfucker."

"Single, huh?" says Rhonda. "I should introduce you to some of the gals I work with."

I beat a hasty retreat to the can and when I return, Rhonda's fast asleep and drooling onto the Star. She doesn't come to again until we're on the ground. As we file off the plane, she offers to give me a ride to my aunt's house in Tempe, in lieu of the Supershuttle I had originally planned to take.

"I may not need a ride after all," I say delightedly, as we clear the gate and I notice a sign poking up from the awaiting crowd that reads VANILLA ICE.

"What are you doing here?" I say to the bearer of the sign.

"I wanted to make sure you didn't chicken out about coming to L.A.," says Dandy, before slapping me on the forehead with the sign and giving me a hug.

We're about to make our way to baggage claim when I notice Rhonda shuffling by with her brood. Recalling my row partner's distaste for the two-dimensional Dandy, I'm curious to see how she'll react to her in 3-D.

"Rhonda," I call. "I want you to meet my best friend."

"Oh my God," she says, dumping her two-year-old onto the ground. "I watch your show every day."

I smile as Dandy scrawls Rhonda an autograph, knowing that she's recently taken to writing, "If you don't love me, I'm sorry," a salutation she ripped off from the porn star Savannah, confident (perhaps erroneously) that the pair have no fans in common.

While we wait for my bags to tumble out, Dandy grabs the Star from my carry-on and regards the cover photo of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee walking through an airport and grimacing.

"It looks like she just farted and he's smelling it," I observe.

"Smelt it," Dandy says flicking her middle finger at Tommy. "Dealt it," she adds, flicking Pam.

Copyright ) 1998 by Dennis Hensley

Meet the Author

Dennis Hensley is a writer, journalist, and sometime friend to the stars. For two and a half years, he wrote the column "Misadventures in the (213)" under the pseudonym Craig Clybourn for Detour magazine. He is also a regular celebrity profiler for Detour and has contributed articles and profiles to Cosmopolitan, Out, and Movieline. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Misadventures in the (213) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book made me laugh out loud. There were so many different characters with their own dysfunctions. I could relate to a piece of every character. There was so much going on, but I never lost interest. I read the book rather quickly because I wanted to see what bizarre adventure was going to occur next. If you are in the mood for something off the wall and hilarious, read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was absolutely fabulous! I loved it from beginning to end and recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admit your not supposed to be attracted to a book by its cover. But its attractive 60ish flower-petals-on-the-eyelashes look got me to wanting to open the cover and read the first few thin papers of the story. I picked it up, looked through the first page and broke into giggles in the middle of Barnes and Nobles. I got addicted to the wording and the comparisons I saw in it. I sure hope that Dennis comes out with some more novels like this... Or even a sequal. While buying the book the lady who checked me out said it was a marvelous book which made me look forward to reading it even the more. Dennis has a certain stereotypical way of making his charactors. But the way he explains it is amazing.The constant reminiscents of having charactor after charactor head to Japan was season to the story. The novel was brilliant and certainly something I will find my self involved in reading once more. Craig Clyborn has a wicked sense of humor that astonishes me even though he is a fantasy charactor, or maybe he is real... At least to the revelous Dennis Hensley. I took a special noticement to Claudia.. Craig's good friend. The way her and Dandy would lash it out in two minute intervals was a charming addition to the book. Its sort of a manual to being a homosexual in Los Angelous, or any human in Los Angelous with a perpetually circling job of low pay, a good sense of humor and a few comedic friends. I believe that is us all... Excluding the simple chance of homosexuality. But in my conclusion, Misadventures would certainly be an agreeable book to take to L.A. with you in your movement there... I know I certainly would. Just read the book.