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.
About 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.
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
On Tuesday, July 14th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Dennis Hensley to discuss MISADVENTURES IN THE (213).
Moderator: Welcome, Dennis Hensley! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How are you doing tonight?
Dennis Hensley: I am doing great, having a great time.
Pac87@aol.com from New Jersey: How did you first get involved in writing your column?
Dennis Hensley: I pitched the idea to Detour when they were undergoing a redesign and they said yes. The fact that I had been writing for free for them for three years probably helped.
Martin from Summit, NJ: Do you think the national stereotype for Los Angeles stands true? That being a cold, snooty, "Who you know" city where cell phones are way too abundant and everyone has written a screenplay?
Dennis Hensley: I think that the clichés are there if you look for them, but I also think that there are wonderful, genuine, kind people that are there as well. But you have to choose that.
Lexi from New York City: How autobiographical would you consider these stories? Are they going to make a TV series out of your book like Candace Bushnell's "Sex in the City"? Are you a fan?
Dennis Hensley: Not everything that happens to Craig has happened to me, but the sensibility and his attitude about life, work, love, and sex are similar. In terms of some of the events depicted -- like, say, if there was an show I probably went there, took notes, and thought to myself, What ridiculous thing could happen to my characters here? As far as the TV show, there has been some interest, but nothing has been signed yet. I would love to be involved in something like that. And I haven't seen "Sex in the City." Please, I barely had sex in the city. But I hear it is cool, and I love Sarah Jessica Parker, though what was with that flyaway hair on "The Tonight Show" last night? Confusing, too giggly.
Andy from Hoboken, NJ: Good evening, Mr. Hensley. Were you a fan of the movie "Swingers"?
Dennis Hensley: Yes, very much. I got to interview Vince Vaughn, and he really sort of talks like that, and it made me feel really cool. He was saying something to me like, "You have crazies, bro. I can see it in your eyes." Meaning I was impulsive and unpredictable. I coasted on that for weeks. The scene where they talk about the (310) and (818), I was pulling out my hair because my column had already begun and I felt I had been scooped.
Niki from Niki_palek@yahoo.com: What are some of your favorite books? Who would you consider your literary influences?
Dennis Hensley: One of the books that I think is sooo funny is BLUE HEAVEN by Joe Keenan. I like Mark Leyner, David Sedaris...Carrie Fisher is actually a big influence. I got to interview her, and she gave me an expired Today spermicidal sponge as a souvenir. I still cherish it. Armistead Maupin, both as writer and in terms of his kindness and generosity. I got to interview him for Out and was impressed with how he balanced his artistic integrity with being a gentleman. I promised I would smoke my first joint with him, but that day is yet to come.
Craig from Sudbury, MA: Did you create Craig Clyborn's name with any desire to make it similar to Craig Kilborn?
Dennis Hensley: No, when I started, "The Daily Show" wasn't on yet. Craig Clyborn is actually my middle name and my street name. How incredibly unoriginal of me. Next thing you know I will be naming a porn star after my childhood...
Elise from Brooklyn, NY: I am curious to get your take on the nightlife in Los Angeles. Are you a fan?
Dennis Hensley: I don't go out that much, and I am afraid I am becoming more and more VH1 as the days go by. I do like a place called Club 80's, Wednesday nights at Cherry. I have recently rediscovered that it is quite cathartic to dance to the song "Footloose" with strangers. I also love when they play "Venus" by Bananarama.
FalconPac from Chicago: I loved your picture on the front of the book. How long did it take to do your makeup?
Dennis Hensley: There was somebody who did my makeup, and it took her about five to ten minutes. And I wish she could do my makeup every day. I wish I could travel with her. I saw her again when I was interviewing Robert Urich -- "Spenser for Hire," if you will. I like to think I took less time than him. But I could be wrong.
Johannes from Boston, MA: Have you ever performed some of the celebrity pranks described in your book? Any examples?
Dennis Hensley: I have not stolen fish from a koi pond, unfortunately. The story about trying to take pictures in the Sky Bar and being told not to because Bob Sagat was there didn't happen to me, but it happened to a friend of mine. Most of the other celebrity stuff is made up.
Dinah from Glen Ellen: Loved the book! Did you ever really have sex in a McDonald's playland like Craig?
Dennis Hensley: Not yet. But I have been scouting locations. I am looking for one with a good-size crawl ball. Employee sight lines are also very important. A partner would also be a nice touch -- although if push comes to shove, I will go at it alone. God bless you, Dinah. I am hoping it will start a copycat trend. Be the first, Dinah, then tell me about it.
Simon Weston from Tilbury: I read the book twice at the beach and loved it. I couldn't figure out the significance of the flowers around your eyes on the front of the book. Is that the setup for the sequel perhaps?
Dennis Hensley: First of all, that is not me on the front of the book. Some people think that it is me. Actually, I recently interviewed model Rebecca Romijn, and she called me later because her fiancé, John Stamos, was convinced it was me. And they had a $100 bet going. Unfortunately for him, he lost 100 bucks. As for the cover, my publisher thought it was eye-catching, and it has more to do with the spirit of the piece than anything literally in the book. I loved the cover when I first saw it, but my friends who had read the book didn't "get it." But we decided that the cover's job is to attract new readers. But I think that Dandy isn't above applying yellow petals above her eyes if she thinks it will get her attention or laid. Perhaps she'll get out the eyelash glue in part two.
Joe E. Lawrence from the 213: So what's the 411 on Dennis? Anybody on call waiting, anybody ringing your bell?
Dennis Hensley: I am single in the way that the sun comes up in the morning, although I am taking applications. Are you sure you are not Joey Lawrence from "Blossom"? I don't mind saying I own both his records and drop whatever I am doing when his video comes on the box. I have actually gotten a couple of potential suitors who wrote in based on an interview I had in Genre. They sent pictures, so I am currently having them investigated by my personal PI. See McDonald's Play Place question....
Missy Pierce from Los Angeles: What is your favorite episode in the book? Mine is anything with Dandy in it. My mother's name was Dandy!
Dennis Hensley: Does your mother sleep with anything that moves? Just kidding.... My favorite episode? I like when they try to steal the fish. I would love to see that realized visually, just Craig and Godfrey swiping around in a dirty pond as foreplay. I am also partial to the Melrose Place episode where Dandy gets herpes and blames it on Heather Locklear. My favorites are anything with Dandy, come to think of it. After the second or third column, that character took on a life of its own.
Richard from Gretna, LA: Where you scared prior to moving to Los Angeles?
Dennis Hensley: Yes. I grew up in a town with one stoplight, then moved to Phoenix for college, big city. But nothing like L.A. I first moved to L.A. to do a 12-week musical comedy workshop as a performer. I didn't know if I would stay, so I had that sort of escape hatch but then ended up adjusting and staying. Still, I think it takes new people about a year to feel like they don't watch to pitch themselves off the Hollywood sign.
Clyde R. from Valparaiso, IN: Hi, Dennis! I also read your interview with Celine Dion in Cosmo. Great stuff! In your book, the character's sexuality is very matter-of-fact, not necessarily a driving force behind the action. Do you think this is where contemporary fiction is heading?
Dennis Hensley: I hope that some contemporary fiction is. In terms of the gay content, I don't feel like enough of an expert or opinion shaper to let that drive my stories. And I am not that angry and I don't have a chip on my shoulder about any of that stuff, though I am glad to be out and hope and want to work to help gay-rights causes. I try not to have it define me too much, not because I am ashamed of it but because I want to be defined by something I am good at; mine and Craig's love/sex life isn't exactly the Zalman King movie ready to happen.
BigCougher from Evanston: I read in a review of your book that it was compared to TALES OF THE CITY. Is that intimidating?
Dennis Hensley: A little bit. I am a big fan of TALES, so I find it very complimentary. I think they are similar in that they both began in column form, and the cities that they take place in are major characters in and of themselves. And there are boys making out. But the tone and style are very different. Armistead, in our few meetings, has been so kind to me that I am thrilled to be mentioned in the same breath. I can only hope that my work will affect some people the way his has for so long.
Julie Wilder from Pitchville: Is it true that you were a magician on a cruise ship? I'm trying to get a job on a ship. Any suggestions?
Dennis Hensley: No, I wasn't a magician, I was a singer/dancer/assistant cruise director, though I did perform with a magician once who was this crazy, racist British guy. As far as the job, if you are not a performer, check out opportunities in the gift shop, photographers, casino staff, and whatever else might be staffed by Americans. If you are a performer, call the companies and find out when they are auditioning, then wear a lot of spandex and smile your butt off. You might want to brush up on the lyrics to "I Go to Rio" and learn the Macarena.
CheeseHed from Madison, WI: So what section of Barnes & Noble would have your book? Fiction? Autobiography? Self-help?
Dennis Hensley: Fiction. What I know about self-help I already joked about doing in a McDonald's PLay Place, and people don't need books about that. Also in the fiction section, I'd like to be next to BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY so that when people are browsing, they can make our books kiss. (Because she has a face on her cover, too.)
Mike from Marlboro, MA: Are there any novels with a similarly strong sense of place and time that were of particular inspiration in your writing of this one?
Dennis Hensley: The only thing I can think of is TALES, because from what I know of his process, he was really turning it out as it happened. I would go to events in L.A. and put my characters there, and a month later it would be out. So the nature of the magazine aspect of it made it seem more immediate than if I was just going to write a book.
Louise from Studio City, CA: What are you writing next?
Dennis Hensley: I am working on cowriting a play called "Off the Cuff" starring Felix Pier, who won awards in New York for the one-man show "Men on the Verge of a Hispanic Breakdown." I am also finishing up a CD as a singer-songwriter called "Afterthoughts" that I will be whoring on every street corner that is not already taken up by some hooker. Then there is talk of another book with my same publisher, but nothing has been signed yet.
Moderator: Thank you for joining us tonight, Dennis Hensley! It has certainly been fun, and we wish you the best of luck with your book. Before you go, any closing comments?
Dennis Hensley: I will be reading in Chicago, July 15th at Unabridged Bookstore at 7:30; then July 16th in Atlanta at Outright Books; July 24th at L.A.'s Different Light; and July 28th in San Francisco at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books. My web site is fun: www.misadventures.com. Thank you for reading -- it is so thrilling that it has gone beyond my friends and family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
This book was absolutely fabulous! I loved it from beginning to end and recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor.
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.