She has a fantasy about a renown actor/writer. Isn’t Hollywood where dreams come true? 2,361 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
The first time Lolo Liebowitz did not meet Steve Martin was at the Rite-Aid in Beverly Hills. She had walked over there from her office where she spent her days trying to get jobs for screenwriters. At The Embark Agency, she had a lowly occupation filling writing assignments and covering studios. She was a junior agent, a woman like almost all the other junior agents, usually unappreciated like everyone there except the triumvirate at the top of the tenpercentery.
Embark might be responsible for finding jobs for the most famous actors in the world, the most talented directors, and even some original writers — but it was, at its crux, an employment agency. As employment agencies went, it was high powered and high pressured. One of Lolo’s senior colleagues, Tip Gill, had just called Lolo to berate her for getting the rewrite of Balustrade for Sophie Linden instead of his client Gitta Prentice. Tip explained there is no ‘I’ in team at Embark. But Gitta’s spec script was an action thriller about sadists, while the Disney assignment was a rom-com between canaries.
“Let’s face it, she wasn’t really right for it,” Lolo told Tip.
“Why are you being so defensive?” Tip accused her.
Lolo soon discovered there was no way she could keep from being attacked almost daily in her job. The days of the glamorous Hollywood agent may have been just as rough, but at least the occasional bowl of cocaine sitting on a coffee table in the office helped smooth them out. This constant assault was hard on Lolo’s body and soul. She hadn’t had a date or a decent bowel movement in weeks. So she set off for Rite-Aid that night to buy a bottle of Metamucil.
When Lolo arrived at the drugstore, she looked to see if there was anyone she knew lurking around. This Rite Aid was destination central for some of the unhappiest Embark employees who came there to wander the store in search of glue to sniff, or something with alcohol to drink, that would make them forget they could never please everyone. Lolo stood before the wall of antacids and stomach remedies. There were pills to make her poop, pills to make her poop softer, and pills to keep her from pooping too much. Lolo didn’t want to be caught carrying any pills for pooping, period. It would be like wearing a sign that said people were literally scaring the shit into her. Instead, she returned the Metamucil to the shelf and picked up a Dove dark chocolate bar instead because candy had become her drug of choice.
When she stepped into the checkout line, there he was: Steve Martin, illuminated in the moonlight streaming through the Rite-Aid’s front windows. He was paler than she’d thought. Lolo wanted to know what Steve Martin was buying at Rite Aid in his little red shopping basket. He had the very same bottle of Metamucil that she had returned. But, inspired by Steve Martin’s intestinal fortitude, she returned to get what she’d come there for.
Lolo’s friend Giggle was dating a director who was supposedly “best friends” with Steve Martin. Giggle and Lola were drinking fifteen dollar iced coffees on Beverly Drive when Giggle said, “Steve Martin came on our last date.”
“You think you could fix us up?” Lolo asked.
“Fix who up?” Giggle said, chewing on her straw.
“Me. Me and Steve Martin.”
“He’s married again. Even has a kid. Lolo, you’re living in a fantasy world.”
But was she? When Lolo was sixteen, she and her girlfriends went to see Steve Martin at Symphony Hall in Boston. Their seats were in the rafters, and Lolo was stuck behind a pole, so she had to keep scooching around it to get a clear view. It was Steve Martin’s ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘Arrow Through The Head’ period. He was playing to huge crowds, but he wasn’t a movie star yet. She thought him a genius. She was in love.
“This is Hollywood. I make my clients’ fantasies come true.” Lolo responded to Giggle.
“He’d never go for you.”
“I didn’t say that.” She hadn’t said it, but Lolo knew that’s what Giggle was thinking.
Lolo had concluded there were two types of women in Hollywood: those who trafficked in their looks, and those who didn’t. Mostly, Lolo was grateful to be ones who didn’t. It seemed like so much work to be ones who did. Mind you, much of the time those women were being lifted or liposuctioned or lasered. And they had to make the appointment and show up and pay exorbitantly. And they were religious about their regular workouts.
Giggle spent an average $1,500 a week grooming herself. Lolo knew this because they shared a gossipy accountant. Today, Giggle had two new small scabs on either side of each eye.
“What happened to you?” Lolo asked.
“The laser technician got a little too enthusiastic.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Only when I smile,” she said.
“Are they supposed to burn you?”
“No. But supposedly when the scabs come off, my crow’s feet will be gone.”
“You didn’t have crow’s feet.”
“You just didn’t notice them.”
Lolo figured that since Giggle was only twenty-seven and didn’t laugh as often as her nickname would suggest, the wrinkles couldn’t have needed to be burned away. Giggle was one of the other women, clearly. But maybe it would be worth it to become them if it meant Lolo could date Steve Martin.
“Are you sure Steve Martin wouldn’t go out with me? He’s so much older than I am. Doesn’t that give me a leg up?”
“A million girls younger than you would love to date him.”
“You keep harping on that. Anyway, he liked blondes before his current wife.”
“I could dye my hair.”
“You should just forget about it. If you want to date really successful men, you have to work harder at it. It’s a job in itself.”
“You mean I have to get thinner.”
“You need muscle definition.”
“My brain has muscle definition.”
“That doesn’t count,” Giggle said.
Lolo sucked down the rest of her double frappuccino. Then she stopped at Fred Segal to wander through the beautiful things she didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Mostly, she tried on the handbags. Because if they didn’t look good on her, her weight was probably not at fault. Lolo had moved on to shoes and was holding a Dries Van Noten pair in her hands – such delicious leather – when Steve Martin came into the store.
She tried to pretend that it wasn’t Steve Martin, that it was just some guy shopping in the store that she, too, happened to be in. She made a good show of it, oohing and ahhing over the Dries Van Notens collection as if they were worthy of a LACMA exhibition. Steve Martin was quite the collector and had written that book about the New York art world, Object Of Beauty. When Steve Martin’s novel, Shopgirl, came out, Lolo read it three times. She would have sold gloves in Neiman Marcus if only she could have been that saleswoman.
Giggle wrote a book. It was like My Fair Lady only the roles were reversed. The woman was a Brentwood divorcée, and the guy was a panhandler she’d met in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. The book party was held at super-agent Mindy Continental’s house in Bel Air, and Giggle invited Lolo. The first person Lolo saw when she stepped through the door was Steve Martin. He was strolling through the house, hands in pockets, looking at the art collection. Lolo wanted to walk up beside him and say, “Is that a Robert Henri? I really liked the book he wrote – The Art Spirit.” In her fantasy, Steve Martin would turn to her, and he would suddenly see her inner beauty as it flew, fully formed, from out of the top of her head like Athena coming out of Zeus.
Giggle had married a director, Norman Gotching. The wedding was an intimate affair for three hundred at Norman’s house in the Hollywood Hills. Lolo was seated on the pool which had been covered so there would be more space in the yard for tables. Norman’s waiter from Spago was sitting to Lolo’s right, and Norman’s brain surgeon was on her left. Lolo didn’t know why Norman needed a brain surgeon and didn’t think it polite to ask. Despite the brain surgeon, Lolo felt she had been relegated to the group labeled ‘our servants who are also our friends.’ The waiter didn’t have a car. Lolo knew this because she had seen him waiting at a bus stop on Sunset Boulevard. It didn’t make him a bad person, but it made Lolo understand where she now stood in Giggle’s life. Giggle was getting photographed on the red carpet, and Lolo was still slogging scripts at Embark.
Tip Gill was at the wedding but seated closer to the dance floor where Ricky Gervais was doing the tango with Helen Mirren. Eventually, the waiter from Spago asked Lolo to dance. It was a fast song so Lolo turned her body at a right angle to make it look as if she were dancing with Eddie Murphy.
When Lolo and Tip ran into each other in the line to the bar, Tip looked over with a what are you doing here? Tip was talking to Steve Martin as they both waited for drinks at the bar. That was the difference between Lolo and Tip; he wasn’t afraid to approach Steve Martin. Tip would slither all over this party swallowing prey whole. Lolo snuck up behind Steve Martin at the bar, but she didn’t have the nerve to start a conversation with him. When he finally turned and looked at her, she cast her eyes down as if this pale specter of a man was giving off more klieg light than she could bear.
Lolo had a meeting with a client at the Peninsula Hotel. They were sitting on a banquette in the lounge when Lola saw a man who was so pale that he almost blended into the beige chair he was sitting on. She stared, wondering how many times it was actually possible to be in the same room with Steve Martin without ever meeting him. She stared until the energy of her gaze struck him between the eyes, and he was forced to look back. She looked away.
“What’s the matter?” Lolo’s client interrupted her trance.
“Steve Martin is staring at me,” Lolo said.
The client looked across the room. “I don’t think that’s Steve Martin.”
“It is. It definitely is. I’d know Steve Martin anywhere.”
The last time Lolo did not meet Steve Martin, she was at a cocktail party he was hosting. It was held at Kippy Catz’s mansion on Mount Olympus. The invitation had been from Kippy Catz, E.L. James, and Steve Martin. It was a party for Giggle’s second novel. Giggle must have forgotten to ask Lolo but Kippy hadn’t. Lolo didn’t see much of Giggle anymore. Her star had risen and Lolo’s — well, she didn’t really have a star.
Lolo was determined to meet Steve Martin this time. She drove up to Kippy’s house and gave her car to the valet. And, not for the first time, Lolo wished that she wasn’t arriving alone.
Though some might think that parties full of celebrities would be non-stop thrills, Lolo found them excruciating. Shyness and reserve were not positive traits in an agent. Before she’d come to this party, Lolo had stood in front of her bathroom mirror and practiced. “Hello, Mr. Martin. Hello, Steve. Hello, Steve Martin. I really liked your book about the guy with OCD. You are my platonic ideal. I’d like to be you. Short of that, I’d like to sleep with you, and, if you ever get anther divorce, marry you.”
It was a balmy evening in Los Angeles. The air smelled of night blooming jasmine. Lolo had dyed her hair Marilyn Monroe blond and lost twenty pounds. She hobbled across the yard on stilettos. She had practiced walking these shoes, crisscrossing her small apartment, making divots in the hardwood floors.
Lolo congratulated Giggle who was the only person Lolo knew at this party other than Kippy, Tip, and a couple of other Embark colleagues. There were the celebrities, of course. But no Steve Martin. Lolo checked throughout the backyard and inside the house. One host, E.L. James, was holding court in the living room. Another host, Kippy, was conspicuous in his Hawaiian shirt. But no Steve Martin. Could it be that, because of his pallor, he had simply disappeared into the white decor?
Lolo couldn’t help herself; she just had to ask. “Hey Tip, I know that Steve Martin is one of the hosts of this party. Is he here?”
“He’s here, but I don’t know why it matters to you,” Tip said.
“I just want to meet him,” Lolo said.
Tif stepped back and looked at Lolo, seeming to see her for the first time again. “You look different,” Tip said.
“I lost a few pounds.”
“And dyed your hair.”
“Just lightened it up a little.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in heels.”
“I do wear them – but not to work.”
Lolo had never really looked at Tip. For one thing, he usually scared her shitless. He was diminutive but well-proportioned with a bantam rooster physique. Some men led with their chins. Tip led with his chest. The huge area he took up was more psychic than physical.
Just then he removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes and asked, "You want to get out of here and go to Craig’s for dinner, just the two of us? I’m single again.”
Lolo took the party invitation out of her clutch and looked at it once more. Yes, Steve Martin officially had invited her.
And then suddenly, there he was. Sitting alone under a lemon tree in a white suit, with his white skin, and white hair. She could have stepped across the lawn and touched him, But her feet were killing her, and now the distance was too far.
This short story first posted here on December 15, 2015.
21 comments on “The Elusive One”
New Year’s Eve on the horizon, thinking of Lola and Tip – maybe they’re snuggled at Tahoe for the holidays…the band strikes up Auld Lang Syne when Lola sees him coming across the crowded ballroom, heading for her, his white hair glowing like a halo…. Ok, Laurie, let’s go. Jump into 2016 with more from Lola. Hurry up!
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!
LH –a great story. You must go on…..I have to know more.
funny, engaging. I love Lolo’s realistic approach to her ‘fantastic’ goal. But is it so fantastic, really? Nice plot twist with Tip’s sudden show of lust for her. Tipped me off that we’re now dealing with a "hot" Lolo! I can’t wait to read the rest; good job!
The Elusive One kept me interested for the big meeting. I have to remember to wear comfortable shoes, just in case. Good writing. Thanks for the trip.
So very you, dear Laurie.
Great story. Some angst, and lots of humor, about a bright, slightly delusional agent working the political terrain of Hollywood power and celebrity. It reminded me of those power dinners and parties high in the hills, looking down on all that tinsel shimmering in the night and believing it was within my reach. Great read.
Lolo couldn’t be any more delighted by the comments and both she and Laurie thank you. You’ve cheered them both tremendously. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond.
A great amusing Hollywood story. It made me feel for Lolo. I know there are those characters a plenty in tinsel town.
This was hilarious! And I loved that Giggles laughed much less than her nickname implied, and spent $1500 on grooming. I hope someone forwards this to Steve Martin…
Steve Martin should be so lucky to have you stalk him. I enjoyed your writing and am now going to buy your novel!
That’s the sweetest thing anyone ever said to Lolo.
Great, funny story. Stevie is white and he has that crooked smile… Thanks, Laurie. Keep them coming.
"She hadn’t had a date or a decent bowel movement in weeks." Why has no other writer ever been honest about — or perhaps even perceived — this connection? Brilliance! But that’s just one of the snazzy, artful lines this story is so rich in. It’s the shape of the story that really hurts our hearts. Beautiful, sly, sad and so Chekhov-on-Sunset funny…
Love the humor, love the pathos. A story that is sure to resonate with anyone in "the biz" who has a minute amount of power – just not enough to matter. Great story!
Fabulous opening line. I love the way the story rockets along, love the humor, the name dropping, the Hollywood insider stuff. (Stars shop at Rite-Aid!) I am rooting for Lola to get her man.
I can’t wait to see them meet. Or have him recognize her and…? When is the next episode?
Love this story. That moment when your heels hurt too much to meet the elusive man of your dreams…a true Hollywood moment.
I love this story! It’s very funny. A great peek into Hollywood at the mid-level- -the level that actually keeps the industry chugging along. Lolo is clever, smart and heartbreaking all at the same time. The ever-shifting alliances, friendships and obsessions that mark this town are dead-on. More please.
Steve Martin started out as a magician, maybe he can materialize on Nikki’s website, because, swear to you, him writing for The New Yorker just makes John Cheever’s ghost angry… (Where would we be without extracurricular fiction reading for the holidays??)
Awww, take your shoes off and walk across the lawn with your toes throbbing in the cool grass. By the time you get to him he’s quite clear that you could have arrived barefoot and he would love you no less. Loved your story, and I have a thing for Steve Martin too, so come on, let me live vicariously through your lips and kiss that man already! Ha. Hope you continue this wonderful, ‘boing go the heartstrings’ story.