Read L.A.WOMAN Online

Authors: Eve Babitz



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At the time I wrote
L.A. Woman
, I thought that it was going to be the book that took over the world. Ya know, that got me everything. That everything in my life would finally go my way. It came out in 1982—the exact same time John Belushi was killing himself at the Chateau Marmont. I had been trying to get along with John Belushi for a long time. My agent sent me to New York to write about Belushi and get an in at
Saturday Night Live
, but I didn't know that at the time. He lived in a cement bunker and, you know, was famous for not being very much fun, except for his skits and everything. I tried to but could never get around him, because he was surrounded by guns and cement bunkers.

The person I ended up influencing instead was Steve Martin—who is also from the West Coast—so maybe I had more of a chance with him. I was the one who suggested that he wear that white suit. I got the idea from a 1906 Jacques-Henri Lartigue photo of a man in a white suit on the beach in Cannes titled “Cousin Caro.” Lartigue took these photos when he was ten years old. He started when he was seven and continued taking them throughout his life till he accrued 250,000 of them. The day after his wedding he took a photo of his wife on the toilet. It's titled “Bibi,” which was his nickname for the high-society Madeleine Messager, mother of his only child. She's smiling, because she knows it's for fun. So the guy's funny and that's what inspired Steve Martin, because he “got” Lartigue and became an immediate fan. Lartigue kept taking pictures of his family and they are now on sale at the Museum of Modern Art.

I told Steve Martin that everyone else was going for darkness, but darkness doesn't pay off. I was the one who convinced Steve with that picture. I tried to convince the Eagles to wear white suits, too, but their reaction was, “No way!” They would have looked good! Don Henley eventually wound up wearing white suits in the '80s. So did the guy who was married to Melanie Griffith. Don Johnson. Remember that
Miami Vice
thing? I mean everybody wore white suits. I finally got my way. Or they wore pale, incredible pastel colors. I totally got my way!

Let me tell you: when
L.A. Woman
came out, it had the perfect title. Then Jim Morrison stole the title for his album. But I
the “L.A.” woman! I had some help from my friend Diane Gardiner, who was a publicist. She publicized me nonstop. She just quoted all my funny remarks and they wound up in
Rolling Stone
and that's why people wanted to meet me. So Diane kind of made me famous. Her own remarks were even funnier, but she kept a lid on it. That's how all that happened. So, when
L.A. Woman
came out, I was just positive that I was going to take over the world.

I got reviewed in the
New York Times
. I thought they would “get” me, even if
I'm from Los Angeles. So with
L.A. Woman
I thought they were going to get me that time and just publish everything in the book, stick excerpts in the paper and it was going to be just great! But the critique of my book was titled “A Dull Girl.” I hate the
New York Times
! I thought it would be wonderful. P. J. O'Rourke didn't like me. I couldn't believe it—a bad review in the
! It went against all my principles. It was just awful. The truth is, they only get me when I haven't written a book in like ninety years, then they write a huge article about me and say how great I am in the Style section. But if I write a book they're like, “Oh, this is horrible!” Unless I write nonfiction. Then the
New York Times
likes me.

So, I told everybody I was going to kill myself. But I woke up rested, damn it! After sleeping two days, I was up for eight. I was up with my mother. We were drinking vodka and couldn't fall asleep. My father had also died, so we just went on a vodka bender. My mother managed to get a doctor to shoot her up with sedatives so she could sleep. But I had to take all these pills. I think it was Thorazine left over from my father's deathbed. Most addicts kill themselves by just trying to get some sleep. I've always had an iron constitution and could never do it. That's when John Belushi immolated himself in the Chateau Marmont. I was staying there at the same time, trying to kick drugs. Steve Martin and Michael Elias were paying for my stay. Carl Reiner said this thing: “Don't all those drugs disguise your symptoms?” I thought that was the purpose. I had all these symptoms and, you know, they gotta be disguised. Like boredom. Or the usual alcoholic thing, like bad excuses.

I just totally drove every person crazy. Even Paul Ruscha said I had to quit. And Paul never says anyone has to quit. Because codeine. That's the worst, most boring, and horrible drug. It had sabotaged all my relationships. Paul had to suffer with pain and misery because of the way I dated him. I was always on one drug or another. I thought, Well, if Paul can't stand it (because Paul loves everybody no matter what they do or how horrible they are), I should consider getting sober.

And codeine makes you obnoxious . . . on three continents. I went on a last horrible binge and fired everyone important in my life. I didn't realize they were trying to help me. I was so paranoid I thought everyone was against me. And that was just the codeine. I had to thank P. J. O'Rourke for the slashing review, because I owe my sobriety to him. It was either kill myself or go to Alchoholics Anonymous. The usual choice. I did thank him through friends, because that bad review got me sober. I ultimately met him and liked him, because calling me a “Dull Girl” was actually pretty funny.

—Eve Babitz, October 19, 2014

Transcribed and edited with the assistance of Alexandra Karova

Are you a lucky little lady
in the city of light.

—Jim Morrison

“L.A. Woman”

while I was still a virgin though my virginity was on its last legs, I woke up and didn't want to go to New Jersey. It wasn't fair that they wanted me to go to New Jersey; I didn't want to go—I was seventeen and no seventeen-year-old L.A. woman would go to New Jersey if she could get out of it, especially a seventeen-year-old with a boyfriend like mine—a dream-boat who was twenty-five, was under contract to Fox as a leading man, black wavy hair and blue eyes, his father a French leading man who'd once starred in a tearjerker with my Great Aunt Golda and made a million dollars which he lost on a misadventure. Anybody who went to New Jersey just to visit Aunt Helen, I supposed with outraged sensibilities, would have to be nuts. Aunt Helen was nuts to have moved to New Jersey at all, and she was really insane inviting decent L.A. people to visit her on the fucking East Coast.

But my father and mother kept up their demand, even if I did remain in L.A., about the people they would allow me to remain with. I refused hands down. Not my grandmother, period—I mean, staying with my grandmother would be like not being in L.A. at all. My Aunt Goldie's place was big enough but my cousin Ophelia had been such a drag in those days and gone to such lengths to antagonize her new stepfather by leaving joints around in 1960 where he could see them that he'd become embittered against the entire younger generation of Lubins before my sister Bonnie or I even had a chance to try our hand. I wouldn't stay with the people across the street who'd been there while I was growing up and whose daughter Shelly Craven was my age and with whom we have everything outwardly in common, because for one thing we didn't forgive them—they were Stalinists and a line of blood was painted right down the middle of Foothill Drive once they moved in when I was six—and
besides, they weren't home, they were in Rome. Not that I myself wouldn't have forgiven them for being Stalinists—what
didn't forgive them for was playing Pablo Casals on the record player and having that melodrama going on in the middle of the afternoon as Molly Craven's token of cultural refinement. And none of my friends, like Franny Blossom, were people whose families my family would put up with—although Franny's house, God knows, was a rambling mansion and the whole guest wing was empty since Franny's “uncle”—who wasn't really an uncle but who drank as much as her father and mother and thus was a dear family friend—had gone down to Rosarito Beach fishing for three months. But ever since Franny's father had taken a beebee gun out and begun shooting it at a brass Liberty Bell above the fireplace on the mantel, my mother declared they were “trash” and once she said that, spending even one night was asking for the moon. So it looked like I was going to New Jersey and going to have to spend an entire month on the fucking East Coast.

But I knew I wasn't even though the next morning was when the plane was leaving. I knew something would save me.

I never would have imagined it would be Lola. Even though once before she slept on our living room couch when she and Luther had a fight and she drove straight down from San Francisco in six hours like a demon, back in the days when it took eight hours for any sane person to drive down.

Yet the moment I saw that intensely dark red hair I knew it was Lola.

Lola had come.

And Lola would understand perfectly why a seventeen-year-old virgin going to summer school at Hollywood High would rather not go to the fucking East Coast for a month. Of all my parents' friends, Lola was the only one who, even though she was almost beyond her fiftieth birthday, was still
L.A. enough to realize that you don't leave anyone with a smile like my new boyfriend Claude's for a whole month and expect him to be there when you got back—especially once I showed her his picture, which I happened to have with me when I explained this to her at 6:45
—and especially when I wasn't even fucking him before I left so he'd have something to remember me by. Bleaching my hair blond and looking like Sheena, the queen of the jungle, which was how I looked, wasn't enough, tan or no tan. I simply had to stay in L.A. and learn how to go down on him. But I'd never learn to go down on anyone if Ophelia didn't tear herself away from the Westlake School of Music and her junkie jazz musicians, which was her idea of fun. And Ophelia promised to tear herself away on Saturday but by Saturday I'd be in New Jersey. And it was something she had to explain in person. Every time she began even attempting to explain on the phone, we both cracked our heads on the floor from falling down and wept tears of depraved laughter. But I didn't need to tell Lola about all of that, I knew, all I had to do was beg her. Keep it simple.

“You're here,” I said, waking Lola up.

“Yes,” she agreed, painfully—she'd gotten to L.A. at 2:00

“Please, Lola,” I begged, at 6:47
., “you've got to stay.”

“Well, I—” She laughed. Since she never drank, she never woke up with hangovers and waking up was much easier for her than it was for Franny's parents.

“Stay with me,” I said, shooting my picture of Claude smiling straight into my pitch. “For a month, Lola. Oh, please. Please! Can't you?”

“A month, why I—” Lola said, her mouth dropping open—but smiling—still insane enough by her fiftieth birthday to think this was a good idea basically. Besides which, she could not resist begging.

“They want me to go to the fucking East Coast!”

“That's right,” she said. “To visit Helen.”

don't want to go,” I explained, “I want to stay here”—she looked at Claude's picture, her eyes widening—“with Claude.”

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