ONE SUNNY DAY, ACTRESSES CAMERON Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair converge on an unsuspecting little bistro and bakery in West Hollywood, where they belch a lot, cuss a lot, order a few bowls of clam chowder, maintain that Spike Jonze is the coolest guy in town, impersonate both Jonathan Lipnicki and Ethel Merman, wonder how guys like their kernels to fit between their legs, declare affection for Britney Spears and say a few words about fish tacos.
“Fish taco,” says Applegate, “it’s a double negative, like vagina vagina. But I had one the other day — a fish taco, not a vagina — and it was quite good.”
This provokes much hilarity among the women, of course, and because they are a fun-loving bunch, their laughter is of the war-loud, knee-slapping variety. But soon enough, they get down to more serious matters. Really, they must discuss The Sweetest Thing, the new sort of Sex and the City-takes-to-the-road movie in which they all star. It’s about a search for Mr. Right. In it, many riotous and risqué things happen. But the movie is also about female friendship. And female friendship is something this trio seems to take seriously.
“It’s the deepest thing, the most cherished,” says Diaz. “I don’t have women around me who talk shit or are inconsiderate to other women. Because it’s all about taking care of each other and watching each other’s backs.”
“We understand each other and our emotions,” seconds Applegate.
“We’re sisterly and nurturing,” agrees Blair. “Friendship with a guy is different. Because of the sex factor.”
So that’s the way it is here, very high-minded indeed. But not for long. Because just then, Applegate turns to Blair: “I think I want to kiss you right now,” she says. As Diaz laughs and picks apart a muffin (wanting only the nuts inside), Blair leans over and presses her lips to Applegate’s. It’s a smooch that lingers, bringing to mind Blair’s immortal make-out scene with Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions, as well as various hothouse fantasies involving Applegate as Kelly Bundy on the Married… With Children TV show. There seems to be some mashing going on. Afterward, Blair says, “See, girls can do that and still be friends.”
It’s all a good-natured joke, probably, but still, sitting there, we are shocked and hardly know what to say. And the shocks keep on coming. First, Diaz is burping and saying, “Oh, my God, I have gas, clam gas!” Then, Applegate is chanting, “Fuck-shit-pisscum-cunt” repeatedly. Then, Blair is pointing out that “Cameron has the best breath, but Christina has the best breasts.” And then, during a conversation about men’s underwear, Diaz is looking at us and wanting to know, “Do guys like the way their nuts sit between their legs, or would they rather have them up in their lap? And what happens with ball sacs as they age?”
It’s entirely surreal. We are almost speechless. In the lull, Blair comes to our rescue. “I just want to know one thing,” she says. “Do you like us? I mean, I don’t want you to hang out with us, but would you want to?”
This strikes all the women here as an avenue worth exploring. They lean in. “Yeah, and who’s your favorite?” says Applegate.
“Yeah, who do you like the best?” says Diaz. “Come on, rate us. Rate us!”
We say we can’t. From each, we have heard much that is amusing and in her favor. But being nonjudgmental, we have not judged. Plus, we need to know more. And, in due course, we do.
BREAKFAST WITH CAMERON
Three-egg omelet with asparagus, goat cheese and tomato
Hot water with a slice of lemon
A lot of attitude
THE NEXT MORNING, early, Diaz slips out of bed, slides those legs of hers into a pair of stovepipe jeans, tosses a robin’s-egg opalescent scarf across her shoulders and, shortly thereafter, around 8:30, saunters into the warmth of the Chateau Marmont Hotel, on Sunset, in the mood for a big, hearty breakfast. The Irish oatmeal sounds good to her, but she passes. The bacon sounds good, too, but she can’t. “Dude, I love pork,” she says with a sigh. “Love the pork. But I don’t eat it anymore, not after I was told that a pig has the same mentality as a three-year-old, and my niece was three at the time, and it kind of cut into me. But once a month, I have an itch that just won’t go away. My teeth start to hurt. And on that one day I can have meat.”
Finally, she orders a three-egg omelet (with asparagus, goat cheese and tomato) as well as a glass of hot water (with a slice of lemon). We order the bacon.
We contemplate her, briefly. Tall, lithe, blue-eyed, eupeptic, bouncy and chock-full of really white teeth, she is an American descended of good Cuban, English and German stock, grew up in a California surf town, became a model, got an ulcer while making her first movie (The Mask with Jim Carrey), became a movie star with There’s Something About Mary, became a bigger movie star with Charlie’s Angels (dreadful flick though it was, a sequel is coming), held hands with Matt Dillon for three years, is currently sweet on Jared Leto, surely deserved better than she got from the Oscar people for her dramatic work in Vanilla Sky, will appear this summer with Leonardo DiCaprio in Gangs of New York, is twenty-nine years old and was stood $15 million to star in The Sweetest Thing.
Next, we ask Diaz how she came to this latest comedy of hers, and squeezing lemon juice onto the meniscus of steaming water, she is pleased to tell us. “I mean, it was just one of those scripts. It was like the first time I read Mary — you know? Where I just went, ‘Wow!'”
This is all very well and good, certainly, but it is hardly productive, in terms of judgments, ratings and who we most might want to hang around. We want to know personal things. We want to know, for instance, how many squares of toilet paper she is likely to use in a sitting. This, we believe, can lead to insights. We’re sure of it. But in such matters it is always wise to approach with a slippered step.
“So,” we say, “in general, would you say you spend a lot of time in front of the makeup mirror?”
Diaz gives us a look. “You judge,” she says. “Does it look like I spend way too much time getting ready?” We peer. What we see is someone who clearly is not overly concerned with makeup.
In fact, she’s got some angry red pimples on her left cheek — and not one jot of Covermark covering them. Needles to say, all this accrues to her benefit, as does much else besides. For instance, she salts her bread (“Yeah, I really dig salting the bread”). She does not snore (that she knows of). She’s an excellent cook (“It’s just human. Gotta eat”). She firmly believes that peeing in the pool is “really unkind.” Her favorite curse word is actually a string of three: “shit-fuck-merde,” having graduated to that pleasanter locution from just plain old “shit.” She doesn’t drink cofee or tea. She no longer smokes.
Hands steepled in front of our chin, we are nodding. A picture of Diaz has begun to resolve itself in our imagination, a pointillism of detail and nuance. It is true, we will never get to know her, but surely approximation is not out of the question. We think we see her. And, despite the fact that she likes to call us “dude” and is sticking to her New Year’s resolution to wear a bra more often, we are feeling very positive about what we see. “Let’s say you were sleeping with somebody,” we continue blithely. “How would you sleep? In the spoon position, back to back or…”
A frown spreads like palsy across the pretty Diaz face.
“Let’s not talk about how I sleep, dude,” she says, shaking her head. “Really, let’s not.”
And suddenly, like that, it is very dark inside the Chateau Marmont.
Evidently, we have crossed some line maybe, unwittingly, we crossed that line long ago — and now Diaz will not even tell us the titles of books she is reading or whether she thinks she might be a high-maintenance type of girlfriend. “I don’t know, dude,” she says levelly. “I have no idea.” Naturally, we are dazed by this turn of events and splay back in our comfy chair, hoping to regroup. Meanwhile, Diaz is talking about people’s personalities. “I have a love for all people,” she is saying, “except for total assholes and idiots.” And choking on our bacon, we are quite certain we know who she means.
Actually, we are of two minds about what has happened here. One mind is delighted at the way Diaz has defined boundaries and shut us down, for if you were close to her and hanging around in her circle, you could be sure, probably, that your secrets are safe with her. You could be reading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle — a book we hear that she is reading — and she’d never tell. The other mind, however, still has at least two questions left to ask.
We call for the check and say to Diaz, “What is your favorite brand of toilet paper, and do you use a lot of it?”
“Charmin,” says Diaz. “And it’s a crime to use too much toilet paper, so I use just enough to do the job. But, I mean, dude — do you really need to know how I wipe my ass?”
We nod, thinking we do. But suddenly we’re not so sure. Before, we saw it as a point in the pointillism. But now — well, now we mostly want to get the heck out of there, before Diaz can lay into us for lack of manners and logic. We pay. We get up to go. But then Diaz says, “Can I ask you something?” We pale, expecting the third degree and a full measure of the power of now. Instead, Diaz laughs. “Do you have any cash?” she says. “It’s, like, eight dollars to park downstairs, and I dont’ have any cash. Can I borrow it?”
“You’re fucking kidding!” we shout. But what can we do? We fork over some bills.
LUNCH WITH CHRISTINA
Ahi tuna salad, dressing on side
Evian water with a slice of lemon
IN THE AFTERNOON, POOLSIDE at the fabulous Sunset Marquis Hotel, Christina Applegate comes to us directly from a session of eye-movement-desensitization therapy designed to help her with her cigarette cravings. The first thing we notice (after we notice her clothes: black frock over jeans, flip-flops under toes) is the same thing we first noticed at the bakery: Her lips are not at all like Kelly Bundy’s, red-painted and made for oral delight; rather, they are thin, delicate ribbons and quite pale. We find this fascinating, the gulf between lips, and we beetle our brow in contemplation.
Then we offer Applegate one from our pack. But she has a pack of her own. And we all light up, us seriously impressed by Applegate’s unhesitating recidivism in the smoking department. After a while, she fills us in on a few things. Married... ended in 1997, after a ten-year run that began when she was just sixteen. Since then, she has starred in a television series called Jesse, which lasted two seasons. Also, last year, she married her longtime sweetheart, actor and former model Johnathon Schaech. The Sweetest Thing is the biggest project to come her way in quite some time, though she recently finished filming A View From the Top, with Gwyneth Paltrow. These days, in the morning, she finds that she wakes up with a smile on her face “most of the time.” She denies that she is in favor of reading in bed. “I don’t want to think in bed,” she says decisively, “and reading in bed both provokes, and evokes, thinking.”
Like Diaz before her, Applegate is soon ordering some water and a lemon to dispense on the surface. Then she removes a wad of gum from her mouth, crumples a piece of paper around it and makes it disappear. Looking at her arms, which happen to have a charming amount of curly blond fluff on them, we are reminded of something that Applegate told Diaz and Blair at the bakery. She said that when she was young, kids would ask her if her parents were bears, and all she could think of to say in response was, “No.” This strikes us as infinitely sad, so today we don’t bring it up, exactly. Instead, we ask about boys (“Boys didn’t like me when I was younger,” she responds. “I was a little chunkier than I am now”); about men (“I dated someone when I was seventeen who was, like, twenty-seven. It was my infatuation — and his getting to, you know …”); and about vulnerabilities (“As a child, I was always working, taking dancing lessons, singing classes, acting classes. Everything you do is about getting praise, and you end up vulnerable in the sense of not feeling ever good enough”).
We feel for Applegate. She did not follow the path to ruin of so many child actors. But it hasn’t been easy on her. For support over the years, she has leaned on her mom, a number of therapists, the compassionate cast of Married… and the Agape International Spiritual Center, in Culver City. This has helped her keep a grip on her “dark side.” “In order not to live in the dark side,” she says, “you have to have a belief in something else.” She will say no more about it, though she will note, with tangential moodiness, that “the brain is an ugly, lying motherfucker.”
Because this is true, we have to agree with her. But we can feel ourselves falling further into a funk. So we decide to lighten the day by asking about a phrase we heard her use at the bakery, the phrase “fuck-shit-piss-cum-cunt.”
Applegate laughs delightedly and says, “Oh, that’s just a little something I learned when I was young and growing up around here. My mother [singer-actress Nancy Priddy] got it from some actor she did a play with, and sometimes I would hear her say it. It’s actually one word. Fuckshitpisscumcunt. It’s really lovely, isn’t it? Actually,” she goes on, “when I was in nursery school, I guess I had Tourette’s. I was just cursing like crazy. But my mother made a deal with me: I could curse, but only at home. So I cursed and cursed and cursed my way through my childhood. And sometimes, even now, I have the urge to just… spew it out.”
She grins at us, smoking. And we look at her, smoking. Then she says she has something for us. Grabbing her purse (a big, red, solidly constructed contraption), she digs inside, removes her wallet and from it pulls a bill.
“Ok, here you go,” she says, waving the money in our direction. “Cameron always pays her debts.”
We gulp and take. Applegate and Diaz have been talking? Talking about what, beside debts? Assholes and idiots and the urge to spew?
If so, and we think so, then Applegate has a pretty good lid on it. She helpfully allows us to see her by the many things she says she is not. She says she is not a good cook, for instance. Nor is she one to say if she’s hell to be around during that time of the month. Nor has she ever given a pet name to a man’s penis. Nor was she younger than her friends when she lost her virginity; in fact, she was older than most.
We like her — Applegate is full of various gulfs — and we like her even more when she says, “A wonderful thing I like to think about is how a caterpillar goes into its cocoon and turns completely to liquid before it becomes a butterfly. Now, if you didn’t know that the butterfly was going to happen, all you’d think is that you’ve got some sort of liquefied caterpillar there. Right?”
Right. But now it’s time for her to leave. A friend is in the hospital. She must visit. And so off she goes, evoking more than provoking, which is just fine with us, we find ourselves thinking.
DINNER WITH SELMA
Cheeseburger, without bun
Fries, extra crispy
AFTER THE SUN SETS, Selma Blair bids farewell to her cat named Puppy, gathers her one-eyed dog named Wink, drives to the ever-popular Chateau Marmont Hotel, parks where she can only park until 10 P.M., scoots inside, sets Wink free, grabs a tufted corner love seat and starts reading from her copy of Villette, by Charlotte Brontë, though it embarasses her to do so in public, “because it makes me seem like a stuffed shirt.”
Actually, she is anything but what she fears. Later on, Blair finds herself talking about her role in The Sweetest Thing. “I play frowsy Jane, who turns into a little hellion in the sex department and has this one-night stand that turns into a three-night stand and…”
Just then, a waiter slides up. Out loud, Blair says she better stop talking about three-night stands because the waiter might think she’s talking about herself. And then she says, “But, well, yes, I give great blow jobs and…”
At one point, in 1999, when she was the star of her own television show, Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane, Blair was poised to become the next WB “it” girl, along the lines of, say, Keri Russell. But it didn’t take, and the show was canceled. Blair went on to explore her options. Early options included Cruel Intentions, featuring that kiss with Sarah Michelle Geller, about which Blair likes to say, “Sarah’s lips were so soft, it was really pleasant. She was a fabulous kisser, I probably wasn’t. I used too much tongue, far too much tongue. You could see the pores on my tongue. Ghastly.” A middle option was Legally Blonde, which she nearly stole from the estimable Reese Witherspoon. A more recent option was the Todd Solondz movie Storytelling; in this movie, while taking it in a dark place, Blair is heard to bellow, “Fuck me, nigger, fuck me harder.” And so, today, all she can say for herself is, “Well, I guess I’ve blown my chance to become America’s sweetheart. Now, would you please eat my pussy?”
We take all these things in the spirit in which they are delivered and happily spend the next little while with Blair, wolfing down cheeseburgers that are not juicy enough for her but are plenty juicy to us. She says many odd, wonderful things. She says, “I don’t drink or anything, but if I swear enough, like an absolute cow, no one notices that I’m not drinking.” She says, “My dream, if I had my druthers, would be to go on a permanent morphine drip, because that’s where my energy wants to go.” We say, “Boyfriend?” She says, “No, I don’t have one. I love many boys. And I have guy friends that I use as a substitute because I don’t know how to date. Oh, I sound like a dork, an absolute drip. But I don’t want to date. Dating is too openended. I need the security of knowing someone is crazy for me and I’m crazy for them. I want someone I can feel comfortable being a mess around.”
We nod, swizzled, and feel compelled to go deeper. We ask her what kind of mess she means, exactly.
“Well, I’m hardly a mess. But it feels kind of satisfying to say that I am. Yes, well, I can go through three weeks where I can’t sleep at all. That’s kind of messy. My favorite things to do is walk the dog down the street at night and look in people’s houses, not peeping-Tom style but just seeing what every-one’s watching on TV and what they’re eating and how they’ve painted their rooms. I just get into this whole thing of being up. And then I’ll go through a month where I can’t get out of bed. I’m not unhappy or depressed, I don’t think. That’s just my rhythm. And I’m perfectly happy at those times.”
We mop our brow, nibble our fries and attentively take care of lighting Blair’s cigarettes. She is slender, extremely slender, with no bosom to speak of, which works for her. She is twentynine, but the only age in her is in the few lines around her eyes. Her hair, short and punched around, looks like it was lifted right off Joey Heatherton. Befitting a morphine-drip hopeful, her movements can be languid. But she can also come at you quickly, a glass shard, her voice piercing, especially when she is hopped up on sugar. “Why’d the monkey fall out of the tree?” begins one of her jokes. “Because it’s dead!” She will no longer talk about her father. Her mother, who raised her and is a magistrate in Detroit, took three years to name her; until that day, she was known only by the name Baby Blair.
Her mother told her a proper young woman always carries a hanky in her purse. Blair carries two. In grade school, she was a mean, nasty child, and today would like to apologize to Becky Gastman for being so mean and nasty. In junior high, she spent a considerable amount of time plotting her own death, a felo de se. In high school, she drank heavily and “just obliterated myself.” In college, at the University of Michigan, she studied fine arts (“and you know how those fine-arts students are”) and contemporary modern literature — Carver, Bukowski. Then she moved to New York.
“When I moved to New York,” she goes on, “my biggest dream was to be a housekeeper. I was practically homeless. I lived in the Salvation Army and cleaned toilets. The next thing you know, you’re hanging out in a bar waiting for someone to buy you a drink, for sustenance. I was down and out and living a really dark life. I could have died millions of times by accident. I’ve been in plenty of situations like my one in Storytelling, sexual experiences that would be deemed rape or date rape. But I’m responsible. I mean, I’ve lived some ghastly things, but I’ve also lived an amazing, wonderful, sheltered life. I don’t look at it as being dramatic. It’s the way things are. It’s what happened. I wasn’t scarred. They were just experiences. Actually, I’m fine.”
We could argue that, and the tendency of anyone in our position is to want to argue that. But that would be wrong of us, dishonest and bad. Her hands are steady. She does seem fine. It does not seem to be wishful thinking on her part. So we eat, ask questions, smoke and listen to hear what we can hear.
“I had a very serious boyfriend in the third grade named Bradley Bluestone,” she says. “He was a year older. I thought he hung the moon. I just loved him. He made my stomach drop. We were a couple, holding hands, but we did not kiss until the last day of school, seventh grade. It was my first kiss ever, and it felt so strange. I used far too much tongue. I thought you were supposed to. You do that when you’re kids, you’re greedy, and you don’t know. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. We went out on and off until he went to college. And then, twelve years ago February 7th, he died,”
She drops it just like that, “he died,” taking our breath away. We move forward to touch her. But she sits back, too far away to reach.
Blair likes taking pictures and going on Outward Bound outdoor-adventure programs and diving for quarters at the bottom of swimming pools. She doesn’t like the way Mario, her gardener, knocks on her door and asks for a hug. “He’s always macking on me, and it’s driving me crazy!
“I also don’t like people who say to me, ‘Smile, it’s not that bad,'” she says. “People always think I’m really blue because of the way my face is. My eyes turn down and my mouth turns down that’s my comfortable position. You have droopy eyes, too. Yes, we have the sad eyes. And people translate that into ‘Wow, Selma’s really sad.’ I want to kill those people.”
We nod, knowing exactly how she feels.
Then she tells us that she’s a pretty frequent bather. For some reason, we have always found frequent bathers interesting. “Oh?” we say.
Nodding, she says, “I really think what I do is take people’s feelings and stick them on me. When I go out and talk to people, I pick up vibes. Pain and suffering stick to me. I let it stick to me. But then I’ve just got to wash it off. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s harmless, right? I just feel better, soaking it away, letting it go down the drain. I mean, I’m happy to take some of their suffering. If I’m strong enough.”
“Are you strong enough?”
“I hope so,” she says, smiling. “But I do take a lot of baths.”
She calls Wink over to her chair, and up she hops. They nuzzle, then the dog jumps down, bounding off to sweettalk some scraps from Brooke Shields, who is sitting a few tables away.
“How do you think you’re going to die?” Blair asks rather out of the blue. “Do you have any idea? I’m all for euthanasia. I really don’t want to wind up wearing Depends, in some place that smells like really bad chicken soup. But actually, I hope I’m attacked by a bear. It could happen, because of the time I spend in the backcountry. It would be a big bear, like a warm, hot breath, and such a gorging that it would be over quick. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want . . .”
“So the pain won’t be…”
After that, we sit there a while longer, in a kind of odd communion. Then, at 9:55, she leaps to her feet, makes a bunch of noise about how her car is probably being towed right now, throws a hug on Brooke Shields on the way out, throws a good one on us, too, and vanishes into the night. We wonder if she is going home to take a bath. Either way, we don’t care. We can still feel her warm, hot breath on our neck. Such a gorging. In our book, Baby Blair is Number One. She really sends us.