A couple of times a year, Dad gets invited to dinner by his agent and Dad gets to choose the restaurant. This time, Dad wanted to go to Bastide, his favorite restaurant in LA, but his agent said it was too pricey. Actually, Bastide is just a really pretentious Hollywood trough where dinner is served in a hundred, teeny courses and for what a dinner costs, you could pull a hundred dogs off of death row.
Mom: “The chef is an artist. He makes poetry with food. Fabulous, artful, creative, extraordinary food. That chef is genius.”
Dad: “Can you believe my agent wants to go to JAR because Bastide is too expensive, after all the money I give them?”
I’ve been to every restaurant in LA and J.A.R. (Just Another Restaurant) is just another industry trough, only this one pretends to be casual and is owned by a famous TV hack.
Mom: “You mean there’s a restaurant in LA that’s too good for you, after all the money you throw at them? They didn’t get you that job, you got that job and they just sit and collect! You ought to insist on going to Bastide.”
Dad: “I bet Eric Roberts gets to go to Bastide. Who do you have to be to get to go to Bastide around here? I’m going to cancel dinner. He’s ruined it for me. I can’t go to dinner knowing that I’m not good enough to go to Bastide.”
Mom: “No! Don’t cancel dinner; that would make you look like a prima donna. Tell him we’ll go to Soup Plantation if he wants. Let’s just go to JAR and you can tell him at dinner that you are a little shocked that there exists in Los Angeles a restaurant that is too good for you.”
Mom and Dad put us in our airline bags and we drove down Laurel Canyon to JAR. On the way down, we passed under all the red tagged houses that are in danger of slipping off the mountain because of the rain.
When we go out to dinner in LA, because of the stupid hygiene laws, we’re in the bag the whole time and no one knows we’re there, so we see, hear and eat everything. The bags are cozy with cushions and windows so when the food is served, Mom and Dad sneak us delicious, dripping bites of restaurant food.
As soon as we got to the table, Mom and Dad started behaving badly. When Dad’s agent told Dad that he’d like to arrange a sit-down with a lawyer friend of his about future projects, Mom exploded.
Mom: “A lawyer? What a scam! These entertainment lawyers are thieves, ripping you off for 5% of what you make and they do NOTHING! They get paralegals to do all the work and you could pay someone by the hour to look over contracts!
Then Dad started yelling.
Dad: “How many hours does it take to look over a contract? Five hours? Five hundred hours? What do they make an hour? A hundred thousand dollars? That’s bullshit! Why should they make a percentage of what we make? They don’t do anything! What about this? I give you 30% of what you make for me, not what I make! Go out and make me some money and I’ll give you half of it, I don’t care, but don’t just take my money! $150,000 to look at a fucking contract? I’ll look at my own contracts. I know how to read contracts.”
Then Mom asked the agent’s girlfriend, who’s also a writer, if she had a lawyer. She said yes.
Mom: “Fire him!”
Dad: “Yeah! Fire him! He does all the work! (Pointing at his agent) You don’t need anyone else. Get rid of all these bloodsuckers.”
People at the other tables were staring at us now. Finley was snoring but I was listening to the whole thing. I was licking some mashed potato off of Mom’s finger when she started yelling at the waiter.
Mom: “Don’t ever pour a new bottle into a full glass.”
The waiter apologized and he said it was the same bottle.
Mom: “Yes, yes, it’s the same kind of wine, from the same winery, but it’s not the same bottle. Every bottle is different. You never pour two bottles in the same glass. Don’t hate me, but you need to know this. It’s not a refill on a Sprite, you know.”
Dad: “Every bottle is a living thing. Didn’t you see Sideways?”
The yelling got worse when the girlfriend said they were going to buy a dog.
Mom: “BUY a dog? Shame, shame, shame on you for buying when we kill twelve million dogs a year in the shelters. You can adopt one, any kind you like! I’ll take you to the shelter myself and help you find one.”
The agent’s girlfriend: “Oh, I can’t; it’s too sad! I’ll want to take them all home.”
Mom: “What’s sad is that they’re going to die and you could take one. You don’t have to take them all, only one. If you have room in your heart and your home for a dog, then it’s awful if you buy one, knowing what goes on. You just can’t.”
On this issue, I agree with Mom but there must have been a better way to convince her. Mom was acting like a rabid rottweiler.
At the end of the dinner, Mom went to the lady’s room. She strutted across the room and turned a lot of heads in her micro-mini skirt. When she came back, she told everybody at the table what had happened when the chef stopped her in front of the bar.
Mom: “He grabbed me by both arms and pulled me toward him! And he said, ‘What did you have? I may of made it.’ I told him, ‘I had a lousy bottle of wine and a dried up piece of tofu. Did you make that?’ He let go of me like I was radioactive.”
After dinner, Mom and Dad laughed all the way home. Big, loud, laughing out of the open car windows. I think everyone in Laurel Canyon heard them laughing like a couple of hyenas. Even the coyotes, who make a hell of a noise every night on their killing sprees, must have wondered what kind of monsters were coming up the hill in the middle of the night.