While most of you were busy watching the basketball games over the weekend, I know there was probably a pretty large percentage still trying to knock out the new season of House of Cards. I’m about halfway through, but I keep falling asleep toward the end, which I do with MOST shows at this age, so I have to go back and re-watch about 1/2 of it, and it just becomes a whole thing. But my favorite part of House of Cards dominating my newsfeed again is the fact that I get to retell my Kevin Spacey story. (I just heard an audible groan from my friends who have heard it 50 times, but when you get to the end, you’ll be surprised I didn’t make T-shirts).
Back in 2006 I was still working in sales and my friend Sara* owned a clothing boutique. One summer Sara was going to “Market in LA” (whatever that means, I’m still not sure ) and we decided to make it a long weekend and stay out there to see my little brother. It turned out to be the best, most ridiculous weekend ever. And I do not say that lightly. We spent the first two nights in Santa Monica eating amazing Italian food and shopping, then we headed into LA to stay one night at the Chateau Marmont, because even after scraping together all of our pennies, one night is all we could afford.
One we checked into the Chateau, Sara and I immediately put on our swimsuits and went to the pool to scope for celebrities and enjoy the LA weather. My brother and his former gf met us at the pool, and we started ordering drinks and “charging them to the room”, because why not? They can’t be that expensive, right? Wrong. I don’t remember exactly how much the tab was, but I do remember it was more than the cost of our entire room.
One of the main reasons we wanted to stay at the Chateau was because at the time the bar in the hotel was the LA hotspot, and Sara and I had an unhealthy obsession with all things US Weekly. Our plan was to get a room, because then they would have to let us into the bar area. Brilliant! Problem was, the bar and restaurant were completely shut down because of the wedding of some studio big-wig. We were understandably devastated. However, we decided right then and there (or maybe the pool margaritas decided for us) that we would go back to our rooms, change into our fanciest clothes and try to sneak into the reception, which was being held out in the garden area. Where, incidentally, we had seen Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz eating a few hours earlier. I use the term “eating” loosely, Cameron was more like angrily pushing her salad around and cutting it into tiny pieces like the lettuce owed her money, and JT was just staring at his phone. Celeb love is so romantic.
Back to the reception. I’m petrified because I’m 6’1 and don’t do a very good job of sneaking anywhere, but my brother was convinced it was going to be fine. Plus, he and his ex were both models, so they looked the part. Sara was also in wedding attire, but I was basically wearing a pin-striped shorts version of a “smart pantsuit”, so I stayed in the back until we made it all the way in. To this day, I have no idea what we were thinking, but I guess we thought – worst case scenario, we get kicked out, or not let in at all, and we go back to our rooms. This was shortly after the movie “Wedding Crashers” came out, so naturally I blame Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.
We made it in and honestly, no one even seemed to really care or notice. There were approximately 400 people milling about, and Jackson Browne was playing and singing on the piano, so I guess it’s not crazy that the bride and groom didn’t notice four kids from Oklahoma standing in the corner. At first we didn’t branch out much – we didn’t want to be even more rude than we already were – so none of us drank the champagne or ate the food, but as the night wore on, we got a little braver and all of a sudden we were mingling. With all these studio execs and Hollywood people in the middle of the Chateau Marmont lawn. Then, I spot him. Kevin. Spacey. Talking to my brother. Lester Burnham from American Beauty, John Doe from that one movie I don’t like to talk about because it scared the crap out of me, Verbal Kint from The Usual Suspects (one of my all time faves), and finally, now all these years later, the greatest character he will ever play, the formidable Frank Underwood.
Of course this was years before House of Cards, but Spacey was no less impressive. He was talking to my brother in casual conversation, so I walked up and asked him to light my cigarette. Partly because I wanted to come home and tell the story about how I asked Kevin Spacey for a light, and partly because I couldn’t find my lighter and I really wanted a cigarette (sorry Dad, yes I smoked a cigarette with Kevin Spacey). He looked at me a little surprised, lit my cigarette, then I introduced myself as Justin’s sister, and he continued to chat us up. He had obviously figured out by then that we didn’t belong there, but he apparently didn’t care, and proceeded to take us under his wing for the rest of the night. He brought all of us champagne and asked us about Oklahoma, and our jobs at the time, etc. He would even get up to use the restroom, or talk to someone, then come right back with more champagne and sit back down on this little couch with us. It was so surreal, and he was just so nice. I’m glad that he wasn’t Frank Underwood yet, because honestly, even though it’s just a character, there is no way I would have had the guts to talk to him after what I’ve seen him do on that show.
At the time he was the artistic director at the Old Vic in London, and also acting on stage in several productions. He told us all about it, and talked about how much he enjoyed being back in London and acting on stage. I was all, I know, right??? Then, and this is the best part, he asked me if I’d tried any of the sushi at the reception. I said no, because I didn’t really want to eat these people’s food, but he told me it was incredible and that I had to try some…then he offered me a piece of sushi from his own chopsticks. Although it was probably only a few seconds, I felt like I sat there contemplating that strange turn of events for several minutes. Look, I am a grade A, certifiable germaphobe. I’m not as bad now, but back then, I wouldn’t eat or drink after anyone, not even a family member or someone I was dating. I just wouldn’t do it. So, I was sitting there, at the Chateau Marmont, with Kevin Spacey offering me sushi, and I’m staring at this piece of fish on his chopsticks and finally I just said to hell with it and dove right in, to everyone’s complete shock. Later, towards the end of the night, as everyone was saying their goodbyes, he handed me a big candy heart like the ones from Valentine’s day with a little message on it. It said Be Mine. I kept it for a long time but it finally disintegrated in my drawer, as candy hearts most often do.
Sara and I went back up to our room going over and over what had happened so we wouldn’t forget. It’s too bad we didn’t have smart phones or Facebook in 2006 or there would have been photos and status updates, but instead I have to remember that night the old-fashioned way, by telling and retelling the story until everyone wants to punch me in the face. The next morning Sara and I both woke up really late and really hungover, put an exorbitant amount of money on her credit card, and almost missed our flights back home.
Stay tuned for LA Story Part II – it involves talking our way into a party at Paris Hilton’s house, knocking over someone’s really fancy motorcycle, riding in Allen Schwartz’s Bentley, and smoking cigarettes with Courtney Love. I told you it was the best weekend ever. Maybe I will make a t-shirt…
*Different Sara from St. Patrick’s Day – you can tell by the missing “h.”