After a nine-day stint in Iraq, London Times correspondent Ayres (War Reporting for Cowards, 2005) finds himself embedded in Los Angeles.
Taking up residence at “the Leisureplex,” aka the Park Wellington apartments, just a block off the Sunset Strip, the author gradually learned the rules of his new environment, from valet parking (“I thought I was being carjacked”) to nightclub protocols (“getting into places like the Whiskey Bar is a lot easier when you’re with a good-looking girl in tight jeans”). He soon succumbed to the affluence and decadence he was sent to cover. Barely able to make rent, he found himself in the “Desperate Period.” A new plasma TV seemed to be the cure, but his deepening financial stresses caused an attack of acute acne: “Not the harmless, splat-your-bathroom-mirror variety, but the infected, biological-warfare-victim variety.” Despite this handicap, he was able to enchant women with embellishments about his “tour” in Iraq, getting in over his head after enticing supermodel Courage Macleod. In vignette after glib vignette, Ayres casts about in a sea of paparazzi, nightclubs, dermatologists and dissipation, never getting more than skin-deep into his subject matter. Of course, detailing Hollywood’s skin-deep lifestyle could be the entire point of this book. With a morsel of truth that summarizes the whole of his baptism by fire, the author attends a party and proclaims, “These days in Hollywood, parties aren't social occasions, they’re marketing opportunities. They’re all about the spectacle of extreme consumption, designed to encourage the rest of us to follow suit.”
Entertaining memoir from a not-so-innocent abroad.