Zesty essays by a sly observer.
Journalist and novelist Babitz (Two by Two: Tango, Two-Step, and the L.A. Night, 1999, etc.) gathers nearly 40 personal essays, book reviews, travel pieces, and celebrity profiles, published between 1976 and 1997, that give ebullient testimony to her colorful, star-studded past. “I have always loved scenes,” she writes, “bars where people come in and out in various degrees of flash, despair, gossip, and brilliance.” And she loved parties, too: “Nothing makes me feel worse than knowing I’m missing the right party.” She recounts parties galore: in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Miami, and New York; in swanky apartments, mansions, and nightclubs; attended by the rich, famous, and soon-to-be-famous—e.g., pre-Doors Jim Morrison. Babitz met Morrison at a Sunset Strip club when she was 22 and “propositioned him in three minutes, even before he so much as opened his mouth to sing.” He was sexy, seductive, and, she soon discovered, self-destructive: “Jim drank, got drunk, and wanted to be shown the way to the Next Whiskey Bar.” Sex, drugs, and rock and roll characterized “an entire generation” that became “dazzled by a drug with the density, force, and newness of LSD,” recoiled at images of napalm bombings, and surged together “As One waiting for the next Beatles album to come out.” But the generation learned a crucial lesson, as well: “that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” The collection includes a charming recollection of posing nude with Marcel Duchamp; sympathetic portraits of actors James Woods, Nicholas Cage, and Billy Baldwin; and a paean to her friend Linda Ronstadt, whose voice was “opulent with happiness and excellence.” Babitz muses on body-building gym culture; her efforts to lose weight with the help of “diet, amphetamines, and the gentle augmentation of cocaine”; the pain of yoga; and, in a particularly endearing piece, the unexpected pleasure of ballroom dancing. The title essay, never before published, recounts a 1997 accident that resulted in devastating third-degree burns.
A spirited, entertaining collection.