Ten winters ago, toward the end of my Hollywood period, Carol, Leila, and I house-sat for the woman who directed Skipped Parts: the movie. She and her husband had this monster truck of a house that the Welch family of Welches Grape Juice and Jelly built under the Griffith Observatory there in Griffith Park. They (the Welches) planted grapevines all over the mountain that is now an upscale L.A. neighbourhood. The house had six marble staircases, which is a veritable nightmare for a couple with a two-year-old daughter. More than once I called Carol on the cell phone because I couldn't find her, even though I knew she was in the house.
Tamra the director, who is wonderful in every way, is married to a nice guy named Michael Diamond who is in a band called the Beastie Boys. They had some interesting friends, coming in and out of the house. On their son's birthday, Michael, whose friends call Mickey D., played disc jockey all afternoon while the kids yelled and ran through the garden and down by the pool. I wasn't familiar with any of the songs he played. They were all on vinyl record albums.
Normally, it would be bad form for a house-sitter to mention this stuff, but they have since moved, so I think it's okay now. I enjoyed the winter, in spite of the constant struggle to keep Leila from tumbling down steps. They had a screening room where we watched eight-foot tall Telly Tubbies dance and fall down backwards. Imagine that.
But this blog is not about house-sitting. It's about fan mail. You see, street kids in L.A. stand on the corners of major streets selling these things called Star Maps. Tourists buy them and drive around neighbourhoods, looking for the houses where their favourite movie stars live. So far as I know, the Star Maps' addresses are wrong. For instance, they gave the address where we were staying as belonging to Brad Pitt. This was back when he was still with Jennifer Aniston, I think, so far as people knew.
Later, I asked Tamra and she said neither Brad Pitt nor Jennifer Aniston had ever lived there. Neither had ever visited the house or lived nearby, but this didn't stop a daily dribble of cars from driving by the front gate while tourists craned their necks and sometimes even touched our mailbox. Once or twice a week, an airplane or helicopter swooped over the pool and some pushy type leaned out to take my daughter's photo.
Once we got past the fear of a nutcase fame-chaser climbing over the fence, we weren't bothered by the gawkers. Heck, we'd probably have had the tourists anyway, if they'd known it was a Beastie Boy house.
But the thing was -- the mail. Brad and Jennifer got a lot of mail. Someone must have posted the address on the internet. It tapered off later, but the first few weeks brought 10 or 20 letters a day. I guess if I'd known where Brad lived I could have boxed up his mail and taken it to him. It would have made a nice icebreaker with Jennifer. But I didn't know and I didn't think they wanted the mail anyway, so I did what any other normal American would have done with a pile of unsolicited mail addressed to Brad Pitt -- I opened it.
Not all of it, of course. I had better things to do, like watching eight-foot Telly Tubbies jump out of holes in artificial turf. But I opened enough to get the general drift.
I used to receive fan mail myself. Nothing like Brad and Jennifer, mind you, but enough to establish a pattern. Very few were scary. Most of the writers said they enjoyed my books and I should keep writing. Sometimes, guys who'd recently lost girlfriends would get drunk and write these two a.m. 12-page rave-ons, putting down all the pain they would never dump on their friends. A surprising number of girls wrote to tell me how their boyfriends were in bed.
"I don't much like him and I would break up with him but he's so good at . . . " and then they would describe a procedure I'm not sure is physically possible.
A number of letters started out, "I always wanted to write Such-and-So but then he died, so I decided I should write you before you die." My not dying years ago seems to have gratified many readers.
Very rarely, someone would say, "I've had such an interesting life, everyone tells me I should be a writer. How about if I tell you my story and you type it up and we'll split the money." These letters tended to come from guys in prison. My theory is Sex and Sunsets was one of the few hardbacks with Sex in the title, so it sold well in prison libraries. Whatever the cause, I used to be the swamp where prison mail went to die.
Nowadays, I don't get much post office reader mail. It comes in over Facebook or the Timsandlin.com guest book. I enjoy hearing from readers, although the angry person can be trying. I got a message the other day from a man who said he would have been a best-selling author if he lowered himself to writing sex scenes, the way I do. Humorous fiction brings out the hate in people who don't get it.
But, enough about me. Let's get back to Brad Pitt. Before I grew bored and quit reading his mail, I probably opened 20 letters and not one followed the drift that I get in my mail. No one said, "I like your work," or "Congratulations, Brad!" or even "I wanted to write you before you died." Every letter to Brad Pitt wanted something from him.
They wanted him to read their script. They wanted him to get them a job as a producer. They wanted him to introduce them to Jennifer Lopez. A lot of them started out, "You've had luck and I've never had luck and I deserve to be as famous as you, therefore you owe me . . ." So on. So forth. A number of the letter writers simply wanted money. Postal spare change artists.
So, here are the morals of the story: First, don't write Brad Pitt, asking him to do something for you. The address is wrong. Second, don't write the federal government and tell them I opened Brad's mail. I will deny it. Third, don't go looking for any Beastie Boys over by Griffith Park. They moved. Fourth, don't send me a CD and ask me to forward it to Mickey D. I don't know him that well. I was his house-sitter, for Chrissake.
I can't think of a fifth.
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