We collectively had little concern for the Portland Trail Blazers. A friend, Doorman, had asked to be traded from the L.A. Lakers to the Blazers because he wasn’t logging many minutes and the Blazers were one of the weakest teams in the league. They had one player who I heard had won the CBS reality series Survivor, and he was as good as anyone in the league. He could shoot, handle the rock, and move well. He could be one of the top scorers going, but he actually looked to pass first. Doorman, on the other hand, hated to pass almost as much as he hated defense. The Blazers rarely won a game, but he looked like he was having fun flying around, getting a lot of shots.
The doorman job in Hollywood is a fairly simple one: They determine who gets in the trendy clubs based on gender, looks, style, and money. Women gain entry before guys as long as they have an eating disorder and guys get in if they have connections or grease them with $50-$100. People who are fat, Persian, or rock jeans that cost less than a C-note are discriminated against with extreme prejudice. The surefire formula, the combination that cannot be denied no matter how exclusive a particular club, is bulimia and big tits. If you have that duo, admission will never be an issue.
Doorman usually strolls into the gym just minutes before the game wearing designer aviator sunglasses and a ripped T-shirt and our contest was no different. After changing courtside rather than going into the locker room, he walked onto the center-court circle looking fresh as a daisy. We won the tip and, just a few minutes into the game, we knew they weren’t going to offer much resistance. We were already thinking about our contest against the Phoenix Suns. Such classic sports traps as taking a team lightly, looking ahead to the next game, etc., proved irrelevant. We generated a lead early and maintained it throughout. The highlight of the game for me came when Doorman got the ball on the break and put his head down, barreling to the basket full steam ahead. I knew he was going to try to yoke it, and I had four fouls, so to challenge the shot would almost certainly result in me fouling out.
It was worth it.
He went hard from the left wing and elevated, hand cocked back. As he swung the ball forward, I jumped with him and sent the ball flying and Doorman tumbling. The whistle blew. The call: foul with the body. I was disqualified and sent to the bench. I had a couple cocktail-waitress friends in the crowd, including an ex-employee of a rival nightclub. They cheered uproariously when they saw Doorman hit the ground. Their schadenfreude was expressed openly and aggressively. I’m not sure Doorman noticed, as he typically spends most of his time somewhere deep inside his own head space. He walked to the foul line expressionless. The exchange—a foul to prevent a dunk—was well worth it, since I never would have been able to live down Doorman dunking on me. After dismissing the Blazers, we could turn our attention to the Suns.
It is not as though the Suns are that good, it’s just that they offered some intriguing matchups. They have a cocky kid from Texas, Rookie Actor, who also works as a doorman in the L.A. nightlife scene and had previously gotten the Trail Blazer’s Doorman in trouble with management. Something about Doorman taking too many bribes from people waiting to get in and lowering the overall coolness quotient of the crowd. A big no-no. The Suns also feature a Latin TV Actor, who dates one of the actresses from a film I produced. She is quite a bit older and attends his games religiously when she is out in L.A. The Suns also have the new Superman; an R&B Singer from Oklahoma; and the volatile Sitcom Actor whose show about a country-music star’s life has never actually been seen by anyone in a blue state. He once got kicked out of an All-Star game, and once, during a scrimmage, he called English a "Persian"—their rivalry has been heated ever since. In the context of Los Angeles, the seat of the American Persian community, to be called a “Persian” is a slander the likes of which would have caused a pistol duel in the 1800s. The graver the insult, the shorter the paces, and I think this one would have called for shots fired at point-blank range.
The negative connotations such a slur implies are myriad: overreliance on cheap cologne, most often Drakkar Noir; building enormous homes, “Persian palaces,” on small plots, usually with Doric columns and gold-colored exterior paint; unethical negotiating tactics; wifebeating; tax evasion; homophobia. Car dealers are familiar with the ubiquitous “Persian conversion,” whereby buyers remove the numbers from a car’s exterior and apply a higher series of numbers indicating a more expensive model. The Zach Snyder–helmed 300’s spectacular per-theater average in Los Angeles is pretty clearly attributable to the local support of the ancient Grecian order over Persian culture.
Adding to the anticipation was a bet The Captain and I made with Rookie Actor and Superman. Whoever emerged victorious would be treated to dinner at Maestro’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, and the losers would be required to don the winners’ sweaty shooting jerseys. We had a better team, but Rookie Actor immediately took the bet. He was all unabashed, puerile optimism. We met in the Valley for a pickup game he had arranged during the week, and after we won every game, I felt very confident going into our Sunday matchup that we were going to be feeding our bellies at their expense.
Maestro’s has a couple other locations, one in Arizona and one in Newport Beach, but the one in Beverly Hills is their showpiece. Thick cuts of prime aged steak, stiff cocktails, an impressive wine list. It’s where metrosexual show-business folks go when they want to feel masculine and traditional. We were seated in the VIP section in their wine cellar and ordered our entrées. The sides are served in platters family-style and the plates are superheated and are not to be touched. The Captain and I wanted photographic evidence to commemorate the evening: the waitress was all too pleased to take our picture. I must say, there is something very satisfying about a fine meal, and the satisfaction is only enhanced when you don’t have to reach into your wallet and cough up all that dough for stratospherically priced lobster mashed potatoes.
Rookie Actor and Superman said they hoped they would get a rematch in the finals of the NBAE. We were now 7-3 and on a roll. Who knows? Maybe they would get their shot at redemption. For now, I went back to my modest Westside home, having recently moved out of the Studio Chief’s hovel, and crashed out on my platform bed with my new pet, a potbellied pig named Francis Bacon. I slept very, very well on a full stomach.