Today, May 11, 2010, l have lived in LA for 10 years. It’s an anniversary I never anticipated, and it still shocks me that I have reached this milestone and what has transpired in the past decade.
Big brother Stephen and me at 1 and 3 years old.
Shortly after the loss of my beloved brother who died of pancreatic cancer on September 19, 1998, I started planning my move to a new life. My brother Stephen had willed me all he had, and he had urged me to move to LA and follow my dreams. I loved movies and writing, and I hoped somehow to combine my passions into a career, perhaps in filmmaking. So off to Hollywood I went.
Within weeks of landing in Los Angeles I found full-time employment at a publicity firm, working with clients such as Britney Spears, NSYNC, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Joan Rivers and James Brown. I also met a nice doctor, who I began dating. It was an exciting time. I was out on the town a lot, meeting people and making friends.
One night in a valet parking lot I met a woman who offered to help me out. She said we’d “do lunch” sometime. She gave me her card. I called, and we had a couple of meetings, and then asked me to meet with her about “an opportunity.” She proposed that I become her business partner, along with another woman, in a new venture. The result was me becoming co-founder and co-executive director of a promising new networking group for lesbians in the entertainment industry. Wow, I had not even been LA less than six months and I got my first big break!
Launching the company was an immense amount of work, but worth it. I devoted every free moment to making our new enterprise a successes, attending every women’s event, mixer and ladies night in town, nightly, working every connection and connection-to-a-connection to promote our fledgling organization. All seemed well. I was meeting people. I was helping other people meet each other.
Our company’s accomplishments in just a few short months were rewarding, and impressive. I put my PR training to use to secure countless articles in the press about our organization. I recall asking one prospective member where she heard about us, and she replied, “Where haven’t I heard about you?” Our membership kept growing, and we even launched a chapter in New York.
Hollywood Nights: Hanging with Ellen
As they say, it was too good to be true. I’ll spare the details , which have provided ample fodder for my forthcoming book, but I will say that I came to understand Bernie Brillstein’s famous quip, “You’re nobody in Hollywood until someone wants you dead.”
Meanwhile I was learning that my new relationship with the doctor whom I had met just a few weeks after moving to town was not everything I thought it was. At the same time, my dear little dachshund, Pepa, my most loyal companion for more than 14 years, suffered a stroke that rendered her lame and blind. Then, while I was on the way to work early one morning, two planes hit the World Trade Center. The news was too much to bear. I turned off the radio and cried. When I got to my office, my boss sent me and my coworkers home to await further notice. Two days later, the owners of the company called us all in to inform us that due to 9-11 and the economy, we were all laid off. It seemed like Armageddon.
Pepa. A Little Dog with a Big Soul
Essentially I was alone in LA. All my family and true friends were in Washington, DC, where I had lived my whole life.
But I did not leave LA. I stayed. I was determined that nobody and nothing would run me out of town. So I did the only thing I could do: I made things better for myself. New job. New home. New girlfriend. New circle of friends. I even got a new body, thanks to being unemployed. Each day after I scoured the help wanted ads and sent out a half dozen resumes, I would stave off boredom with exercise. Each day, sometimes several times a day, I would run, bike, hike, Rollerblade and lift weights. My mind and body got strong. Life was good again.
Back with a vengeance with a new outlook and new physique (photo by pal Brian Rawdon)
What happened next was my fault, in part. I made some bad choices. I went backward. Back to the doctor. She promised she had changed. But it didn’t last long. After a big fight, I left her house with the parting words, “My life is better without you.” Then, a few weeks later, I got the call. She was dead. I had always wondered how our tumultuous relationship would end. This was how.
My grief would be short though, because soon after her death I found myself in a legal battle with her family over my brother’s inheritance, which she had co-mingled with her own funds. Despite an abundance of documentation that proved the money was mine, I was forced to pay off her family to get it back.
I was bitter, but I moved on. With what was left of my brother’s money, I decided to do what he had wished for me — follow my dreams. I would start my own family. I had always wanted to have a child, and while my brother Stephen was alive I told him about my hopes. But when Steve got sick, I put my family plans on hold. Then with the move to LA, the disastrous business venture and then my partner’s death, it seemed the time was never right. Until now.
I was single, but I knew I could do it on my own. If nothing else, my life in LA had taught me I could not only survive I could thrive by my own doing.
The process was long and arduous, as chronicled in my three-part column series “Nothing as Planned.” but I began taking all the steps needed to prepare my life for a baby. It was an exhilarating time. My heart was full of hope and promise.
Then, unexpectedly, I found love. Kira, whom I had known for a couple of years, came back into my life. She, like me, had suffered the death of a partner. Her lover, a close friend of mine, had died in a tragic car accident. Kira asked me to help plan the memorial service. From that beginning, we became friends. Now that I was trying to become pregnant, Kira had visited me for support, and one thing led to another.
After a trying time of emotional ups and downs through nearly a year of fertility treatments, I was expecting! Alleluia! Thank you brother Stephen for your inspiration and for making this incredible event in my life possible!
Birth was another story, again, all chronicled in my series, “Nothing as Planned,” but here he was, the joy of my life, little Stephen, born August 11, 2007, 8 lbs. 11 oz.
Nurturing a little newborn and being there as he has grown into a walking, talking, charming, extraordinary toddler has been all that I hoped, imagined and dreamed it would be. My son Stephen is the single best thing ever to happen to me in my life. I thank God and I thank my brother Stephen everyday for giving him to me. I want the best for him in life and will dedicate the rest of my life to making it so for him.
A portrait of me and Stephen taken by my friend and pro photographer Sara Corwin.
My story is not over though. Once again, the choices I made, which I thought were the best choices at the time, have had repercussions. I did not anticipate that my choices might harm me or my son. I relied on my faith, wishing and hoping that everything would be wonderful. I am writing a second book, Anchor Baby, inspired by my true-life experience conceiving my son and the unforseen consequences of my decisions on our family.
It has been 10 years here in LA; here where everything was not as I thought it would be. Life will always have ups and downs, but my decade here has taught me that my choices can directly influence how high and how low. I remember a saying that used to give me strength when I first moved here: “Your happiness in life is equal to the risks you take.” And so I have taken risks, and I hold on to the hope and dream that in the end happiness is the reward.
Epilogue: My next commitment is to writing. I am finishing one book I started four years ago and I have begun working on Anchor Baby as well. Some have heard my working title of novel #1, and many have urged me not to change it. As this is a G-rated site, I cannot post the title here, though it is in my bio under “About.” Once I actually talked to shock-master John Waters about it, and he said I would have to change it to get it published, though he loved it. I am undecided. After all, how will my mom explain it to the bunco club?
Stephen now at 2 years old.