Heaven and (nearly) Hell in Beverly Hills

I usually only tell this story in the company of friends with a few drinks in hand. So when you read this, let me suggest that you have a beer in one hand and a whiskey in the other hand and if you don’t know me, pretend you do.

I arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1995, 22 years old and giddy with the excitement of experiencing the U.S. for the first time and what a place to start — the home of Hollywood, Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210. As soon as I met Daniel Harris, one of my closest friends from school, I knew the U.S. leg of my trip around the world was heading for a good start — we were going to be staying with one of his mates, Alex, who had recently hooked up with a top model and was living off Beverly Hills Boulevard. Result.

We headed over straight to his house from the airport and after we had settled into the beautiful pad, Alex told us we were going to a party being hosted by a friend of his in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Alex saw the look of incredulity and excitement on our faces as he mouthed the words Beverly Hills Hotel, he just laughed and said “Welcome to L.A., boys.”

The evening started with some quite generous vodka and orange juice, a cocktail that was believe it or not completely new to me (and only now do I know it is officially called a screwdriver). Three things to point out here. Firstly, I had arrived in L.A. from Fiji where the beer cost was about 400% more expensive than anything else. Not because it cost anymore than it did in the U.K. or the States but simply everything else cost 400% less. This meant that I had simply not had anything to drink for over a week. Secondly, having never drunk a screwdriver before, I was easily tricked by the orange juice’s ability to mask the alcohol content as it slipped down easily in the Beverly Hills sun. Thirdly, as my friends will know, I am a bit of a lightweight anyway.

All this meant that I was already quite drunk when we arrived at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The party was in a penthouse suite on the ground floor, with our very own garden and swimming pool (that’s how I remember it anyway). It was an intimate affair, with about 30 of the most beautiful (and tanned) people I had ever seen drinking and laughing in the warm evening. I sipped my first drink, and it felt like I was in heaven.

And as I imagined an after-life filled with endless parties in the sun, being served cocktails by smartly dressed men in Navy like white suits and tanned flesh and cleavage spilling out of tight designer dresses — the Messiah walked into the party. It took all my will to not drop my drink as Lenny Kravitz walked into the room, dressed in his trademark sheepskin coat with Vanessa Paradis. If you were not of my era, you need to keep in mind that this was Lenny at the height of his powers then, having released “Are You Gonna Go My Way” 18 months earlier.

I had seen him live in Milan three years earlier and at the time he was the closest thing I had seen to a rock God. To then have him walk with Vanessa Paradis, one of the most beautiful women of that time, was one of the unforgettable moments that remain etched in the brain. As I remember it I can almost smell the mix of fresh flowers from the garden mixed with the fragrance of stunning women that seemed to float in the warm LA air while hearing the sound of beautiful people frolicking in the pool.

Probably less special was the fact that I then spent the next 30 minutes standing there, drink in hand, simply staring. Apparently it was so bad that Daniel had to come over a couple of times and actually physically push my jaw up and close my mouth as I gaped at my hero. The truth is that for the first time in my life I was dumbstruck (with Lenny more so than Vanessa) and that mixed with the increasing levels of inebriation meant that I had become totally powerless.

Fortunately the power couple only stayed for a half an hour or so and I finally regained the ability to speak and found myself talking to the most beautiful 34 year old who had me spellbound. Monica was gorgeous, smart, successful and somehow found me interesting despite my intoxication (or maybe she was simply as drunk as me). It was only when Alex announced that he was leaving with his girlfriend that I realised I was in there because Monica leaned over to me and whispered ‘Don’t go. My friend likes Daniel so why don’t the two of you come up to our room and we can continue the party there.’ So Alex agreed to leave the key under the doormat of his house and we stayed.

It was not long after that the party finished (it had run out of booze) and so we followed the girls who took us to the lift and up to their room, as they were also staying in the Beverly Hills Hotel. By this point I was really quite drunk and can remember thinking quite clearly something had to happen soon or it was not going to happen at all. So as we got into the living room (it seems everyone had a suite) holding Monica’s hand, I readied myself to pounce when disaster struck. Out of nowhere other people from the party started to file into the room — the party people from downstairs decided that they needed somewhere to continue the party too.

At that point I knew it was over. My chance had gone. The vodka had beaten me and there was only one thing to do — find one of the bedrooms and pass out on the bed. Daniel still to this day likes to remind me of the sight of going into the bedroom and seeing people sitting on the side of the bed, snorting coke off the bedside table while I lay there spread-eagled and passed out in the middle of the bed. You have to understand I was a bit of a square at school and had never even gone near an E or a joint, let alone something like cocaine. The closest I had come to drugs was taking aspirin and Coca Cola on a school trip (as we were told it would make us high) and even then I would only do half an aspirin. Thank God camera phones were not invented then; otherwise, that image would still be haunting me now.

It was perhaps a couple of hours when I woke up from my stupor and boy was I bursting to go to the toilet. Slightly disoriented, I got up and went to find the bathroom, which did not take too long (it may have been a suite but it was still only a hotel room). Unfortunately it was occupied (the Coke heads had seemingly changed venue) so I decided the best thing to do would be go back down to the lobby to find the toilet there (I haven’t been the most patient person in the world). So I left the room, got into the lift and headed to the lobby.

I took the lift down and stumbled into the splendour of the reception of the Beverly Hills Hotel and was almost blinded by the light reflecting off the marble. As I searched for a toilet I could feel the receptionist eyes follow my every step with the utmost suspicion and disgust. Having completely struck out in my search of the restrooms and fearing ejection if I slurred a request of directions to the man whose eyes now seemed glued to my every movement, I decided it would be best to return to the party and use the bathroom there, hoping the coke heads had discovered that the bedroom had been vacated.

It was at this point that I realised that not only did I not know the room number, I did not even know what floor the party was on. Despite this I decided to head into the lift and confidently pressed floor four. As I exited the lift I proceeded to listen for sounds. However all I was met with was a deafening silence and with my bladder now at bursting point, I began to panic and decided that the best course of action was to try every hotel door to find out which one was open. And finally I found the right door, entered the hotel room and headed straight into the bathroom.

It was apparently a good 20 minutes later that I was awakened by a loud thumping on the door, finding myself sitting on the toilet with my trousers around my ankles. The next thing I saw was an extremely stocky and extremely agitated man in some kind of security uniform, holding one of those very large Maglites, peering at me through the ajar door he had just opened. “What on earth are you doing?”

Disoriented, I looked down at my trousers and boxer shorts around my ankles and simply said “What does it look like I am doing?” Slightly thrown by my answer, the security guard said “But you shouldn’t be in here. You need to get out now.” And I simply responded okay and pulled up my trousers and got up to wash my hands.

He had closed the door (presumably to give me some privacy) but as soon as the security guard heard the water start to run, he rushed into the bathroom holding the Maglite aloft in one hand and grabbing me by the scruff of the neck in the other and pulling me out of the room. It was only at that point that I noticed this hotel room was darker and far smaller that the one I was in earlier at the party and I certainly did not recognise the couple that were standing in their dressing gowns in the corner of the room. The colour seemed to have completely drained from their faces and they seemed to be quivering and they cowered as I moved towards the door. I have never seen such fear in someone’s eyes since.

It turns out that in my haste to go to the bathroom, I had got the completely wrong room (in fact I had got the completely wrong floor — the party was on the 5th) and I awoke the sleeping couple from their slumber as I was drunkenly stumbling around in their bathroom. However they were so petrified (I think they were convinced that I was a killer whose ritual was to go to the toilet before he killed his victims) that it took them over 20 minutes to have the courage to move and phone reception.

Fortunately as we reached the corridor I heard the voice of my friend, Dan, shouting from the floor above. “Dan” I shouted back. And as he came down the stairs he said to the security guard as he was holding my tightly by the arm and taking me down the stairs to the lobby “What’s going on?”

“Your friend here climbed through the bathroom window of one of the guest’s hotel rooms and went to the toilet. And we have called the police” said the security rather gruffly.

Dan simply laughed at this “Seriously? He can’t even walk he’s so drunk. He probably just stumbled into the room. Can’t you see you have made a mistake?” It was at this point that we heard the sirens getting closer and I found myself sobering up pretty quickly.

“Listen,” said the security guard. “We have called the police and if they find your friend here when they arrive they will have no choice but to take him to a jail cell. And trust me your pretty boy friend does not want to be spending a night in a jail cell. So let’s do a deal — you guys run out of the back of the garage and I will tell the officers you got away. However, if you get caught you must not tell them I let you go.”

“On one condition,” Dan replied as I looked at him incredulously. Here was my escape route and he was trying to put conditions on it. “You give me a cigarette.” I was really quite scared now as I could hear the sirens come up the drive and just as I was about to beat some sense into Dan (after all he was not the one spending the night in a jail cell), the security man calmly reached into his pocket, took out his packet of cigarettes and gave Dan a Marlboro light. And then we ran. And we ran hard. Through the back door of the hotel, through the garage and into the street until we hailed down a cab and jumped in. I have never felt such relief in my life. And never have I ever sobered up so quickly — it was as if the bottle of vodka I had undoubtedly drunk had been expeled through the sweat of fear and running.

“Where to?” Said the cab driver. It was only at that point that we realised that we only knew the name of the street where we were staying. But we weren’t worried. We had just escaped the police and surely we would recognise it as soon as we got there. Well that’s we thought and after having driven up and down the road twice, we told the cab to drop us off — after all we knew the key was under the matt and surely no-one else in Beverly Hills would do that.

So in the light of dawn, we sheepishly went door to door, checking under the mats of very expensive houses. Funnily I struck lucky and called Dan over so we could enter the house together. As we entered, it certainly seemed familiar. The lounge was in the same spot we remembered as were the stairs. And as we walked deeper so was the kitchen. However it was only when we opened the fridge and saw in the fridge door a half full bottle of Vodka sitting next to a carton of Orange juice did we know we were safe.

And that’s my one story.

A final note, if by any chance you are one of the two people whose room I walked into I am sorry. I hope it has not scarred the rest of your life. And if you are the Beverly Hills Hotel security guard that set me free, then thank-you. I owe you big time.

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