Karl: What would you like to be called?
Carey: Strangé. You know, from Boomerang.
Karl: Grace Jones. Of course. How does she spell that – with the little doo-hickey on the e, right?
Carey: Carey is fine.
Karl: Current occupation?
Carey: I’ve been a Hollywood studio executive for years, but I just resigned. I’m taking time off. I guess that’s called unemployed? Am I unemployed? My occupation is “seeking next chapter in my life and career.”
Waiter: *sets cocktails on table* Bottoms up.
Carey: Yes, they are.
Karl: How old are you? You can approximate if you wish.
Carey: I’m 41.
Karl: Relationship status?
Carey: Just divorced.
Karl: I’m sorry. When did that happen?
Carey: We’ve been separated since 2009, but we just signed our papers about two weeks ago. We were together for eleven years.
Karl: How did you two meet?
Carey: We met at a barbecue here in LA. It was back in the days when the whole, quote/unquote, “A-list gay crew” were having their weekly barbecue. He was training at CAA. I had no idea what that was, so I went over to my group of friends and told them, and they all said, “Oh my God, he’s going to be an agent, get him!” He wooed me. It was definitely love at first sight. We kicked off the relationship in a very tumultuously passionate way. He’s not the person I ever would have held up as “this is the person I will fall in love with,” but he did something for me. I think I was ready for life to slow down, and that’s when we got into a different stride. When I met him, he had just come out. He had just broken up with the girl he had moved here with. He was just discovering all of the things that I did in New York before moving here – you know, being crazy, sleeping with five guys a week…
Karl: …or at the same time.
Carey: After two years of my ex stalking me, we got together, and that was when domestic partnerships were just getting started in California. There was a huge push for it – every gay fair, every fund raiser… We passed a booth one day at a fund raiser and registered. It just sort of happened, we didn’t even really think about it. But it became a really big deal in Los Angeles around that time. This was in 2002, 2003. Things really changed in the gay community. All of a sudden people wanted to get married, people wanted to have children. Gay people were becoming “monogamously gay.” *makes air quotes with hands*
Karl: Monogamous on paper?
Carey: *laughs* Exactly. Our best friends had kids, and then some of our straight friends had kids. We started to look into adoption and ended up losing our first attempt.
Karl: That must’ve been so difficult on you both.
Carey: It was really hard at the time, but now it’s easy to look back and realize that it just wasn’t our child. We had the baby for two days and then the mother changed her mind. It wasn’t meant to be. But a year later, we got the call that a woman was seven months pregnant and she picked us to be the parents.
Karl: You two had so little time to adjust to becoming dads.
Carey: We lived a flashy, crazy, intense, live-by-the-moment lifestyle… Nothing was done small, everything was done big. That was the hardest thing for my ex to deal with. We were unprepared. We had all of the things from the previous adoption, but we only had a couple diapers and a few necessities laying around out of superstition, in case things fell through. Our son was born at 8 p.m., and we left the hospital at 3:00 p.m. the next day. On the way home, we called our baby nurse and said “We’re bringing the baby home! Help!” She had a list and said, “Go to Target and buy these things.” Our best friends brought over a bassinet and a changing table and that was it… we were parents.
Waiter to Karl: *sets down entrées* Enjoy your steak. We’ve got the best beef in town, huh? *walks away*
Carey: Man, someone likes you, huh? How dare he flirt with you over me! Hello!
Karl: Are you dating yet or too soon?
Carey: Sort of dating. Trying to date this guy, I guess. I got hurt by him before, but it was necessary to learn that I need to put myself out there, to be hurt. He’s slept over, we didn’t have sex, and we’re supposed to go out tonight actually. It’s the first time we’ve seen each other in awhile.
Karl: How did you end up here? What brought you to West Hollywood?
Carey: I grew up in a small town on the border of Maryland and Delaware. Every year, every birthday, I would ask for globes and atlases; this was in the days before the internet. I would sit in my room and imagine all the places I wanted to be other than where I was. I just knew I didn’t belong there. It was such a small town and the one thing you were not supposed to be was gay. You could be anything else you wanted to be in the world except for gay. I wanted to go to University of California, Santa Barbara, but my father wanted me to go to this little private school off the Chesapeake Bay with 800 kids. I said, “Hell no, I’ll be ostracized the second I get there!” I ended up at the University of Maryland. I joined a fraternity. Got the letters tattooed on my ass. At the time, it seemed like the pinnacle of my life.
Karl: I know, it’s everything at the time, isn’t it?
Carey: After graduation I moved back home. After two weeks I was ready to kill myself so my best friend told me to pack my bags and come move into her studio with her outside of D.C. That was my first taste of true independence. I took a job at Nordstrom selling women’s shoes. Oh my God, being in my twenties, selling odd sized shoes to women, they loved me! Lynda Carter lived in the area, so I got to sell shoes to Wonder Woman which was fabulous.
Karl: Does Wonder Woman have cute feet?
Carey: She has huge feet.
Karl: That makes sense. So how did you get from selling women’s shoes to working in Hollywood?
Carey: I picked up the Washington Post, (yes, in those days we still picked up the fucking newspaper), and there was a little blurb for a local studio business. It was in D.C., on 14th Street, I thought it was awesome. My boss was this crazy Jewish lady from New York. She was so tan and her hair was pulled back so tight – mean as anything. My first day on the job she came out screaming at me because I was eating an orange. I threw the orange in the trash and she looked at me and said, “No… I hate the smell of oranges. Get it out of here!” I thought to myself, “This is what I’m meant to do! I’m meant to work for crazy Jewish women who are just fucking nuts.” We did the local screenings, the media buying, we did everything for the local studios. Nine months later, the studio I worked on consolidated everything into one centralized agency in New York and my boss went to run it. And she brought me with her. So I moved to New York to work for this massive New York Advertising Agency.
Karl: So sweet job, New York City, and still in your early twenties.
Carey: This all happened so fast. Then the woman who ran media at the studio I worked on promoted her assistant. I knew the assistant really well so she told her boss, “You have to have Carey move out here.” So she offered me the job. It was a difficult decision to make but I always knew I would end up in California. I told my soon-to-be boss that I needed two months. I had to leave the agency due to conflict of interest which was fabulous because it gave me two months in New York at Christmas. When it was time to move, I packed everything I owned into two duffel bags I bought in Chinatown. I found an apartment on a Rent-A-Roommate website the day before I moved – arrived on a Sunday, started work on a Monday. I immediately discovered how different LA and New York are when I wore an outfit to work that I would never wear again – a vest with a tie and slacks. Luckily, my boss wasn’t even there. The studio had just opened the biggest movie ever at that time so everyone was flying high.
Karl: How was the adjustment to driving in LA?
Carey: I took the bus for my first month here.
Karl: Oh my God, not the bus?!
Carey: I know. People thought I was crazy. I hadn’t driven a car in five years, I didn’t know. I thought taking the bus was normal. After a month I got a car. My first license plate was “four anal.”
Karl: *spits out margarita* What?!
Carey: I’m serious. They gave me “4 A-N-L.” I called the DMV and said, “Um… I can’t drive in West Hollywood with this license plate.” I would get so many honks and people gesturing from behind me because the DMV wouldn’t take it back.
Karl: *chokes on entrée*
Carey: It was awful. I had it for years. It sums up my life in a nutshell… 4 ANL.
Karl: Can you describe some of the changes you’ve seen in West Hollywood over the years?
Carey: West Hollywood at that time was so much more carefree. I was a crazy, skater boy club kid when I moved here. I didn’t care if you liked me or hated me as long as you knew who I was. That was the energy here then.
Waiter: How about another round?
Carey to waiter: Why are you flirting with him over me? It’s pissing me off.
Waiter: He was here first.
Carey: It’s his arms right? It’s the bigger arms.
Waiter: Well… not the arms.
Carey: Did you just?… Oh my God, what?!
Waiter: I’m just kidding.
Carey: You can’t see his package! You didn’t even look at mine! *waiter leaves*
Carey to Karl: That’s rude! You’re not even fucking gay, that’s just rude.
Karl: So, the club energy?
Carey: Yes, the clubs were different. The energy was different. My generation was the first to come out post-AIDS. We never experienced our friends dying, or experienced being ostracized, that generation cleaned everything up for us. It’s similar to the generation that followed the Depression – we didn’t have the same caution that the previous generation had. I actually worry that we’ll have a resurgence of that because there is so much unsafe sex going on these days. Being newly single, I’m discovering a lot of match making sites that aren’t really for match making, they’re just for instant gratification. I worry that the younger guys don’t have the same sense of caution. You know, when you’re that age nothing can hurt you.
Karl: So that sounds like things are more carefree now.
Carey: Well, I’ve started going out again. A young friend of mine takes me out with his friends and I see a difference. They all want to be set, and established, and in relationships. It’s like they’re not enjoying their twenties. I attribute it to the fact that they’re all coming out of college and not getting a job right away. So there is a sense of insecurity for them. When we got out of college, we knew we would get a job somewhere. We didn’t have that worry. Most kids are living at home until they’re 27 now. They have different stresses than we had in our twenties. Now, in my forties, the only people who want to date me are people in their twenties. They like the idea of someone who’s established and will take care of them. They want that set lifestyle. I look at them as hook-ups and they want to date. I have to say, “Dude, when I cum, you’re outta here. We’re not snuggling, we’re not kissing and hugging… C’mon, we met on Grinder! It told me how big your dick was and how many feet away you were.” People used to just go out, dance all night, and have fun. No one was on a mission to get married. It’s just different now. Don’t get me wrong, this place is still wonderful. There are still so few places in Los Angeles where two guys can walk down the street holding hands, but this is one of those places. I just think it’s like when Giuliani cleaned up New York. He also cleaned up some of the fun. But Weho is busting at the seams. I think that will all come back. We’re going to have a new President soon, and the young people are going to want that carefree fun back.
Karl: On that note, describe this city twenty years from now.
Carey: I imagine we’ll have more straight families and young professionals moving in, as they are now. It will be nicer – nicer apartment buildings, nicer stores. It will be like Times Square where they eventually end up blocking off streets and it becomes an entirely walkable area. I can see that happening to Santa Monica Blvd. People get so stuck in their community in Los Angeles. If you’re willing to stretch out… East LA is blossoming with character. Noho is booming with youth character right now. If people embrace those areas for their fun, and embrace this area as their community, that’s the perfect match. Living here, you have the luxury of going to the beach, to the airport, to the east side, to downtown, all within twenty minutes.
Karl: Well, if the other areas are for fun, wouldn’t you want to live in those areas and embrace those as your community?
Carey: No. God no. Those areas seem nice from the outside, but look… *points at Gelson’s Market across the street* Look at that grocery store. Would you rather go to that grocery store or that fucking nasty one over on Franklin? Right? It’s beautiful here. I don’t think that will ever change.
Waiter to Karl: Are you going to finish your broccoli?
Karl: No. That steak was delicious, thank you.
Carey to waiter: I’m done too. I’m sorry, did you notice there was someone else sitting at the table?
Waiter: Oh, I’m sorry, did you need help finishing your broccoli? Should I feed it to you like your mom used to? *lifts fork and holds broccoli to Carey’s mouth*
Carey: My mother never did that. She would just beat me.
Waiter: That’s kinda hot. Would she use a paddle? I used to do that to this guy that would come over. He would demand that I yell “bonzai” when I hit him. He wanted me to yell it real fast. He’d say, “Say it again! Say it louder!” My neighbors started to complain about all the yelling. They also started calling me “Bonzai.” I just told them I was watching Karate Kid. *walks away*
Karl: Did that just happen?
Karl: Um… What would you like to see more of in West Hollywood?
Carey: I’d like to see more people out and about, like Europe. Look around, there are all these little cafés and bars. I’d like to see people stop rushing everywhere and start saying, “Wait, I’m just going to stop here for a minute and have a drink.” Sure, I currently have the luxury to do that now, but that’s how this place was when I first moved here. People used to get up on Saturdays and not have any plans. You knew you were going to eat, you knew you were going to go shopping, you knew you would go to the gym… You knew you were going to do those things but there wasn’t such a rush everywhere. People need to bring back some of the carefree attitude. Just enjoy yourselves people, what the fuck? Go out, get crazy, let the police grab you ’cause you’re screaming at a homeless person. Get thrown out of a club once in awhile. When is the last time you got thrown out of a club?
Karl: How about less of?
Carey: Less of the people who have no connection with West Hollywood coming here to party. I know that sounds really elitist. People who have no idea what this city’s about come here to have a good time, and they bring down the vibe for everybody else. That drives me crazy. Take the bachelorette parties for example. “What are you doing here in a gay club? You’re disrupting our fun!” We want girls there, we want everyone there, but we want everyone having a good time. We don’t want girls there so they can say, “We took her to a gay club,” while they’re knocking over fifty drinks. “This is the one and only time you’ll ever be here. Why are you here?”
Waiter: Do you two want a hot fudge sundae or something like that with whipped cream and some nuts on top?
Carey: We’re okay.
Waiter: Want to do some belly shots?
Carey: *confused* No, I don’t want a belly shot. He wants a belly shot. *points at Karl*
Waiter: Lay on that table with your shirt off and I’ll go get some tequila.
Carey: You have to. C’mon.
Karl: Thank you, I’m fine.
Carey: Really? See… This is exactly what I’m talking about. You really need to loosen up and have more fun.
Karl: Everyone hates the bachelorette parties, not just the gay guys. What else bugs you?
Carey: The parking? Can they fit one more sign on the street that says, “permit only?” Where the fuck are people supposed to park around here? Maybe it’s a Jewish thing but I hate paying for valet. Why can’t they just include the fee in the restaurant check? I know you can park at the Pacific Design Center, but who the fuck knows how to get into that place, let alone get out of there after some drinks?” *homeless man walks by*
Oh my God… hot. See, that’s what we need more of.
Karl: What? That?
Carey: I like dirty, when they look like they’re going to beat the shit out of me.
Karl: That’s… pretty dirty.
Are you happy in LA? Has the city been good to you?
Carey: Yes. LA is an easy city to live in. It’s a rolling suburbia with pockets of insane fucking crazy shit. My sister in law came to visit and said, “I’ve never flown into a city where you start seeing building after building after building for so long before you hit the airport.” Most cities you fly over farms, and then you see some buildings right before you land. She said she couldn’t believe how big this city is. And it’s not really that big, right?
Waiter: *appears out of nowhere* What do you mean, “it’s not really that big?”
Carey: Of course I’m big. I’m tall.
Waiter: I can see that he’s big. *points to Karl* See, you think waiters are looking at their notes when they take your order but they’re really looking past their notes, at your drawers.
Karl: *looks down*
Waiter: See, you know what I’m talking about.
Karl: That’s really creepy.
Waiter: It’s a skill, like reading a teleprompter. *walks away*
Karl: Who is this guy?
Carey: I know, seriously.
Karl: Does he even work here?
Carey: At least straight guys are finally embracing pants that fit. People talk about “metrosexual guys”… All they’re talking about are guys that wear clothes that fit them and look somewhat stylish. Gay guys say, “they’re stealing our thing!” No, they’re just wearing clothes that fucking fit. There are more choices now and opportunities for straight guys to buy nice clothes. Express in the mall has fitted shirts right there.
Karl: *pays bill, settles into chair and sips drink*
Carey: Thank you for lunch.
Karl: You’re welcome. It’s such a perfect day to do this.
*watches passing traffic*
Any last parting words?
Carey: *thinks* You know… I lived a block from here at Willoughby and Kings when I came to LA. That seems so long ago. I used to stumble home every night. *pauses* It’s so nice to sit here right now and sip this drink.
I guess I’ve come full circle.