The day I flew in to LAX from Nashville was memorable for two reasons. The first reason was that sitting behind me up at the front of the Southwestern Airlines plane was Keith Urban. I had watched him throughout the entire flight. When I say watched, I mean filmed. I had filmed him, surreptitiously, throughout the entire flight, on my iPhone. And when I say surreptitiously, I mean that it probably wasn’t.
Keith was travelling with his female assistant, and spent the flight listening to music, and dancing in his seat, and sleeping. It was when he was sleeping that I filmed him the most. But I also filmed him when he was dancing.
When we landed and the plane was drawing up to the terminal, Keith took out his iPhone and FaceTimed Nicole Kidman. Yes, indeed. Now, I am in love with Nicole Kidman, and have been for longer than Keith, and to hear her voice speaking loudly from the screen of his phone gave me an upset stomach. Mind you, it was already upset from the peanuts.
‘On your way home, can you pick up a trophy?’ Nicole said to Keith (not me).
‘A trophy? Who for?’
‘For [insert kid’s name here], she did really well in her sports day,’ said Nicole.
‘No problem, babe,’ said Keith.
Keith Urban was allowed off the plane before anyone else. I was allowed off second. I raced after him and had half a mind to ask for an interview … and then was overcome with reason. I let him walk ahead.
My second memorable moment was when I met my high school best friend in the arrivals lounge. This was no accident. We’d been planning it for 35 years. I knew it was him for two reasons: 1. he was wearing our old school uniform; 2. I hadn’t actually forgotten what he looked like
This was Kevin. Our old school uniform was royal blue — an important detail in the story that’s about to be told.
Now, Kevin is an aspiring screenwriter and a professional photographer, and has had the enviable job of photographing some of the most famous people in the world. On the second afternoon of my visit, staying in West Hollywood just up from Beverly Hills, Kevin was required to attend a function hosted by the Motion Picture Relief Fund, an event dubbed “Reel Stories, Real Lives”. Kevin didn’t say much about it, other than to say I had to wear my best clothes.
‘I’ve brought 10 black T-shirts,’ I said.
‘Are they nice T-shirts?’
‘Do you have AS Colour here?’
‘Then no, they cost $11 each.’
Kevin was horrified. But he’s English, so said nothing. But he’s also American, so he felt the shame intensely.
‘What else do you have?’
‘Brown pants. Sort of a cross between jeans and a trouser. Very smart.’
‘You need a jacket,’ he said.
‘Like a puffer jacket?’
‘No, not like a puffer jacket. Like a suit coat.’
‘I don’t have a jacket.’
‘We need to get you a jacket.’
‘How about I just buy a jacket?’
Okay, said Kevin. The function was that night. About two hours away. We raced off to Hollywood and found the very cheapest mens store and I spent an hour trying on jackets that were designed for men, but men with the bodies of 17-year-old boys. We finally found one that kind of fit. I say kind of because when I reached forward the sleeves moved so far up my arms you could see my elbows.
‘What’s wrong with your elbows?’ said the American assistant.
‘They’re all … I dunno. Scaly?’
The best thing about the jacket was that it was royal blue — the colour of our school blazer. It must have triggered something emotional in me, in a very deep place, because I simply had to have it.
‘Buy it,’ said Kevin.
‘Does it fit?’ I said.
Kevin and the assistant went quiet.
Then they sort of nodded.
Then they said ‘Yes.’
But very quietly.
We drove to the function, which was being held in some incredible Hollywood building. I had forgotten to take off my jacket for the ride, so I was hunched over in the passenger seat like I’d been wired up with elastic bands. The thing about Hollywood buildings is that they’re amazing, but one street over people are crouching in doorways waiting to kill you. Especially when you’re wearing jackets like my new blue one.
‘Hurry up,’ said Kevin, running ahead so as not to get between my jacket and a bullet. ‘Let’s go in the back way.’ I thought it was because that’s what all Hollywood photographers do. It didn’t occur to me it was to avoid being seen with my blue jacket.
We went in the back way, then through to the front, and Kevin said ‘You stand there while I go and work.’
So I did. I stood there. And watched as beautiful people dressed in amazing clothes walked past me. And it dawned on me what was wrong with my outfit. I looked like a bum.
A bum in an ill-fitting nice new blue jacket. That I had probably stolen.
All the people in the above photo walked past me. Not one of them commented on my blue jacket. Even though I pressed in amongst the media gaggle so they could see it for themselves.
They didn’t comment on the AS Colour T-shirt, either, or the brown pants, or the Doc Martens.
After the function, Kevin and I went to the Beverly Hilton and got outrageously drunk on Californian reds. It was the most munted I had ever been. I was so drunk I had to take off my jacket. It took a long time. The barman was nice enough not to comment on my T-shirt. But when I went to the toilet, and returned after goodness knows how many minutes, both he and Kevin were sniggering.
‘What’s up?’ I said.
‘Nothing,’ said Kevin.
‘What’s up?’ I said to the barman.
‘Nothing,’ he said, smirking.
‘Do you go home dressed like that?’ Kevin said to the barman.
‘Yeah, just like this,’ the barman said.
‘What’s going on? I said again. I was very quickly becoming a threatening drunk.
‘Nothing,’ said the barman. ‘But I’m going home now … in this nice blue jacket.’
I still have the jacket. It’s survived multiple house moves and the whole cult of Marie Kondo. I’ve gone to get rid of it so many times, but it is a beautiful piece of clothing. And who knows … by the time I finish my six week Fatty Challenge, I may even be able to fit into it again.
And I shall go back to Hollywood at that point, and show those famous people what it really takes to dress smart.