In the summer of 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio and I cozied up.
That is to say, we talked, laughed, made eye contact, and even made physical contact (my skin still burns where his fingertips touched me through my cardigan).
I was part of a press roundtable for blockbuster movie Inception, which stars Leo (and the lovely and recently out Ellen Page), so it was probably in his job description to be charming. Except, I remember, he was pretty out of it during the first part of the interview–wandering eyes, an air of disinterest, as though he wasn’t interested in what his co-stars had to say.
Things turned around later and he was a bit keener on engaging the room, so we had a bit of a to-and-fro interview banter. We were put up in the gorgeous Beverly Hotel and it had this beautiful, sunny courtyard. Leo was standing at the corridor behind the interview rooms, flanked by two burly guards. I was accompanied by an entertainment journalist who had seen Leo more times than she cared for, but I was 20 years old, on my first junket, and genuinely excited.
She urged me to ask go ask for a photograph, and I did. His men stepped up and tried to shoo me off, but with the insouciance of a well-fed alpha lion, he lazily flicked these huge grown men away with the hand holding a cigar, and said in that gravelly yet gentle voice, “It’s all right, come on.”
We took a photograph and it was electrifying. I won’t say I was blown over or charmed (because that’s reserved for my moment with Joseph Gordon-Levitt) but it was a very strange, out-of-body sort of feeling. After the camera went click, Leo even asked if the photo turned out all right and thanked me. He smelled like sweet smoke and testosterone.
My friends went crazy over the picture when I posted it online, and it surprises me a little that almost four years on, I can still recall so many details. But I fell in love with Los Angeles for a bunch of different reasons and the moments I rubbed shoulders with A-listers aren’t the first things that come to mind.
That end of summer weather
Cool air, warm sun, dry enough that your make-up doesn’t melt but not so dry that your lips chap. Having grown up on a diet of American TV, I could finally understand why celebrities are always in layers even while out walking in the bright sun. ‘Cause the weather is just the right mix of sportiness and fashion, that’s why.
Those end of summer sales
Kaboom! I loaded up on so much Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works it was just crazy. I wasn’t a fan of online shopping and those brands were not available in Singapore where I live, so imagine heading to these stores and finding things slashed up to 90 per cent.
The awesome service staff
I don’t know why I read/hear about bad service in the States. Granted, I’d only been to Los Angeles so maybe the service is really bad in other parts? Or I was just really lucky? But for sure, I was treated fabulously by every single sales/service staff I had the luck of meeting. I gave modest tips but I definitely looked more like a poor Asian girl than rich lady of leisure anyway. I am now totally sold on the tips system. (In Singapore, you pay 10 per cent service charge by default in all restaurants even when the service is really bad.)
Everyone I met was smiling and chirpy and perhaps it’s only in Los Angeles because everyone is a struggling artist of some kind looking to make a human connection. Still, having elderly gentlemen tip their hats at you when you walk past their homes is a really great feeling. I was really afraid of discrimination before I flew over, but once there, I felt super safe even when I was walking alone at night.
I don’t know if this is a cliché but I had a morning of absolute peace and fun and just pure happiness while hanging out at the beach. It wasn’t warm enough for a dip in the water so I lounged around the chairs on the deck, and actually saw dolphins in the distance. I also got cheated into taking a photograph with this lady dressed as a pirate, and paying five bucks for it. But the whole scene, from the lush waves to the cheesy boardwalk (Modern Family fans, remember the episode Gloria brought her boys to the roller coaster?) to how the beachfront homes looked like Polly Pockets houses from far, really filled me with a kind of wonder and joy.
I miss Los Angeles so, so much. The trip is important to me in many ways: the first time I travelled alone, the first time I travelled for work, the first time I fell in love with a place. I can’t wait to go back to Los Angeles again.