In 1996 Keir Bloomfield got his first sole screen credit as a writer. Granted, it was on a low-budget, a very low-budget, movie that the producers guaranteed would be seen on oil platforms and tuna boats the world over. But it was a credit and it was his. Toni Todd, the film legend, had nothing to do with it; contrary to the advice of her facialist, she crinkled her nose at the whole project as if it had an offensive odor. Keir’s illustrious agent at CAA secured the deal and took a whopping $2,500 fee for his troubles. However, the agent declined his celebratory invitation to drink martinis at Musso’s, and instead he walked into the restaurant on his own and requested a seat at the bar.
The bar that night was packed, and so was every table. One booth in the corner, in particular, was loaded with Hollywood royalty. The man in charge was sixty-nine and still running a studio. His name was Bob Brown. There were agency heads and stars all at the same table, all male except for Brown’s head of production, his trusty lieutenant, Becky Nelson. Aside from her presence, the place was awash with testosterone—and Keir loved it. He endeavored to find an opening at the bar to order but it was three-deep and people were doing their best to ignore him; that is, until a dazzlingly handsome young man with intense blue eyes, two elbows balanced on the bar, and a drink cradled in his hands turned to Keir and said, “I’m buying! What’ll you have?”
“Dirty martini, two olives. What’s the occasion?” Keir inquired.
“I just turned down Esa-Pekka Salonen!” blue eyes exclaimed happily. He set down his drink. He slapped Keir on the back and shook his hand vigorously, “I’m Cliff White.” Keir nearly fainted. Those eyes. Those shoulders. He had no idea who Esa-Pekka Salonen was, but he was very glad his new acquaintance had turned him down.
Later, Keir gleaned over a succession of drinks that Cliff was referring to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Cliff had given up his career and he was plotting to embark on another. He wanted to work at something new where he would be around people constantly. Having just come from an industrious hive of people persons, Keir suggested Cliff look into working at an agency. “Yeah,” slurred Cliff. “My dad’s kinda in talent management. Yeah. He’ll know!” As the night wore on, they got drunker and drunker. Even the addition of two solid slabs of T-bone steak to their systems did nothing to the absorption of alcohol, and they ended outside the restaurant—from which they had been ejected with extreme prejudice—an hour shy of midnight, patting each other on the back while they took turns retching over the curb into the street.
When their stomachs were empty and their heads were still spinning Cliff stood up as straight as he could and said, “Whoa. Man, we need some fresh air.” He headed off, up toward the hills, and Keir obediently followed. When they hit Beachwood Canyon, Cliff began walking on people’s immaculate lawns, helping himself to cool draughts of water from garden hoses and coaxing Keir to do the same. Then they started their ascent into steeper territory and Keir queried their destination. “We’re gonna climb the Hollywood sign, man,” was Cliff’s answer.
Heart pounding, suddenly not drunk at all, Keir did, in fact, climb the “H” on a series of narrow metal ladders. With every step the city spread wider and lights grew even twinklier at his feet. At the pinnacle he let out a whoop of ecstasy, the perfect expression of being alive and male and young, to the delight and echo of his companion, and the annoyance of several canyon neighbors, frequently awakened and beleaguered by similarly happy youths.
On the way back down from the sign they passed a red-tile-roofed house nestling in the trees on Deronda Drive. Here Cliff paused. “I like that house,” he announced, in all seriousness. “One day I’m gonna live there.” In this manner their friendship was established, brimful of high expectation, bravado, and excess. In Keir’s eyes, Cliff was the master of adventure. In Cliff’s eyes, Keir was the devoted foil.
When Cliff decided that, for their betterment or to “open doors” or some other such nonsense, they had to infiltrate what he termed—sounding as if he had been on some pretty wild drugs when he said it—“the inner sanctum of the secret societies within secret societies of the men in power” so they could enhance their (nonexistent) standing; Keir was all for it. Even if he didn’t know what it meant. They paid visits to lodges scattered over the basin: Elks, Masons, Shriners, even The Rotary Club, and found them peopled, to their dismay with dull, middle-aged, civically minded men.
Cliff decided they’d fare better with the Clientologists, and although the church wasn’t necessarily masculine, it was secret. Keir had severe misgivings, but he always deferred to Cliff’s (not necessarily) better judgment. On their first and last encounter with the church, Keir gave a false name to a female assessor with an oddly thick neck. Cliff told a series of outrageous lies to a doe-eyed adolescent, just barely legal, who nervously replaced two metal rods in Cliff’s hands every time Cliff set the metering apparatus down to illustrate each more fabulous point of his interview. Somehow they wriggled their way out of the building on Hollywood Boulevard at roughly the same point in the process and ran away laughing to get a drink at the nearest bar.