A VANDERPILGRIMAGE TO MECCA
My friend Kristen texted me in January:
“Can you leave your breastfeeding infant for a long weekend in April?”
“It’s not the best idea, why?”
“SUR. Brandi Glanville. Celebrity home tours.”
“I’ll pack a breastpump.”
Some folks require an objectively “good” reason to ditch their needy offspring and travel 2,000 miles across the country. Me? I need only the far-off siren song of a Vanderpump. “Just raise your glasses high, this one’s for you toniiiiiight…”
I flew in on Thursday afternoon; my flight attendants weren’t famous, Erika Jayne was not patting her puss on the tarmac, and there were zero boom mics descending from above the moving sidewalk. I accepted these first three strikes with unyielding hope.
Shine, shine, shine.
I pumped and dumped in the airport bathroom.
I met up with Kristen and we hit the road. “Look into every car window; people drive themselves around in LA!” I became so creepy at stoplights. I was, at every moment, a single Y chromosome away from being cuffed and carted off. Still nothing.
That first afternoon we laid the groundwork: reservations secured at Villa Blanca, Sur, and Pump; celebrity home tour brochures acquired; Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” banshee screeched at the top of our lungs from the front seat of an adorable rental car. Three checks.
Getting our footing, we immediately stumbled upon a flower-clad omen of our forthcoming three days: a sweet little nutjob doing tea leaf readings outside of a shitty pizza place on Sunset. She was LA personified. No question we were coughing up twenty bucks apiece to board this train.
“You see this little mountain of leaves here? That means you need to go square dancing next December. Nobody does that here. But, you're from the Midwest so there you go.”
Truer words, you over-painted oracle, you. But let’s cut to the chase: would I soon be petting the alopecia’d skin of one Giggy Vanderpump? The tea was murky on the details.
We woke up bright and early and hit the town. A camera outside of a Scientology center followed my every move as I pressed my nose against the darkened windows. A gift shop displayed a coaster set spelled, “Robert Dinero” and an intricate portrait of Abby Lee Miller crafted unironically from knockoff Jelly Bellys. And, for the sake of a rather unflattering photo op, waves of tourists lay their exposed flesh upon the urine-soaked Walk of Fame stars of their dreams. Guh-ross. I mean, I definitely left my dignity on the plane, but not my fear of second-degree STDs.
A crowd was forming so we asked a man dressed up to look like Zach Galifianakis (or, Zach Galifianakis) what was happening. “Someone’s getting a star on the walk today.” “HOLY SHIT, WHO??” Freaking Chris Pratt. Who cares? He’s never even tasted a Skinny Girl cocktail. We left in a huff.
Lunch plans at Villa Blanca. Pandora’s husband greeted us at the door. IT’S ALL HAPPENING. He was legitimately working there. I mean, he stepped out every four minutes to take phone calls in the literal street (I made a mental note to google whether he’s cheating on Pandy because enough already), but he was also seating people and running food and shit. Stars! They’re just like us! Or they’re just like people who wait on us. The food was, man, you guys...not amazing. Shouldn’t this be the one joint for which LVP gives a shit about quality since, you know, no Tom Sandoval? And nobody there seemed to stop and look up wistfully every time the door opened. I mean, Kristen and I were preeeeeetty good at playing it cool, but was everyone else that much better or is it possible they were there gnawing on cardboard pizza because they were in the mood for cardboard pizza? Whatever. The jig is up, folks.
Not complaining about the obviously worthwhile time spent, but the service was so slow and we were on the books for dinner at SUR, for god’s sake! Then, we discovered Kyle by Alene Too was five doors down. Detour. I was too nervous inside of the empty, over-staffed store to take a photo of myself incredulously holding up a $535 caftan, so you’re just going to have to believe. The rest of her curation skills were equally as perplexing. Trust.
Driving to dinner, I began to scroll through the social media feeds of my favorite SURvers. Which is mostly Stassi. Who quit three seasons ago. And they were all out of town! Paris, Coachella, a freaking club appearance in Delaware. “Don’t these people ever work?” Kristen gave me the same look one would shoot a 13-year-old who just referenced Santa Claus as their only true friend. Shut up and let me lie fetal in my womb of delusions. We arrived, and, bang, there’s Max Vanderpump. Oh, that’s not his last name? I don’t care. It should be. He was waiting tables (congrats on your promotion!). For this fact, I’m feeling both impressed by LVP’s no-shit parenting (probably better than mine) and a tad bit judgy. Oh, and Ariana’s brother was there if anyone cares. I know I’m being redundant here, but this all feels truly B list.
The most surprising fact? The food was delicious. Goat cheese balls. That is all.
At the end of the meal and four drinks deep, we gathered up the courage to ask…...our waiter to ask Max for a picture. What happened next was so swift and dismissive that I might have been embarrassed if my parents had bred that gene into me. We were shuffled to their dedicated spot “in front of the Buddha” which was code for “as close to the front door as we can shove you,” while another waiter swooped in, readied my flash (!!!), and forced Max into our blurry snapshot sandwich. I wouldn’t say he was thrilled. I wouldn’t even say he was gracious. Let’s be honest–broken teeth or not, there’s clearly a type of woman that Max Vanderpump wants clamoring over him for contact, and a gal who had to lug her largest purse to his place of employment so as to caddy about her portable breast pump isn’t even fluttering around the periphery of his wide net of hope.
Back outside to find the signature SUR smoking/fighting/crying/kissing lounge. Guess who was there trying exasperatedly to escape us? Poor Max. Hasn’t he been through enough with the whole my-sister-got-a-house-and-all-I-got-was-this-shithole-apartment debacle? I spared Kristen (and Max) the full six poses I’d planned, but I still made her snap this one right quick.
Poring over brochures for celebrity home tours led to one of the weirdest discoveries of the weekend: Not one, not two, but every company listed Dr Phil’s house as their carrot-on-a-stick. He must have some sweet digs, eh? Who knows, because his house WAS NEVER POINTED OUT TO US. We did, however, pass the studio where he films. There was a huge banner of him tacked to the facade. Oh my god, do you think he lives there? Possibly. So, yeah, we saw his house.
Our tour guide left plenty to be desired. He kept recommending we google the houses he was driving us past to “get a better view.” He didn’t point out a single Real Housewives’ residence. I was beginning to worry that he didn’t even know who they were until we drove past Pump and he gave a too-quick overview capped off with, “That Lisa Vanderpump must really love purple.” Quit your job, sir.
Our final night. Our last supper. The pièce de résistance: Pump. I don’t care if you don’t know a Vanderpump from a Rinna, this place was magical. A gay little fairy garden in sea of piss-covered sidewalk stars. I didn’t recognize a single face, yet I felt a deep sense of belonging. It was as though James Kennedy were performing a soft and slow DJ a set in my heart. I was so overcome with joy that I almost had to pump right there at Pump. Luckily I came prepared.
The food was ok, the staff was my favorite, and the fact that our waiter insisted we pretend to celebrate my birthday with our shared dessert was my everything.
I felt my spiritual journey had reached its rightful conclusion.
Back home, my friend Amy looked at this photo and said “I’ve been around for your wedding and the birth of two babies, and I have never seen you this happy.” Well, of course not. I mean, I like them alright, but I’m married to a pop culture luddite, and the other two haven’t made it much past the inside of my uterus. In short: there’s no chance any of them had ever touched Jax Taylor.
And now, to square dance.