My wife and I are having a party on Friday and I'm terrified that no one's going to come. The problem isn't that we don't have many friends. We don't, of course, but we've invited everyone we've met since getting here, including half the staff of the local babysitting agency. No, the problem is that Fahrenheit 9/11 opens this Friday.
I'm no great fan of Michael Moore--his hypocrisy is as boundless as his girth--but in Hollywood he's regarded as a hero. At a recent "industry" screening of the film, it got a 70-second standing ovation from a crowd that included Danny DeVito, Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Sharon Stone, David Duchovny, Jodie Foster and Mark Wahlberg. At the conclusion of this ovation, Moore stood up and elicited further applause by comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln.
It would be easy to conclude, after spending time in Los Angeles, that John Kerry is going to be the next President of the United States. I haven't met a single person who says they're going to vote for George W Bush. Indeed, most Angelinos become apoplectic with rage as soon as they hear his name.
But Los Angeles is far from typical. After the last Presidential election, a journalist called Michael Barone analyzed the way the electorate had voted on a county-by-county basis and concluded that America was divided between red areas (Republican) and blue areas (Democrat), with the red areas being clustered around the East and West coasts, and the blue areas concentrated in "the flyover states".
"It was the dutiful people versus the beautiful people," said Barone of the 2000 Presidential election. "Appalachia voted for Bush, but Beverly Hills voted for Gore."
These two Americas--the red and the blue--are much more bitterly divided than Labour and Conservative voters are in the UK. One side supports gay marriage; the other thinks sodomy should be a criminal offence. One's in favour of gun control; the other wants guns to be available in the local supermarket. One is pro-choice; the other is pro-life.
What's interesting is that America is split down the middle between these two poles, with the last Presidential election being the closest one ever fought. In this volatile situation, Michael Moore's documentary is bound to become a lightening rod, with blue areas embracing him as the new messiah and red areas calling for him to be burnt at the stake.
If I was throwing a party in Dallas/Fort Worth, the fact that Fahrenheit 9/11 is coming out on Friday wouldn't make the slightest bit of difference. But given that I'm currently in Los Angeles, I don't suppose even the babysitters will show up.
I've been visiting a lot of Hollywood doctors recently. I had to pay through the nose for medical insurance before I got here and I'm determined to get my money's worth before I leave (even if it means coming home with a different nose). Consequently, when a friend of mine told me he'd just had some pre-cancerous moles removed by a Beverly Hills dermatologist I decided to pay her a visit. I went through a tanning salon phase in my early 20s, so it seemed sensible to get myself checked out.
She didn't mess about, this doctor. Within 15 minutes of entering her surgery, she'd whipped out her scalpel and lopped off several suspicious-looking blemishes.
As I was leaving, she pointed at a tiny little skin tag beneath my left eye and said, "What about that?"
"I've had that for years," I said. "That's not dangerous is it?"
"Strictly speaking, no. But it's not gonna get any smaller. Why not get rid of it?"
"Is it covered by my insurance?"
"Nope," she said. "That's classed as 'cosmetic'. You're going to have to pay for that."
When I discovered she was only talking about $30 I gave her the go ahead and out came the scalpel again. It was only on the way home that I realized the full significance of what had just happened. I'd had my first ever bit of cosmetic surgery!
Clearly, this was only the thin end of the wedge. Thank God I'm not spending the rest of my life in this city, otherwise I'd soon be signing up for a brow lift, a chin implant and a testicle tuck.
National Air Guitar Championships
Forget about the NBA Finals. The biggest sporting event of last week was the National Air Guitar Championships held at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip. Regional champions from all over America battled it out to see which lucky winner would progress to the World Air Guitar Championships in Finland later this year.
According to the judges, there were three things they were looking for: technical ability, artistic expression and an elusive quality they referred to as "airness". Each contestant came on stage to strut his or her stuff, miming to a song of their choice for two minutes, before the field was narrowed and the three finalists had to play along to a song chosen by the judges.
From my vantage point in the front row, the clear winner was a competitor called Power--he was dressed as John McEnroe, circa 1981--but the judges disqualified him on the grounds that he was playing air drums rather than air guitar.
In the end, it came down to a battle between the Rockness Monster and Sonic Rock, both from South-East Asia, a region of the world which, for some reason, produces a disproportionately large number of air guitar champions. The overall winner was Sonic Rock, one of the few female contestants, who impressed the judges by flashing her "Hello Kitty" knickers at them.
I worked as the theatre critic of The Spectator for two years, but I can't recall ever having had as much fun in an evening. If I was a West End producer, I'd put in a bid to host next year's World Championships in London.
Paul Allen's Space Programme
To my cynical eye, there's something very suspicious about Paul Allen's own personal space programme. On Monday, the world's fifth richest man stood on a viewing platform in the Mojave desert and watched SpaceShipOne, his privately-funded craft, fly into space.
Isn't it obvious that this eccentric billionaire, who lives on his own private island, is a member of SPECTRE? Does he actually need to be holding a white cat before the CIA and Mi6 spring into action?!?
I confidently predict that the Euro2004 Final will be interrupted by a special broadcast in which Paul Allen tells the world that unless he's paid a ransom of $100 billion he'll train his outer-space laser on the world's major cities and start blowing them up.