Postcard from LA

Phoebe Price is simply the best business brain, and most genuine person, I have met in the entertainment industry. Our paths crossed exactly ten years ago, in 2010. I was in LA for the first time taking some R&R after a Vegas business trip. I had a room at the Mondrian, which was surreal, and I knew Phoebe was coming back to town that afternoon. I gave her a call.

I knew she was alone, her mom away, so I called hesitantly. She probably had a hundred things to do after her own trip to Texas. But no, she said to come right up. My hotel on Sunset was a short cab from her home in the Canyon, on Kirkwood and Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Her house at that time overlooked the famous Country Store. She showed me around the house, including the hat design studio. I met Henry, her Yorkie, just like the one we had when I was growing up in Hull. After we had caught up, I said I had to catch a plane home and it was really nice to meet her. Rubbish, she said, you’re taking me to dinner.

In fact, Phoebe took me to dinner at Katsuya in Hollywood, in her silver convertible BMW. The photographers were waiting for us before and after, and someone parked her car. As I stood outside the restaurant holding her coat and watching her work, something dawned on me. I was looking at a major star. Someone who had walked the catwalks of Europe and was now, day by day, making her name for herself on the red carpets of Hollywood and Cannes. But not only that, the big news was that Miley Cyrus, known then better as Hannah Montana, was a brand ambassador for Phoebe’s new hat range. I had a couple of those hats stashed in my case. Yes, Phoebe was and continues to be, a serial entrepreneur. And everything you know about her is part of the act, the persona.

Back at the house, I had pleaded poverty. No more night-time knocking on my door by random weirdos at the Mondrian. I had nowhere to stay except Phoebe’s closet. For English readers, I have to stress that the closet contained its own bathroom with a jacuzzi bath and a view of the Country Store. As I awoke at 5 am, jetlagged and dreaming of the new F1 season, the one in which Vettel would win his first title, I came to terms with my new circumstances. I had made it.

I hadn’t made it, of course. Phoebe had. And I was dangling from her coat-tails for one day only. I fondly remembered the bullet hole in Phoebe’s wall and her warning not to set off any alarms unless I wanted one in my head, and crept around the house looking for food. I found a box of Wheat Thins, recommended to me by Lindsey Buckingham, and tucked in. Later on, still no sign of Phoebe, I started writing.

My diary from that day talks up Vettel’s chances, on whom I had a ten dollar bet that would later fetch $200. It was his first world title of four in a row. The reason I was in LA was to see the Mondrian first-hand after Zadie Smith recommended it. She once met Bret Easton Ellis there, in the rain. It wasn’t raining in March 2010, it was hot. The light was exactly as Hockney describes.

I had no expectation of meeting Phoebe Price, who I had first ‘met’ through email after I spotted her on the cover of Metro in the London Underground. The carriage that morning was a sea of orange. The shot came from Cannes and her dress matched her hair, and I emailed her immediately. She had to be French. I needed someone French for something, and she was it. “Honey, I’m from Alabama,” gave me the biggest surprise of that year. Later still, I got her into Metro again as part of their 60-second interview segment. The chat was done over the phone. It turns out the Metro office loved Phoebe as much as I did.

Back on Kirkwood Drive, noises. The film crew had arrived. What film crew? I have a plane to catch. I’m in deep shit back home. World of Wonder, said Phoebe. Do not get in their shot. Stay out on the balcony unless there is a life-threatening fire. As surreality multiplied, yours truly watched the farrago of James St. James lay waste to Phoebe’s lovely house. History only recorded what happened next thanks to their crew, because my ride was here. Driving through Hollywood like Warren Zevon after a bad one, I caught my plane to London. A week later, I saw what happened after I went, and it made the whole thing seem even weirder. I bring you World of Wonder meets Phoebe Price. Look out for my box of Wheat Thins. Enjoy!