A Party In the USA, or, I Dance With the Stars

Do you remember when Marion Cotillard rightfully won the Academy Award for her triumphant role in La Môme? I don’t say deserved just because she was playing my beloved Édith Piaf, but because it was one of the most remarkable acting performances I have ever had the pleasure to experience so far in my life. Let’s take a moment to appreciate her, shall we? This introduction will all make sense in a bit, don’t worry.

My God, that film makes me weep like an infant every single time. It’s absolutely perfect; there’s nothing like it in this modern era. The speech Marion gave after she won the award was simple and quick, but it was truly one of the most beautiful and joyous speeches ever given. Let’s enjoy:

When I saw that the first time, her conclusion about there being angels in the city (since it’s Los Angeles — Spanish for “the angels”) really stuck with me. Back then I knew nothing of modern Hollywood, how it had no respect for the past, how it was vast and unorganized, how it didn’t parade its stars about. So, that line about angels kind of captivated my imagination. When I finally made it to Los Angeles last year, I didn’t find any angels. I just found disappointment. I haven’t been able to pinpoint my dissatisfaction — I think it was just that all my illusions were shattered and a homeless person picked them up and stabbed me with them.

This trip, though, this tiny little three day trip showed me angels in the city I hadn’t expected. We’ll get into that, though. We have a long day to cover.

My grandmother died while we slept. It wasn’t a shock at all, of course, since we had received a call from the nursing home the day before whilst eating those horrid Pink’s hot dogs. Still, it is rather a shock when a major player in your life suddenly vanishes from the scene. Because of all this, we were reasonably delayed in the morning, but when we finally made our way out the door for the last time, we were looking good, feeling gorgeous, and rather melancholy.

I’ve written extensively about her death, which you can read about here if you are inclined, so I won’t get too deep into it now. In fact, I won’t talk about it at all. Instead, I’ll just say how sad I was to leave that wonderful little West Hollywood apartment. It’s absolutely beautiful and if I had to ever live in Los Angeles, it would be in that neighborhood in an apartment that looks very similar — except I’d put in a washing machine. Maybe not, though, I like the dry cleaner down the street. Whatever. That’s not the point. Here’s me looking sad on North Stanley:

View this post on Instagram

Weeping behind my sunglasses. I'll miss you LA.

A post shared by Benjamin Phillips (@bdphillips) on

One of the major concerns of this trip was luggage storage. We checked out in the morning, but our flight wasn’t for 14 hours. We had a show to go to. We had food to eat. We had shopping to do. There was no way in hell I was going to cart my bag all over LA. So, I had to think. Locker rentals didn’t seem to be a thing. I looked for lockers at the Beverly Center, but no luck. I looked for lockers at Union Station, but no luck. I looked for lockers at the Grove, but no luck. The only place that I found them was at CityWalk, but there was absolutely NO WAY IN HELL that I was going all the way out to CityWalk to leave my bag for the day. Finally, in a stroke of brilliance, I recalled the gracious concierge service that the Grove offers. They pride themselves on hospitality, so I reckoned they’d be able to help us out. THEY WERE! So, we shuffled over there and dropped our bags and took a few moments to relax in the ridiculously opulent bathrooms. There’s more fine stone in those places than most European castles. This is just part of the restroom enclosure:


Ma couldn’t wait to line up for Dancing With the Stars, so we went over to the CBS gates (after a stop at the Coffee Bean for a passionfruit granita — I know!) to wait for a few hours.


I don’t mind waiting. It’s kind of like meditation for me. When I was regularly attending tapings of Extra, I’d stand around in the blazing sun for Beysus-only-knows how many hours waiting for Nicole Richie and Kris Jenner and all the other celebrities I encountered. It’s rather peaceful to shut your mind off and focus on the people surrounding you. I was mainly surrounded by pompous guests who thought they were better than everybody else, but…that’s Hollywood!

IMG_1105We had hours and hours to go and there were chairs for rent, so we got a couple and chilled under the ridiculously attractive flowering vines that creep down Beverly Boulevard around the studios.

IMG_2630Can we talk, reader? HAVE I EVER LOOKED BETTER? Feel free to comment below.

Now that I had a chair saving my place, I decided to spend my last few hours wandering around the Grove again. I was starving, though, so I knew it was time for my glorious return to POTATO CHIPS DELI.

Potato Chips has simply the most amazing sandwiches. The bread is divine. They won’t even tell you where they get it from. I hate that, but I love it at the same time. They have a few vegetarian options, but I always get the caprese sandwich and kettle chips with a lemonade. I’m drooling now thinking of it. Here’s a picture:

IMG_1099The tomatoes scream with flavor and the burrata makes me religious. The basil is perfection and the balsamic vinegar brings it all together so brilliantly. AND THAT BREAD. GOOD GOD, THE BREAD. I would seriously fly out to LA again just for lunch for that sandwich and not even tweet an ironic #YOLO, it would be in all seriousness.

With a little tear in my eye, I went back down to the Grove to pick up some food for Ma and wander about a bit. As I passed by Barnes & Noble, my eye caught a poster of Tabatha Coffey. I said, “HOLD UP, WAIT A MINUTE,” and took a look at that poster. SHE WAS GOING TO BE THERE THAT NIGHT. Was I missing that? Nope. With a spring in my step, I hurried back to my place in line and prepped myself for the Dancing With the Stars.

I have a confession to make…before that day, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of DWTS (we’re abbreviating from now on, reader) in its entirety. I didn’t even have a vague interest in the show. But, I love the television and I love being on camera and I love celebrities, so I was willing to go have a good time. And reader…did I ever.

We weren’t allowed to take any pictures because we weren’t allowed to take our phones with us — RUDE! — but I will try and augment my descriptions with pictures I pick up from the Internet.

It took absolute ages to get into the studio, so we had time to make friends with the crazy people that were around us. The ones ahead were kind of punk old ladies, which I’m a fan of. The ones behind were loud, loud, and LOUDER. I’m not a fan of that. After hours of standing around and lots of passionfruit granita in me — I had to go squeeze the lemons. I just discovered that euphemism. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It made me laugh, so there it is. So, Ma and I went off to the restroom line. This took even longer than the first line! But, things happened, reader!

I heard a squeal from across the road so I looked around and saw one of the doors shutting on those little caravans that actors prep themselves in. Then I saw my girl, NENE LEAKES, strutting around in a bathrobe. Get it, NENE. After this, I didn’t really recognize anybody, so I allowed my starstruck mother to describe what we were seeing. Val and then something called Peta and then James, which didn’t mean too much to me at that moment — he was a bit distant and my eyes hadn’t properly appraised what they were witnessing.

It was super fun to see them and Ma seemed completely out of herself, which was weird. Our family is not unaccustomed to celebrity encounters. After using the slightly upscale portable toilets, we got back in line and finally, finally, finally made our way into the studio.

Now, reader, let me tell you something about the DWTS studio — it’s tiny! On the television, it looks so big! But, it’s not. It’s really rather compact. We were ushered to the VIP seating, which was really a curse, but that’s a story for later on. We were being used as filler for the pre-taped segment. I was down for that, so I gladly took a seat in NENE LEAKES’ husband’s seat. Yes, please, thank you kindly. We were in the second row from the stage and I had the loveliest time watching the dancers practice their routines and watching the crew assemble the elevated stage and watching as the judges came on in.

The old one, what’s his name? Len Goodman — I remember that because he was on my favorite British chat show once, The Graham Norton Show, and he taught my beloved Miranda Hart to dance. I love me some Miranda. It’s a shame she isn’t better known here in America.


Anyway, Len winked at Ma, which made her giggle like I would giggle if Zac Efron had walked in the room. Len then proceeded to look at the two of us for an awkward length of time. It was like being appraised. Weird.

Very soon it was time for the professional dance to tape, so we all strapped little flashlights to our fingers and the stage lights went out and we were instructed to get hella turnt for the cameras. So, we shouted and screamed and jumped and waved our hands in the air and the dancers came out and I was like, “Wow. I wish I could dance.” I can barely walk with rhythm. Maybe that’s not true. Various different people have said I lope like a gazelle. I didn’t know that so many people were familiar with the walk of African wildlife. Here’s the dance. I was impressed:

That damn song has been burned into my brain. Every second I have a moment of peace, I hear that damn popping beat. Anyway, we were somewhere in this area:

At Dancing With The Stars

Sadly for the cameras and the home audience, we were shuffled up to the top balcony since the real VIPs were coming. Someday I’ll be a VIP. My cats think I’m pretty important…

Now, reader, something very important occurred whilst I was up in that balcony. Something that I don’t think I have words to eloquently describe. It wasn’t even a big deal for the other 299 people in the audience or the crew or the talent. It was a major moment in my existence, though. In fact, perhaps it was the single most serendipitous moment in all my life so far. Perhaps my entire life was building up to that moment? Maybe it won’t mean much to you, but when the show began and the dancers came out and began to dance, strains of music came from the band and I got all misty eyed and tried my damnedest not to openly weep. But, I couldn’t fight a slight tear as “Party in the USA” began to play. Of all the songs in the world, how is that the one they chose to open the show? My song. My Hollywood song. That song narrated both of my trips to California. It’s become an irrationally strong part of my being. I sing it every day. I get ready in the morning to that song. I wake up to it. I hum it. I love it. It’s everything to me; and there they were playing my song. I don’t believe much in a preordained future…but that threw my mind for a joyous loop.

My eyes are leaking again just watching that clip. It’s too much for me. I fell in love with the show from that moment…but then I fell in love with a person. But, hold on, that story is coming very soon. The next paragraph actually.

Even though I realized that I wouldn’t get much, if any, screen time from this spot, I think I had more fun up here than I would have had than from the floor. Mainly because I fell madly in love with a man who stood not ten feet from me: JAMES MASLOW. Here are a few reasons why…I mean, I’m sure he has a nice personality and all, but look:



Cast of 'Dancing with the Stars' take care of their fansThe actual happenings of the show are a blur to my memory now — I wasn’t allowed a camera, and I didn’t bring my journal…and I was really distracted. Look at him. Can you blame me? I was more focused on watching his perfect biceps than I was on watching anything else. It was mesmerizing to see the way they would move when he drummed his fingers on the balustrade. When he raised a water bottle to his lips, the muscles tensed so beautifully. He was obviously sculpted in heaven for us to worship. Plus, his dance was absolutely perfect. I don’t care what those dumb judges say. They were just overwhelmed with his beauty, I’m sure. Can’t blame them one bit.

I am ashamed of myself, reader. I had an opportunity to make my presence known, but I held my tongue. I didn’t really want to get kicked out. When James was being interviewed after his dance, he said something like, “The salsa dancing was hard…it didn’t really resonate with my body.” It took everything I had inside of me not to shout out, “I’LL RESONATE WITH YOUR BODY.” I should have said it. It would have been great television.


Reader, I just had the best time watching all those dancers dance and those celebrities celebrate and laugh at Redfoo, who was judging for some reason. He’s always made me laugh. He does whatever he wants. He sang a bit of his new song, which is ridiculous…get it?

We were quickly ushered out of the studios and then reunited with our telephones, which I think was more emotionally charged than a soldier returning from war.

Hurriedly, we dashed over to the Grove so that I could pick up a copy of Tabatha’s book and enter the lecture. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what happened. Whenever I’ve been to a book signing or met a celebrity, it’s always a massive to-do with wristbands and rules and massive crowds. This was completely the opposite. It was a small, intimate chat with maybe thirty people. I took a seat as inconspicuously as I could and enjoyed the end of her discussion.

Instead of the crowd being churned through the line in two minutes, we were allowed to leisurely talk to her, ask her questions, take photos, get advice. It was wonderful!

View this post on Instagram

With my new best friend, Tabatha Coffey!

A post shared by Benjamin Phillips (@bdphillips) on


When it was finally my turn, I couldn’t help but discuss the fact that I had messed up Jessica’s hair with a box dye. Tabatha couldn’t believe it. She did ask if I was a stylist, though, which was flattering — she must have liked my hair. I didn’t know if I was being too bold, but I asked her if she would film a short video with me where she berates me for being so irresponsible with Jessica’s hair. She couldn’t have been more eager to play along and it was so surreal:

On a happy cloud, I rejoined mother. We picked up our bags and called an Uber to take us to our final dinner in Hollywood at the Ivy. The Ivy, as I’m sure you remember from my last visit, is another icon in LA where celebrities are always lurking. I didn’t see any this time around, unfortunately, but we didn’t have the best seats. It was inside…I’d rather have been outside, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t see anybody on the way in.

The bouquets of roses that festooned the place were glorious. Here’s just one of the bouquets:

IMG_2642It was absolutely delicious and the mojito I had was heavenly. The mint leaves were as big as my palm. I was terribly impressed by this. I’ll have to grow a new variety of mint this year in my herb garden. The plant I have now is prolific and happily spreading through the garden, but the leaves aren’t that big — not that size matters…LOLz, yes it does.

We had a perfect crème brûlée and then got into our last Uber to LAX. The driver of this one was so sweet. I wanted to be famous so that I could hire him as my private driver and talk to him all the time. As I’ve said before, Uber is absolute perfection and I will absolutely never take another taxi if I can help it.

I like early morning flights. You hop on the plane and you’re suddenly in Texas and trying not to think about dumb boys in Texas that don’t care about your feelings and then suddenly you’re back home and Hollywood was but a dream.

I had the loveliest time. Los Angeles was so much nicer to me this time. I don’t know what it was, but perhaps it was as Marion Cotillard said, there truly are angels in that city. Angels don’t have to be mythical flying weirdoes from the afterlife; angels can be happy things and moments. I certainly experienced my share of angels. I hope you enjoyed my posts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s