To his dismay, business brought David back to town sooner than he hoped - "a lifetime too soon". This time, however, his visit has left him so enamoured with LA that he plans to return at least three or four times a year. In fact, now that he's made some new friends, he's even considering moving here. A couple of days after arriving, David arranged to meet his only other friend in California, Ian, in west Hollywood for dinner. My American wife and I tagged along. Ian, a successful Hollywood writer, had reserved a table in the only restaurant left in California which still allows smoking. In a soft Geordie lilt, Ian introduced Jeff, a British rock icon from the Seventies; Jeff's girlfriend, Gayle; Stuart, a psychiatrist to the stars and Amy, a film producer. Amy and David were soon deep in conversation, evaluating Hollywood's latest fare.
"I thought Casino was shite," I overheard David say.
"What did you think of Sharon?" asked Amy.
"She was OK."
"She's my best friend," replied Amy.
"Oops," thought David.
A few minutes later, the cabaret began. Millie, a vivacious blues singer, was soon sashaying around the restaurant, passing her mike from person to person. So began an impromptu session of Beverly Hills karaoake.
"Christ. He's a bit good," said David, as a youthful-looking British guy performed. "Who's he?"
At the end of the evening, Amy wanted to know if David had made plans for the following evening.
"Do you want to come to a private screening at Sharon's house?" she asked.
David considered his options for a moment. We had arranged to watch recorded highlights of a crucial Newcastle game. What was it to be: Kevin Keegan's Toon Army or an evening at Sharon's place? He decided to break a habit of a lifetime. "I'd love to," he replied.
Later, he told me it would be good for him, given Newcastle's recent form, if he had "a night off the Toon".
The following afternoon, David borrowed our battered 1989 Honda Accord and my only blazer and set off to pick up his date for the evening. By early evening, he and Amy were headed for the hills.
David pointed to a huge ranch-style home across the road from Amy's.
"Michele [Pfeiffer] lives there," said Amy casually.
Before he knew it, David was admiring what looked like a Picasso inside a "mock French chateau". Sharon, barefoot and without make-up, wearing a cut-off black top and silk trousers, greeted him. Several other guests, including Sharon's current beau, her sister, and Stuart, the celebrity shrink, had already arrived.
"Is that a real one?" David joked, pointing at the Picasso. "It better be," Sharon shot back. "Or I've been screwed."
The screening of the film, Flirting With Disaster, took place in Sharon's basement cinema. David shared a queen-sized divan with Amy at the front. Only the best Chardonnay flowed. He was soon feeling "right at home".
After the film, Stuart, clutching a Diet Pepsi, began to lecture David on sobriety. "Aren't shrinks supposed to listen?" said David. "Not do all the talking?"
It was almost 11pm when Sharon felt the first hunger pains. One of LA's swankiest Chinese restaurants was contacted. Its kitchen would, of course, stay open late for Sharon.
"Girls!" she cried. "Lipstick and shoes."
Off the women scurried to a dressing-room the size of a gymnasium, crammed with countless designer clothes and shoes. David refilled his glass. In the driveway outside, a Bentley Azure was ready and waiting.
David was still grinning from ear to ear when he sat down to dinner. The waiters were like bees around a honey pot and every time he looked up from his prawn crackers, he noticed several tables of "rubber neckers" quickly look away. By the time he'd finished his dumplings, he'd polished off a bottle of Cloudy Bay Chardonnay.
"Sod it," he thought. "I'm on me holidays."
"Another one of these, exactly the same, except full," David ordered, pointing to the empty bottle.
The following morning, my wife and I were sat on our porch sipping coffee, wondering what had happened to our reluctant house guest, when he pulled up in our Honda. He was swearing under his breath and carrying the sports section of a British Sunday newspaper under one arm, my best jacket slung nonchalantly over his shoulder.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Newcastle lost," he said. "It looks like the scum have won the championship again."
"I meant last night."
"It was alreet," he said. "I picked up Amy, went over to Sharon's place, watched a movie, had a few drinks, grabbed a bite to eat and then crashed out"Reuse content