Dom Joly: In Hollywood, I blend in by shivering

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The Independent Online

It's very difficult to know what to wear in Los Angeles. Every day you wake up and look out of the window and the sky is a piercing blue and the sun is gently fondling your eyelids. To a Brit, this means but one thing – shorts and flip-flops. So you wander out into west Hollywood, trying your best to look as if you belong... but everyone seems to be wearing coats, some are even wearing gloves. This, you see, is the Californian winter, when temperatures can drop to an arctic 15C. Everywhere you look, people sit under outdoor heaters, bashing away at scripts while grumbling about how "goddamn cold" it is. Again, being British, you tend to laugh and tell anyone who'll listen that, compared with where you live, this is positively tropical. Hardly anyone does bother to listen, however, the general view being that you must be clinically insane to consider living anywhere colder than this. They've got a point – however bad a day you've had in LA, at least it's sunny.

Meanwhile, I've got worse things to worry about, as I'm now out and about in west Hollywood trying to get into trendy restaurants while wearing shorts and flip-flops. The maître d's all look me up and down, like something they've found on the bottom of their patent shoes. In any other town in the world, wandering around in vaguely trendy, casual gear is a sign of confidence, a sign that you are creative and "arty". In LA, everyone is creative and "arty", so dressing like an overgrown surfer just means you're unsuccessful in your "arty", creative career. Otherwise you could afford proper clothes.

I manage to squeeze into Château Marmont for supper, but can't read my menu without the aid of a candle, as I've been seated in the darkest and dingiest corner of the garden. Also, my corner doesn't have a heater and I become very cold as I am wearing shorts and flip-flops and, having been in LA for a couple of days, am rapidly forgetting that 15C is a nice, balmy evening back home. I start trying to blend in by shivering, asking for mulled wine and talking loudly about my impending trip to "Cabo El Scorchio" in Mexico with the ugly one from Friends.

I'm staying at the Sunset Marquis, one of my favourite Hollywood hotels. It really couldn't get more Hollywood if it tried. As the blurb on the hotel brochure helpfully points out: "If we were any more Hollywood, then our pool would be shallow at both ends." All around the place are huge photographs of past rock gods posing in the hotel gardens. My favourite story is that Keith Richards is rumoured to raise a skull and crossbones by the top pool whenever he is in residence. Sadly, I see little evidence of top rock action, despite the Grammys being just around the corner. I fear the real rock'n'roll set have moved on, as breakfast is peppered with the horribly cynical chatter of music managers and record execs all grumbling about the decline of their industry. Every time I get my laptop out, the terrace turns and glares at me as though I'm stealing from their kids' college funds by illegally downloading music over my granola.

Later in the day I sit on the same terrace tapping away at a script. I look up – around me are four tables each hosting an identical Brit, in a black Lacoste polo and flip-flops, all bashing away at their scripts. For a moment the frenetic typing stops and we all stare at each other in an embarrassed fashion. But this is not a town for self-doubt. Soon we are all back at work hammering out the Hollywood dream.

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