Jaci Stephen: 'How did I end up here? LA wasn't where I expected to be at 50'

Way Out West
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The Independent Online

Full May moon over Los Angeles. It hovers beside the Lexington Commercial Holdings building on Wilshire Boulevard, above the streetlamp at the end of North Crescent Drive.

I try to take a picture of it on my i-Phone and curse again the contraption that is about as effective as Gordon Ramsay with laryngitis. When the camera finally captures the shot, I see that the moon is indistinguishable from the light from the streetlamp: two white balls that could be anything, anytime, anyplace.

Except that they are in Beverly Hills 90210, just outside my new apartment on North Crescent Drive where, bizarrely, I am now living.

Most days, I don't cry, but tonight, as I think of Britain waking up as I walk into dusk, I do.

How did I get here? How did I, an intelligent woman, teetering on the menopausal precipice of life, end up pretty much alone, financially struggling, in a strange city, staring at the wrong side of the moon?

It wasn't where I expected to be at 50. In November I treated myself to a trip to LA to celebrate my birthday. I had been there only once to write a feature about the Oscars and Warner Brothers put me up at the spectacular five-star Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

It's where Pretty Woman is set, although, as I scampered around with my camera, I learned that everything, apart from the exterior shots, was filmed on a set (Now everyone knows it as The Hotel Where Piers Morgan Stays When He's In Town).

But what the heck. This was Hollywood country, and I knew I shouldn't believe everything I saw in the movies. So enamoured was I with LA, and, more to the point, so drunk, I decided to put down a deposit on a rental apartment. Having given up drinking for three months in March, and returned to it sporadically afterwards, I now knew that the first decision had been the right one.

When I sobered up, the horror of what I had done struck me. I couldn't move to LA! What about work, family, friends, Sky Plus, Rugby Union? My deposit was refunded, minus my rose-tinted spectacles.

But returning to the UK was depressing and I missed my star-studded lifestyle. Liam Gallagher had approached me in the bar of the Beverly Wilshire because he recognised me from my appearances on daytime TV. I also met Sidney Poitier - twice. And I hung about on the set of ER that was filming its last episode. I loved the non-stop sun and the polite service. Having spent much of the past seven years in France, where they are still dotting the Is and crossing the Ts in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, it felt like a far more stress-free environment. I knew I had to get back quickly.

For years I had been talking about writing for television, but now my heart was in the movies. I had read a book called Save the Cat! by the screenwriter Blake Snyder. It analyses 15 key "beats" in the structure of a movie, and the title refers to the moment when we meet our hero, who endears himself to us by doing something that defines who he is - like saving a cat. It was written by someone who had made shed-loads of money by following his own rules. I needed to find out - fast - how those rules might transmute into putting several million dollars into my own bank account. I was in that condo next to Simon Cowell's $22m mansion before you could say May the Force Be With You.

I booked a place on Snyder's LA Beats Course and, sitting in the classroom, looking out at the Hollywood sign, knew that this was where I wanted to be. The decision was sudden, exciting, ludicrous; it was possibly insane. But as Yoda says: "Do or do not...There is no try." My moving-in date for my apartment was 1 April. That force, wherever, whatever it was, had better be with me.

To read Jaci Stephen's LA diary in full, go to http://lanotsoconfidential.blogspot.com