Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wherein a Bachelor Parties

WERE IT NOT FOR MY EXCELLENT FRIENDS, I would have posted something new over the weekend. But since my friends are the type of people who insist a guy should have a bachelor party before his wedding, I just didn't have the time to add anything.

On Friday morning at eight o'clock, Brooke Dillman rang the doorbell. I was freshly out of the shower and Wendy answered the door.

"Brooke's here," she said. "She needs to use the printer."

I said hi to Brooke and watched as she went directly to the Southwest Airlines website, to the boarding pass section, and entered my name. "Why are you entering my name?" I asked. I'm smart like that.

"No reason," Brooke said.

"Oh," I replied, still not putting anything together. Even when I saw the boarding passes for both Brooke and me on a 12:45 flight to Kansas City, I still was in the dark. "What's going on?" I asked, very confused by this time.

"I thought we'd go to Kansas City and hit some titty bars," she said. "What do you think?"

Sadly, what was happening to me didn't really sink in until nearly 30 minutes later. I was mostly stunned and confused, wandering around in my jeans and T-shirt with no shoes on saying, "What's going on? What's happening?" Until Brooke finally said, "Aren't you going to pack?"

It was very similar to my reaction on my last birthday, when Wendy threw me a surprise party. Coincidentally, our friend Carla Curtsinger was going to be in town a couple of days before my birthday on business. Wendy, being the clever and thoughtful girlfriend (and now fiancee) that she is had contacted Carla and gotten her on board with this surprise party idea.

As far as I knew, I was going down to Santa Monica to pick up Carla and a co-worker of hers, after which we would go to dinner. Carla had told me via email or IM or phone call (I can't remember which) that she had a couple friends in L.A. she hadn't seen in a while who wanted to join us for dinner. "If that's OK with you," she added.

"Sure," I replied, "the more the merrier." Her friends had suggested a restaurant (whose name escapes me at this moment) I was familiar with. I had, in fact, been to at least one birthday party there in the recent past.

Wendy would be joining us later, as she had a rehearsal with the improv team she was currently on. A team that included our close friends Lindsay Stoddart and Angela Kinsey. Just the sort of people who might be helpful when planning a surprise party.

But I was unaware. Mostly because of Wendy's clever planning. You see, we knew we were going to London in April, so we were trying to save money. And normally Wendy and I take each other to Las Vegas for our birthdays. But this year, what with the European vacation and all, we had decided to skip the Vegas trip. And Wendy kept saying stuff like, "I feel bad that I can't take you to Vegas this year." And I would say, "Don't worry about it. We'll have even more fun in London. Just take me out to dinner or something. That'll be just dandy."

And since I knew we were trying to save our cash, I completely put the thought of a party out of my head. It wasn't even the remotest possibility.

Even when Wendy called my cell sounding drunk, claiming to be at the restaurant already with Lindsey and Angela. I was enroute from Santa Monica to West Hollywood with Carla and her co-worker and Wendy wanted to know when we'd be there -- you know, so she wouldn't get too drunk. "We're about 10 minutes away," I told her. "Meet us up in the bar," she said. The restaurant has an upstairs bar above the dining area. The upstairs bar area was a very popular location for parties. Otherwise, it was closed.

Still...no idea. Even as we walked up to the restaurant. Even as I walked into the bar area and everyone yelled "Surprise!" My first reaction was NOT "Wow, you got me. You got me good." It was "What a coincidence that all of these people are here at this restaurant on the same night we're supposed to be having dinner here! I wonder what the occasion is."

About thirty minutes into the party, I turned to Carla and I said, "Shouldn't we go downstairs and at least say hi to your friends?"

She just stared at me. "Jeff, there are no friends downstairs. That was a lie to get you here."

Such was my mindset on Friday morning -- and most of the weekend really. Brooke, Steve Revare, Jon Skaptason (who drove down from Chicago) and Jon Niccum (my groom's party, all of whom I have known since high school) planned a terrific outing. On Friday night, Brooke and I had dinner with Steve and his wife Polly, another friend from high school. Then on Saturday, Steve and Brooke and I drove up to Lawrence, KS for lunch at the Free State Brewery, one of my favorite restaurants, where we were joined by Jon and his wife Ann. From there it was straight over to the KU vs. K-State basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. And even though KU lost, it was still an awesome time.

That night, a limo took me, Brooke, Jon, Jon, Steve and Polly down to Le Fou Frog for an incredible dinner and then onto the Shady Lady strip club, a truly shady looking place, where the most entertaining moment was easily watching Brooke react to her first lap dance experience. Hilarious.

After spending a few hours with my family on Sunday, Brooke and I flew back to Los Angeles.

Honestly, a guy couldn't ask for a better group of friends or a better way to spend a bachelor party. I've known those five people since the '80s and it meant so much to me to spend that time with them.

Now...let's get married to that awesome fiancee, whaddaya say?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mr. Million's Millions

THE STORY BROKE EARLY YESTERDAY, and is only in its early stages of exploding. In case you missed it, you may as well get on board the Controversy Train early: best-selling author James Frey may have completely fabricated large portions of A Million Little Pieces. The investigative website The Smoking Gun published a six-page story on Sunday that called into question the "creative license" Frey took with his supposedly autobiographical tale -- and, by extension, its sequel, Mr Friend Leonard. This morning, the AP picked the story up and ran with it. And in the coming days, I can guarantee you, more and more media outlets will want a piece of Frey. Luckily for him though he's made up of a million of 'em, so there will be plenty to go around. What makes this whole thing so salacious to me -- and I haven't even read the book -- is how many people have gotten on Frey's bandwagon. And now, if he's a big fat liar, how many people will feel betrayed, because they bought his tall tale of harrowing drug addiction and redemption. Top of the list: Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah became Frey's champion when she made A Million Little Pieces an official selection of her Book Club. She had him on her show as her sole guest and successfully elevated, as with nearly every other author she has ever chosen, to rock star status. Frey has taken this fame graciously and gracefully, proclaiming himself "the greatest literary writer of his generation" and "the new Staggering Genius."

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

But that behavior, while highly douchebaggish, isn't cause for anything more than a shrug of "eh, so he's full of himself, so what?" What raises this whole incident to epic proportions is that his own heartbreaking work of autobiographical genius might be more than a little made up. It may just be, as Frey has put it, embellished for "obvious dramatic reasons." On the other hand, if The Smoking Gun is right, it might be a big fat lie. In which case, there might be a few million people who feel cheated and betrayed. And I'm not just talking about Oprah...or my fiance, who read Frey's first book and then got his second book as a gift for Christmas. The funny thing is, late last week, she finally picked up My Friend Leonard and started reading it. And when I walked into the room, I saw that she was flipping through to the end of it -- not a normal practice of hers.

"So you're skipping to the end?" I said.

"Something doesn't feel right about this," she answered. "It seems made up." A couple of days later, the story broke on The Smoking Gun.

So if I haven't even read A Million Little Pieces and therefore can't count myself in with the potetially duped masses, why do I have a bone to pick with James Frey? Well, I don't really have anything against the guy personally. I'm just fascinated with the story. One side is bending the truth. If it's The Smoking Gun, then they're just another celebrity-hater who loves tearing the icons down. But if Frey is bending the truth...wow.

I don't know about you, but I'm just gonna settle back and enjoy the show.