Friday, May 29, 2009


Home 'round midnight in Manhattan, playing Antony & the Johnsons on continuous loop ...

Tonight's blog edition was supposed to celebrate the heroic qualities of British androgyne Antony and other talented misfits, who make the alienated feel less alone. But due to a flood of requests, this time I shall tell the tale of my recent alien roommate in West Hollywood:

Sam, the Demon Cat of Fountain Avenue.

I had settled into the duplex of my friend Darren Ramirez, the glamorous bon vivant. We'd met at a 2004 New Year's Eve party at the Copacabana Palace in Rio. Darren was now off to Costa Rica, and it was my job to look after his cat. For ten days I tended to this fiery, stalking creature, in a house that some believe is haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe.

You see, sixty years ago she lived here. Her visage remains, for Darren has created photographic shrines to Marilyn in the guest bathroom and living room. It was long past midnight on my first day at Darren's, and I was upstairs in my bedroom, wearily sending out emails to media figures about my forthcoming Lena Horne biography. The role of frantic self-publicist on the gangplank to publication was getting me down, and though almost every non-celebrity author of today must see to his own promotion, I'd been complaining to anyone who would listen. I was in a foul mood. Suddenly I heard blood-curdling shrieks. I rushed down the stairs. There in the living room, slithering back and forth beneath an easel that holds a book of André de Dienes's Monroe photos, was Sam. Eyes flashing and fangs bared, he screeched "Meow!"

"Awww, Sam, what's wrong?" I cooed. I approached him gingerly and tried to pet him. He clawed at my hand. No amount of tender words or touches would quiet him. Each day from morning till the wee hours Sam was on the warpath, as this 4AM surveillance video will illustrate.

Sam's diabolical cries are well known to the neighbors in this posh, Spanish-exteriored mini-complex of apartments. One day he sat in the front window, wailing away in a cat-to-man dialogue. I peeped outside, and there stood Josh Evans, the filmmaking, animal-activist son of Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw. I'd met him on the day I arrived. With the same skeptical look that you see here, Josh had asked if my habit of sleeping quite late (Darren had spilled that particular bean) would interfere with my feeding of Sam. I assured him it would not. I don't think he believed me.

Empty food cans piled up, but the Demon Cat stayed on the prowl. One night he flew onto the dining-room table and, with a swift push of his head, knocked my dinner plate onto the floor. For the next half-hour I picked couscous out of the antique rug.

By this time I had started to envy Sam. What a life, I thought -- to walk around all day screaming out one's dissatisfaction and to be endlessly petted and soothed in return. Sam seemed to sense a kindred spirit, and he stopped scratching me. Josh picked up on our newfound rapport, observing that Sam and I had "bonded." Ace entertainment reporter Susan King had come to the house to interview me for a Los Angeles Times feature, and Sam had warmed instantly to her maternal air. Before she left, we went in search of Sam. Where had he gone? I walked upstairs -- and there he was, curled up on my foldout bed!

At last came Departure Day. Darren was due back that afternoon, and my gentle, blue-eyed friend Joe Kirkendall (left) came to drive me to the airport. Sam was hiding under a table. Clearly he did not want to say goodbye.

Joe and I set out for LAX, and I got to thinking. A kitty-kat can howl for hours and still seem adorable; and if you're Marilyn Monroe, the needier you are, the more seductive you'll seem. But if you're a writer who's having his third book published at a time when getting a book published is harder than ever, and the advance reviews are great, and a few things are wrong but most everything is going right, then it's time to quit moaning and relish the moment. The future could well be bright, too!

Don't you agree?


  1. Great blog, James. My two cats became very alarmed as I played your video clip. I can't find one of them, so whatever Sam was saying scared the patootie out of my girl, Chloe!

    I saw your link on Jerry Castaldo's FB page. I'm following this blog, and will try to nab you on FB.

    Fun to read what you're up to!

    Ellen C. Maze