Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dinner with Five Fascinating Folks

Right before Christmas I went to a dinner party. I've read of students having dinner or going to parties at professor's homes in novels, but in real life this rarely happens. Not once has a teacher or professor ever invited me over for a meal prior to my evening with UCLA guest journalism Professor Grobel and his wife. He's just one of those atypical teachers that is willing to open up his personal life to his students.

Larry spent a few years teaching three seminars in the English department: Journalism as Literature, Art of the Interview,and Creating a Memoir. I took all of these courses, and discovered my passion for writing under his inspiration and encouragement. Before he temporarily taught at my alma mater, however, Grobel was a successful interviewer and author of several books. With a skill to entice others to open up, he got such stars as Ava Gardner telling him the details of a violent argument she had with Howard Hughs and Anthony Hopkins admitting that walking away from his daughter left him with no guilt because he doesn't have a conscience. He spent ten days on Marlon Brando's personal island interviewing the legendary and famously elusive actor (the only interview Brando had ever accepted before this was with Truman Capote.0 He interviewed John Huston for over six months for his biography The Hustons, and was even present when the famed director passed away. Listening to the countless stories of Grobel's remarkable life as an interviewer of iconic writers, actors and musicians always slides to the side of being absolutely captivating.

During my senior year of college, Grobel would tell us all how his wife was an amazing cook. Having the chance to eat her delicious asian cuisine and apple pie was of course a delicious treat, but the company and conversation was an intellectually intriguing treat. Grobel told stories of seeing scandalous performance art back in the 1970's; a law student shared with us his recent adventures motorcycling across Asia; a former student spoke of her elite Samoan father's royal funeral who she had only met a couple of times; an intern chatted about his experience as a Jeopardy contestant; a Filpino movie star shared about her plans to move back to the Phillipines the following week and use all her connections in the film industry to start up a production company. All interesting people and all fascinating in their own right. As we were leaving, Grobel gave us a tour of his home and the environment in which he wrote. Book shelf after book shelf took over his home. Stacks of magazines lead up the stairway. A wall devoted to photos of himself with all the famous faces he had interviewed. Notes and research material spread across his office. Ordered chaos in a beautiful yet cozy house of homemade furniture and mesmerizing artwork. This was the home of a writer and it looked like one.

In a city where no one seems to make time for anyone that can't help to further their career, it was heartwarming to see a writer, interviewer,and friend of celebrities open his home and his life up to a few of his past students. The next evening he was going to be having Diane Keaton over for dinner, but for that evening he made us each feel like our lives were just as important and our ears just as deserving of absorbing his stories as someone as accomplished as she. I suppose it is that quality that makes him such a talented interviewer and an appreciated mentor.
A multi-colored dress I picked up at a boutique in Paris; black 1960's patent leather handbag; white 1960's pumps.

Close-up on earrings...these gold and onyx dangly pieces remind me of Edie Sedgwick.

UCLA lecturer and his kind wife.


  1. Thank you! Have to look your unique best when having a memorable dinner as such!