Feature

Library: At the Roosevelt

Read a section from the new book “Cocaine + Surfing.”

I plod from Huntington to Hollywood in a standard blur. Stop. Go. Speed. Flip-off. Make angry face. Change lanes. Listen to a new track by ex One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles. Listen to a new track by Miley Cyrus’ younger sister, Noah. I always listen to the worst music when I’m driving. And writing. I would try and blame my wife’s daughter, and some of it is her fault, but it’s mostly mine. My heart beats to teenage girl music.

And I finally pull into the valet stand at The Roosevelt, which is jammed. I step out of my car to see what’s happening and watch a valet who is looking at another valet who is looking at a rented white Jeep Compass who then looks over me. The front bumper is halfway off and there is a giant dent in the passenger side door and the whole thing is covered in red mud but I don’t know why the valets care. They didn’t do it. And this is the damned Roosevelt, not the Chateau Marmont for crying out loud.

I can’t remember how many surf parties I’ve been to here. Definitely more than ten. Maybe even 20. There is something between the surf industry and The Roosevelt. Some deep and abiding bond. All the brands from Globe to Volcom to Quiksilver to Billabong, even small ones like RadGnar and Let’s Party, have thrown something or another here. Movie premieres, product launches, birthday parties, photo exhibitions, promotion fêtes, even one celebrating the firing of a team manager. Tonight the surf industry is celebrating the release of a new surf clip by the film director I was supposed to be meeting at Duke’s and who is supposed to be promoting a new high-top shoe that may or may not be stylish.

When there is no official brand event or party, surfers will still stay here if whatever they’re attending is within a 20-mile radius or even 30. I don’t know that any other Los Angeles hotel is even considered. I don’t even know if surfers know the name of another hotel but they all know The Roosevelt and even know how to get here without using Google Maps. It is their true north.

Maybe it is Teddy’s?

The once hot Roosevelt lobby club, with its perpetually lusty orange glow and crowds craning necks to see if someone cooler is lurking in neighboring human knots, hosted the best of Hollywood’s brightest for a handful of years in the mid 2000s. Meg Ryan, early Paris Hilton, that one guy who wrestled professionally, Johnny Depp, etcetera.

The club was started by Amanda Scheer Demme, widow of Ted Demme, who is in her own right a famous photographer and takes the best celebrity pictures ever. All moody and sexy and dark. She took a picture of Joaquin Phoenix, River’s brother, smoking a cigarette and getting punched which wowed. She also took a picture of Travis Fimmel with his perfect nose and his bluest eyes and fuck him. I’m sorry. That is the jealousy writing.

Surfers will still stay here if whatever they’re attending is within a 20-mile radius or even 30. I don’t know that any other Los Angeles hotel is even considered. I don’t even know if surfers know the name of another hotel but they all know The Roosevelt and even know how to get here without using Google Maps. It is their true north.

Ted, her departed husband, was a popular figure and talented artist in his own right. He directed the best cocaine film ever starring Johnny Depp. Blow was based on the memoir of George Jung who helped the Medellín cartel import 85 percent of the United States’ supply in the 1970s and 1980s. Ted died of a cocaine-induced heart attack in 2002, Amanda made the club in his honor and now, I suppose, surf and the Roosevelt make perfect sense. A deep and abiding bond. A love affair that hides in the orange glow and the memory neck craning knots

I hear the valet ask the Jeep’s driver, who I recognize as a professional surfer who rides for RVCA, “Uhhhh are you guys checking in or…”

RVCA doesn’t respond because he is telling his surfer bro, who rides for Rusty, a story about one of his bros who got bottled on the Gold Coast last week.

“So my mate was out surfing Snapper, I guess, and stuffed this guy pretty good. Anyhow, that night outside the Coolangatta Hotel he was drinking a beer and the guy he stuffed came up to him and tried to bottle him. Like, there on the sidewalk. The bogan was so drunk though that he just swung and ended up hitting a parked car and passing out on the ground.”

I feel bad for the valets because long ago I used to be one. I shout to RVCA, “Hey! Are you guys staying here?”

RVCA looks up and laughs. “Chas—howzit, mate? Yeah, for two nights.”

The valet stutters, slightly, and responds, “Do you have a reservation yet? You have to have reservations because we are expecting a full…”

The two surfers don’t let him finish and walk off giggling and reenacting the bottling without taking their ticket. The two valets are left with an uncomfortable conundrum on their hands and look at me but I just shrug and walk toward the door too, without my ticket, wondering how quickly I can leave and also wondering if there are more bottling incidents among surfers than any other population grouping.

I had no idea what a “bottling” was prior to heading to Australia’s Gold Coast over a decade ago. I was covering the first surf contest of the year, the Quiksilver Pro, and at a pub when I saw some drunken surfer grab a beer bottle, smash it on a table, then wave it in the face of another drunken surfer. Viciously. Manically. It felt like the Wild West and I imagined I was witnessing some odd occurrence but was later told “bottlings” are so common that the government recently passed a law where glass would not be used after midnight in order to try and curb incidents.

Or maybe it is just an Australian surfer thing. I don’t recall ever seeing a bottling in…oh, I take that back. I saw a Brazilian surfer think about bottling a Californian surfer in San Clemente but he couldn’t break the bottle and got tackled to the ground first. Fucking surfers. And I hate drinking out of plastic, but I think it is all they use at the Roosevelt and I should probably be happy.

Courtesy of Rare Bird Books.