GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND — Recently I flew to California because of something I thought only happened to people in movies: I was going to meet the folks who've bought the film rights to my life.
What they're really interested in, of course, is my search for hunkdom, but I prefer to think they actually care about some other important events, too, like the time I won the state solo-tuba championship.
Now I know a movie isn't an important thing, and I know I probably won't recognize myself in the finished product, if, indeed, it even makes it to the silver screen or TV. (Most things don't.)
But I was still excited. A film doesn't make you good or happy or important or even rich, but it does make you immortal in some way.
As I pulled up the long, limousine-lined driveway of the Beverly Hills Hotel, I started getting a little excited at the thought of movie stars strolling around and deals being made as producers "took" lunch in the Polo Lounge or "did" meetings in one of the pool-side cabanas.
I walked up to the reception desk, slightly nervous, but masking it well.
As I said, very powerful things happen at this hotel, and normally only very powerful people stay here, and you don't just walk up and say "Hi!" at the registration desk. You say something that quietly indicates you're a part of the show-business power structure. I had asked a friend for tips.
"Yes, Sutton. Checking in. Any telephone calls?"
You don't say your first name, and you always ask for phone messages--in a low-key voice, my friend had said.
For a minute, I didn't think it would work. The very distinguished-looking man behind the counter quickly checked out my fame quotient (I obviously failed there), then signaled to an assistant with one hand as he searched through the "S" telephone messages with the other. He found 19 messages there with my name on them.
Nineteen messages at the Beverly Hills Hotel--before you check in, especially--means something.
"Oh yes, Mr. Sutton! Welcome back!"
I did not remind him this was my first visit, and I surely did not tell him how many of those messages were "plants" that I or my friends had called in earlier that day. I simply smiled. Low key, of course.
The next morning about 7, I set out for an hour's aerobic work.
When I'm in a new city, especially one with a different terrain or climate, I try to scale back my exercise program. But a brisk walk of 30 minutes to an hour gives an adequate workout and allows for in-depth sightseeing, which seemed just right here.
After the walk, I did 100 leg lifts and 100 stomach crunches in my room (again, good exercises you can do anywhere), then quickly showered and slowly dressed for my big meeting. I had to look just right when I walked into that first meeting in the Polo Lounge itself, the sanctum sanctorum of Hollywood dreams.
After about six changes of clothes, I decided on a look of studied insouciance, that look so prevalent in men's fashion magazines.
My pants were wrinkled. I wore a tie, but it was pulled loose at the neck. My shirt was striped and my coat an understated silk tweed. No socks, of course. I don't even think the bellmen wear socks at this hotel.
At 8:10 I entered the Polo Lounge. Aware that these people were buying the story of a man who said he cared about health as well as hunkiness, I ordered the most wholesome breakfast: one skinned, roasted chicken breast, a quarter piece of melon and a glass of fresh orange juice.
During breakfast and the subsequent ceremonial filming in the gardens, I did my best to be myself and remain visibly unaffected by the strange conversations going on--such as my injuries being talked about as "good" for the story.
In an odd way, I even understood how they could see my heart disease as a plus. "We're talking about a guy who could die here," one man said to a TV bigwig--a show-business-sized dose of exaggeration, I hope. That might improve the story, but I won't like the ending.
I enjoyed most of my Hollywood adventure probably more than I want to admit.
I do not think, however, any of it will change the underlying me. Though these days I do have an overpowering desire to put on my sunglasses before shaving.
Beginning 28th Week Waist: 43 inches 35 inches Right biceps: 12 3/4 inches 12 1/2 inches Flexed: 13 inches 13 5/8inches Weight: 201 pounds 179 pounds Height: 6' 1" Blood pressure: 128/68 120/66 Pulse: 64 64 Bench press: 55 130 Hunk factor: .00 .36