Into every young man's life a little glitz must fall and so I took my son Christmas window-shopping on Rodeo Drive.
P. J. is a typical teen-ager, whose best description is by the numbers: He's a 16-year-old 6-footer in Size 11 high tops, who wears 501 jeans while listening to U-2 on 102.7. He also is carrying a 2.2 GPA owing to his 12.4 GPS (Girlfriends Per Semester).
Perfect fodder, of course, for the designer fleshpots of Rodeo Drive and flanking streets. Where Christmas cards are platinum. Where the rich and shameless are spending as if there was no black yesterday.
We buzzed the door at Cartier, passed whatever inspection is given (one should not blow one's nose at this point) and were admitted to wander.
Most Cartier watches look like well-riveted bulkheads from stainless-steel submarines. A few are dusted with diamonds. I liked the Louis Cartier tank watch, which has nothing to do with submarines. In truth, it relates to a watch that was presented to French tank commanders during World War I.
Solid gold? Eighteen carat, the saleslady said. How much? Seventy-nine, she said.
"Seventy-nine bucks for a Cartier watch?" hissed P. J. "Go for it."
Son, I think the lady means seventy-nine hundred .
"Cheese. You can have my Swatch for 30."
On to Gucci and the crowd around a steamer trunk and family, two pullmans and a cosmetic case.
Brass fittings? Gold plated, sir. Simulated alligator naugahyde? Genuine crocodile, sir. That's a lot of croc. To be exact, sir, 40 crocodiles.
Speak the price softly. By the piece, sir, or the set? Every stick of it. Around $130,000, sir. Including sales tax? Another $8,500, sir.
"Cheese," whispered P. J., ever practical. "What if the airline lost that luggage."
We slipped into Geary's where Theo Faberge, budding jeweler to the stars and grandson of Carl Faberge, original jeweler to the Czars, was introducing his line of lacquered and gold-leafed eggs. The store is terraces of Wedgwood upon tiers of Waterford. Spode coffee pots for $450. A Lalique crystal vase for $825.
A china shop, suggested medieval dad, in search of a bull.
"Cheese," breathed modern son, "what a place for skateboards."
We did not attempt Van Cleef & Arpels. Too many guards who looked like moonlighting Raiders. Too few customers in the store and one woman was wearing mink pedal pushers. Too intimidating. One does not browse at VC&A.
"Cheese," sighed son. "I wanted to look around."
To check on Elizabeth Taylor's Christmas layaway?
"To check out where they filmed 'Beverly Hills Cop II.' "
Of all the Christmas walks--through Burlington Arcade, down Fifth Avenue, along the Champs Elysees, up Via Veneto--Rodeo Drive and environs are unique.
It's neoteric yet chic, brash but beautiful. And elegantly vulgar.
Only here will 10 minutes of traffic include four Ferraris, a Bentley Eight, a Lamborghini and two Rolls-Royce Corniche convertibles. With tops down to the December sunshine.
A solo violin seduces shoppers at Ralph Lauren. Every one of those Faberge eggs, almost three dozen ranging in price from $650 to $2,000, sell in three hours. Three dozen more are ordered. The crocodile luggage doesn't budge. But someone bought my Cartier watch. And there goes Bruce Willis.
We returned to reality and the Valley.
P. J. got on the phone with Tommy, his partner in skateboarding, minitrucks, girls and weekly tonnage from Domino's pizza.
I caught one end of a young man's report on the largess and shimmer of Beverly Hills and his indelible afternoon.
"Nothing happening here, Dude . . . went out with my dad this afternoon . . . just hung out . . . nah, didn't see much."
Cheese. But as I said, a typical teen-ager.