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Calling it as she sees it

June 08, 2003|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

Writer Gigi Levangie Grazer was a splash of much-appreciated color amid a pack of dark-suited agents and publishing types.

It was still early. Lara Flynn Boyle and the Hilton sisters hadn't yet arrived. The champagne, petite filet mignon hors d'oeuvres and Grazer's trenchant morsels were still plentiful. She pointed to her burgeoning midsection and quipped: "This isn't a liver disorder. I'm pregnant."

The May 29 party was a very Hollywood affair, held at the midcentury-modern home of Creative Artists Agency's Bryan Lourd and co-hosted by William Morris President Jim Wiatt, Vivendi Universal Entertainment President Ron Meyer, Steve Martin and Rita Wilson to celebrate Grazer's new novel, "Maneater" (Simon & Schuster). The book is a salty ode to a very specific type of L.A. woman -- what Grazer calls "the manipulant savant." These are, she says, "girls who are sort of trained to manipulate men from a young age. They're sweet. They can be really nice. But they tend to have an agenda."

A quick survey of Lourd's living room (large Ed Ruscha, beige velvet couches, orange leather chair, fire in the fireplace) and backyard (concrete patio and green lawn overlooking lush private canyon) turned up more booksellers, publishers, actor-writers (Martin) and actor-couples (Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford) than femme fatales. Granted, the party was held the day before BookExpo America opened at the Convention Center. And party publicists Harrison & Shriftman generously shuttled folks from downtown Los Angeles to Lourd's Beverly Hills/Bel-Air-adjacent home (designed by Wallace Neff).

But as Grazer astutely observed, "when it gets a little darker, the human candy comes out." Sure enough, just as the sun set, model Heidi Klum appeared and Boyle's throaty laughter could be heard echoing off Lourd's Ruscha. Soon after, Paris and Nicky Hilton arrived, the inexcusably tanned, midriff-baring sisters stalked to a cocktail table and whipped out their cell phones, a sure sign that they were not long for this scene.

A scruffy-looking young man walked in -- actor Stephen Dorff -- and Grazer's husband, producer Brian Grazer, exclaimed as if narrating the moment. "Dorff shows up to Gigi's party!" he shouted. "Hi, Dorff!"

It was a scene that could easily have appeared in Gigi Grazer's novel. Yet guests at this party were smart enough not to admit it.

Grazer's main character, a 32-year-old "sociopath-in-training" named Clarissa Alpert, chooses a husband and plans their wedding before she even meets the man. A series of only-in-L.A. episodes ensue, written with savage wit from an insider's point of view.

There is the scene at the Grill: "Commotion as Arnold Schwarzenegger, a rare sighting, but with a movie opening that day, walks in; the dye job is respectable this time." The run-in at the Ivy: "Tooth enamel-peeling enthusiasm was the only acceptable greeting mode in Hollywood, especially in the case of enemies." Grazer's definition of a magazine editor: "Calista-Lara-week-old-cadaver thin, smokes like Matthew Perry in a recovery ward, and works, baby, works her fingers to her mean, chilly bones."

"She writes things that I would never say," Brian Grazer said. "I'm too thin-skinned!"

Although she moves easily within the Hollywood sphere, Gigi Grazer was born outside it and worked her way in. She grew up near Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, an area of Los Angeles dominated by Koreans, Filipinos and Armenians. "I can swear in Tagalog," Grazer bragged. Her mother was a principal at an East Los Angeles school, and her father stayed home and raised the kids. She graduated from Hollywood High School, got a political science degree from UCLA, and went to work for Fred Silverman developing TV shows.

"I feel like I know the city well," she said. "I was the girl who had to take two buses to UCLA. I was not the girl who was driving the Rabbit Cabriolet. But I'm not bitter."

"Maneater" was inspired by a real-life friend who used Clarissa-style tactics, Grazer said, and "got her husband to marry her without his consent. She'd be saying, 'What floral arrangements do you see on the table? What colors do you like?' "

Of course, in Hollywood, this plot could mean only one thing: "It had a five-letter word written all over it," said producer Peter Guber. "Movie."

Guber, who has shepherded many books to the screen, among them "This Boy's Life" and "The Color Purple," bought the film rights to Grazer's novel for a reported $1 million six months ago, even before the first galleys had been printed. Universal bought the rights from him and will release the film with his Mandalay Pictures.

As for the lead? Grazer is willing to cast a wide net: "Anyone from Jennifer Lopez to Reese Witherspoon." In other words, A-list all the way.

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