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Model Neighbors, Naked -- I Love L.A.

June 26, 2005|Joel Stein

My wife and I moved from a studio apartment in Manhattan to a two-bedroom house up 30 steps on a dead-end street in the Hollywood Hills, where we hear coyotes, barbecue on a deck, go hiking from our front door and have a tree that produces a fruit called loquats, which you haven't heard of because they are so gross they don't even clear the lowest bar for fruit by inspiring loquatade.

I've even met my neighbors, which I hadn't done in 12 years in New York. There's a sitcom writer, a publicist, a documentarian and a musician. And, if that weren't L.A. enough, one of my neighbors told me that in the beautiful old Spanish house across the street from me, they make porn. L.A. is so L.A. that even the quiet cul-de-sacs are filled with porn studios.

If all the cliches are this true, I figured I could get rich optioning the rights to my story about living across the street from the headquarters of the SuicideGirls, a website that shows young, mostly tattooed and pierced women in various states of undress and disaffection. In the last year, the company has expanded into an international corporation with nearly 700 models, a book, a burlesque tour, a DVD and interviews on their website with celebrities such as Woody Allen, Glenn Close, Bill Murray, Martin Amis and Tina Fey. It's like Playboy for people who hate their parents.

Living across from a house full of naked models is a little like working in a mall-front office across from a Victoria's Secret store. Every time I walked by, I strained my neck, hoping to see someone.

In a desperate attempt to end this, I decided to meet the naked women right across the street by bringing them a neighborly plate of brownies. I invited my friend Michael Green over, because he knows how to make brownies and because my wife, for reasons I ascribe to living in New York too long, wasn't feeling very neighborly.

Tuesday afternoon, as Michael and I were making brownies with bits of Snickers and Rolos in them, I looked down at my apron and realized why we weren't the kind of guys who date naked Internet women.

The thought recurred when, waiting for the brownies to cool, we played classic Pac-Man on my TV. We weren't even cool enough to do these things with marijuana. Bringing brownies to hot, tattooed punk girls suddenly seemed not only transparently creepy but downright dangerous.

Still, I rang the doorbell and waited a few seconds, then suggested to Michael that no one was home and we should leave. Michael pointed out that he didn't hear a ring and pressed the button all the way. A 20-year-old woman with half her hair dyed bright red and tattoos on her arm opened the door. She said she was in the middle of painting her toes. It was so ridiculously cliched that I realized brownies are just a wussy guy's pizza box.

After inviting us in, Bee told us that SuicideGirls isn't actually porn, just women posing naked, sometimes together. I felt incredibly lucky to have moved to a city where women posing naked together isn't pornography.

Along with hosting the models who live in the house for a month at a time, Bee is one of the two hosts on Sunday night's "Indie 103 SuicideGirls" show, which may be the most wasteful idea for a radio show since the failed 1950s "Ventriloquist Hour." She told us a lot of the website's shoots take place in their hot tub. Most days, Bee said, she wakes up and there are naked women all over. "And that's how I like it," she said. I told her that I once almost met Dr. Ruth Westheimer.

She gave us drinks, ate some brownies with us and told us how much she doesn't like George Bush and how she worries about all the lost cats in the neighborhood.

Although Bee admitted that our lame brownie excuse was "weird," she said the use of Rolos and Snickers made them seem "posh and indulgent" and that it was "a success." All of the naked models, she assured us, would be very excited.

Then we said goodbye and she told me that she heard me blasting the White Stripes the night before from my convertible.

I have a lot to learn about being a good neighbor.

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