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A Driver’s Oscar Countdown

D-Day minus five and counting. And just like Barack Obama has to be ready to steer America to safety, I have to take over the wheel and keep the Oscars from heading south. By one week out I’m running up to 10K a day, plus an hour with the free weights. Trust me, when an […]

D-Day minus five and counting. And just like Barack Obama has to be ready to steer America to safety, I have to take over the wheel and keep the Oscars from heading south.

By one week out I’m running up to 10K a day, plus an hour with the free weights. Trust me, when an actress who just blew 20 grand flying in her personal stylists and makeup artists gets out of the car, you don’t want to be standing in the shot with your hairy gut puffing out of your shirt buttons.

Pre-Oscars, I spend hours out back above the garage in the limo simulator me and Dad built. He throws situations at me the average person’s too dumb to think up – say I’m leaving Ivar, carrying six talented young actresses, each with a champagne glass full to the brim, and a paparazzi accidentally gets hooked under the chassis. Do I slam on the brakes? How hard? You want to save his life, but what about six full glasses of Cristal?

Last, I give myself a cleanse. And my limo, which is a mirror-image of President Obama’s new limo. The one big difference is that mine runs on biodiesel.  Barack wants America to go green and me and my limo are first in line. When you go bio, though, you can’t clean the filters often enough. And I had just finished swapping them out when a call came in on Tuesday and I showed up at Paramount at 3:30.

The client was a suit named Patrick just back from New York. He was older, at least in his 40s, one of those guys with graying hair who doesn’t get it colored even though it would be so easy. I always wonder what those guys have to hide.

We picked up an old buddy of his on the lot. They’d been through the Hollywood wars together for 20 years. His buddy, Stan, had produced I don’t know how many movies, but I can remember, at a yard sale once, seeing a copy of one on videocassette, which shows how long he’s been around.

“We have so little time to spend just visiting lately,” Patrick said to Stan once we got rolling. “I hope you don’t mind us having a drink this way. But I’ve got to get to the airport. You know how crazy business is lately.” 

“Hey, nothing wrong with a stretch limo,” Stan said, patting the leather seats I had just finished buffing.

“Yeah, you and me’ve seen cheesier,” Patrick said, opening up the mini-bar I have in the backseat, “So how’re the kids? How’s Sheryl? The lupus under control?”

“Knock on wood.” Stan said.

Patrick poured them each some single malt. I stock Bowmore Black and Glenfiddich. You’d be surprised how many clients choose the cheaper stuff. Not everyone in Hollywood is an out-of-control consumer.

“And the boys? I know, you’re gonna tell me they graduated college already.”

“Nah. One of ‘em’s halfway through. Ken. He’s at Northwestern. Wants to be in the business.”

“Following in his dad’s footsteps, eh? Great. And –?”

“Mark. What can I say, he’s a science genius. Graduating Harvard-Westlake one year early. He starts M.I.T. in September.”

“That’s great.”

“I am this close to optioning the rights on the Mick Jagger autobiography,” Stan was saying, when he noticed that I’d turned up into the Hills at Kings Road.

“How come we’re going this way?” Stan said.

“It’s not too far out of the way,” Patrick said.

“I mean, this is the way to my house. I thought I was riding with you to the airport and he’d drop me off on the way back. Or I’d come back to the studio and get my car.”

“You can’t come back to the studio,” Patrick said.

“I have a four-thirty,” Stan said.

“No you don’t,” Patrick said. “You’re fired.”

We were just pulling up to the address Patrick had given me. Two story Cape Cod. Set back. Great lot. Super view. Stan’s house.

“You’ve had a good run,” Patrick said. “This is a good news conversation, my friend.”

“Good run? I’m not even 40.”

“And we love you. To show that, did we kick you out the door? No. Did we throw you onto the street? No. We brought you home with the dignity you deserve. In a limo.  At our expense.”

When Patrick finished it all seemed to make a lot of sense. So much so that Stan just opened the door and slid out almost before he even knew it. But when he was standing there outside he turned around and he said, “You don’t do this to another human being on Oscar week, Patrick. Where’s your humanity?”

And he slammed the door shut, yelling, “Not Oscar week. Fuck you, Patrick.”
He got in a couple good kicks at the fender and one huge glob of spit before I could pull away out of range. But I wasn’t worried about damage. I’d built this to be as strong as the President’s limo.

It was a good run for me, too. I told myself, as I headed home in time for my afternoon workout. When you’re feeling the best you can and you’re driving the best there is, you’re ready for the Oscars. 

 

“Stretch” is the handle of a 25-year-old, L.A.-born driver who hasn't been cited for a single moving violation in the four years he's been behind the wheel in the most demanding limo-driving environment on earth. He's an independent operator whose goal, he says, is "to get people where they need to be" with a priority on security and comfort for his clients in the creative community.