On a cloudless beautiful Los Angeles morning last week, my girlfriends — singer-songwriters Jill Sobule and Michelle Lewis — and I found ourselves skipping across the tarmac at a private airport that housed a fabulous private jet belonging to TV producer Norman Lear. We were there at the invitation of Arianna Huffington, of all people. As we boarded and joined 15 others, including Nora Ephron, in a group that my husband promptly dubbed “The Ari-entourage,” the three of us giggled and glanced at one other with bemusement and confusion. How on earth did we end up here?
Oh boy, Kay sitting next to Arianna on Mr. Lear's jet.
Huffington, it goes without saying, was the last to arrive. And when she climbed aboard, you could feel the energy shift in her direction. We taxied down the runway in luxurious comfort, nestled in soft, cream-colored leather seats with gold handrails and surrounded by gorgeous wood paneling. We were on our way to San Francisco as part of a Huffington book tour, a surreal world in which hitching a ride on Norman Lear’s jet is no big deal.
This wasn’t the first time Sobule had brought me in on one of her adventures. Whenever I see her name pop up on my caller ID, I never know whether to answer. It’s never just a “Hey, how’s it going?” call. And, invariably I end up agreeing to some insanely ambitious, screwball songwriting endeavor that needs to be finished yesterday — and getting paid . . . that’s a whole other story. The upside is that Jill is something of a go-to troubadour for the cave-dwelling set known as the lefty blogosphere, or more appropriately, the real liberal media. Air America has Jill on speed dial. When Jill calls, I say yes because in my heart I want to rub elbows with real movers and shakers in today’s political world. And Jill is my VIP pass to a super cool iChat roster.
So I wasn’t a bit surprised when Jill, not long ago, asked me and my writing partner, Michelle Lewis, if we would collaborate with her on a theme song for Arianna’s new book, Fearless. A theme song for a book? Well, I’m a major fan of Arianna and The Huffington Post. So when I hear something like “Arianna wants us to come to her house and play it for her and a camera crew so she can put it up on HuffPo,” I respond with, When do we start?”
A little background
Jill, Michelle, and I are good collaborators. Whenever we get together we work fast and spend the rest of the time gossiping and talking politics. Our old incarnation as a band was The Broadband, back when we were “writing songs about corporate malfeasance and the government so you don’t have to!” Then we were served with a cease-and-desist order by some other Broadband in the UK.
So, in honor of our Arianna gig, we re-christened ourselves “Sugartits” and had the song written and ready to go in two days.
We walked into Huffington’s massive parlor — a visual Victorian wonder full of heavy, expensive fabrics, imported chaises, and wrought-iron details encased at every turn in marble. And not that trendy travertine shit, either — real, honest-to-goodness marble everywhere. In LA, of all places, where design has trended so far toward the Spartan that it’s almost a surprise to find a sofa and a chair in the same room, never mind big, velvety couches. We set up our guitars and patiently awaited the arrival of our patron, who was now more than an hour late. It requires a mini army to prop up the fortunes of celebrities, and Arianna’s home on a Sunday morning was abuzz with busy workers. When I mentioned that I was hungry, a giant platter of Greek food suddenly appeared. And then, just as I was about to mention to Jill and Michelle that this waiting-around stuff was bullshit, Arianna whooshed into the room with a disarming smile. All was forgiven.
Rehearsing with Jill on the flight to San Francisco — Arianna’s first gig as a rapper.
Michelle had written a little rap for Arianna to perform as the last verse of the song, and while she is not what anyone would classify as a “singer” or a person in possession of “rhythm,” watching her try to learn her part and make it work was an experience in and of itself. We ran through the song a bunch of times for the cameras and with every take Arianna got a bit more confident. When it was time to leave, Michelle and I overheard her telling Jill in that patented Zsa Zsa Gabor accent, “Dahlings, I am leaving for San Francisco to begin my book tour tomorrow. You should come with me on the jet. We will be home by tomorrow night. It will be perfect, okay?” And with that, she spun around on her Chanel ballet flats and split.