Siiiiigh. Last night's episode of Baywatch: Afternoons was a sleepy one, wasn't it? Everyone just kind of stumbled around Los Angeles and other environs, moaning softly to one another, feeling more listless than ever before.
Uhh let's see. The Maloof? The Maloof hasn't really done much of anything all season has she? She's just sorta rich and married to a giant shaved bat and wears bits of pompom in her hair and that's just her, just how she maloofs. It's a perfectly fine life, a good life even, but it's not exactly the stuff of TV dreams. On this episode the Maloof and her husband went to a clothing store and she sought his counsel but he was not being helpful at all, just sort of shrugging his shoulders or saying he liked the one thing better than the other thing even though the Maloof wanted him to say the opposite. Frankly I don't know how anyone can tell one flowy trapezoid shirt from any other, but I'm not exactly the flowy trapezoid shirt demographic. I mean, I might be someday, in some weird futureworld where we all dress like people in The Fifth Element, maybe then I will wear flowy trapezoid shirts. But for now! For now I do not. I guess I can't "Do the Maloof," to quote the Maloof's hit 1991 song/dance. ("Do the Maloof, do the Maloof / It's not a goof, and if you need proof / Look at me, as I do the Maloof")
Anyway, they were just sorta doing that and it was whatever it was. Lisa had to go "commission a pinot noir" for her restaurant, which sounds like kiiind of a bullshit excuse to spend an afternoon at a vineyard. But whatever! I don't blame her. Commission away! She brought her husband and her not-husband along for the ride and they had a jolly good time kicking around in the soil and spitting wine into buckets. (Well, Lisa spit. Cedric did not. Telling.) But then things took a slightly dark turn. See, Lisa's husband had been carrying on again with the whole "Cedric, maybe it's time you moved out" thing, and this upset Cedric. Because, he said, he was worried that if he left the house, which felt in a way like them leaving him, then it would be just like his French prostitute mother who left him. Lisa said no of course not, they'd always love Cedric, even if he moved out. And you kinda knew she'd be paying his rent anyway, so she was probably right.
After being at the vineyard for a while, Lisa stumbling around in her heels and musing about whether she could ever live in the country like Madame Arkadina or a Three Sisters character in reverse, it was time to go home. Cedric still had that worried puppy look on his face and once they were home he and Lisa sat in a white gauzy bedroom and Cedric's dark chocolate eyes welled up with tears and he said that he is very worried about people leaving him, that maybe he pushes people away, like his mother, because he is the product of rape and how could a mother love that, and maybe no one will ever love him, and whatnot. Lisa scrunched up her face and shook her head and, again, she said of course people love him. And OK. The good part of me wants to say "How sad, I hope he knows that people do in fact love him." That's the good part. The bad part of me wants to say "Oh maaaaan. Isn't this all a little too picturesque and perfect, this exact analogue for not wanting to move out of this free mansion?" I mean, don't the puzzle pieces fit a bit too well, didn't he seem so steady and forthcoming in the saying of it? I don't know. It just all seemed a little too smooth. I mean if it's all a ruse he's good, he's definitely good. But he's not that good. He should have shown more and told less or something. But yeah, that's what the bad part of me was thinking last night.
After or before or whatever the Cedric stuff, Lisa had to deal another sad deer-creature, this one in blonde willow-lady form. Of course I refer to Taylor, who joined Kyle and Lisa for a blue little luncheon, smiling and laughing in an awkward trill even when Lisa all but slammed her fist down on the table and demanded that Taylor spill the sadness beans. Lisa's intentions were good and correct, Taylor shouldn't constantly hide her troubles behind that plastic sunshine mask, but demanding that she reveal herself while at lunch with two TV friends in front of cameras isn't exactly the most helpful thing. But I guess Lisa wants what Lisa wants when Lisa wants it, so what can you do. Taylor just laughed some more and tossed her hair and in her eyes, a brief flicker, you saw a whole faraway galaxy dimming and dying, stars cooling, planets dismantling, the great maws of black holes sucking it all away into nothing. But that was just for a second! Just for a brief little second. The rest was laughing and hair and wide-mouthed smiles and then the food arrived or the wine and it was time for big bites, big gulps, to swallow all the broken bits down with it.
Speaking of troubled blonde women, we had a wispy little scene with Kim last night, in which she called into some Disney radio station to do an interview about her childhood acting days. The host introduced her a "sex symbol," which is a little disturbing, considering she was pretty much a kid when she was most famous, but whatever. Kim chuckled and was happy with that for a second, until the DJ said "I was definitely a fan. Thanks for so many great... memories," and the image of some gangly teenage boy furtively looking at a grainy photo of the James at 15 cast was put into our heads and it was unpleasant. Kim began giving a long explanation of why she decided to get out of the business and you heard only the static and crackle of dead air on the other end and you knew the DJ's producer was giving him the "wrap it up" motion from the booth and Kim could feel herself losing everyone's focus so they said sputtery goodbyes to each other and she hung up the phone and stared out the window, listening to the wind chimes she'd hung up outside a few summers ago, feeling very tired all of a sudden. She told us in interview that she'd like to get back into acting, find a good part, finally be Kim Richards again, not just Mom, not just ex-wife. Something for her. Something for herself. She'd followed the old director's adage a bit wrongly, doing one for her and then twenty-something years of ones for them. She'd lost the breadcrumb trail back into her own life a while back now, and she figured she was ready to go hunting for it again. Oh Kim, she thought. Oh Kim... And she felt the buzzing and whining noise growing louder in her head so she stood up and clapped her hands and said "OK! OK." She had to snap out of it. It was time to get ready for a party.
The party was, in fact, the college graduation of Kyle's oldest daughter Farrah. The name of Farrah's school was carefully blurred out the whole episode, but it looked to me quite like the California School of Doing Things, a prestigious Los Angeles institution where adolescents learn how to do things. Kyle was so proud! She'd not had a chance to go to college herself, those fertile years got eaten up by acting and then mommyhood, so this was a bit like a victory for her too. An accomplishment, the passing of genes and opportunity, the next relay racer going just that much further down the track. Though Kyle was mostly happy and excited, one thing disappointed her so. You see, her sister, Kathy Hilton, was supposed to be coming to the graduation with, presumably, everyone in tow, including Paris and Nicky, the true celebrity wing of the family. But then she got a phone call from a faux-distraught Kim, who actually seemed kind of happy to give her sister some bad news. They weren't coming. The Hiltons had flitted off to Cannes and there was nothing to be done. Kyle frowned and grumbled and you wondered why she was so upset. Was it really, like she said, because she wanted as much family there as possible? Or was it maybe because with people like Paris and Nicky Hilton there, this would be a famous-person party worthy of all the cameras and lights and boom mics? Again the good part of me wants to think it's the former, but that ever-persistent bad part of me sort of knows it was the latter. The way Kyle said Paris's name, with this fake quickness, this rambling-over, you could tell that she wanted that to be the most important word in the sentence. You know, just Paris. Paris Hilton. The Paris Hilton, at our little family party. No big deal. (Read: huge deal.) This was to be the fame monster cherry on top of the college sundae, and now it was ruined. Now it was just a party for boring regular people!
People like Kim, who showed up all excited, making sure to tell people how disappointed Kyle was that Kathy and Paris and co. couldn't be there. She said to the cameras: "They couldn't be here. But I'm here. Heh heh." I'm here, she thought. I'm somewhere. Kyle seemed actually to not care that much anymore, so overcome with emotion was she, watching her daughter graduate, taking a nice bit of pleasure in the fact that Farrah didn't freak out and call attention to herself when she received a nice gift, a big bright ring, from her parents. "She's more... subtle," Kyle said, a rightfully proud parent. To raise a "subtle" child amidst all that is a feat. Then a huge potted plant or stand of flowers or something arrived from the Hiltons and they called on the phone and Kyle put them on speaker and when Paris came on to say happy graduation, she said "Did you open the envelope?" and it was just so... Paris really wanted them to open the envelope because when they did there was a check in there with "a few extra zeroes" on it. Oh Paris. "Did you get all the money we sent you? Tell me you got the money. Thank us for the money right now." Ohhhh Paris. Farrah was, again, subtle about the whole thing, but you saw Kyle's eyes both wrinkle and widen all at once and you could sense that she felt just a little upstaged. A nice ring from her and a huge check from the Hiltons. Defeated again. I wonder how much the check was for! My guess was $50,000. That's probably insane, right? I just don't know. What is considered insane when you're a Hilton?
Meanwhile over at another table, the Maloof and her goof were talking to Mauricio's mom. Mauricio's mom is apparently Dr. Estella Sneider, a triple-PhD having psychologist who specializes in sexuality. So naturally the Maloof and her floof wanted to discuss their sacred acts of doing it with this nice old lady, and she took it in stride. The rest of us, of course, upon having the image of the Maloof eagerly maloofing her husband in their huge mahogany canopy bed, the pompom fronds bouncing up and down in her hair, her husband's plastic face shifting around on his skull from all the motion, had to excuse ourselves from the party and go curl up in an alleyway, shuddering and keening, finally understanding for a moment what it must be like to live gnarled up inside Kim's skin the way she is. Dr. Estella Sneider was a true pro though, using a subtle and patented technique of playing an episode of Cybil in her head while her mouth spouted general-interest sex advice platitudes so the Maloof would think she was really listening. It worked beautifully and after the party the Maloof and her man went home to go dirty up the billiards room and we all fell convulsing to the ground, our spirits transported to Taylor's dying galaxy, rumbling through asteroid belts, warmed dimly by the light of a distant quasar. (Have you ever read about quasars? It's the kind of holyshit-the-universe-is-so-fucking-big kind of thing that makes one wish Star Wars was real, or at least space travel was real, for the first time in many years. Sigh.)
ANYWAY. That was the party. It was a good party, sure, but the episode kind of devoted a little too much time to the whole graduation thing. Especially because there was all this Camille stuff just sort of shoved into the corners. Basically, Camille found out from Kelsey, via late night phone call, that he wanted out. So she was upset? It's hard to tell with her. "I begged him to stay. To not leave our family," she said, completely dead-eyed. She had an awkward visit with her friends, one of whom knew, the rest of whom didn't, so she was cagey with them about when he was coming back and if they were going to have a welcome home party. She told us that she would still be going to the Tonys, because Kelsey really wanted her there, and hell maybe they'd have a really nice romantic weekend and that would fix everything. Ha. Riiiight.
She took her daughter to some sort of child exercise or ballet or gymnastics class or something and Bravo had clearly paid the instructor to say things like "Even though it hurts, smile!" and the camera cut to Camille, watching these little girls do splits, get it, splits?, and you wanted to see something register on that half-awake gnome face of hers, but nothing did. When she caught the camera trained on her she'd give a little huff or cast her gaze downward to look sad and introspective, but it wasn't very convincing. Camille is an odd one, an odd cold one.
When she got to New York she was apparently told she couldn't go over to the apartment? What the heck was that? Something happened and she said something like "Maybe he traded me in for a newer model" and it was sad how right she was. Eventually she was allowed into the apartment and she had an awkward conversation with Kelsey — we've never really seen them be anything but awkward — and she said "Do you want to see my dress?" and he was like "Uh, sure, whatever. If that's what you want." Whoa, down boy! Don't sound so eager! So she went and tried on the dress and it was depressing. And then it was time for a pre-awards toast in the apartment, and it was depressing. Kelsey did a toast and at the end Camille said "Yes, and to thirteen years of marriage!" or something and everyone laughed soooooo uncomfortably and Kelsey did some of his finest acting, by just smiling vaguely like everything was fine and oh goddddddd Camille. What is wrong with you? Why do you create moments like that? Do you think you're being smart or witty when you do that, throwing out those tart little barbs like you're in a Noel Coward play or Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? If that is what you think, you are wrong. So very wrong. I know Kelsey did a bad, bad thing and maybe you wanted to get back at him, but this was just not right. She is just the worst. I don't even like writing about her, because she is so awful it's like the keyboard's keys become little knives constantly stabbing at my fingers. She's a weird lizard person who is not of this planet. Not the way she behaves. Regular Earth humans with some semblance of tact don't involve a room full of strangers in passive-aggressive divorce fights. Well, that's not true, I'm sure plenty do. But not any that I'd want to know.
And then it was off to the Tonys and of course Kelsey would lose and Camille would too. That's just how it went. Sometimes you're up, sometimes you're down. Kyle is riding the high of her daughter's success, while also painfully reminded, looking at her younger kids, that it "All goes so fast." The editors did a nice thing when she said that line last night. They cut to a shot of Kim tightly hugging one of the kids, maybe it was hers, maybe it was one of Kyle's, I'm not quite sure. But she was there, squeezing this child tight, as if to slow everything down, to keep the moment forever. ("Enjoy every moment!" Taylor wrote sadly on Farrah's little picture guest book thing at the party. If she'd gone on to write "God knows I didn't..." I wouldn't have been that surprised.) So yes Kim was gripping this child, asking the ancient question that everyone since time began has asked, desperately begging the world to stop its spinning, just for a second, just until we can get our French feet under us and feel steady and able. Of course we already know the answer, can feel the answer turning inside of us always.
But Kim was still asking it. Wildly, with the kind of abandon you can only feel on a sunny afternoon when something's ended. And though she was sad, though we are all sometimes sad, she was smiling, too. Just as the kids gymboree instructor had told the little girls. It will hurt sometimes, things will be hard. And that's OK. But smiling's good too, you know. Sometimes smiling is all we can do to tell the world that it hasn't beaten us just yet. That we're still here, stretching.