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The Emmy-winning reality-TV host, who debuted his daytime talk show this week, on how to survive the L.A. jungle
If I hadn’t grown up in Kansas, moved to Seattle, and then New York before coming to Los Angeles, I would have self-destructed. I came to L.A. once about ten years before I moved here to visit friends who were loosely—and I mean loosely—working in the entertainment business, but I thought this was the inside of the Hollywood machine! All we did was party every night. I left thinking that’s what L.A. is: a series of clubs where you’re either on somebody’s list or you stand in line hoping to get in. When I moved here, those friends had partied their entire careers. I think seeing them woke me up. If you’re going to L.A. to work, you need to pay attention to how easily you can get lost in a party that never ends. L.A. can be a rolling orgasm if you want it to be.
The city is full of pockets—my favorite is the beach. I love to play volleyball and Rollerblade, even though I’ve been told Rollerblading isn’t cool anymore. I love to do the rings on Santa Monica Beach. When you swing on them, you feel like you’re a flying trapeze artist. But first you have to decide if you’re willing to be embarrassed. Half the time I’ll be in line and think, “Oh, look at that guy, he’s so much better than me—I’m not doing it. Oh, now the hot chick is going—I’m not following her!” But then you ask somebody to give you a hand, and suddenly the entire culture that was so intimidating becomes your support group. Once you do it, and you get a little bit of a blister, it’s an electrifying feeling.
Another favorite pocket is Beverly Hills. Right around lunchtime—in that spot around Rodeo, Beverly, and Wilshire—is a big pot of agents, assistants, and famous people. It’s not merely the money, which is sometimes literally flying out of people’s pockets, but it’s a sense of style that the men have and the look of the women, with the whole out-of-control plastic surgery thing. Whenever my very granola, Birkenstock-wearing buddy from Seattle comes to visit, our standing date is at an outdoor restaurant in Beverly Hills. We just gawk at the boldness of it all, then we’ll look at each other and say, “They’re humans like us; we’re just here gawking at ourselves.”
The biggest culture shock is when I return from shooting Survivor. I’ve been out on this island for seven weeks with locals who look like they’re from a Mel Gibson movie. The local women are usually missing teeth because it’s cultural or cool to pull them out, or they’re quite heavy because they drink a lot of coconut milk—not anything we’d define as sexy. And then I land at the international terminal at LAX, and I get into my car, and all of a sudden it’s superbeauty, it’s beyond beauty, and it’s everywhere.