You could hear the whispering under the wind as it made its way through the courtyard of the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum Tuesday night. What were they going to talk about? Well, there was always Los Angeles. And writing. The unusually temperate weather, if it came to that. Surely Jonathan Gold and Bret Easton Ellis could entertainingly debate the merits of iconic restaurants, if they wanted to. Besides, not knowing exactly what their scheduled conversation, part of the museum’s Hammer Lecture series, would be about was part of the fun—at least, it was for a little while.
Soon the theater doors opened, the line filed into the quiet theater, people took their seats, Bret and Jonathan said hello, and it was clear: they didn’t know what they were going to talk about, either. “I don’t want to talk about Los Angeles or food,” said Bret, facing the audience and shifting his weight from one side to the other. “On Sunday I watched a marathon of To Catch a Predator.” He put his Ray Bans down, pulled a couple of cans of Four Loko out of the messenger bag at his feet, handed one to Gold, then snapped his open with a sigh. “Why don’t those guys get off with just a warning?”
There’s not much ground left to cover when you start a two-hour talk by asking a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic why would-be pedophiles aren’t treated like misguided puppies, so, to be fair, they both moved on nicely. There were a few awkward pauses but there were insights, too: Good writing can’t be taught (Bret), The Hills is the work of art most definitive of L.A. right now (Bret), and appreciation for the depth of Korean cuisine in Los Angeles will be the next big thing (Jonathan).
By nine, the wind had died down outside and the crowd was headed upstairs for a post-discussion book signing. The cans of Four Loko—and all that nervous energy—stayed behind.