LAist Interview: Vanessa Grigoriadis
Vanessa Grigoriadis is a fearless and whip-smart journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, New York and Radar magazines. A recent LA transplant, Vanessa excels at writing influential trend analyses and razor sharp profiles. In 1998, she authored the infamous New York feature "Power Girls," about Lizzie Grubman and other power publicists/socialites. Lizzie Grubman subsequently appropriated the article's title and made it the basis of her own reality series on MTV.
It hasn't taken long for Vanessa to make an impact in our neck of the woods. Last week, in anticipation of a damaging profile of nightlife queen Amanda Demme Scheer that Vanessa penned for an upcoming issue of Rolling Stone, owners of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel terminated their contract with Demme Scheer, operator of the hotel's nightclubs Teddy's and Tropicana Bar.
Age and Occupation
How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
I've been here a year, and I live in Los Feliz, near the Shakespeare Bridge.
Why do you live in Los Angeles?
My fiancee works here!!!
As an East Coast-based writer, what has surprised you about Los Angeles?
The frighteningly low velocity of idea exchange in casual conversation. Scary sunsets seen through miles of smog. Beautiful walks in Griffith Park. How gorgeous all the waiters are. How disgusting parts of Hollywood are. How weird downtown is. The Arclight. Coyotes, in the city! Seeing the stars—at least, seeing more stars than you see in Manhattan. The feeling of contentment that spreads over you like a warm blankie when driving around in February with the sun roof open. That I can plant flowers in a garden. The way that once you get past the "yuck" factor, the city keeps revealing itself to you, a little bit at a time.
What's the status of a film adaptation of "Power Girls," the New York Magazine cover story that you wrote about Lizzie Grubman?
What is your perception of the way people in Hollywood do business with magazine writers?
They don't do business with us. We either promote their product, threaten them with investigative journalism, or cease to exist. If I had a nickel for every time an entertainment business person told me that they didn't want to cooperate with me on a slightly analytical feature because of Tad Friend's Dave Wirtschafter [president of William Morris Agency] story in the New Yorker, I could finally buy some of those nifty $350 jeans y'all wear around here.
What did you think of Lizzie's subsequent reality show, also called "Power Girls"?
Well, it taught me that you can't copyright a title.
What did you plan to study when you briefly attended divinity school?
I spent a year studying the sociology of New American Religions. It was less a spiritual endeavor than an attempt to develop into a new beat, but I never made it work.
What's your preferred mode of transportation?
I have a bicycle! And a car. But I prefer the bike. Except I don't go on it very often.
How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?
Never been on either, sad to say...
In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?
I dunno — I've barely figured out how to make it to the 405 from the freeways!
What's the best place to walk in LA?
The loop from the top of Beachwood Canyon to Bronson.
What is the "center" of LA to you?
I'd call it the Beverly Center, wouldn't you?
Best LA-themed book(s)?
I'm reading Toby Young's The Sound of No Hands Clapping right now.
What's your beach of choice?
Describe your best LA dining experience
One time, I ate sushi at a fancy place across the street from the Pacific Design Center. I went with a wealthy friend of mine who goes there all the time, and as soon as the sushi chef saw her coming, we got the best of everything — and got charged for it too. But it was worth it. I'm spoiled by the sushi out here. I won't eat sushi in NYC anymore.
Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?
I don't drink very much, and I encourage people I'm around to not do so either. I really don't like the rampant alcoholism and drug addiction in this town. Everything in moderation, people.
Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?
The first six months I was here, I had no friends. Then they suddenly appeared, like ants on a kitchen counter! They're all female writers in their thirties. I never had so many girlfriends before, and so many of them are very successful. It's a totally different experience of friendship than the one in have in New York, where everyone's in each other's business all the time and very competitive. Here, I feel like friends actually want each other to succeed. Then again, I'm not in the movie business.
Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?
Earthquakes, I guess. There hasn't been a real earthquake since I've been here, so I guess I'm in denial.
Share your best celebrity sighting experience
I see far more celebrities walking around my neighborhood in New York! Here, I think I saw Flea at Alcove once, and the black gay guy from "Six Feet Under" in my corner deli, buying potato chips.
What is the city's greatest secret?
That when it's been around as long as New York has, Los Angeles might be a more complicated, modern, and exciting city than New York has ever been.