AT THE Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard, you can order the "Hollywood Cake". The cake, as presented above, is chocolate and comes with lines of powdered sugar, arranged to resemble lines of cocaine. The cake is placed on a circular mirror and accompanied by a candied, edible dollar bill. What is trying to be said with this cake? It is simultaneously a celebration of and a playfully mocking critique on a favorite, deadly Hollywood habit. It comments lightly on the subject of this drug as if it is something humorous, completely overlooking it's life-ruining qualities. Ultimately, shockingly, the Hollywood Cake ACCEPTS cocaine, admits somewhat proudly to the Ziploc bags and tiny vials of powder hidden in wallets and pockets all around the room. Think of the gradual melting of the frontal lobe, think of the cardiac arrest, the emaciated frames and corroded noses, the thin streams of blood that drip, the pale eyes that roll back... none of that is acknowledged in the Hollywood Cake.
As everybody gathers around the cake, prodding hesitantly with forks, nobody is thinking about John Belushi who died of a drug overdose in one of the rooms upstairs, nobody is thinking about Lindsay Lohan who lives here now, scolded again and again for her use of this very drug. Is it okay to celebrate Cocaine but not okay to snort it? What then are we celebrating? The high? The escape? Escape is the mantra of Los Angeles, the city whose name even nods at imaginary, idealized creatures. What, here, are we trying to hard to escape from? Why is escape so valued in LA that it gets its own cake despite dark, destructive associations? The powdered lines become an escalator away from the mundane, away from the pain of being average.
Los Angeles feeds us a lie, an illusion that something heavenly, something divine lies just on the other side of the wall. That lie is sweet and seductive, that lie is toxic, that lie is Hollywood Cake.
In the bathroom, powder residue lingers on the sink. This is real: Cocaine isn't a dream or a nightmare, it is a reality that goes on enhancing brief, flickering moments while destroying lives. Cocaine is still a tool for the unhappy, condemning spirits to emptiness, sealing despair with despair.
As we can see by this cake, cocaine in Hollywood is looked upon with ease and humor, as if it were pixie dust, something airy and light we inhale simply to feel better.
-- Zahra Lipson
Photo: Zahra Lipson