??Happy birthday to you? keeps buzzing through my brain,? says my friend Rick Angres, who is visiting with his wife Kate from sunny Santa Monica. He wears a lush turtleneck under his jacket to protect him against harsh winds. He and I are walking to Michael?s restaurant for his birthday lunch. Rick, a screenwriter with an original mind, entertains me with the story of duel won by his father, who, before fleeing Nazi Germany, was president of the Heidelberg Jewish fencing fraternity. At issue was Dr. Angres? refusal to remove his hat. Rick?s an exotic: his mother is an Egyptian princess and Muslim. We pause in the glamorous restaurant?s foyer to eyeball a painting of high-octane owner Michael McCarty and his friend Harry Kipper, who is Bette Midler?s husband. Rick is also a foodie who frequents Michael?s original restaurant in Santa Monica and pals around with LA?s top chefs, one of whom recently baked him a mulberry crostada. He eagerly drives an hour to Beverly Hills to score organic mulberries from a grower friend. When Rick escorted me to Santa Monica?s farmers? market, mountains of organic golden, green and purple grapes made me almost believe in paradise. At Michael?s, I brazenly ask the mâitre d? if anyone famous is here. She whispers only: Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. I am rarely at Michael?s, preferring to wrestle at home with words rather than with media buyers and celebrities. Although three years ago, while struggling to get my arm into my coat in this very foyer, I found myself exchanging a long stare with Caroline Kennedy. Sadness overwhelmed me?I swear I caught it from her. Today, alas, Rick and I are led to the unfashionable rear. The back of my head is ironically inches from the naked rear of a female torso on a costly frieze by glamorous L.A. artist Robert Graham, husband of Angelica Huston. But after I whine to a waiter, we?re suddenly re-seated under a Jasper Johns etching and next to real estate magnate Mort Zuckerman. (I don?t remind Rick about what I politely call a ?personal moment? with Mort during which time he said, ?Lose six inches from your hips and we can have a great relationship.? I will terminate this aside by mentioning that I?m 5?10? and weigh 135 lbs.) Rick asks about tiny yellow flowers on our table. Michael leaps over?a long-haired lightning bolt?to say the flowers? name begins with ?C? and sounds like a venereal disease. After some persuasion, Rick indulges in a mind-blowing ($35) rare, rib-eye cheeseburger, crowned with bleu cheese. I munch a ($35) Cobb salad, whose bacon, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, Maytag bleu cheese, avocado and baby lettuces are chopped so I taste everything in every delicious bite. Rick adroitly eats the luscious burger with a knife and fork. He says Cobb salad was invented by Hollywood?s glamorous Brown Derby restaurant. No sign of Commissioner Kelly. We are surrounded mostly by men in expensive American suits munching 28-day-old prime steak with sweet onion puree ($40) and troll-caught, steamed King salmon ($36). I stare at one woman in a high-necked, sheath dress whose breasts protrude like two loaves of bread. ?Plastic surgery,? says Rick absently. I insist Rick try the bourbon-laced pumpkin pie with homemade pecan ice cream, and pomegranate seeds ($12). ?Describe it,? I say. His grin is poetry. Author and journalist Susan Braudy?s email address is [email@example.com](mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org).