Jen Friel had reached out to me the week before. “You should come to L.A. for the Fourth of July. We’re invited to a party at the Marijuana Mansion.”
I don’t really smoke weed very often, but it was such a curious invitation that I couldn’t say no. I hadn’t seen Jen in a few years, but every time we hang out, shenanigans happen — like the time we got smuggled into a Google Ventures party dressed like absolute freaks.
Twenty minutes after the invite, I had a plane ticket to Los Angeles.
“Bring a costume” was the last thing she messaged me. I obliged.
The afternoon before Independence Day, I found out what the costumes were for. “Today, we’re gonna dress up and go down to Hollywood and Highland so people can take photos with us. We’ll donate the tips they give us to charity.”
There’s a whole scene of people dressed as famous characters and actors near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and we were going to join them for shits ’n’ giggles and see what a day in their lives was like. Jen dressed up as Katy Perry and looked remarkably like her. I put on a day-glo psychedelic mumu and a captain’s hat. Those, coupled with my beard, made me look like a combination between Mama Cass and Zach Galifianakis. For obvious reasons, no one wanted a photo with me.
We quickly got bored of the picture-taking bit and instead went on a weird costumed bar crawl throughout Hollywood, making friends and drawing strange looks everywhere we went.
The following day was July 4, the day of The Marijuana Don’s big party at the Marijuana Mansion. Michael Straumietis made millions selling fertilizer for legal weed grows and has since become an Instagram celebrity, with an account consisting of photos of hot girls in bikinis, weed, private planes, mansions and more weed.
When we arrived, there was a girl in a bikini sitting on an armored tank in the front yard. There were a couple young kids sitting on the tank with her. I’m not quite sure where they came from. Walking into the waterfront mansion in Malibu, the crowd was exactly as I expected. Beautiful women, in patriotic bikinis barely covering their fake boobs, splashed around in the hot tub and pool while 20-something stoners moved glassy eyed toward the back. There were a few bars on each floor, including a marijuana bar where girls in bikinis rolled you joints and packed you bong loads. Seemingly endless supplies of king crab legs, oysters and sushi were on an ice castle of sorts, and the rest of the buffet had pretty much anything you could desire. People were set up in the middle of the kitchen making fresh ice cream for everyone.
Nearly every conversation Jen and I had with people started the same way: “This is absolutely insane.”
An industry town is an industry town, and depending on the industry, that’s what most of the conversations end up being about. Since this was L.A., nobody was talking about their new app or their startup. Most everyone worked in entertainment. Some were film producers, some were models, some were … well, I’m not really sure. Everyone else there worked in the cannabis industry and were somehow connected to The Marijuana Don.
It’s always interesting to see how other people live, whether they dress as Spiderman for a living or have a waterfront mansion paid for by weed fertilizer. San Francisco has a lot of different ways to live a life — 800,000 or so — but none of them were quite like what I experienced in L.A. Despite all the freakiness though, it’s always nice to come home.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.