This is a love story about how two people can be brought together by a city they don’t particularly like.
“Ironically enough, we met in the building on Hollywood Boulevard that says, ‘I Love L.A.,’” says Diana Hulet, a pretty 33-year-old actress/yoga teacher, who spent time working as a shop girl at the Erotic Museum, located in said building. “Before I was even working there, I remember driving by that sign and thinking, ‘Who the fuck loves L.A.?’”
“What’s even sicker,” says Lawrence Newman, her hazel-eyed 6-foot-3 jeweler/artisan “jack-of-all-trades” boyfriend, “is that I told my friend who came up with the idea for that sign that I thought it was crazy to put ‘I Love L.A.’ on the roof, ’cause I hear so many people bagging on L.A.”
Newman turns away from the steaming pots he’s been tending in the kitchen of Hulet’s two-bedroom apartment on Gower, a block from the Sunset Gower studios. Meanwhile, Hulet pours more wine and relays their Hollywood proper cute-meet.
“He was putting up some installations before [the museum] opened. I mean, his job was pretty much over when I started working there. But he would come in and . . .”
“Flirt,” inserts Newman.
“I would try to escape and have someone cover for me,” Hulet continues, “so we could sit in the corner and have five minutes to actually talk, and want to touch each other and not.
“I had no idea I would fall in love,” he adds. “When we started having conversations, I was like, ‘Woo! This girl is amazing!’ I think the thing that really connected us was our parents — she lost her mom and dad and I lost my mom, right around the time we met. It was interesting to talk to someone who had a similar experience. It wasn’t really romantic in the beginning . . . now it is.”
As if on cue, Newman, who’s 28 and a “Capricarius” — a Capricorn on the cusp of Sagittarius — slides his hand around Hulet’s partially exposed waist.
They took a yoga class together, went out to eat a few times, and, shortly after their first hike, Hulet named her goldfish Lawrence, “so I could come home to a Lawrence.” Then Newman and Hulet ditched their respective mates.
Now they’re consolidating their belongings and preparing to leave L.A. in September. The smog, the traffic, the insincerity, the drive for success, the overpopulation, the lack of trees are all just making them “uncomfortable.”
They got an awesome opportunity up in Portland, and they’re taking it. A friend’s son has a house up there that needs some work. The owner lives in Philadelphia and said if Newman does the work, he can stay there for free. If they dig it, when it’s over they can rent the place.
“We already looked at a satellite view,” Hulet says. “It’s green; there are a lot of trees.”
“And there’s weather,” adds Newman. “I want it to rain here so badly, and it’s just not raining. I hate to be the cynical rip-on-Los-Angeles guy, ’cause it’s a cool city. It has so much to offer and is culturally diverse, but there are just too many people. I want to be comfortable, to spend time with friends and someone I love. Success is really the last thing I desire right now.”
But the search for success is what brought both of them to Los Angeles in the first place. Newman, who grew up in San Diego, came here five years ago with hopes of becoming a makeup artist. Hulet, who had been assisting psychedelic artist Peter Max and working with David Mamet and William H. Macy’s Atlantic Theater Company, came to Los Angeles from New York after a few life-changing detours. When her father died last year — of “a broken heart,” Hulet says (it was a year and a half after her Cuban-born mother died) — she first headed for Big Pine Key, a small island off the Florida Keys, to close up the house her doctor parents had built themselves.
“I went from living in this big crazy city to living on a small island, 30 palm trees in the yard, and catching my own fish.” That’s a skill she learned from her father, who was not only a doctor but a marine biologist, concert pianist and rescue cave diver who taught his daughter how to spearfish and lobster hunt.
After Hulet sold her parents’ home, she traded in her dad’s Saturn for a Nissan truck and started heading west, pausing in Arizona for six months to work at a yoga studio. “I never lived in the desert,” she says. “And I had just been through all the emotional stuff with my parents’ death. It seemed like being away from the water was what I needed to kind of dry myself up.”
Then she was offered the lead role in the yet-to-be-released independent film Murder Inside Me and moved out to L.A. to do it.
But ever since she took her teacher’s training at the Center for Yoga on Larchmont — and met Newman — it’s been harder and harder for her to make peace with the whole auditioning process. She would rather open her own yoga studio. Besides, there’s always theater in Oregon. And with the money she made from the sale of her parents’ home, the couple can actually buy a piece of land up there and make a go of it.
“I’ve always wanted to have a dinner house,” says Newman, arranging avocado slices onto plates of baby greens. “Really high quality vegetables . . . I love to make food. I mean, why not have it all? A yoga studio, right next door to this beautiful place to eat, right next to a rad art gallery. We can go up there and get our hands dirty and build it. I mean, take her interests and my interests and bring them all together and create a really healthy environment for people to come and share. I can’t wait to take her salmon fishing up there.”
In Hulet’s guest room there are three large slabs of green onyx from her parents’ home. And a box of old photos of the life that she shared with them. When she was little, her mom would tell her, “Your father and I loved each other so much we knew we had to create something that we could share it with.”
Newman’s done cooking dinner.