EXCERPT: 'Miss O'Dell'

When I met Derek I was twenty, a high school graduate with a pleasant personality and an eagerness to please. I didn't have any great ambitions, although I had moved to Los Angeles to get away from Tucson with the dream of something better happening to me. That was the choice -- stay in Arizona and go to college (I wanted to major in drama), or leave Tucson with dreams but no plans and see where life took me. But when I got to LA, I realized I was just a small-town girl in a big city -- lonely, directionless, insecure, and self-doubting, always waiting, waiting, waiting for a new experience or adventure to come along. I was free to be whatever I wanted to become, but I had no idea what that was.

That night in the La Brea Inn changed everything. I have lived such a storied life, filled with wild adventures and unimaginable opportunities, surrounded by rock stars and celebrities, living in times that were at once magical, thrilling, bewildering, and terrifying. Despite all the craziness and confusion, the bad (some would say stupid) decisions and the good (I would say lucky) choices, the close friendships and the bitter betrayals, the drug highs and the inevitable lows, this is my life and I wouldn't change one tiny piece of it for fear of losing it all. But back then I had no idea that one chance meeting would completely alter the direction of my life.

"Chris, dear, would you like to join me and some friends for dinner at the La Brea Inn?" I just adored Derek's voice with its soft, sweet tone and the warmth that seemed to wrap around each word. I had to admit it -- even though I struggled with the fact that Derek was fourteen years older than me (and married, with four children) -- I had a huge crush on him. He was attracted to me, too, but the fact that he was married, with children, stopped anything from happening between us. His conscience got in the way, which was okay with me because I came to see him as more of a father figure than a boyfriend. A boyfriend could always dump me, but a father figure would protect me and stand up for me no matter what.

"I'd love to!" I said. I was sitting at my desk at Ted Randal Enterprises struggling with typing up the latest tip sheet on the mimeograph paper. Ted programmed radio stations in the US and Australia, picking the records he thought would be hits and creating playlists for the stations. I hated that mimeograph paper because it was so unforgiving of typos and so incredibly messy, the blue ink getting all over my hands every time I touched it.

Derek didn't own a car -- he didn't even know how to drive, which I found sort of strange -- and for the next three weeks I was his driver, chauffeuring him around Los Angeles as he tied up loose ends and prepared to move back to London. I drove him to television and radio interviews, sat in on recording sessions, accompanied him to meetings with lawyers and record producers, and joined him for lunches, dinners, and drinks with people like folksinger Phil Ochs, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, film producer Fred Roos, and actress Teri Garr.

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