If you are even remotely involved in one of these fields - the media, fashion, entertainment (and it often feels like three-quarters of Los Angeles' population are) - then it doesn't take a lot to be invited to the numerous quasi-glittery events that take place here every week. After having lived here for seven years now, I tend to press 'Delete' on just about all such invitations.
But I elected to go the other evening to a party being hosted by Hollywood Life magazine, which is, as the name implies, about life in Hollywood. I accepted because a) the publicist is a friend and sometimes you need to do these things, b) I was intrigued by the sound of the 'Styletini' cocktail that was going to be offered, and c) my sister was in town from New York and she seemed rather keen to tell her friends she had gone to a celeb-filled event in LA.
The evening, for all its highs and lows, illustrated the many misconceptions that abound about the Hollywood party scene. Toss together the words 'celebrity', 'Hollywood' and 'party' and there are visions of champagne, limousines and US$10,000 floor-sweeping gowns.
The reality, of course, is that Hollywood - like any other institution - has its tiers. There are outrageously extravagant bashes filled with the creme-de-la-creme of the industry's A-list.
And then there is everything else.
'Will there be paparazzi and screaming fans and valet parking and champagne?' my sister asked, her eyes wide with excitement, as we drove.
'I dunno,' I replied, stifling a yawn, and already counting the hours until we could go home, and I could get into my flannel frog-print pajamas and watch Brothers and Sisters.
'Can we walk down the red carpet?' she asked, for about the 200th time.
'I suppose. But you know nobody will take our picture, right?'
'That's fine! I have my camera! You can take one of me!'
We arrived at the venue, the Pacific Design Centre, which looked eerily quiet. We were directed to the side entrance of the parking lot and paid US$8 to park, my sister bemoaning the lack of a valet service. (A weekend in Los Angeles, and she's spoilt already.)
Inside, the crowd was thin, but was expected to grow. The reason for the gathering was an awards show put on by Hollywood Life magazine - this was its fourth annual event - honouring various people in the style end of the industry; awards were being given out in arbitrary and interchangeable categories such as 'Style Siren', 'Hollywood Style Dream Developer' and 'Star Stylist Extraordinaire'. The 'tip sheet' given to me the day before the party - basically a list of the bold-faced names expected to be there and something that is, more often than not, wishful thinking on the part of party planners rather than being based in reality - was filled with A-list names. I told my sister, who was there unabashedly to star spot, not to get her hopes up. This wasn't the Oscars.
We stood in the foyer away from the paparazzi (yes!) who had set up along the red carpet, my sister anxious to see if anyone famous came by. Then she saw one, trudging down the hallway.
'Look!' she screamed, grabbing my wrist. 'Philip Seymour Hoffman!' We stood back to let him and his entourage pass. My sister asked me if it would be okay if she told him she 'loved him in Truman', and I cringed again. Thankfully, she didn't say that to him, because as he walked past, a hair's breadth away from us, it was apparent this wasn't Philip Seymour Hoffman, but some older, craggier, European import.
My sister's hopes dashed, I told her we should go upstairs to the cocktail area. There, over 'Styletini' cocktails (Bombay Sapphire gin, lemonade and ginger, yum) and tuna carpaccio pizza, she ardently people-watched. This led to another myth of Hollywood being demolished, that everyone came out looking like they had the services of uber-stylist Rachel Zoe for the week. Not quite.
At these events, you would see everything from jeans and blazers to full-length gowns and gold shoes, and plenty, plenty of little black dresses. And, yes, all the waiters were extremely good-looking, the waitresses even more so.
'Oh my God! Solis! Carlos Solis! What's his real name?' my sister asked, pointing out one of the stars from Desperate Housewives. (The answer is Ricardo Chavira.) 'I can tell my friends I saw Carlos Solis!'
Another round of drinks, and then she spotted another star - David Duchovny - and grabbed my arm again. 'Do you think his wife is here? What's he doing here? Who's he with? Oh, he's cute!'
I summoned the waiter for yet another cocktail.
We made our way into the theatre for the awards presentation ceremony, which, as these things inevitably do, dragged on much longer than expected. But as I told my sister, if any big names were coming tonight, we'd see them here.
Inside, there was a mini-platoon of them: Cindy Crawford, looking shockingly gorgeous, was there to pick up her Style Siren award, conveniently plugging her new furniture and beauty lines. Harrison Ford showed up to present an award to photographer Timothy White. Teri Hatcher, all dark hair and spindly, was there to give one to 'Mane Master' Laurent of the high-priced salon Prive.
It was all a self-congratulatory fest and par for the course at these things.
I turned to look at my sister who clapped wildly whenever anyone famous was on the stage, her eyes gleaming with the knowledge that she was in the same room as people she generally only read about or saw on television.
'I give you a couple more of these, and you'll be done,' I said to her.
Later, we were talking to a fashionista from New York who, like me, was no longer enamoured of celebrity. 'But it's great that your sister still is,' she said. 'It's nice to be reminded of it, isn't it?' But I was already thinking about my pajamas.