Since reestablishing residence in his native Southern California in 2006, novelist and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis hasn’t exactly gone hungry for dinner invitations. Yet on many a weekend night, the 44-year-old creator of such provocative bestsellers as “Less Than Zero” and “American Psycho” chooses to take his meals at home with a close circle of friends, and his swank, minimalist West Hollywood condo becomes the setting for wine-and-dine affairs.
“We are pre-recessionary dinner party people,” Ellis says with a laugh. “It’s always been an easy way to get six or eight people together in an affordable manner and for me to be able to drink without driving or taking a cab.”
Melina Kevorkian, the producer of a forthcoming film version of Ellis’ 2005 novel, “Lunar Park,” says the gatherings provide an excuse to experiment with new recipes and hang out.
“It’s casual and easy,” she says. “There’s no skimping on fat and no dietary issues. I can be as neurotic as I want and know that I am never judged, which is rare in this town.”
This is not quite the domestic scenario one might expect from a man who has lived -- and skewered -- the high life in Hollywood and Manhattan. Clad in sporty track pants and a hooded sweat shirt, Ellis looks more like a clean-cut suburbanite than the chronicler of drug-fueled nightclub crawlers and yuppie serial killers.
“I like being around nice people,” Ellis says, deadpan. “And I am assuming that no one is here against their will, because they keep coming back.”
Josie Freedman, Ellis’ book agent at International Creative Management and another long-standing guest at his intimate salons, says the host is the center of attention because “he’s the funniest human being we have ever met.”
In his designated role, Ellis picks up the wine and supplies the music and snacks. Though he does man the grill for Sunday dinners with his two sisters and mother at the family home in Sherman Oaks, he doesn’t do a lot of the cooking at his place. “Not because I don’t like cooking, but because there are always three people who can cook better than me,” he says.
Tonight, he surrenders his small galley kitchen to Freedman, Kevorkian and her husband, accessories designer Christian Davies. They steam 5 pounds of mussels, grill salmon and bake a rack of lamb in Davies’ secret yogurt sauce. To the iPod strains of Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California,” Ellis sets the table with simple white IKEA dishes and two metal trivets, a gift from his mother after he accidentally scorched the rift oak dining table’s smoky green custom finish.
“I keep trying to have a job here, and they won’t give me one, so I’m just tasting the wine,” says actress Kelli Williams, a star of “The Practice” who will appear on the upcoming Fox series “Lie to Me.”
“I refuse to have a job,” says her husband, writer Ajay Sahgal, one of Ellis’ chums from the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks.
At the Ellis residence, no topics are off the table.
“Sex lives, love lives, books, movies, politics, religion -- we talk about it all,” Freedman says. “It’s about coming together in a relaxed atmosphere and sharing stories, the good things and bad things that happened during the week.”
With little need to impress his guests, Ellis’ spartan yet sophisticated bachelor pad has the vibe of a boutique hotel and provides the stage for stress-free entertaining. The kitchen is done up with gray glass mosaic tiles, CaesarStone counters and white IKEA cabinetry tricked out with brushed metal hardware from Sugatsune. It opens onto a dining area with two simple wooden benches for seating. Before and after dinner, guests gravitate through the living room -- furnished only with an oversized leather sectional and ottoman sitting on a walnut plank floor -- to an expansive tiled terrace that lies beyond floor-to-ceiling glass Fleetwood sliders.
“The view is the art,” says Ellis, who keeps his walls free of paintings. “I know many people are comfortable with a lot of tchotchkes and plants and pictures of the family around. I find it distracts from my work.”
The writer bought the unit, which had been customized by Idea Space Design for the previous tenant, because it was a “clean and contained space that was reminiscent of the way I was living in New York. Nothing had to be done.”
The “do-nothing aesthetic” appealed to Ellis. “I have no taste,” he says. “I realized that the furniture they used when they showed the place was exactly what I wanted.”
Idea Space Design managing partner Christos Joannides says Ellis is a purist who has kept the design true to its intentions.
“He loved the simple open floor plan and found it to be conducive to his style of entertaining,” Joannides says.
Kevorkian, who had an engagement party with 75 guests in Ellis’ apartment, calls the layout organic.
“Even though it’s stark, there is still a comfortable feeling,” she says. “You never find anybody wandering off and hiding in the bedrooms.”
Ellis agrees. “This is where the party is,” he says, spreading his arms wide in the living-dining area, admiring the view outside, a blanket of city lights that stretches from the Pacific Design Center to the Pacific Ocean. As the social satirist with the homebody streak pops a savory Kalamata into his mouth, his face lights up with inspiration.
“We should start an olive club on Facebook.”
Keeps is a Times staff writer.