Jul/Aug 2001 Miscellaneous

Cape Fera

by Timothy Davis

(excerpted with permission from Details magazine, April 2001)

If you've never shared a car with a slightly tipsy Hollywood starlet outside of Sunset Strip, you haven't lived. Two in the morning, Fera Dominguez sidles beside me in the seat of her Porsche Boxter, slipping in a Bobby Womack CD. "Shan gave me this," she says. Shan, of course, would be Shan Mitchell, the lead singer of TurboCreek, a "grange" band (you know, after grunge), Fera's current love interest, and the one thing standing between me and destiny. But he's not here now, and I am, even if it's on assignment for the magazine you're presently holding in your hands. Fera slides the key gently into the beast, which lets out a low metallic purr that throats into a growl as she pulls into traffic. It's now two in the morning, and just minutes ago we were both eating greasy omelet platters in a Sunset Strip diner. It dawned on me then that eating diner food is a fact of life for a writer. For Fera Dominguez, it's a subtle kind of irony—an irony which has propelled her into being one of the hottest young starlets in Hollywood.

Since getting her start as an extra in Get Shorty (look for her in the parking deck scene), The Feral One has appeared in quite a number of "arthouse" (well, Miramax arthouse) productions, including the new Skeet Ulrich vehicle, Slowly Waiting To Die. Dominguez changes lanes, kicks her shoes off in the floorboard, and explains.

"Too much of my time was going into trying to do the 'right' thing," she says. "As I've since come to learn, doing whatever the hell it is you want is the right thing. I met Penny Marshall one time at a charity bowling event, and she told me something. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose."

Right now, about the only thing Fera Dominguez stands to lose is her license. Driving along Supelveda, Fera's lane changing is as erratic as Nicolas Cage's film choices. She exits off the freeway, and moments later, we are arriving at Chez Fera, safe and sound. Well, sound at least. Fera activates the security code, and we walk inside. A large canvas by David Hockney (A print, she informs me) hangs above the large expanse of her dining room table, suitable for mess hall in its immensity. On which is an answering machine. A blinking answering machine.

"Hi baby, it's Shan," the voice says. "You'd never guess who called me today. Details Magazine. Are they still around?"


Fera Domiguez eats meat. Lots of it, in fact. Porterhouse, steaks, chops, butterflied, sauteed, seared, blackened and chopped. What's more, she also drinks beer. No run-of-the-mill Bud Lite, mind you. Big, rich, nutty beers, the kind that can settle a pregnant woman's stomach (it's the iron) and separate the men from the boys down at the local freehouse. Yes, beer, ladies and gentlemen. Beer, and in big gulps.

The start of Fera's career has been oft-told, but there's much to be gleaned from her scatter-shot ascent to where she is now, the newest "it" girl. Fera and her friends refer to it as being "The Shit" girl (for Fera, the phrase "The Shit" is the utmost of compliments). Foremost among these is what people like Pam Grier and Robert Forster have known for years—hook up with Travolta on his inevitable, cyclical career upswings. Fera's uncredited turn in Get Shorty was enough to draw the attention of one Harvey Weinstein, who enlisted her to appear in the critically acclaimed House With No Doors (she played nanny Tristane Margaut in a memorable cross-cultural performance), and the fair-to-middling The Cabinet-maker's Secret.

"Harvey gave me the story that he liked my 'ability to nuance,'" says Fera, biting into her steak filet. "I think it might have been my boobs, but who's arguing? Harvey never let me bite off more than I could chew—or should chew—at that point. You know? I mean, I never did 1-800-CALLATT commercials or anything like that. I'm sure this'll read as smug to some people, but I want to have the career of the people I look up to. Bob DeNiro. Sharon Stone, who I always think has been underrated. Shan says I should have tried out for Casino."

Fera's foot touches mine under the table, and I'd swear I can feel my wedding band start to burn my finger. She's peeling the label off her bottle of beer. We order another round of Newcastles. Fera explains that most people serve the beer too cold, then points to the back of the bottle. "It's interesting to me that they list all these states on the back that'll give you a 5-cent refund if you bring the bottle back. How many people that'll pay $10 for a six-pack are going to go through all that trouble to get back 30 cents?" She's howling at this point, and I look to the silver-haired couple beside us, who are nervously casting little askew glances our way. I shrug my shoulders.

Susan Sarandon she ain't. She likes, in no particular order, sushi, chow-chow dogs, the color blue, Paris, chocolate in everything, The Cartoon Network, sex, the beach, old cigarette lighters, blonde-haired men, silver-and-black home accents, and the sound of her own voice. She's fond of the aforementioned meat and beer, violent movies, the light at the end of the tunnel, making fun of Scientology, and skylights. She thinks it's just a hoot that men find her attractive, that boobs matter for so much, that Jimmie (J.J.) Walker is still performing, and the fact that Tori Spelling will soon be one of the foremost movers and shakers in Hollywood when her old man finally passes away. She says all this off the record, on the record, whatever.

"I just do what comes natural," she says, ordering a Cosmopolitan. "Like, right now, if I wanted to show you my tits, I would do it." Surely this sort of behavior is a ripe breeding ground for regret, I say, before the weight of her last sentence slowly makes its way down from my head into the appropriate channels, filling my body with a, uh… renewed vigor. "Well, life comes with all sorts of regret, you know? Even if you just sit in your house all day watching Rosie. You know what I mean? Why not have fun doing it—live your life, as stupid as it can be sometimes, and as stupid as it sounds for me to say that right now. Fart at life's party, and then point at someone else."

John Travolta has been tied to Fera's career since the beginning, and still takes every opportunity to sing her praises. Fera's not beyond confounding him, however, says the meaty leading man. John's having a carrot juice with me just outside his enclave in Beverly Hills, and despite his baseball cap and sunglasses, that famous jawline keeps giving him away. We've been interrupted some six times in the last 15 minutes. After saying his goodbyes to a woman in a teal jumpsuit (She just loved Grease, she'll have you know), he smiles, and goes back to the subject at hand.

"Fera is hard to shake," says the affable Travolta with a jowly chuckle. "The first time we met, she went on and on about how white suits made men look silly. For Saturday Night Fever—a movie I did 20 years ago! She's not only a rare bird, she's one of a kind. She's nearing extinction, man. I mean, she smokes cigarettes with one of those weird little metal holder things. Who does that anymore? Hugh Hefner? Maybe it's a Jayne Mansfield thing. Or more likely, Marlene Dietrich. Travolta laughs and shakes his head, polishing off his juice.

"Fera's not about to be reigned in," he says, affecting a serious look, drawing my eyes to his. The "serious actor" look, wherein the gravity of what's about to be imparted to you is to be gleaned from the removal of sunglasses or the sudden absence of folly. "At least by anyone else. Her fire is burning very brightly right now. To her credit, she's been able to keep from flaming out. But how long can a person last like that? I don't know. But I do think it's what's holding her back from the really big roles, probably." He laughs. "That and that nasty habit she has of cussing out directors."

Travolta again signs a few slips of paper before saying his goodbyes to the small throng surrounding his Cadillac Escalade (used, he brags).

"He looked better in a minivan," Fera says when I mention his visit to her later, no doubt referring to Travolta's vehicle of choice in Shorty. "Suits his body type better these days."

Fera's on her way to pick up her Chow/Lab mix, Lars, from the groomer's shop. Lars is named, she says, after Lars von Trier, director of Breaking the Waves and a co-founder of Dogme95, a philosophical film movement that seeks to make films in the most natural, unadulterated way possible, sans artificial light and other constructs. I'm curious as to Fera's take on the whole thing, what with being the new indie-"it" girl.

"I like the Capras of the world," says Fera, adjusting her bright-red Fred Durst-style Dodgers cap. "I like someone with a message beyond that we're all doomed to fail in love, that mansions will fall, and that the best we can do is just keep on keeping on. I like to think we have some say in the matter."

Fera says she remembers mostly in sensations—in particular, sounds and smells. She remembers playing on a swingset in her backyard that smelled like rust, she remembers the smell of the plastic on the slip-and-slide, and she can remember the smell of her mother frying okra and chicken inside the house while she was out sitting among the Marigolds playing with her trucks. She remembers how her stay-at-home mom would sprinkle a few drops of hot sauce on both of the Southern delicacies before serving. She finds it funny the same meal now sets her back $40 in LA. She remembers that she would set up the little cars and army men in the Forest of Marigold, before going to get the hose to create a river, and later a flood. She liked playing God, and wishes it were that easy again. She says she sat alone back there most days except for her dog, usually bedecked in a swimsuit and shorts if the weather was over 65 degrees or so. Her mother stayed at home, and would generally cook and clean and be an ear if Fera had a problem with reaching a light or fetching some toy from the garden shop or turning off the water spigot. She had a green machine, which had holes in the cheap plastic tires from when she would spin out or slide to a stop. She had holes in most of her jeans when she wore them. She doesn't mind showing you her scars.

She believes in luck, and in synchronicity. The latter dawned on her the other day listening to her 25-CD changer, the discs picked carefully, she says, due to some internal logic. And she's right, the disparate music all does work, especially inside the Range Rover we're in, which Fera announces has 18 different speakers. Eighteen speakers. (Remember what I said earlier about hooking up with Travolta?)

The luck, she says, works because it reminds her of her power. She writes a lucky number on her hand or goes through a similar ritual every day, because if good things happen to her thereafter, it re-affirms her own power, and reminds her that one day she won't need to brandish all those luck-bearing amulets to get what she wants. She says she's just not ready for that yet, but knows it's there. I believe her.

I'm in love with Fera Dominguez. Yes, sir. It just dawned on me. It dawns on me I'm writing the article in my head before I speak because I always want to remember it. She has an aura, an air unlike anything I've experienced. It sucks the oxygen out of the room. It is in perpetual motion. It takes you like an anaconda snake, squeezes you for what it needs, and then leaves you there, startled.

I've seen Fera now for two straight days. We are winding down my time in LA, sitting in the hotel bar of Mondrian, and drinking something Fera calls a hurricane. It is warmly sweet, and goes down easy after a hard day in the sun, the promised life, the promised land of California, the golden coast. Fera grasps my leg after telling a joke about Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce (rather Laura and Danny Partridge). I think about my wife at home and then what it would be like to fuck Fera. Hard. Right here at the bar.

She produces some sushi in front of us out of nowhere, seemingly, and offers one to me. The meat is sweet and gamy and rich with just-passed life. It seems to almost throb. A wiry rocker type still wearing peg-legged pants chats with Fera for a bit. She watches his butt as he leaves. "From a band called the Legwarmers," Fera mouths. I eat another piece of sushi.

She remembers the first time she sneezed, masturbated, smoked, drank, had sex, smoked pot, and did acid. She doesn't seem particularly upset that all this didn't take very long by society's standards—all by the age of 17 or 18, probably. She didn't get her license until she was 22. She's never dated a black guy, but would like to. She's the most honest person one writer has ever met. She loves her red hair, and the fact that it sets her apart. She loves Julianne Moore. They once played a game of bingo in Santa Monica—it's a story in Fera's permanent rotation of celeb-speak. She once dated that lead singer guy for Marcy Playground. She thinks that her next role will be her best, and if not true at least it keeps her with getting along, getting things done. She's dated a woman. (She was 21, in case you're still keeping score about such things.)

Fera's really boiling now. I listen to her talk about the Internet, about a website she's helping to fund, her cooking skills, her favorite sexual position ("horizontal"), her mother, her sister in South Carolina, and the problem with UCLA basketball. She smiles and I see a glint, a sparkle off of her teeth like in one of those gum commercials. Fera's done a gum commercial. The night is starting to melt together, where the lights and the shadows (and the tequila) just start to render everything a golden haze. Fera's still putting them back, however, and has to be on her fifth beer of the evening. I think of my wife at home, the bitch, she's the one standing between us, she's the one keeping me away. If I weren't married, surely we've had so much fun by now that she would go out again. Actresses fall for writers all the time—and I have an expense account. Had an expense account.

It's a sad feeling, longing for someone you'll probably never have. Love only comes when people's internal planets, their universes, align. One finds there's intelligent life on another planet, and it's a powerful feeling. It puts a pull on you that you're powerless to stop. Gravity holds you there until it's time to make a move. Depression? Not really. Depression is only there to tell you it's time to make a change. And crawling out of depression hurts. You have to claw a few bodies on the way. But the payoff? The payoff is huge.

So what if it means you make a choice of one person over the other 6-odd billion people out there? The planets have aligned, and you won the lottery. Blind faith paid off.

Six billion to one? I'll take those odds, take 'em and run with 'em. Fera Dominguez is gonna be a star.


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