This is an excerpt from Drew Barry's more new memoir Wildflower, which you can buy now on Amazon (opens in new tab).
We had heard about a skydiving place not far from where we lived. Cameron Diaz and I were in a crazy mode where all we wanted to do was adventurous stuff. High off the rush of Charlie's Angels and training in kung fu for four months straight and then performing stunts for the next six, we had become total adrenaline junkies. We had just come back from a trip to the Tahitian Islands, where we scuba dived with sharks! It was amazing. Six-foot-plus grays and nurses swimming all around in a giant fishbowl of what would normally seem terrifying but was actually a peaceful descent to silence and awe sixty feet under water. I liked that you had to use signals and stop talking for a while and yet everyone could fully communicate.
At one point, when our guide took out a huge plastic bag of something that looked like mangled guts, my eyes bugged out, but then he took out a twelve-inch blade and sliced it open. The blood went everywhere and so came the sharks. I quickly motioned to him with a hand sweeping back and forth across my neck as if to say, "Enough! We're good, please don't chum the water anymore." It was crazy to be in a place where in the blink of an eye things could have gone very bad.
And yet we survived and loved every minute of it. So when we found out that there was a skydiving school about an hour away from Los Angeles, we immediately signed ourselves up and drove out to Perris, California, a total desert landscape.
When we arrived at the school we were met by a bunch of dudes. Hot doggers and bird chasers. I knew from first glance they were all up on my girlfriend's tip. And as long as no one was inappropriate, I just rolled with it. I am forever protective and chivalrous of my friend. She calls me her little man because in the first Charlie's, we dressed in disguise as men to break into Redstar tech facilities. I looked oddly like a very short James Spader, and she like a normal-height pencil-pushing CPA. And although I come up to her elbow, the name "little man" stuck.
Poo Poo (our mutual nickname for each other) and I have known each other since I was 14 and she was 16. We met in West Hollywood back in the late '80s. There were two beautiful girls, both models, Cameron and Cory. Everyone ogled them, but most important they were both extremely nice and the opposite of cold. But they were cool.
We hung around in similar circles for many years. I liked any girl's girl and Cameron was definitely that.
But it was when I called her, because I was producing Charlie's Angels, and dared her to come play that we became so close. She was shooting Being John Malkovich, and I arranged a phone call for us so that I could pitch her the movie because a script hadn't even been written. I talked about tone and what I wanted it to be, but I really stressed the sisterhood and the capability of these women to her. I said, "Girls want to do what boys do without losing the idea that they want love at the end of the day! They also love each other as women and they are stronger together. They want to kick ass and have fun." I knew she would get the spirit of women who supported each other and liked to laugh. That's who she has always been, and I knew we would have a blast! And we did. Well after the films ended, we continued our journey as friends and thrill seekers.
So here we were, two girls who wanted to jump out of a plane, and we were watching our instructional videos, which were terrifying, but worse, they make you sign your life away. Literally. You have to sign an "if I don't make it" contract. They tell you it's standard protocol. They also tell you that it's likely you will get cotton mouth on the plane ride up and to bring some water. What the hell was I doing? Just as I started to question if we had gone too far this time, they gave us our suits to change into. I noticed that hers was bright red and mine was canary yellow. We took our balled-up material and went into the changing rooms. The guys were kind of making jokes and yukking it up as we changed. I was starting to get the sense that these yahoos were holding themselves back from falling all over themselves for her. It was obvious that they were all salivating, and who wouldn't.
I was used to this. And as protective as I was, I got it completely. I loved her too! But in this cacophony of douchebaggery, I was more worried about the question "Are these the guys we want to possibly die with?"
I zipped up my suit, and we both emerged from our curtained makeshift dressing rooms at the same time. My eyes bulged. They had put me in a bright yellow rayon jumpsuit with a giant toucan across the entire front of it. I looked like an Oompa Loompa. Being on autopilot and contemplating my mortality while getting dressed, I was so distracted that I hadn't noticed that some jackass had chosen a full-on fucking clown suit for me. Not only did I feel worried, I also looked like a total idiot.
Then my eyes looked over, and they had given Cameron a skintight, painted-on red spandex onesie that literally let you make out every inch of her body. I wanted to punch these assholes. And there we were, Suzy Chapstick and Toucan Sam. They told us how good we looked, and I rolled my eyes and uttered "Fuck you" under my breath. They told us it was time to go, and the Froot Loops outfit went right out of my mind as the sound of the propellers kicking up outside the building took my full attention now.
We walked to the plane. We all had our packs and chutes on now, including an altimeter on my chest. I looked like a human dashboard, and we entered the open plane. It took off, and now I looked down at my altimeter and it said a thousand feet, and I looked out the window. It seemed really high. I turned to the instructor designated to me and yelled over the whirling air in the plane, "How many feet up do we go before we jump?" He looked at me with a shit-eating grin and said, "Ten thousand feet." Oh my GOD. OK. It looked good enough to me at two thousand feet, which we were now at, as we had gone up another thousand since I had last checked my chest meter one minute earlier. Wow. My tongue started to expand. I couldn't breathe, but most noteworthy was the infamous cotton mouth they spoke of. My tongue was a combination of sandpaper and felt. Water would not even begin to help the arid nature of my mouth as it would be like spitting on a forest fire.
At around eight thousand feet I just sat with my mouth open. It was a hollow sand trap and no longer resembled my mouth. My instructor turned to me and asked another in a series of stupid trivial questions. "So, what was E.T. like?" I simply couldn't answer. Words were not an option at this point, as my tongue had become a fat cashmere taquito. And before I knew it, everyone was starting to stand up and prepare for jumping out. I finally looked at Poo Poo. Having just scuba dived with her, I felt like we could communicate with our eyes. After a deep breath and a stare-down, I think we both telepathically said, "These guys are tools. But we came all this way, and it would be a shame to turn back now. They can get us where we need to go. And we need to go out of this plane and rock this goddamn dive!" Yes!
I felt better. Cowabunga. Let's do this. Just then, one of the guys said, "Who wants to go first?" Feeling my newfound bravado, I raised my hand. Again, I couldn't speak, so I figured my arm would tell everyone I was ready to go! We braced ourselves at the opening of the plane. We were to rock back and forth, tethered to our guides, just like we practiced down at the base training facility. We crouched down. My arms were wrapped across my chest like a mummy. They counted out loud. One. My tongue was at a new level of useless. Two. Oh my God, I'm really doing this. Three. OK, fuck it, let's dance.
And with that thought I threw myself out of the plane. Down, down, down we went. And it went on forever. The air was so forceful I couldn't breathe. I wondered how long this would go on be- cause if I didn't die from the jump, I would definitely die from wind inhalation or lack of oxygen. In my periphery I saw Poo Poo going straight down headfirst, which actually makes you go faster, so even though she jumped out second, she was now passing me like a human bullet. I continued to hold my breath and prayed to get to the deployed chute part. Open open open!!!!!! Please, God, open!
And with that, after a one-minute-long free fall, my chute jerked me up in the air and canopied all around me. As it cascaded out and I started to glide through the air, aaaaaahhhhhh. This was the vision I had. This was the silence I craved. And I gently floated through the air like a soaring bird. I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt. I had made it. I was flying. And just like that, the guy I was tethered to started up on the dumb questions again. "So, you gonna make another movie soon?" Oh, Christ. Shut up!
I politely asked how long the gliding down would take and he said, "Oh, about ten minutes." "Great," I said, but what I meant was "Great, I have to listen to your shit for ten more minutes when all I want is to enjoy the landscape!" Unlike him, I knew I would not be doing this again anytime soon.
After what felt like an eternity, I landed smoothly, I'm happy to say. My instructor took my face and gave me a big grandmother kiss. Yuck. Thanks a lot. First you put me in this clown suit and now you try to grope me? Get me out of here. We got out of there as fast as possible, happy to have our lives and bodies intact. And we drove to the closest place we could find to get something to drink. There was a fast-food joint on the side of the road and we ran inside. Two sodas and two burritos later, we recounted our experiences in words—A, because we could now talk without being listened to, and B, because my mouth was functioning again.
Just as we got going and were quietly screaming about what we were each going through, Poo Poo bit into glass in her burrito. Well, if it's not one thing, it's another. You survive jumping out of a plane, but you almost die eating after. We just started laughing the hardest laugh you could imagine. We took off and drove back to Hollywood with the wind in our faces from the open windows of the car—although I think it's safe to say that I will never again experience wind in my face like that of a free fall at ten thousand feet.
Now we are older and she is still one of my closest friends. I was her bridesmaid, and she is my daughter Frankie's godmother. We still go on adventures all the time, but they are much more mellow. But that's the thing I love about my friend. She is always game. And I will always be her little man.
Buy Drew Barrymore's new book Wildflower on Amazon (opens in new tab).
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