After more than a decade of working in Hollywood, actress Jayne Amelia Larson found herself out of luck, out of work, and out of prospects. Without telling her friends or family, she took a job as a limousine driver, thinking that the work might be a good way to dig out of debt while meeting A-list celebrities and important movie moguls. When she got hired to drive for the Saudi royal family vacationing in Beverly Hills, Larson thought she’d been handed the golden ticket. She’d heard stories of the Saudis giving $20,000 tips and Rolex watches to their drivers. But when the family arrived at LAX with millions of dollars in cash - money that they planned to spend over the next couple of weeks - Larson realized that she might be in for the ride of her life. With awestruck humor and deep compassion, she describes her eye-opening adventures as the only female in a detail of over 40 assigned to drive a beautiful Saudi princess, her family, and their extensive entourage. To be a good chauffeur means to be a “fly on the wall”, to never speak unless spoken to, to never ask questions, to allow people to forget that you are there. The nature of the employment - Larson was on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week - and the fact that she was the only female driver gave her an up close and personal view of one of the most closely guarded monarchies in the world, a culture of great intrigue and contradiction, and of unimaginable wealth. The Saudis traveled large: they brought furniture, Persian rugs, Limoges china, lustrous silver serving trays, and extraordinary coffees and teas from around the world. The family and their entourage stayed at several luxury hotels, occupying whole floors of each (the women housed separately from the Saudi men, whom Larson barely saw). Each day the royal women spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery and mega-shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive. Even the tea setup had its very own hotel room, while the servants were crammed together on rollaway beds in just a few small rooms down the hall. Larson witnessed plenty of drama: hundreds of hours of cosmetic surgery recovery, the purchasing of Hermes Birkin bags of every color, roiling battles among the upper-echelon entourage members all jockeying for a better position in the palace hierarchy, and the total disregard that most of the royal entourage had for their exhausted staff. But Driving the Saudis also reveals how Larson grew to understand the complicated nuances of a society whose strict customs remain intact even across continents. She saw the intimate bond that connected the royals with their servants and nannies; she befriended the young North African servant girls, who supported whole families back home by working night and day for the royals but were not permitted to hold their own passports lest they try to flee. While experiencing a life-changing “behind the veil” glimpse into Saudi culture, Larson ultimately discovers that we’re all very much the same everywhere—the forces that corrupt us, make us desperate, and make us human are surprisingly universal.
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Too much about the author
I thought this book would be an unbiased inside look at the lives of Saudi royal families. Boy was I wrong. What should have been a book about an interesting expose turned out to be the shameless self-aggrandizing autobiography of a failed Hollywood actress. Chapter two is literally all about her childhood, what schools she went to, how many plays she starred in, what celebrities she has met and experiences on various film sets. Nothing about the Saudis. In further chapters I learned all about her relationship with her boyfriend, her love of ritualistic vaginal hair removal, that time when a super hot Beverly Hills police officer checked out her butt and her incessant love of power bars. There was even an entire chapter where she explained what SHE would do if she had millions of dollars. Wow... That's some inciteful speculation Jayne. What little bit the author did write about the Saudis came off racist as she argued with their wishes and imitated their accents. I really can't believe this book made it to publication. I wish one of the other chauffeurs would publish their account with the Saudi royals. This one was all about the author.
yikes, they all came off a bit racist.
Not to talk too much about myself in social environments
- Little Miss Read's A lot
Such a treat.
The author is also the narrator and she is lovely to listen to. I have listened to this book more than once, partly because the story is great, but mostly because I just really like her voice.
There were several moments in this book that moved me. By the end, you very much feel like you spent time with all these people. I felt all the feels. I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I was frustrated. But overall, my heart was warmed.
I just love this book. I highly recommend listening.
- JOAN L "...you get the weird feeling that the city's electrical power is generated from everyone buried there."