The Sinner

In the next four months, the cineplex nation will be treated to Jessica Alba working the pole as an at-risk stripper in Sin City, going deep as a skin diver in Into the Blue, and canoodling with the dark forces of the universe as one-quarter of the Fantastic Four. So if you were wondering what became of America’s favorite Dark Angel, fear not.

The night Jessica Alba and I got smashed together—after what I now dimly recall as our seventh glass of wine—she turned to me and said, “Now that you’ve gotten me good and drunk, you probably want to know about that stripping thing.”

Now, right off, I feel the need to defend Ms. Alba, who, at least in my dealings with her, does not immediately associate alcohol consumption with the removal of clothing. She will happily substitute food.

For instance: The day before the actress and I were to meet for dinner in L.A. to talk about Frank Miller’s Sin City, in which she plays an imperiled stripper, and for which she spent untold nights in strip clubs across America learning the fine art of garment removal, she reached me on the phone from New York.

“I just wanted you to know,” Alba told me, sounding hungry and decidedly sober, “that I’m half-naked right now and eating chocolate cake.”

“Don’t fill up,” I replied. “It’s going to be more of the same tomorrow night.”

“Except then,” Alba corrected, “I’ll keep my clothes on.”

The next evening, over our dessert—a brown-butter quince tart paired with a panna cotta flapjack—Alba made sure to clear up any lingering ambiguity from our phone conversation.

“I was not totally naked when we spoke,” she confided, slipping a gob of panna cotta onto her tongue. “I had on leather chaps.”

In the actress’s hand sat a glass of Madeira Malvasia, vintage 1900, which the restaurant’s sommelier had recently uncorked. Alba wore a slinky, luminescent blouse that revealed her slender mocha-hued shoulders, and her natural-brown hair was dyed a cinematic blond. I cannot begin to tell you how good 105-year-old wine tastes, so will instead defer to the phraseology she employed in describing it: “very nice”; “lovely”; “beautiful”; “holy shit!”; and “stupid,” by which she meant brilliant. We sat on the patio of the West Hollywood restaurant Bastide, beneath olive trees strung with tiny lights, near a table that included Denzel Washington and Johnnie Cochran. Alba made an off-color joke about lawyers, and she glowed: Her skin glowed, her hair glowed, her lips glowed. Where once her carnal features—lips, breasts, posterior—seemed preternaturally swollen, as if in a dead-heat race to burst from her skinny, teenage frame, now Alba and her twenty-three-year-old body have settled into delicacy and grace and balance while still drawing chat-room catcalls like “Damn! Shortie got back!”

“Plus,” Alba continued, determinedly resurrecting the subject of the phone call, “I was not alone. Rosario Dawson was there, and we were dressed up like S&M; big-time: leather chaps, red lips, and chains. Me and Rosario were naked, sexed up, crazed!”

Have I mentioned how good 105-year-old wine tastes?