Let's take it back. Way back. Back into time.
Life in 'Starlettown' wasn't all it was cracked up to be. At least it hadn't proved so for sisters Lilly-Bo and Flo-Flo Chique.
A gig here, an uncredited walk on there, fewer and fewer auditions...Well, dream or no dream, a girl had to eat.
Lilly-Bo shocked the hell out of her sister one day when she came home and told her she'd taken a job, full-time, with some fledgling fashion
consulting firm.That was almost 2 years ago now and about 6 months ago Flo-Flo followed suit. (Pretty much their same pattern, like, from the womb.)
Their boss, Tiffany, was kind of a pill...sometimes, but she was also smart and ambitious and she believed in empowering talented young women.
So here they were. City of Twin Liberties.
"Hey, I can help with...something. Want me to carry—"
"Johnny, no, stay. I want a word. Girls, you go on. The door is always open between the hours of 8 & 8, I'm told."
Tiffany smiled, looking her son over. He was looking more and more like his father, that same chiselled resolve...
But he would always be Her Little Man, she thought, cupping his chin in her hand. But wait—she grazed her knuckles under his jawline, is that..."Is that a patch of peach fuzz growing in?"
"You're going to be a grizzly, just like Daddy."
"Mom, could you not?" he said, furtively glancing to see if the girls were looking back and laughing at him.
"Right. Business, Johnny. In a moment we will both be at work. Let's go over the 3 Ps of professionalism. What are they?"
"Be proactive. Be—"
Ugh. Curses upon the House of Tequila. And the House of Rum. And, oh, all the rest. Betrayed by her once true and faithful friends. O-oh....
Refusing to remove her sleep mask in the face of an all too bright new morning, the woman of the house was at that moment groping the wall as she baby-stepped down the stairs.
Step down, one, together, another step, dwa, together, drei...Ah, doggie, doggie, gooot doggie, she told herself, petting the painting, knowing now where she was relative to the bottom.
"Who goes?" she demanded, "Which one are you?"
"Good morning, Mrs. Mashuga," Flo-Flo made an educated guess, "we are from Pish Posh—"
"We're Tiffany Burb's personal assistants," Lilly-Bo jumped in.
"Burb? Oh, zhes, yes, yes, the fashion woman. For der Valence, zhes?" she asked, finally lifting her mask to take them in.
"Je-u-ust so," Flo covered for Bo.
The woman did not look like she was up for jesting about her zhesses just yet
"Ah, vell, it is—enh, time, time, der time? Zhes. Half ten. Vell, right now der Frank-furter is still on first. You will wait not so long, though.
The yellow room is upstairs. You can go dere and set up. You are early, poshy pits, but no matter. It is already waiting."
She walked off, yawning, and leaving them both to wonder what the what?
(A not entirely undesirable response.)
"Now, it is okay to be a little enthusiastic, a little," she said, adjusting a wrinkle in his sleeve. Pristine white tee, check. "But you don't want to look like you don't belong, I know.
And this is a thoroughly unionised industry so for goodness sake don't touch anything they tell you expressly not to touch. I'm serious. But otherwise, be—"
"Proactive. Yeah, Mom, I got it."
"Be cautiously proactive. Be enthusiastic but don't act too impressed, be—"
"Not a smart-mouth. Because your loving mother is not above putting you on time-out."
She tweaked his nose—jeez—and finally led the way in.
But Johnny was super excited at the chance to be even a fly on the wall and witness how production comes together firsthand,
let alone having a hand in it himself, so his mom's momness was more than a fair price to pay for getting to be there.
"What the hell is this?!?"
"You heard me—Unless you've all gone deaf as well as blind! We're shooting Valentine Hart, for fuck's sake! Not goddamn Goopy Gilscarbo,
that scenery-chewing has-been, in one of his borderline porn adventures! This is not the set—where the hell is my set!" Frankie screeched.
"No, no, no, you don't get to stand there looking stupid! You tell me what happened?"
"Guess we just got our wires crossed is all."
"Is that all? Got your wires crossed, eh? Like that's what the fuck I wanna hear from a gaffer!"
"Yo, I'm a grip, boss," Gordo casually tossed out.
It was like bait to the beast that was ready to jump outta his skin and maul his stupid face, his in particular just for being so stupid.
"Then what the fuck makes you think I was talking to you!"
"Buh-buh-buh, I'm talkin' here, Rem. I expect the same level of care and attention to detail no matter what the job is. You guys agreed to be my swing gang on this project,
the both of ya, knowing it'd mean doin' double duty and maybe more. That's where the extra scratch comes in. It sure ain't no goddamn bonus for bein' so pretty, is it?"
Not entirely sure what came over him but at that moment Johnny didn't know what to do but SALUTE.
"Ha! Ha-ha-ha. Hi there."
But Johnny didn't budge, for fear of lookin' at the wrong place and getting called a perv.
"At ease," she told him and touched his arm as she glided on by.
*The pose, yes, I did that but Johnny's face! Oh my. No idea what came over him but angling the camera around and catching that expression was priceless.*
So she really did mean yellow room and not green. Like, literally.
"Okay, so, like, I'd heard the Mashugas were eccentrics, 'kay, but I just have to say it: Alligator slippers."
There was a pause for dramatic effect, a mock moment of silence, before the sisters burst into a fit of the giggles.
Yup. Alligator slippers.
Flo snickered again, everything about that woman..."But wait, aren't alligators the ones with the pointy tip jaws?"
"Way to ruin a joke, Fluff."
(*And she was wrong, fyi*)
"I'm just sayin'. Those were totally crocodiles, dudette."
"Crocs? On the feet? Pish," Bo imitated their boss. "Gator has class, at least. Haute fash-i-one. Crocs are just...stupid.
Now, c'mon, Fluffer, we've got work. You know Mme. Tiffany can't function unless everything is Just. So."
Apparently, everything was not Just So. But that there was not their responsibility, not their problem.
So it was kinda funny listening to those hardly-the-best boys getting chewed out.
"Guess that's him, huh? FM?"
"Yup. Make sure you make ol' Tiffer do the intros, too. Like, real, proper intros, or I will myself, Flo.
Cuz he may be on the outs today but he's always in the know. And this assistancing shit is for the birds."
"I don't know, it's not so bad. Especially on a day like this, all up close and personal."
"Yeah maybe, but we've been up closer and personaller. You more than me. You really should've pressed Tiffany to let you be the girl, Flo. I don't know what you were thinking."
"It wasn't her decision to make, Bo. She had nothing to do with casting. Plus I like being 'the girl' with 'the clipboard'."
"Yeah, well, better you than me, junior employee."
Johnny finally closed his mouth but couldn't take his eyes off her. As she walked away, even underneath
that big towel of the flag he could still make out the outline of her own ol' glory swaying and sashaying.
"Gawd Bless America*," he mumbled to himself.
"Here you go, miss."
Bo wasn't the least bit shy but she was a lot bit nosy. So she didn't think twice about approaching while the big guy was still foaming at the mouth.
"I'm making tea. Would anybody care for a cuppa?"
"I might like—"
"What? No." FM dismissed her offer.
"All. Right. Follow up question: Where do you keep your cups?"
"Why don't you Check. The kitchen," he said, imitating her flippancy but in a tone that warned 'be gone before you piss me off'.
Bo heeded that warning, content to think she'd at least gotten herself noticed. No more freezing up for this girl, nope.
She was all grown up now, so to speak, and so much more comfortable in this skin of hers.
"Uh...mind if I ask you something?"
"Sure," she said, reaching a hand for the towel still in his.
"Oh, uh, sorry," Johnny fumbled. He didn't really mean to hold it hostage, it was just, um, well, anyway. "Here you go."
"Thanks. So? Shoot."
"Oh, okay, it's just, uh, I was wondering, like, how'd you get started? Did one day the right somebody see you—you know, like, how beautiful you are—and figure
out that if a lot more people could see you—an audience, customers, that kinda thing—that, you know, they'd be ready to buy any whatever you were selling."
"And what exactly is it you think I'm sellin'?"
"Oh! I, uh, I—"
"Chill, kid. Breathe. I'm only playing with you. But, to answer your question: nah. I never got 'discovered'. Not like that."
"But...but, I mean, I'm not saying it had to happen exactly like that but it had to be somebody, right, or a lotta somebodies? Somebody who, who first noticed you."
"Listen, the only cats ran that kinda line 'bout makin' me a Star were total frauds, just tryna gas me up so I'd give 'em some. That's not the guy you wanna be."
"No, no...I would never—"
"Good. Cuz that's super weak and you'll strike out 9 times outta 10."
Whoa, he wasn't even thinking like tha—wait, but that means, uh, the 10th time, uh, what...happened then?
No, no, be cool, Johnny; he physically shook the thought away and reminded himself again to be cool.
"But...Okay. But what I'm sayin' is, like even before you landed your first job, to even go for it, you had to know, right? You had to already know you were, you
know," he circled both arms outward to encompass all of...uh, her, that whole package, instead of fumbling for words and coming up short. "I mean, it's not exactly a
modest profession, is it? So you had to have some idea, more than some really, to believe you could make it your career. I don't, uh, I don't see how else it happens. Because
it takes a lot to put yourself out there for stuff, it really does—I know I woulda never tried out for the team at my new school if I didn't know for a fact I'm a pretty good pitcher—and
with, like, what you do where it's just...you, you as a package, I mean, nobody would wake up one day and do that to themselves if they didn't already know that they had it. Are IT.
Like you. Am I wrong? And how else would you know, like really know, enough to bank on it, if nobody ever told you?" Johnny asked. "Maybe a lotta nobodies." He laughed. "Like me."
"You're adorable. And kinda slick, too, don't think I didn't notice. You some kinda talent scout slash agent-in-training?"
"Uh, maybe. Kinda. For the right client."
"Oh, is that so. Well, hate to break it to ya but I've already got an agent, babes."
"That's okay, you're outta my league anyway," he joked, "For now."
She shook her head, smiling. He was a cute kid, confident, that would work well for him in this industry, actually.
And that glow of sincerity? Hell, it would be like a superpower if he could hold onto that as a grown man. He could set up his agency calling himself Clark Kent.
"Who you here with anyway?"
"I'm with the crew," he said but she wasn't biting, "and, uh, my mom."
"Ohh, right. So that's moms."
Johnny twisted 'round, worried that she was already behind him. If his mom had actually come down looking for him, like he was some lost little boy
whose hand she was gonna take and lead him away...oh man. That woulda been crazy. "Whew," he said out loud and they both laughed.
No need to worry, though. Tiffany was at that moment (s)mothering someone else, a stranger, but her Johnny was proving more distractible
than she had expected of him and she was determined to know just how long this parade of the itsy bitsy bikini brigade was going to last.
"How many more of you are there?"
"Uh...none? I'm the only me I know, ma'am."
"Havin' the look helps, for sure, but it's not everything. And makeup can work miracles, let me tell ya. Talent is cool, too, but it sure ain't necessary for a project to get the green light, plenty go
forward without anybody involved being good at what they do. Connections. Connections are key. Where you are right now...Don't be fooled cuz it's in the wrong city. Take a good look around. And then
remember that this is only one of FM's bases. He's on the outs now, today, cuz, well, cuz he's like that but they'll all come calling when they need him so he's not even worried. To be honest, I don't know how
you got so lucky, kid, but don't sleep on this opportunity, I'm tellin' you. Just like you're doing with me, talk to everybody. And especially, especially FM. Only never while he's working" she told him. "Cool?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, definitely. Definitely. Thanks for, you know, taking the time and all."
"Not a problem. In a few years when my agent stops takin' my calls I'm gonna come and look you up, okay. Is it a date?"
"Heck yeah, I'll be ready and waiting!"
"Bet. Later, babes."
Johnny couldn't believe his luck. How many guys got a chance to be this close to some gorgeous, half-naked model? Ever? But here he was. Be nice if his
once-in-a-lifetime didn't happen to happen when he was still some goofball kid, without a prayer of being seen as anything more, but hey, you take what you can get!
Okay, so maybe twice-in-a-lifetime.
Boy, when he tells the guys back home they're gonna swear he's lying. But who cares, Johnny lives in the Present.
Tiffany did not want to embarrass her son but she was two seconds away from marching down there to retrieve him when he finally re-emerged around the corner.
Get. Over. Here. She pantomimed.
Wow, Mom really needed to chill out.
"Have a good, uh, swim," Johnny said and the blonde girl giggled. "Uh, where is the pool, anyway?"
"On the roof."
"That is so boss."
"Yeah, it kinda is. Hey, you seen my friend? Fancey. Did she come out this way? She's kinda hard to miss."
More than kind of. "Fantasy! That her name?" Johnny got excited.
"Fancey. And only sometimes. You know." But, no, he really didn't. "She uses it like a first name sometimes. But depends on the day. On the gig."
"Oh." Well, he liked Fancey. He was gonna think of her as Fancey from here on. It was probably better than Dream Girl.
He wished he'd asked for a picture but...that woulda been pervy for real, wouldn't it? But why, though, it's not like she was really some girl on the beach or at the pool; it's what she does,
it's what she had just been doing; and he's not some random guy either. So it wouldna been pervy, not pervy at all. Just...embarrassing. Not to mention completely unProfessional.
His mom stamped her foot. She meant business. Johnny couldn't ignore her anymore, he'd better get over there.
"Fancey went that-a-way." Johnny nodded behind him.
Another lesson learned: remember to always get a girl's name up front so he wouldn't have to depend on a lucky break to know what to call her.
" 'Lis, 'Lis! Omigod—omigod—Oh My God, 'Lis!"
"I can't believe it, FM just said, omigod, and Yes'm yes ma'am-ed it! They're gonna let me read for the new Barbie movie!"
(Pretty much everyone knew Frankie as FM but SMM (Sylvia Marie Mashuga) was a mouthful and quickly got perverted into either
S&M or Yes'm depending on the bent of the hearer, at first, but now mainly on how they knew the Mashugas and who introduced them. Also,
depending on the mood of the speaker or the 'tude of the Mashuga, FM might be pronounced just so or contracted to sound more like 'eff 'em.)
"Isn't.That.So.Freakin'.COOL!!" she said, shaking Melissa with each syllable.
"That is so cool," she concurred with herself.
"Very cool, Ahn."
"I'm a Barbie Girl**. In a Barbie Wo-o-orld!"
"So for what part?"
"Life in plastic. It's fantastic! Huh?"
"What part, Ahn?"
"The lead, of course! Duh!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I mean, I...think...so..."
"Sure it's not for Skipper? Or something? Cuz, I mean, ya look just like my l'il cousin's Skipper doll—"
"That is so mean!"
"—and you've got that whole excited kid sister thing—how the hell is that mean?"
"I swear, Johnny, do you know how I argued your father down, told him that you were too mature to get frazzled by the atmosphere here, that you understood
that work was work, and then before we've even gotten through the front door you go chasing after, after a pair of bouncing bosoms passing by."
"Mom, I didn't!"
"Well, in case you're confused, Tucker disappearing for days on end to roam after every bitch in heat that he gets a whiff of is one thing."
"Because Tucker's a dog. You, mister, must learn some self-control."
"Whatsa matter, Mom?" Johnny asked, barely muffling a chortle at her reaction.
"Oh, these artistic types. Always pushing the boundaries of taste and in the strangest places.
But if he's supposed to represent the butler at the door then I'll keep my coat and hat, thanks. Come along, Johnny."
"Uh, yeah, sure." He gave one more backward glance through the door but he couldn't see his Fancey or the other one from there.
"You know, for the record, Mom, I was only bein' a gentleman. The wind blew her towel off so I went to get it and give it back to her."
"Oh, yes, the wind did it. A likely story."
"A true one, too," he echoed his dad's favoured response. "And, you know, I was thinking, I mean she's not as, uh, grown up yet, but pretty as Jenny is—"
"No." Tiffany nipped that idea in the bud. She would like to nip every idea he had about that girl in the bud. Oh, a mother knows. "Jennifer is a pretty girl, so far as
that goes," she said, "I'll give you that. They usually are. But she's not remotely bankable. Now that brother of hers, whatever his name is—it's impossible to keep
track of all the new neighbours and their children, but whatever they call him, he could make a mint! With those hungry green eyes and all that...cockiness."
*Snerk* Johnny didn't even try to muffle the chortle at that one.
"Grow up, John Burb. And remember, mind your Ps."
"I'm happy for you. I'm just sayin' when it comes to your business don't leave nothin' to chance, or to one of FM's freaks of fancy."
Anya snorted. "I thought that was you."
But Melissa was not about to stand there looking stupid with her feelings all exposed. Not her. Not now, not ever.
"Looky here, I was just tryna help your dumbass—" she lashed out, but, wait, nope, nope, Melissa told herself.
She wasn't 'bout to go there either. She was not gonna let this little wannabe take her out her zone. 'Relax. Relate. Release.'
"Uh-oh. You're mad mad—I didn't mean it."
"Whatever, l'il girl." Melissa turned her back. "I'm 'bout to be 5000," she said, on purpose because she would never understand.
Mm-hmm. And with that Melissa walked away.
" 'Lis, wait—omigod, is that really, that's how much you made today? 'Lis? 'Lis!"
Gord didn't see why they were getting all the guff and that nephew, or whoever the hell he was to FM, got none of it.
Nepotism was a bitch.
But King Gordo was the bitch-master, dude, so he was gonna set him straight himself since Uncle Money wouldn't.
"Rem, look, you're my guy, right? You have to be Leadman, at all times. If the shit doesn't look right, call 'em out."
"Because it's your ass on the line."
Son-of-a-biscuit, what was this?
Not what they discussed, that's what it was, not at all what they had discussed!
"Mr. Mash-uga!" Tiffany mispronounced his name, flattening out the first syllable and giving it all the emphasis. And that's what he was, after all, he had made a mish mash of their vision.
True enough, she'd had no actual say on set design but she knew the direction Valence wanted to go with their brand and she'd been entrusted to make it so. "Mr. Mash-uga!"
"Uh, FM. The lady's callin'."
"What now..." He left off with Rem and went to meet her. "So. Who are you, anyway?"
"Right, right, right. You're early, I think, yeah? We're still fixing up the set..."
"Why don't you ease up, Gordo, that's enough. Lewis..." That was his name, right? He answered to it, anyway. "Lew, you can start rounding up those expendables..."
" 'Lis! Aw, c'mon, hey, I said I didn't mean it, 'Lis. I'm sorry."
"Melissa!" she called after her, "Melissa Fancey-panties don't be so mean!"
She'd halted at her name and let Anya catch up to her.
"You are so mean to me sometimes and you never let me get one back on you! It's not fair..."
"But all I was sayin', anyway, is that Yes'm did agree so it's not just FM being FM, y'know. But...they didn't say what role. I should check, right?"
"Uh, yeah. I think you should."
"But if you don't get the answer you want, push him—and don't let FM bullshit you, it's totally his call. FM and S&M hold the keys to your Malibu Barbie beach house."
"Yeah, okay, I'll go. But don't leave me, 'kay."
"I'm-a-be down by the grotto. 5000 means 5000, though, so get an answer and get a move on."
"Or I'll leave you," Melissa added before letting the side door bang shut behind her. But they both knew she wouldn't.
She was a meanie but a sweet one, if that made any sense. Whatever, she wasn't gonna leave her.
"Okay, Gord, listen up cuz—"
"Is he gonna—?"
"No, shut up, we're cool. I took the heat and he's cool again but we got a lotta work to do. All over again."
"Ehh...shit" he growled. "Okay, fine, let's do this. But that skinny, limp dick nephew o' his better do his share o' the heavy lifting this time. Or we're gonna have a problem, R.E.M., a real problem, man."
They had a lot of work to redo and Remington was not getting fired because of his lazy, big mouth friend.
Okay. So his mom had kinda left him to fend for himself. He couldn't interrupt her while she was talking to Frankie Mashuga. But who...what...argh!
"Heya, John Boy."
"Oh, Lilly-Bo, great! Uh, Mom's kinda busy right now, can you tell me, like, who I'm supposed to talk to. About getting started?"
"Hmm, have you met FM?"
He shook his head.
"Maybe...nope, maybe not."
"Tiff, Tiff, Tiff, I told you, I'm handling it."
"My name is Tiffany, Mr. Mash-uga."
"The boys made a mistake, which was an oversight on my part," he took the blame on himself instead of leaving it to settle on Syl
(where it belonged), "but we're fixing it. Bing, bang, boom, you'll see. They're quick and they are competent so, no worries, doll."
"Do not call me Doll, that's not my name. My name is Tiffany. Ms. Burb if you can't handle that."
"Relax, already. You need to take a chill pill, Tiffany. Seriously. But really seriously," Frankie cocked his head
toward her, "whatever your chill is...Valium, I think," he said, looking her over, "talk to Syl, she'll fix you up."
"How DARE you!"
"Oh, I dare. I do dare. That's why I'm the visionary," Frankie said. And on that note he tried to step around her but she blocked him at each step. Tiffany was not done with him yet!
Johnny's neck and shoulders tensed up when he overheard his mom's voice hit that pitch, that bitching out pitch; he didn't want any part of it. And she never needed a bit of help
once she was at that level, except maybe help taking it back down. But he still didn't turn around. He looked to Lilly-Bo for his cue as she threw covert glances over his shoulder.
So long as she was cool then he was cool. And maybe later on, on the way back or at home with dad, he'd needle his mom about the 3 Ps of professionalism.
"Your mom's got balls, I'll give her that."
Yeah, no, don't. That didn't sound right.
"Anyways. You're helping out the crew today, right?"
"Hey!" she called out to a guy in a plain white tee. Like his. Shoot, that should've been a clue, shouldn't it. Ah well.
"Uh, hi." He came over, brushing past Johnny but that was cool. "You wanted me?"
"Yeah. What's your name?"
"It's Lewis, I'm Lewis. And yours?"
"You can call me Bo. And this is Johnny."
"Nice to meet ya, kid. Nice to meet you both."
"Johnny's going to be working with you guys today. Think you can show him the ropes?"
"Oh. Yeah. Y-yeah, sure I can."
"Thanks a mil, Lewis." And with that Bo skipped off.
Anya sighed and leaned even farther over the edge of the wall. She couldn't see 'Lis from here but that was good cuz it meant 'Lis couldn't see her either, see that she still hadn't budged.
Maybe she was a Skipper, it's not like that would be so bad. No, it wouldn't. So long as she got a part, any part, but with, like, lines and stuff. She didn't have to be the star.
But since she made such a big deal about it she couldn't just back down now and tell Melissa that she was too scared to even ask FM, just cuz he might say what she said.
Okay, here we go.
Oops. Uh, FM's busy. She'll, uh, she'll check with him later. Much.
Well, all right. Gotta get it gone somehow. So...let's do this!
That, ugh, Mashuga eased off before Tiffany was nearly done having her say because he saw some car or other through the window.
She didn't see it herself but could only assume it was someone 'important' by the hop in his step. Probably their 'supplier'.
Since he was so cavalier about recreating. Such nouveau riche crassness. She couldn't stand it.
"Move along, young man!"
Johnny jumped, but she wasn't talking to him.
"My assistant is not a piece of meat for you to devour with your eyes."
"But I sure would like to—"
"I said get moving!"
"Ay, listen, lady—"
"Gordo!" Rem called from the back and motioned for him to back off and head on downstairs. "We need that brad pusher, too."
"Yeah, yeah," Gordon mumbled.
"Don't you think that was a little harsh? The guy was just flirting."
"He was idling. And I've about had it up to Here with all these lackadaisical loafers. Need I remind you that this is a huge contract
for us," she added once out of earshot of nosy listeners. "I'm not about to have it fall apart because of some tattoed buffoon. In jackboots."
"And a wifebeater. Don't forget the wifebeater!"
Bo burst through the straight face she'd put on and laughed, at Tiffany, at the whole thing. And her boss mellowed out and chuckled along with her.
Yep, that's how you do it. Two years had taught Bo a lot.
Syl was...Frankie didn't know where the hell Syl was, he hadn't seen her since he'd hopped outta bed. But no way one of them wasn't going to be front and centre to welcome in the man of the hour.
"Hart, my man, my main man, Mr. 40/40! Can I tell you—can I tell you, I watched the tape of your game, the one that put you at the 40 HR mark—Incredible. Just incredible. I don't
usually get effusive over sports but I actually jumped up, ask Syl, I jumped up. Did the wave or some shit. It was bee-yoo-tee-ful," Frankie said and he meant it. "If I ever do a
baseball flick it won't be one of these bullshit feel-good deals they keep pushing but something that really captures the musicality some of the greats have. You artist-athletes."
Valentine appreciated that, coming from him.
"So how was it getting in?"
"Good, good. Never done the drive myself but I hear it's not so bad. If you've got the patience. We fly."
Ah, that was a dig, wasn't it? But Val didn't want to fly. So he didn't. Came straight on, though, and made pretty good time.
"What are you...lookin' at?" He turned around to find out what FM was bobbin' his head all around to see. "Expectin' somebody?"
"There's no entrance from the garage so your people will have to come up and around this way to get in. But we don't have to wait for them, someone'll point 'em in the right direction."
"Them who, FM? Ain't no them. No entourage for me if that's what you're thinking."
"You're shittin' me. Seriously? What about your driver?"
"It's just me, myself, and I."
Enh. What can you do? The man's a bonafide superstar, one about to crossover to an even bigger market, and he wants to go around like Joe Schmoe...who was he to tell him no?
"Drove yourself, eh? Some of you guys, I don't know...but I guess you make up with those other perks..."
"Oh, good, Mr. Mashuga—good morning, Mr. Hart—there doesn't seem to be a steamer in the yellow room. Or the green room, I checked. We probably
won't need it but just in case. And it'll be good to have on hand for smooth sailing. Also, I believe there's a props closet that the boys need to get to but they
don't have the key so if you've got that on you I can pass it along, before," Flo leaned in confidentially, "before the door winds up with its lock picked."
For fuck's sake. All right, all right, okay. "Tell you what, you know your way around pretty good, eh? Why don't you
show Hart to his dressing room while I go scare up the damn key and see if Syl can get you a—what was it?"
"A steamer, yeah."
"Sure. This way, Mr. Hart."
"And I'll catch up with you later, Hart."
"All good by me."
"Thanks, you're a peach. Yeah, you, too, Hart." Frankie gave Val a nudge and turned back to go track down his fucking long-lost wife!
All right now, the statue or the painting would've been unremarkable on their own, simple piece of art for the décor, but Val was noticing a theme.
He could just hear Angel, in her best snooty WASP impression sayin': Love the ding-a-ling motif!
Might even mean it, come to that. If she'd been there.
"Some interesting art you've got, FM."
"What? Oh. Ha-ha. Thanks. Syl likes it." Frankie clicked his tongue, like they were both in on the joke, husband to husband.
Hmph. Maybe they were.
Sylvia Marie tilted her head back slightly and sniffed out the change in atmosphere as he approached. "There you are," she said.
"There you are. And, what, you can smell me now? I smell foul?"
"It is our animal attraction, Frankl. You smell like my mate, my rightful life mate...And the Homme du Monde I got you for your birthday."
"I smell like you, too. It lingers on your coat of smoking."
"Yeah...So care to explain why you're still not dressed? What are you even doin' back here.
I need you on the ball, babe, out there. It's a work day. Not play. So go put on a shirt and let's get rolling."
"I tried..." she languished. "All the shirts, they were against me."
He rolled his eyes but it was kind of a waste since she couldn't see it, unless she really was a psychic.
"But I did find my way into a bra, Frankl."
"Congratulations." He rolled his eyes again.
Okay, okay, okay. He'd wade in, just a little ways, to get her. But she'd have to meet him half.
"What's goin' on with you, today, Syl?"
"Der Blaue Engel. Evil...evil." ***
"Der. Blaue. Engel?" he repeated. "You mean the green fairy?"
"Blue or green, I see her and she poisoned me."
Sylvia Marie arched her back, lifting it so high off the table it looked like she might snap, gasped like it was her last, and collapsed.
Frankie tried not to laugh, he did, because that would only encourage her but, shit, he couldn't help a little snicker.
"All right, all right, end scene, Tallulah. Cut. We don't have time for this. Hart's here. Just arrived. Came alone, too, so we didn't even need to stock the green room."
"Den maybe I stay without shirt, eh. We motivate our star."
She started to sit up but, "o-ohh, I really am not well, Frankfurter. It won't give me rest."
"But you've always had a gut o' steel, Syl."
"My guts don't churn. But my head! Oy."
"Ah. Well, we can't do anything to unscramble your brains this late in the day. But..."
Frankie helped his wife shift up, slowly. "But lucky for you I know how to handle a hangover."
"You do?" she cooed.
Her breathing intensified as she sensed his face inching closer.
"Yep. Hair o' the dog." He banged a decisive fist-gavel on the table behind her.
And dared to pull back without even a kiss! Sylvia Marie snarled and snapped her jaws at the bushy hair from his chinny chin chin as it grazed past hers but she missed.
"Ah-ah-ah, this dog's too fast for you, babe."
"Pfui! Schlechte hund!"
To which he responded by swooping in while she wasn't anticipating him and siphoning off all those tasty fumes of indignation
One furious kiss, to drain her of this stubbornness, and a good grope for motivation. But all play and no work makes them broke.
"Right, you good now? Time is moolah, babe."
"Frankl, my head."
"Like I said: hair o' the dog that bit you. You find that fairy and retaliate. Bite the bitch right on the ass, take a good slug," he said.
"But metaphorically, Syl. Don't go biting anybody, please. This ain't gonna be that type o' party."
"And then put on a friggin' shirt already, wouldya, so you can come upstairs and run production. Like you shoulda before anybody showed up."
"Do you know the Valence people insisted on the Mashugas. Even after that kerfuffle with the studio, they were adamant. I can't understand it."
"By 'the studio' you mean Conrad LeBaron. And his wife. And his girlfriend..."
Tiffany shuddered in disgust.
"Make that one of his girlfriends."
"Hmph. Well, tacky people do tacky things."
"LeBaron or," Bo lowered her voice, "our hosts?"
But Tiffany couldn't bring herself to condemn anyone as important as Conrad LeBaron, he was the new head of Maximus Studios. Not out loud, anyhow.
"I...don't know all the details. But," she cut Lilly-Bo off before the girl happily filled her in, this was not the time or place...they could have a nice chat about all that later, "but it was extremely
unprofessional. And now I see. I mean, really! So I can't understand Valence not backing out. They probably could've squeezed Maximus but good to get it done on schedule. Why follow them?"
"Uh, let's see: Rip/Tide...Chicken Butt...Almost Confidential. I know you liked that. Hammerspace 1, 2, and 3—which was actually
better than the first, and that never happens; all those hilarious Burly Earl commercials and he also did that one for Atalanta..."
"Hmm, yes. Is that my tea?"
"Well? Yes, no?"
"Thank you. Milk? Two sugars? Infused with my—"
"It's your tea, Tiffany. Your special blend. Made just how you like it, like always. So anyway, I think blasting anybody for what goes on behind closed doors is brutal. That's what's unprofessional.
Especially when nobody gets an invite without knowing full well how those 'zex-y pahties' go, 'dahling'. And Everybody knows. It's not their fault he—Whoops. Okay, I'll shut up about it now. "
"Much appreciated. Lilly, really."
"Ooh, that papaya looks good. Anyway, update. Guess who has arrived."
Instead of guessing Tiffany simply said, "It's about time. What does she look like? Blonde? Brunette?"
"I think his hair is black. Matter of fact, I'm like 99% sure it is."
"Valentine? Here already? That's awfully punctual of him. You know, that is a very sexy quality in a man, girls."
"Punctuality?" Bo expressed disbelief.
"Absolutely! Punctuality is a sign of thoughtfulness and resolve and...integrity."
"Or it could be a sign a guy's neurotic. Not him, obviously, but other guys for sure. Trying too hard is as bad as not trying at all. Maybe worse."
"Bite your tongue. And raise your standards, child! Being respectful of your time is not trying too hard, it's trying just the right amount."
"Hey there, cutie pie."
Tiffany and Lilly-Bo actually stopped talking so Flo-Flo peeked over her shoulder. "Who, me?"
"Who else. That your sister?"
"Oh, yes, Bo, I mean Lilly-Bo—"
"She looks like you."
Valentine winked at the one in the glasses...even though he was wearing shades himself. Force of habit.
"So dope," Flo gushed, half under her breath. Cuz most people didn't see it but she loved hearing herself compared to big sis...or vice versa. Loved that he was one of the ones that recognised the Chique mystique!
And right off the bat, too. But what else could she expect from Valentine Hart, right? "Um, so, um, Lilly-Bo Chique...please meet Mr. Hart. And I believe you know Ms. Burb..."
"Mornin', ladies," he drawled, nodding at the other two with all due gallantry and the expected smirk while deftly taking possession of Flo's elbow and inching her closer.
He wasn't really ready to be on, not for all of 'em, not yet, there was still somethin' he had to do first.
"So I need you to do me a solid, cutie pie. There don't seem to be a phone in my room. Think we could rustle one up?"
"Um, yes, of course, Mr. —"
"Valentine! Well, well! Tiffany," she said, as though to jog his memory, although they hadn't actually met yet. "Tiffany Burb. I can't tell you how thrilled we are to have you onboard to launch the new Valence line."
"I think it is absolutely the perfect fit. As snug as, well—"
"Excuse me, Ms. Tiffany, if you don't mind. I just need to borrow Flo here real quick. Real quick. I'll bring her back, I promise."
"Oh, of course, of course."
"Okay, Mr. Hart, if you'll follow me. I know there's a phone in the library, one in the hall, one in each bathroom...so I'm sure we can find a more private extension for you."
"Library'll be fine. Fair to assume nobody's traipsing up and through there today?"
"Not so far as I've seen." Flo smiled back at him. "But I'll make sure you're not disturbed, of course."
"Hart. There you are—everybody's all over the place today. On my personal line, call came through for you. Guess iit must be important so I came on to fetch you. Myself."
FM was sounding a little put out.
"Um, okay, then. Lucky coincidence. But if there is anything else I can help you with, Mr. Hart, or you, Mr. Mashuga, just give me a shout. I'll be floating around."
"Thanks, cutie pie."
FM gave her an approving once over himself before clapping Hart on the shoulder and leading him off.
"You might wanna steal her away, FM."
"I know. Might have to, too. Had a run of shit PAs for months. But me and Syl know better than to blame bad luck. Was fucking sabotage, 'at's what it was."
Sounded crazy. But that didn't mean he was wrong.
From what Val knew of those two everything tended to go a l'il bonkers around them. Other folks got caught up and responded in kind.
But what did they expect?
"So who is it on the horn for me? Agent or the wife?"
"It's the missus," FM said, though by then both of their voices were trailing off and Flo-Flo couldn't hear anymore. But she had heard enough.
Wife, duh. How did she forget that fast the man was married? Sure, Valentine Hart had a reputation—Valentine Hart was a reputation—but he also had that gorgeous wife. And kids! She'd even forgotten about the kids.
Here Bo was s'posed to be the starstruck one cuz she wanted to be one so bad herself while Flo was usually the level head!
She crept over, not even begging pardon for butting in, and whisper-asked "How many kids does Valentine Hart have?"
"Two," Tiffany and Lilly-Bo both said in unison.
Frankie led Val through to his office.
"I told her I was gonna go get you myself before I put her on hold so hopefully she's still there."
Frankie glanced down at the phone to confirm, "yeah, she's still there. So, uh, take your time, we won't need you for a little while." He caught Val's eyes scanning across his desk
and pausing at all the goodies. "And if you fancy a nip or a smoke go for it. There's cognac up top." Frankie pointed to the shelves behind him and added, "but go easy with my Rémy."
Val nodded and picked up the handset. It was as good as a gesture shooing him out of his own space. But FM took the hint.
"And...I'll give you some space. You remember the way back? Or should I send that little dollface for ya in a few."
"I think I can manage."
"Suit yourself. It's not a maze after all...Don't know why the damn maid still gets lost."
Val waited for the door to click behind FM before he pressed down the button by the flashing light.
"Baby! Hey! I was just about to—"
"...Whoa. Now hold up, hun. What's with the tone?"
"Angel? An...A...A..." Valentine sighed. "But I...Yeah, and I did. An...Angel!"
Val reached over and twirled the half-full bottle like a top while she was going on and on and stopped it on a dime when it was time for him to interrupt.
"Baby...Yes, we were but it was a change of plans...You know why...Angel...Angel, what the hell is this, I'm gone all the time and you
never even blink and now you're gonna gripe about a weekend?...Uh-huh, convenient how you didn't say nothin' before I left...Woman, you
sound crazy...Damn right that's what I said, because it doesn't make a bit o' sense...Yep, loca, that's it, just as loca as you wanna be..."
"See and now there you go. I don't know who the hell all that's for no way. You know good and damn well I don't understand a damn word of it when you get
to fussin' an' cussin' me out in Spanish like that," he told her, feeling more exasperated by the second. "So why even...What? No, yeah, I understood that one."
God-damn. That woman and her mouth!
Lilly-Bo did like her job if she was honest. She was good at being 'Ms. Burb's' right hand, and getting to come on a shoot was unbelievably awesome because this
was not at all what they typically do at Pish Posh, but all the same she took the first chance she got to slip away because ol' Tiffany was even more Tiffany today.
"Have you located that woman yet?"
"Um, that's going to be difficult. Unless she has a car phone, for some reason, because she must be on her way by now.
If we're lucky she'll think to stop at a payphone and let us know her ETA but, either way, we just have to wait."
"If she's smart, you mean. That would be the professional thing to do. But goodness knows since we had no hand in the selection process."
"Did you...expect to?"
"Well, no. But my faith in our hosts", she borrowed Bo's term, "is diminishing by the moment. Speaking of whom..."
"...that's the woman I was actually asking about. Where on earth is his better half?"
"She certainly can't be worse," Tiffany declared. "Has anyone even seen the woman yet?"
"Oh yes. Well, when we first arrived and a few minutes ago I found Yes'm—I mean, Mrs. Mashuga," Flo caught herself when Tiffany's eyes bugged out,
again, "in her own office, at last. She's the one who gave me a copy of the call sheet just now and, believe it or not, we are still very much on schedule."
"She also gave me the breakdown, if you want to see it. And somehow I ended up with copies of the performer contract—not Mr. Hart's, though, and the audition report.
I've signed my fair share of these and I actually still know a lot of these names but there's one on this list..." Flo-Flo said with a lilt and dangled the paper in front of her.
"F-lo, I'm surprised at you!" Tiffany feigned, eagerly snatching the sheet from her hand.
Johnny couldn't tell if this was a good time or if this was a 'don't bother him while he's working' moment. So he just stood there.
"Spit it out, kid."
"I was just wondering...I'm John, by the way, John Burb," he remembered that they hadn't exactly been introduced (and since he was taking the
initiative he sure as heck wasn't gonna call himself 'Johnny' for a first impression) "uh, how do you choose your projects? Cuz they seem so—"
"All over the place? Easy. I just follow the money."
"That was a joke, kid. I see you've got your mother's sense of humour."
"Okay. Two actors, a rabbi, and a pimp walk into a bar..."
"Look, I'm about to do this thing and I need to keep my head. You're fucking with me for no reason and I don't appreciate it...What?...Angel,
don't start that again, there's not a damn thing I can do about it now so I don't wanna hear it. Are the kids nearby?...No, I'm not accusing you
of bein' a bad mother! Now you're just reachin' for stuff, I just wanna...Fine. No, fuck it, fine. Yeah. I said fine already. Uh-huh. Yeah, bye."
"Love you, too," he spat as the sound of the dialtone filled the air.
Man, oh, man.
He didn't even know how that happened. Sure as hell wasn't the conversation he was expecting to have.
And he didn't even get to hear what he needed to hear.
Val plopped down into FM's chair. But what'd he do that for? He shoulda just gone back.
He looked around at the spread before him and tried to focus on something else. Not a bad setup for a cat who'd just got run outta town.
Val picked up that old screenstar album and tossed it back. Cuz she was another one, wasn't she? Using what she got to reel 'em in. ****
And then, once they were caught, it was down to the really real. Chew 'em up and spit 'em out. Only to reel 'em back so she could chew 'em up again.
Aw, what the hell was he even talkin' 'bout?
Maybe he could use a sippy-sip.
To calm his nerves.
Just a, just a l'il nip.
*So. Given the state of crazy in the US right now I could not post these pictures of a scantily clad black woman draped in the US flag without comment (as I'd prefer) and definitely not with only Johnny's commentary, even though within the context I think it's funny. Yes, it is set in an earlier time but certainly not a simpler one, the 90s delivered on their share of insanity, too. The historical points of contact between the real world and the one my sims live in are entirely arbitrary but they're not incidental. So, without veering too far from the simness of it all, I will just say that Frankie (and Syl) see art, or at least the potential for art, everywhere but that hardly means he only sees beauty and he's not one to shy away from being challenging, controversial, or just plain confrontational. On or off the lot. (That's why they had to uproot to their home studio back east last minute.) Could be Melissa and Anya were just shooting some beer commercial that morning, could be anything since it happened off-screen, but one way to read the visuals regardless is as silent affirmation that just like her blonde, blue-eyed counterpart, Miss Fancey is as American as apple pie. And sweet potato pie (which she prefers).
**A 90s song is a 90s song to me but I did go ahead and look up the release date and Barbie Girl is from 1997, way later than these scenes even though I wouldn't pin down a year for them beyond 'early 90s'. Not that it matters except to say: Anachronism Alert! And likely many more.
***Der Blaue Engel is an old movie (1930) starring Marlene Dietrich. Oddly enough, I've only seen the German version.
Suffice it to say, Sylvia Marie is no Dietrich! Her accent(s) explained in next part. (No ETA on that.)
****Get it? Get it? Reel. ;-P