(Go here to see our previous chapter, or here to go to Chapter One of this “searing indictment of the loose morals that run rampant in contemporary Hollywood” (J.J. Hunsecker, in the Olney Times.)
Buddy got there first. He slipped the maitre d’ a twenty and got one of the good tables on the back patio.(Continued here.)
Lou the owner came over to chat.
“You expecting a Mrs. Best?”
“No, not tonight, Lou. A young lady.”
“Ah, a young lady, sure.”
Lou smiled slightly and touched the wing of his nose with his finger.
“No, it’s not like that, Lou. Mrs. Best and I have separated. We’re getting divorced I think.”
“Oh? You sad?”
“No, just kidding, Lou. I’m okay, really. Hey, how about a glass of --”
“So this a young lady, she the reason you and Mrs. Best,
“No, no, not at all.”
“Ah, but life a goes on, and now you have dinner with a nice young lady.”
“Right. Um, how about a --”
“Man not made to sleep with a just a one woman. Is bad for the health, I firm believe that. You look at me, Mr. Best, twenty-eight year I been married and I always got a girl on the side.” He slid his eyes back and forth around the room, as if to make sure he wasn’t being eavesdropped on by private detectives. Then he made a series of quick short jabs with his right fist. “Is natural. Good for man, good for woman.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right, Lou. Hey, ya know what I could go for --”
“I know I’m right. So why you get a divorce? Why don’t you just keep you young lady friend, and, you know --”
“Well, you’re not really following me here, Lou, this young lady was not my lady friend. She isn’t my lady friend. She isn’t why I’m getting divorced.”
“So why you getting divorced?”
“Well, I’d really rather not get into it now, Lou, it’s kind of complicated. Hey, do you think you could get me a glass of wine? Something white to start, a little Frascati maybe --”
“Sure -- so you wife she leave you for anudder mudderfucker?”
“Uh, yeah, Lou, she did.”
“Well, no, she did --”
“So, you know, if not a Frascati, maybe --”
“Mudderfucker. Any man who sleep with another man wife.”
“Well, you know, it happens, Lou --”
Lou slid his eyes side to side again, looking for the detectives. Then he leaned forward and down toward Buddy, who had rarely wanted a glass of wine more than he did at this exact moment.
“You know I know people, Mr. Best.”
“I know people who know people.”
“You like I get this guy’s legs broke for you. Cheap. Like a couple hundred bucks. Hundred bucks a leg.”
“No, that’s okay, Lou.”
“I mean it.”
“I’m sure you do. But, really, I’m -- I’m bearing up.”
Lou pursed his lips and nodded his head a few times.
“You doin’ the best thing. Dinner with nice young lady --”
He slid his eyes around the room again, then once more made a quick series of short jabs with his fist.
“Boom," he said. "Boom."
“So,” said Buddy, “how about that Frascati?”
“I get you a nice Avellino,” said Lou. “Is better.”
After only five minutes the glass of wine came and it wasn’t cold enough but it was wine. Some irritating song by Sting played and Buddy sipped his wine and looked around at all the other assholes who obviously had too much money to spend or else they wouldn’t be here. There were a few big shots: like Richard Gere, whom Buddy had met once on the Sony lot; Buddy gave him an index-finger salute and Gere waved back, although Buddy would have bet his house that Gere didn’t have the slightest fucking idea who he was. Tony Scott; a couple of years back at some party Buddy had had a chat about spaghetti westerns with him, but Scott was deep into a confab with a young actor whose name Buddy couldn’t quite summon -- Stephen Dorff? Skeet Ulrich? Buddy did the reciprocal-wave thing with Tom Rothman, who had been his boss for a few months back in the early 90s; Rothman was there with some agent and what Buddy thought might be a novelist guy he had seen for a few minutes on Charlie Rose once, Dave Eggers or David Foster Grant or whatever the hell his name was...
And, ah, someone Buddy actually knew to talk to, good old Bill Shatner, looking tanned and fit, sitting with what looked like a table of out-of-towners. Buddy went over to say hi. Shatner wasn’t a bad sort -- and besides, if they couldn’t get Delon or Lambert or Franco Nero, he just might be good for that head bad-guy part in their untitled August project. Sure enough, Bill asked Buddy when he was going to give him some work again, and Buddy asked Bill when he was going to lower his asking price. Bill introduced the yokels; they were his relatives from Canada. Buddy told Bill he’d stay in touch, then he said his wine was getting warm (or warmer, he should have said), told the relations it was nice meeting them, and went back to his table.
Okay, he’d done his little B-list schmoozing. He knew Bill Shatner, look out.
Buddy sat there, a middle-aged Hollywood hack, surrounded by other Hollywood hacks and the jackals of the hacks, and the jackals of the jackals -- what the fuck was he doing here? Oh, right. Waiting for the nut-bird to show up. And twenty minutes later he was regretting he hadn’t brought a book -- and trying and failing to catch the eye of someone who might possibly bring him another glass of wine, or, better still, a bottle -- when Lou himself -- not the maître d’ -- brought out this curvy brunette in a shiny pale green dress and an unbuttoned off-white cardigan and carrying an enormous shiny black purse in both hands, and Buddy thought, Okay, now that little number I wouldn’t mind waiting for, and then he realized he was doing just that, as Lou delivered her to his table with a sweep of his hand.
“I’m so sorry I’m late. I got off at the wrong stop. Thank you so much.”
The last sentence was to Lou, who was old-schoolishly pulling her chair out for her. And Buddy saw Lou glance down her décolletage as she sat down. And he didn’t blame him. Taking off and putting away his glasses to see better Buddy saw that her dress left uncovered almost one-third of her bosom, which was not only larger and more shapely than what he would have expected if he had thought about it at all beforehand, which he hadn’t -- but then again it had pretty much been hidden by that modestly-tailored potato sack the one other time they had met -- but which, if he was any judge, and Buddy considered himself a judge, was also -- amazingly for the circles Buddy moved in, amazing for L.A., really, and amazing anyway -- real.
Buddy had stood up, he was old-school too, and now he sat down again, forcing himself to look not at her body but at her face, which was magically resolving into that of the daughter-of-the-Mariner chick from a few months back, but with make-up and red lipstick.
She was beautiful.
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