Tuesday, February 16, 2010

“Uncle Buddy’s House”, Chapter 37: Marjorie

On a fine spring morning the camera roams over the hills above Los Angeles and then suddenly sails down over Hollywood, finally circling above the tiled roof of a Mission/Tudor house on North Ivar Avenue and then swooping into a second-floor window, where we find Buddy Best, that handsome middle-aged devil, lying pensively in his bed with his cellphone in his hand...

(Go here to read our previous episode, or click here to go back to the beginning of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A sad and sordid tale, but one the author apparently felt had to be told.” -- J.J. Hunsecker, in The Olney Times.)


Buddy programmed her number (Philip had only recently taught him how to perform this operation), then put the phone down on the night table. Then he lay there in bed, wishing that Cordelia were in bed with him, provided that no one else was in the house and that no one else would be coming back into the house for a suitable amount of time.

He started to masturbate, thinking about Cordelia; then he stopped masturbating but continued to think about Cordelia.

But, no. No. Uh-uh. Just get over that.

However, he could just go ahead and change his mind, cast sanity to the winds and call her back on her new cellphone and ask her to come down after all. Go out to dinner someplace. Someplace obscure. Rent a hotel room...

No. Bad idea.

But...

He picked up his cellphone.

Or, maybe after all it would be better instead if he flew up to Vancouver. It was true, he had stuff to do today, but he could still catch a plane up there tonight. What the fuck --

Or, he could do the sensible thing and just go ahead and finish masturbating, take a nap...

He lay there for a while longer.

The cellphone rang.

Air swelled into his lungs and blood swelled up into his brain. Let it be her, fuck it.

It was Debbie Greenberg.

“Hi, Deb,” he said, “I’m on my way, I had to drop Deirdre off, and --”

“No,” she said. “I don’t want you to come in, Buddy. What we need, what Marjorie needs, is a title for the movie. She says we really need one by Monday for the PR program.”

“Marjorie. Who’s the hell is Marjorie?”

“Marjorie Goldsmith. The publicist.”

“Oh, right.” Buddy automatically sort of pretended he remembered the name; he was cognizant that Sony had hooked them up with this publicist who was supposed to be a hotshot, but he hadn’t met her yet. Or at least he was pretty sure he hadn’t met her yet.

“Harvey and Iggy both say they’re totally stumped for a title,” said Debbie.

“Oh.”

“So what we’d like you to do is just stay home and think of a title, then call Marjorie and tell her what it is.”

“Oh, okay.”

What the hell, it beat going down to the office.

“Give me her number,” he said.

“I’ll give you her cell,” said Debbie. “By the way, how’s your love life?”

“Just give me the fucking number, Deb.”

She did this, he wrote the number down, and then he successfully programmed it into his cellphone. He lay there for a while, and then he dragged his ass out of bed and started to get dressed.

Dead something was always good. Dead Wrong. Dead Right. Dead People. Dead what? Dead Corpses...

He went down to the kitchen and thought about making coffee. No one else seemed to be home. Dead, dead, dead fucking whatever. Dead Whatever. Dead Whatever? No.

Wait. Dead Wrong? That didn't suck. Not too much, anyway.

He had walked downstairs cellphone in hand, and now he punched this Marjorie Goldsmith’s number. He was expecting an annoyingly upbeat L.A. voice but got this pleasantly upper-crusty English accent.

“Buddy, so glad you called.”

“Well, Marjorie, I hear you need a title for our little masterpiece.”

“That would be nice, yes.”

“Okay, how’s this: Dead Wrong?”

Dead -- Wrong.”

She was quiet for a bit. He could hear traffic noise.

“Are you in your car, Marjorie?”

“Yes, I am.”

“So whaddaya think? Too stupid?”

“No, I absolutely love it. However, I just checked on my little mini-computer and unfortunately the title’s been used before. Several times in fact. Not that that is an insurmountable obstacle, the other films are fairly obscure, but still, it would be nice to have something brand new --”

Her little mini-computer -- he’d hate to be driving on the same stretch of freeway with this babe.

“Wait,” said Buddy.

“Yes?”

“Our heroine’s name is Nikki Palmer. Why don’t we just call it Nikki Palmer. Nikki with two k’s and an i.”

Nikki Palmer -- I like that.”

“And then for sequels we can have like, uh, Nikki’s Back. Nikki’s Big Score.”

Nikki in Africa.”

“Right,” said Buddy.

“I like it, Buddy. I do. I really like it.”

“Good, let’s go with that. No, wait, we better check with Harvey and Iggy first.”

“Right-o. What are you doing for lunch?”

“Nothing planned.”

“Let me give you lunch to celebrate your lovely new title.”

“Sure, what the hell.”

“How does The Ivy sound?”

“Fine if you’re buying.”

“Expense account, darling. Sony’s buying. Shall I pick you up?”

****

They had a very nice lunch, a little too frou-frou for Buddy’s taste, but the fact that Sony was picking up the tab made it that much nicer. Marjorie was a charming and pretty blonde, maybe even a real blonde, with a short hair-do like Petula Clark circa 1965. She was forty or thereabouts, maybe a bit more, very well put together, very small but with very high heels, and she turned out to be South African, although she sounded pretty British to Buddy. She wore a wedding ring and made a couple of references to kids, presumably her own. She drove him home in her pink Maserati and she cooed at the sight of his house, although she hadn’t said anything at all about the house when she picked him up.

“Oh, Buddy, it is so Raymond Chandler.”

“Thank you.”

“May I pop in? I love these old Hollywood domiciles.”

“Sure.”

So they went in and he gave her the tour of the downstairs and the back yard.

They came back into the kitchen and Buddy offered her a glass of wine and she accepted. She’d only drunk Evian water at the restaurant, although Buddy had had a couple of glasses of wine, and now, since he’d already decided he was going to take a nap, he poured himself another one, some Montrachet he’d bought when Sony had upped their budget. He sat at the kitchen table but Marjorie strolled around looking at and touching things.

“So you’re separated from your wife, Buddy.”

He hadn’t told her anything at all about his domestic life, but, then again, she was a PR person, part of her job was to know shit. And, also, of course, she was a woman.

“Yeah,” he said. “She left about a month ago.”

“Any chance of a reconciliation?”

“I doubt it. She’s living with her boyfriend, the guy she left me for.”

“And this man is -- Stephen --”

“Yeah, the bad guy in our movie. The bad cop.”

“Oh dear. Sorry.”

“I don’t mind. In fact I’m glad.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I mean I wish for her sake she had found someone who’s less of a complete and utter bore-ass, such a vile and repellent fool, but, you know --”

“Oh, dear.”

“Yeah, well --”

She sat down across from him, eyes wide open, staring at him.

“I love your movie by the way --”

“So you’ve seen it?”

“Yes, Debbie gave me a DVD and I think it’s going to be an absolute smash.”

“Well, that’s still a pretty rough cut, y’know, and it’s only got a scratch score on it --”

“I love the scratch score.”

“Well, uh, it’ll get better when Lenny’s real score is on it.”

“I’m certain it will be. I’ve been watching all your movies on tape and DVD, they’re absolutely riveting.”

“Well, we try to make ‘em entertaining.”

“Did you know that Tarantino is a fan of yours?”

“What? Really?”

“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely loves your films. He told me so.”

“Well, shit, tell him I said thanks. I like his stuff too. Is he one of your clients?”

“Oh, no, but some of his friends are my clients, and, Buddy, handsome bloke that you are I dare say you’ve already got a frisky little bangtail or two prancing about in your pasture neighing your name.”

“What? Uh, no. No, not really. No bangtails. Not yet.”

“Oh I doubt that.”

“Well, it’s true, sad to say --”

“But you said and I quote ‘not really’.”

“Well -- wait, has Debbie been talking to you?”

“Debbie Greenberg?”

“Yeah.”

“You mean about you?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Only in the most utmost professional manner I assure you. Why? Is there some dirt about you I might find amusing?”

“Um, never mind.”

“Is there a mystery woman in your life?”

“Well, if there were, Marjorie, if I told you about her she wouldn’t be a mystery any more, would she?”

“But I’m your publicist, darling. I must know these things.”

Oh, boy.

“You haven’t touched your wine, Marjorie. That’s good
stuff --”

Still looking at him she raised the glass and drank half of it down.

“Yes, quite good. Now, Mr. Still-waters-run-deep --”

“Okay, Marjorie, look, there’s no mystery woman, okay?”

And why the fuck was it any of her business? Women were insane.

“Vital manly fellow like you, you must have loads of children I presume?”

“Oh, sure, loads. Actually I’ve just got two, grown ones, who have just moved back in with me. Oh, yeah, and a stepdaughter --”

“But no kids lurking about the house now?”

“Uh, I don’t think so, unless they’re upstairs sleeping or shooting up or something.”

She popped up to her feet, all five-foot-two of her plus a few inches of heels.

“You didn’t show me the upstairs.”

Buddy didn’t pop up.

“Uh, Marjorie, are you coming on to me?”

“What ever gave you that idea? So, are you going to show me the upstairs, Buddy Best?”

“Um --” Buddy hesitated, thinking very quickly Why Not? and Why? and I just want to take a nap, and lots of other things in the space of three seconds and then said, “Listen, Marjorie, there really is a mystery woman.”

“Is there, really?” and suddenly she had slipped down onto his lap. And she was one of those women who didn’t feel like a sack of potatoes on your lap. She took off his eyeglasses and put them on herself.

“Do you always wear these?”

“No. Mostly just to drive, or watch TV, that sort of thing.”

“So you don’t need them for close-up work.”

“No. In fact I see better without them close-up.”

“Good.” She took off the glasses and laid them on the table. “Is it quite tragic?”

“Is what quite tragic?”

“Your liaison with this alleged mystery woman.”

“I -- wouldn’t call it tragic.”

She opened her lips and inclined her small but busy head to one side. She and Buddy kissed.

“Any minute one of my kids will walk in,” said Buddy.

“Then maybe you should show me the upstairs.”

“Um --”

She looked at him, with one eyebrow cocked.

“Look, Marjorie, I can’t get into an affair right now.”

“What a pity. All because of this mystery bitch?”

It was easier to say yes, and he did.

“Right then.” She smiled. “Now, will you show me the upstairs?”


(Continued here, and until our funding dries up.)

(Please look to the right hand column of this page for a listing of links to all other available episodes of Uncle Buddy’s House™, "A sad commentary not only on the mores of the present-day picture business, but on the standards for what passes for a serious novel in these wretched times." -- J.J. Hunsecker in The Southwest Airlines Traveler.)

5 comments:

kathleenmaher said...

Was Buddy virtuous or lazy? It feels like a classic dilemma even if it's new to me. Great episode.

Dan Leo said...

Ha -- virtuous? Not too much. Lazy? Oh yeah...But he wants the one he can't have. Also I think Marjorie is the sort of woman who doesn't ever fancy taking "no" for an answer...

Bald Samson said...

It's hard to say no to South African blondes with British accents.

Manny said...

At least she's the type of woman who doesn't feel like a sack of potatoes on your lap.

Dan Leo said...

Which is a big "plus" in my book, Manny