(Click here for our previous episode; late arrivals may click here to go back to to Chapter One of Uncle Buddy’s House©. “A riveting tale of love and lust and everything in between.” -- J.J. Hunsecker in Collier’s.)
Buddy pulled through. Cordelia phoned and said she wanted to come down again and visit over the weekend but Buddy said no, absolutely not, he knew he was being an idiot, but he just didn’t want to see her while he was in the hospital. (Wrong, he didn’t want her to see him while he was in the hospital.)
They let him go home the following Friday, and she called him that night. She wanted to fly down, and again he said no, he was in a fucking wheelchair, he just didn’t want her to see him this way. She told him he was being childish.
“I know,” he said. He had been sitting in the wheelchair out back, listening to Tosca (Callas, Bergonzi, Gobbi) on his Discman and smoking one of the Cubans he’d brought back from Vancouver and hadn’t had a chance to smoke until now. Inside the house Philip and Liz and Deirdre and his mother were watching Two Weeks Notice on DVD.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said Cordelia.
“I’d rather talk to you on the phone,” he said. “I’m serious.”
“You’re being a serious idiot. You just don’t want me to see you in an, an emasculated --”
“Yeah, hey, can you give me a minute? I want to get away from the house.”
“I thought you were in a wheelchair.”
“I’m going to wheel the wheelchair farther away.”
“Okay. I’ll cut my toenails.”
Buddy laid the Discman and headset on a table, next to the glass that had held his first alcoholic beverage since he had been shot (Maker’s Mark, rocks), put the cigar between his teeth and the cellphone on his lap, and wheeled off around the pool. In Buddy’s absence Liz had restored one of Joan’s old projects, a winding grass path through the garden. He wheeled the chair onto the path and set off into the garden, which was now in glorious and fragrant evening bloom. When he had gotten to the farthest bend of the path he turned the chair around so that he could keep his house and any solicitous patrols from it in view. He took the cigar out of his mouth and picked up the phone.
“Yepper,” she said.
“Okay. Tell me about your week.”
“Well -- let’s see -- oh! I did my nude scene finally.”
“Great. Tell me about it.”
“Oh, I was a total diva. Closed set, the whole deal. I drove Joe crazy.”
“And I don’t think I looked all that bad. Do you know I lost seven-and-a-half pounds since you last saw me?”
“No kidding? How’d you do that?”
“Okay. New diet. I can eat anything I want except it has to be either fruit or vegetables with no oil or butter, or fish or poultry without the skin and with no oil or butter. No carbs at all. Oh, but I can have one glass of white wine a night.”
“Mmm, sounds yummy.”
“But it worked! I lost --”
“Cordelia, you’re insane. You’ll never stay with this diet.”
“You’re probably right. But at least I got thinner for my nude scene.”
Buddy’s cigar had gone out. He tossed it under some snapdragons.
“Where are you?” he said.
“In my bed.”
“What do you mean, ‘uh-huh’?”
“What are you wearing?”
“I’m wearing -- a t-shirt --”
“Tight or not tight?”
“Um. It’s a little tight around my shoulders --”
“Ah, so it probably shows off your breasts --”
“I guess so -- yeah.”
“Okay. What else?”
“Uh -- sweatshirt-material kind. They’re kind of dirty.”
“That’s okay. What else.”
“That’s about it.”
“Okay. Back to the gym shorts. Any underwear?”
“Okay, what kind.”
“Cool. What color.”
“Um, let me check,” she said. ”Aquamarine.”
“Okay, good. Wait a minute.” He reached into his pocket. Ah, yes, Kleenex.
“Buddy, are you -- where are you anyway?”
“In my garden.”
“Buddy,” she whispered, “you can’t do that in your garden.”
“Oh yeah? It beats trying to do it in a hospital.”
“Okay,” she said. “Go on.”
“Okay. Okay. Now, back to the t-shirt. Pull it up.”
“All right,” she said. “How far?”
“Oh, wait,” he said. “I forgot. Are you wearing a bra?”
“No,” she said.
“Okay. Good. Now pull your t-shirt just up to below your breasts.”
“All right,” she said.
Insects buzzed among the plants and flowers, and the Hollywood Freeway gently whirred and hummed.****
Iggy came to visit Buddy the day after Harvey and Iggy got back from Cannes. They sat by the pool and drank beer, and Buddy could tell something was on Iggy’s mind, so after a while he just said, “So, Ig, what’s up?”
“Well, I wanted to tell you first, Buddy. I don’t think I want to do Nikki II. (Full title: Nikki Palmer II: Don’t Call it a Comeback. I got some offers at Cannes, and I feel like it’s just time for me to move on.”
“Good for you, Ig.”
“You’re not mad?”
“Why should I be mad? You’ve got your own life to worry about. You owe it to yourself to stretch out. What kind of offers did you get?”
“Well, it’s the same kind of stuff, really, you know, action-adventure, but it’s much bigger budget, and, well, it’s a hell of a lot of dough they’re offering me. They want to talk to me about doing a picture with Jet Li and Rachel Weisz in Europe --”
“Hey, Iggy, go for it.”
“I just wanted to talk to you first.”
“Go with my blessing, my son.”
Buddy made the sign of the cross with his beer glass.
“I owe you guys everything,” said Iggy.
“Fucking right you do. Just remember to mention us in your first Oscar speech.”
“Oh, I will.”
The vampire movie wrapped, and Cordelia flew in from Vancouver the last Saturday in May. She called Buddy that day from her father’s house. Buddy had moved from the wheelchair to crutches, but he still didn’t feel like seeing her. Or rather he wanted to see her but not while he was hobbling around on crutches. He had difficulty explaining himself, Cordelia got mad and hung up on him. Much later that night she called him again, and they had a nice talk. They talked on the phone the following night as well, and Monday she rented a car, packed her stuff into it, and headed back to New York City. The make-up girl on the vampire movie had hooked her up with an apartment-share in the East Village.
Nikki Palmer opened that summer. The movie found a good niche in the post-X-Men, post-Matrix sequels trough, and went on to do even better in the European and Asian markets. Eventually, with cable-TV and home-video factored in, Nikki proved to be Buddy and Harvey’s highest-earning picture since Smith & Wesson & Me (1996 -- Mickey Rourke, Tanya Roberts, Wings Hauser).
Joe Morrow’s Northwest Mountie vampire movie on the other hand, starring the veteran Christopher Lambert and the newcomer Cordelia, went on to become the twelfth-highest-gossing (and, with its $5.4 million budget -- including promotion -- the most profitable) film of 2003.
Buddy wound up directing Nikki II himself, the first picture he had “helmed” since Sheet Lightning III, with Kari Wuhrer and Rutger Hauer, back in ‘98 or was it ‘97. For years he had been telling himself and everyone else that he preferred producing to directing because he didn’t like to get up early in the morning, but, oddly enough, he thoroughly enjoyed making the movie. He especially enjoyed busting the Ancient Mariner’s balls on the set every day, but God damn it if the old ham didn’t wind up delivering a half-decent performance in a role that had unfortunately been turned down by the likes of Franco Nero, Alain Delon, and William Shatner.
(Oh, all right, if you insist, continued here.)
(Please refer to the right-hand column of this page for a listing of links to all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House™; a Buddy Best Production.)