(Go here to see the first chapter of this hard-hitting exposé of the tawdry private lives of Hollywood’s defiantly damned.)
The Mariner -- Buddy should have seen that one coming; and come to think of it, he had. This dude, with his beret and his salt-and-pepper ponytail, his goatee, his tinted granny glasses, his scarf and his suede elbow patches and his bare-wood beach house down by the bottom of Venice Beach. The jive motherfucker.
The jive-ass old acting-teacher motherfucker.
Hey, Buddy had been nothing but generous when it came to giving Joan parts in his cheesy movies. It wasn’t his fault if she couldn’t get other gigs. Let’s face it, she just wasn’t all that good, and all the acting classes in the world weren’t going to make her a whole lot better; but that didn’t stop her from taking classes, and so, enter the Ancient Mariner.
He had a real name of course, Stephen whatever, but to Buddy it had been The Ancient Mariner ever since that night Joan dragged him down to that showcase at the Mariner’s little theatre off South Venice Boulevard.
Joan was in the show, and so they had to get there early, but this was not a bad thing because it gave Buddy time to have half a doobie in the car and a Ketel One martini in a bar down the street beforehand. (Deirdre was supposed to have come too of course, but she had pleaded menstrual cramps and gotten out of it. Buddy went up to her room to see her before he and Joan left, and Deirdre admitted that although she was having her period she was faking the severity of the cramps. Buddy didn’t blame her.) He had wanted to prepare himself for what he figured would be little-theatre hell from the moment the curtain went up, if there had been a curtain, which there wasn’t, but amazingly the first piece of the evening wasn’t bad at all.
It started in complete darkness and all you could hear was this woman speaking in French. Now Buddy understood a little French, and he was the sort of opera buff who considered it sacrilege to sing operas in translation, but he was disposed to be annoyed anyway because this was not opera and this was not Paris; it was L.A., and people here had a tough enough time understanding English let alone French. Then the stage lights gradually came up, and things got better when he could see the woman speaking. Buddy hadn't looked at his program but he vaguely recalled the piece from his college French, something by Cocteau? Anyway, it was agonizing but short, just this pathetic French blonde talking on the phone in a throaty voice to the lying cheating son-of-a-bitch who had just dumped her. But the girl playing the part was good to look at. She wore a slip and old-fashioned sheer stockings and garters. She had an old-school body, rounded and pale and soft-looking, and when she leaned forward you could get a good look at her cleavage. Her yellow hair was a mess, her eye make-up was streaked all down her face, her lipstick was smeared. She was sexy as all hell. And she was good. When she cried you felt like she was crying for real, and you could see the tears glistening.
The piece ended, the lights dimmed out, and Buddy could hear women sniffling all around him. Even he had a couple of tears on his cheeks for the pathetic French babe on the phone. A good round of applause broke out, Buddy joined in, and his program slipped off his lap and down under the seat of the lady in front of him; he was damned if he was going to scrape around under there looking for it, but he made a mental note to check later for the French chick’s name.
The show went downhill from there. Next up came Joan’s piece, a scene from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Joan playing Maggie and some inarticulate gym rat doing Brick. Joan also got to wear a slip in this thing, and, yeah, technically Joan had a great body, the woman worked out like a fucking Olympic athlete, and her breasts looked great, as well they should have since Buddy had paid through the nose to have them overhauled a couple of times, but he preferred the friendlier-looking body of the blond Frenchwoman. Of course he wasn’t married to the French chick, which made all the difference in the world. Anyway, Joan was bad, the gym rat was worse.
Then a couple of tired old queens came on and did Vladimir and Estragon, and Buddy dozed off.
At the intermission he ducked out to the car and polished off the rest of the doobie.
The second half started off with more modern boredom, a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but even with all the actors screaming their lungs out Buddy was able to get back to sleep, and only later did he realize -- and thank Christ -- that he’d slept through a scene from yet another enduring classic, Long Day’s Journey into Night.
What finally woke him up was a surprise attack of electronic noise, some horrible Stockhausen or imitation-Stockhausen bullshit, and then some sort of half-assed 1968-era light show. Then on comes this fuck in a Long John Silver outfit, shuffling out to center stage. The noise and the light show faded down but not out, and Buddy thought, Oh God now what in the fucking hell? And the clown on stage answered:It is an ancient Mariner
And he stoppeth one of three...
And the hell if it wasn’t another masterpiece Buddy had had to read back in college, that bore-ass junkie Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, which this maniac proceeded to recite in what surely was its whole endless entirety, and in a fruity English accent. At one nightmarish point the Mariner went up on his lines, dropped back about ten stanzas, and recited them all over again. As far as Buddy could tell, no one else seemed to notice the repetition. (Which meant of course they weren’t really paying attention, they were simply accepting the torture the way people accepted so much torture in the name of artistic appreciation.) Certainly the idiot on stage didn’t seem to notice. He just plowed right on. And Buddy never did get back to sleep.
That was the last piece of the evening. The company came out for their curtain call, with the Ancient Mariner front and center. After the bows and some strained applause the Mariner said a few words, more than a few actually, and it finally dawned on Buddy that this madman must be the famous Stephen himself, Joan’s acting teacher. And as the house lights finally came up Buddy could only sigh with an albatross-shadowed relief, because he knew that his next and inescapable husbandly duty was to accompany Joan to the after-show party, at Stephen’s place, the Mariner’s place, “on the beach”.
(Continued here, unless that court order goes through. Please consult the right hand side of this page for a listing of all other published chapters of Uncle Buddy’s House, a Larry Winchester Production.)