Set in the glamour that is motion picture marketing, Glitzbiz takes you behind the scenes of the Hollywood star-making machine with ace movie marketer, Charlie Fender. Having had the assignment foisted on her for managing the comeback of one-time teen movie idol, Gordon James, Charlie must over come the most extreme obstacles to fulfill her assignment -- and find out what forces have really been at work in her life. A little love, a little mystery, a lot of glamour, and lots of surprises, Glitzbiz entertains and enlightens as it takes a look at the life of a "good corporate soldier" where stardom is merely the window dressing that helps sell "the product."
CHAPTER ONE of Eight: The Leading Players
The elevator doors parted. Charlie slipped through them, launched down the hall to her hotel suite. She reached under the backpack slung on her shoulder, pulled the key out of her back pocket, slipped it in the lock. She popped through the door. The backpack landed on the chair to the right of the entry. She lowered the straps of her overalls, pulled off her top, flung it on the couch on her way to the bathroom. Finally time to pee! She stepped out of her overalls sitting on the john, unclipped her bra. She closed her eyes, rubbed her breasts, took a cleansing breath. She rolled off some toilet paper, dabbed herself, pulled up her panties, checked her watch. Just enough time for a little cat lick, then a quick call to Dorothy.
Charlie turned on the warm water tap, reached for the face cloth. She glanced in the mirror. Yup, hair looks too good to risk a shower. She moistened the cloth with the warm water, wrung it out. She wiped her face, rubbed it across her breasts, under her pits. A quick dry with the fluffy white hotel towel. Refreshed. She stooped down to her overalls piled at the base of the toilet, pulled her cell phone from a side pocket. She hit “recall-zero-one,” send. The phone rang twice.
“Oh Dorothy, I’m glad you’re there! I’ve just got a couple of seconds while I change. . . . Yeah, everything’s going very smoothly -- it’s almost scary. . . . Oh, that’s sweet to say. Have you heard anything at all about Cannes? -- Nothing!? Not even a hint? . . . .”
Charlie scrunched up her lips, pulled her little black dress from the dressing area closet. She hung it on the sconce next to the mirror. “Can you at least keep your ear to the ground without Elliott thinking you’re snooping. I know he’s trying to keep something from me. Do you think it’s Cannes? Is he going to surprise me? -- oh hold on, I’ve got to slip my dress on.” Charlie grabbed her black strapless bra from her suitcase, clipped it on, pulled the little black dress from the hanger, over her shoulders. She adjusted the spaghetti straps, picked the phone back up.
“I’m wearing that little black one with the spaghetti straps. You know, the one I bought at Fred Segal.” Charlie shouldered the cell phone, pulled the dress over her hips, gave it a final tug. “Oh shit! – nothing big, just snapped a strap!” She glanced at her watch. No time to have it sewn.
She looked in the mirror. “Wait a second.” She pulled the phone off her shoulder, smiled slyly at her reflection. She put the phone back up to her ear. “You’re not going to believe this. I like this dress better without the straps. Can you hold a second?”
Charlie put the phone on the counter, reached into her cosmetic bag. She found the nail clippers, pulled the dress off. She looked closely at the strap. “If I do this just right, I’ll get away with it.”
The doorbell to the suite chimed. “Damn!” She grabbed the cell phone. “Dorothy, hold on for just a little more. Someone’s at the door.” Charlie draped the dress on the dressing stool, ran to the door. She opened it. A vase overflowing with two dozen roses filled the doorway. A voice came from behind them.
“I have a delivery to suite 1250 for a Gordon James?”
Charlie opened the door all the way. “Okay, just set them on that table by the couch. You’ve got the right suite, there’s just no Gordon James here.”
The delivery boy set the flowers carefully on the end table. “Ah, that’s right, ma’am. They said to just make sure they got to Suite 1250.” He looked up at Charlie, stopped, frozen by the flowers. His face turned bright red. Charlie looked at him, smiled. “Oh, ah, let me get my purse, I’ll get you a tip.”
The boy tucked his head into his neck, looked sheepishly up at Charlie. “Thank you, ma’am. That’s really all right. I’d best be going now. Thank you very much. You enjoy those flowers now.” The boy dashed out the open door, grabbed the knob, slammed it behind him.
“What was that all about!” She shook her head, went back to the dressing area. She picked up the phone. “Dorothy, the strangest thing just happened. I got a delivery of flowers, but they weren’t for me, they were for Gordon James. Why him, I don’t even know? He’s not invited tonight and I didn’t even know he was in town. Anyway, the kid just dropped off the flowers, blushed big time when he looked at me, then dashed out before I could -- ” Charlie glanced in the mirror.
“Oh my god! No wonder! I answered the door in my undies! Oh god, Dorothy. That boy didn’t know what to do, poor little thing.” Charlie howled. “Can you believe I did that! And he was probably all of 16. Guess I gave him a real good tip after all!”
The familiar crackle of a walkie-talkie turned up too loud pierced through the laughter. “Dorothy, I’ve got to call you back. Someone’s checking in.” Charlie shot a glance at her watch. “Oops, I’m outta time. It’ll be sometime tomorrow morning. Bye.”
Charlie pressed the end button, put the phone on the counter. She walked to her backpack by the door. The crackling continued. “Alright, already. I’m coming.” She reached into the front pocket of the pack, pulled out the walkie.
“This is Charlie, over.”
“Ms. Fender,” came the crackling voice, “This is Manny at position 4. UltraLimo’s unit 64 just picked up their party at the airport and is hitting traffic on the 405. They’re saying they might be late.”
Charlie walked to the suite’s main window. “Manny, tell them to do what they can, but if they can’t get into the line up by 7:00, they’re out of luck. No one enters after the stars, director and the producer. Who are they carrying, over?”
“I believe it’s the writer, Ms. Fender.”
“Oh, in that case, no big deal.” She looked out the window of her Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel suite. A crush of people lined the sidewalk in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater, east and west of the ticket booth. A carpet of red Astroturf covered the curbside lane for the entire block in front. Stanchions created a corridor, blocking on-lookers on one side, traffic on the other. “Listen, like I said, if they can get into the line-up by 7:00, that’s fine.” She glanced at her watch. It was 5:58. “If not, you meet them at the back door of the theater and we’ll let him in that way. No one arrives after the producer, and no one breaks the flow of the final three groups. If he gets upset, send him an extra bottle of Dom. That’s the way it is in my show!”
“Yes, Ms. Fender. I’ll see to it, over.”
“Thank you, Manny. No need to check in with me, unless something else comes up, over.”
“Yes, ma’am, got it.”
Charlie looked out at the scene below her, up at the sky. It was that perfect time of day. Dusk. Magical. The lights of the city were just coming on, yet the details of the buildings could still be seen. Golden hour. That’s what the production guys called it. It made everything look full of potential, adventure, excitement. And in a few moments, all those lining Hollywood Boulevard 12-stories below her were about to become excitement itself.
Charlie glanced at her watch. 5:59. She squeezed the trigger on the walkie. “This is Cat Bird. Roll call everybody.” Charlie held the walkie in her hand. She looked out the window. “Position 1 - go. Position 2 -- go! Position 3 -- go! This is position 4 and we’re go! Position 5 is go! And we’re go here at 6.”
A smile of contentment came across Charlie’s face. A fountain of excitement sparkled in her stomach. She pulled the walkie to her mouth, squeezed the trigger, watched the scene below. Dusk was about to dissolve to the dark of night -- but Charlie had the power to delay it’s total penetration, at least for this block in Tinseltown. She took a last deep breath, let it out. :58, :59, 6:00 on the money. “It’s show time, folks!” The fountain in her stomach exploded.
As did the scene below her. The lights of the Chinese Theater burst on. Klieg lights on each side of the main entrance and at the corners of the block punched their white columns of light through the nascent night sky. The crowd cheered, clapped with delight. The night’s premiere activities had started. World Pictures was throwing another Hollywood event, one that had rekindled the tradition of the grand Hollywood Premiere, one that ran like clock work because Charlie Fender knew how to throw one helluva party.
“I’ll never get down to it unless I get dressed!” Charlie trotted to the dressing area, grabbed the dress, ripped off the remaining strap. She pulled the dress over her head, stepped to the window. The first limousine pulled up to the front of the theater, unloaded its celebrity passenger. Hundreds of pops of light rippled through the crowd.
Charlie smoothed the dress over her hips, grabbed the bodice, gave it a final tug upward. She looked at her reflection in the window, nodded “A definite improvement! Who would have guessed?”
She tippy-toed back to the dressing area, grabbed her Ferragamo pumps, slipped them on.
The melodic chime of the doorbell startled her. “Now who’s that?”
She walked to the door. “I’ve got to get down to my troops!” She opened the door. “Elliott! What are you doing here!”
“Well, technically, it is my party since I’m footing the bill.” Charlie leaned over, readjusted the strap on her left shoe. It pinched her ankle.
“That is true, but you never show up to these things. What’s the special occasion?”
“I apologize for catching you at such a busy moment. I know you have to run, but I need to introduce you to someone. My we step in?”
Charlie blushed, opened the door all the way. “Of course, Elliott.” She waved her open palm from the door to the sitting area. Elliott looked to his left, waved someone over. He reached out his left arm, draped it over the shoulder of the man who stepped up.
“Oh my god!”
“Charlie Fender, this is Gordon James!”
“Of course you are! I know that!” She stepped to the door, grabbed his left upper arm, ushered him into the suite. She stepped behind him. Elliott took up the rear, closed the door.
“Gordon, it’s so good to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much! Please, sit down.” Charlie gestured to the couch.
She gazed at the gentleman before her. He was trim, muscular, early 50’s, thick, wavy salt and pepper hair.
Elliott stepped between the two. “Actually, Charlie, we came to enjoy the view from your window. I’m sure you were just ready to zip out yourself.”
“You’re right about that.”
“I wanted Gordon to meet you and show him how we handle premieres at World.”
“Yes, of course,” Charlie stepped back from the duo. “Then I’ll just leave you in Elliott’s trusty hands.”
Elliott ushered Gordon to the window. “Oh, and Charlie, don’t worry. We’ll keep a very low profile. You won’t even know we’re around. I don’t want to steal the focus.”
“Thanks for that, Elliott. That’s good to hear.”
“I know how you have these things down to a science so they run like clock work. Far be it from me to throw a wrench in perfection.”
“I’ll take that compliment.”
Elliott stepped up to Gordon at the window. Charlie swung her hands together, bounced on the balls of her feet, noticed the roses on the end table.
“Oh, by the way, Gordon, these came for you just a little bit ago.” Gordon turned around. She pointed to the flowers.
Elliott stepped forward. “Yes, I noticed them and wondered about that. You know Charlie, they always show up where ever Gordon shows up. Haven’t quite figured out why. We never know who sends them, they just show up. Some secret admirer. I have Dorothy trying to hunt the person down, but she hasn’t been able to pinpoint the culprit.”
“Well, must a pleasant surprise. Roses just showing up.”
“It’s always been that way, hasn’t it, my dear friend.” Elliott stepped back to Gordon’s side at the window, put his arm across his shoulder. He pointed out highlights in the unfolding scene below.
Charlie looked at the two, stepped back to the dressing room, grabbed her blazer. She hated wearing it at the events, but it was a necessary accessory. Had to stay in touch with her troops. Hid the walkie-talkie. A Secret Service agent gave her the wardrobe tip years ago. Not the most elegant look, but functional. And she didn’t stand out in the crowd. She took a look in the mirror, glided on some lipstick, gave her hair a final tousle. A last look in the mirror. Approved.
Charlie emerged from the dressing area, walked to the entryway. “Okay, Elliott, Gordon. Off to the troops!”
They turned from the window. “You look wonderful, as always!”
“Thank you, boss!”
Elliott walked to her. Charlie noticed Gordon looking her over from head to toe. She smiled cautiously. He smiled back, warm, impish, cocky. Elliott stretched out his hands. Charlie reached for them. He pulled her to him, kissed her on both cheeks. “You’re the best at this, Charlie. You know I know that.”
Charlie looked into Elliott’s warm, green eyes. “Yes, I do, but it’s great to hear you say it.”
“I’ve been telling Gordon all about you.” He released his grip on her hands. Charlie gently pulled away. “Go knock ‘em dead!”
“Thank you. I will.” Charlie stepped to the door, turned the knob. “It was great to meet you at last, Gordon.” She looked at him standing with his back to the window. He smiled again, nodded. Charlie walked out. The door clicked behind her. She jerked her head to the left. “That was a bit odd.”
She reached for the corner of her jacket, pressed the button hidden in the seam. “Cat bird to Flock.” She spoke into her collar, walked down the hallway to the elevators. “I’m on my way to the nest.” The fountain sprung up in her midsection once more. “God I love this!” She stepped into the elevator, the doors clattered shut. Greatest job in the world!
Within minutes she was going to be in the middle of a cheering crowd, watching fans scream, chatter excitedly to each other as their favorite star walked the red carpet. Charlie had done this dozens of times before. Still looked forward to it.
She stepped out the side door of the hotel. The fresh evening air was neither cold nor warm. Another perfect Southern California evening. She walked north on Orange Drive the quarter block to the cross walk on Hollywood Boulevard. The cries from the crowd were almost deafening. She dashed across the street. The traffic cop waved on the looky-lous in passing cars. “Cat Bird is entering the nest.” A security guard uncoupled the red velvet rope. She plunged into the crowd.
UP NEXT: CHAPTER TWO -- No Place Like Home
For the complete story, buy “Glitzbiz” by Bill McGowan, available in e-book or print formats
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At either site, search Glitzbiz, place your order.
Here’s what other readers are saying about “Glitzbiz” by Bill McGowan:
“…a real page turner. I didn't want to put it down. The story is intriguing and makes you want more. Great twists and a few surprises. It would be fun to have a series of "Charlie" books.
Julie Gilmore, Vancouver, Washington
“If you are looking for a fun, entertaining read add this to your list. It takes you on a ride that makes it hard to put the book down. It grabs you visually in a way that creates a movie in your head while you’re reading it. When is the next book coming out? I want to know what happens to Charlie next!”
Wayde Faust, Los Angeles, California