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 FOUR of Eight: In the Air
Charlie kept the limo driver waiting at her condo 30 minutes. She knew exactly how long it took to get her curbside at the LAX United terminal. She wasn’t going to be on the ground with Gordon James any longer than necessary. This assignment was frustrating enough for her, having to fly commercial on top of it….
“Flying commercial will increase Gordon’s exposure opportunities, will help add to the buzz as the PR tour continues.” That’s what the hand written note from Elliott said, the one the limo driver handed her. She scrunched it up, threw it out. She strode through the terminal at high speed, her molars cinched together. Tight.
She zipped around the corner of the corridor, headed to Gate 85. She saw the last passengers boarding. She also saw a cluster of five or six flight attendants standing to the far side of the ticket counter. Lots of hair tossing, coy laughter. In the middle, a head of wavy salt and pepper-hair. Gordon. She placed a mental laser targeting bead on the middle of his forehead, went straight for him.
“Mr. James!” Charlie claimed a position directly in front of him, just outside the circle of admirers. “I believe we have a flight to catch.”
Six pairs of eyes turned to evaluate exactly what type of woman had interrupted their group flirt.
Charlie kept focused on Gordon. He flashed a cocky smile.
“Shall we?” Charlie gestured toward the boarding gate.
The circle of attendants looked at Gordon. He wrapped his arms around the two closest to him. “Ladies, alas, my keeper awaits.” Sighs. The two in Gordon’s embrace kissed him on his cheeks. “Ladies, this has been truly an honor to talk with you all, but -- as you can see -- duty calls.”
Gordon walked through the gentle rub of soft hands against his shoulders to Charlie’s side. “Okay, boss, lead on.”
“You first, Gordon. If I follow you, I know you’ve boarded. I’m going to have to watch you constantly, aren’t I.”
Gordon stepped through the boarding gate archway, paused for Charlie to catch up. “Actually, it’s not me you have to worry about. It’s them!”
“So tell me, what was that all about? We’re targeting 40 and over. Those girls were in their 20’s. I don’t get it.”
“Gee, let’s forget all the pleasantries and get right down to business.”
Charlie stopped in the middle of the boarding ramp. “That’s exactly right, Gordon. This is business and business only. You are a product and I’m the marketeer.”
“That’s puppeteer, don’t you mean?”
“This is the 90’s, same concept, different words.” She walked down the ramp.
They reached the entry hatch of the plane. Charlie paused, caught Gordon by the jacket sleeve, pulled him over to the side of the ramp. “Let’s get one thing straight. Elliott has a lot riding on you and there’s a whole set of hoops we need you to jump through. It’s my job to see you do those hoops better than you think possible. You’re absolutely right about this being all business. And you’ve got to understand all you are is another product we’re shoving down the pipeline. Got it?”
Gordon looked at Charlie. It sent a tingle up her spine, seemed as though he were looking into her soul. “It’s great we can build our relationship on such a firm foundation of reality. I knew you were the perfect choice. This is going to work.” He reached his arm around Charlie’s waist, ushered her through the hatch. She walked to the fourth row, turned in the aisle with her back to the rear of the plane, blocking the view of those passengers. Gordon stepped gingerly up the aisle, settled into 4A, the window seat. Charlie slipped into the aisle seat next to him, buckled her seat belt. The flight attendant began her FAA-mandated passenger instructions.
“Are you saying this arrangement was your idea?”
“I relate much better to women than to men. And the guy Elliott first chose? All these women would have been a distraction. But not to you. Focused all the way.”
“So who did I replace?”
“Don’t know. Never met him. Just didn’t like the idea of him. This all happened last night.”
“Oh, so you snap your fingers and suddenly I’m on the Gordon James team.”
“A bit more complicated, but that’s about it.”
“So what happened to the mystery guy?”
“All Elliott said was he’d put him with some movie called Impasse.”
“Impasse! Are you kidding? That was supposed to be my movie, my trip to Cannes?”
Could she jump out of the plane, run screaming down the tarmac? Or strangle Gordon James? “Do not talk to me until I talk to you. OK? I’ve got to get straight with this.” Charlie crossed her arms, stared at the bulkhead, three rows ahead.
The roar of the engines signaled it was time for take off.
It took Charlie 20 minutes.
She turned to Gordon. He had wedged a pillow between the window and the seatback. His eyes were closed. His arm draped on the armrest. Serenity. She nudged his forearm off the armrest with her elbow.
Gordon slowly opened one eye, looked in her direction, no head movement. She faked a smile.
“So tell me what was really going on with those girls? They’re too young to know who you are or were, I should say.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you. Actually, I was surprised myself.” He opened both eyes, adjusted his position in the seat.
“I bet you were!”
“No, seriously. I was sitting in the VIP lounge when one of them -- the red head -- kept walking by the window and looking in. After about a dozen glances she finally opened the door and asked if I were Gordon James. It turns out her mother was a big fan -- had a collection of every one of my movie posters. And her prized possession was one I had autographed. Anyway, she just wanted to make sure it was me because she wanted to call her mother. It turns out the other girls had mothers who were big fans. I was as surprised as you! Honestly, who would have thought I’d still have it?”
Charlie rolled her eyes. “Still have what?”
“Oh, you know, that extra something women just go nuts over. I never knew what it was myself. But whatever it is, I guess it’s still working.”
Charlie rolled her eyes. “Oh paleeze, Gordon. It’s all about being a celebrity. It’s the image thing. If they all saw you as I see you, there’d be no big deal.”
“Not one of those who likes to beat around the bush, are you, Charlie Fender.” Gordon leaned his head back against his seat.
“Not on this assignment.”
Charlie reached into her satchel, pulled out one of the many files she was carrying.
“How well versed are you on the speaking points. Are you ready for this first interview?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be.” He closed his eyes. “Elliott made sure I had more sessions than I care to think about with Bernie Softon.”
“I saw a reference to that. Bernie’s damn good.”
“That he is.”
“And very thorough.”
“So are you ready?”
“We won’t know the answer to that until it’s over now, will we?”
“True. But it’s always good to know the confidence factor going in.”
“Then quit harping at me and I’ll get all relaxed and confident.”
“Just doing my job.”
“And Elliott speaks very highly of you in that regard.”
“Then you know how seriously I take my responsibilities.”
“I’m certainly gaining first hand knowledge.” Gordon moved his head to the padded trough formed by the seatback and pillow wedged by the window.
Charlie turned to her papers.
Someone stood next to her. She looked up. A young, shapely brunette flight attendant. She smiled nervously at Charlie, bent down, whispered in her ear.
“Is that really Gordon James?”
“Yes it is,” Charlie whispered back.
The amply endowed attendant leaned over Charlie, touched Gordon on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, Mr. James.” Gordon opened his eyes, straightened up.
The girl pressed an 8x10 manila envelope into Gordon’s hand. “My mama was a huge fan of yours. We used to watch all your videos. She thought you were the sexiest man alive -- and I think you still are. I can’t wait to tell mama you were on my plane of all things! My name’s Hawley Carson. I wanted you to have this.”
Ms. Carson patted the envelope, smiled sugary sweet at Gordon, winked, walked away down the aisle. Gordon held the envelope in his hand.
Charlie snatched it. “Now what the hell is this. Glamour photos?” She undid the clasp, plunged her hand in. She pulled out a white, lacy g-string. “Eeewuuee!”
Gordon snatched the garment, snatched the envelope. “I believe this was meant for my eyes only, young lady.” He wrapped the g-string around his hand, squeezed it, placed it back into the envelope. “Didn’t your mother warn you against opening other people’s stuff.”
“Obviously she meant you when she did! Who does that girl think she is? I’m going to complain to the airline.”
“Now just hold on. Aren’t you forgetting something here?”
“This is just part of the whole product thing. We’re creating -- what do you call it -- buzz?”
“That’s not buzz, Gordon. That’s. . .That’s. . . .”
“That’s buzz and you know it, Charlie.”
“No, that’s not.” Charlie straightened her jacket under her seatbelt. “That’s just trashy behavior. What’s that girl thinking, anyway? How could she give you her g-string in an envelop?”
“Because of that mysterious force. Don’t fight it, Charlie. Just go with it. Let it work for us.”
“Us? There’s only one target where she’s concerned.”
“And, at my age, I have half a mind to avail myself of an opportunity.” Gordon moved to unclasp his seatbelt. Charlie gripped on his forearm.
“Not on my shift. You’re not going to do anything questionable with that girl on this plane -- especially with me on it. Now start thinking with the smart head. Besides, we’re not going for the wild, playboy image. We’re building the mature, in control Gordon James.”
Gordon smiled. “I suppose you’re right. I need to foster the new Gordon James image.”
"The mature and in control, Gordon James. The wise and measured Gordon James."
"That's what we've planned to present -- though you don't have to be stuffy. No one would ever believe a stuffy Gordon James."
"Got it. Stuffy is out, wild is out. Reserved and controlled is in. A sophisticated, continental gentleman"
He sat up, leaned his right elbow on the armrest, turned toward Charlie. “You are the boss, after all, so I suppose I need to cooperate a bit more with you. What do you want me to be on top of for this interview?”
“Now that’s more like it.” She scooched in her seat toward Gordon. “What we really need to ensure is your perspective on this project. There’s going to be a lot of speculation as to why you’re breaking your seclusion after 30 years.”
“Can’t I just say a got tired of being secluded?”
“Cute. You know you just can’t say anything. There’s got to be a story, an impact, a revelation -- but it’s all got to come from the heart. It’s got to be real.”
“So the story I make up about my return has to be real.”
“Exactly -- but there’s no making up. It’s all right here. It’s what Bernie was rehearsing with you.”
“Just making sure where you are coming from.” Gordon winked.
“About that winky stuff. Don’t think any of that so-called boyish charm of yours is going to have any affect on me. This is strictly business. And speaking of business,” she flipped open a file folder filled with bar charts and graphs. "The show in San Francisco has the strongest demographics in the same audience segment you do. Plus there's good fringe coverage, upper and lower. That will help broaden your base of appeal, as well."
“You’re absolutely right, boss. And speaking of the lower fringe, I do have to see a man about a horse, if you don’t mind.”
Charlie rolled her eyes. “Oh, of course not. I'll just review these demos while you’re gone and give you a quick update when you get back." She unclipped her seatbelt, stood up in the aisle.
“Perfect.” Gordon slipped passed her, made his way to the back of the plane.
Charlie sat back in her seat, picked up the top demographic bar chart. She hesitated, glanced down the aisle. Gordon stood at an empty seat three quarters of the way down the rows. The refreshment cart slid past him. In the rear of the plane, the flushed face of the flight attendant, Ms. Carson, peeked out from the galley. She waved at Gordon.
Charlie slammed the folder shut. “I don’t believe it.” She chucked the folder in her satchel, stood up. “I’m going to put a stop to this.”
Charlie clenched her fists, stormed up the aisle. The refreshment cart blocked her progress. She tapped the attendant standing in front of her on the shoulder A second attendant poured a soft drink. “Excuse me, I need to get by.”
The attendant offered the drink to the passenger sitting on the left aisle, turned her attention to Charlie. “I’m sorry ma’am, but you’ll have to wait a moment.”
Charlie leaned over, whispered in her ear. “I don’t have a moment. I need to get by right now. Do you understand me? I have to get by right now.”
The attendant looked at Charlie, furrowed her brow. Charlie glared at her.
The attendant cleared her throat, turned to her partner. “Ah, Joleen? Can we move the cart back to that empty seat to let this,” she paused, “lady get by?”
Joleen looked up from her pouring task. “Well, yes, sure. Just give me a second.” She reached over, passed a cup to the passenger on her left. Charlie crossed her arms, scrunched her lips. Joleen looked at Charlie, smiled awkwardly, started pulling the cart backward. Charlie jumped into the space at the empty seat. She leapt from it the instant Joleen cleared the path.
Charlie walked as briskly as possible down the final few yards to the galley. A curtain had been drawn across the opening. Charlie flung it to the side, stood with her hands on her hips.
Ms. Carson was wedged between the counter and the hull of the airplane. Her legs wrapped tightly around Gordon’s waist. Her arms draped around his neck.
Gordon’s head was buried in her neck. His left hand up her skirt.
“Excuuuuse me!”. Her voice was barely audible above the giggles of Ms. Carson. The entangled pair continued their activities.
“Do I have to throw water on you two?” Charlie looked around for something to make good her threat.
Ms. Carson pulled her head gently away from Gordon, loosened her grip on him. “Ah-oh!”
Gordon twisted around, his head remaining on Ms. Carson’s upper chest. “You’ll have to take a number. I’m in the middle of public relations here.”
Ms. Carson flashed a defiant smile at Charlie, pulled Gordon closer.
Charlie took one step deeper into the galley. “Oh no you’re not, mister! You’re doing indiscriminate relations." She spied a water bottle, grabbed it. “Don’t think I won’t do this!”
Ms. Carson pulled Gordon’s face up to hers gently by his hair. “She wouldn’t, would she?”
Gordon straightened up, pulled back from the flight attendant. He looked at Charlie, at the young Ms. Carson. “My love, I don’t think this is a good time to call her bluff.”
“Smart choice, Romeo.”
Gordon leaned into Ms. Carson, gave her a tender kiss on the cheek. “What a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He stepped away behind Charlie.
“Believe me, the pleasure was all mine,” Ms. Carson slipped off the counter, pulled her skirt down, straightened her blouse. Charlie turned to Gordon. “Go back to your seat, like nothing happened.”
“Yes, boss!” He winked at Ms. Carson.
Charlie walked up to Hawley. “What were you thinking! Where’s your pride! You don’t even know him!”
“I don’t have to know him. Besides, momma conceived me watching ‘Frolic in the Waves’. I just wanted to get what she always dreamed of.”
Charlie stepped back. Had to ask, didn’t you. “Look, do us both a favor and leave everything just as it is. Okay?”
“Oh, I got exactly what I wanted, which is probably much more than you have lately.” She shot a snotty little smile at Charlie, opened one of the storage doors, started pulling sweetener packets out of a plastic bag.
Charlie stepped backward out of the galley, into the aisle. “Well, at least we have an understanding.”
She turned, walked toward the front of the plane. Her forward progress was once again blocked by the flight attendants and the refreshment cart. The attendant on the far side of the cart looked up at Charlie, smiled smugly. “Get things taken care of?” She giggled as she handed another drink to a passenger. Joleen turned around, snickered at Charlie, looked back at her partner. They both turned away quickly, trying to contain their laughter.
Charlie looked at them, scrunched her lips to the left side of her mouth. “May I?” Charlie indicated she wanted to pass. Joleen turned around.
“Just step to that empty seat and we’ll let the house mother pass.” The other attendant snickered through her nose. Charlie noticed the passengers were eyeing her and the commotion taking place.
“Seriously,” Charlie drew her arms across her chest, “do you mind?”
Joleen and her partner slipped the cart forward, allowed Charlie to step into the empty seat, pulled the cart back to let her pass. “Not at all, Mother Superior.”
“Just get a shorter leash.” Joleen attempted to contain her laughter, dropped a can of soda in the cart. They were shaking trying to contain their laughter. Charlie reached her seat, slipped into it.
She turned to Gordon. "I can't believe you."
Gordon’s head was buried in the pillowed niche. He replied without opening his eyes. "Yeah, its pretty tough being Gordon James."
"Let's get one thing understood here, buster. What you do on your time is your business, but on this tour you're on my time and there's none of that. Is that clear?"
"What, no spontaneity? C'mon, you've always wanted to do it on a plane. Besides, it makes the time fly!"
Charlie tried to keep her composure. "You're nothing but a disgusting over active gland! Listen, I don't want to be here. I didn't want this assignment, I don't like this assignment, and I don't like you. But my job is to make you a star again and I'm going to do that -- and you're just along for the ride, get it! I call the shots and you do what I say. Is that clear?"
"Whoa, there Chucky-girl. Don't blow a gasket. All right. You're right. I'll be good little Gordy from now on. Okay?" He looked at her with mournful, puppy dog, eyes. He extended his right hand. "Friends?"
Charlie looked at him, at the hand, at him, again. "Associates. That's as far as it goes."
Gordon smiled. "Associates, then." He kept his hand extended. Charlie reached out for it, sensing a trace of sincerity, suddenly withdrew it.
Gordon chuckled. "Don't worry. I used this hand.” He smiled smile cockily, passed his left forefinger under his nose,
Charlie whipped her hand away, twisted her body away from his. "You are a disgusting swine."
UP NEXT: CHAPTER FIVE – First Stop
For the complete story, buy “Glitzbiz” by Bill McGowan, available in e-book or print formats
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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