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 FIVE of Eight: First Stop
The door to the women’s room banged open.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this. I just told Jerry – I’ve got a doctor’s appointment and left!”
“I know – me too! My boss has dumped so much on me at the last minute, he can get a taste of it for once.”
“Are you girls doing what I’m doing?”
“Skipping out on work to see Gordon James!”
“And I’m the boss! I just couldn’t miss this chance to see him again!”
Shrieks and giggles.
“Who told you?”
“My best friend called me an hour ago. I said ‘I’m there! Grabbed my assistant and here I am. She’s holding my place in the line.”
“Can I make a confession?”
“Concession in the ladies’ room? You have to!”
“It’ll be the one I make, too, I bet!”
“He was my first love!”
“Well he was the cause of my first time!”
“I hear that!”
“Big Man on Campus.”
“Oh yeah! I can see that. But my favorite was ‘Along the Docks’. When he said ‘I coulda been the Champ!’ with those eyes, I just wanted to make everything better for him.”
“No, no, ‘The Misfit.’ He was such the lost boy. I wanted so much to save him – and my first two husbands!”
Shrieks and laughter.
Charlie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Who were these women skipping out on work? She emerged from the stall. The mirror was jammed with eight women primping and giggling. They were in their forties and fifties – professionals -- well-dressed, sophisticated.
Charlie slipped through them to the mirror, touched up her lipstick. Elliott really was onto something!
“So, what about you?”
Charlie looked over at the woman to her right penciling her eyebrows. She wore a Chanel suit.
“Yes – do you have a Gordon James story? You’re a lot younger than the rest of us.”
The women paused. All eyes were on Charlie.
“My Gordon James story?” she paused, smiled. “Actually, ladies, I’m here with Gordon James.”
“No!’ The chorus responded.
“You’re with Gordon?” the Chanel suit queried.
“No, no, not with Gordon. I work with World Pictures, his studio. I’m his handler.”
“OH MY GAWD!” The chorus again.
Charlie was inundated with simultaneous questions. The women pressed her into the counter and the wall. She threw her hands out in front of her to stop the onslaught.
“Ladies, ladies! Tell you what. Why don’t I set up a little picture signing session after the show?”
“Yes!” The chorus.
“I’ll go set that up right now with the producer!”
The restroom exploded with chatter as Charlie let the door close. She ran straight to the show’s producer, Stuart Newkirk.
“Stuart, we’ve got to switch Gordon’s position on the show. You don’t want to lead with him.”
“Because you’ve got an audience of mature women who have ditched work to be here. Let me show you.”
She led Stuart to the line of women waiting to be in the audience. There were a hundred and fifty of them, the vast majority in their 40’s and 50’s.
“Looks like your guy is the big draw.”
“And if the studio audience is keen on Gordon, the home audience is probably on the same wave length. If we move Gordon to the end of the show, we’ve guaranteed they’ve watched the entire hour. This will boost our ratings. I’ll tell Pia and work it all out!”
“That would be perfect! Oh and one other thing.” She caught him on the shirt sleeve. “I’d like to set up a picture signing after the show – in the studio if possible? Pia can be there, too.”
“I’ll get it all done!” He jetted off down the corridor.
Charlie loved it when a gentle prod was all that was needed to get people to see what she wanted -- and needed -- them to see. Sharp people made her job easier.
Charlie watched the show from the control room on the third floor of the independent television station’s broadcast studios. It overlooked the sound stage below. She positioned her chair to gain a view of the stage in front of her, the program monitor just to her left.
The audience sat on bleachers that rose about twenty feet above the sound stage floor, leaving about four feet of wall space above the heads of audience members perched in the top row before the floor-to-ceiling glass wall of the control room. One way tinting made it possible for those in the control room to look out over the production area below without being a distraction to the audience or those on the set.
As Charlie got up to refill her cappuccino, Pia Songstrom announced, “We’ll be back with our very special guest, the legendary Gordon James, right after these messages from our sponsors.” The roar of female voices rocked the glass wall. The audio engineer ripped his headset off, winced, rubbed his ears. The other members of the control room crew threw puzzled looks at each other. Charlie looked around. She overhead the twenty-ish technical director question the show’s thirty-something director.
“Who is this Gordon James?”
The director flipped through the papers on his clipboard. “I don’t know. I thought he was just some actor.”
Charlie smiled smugly. She walked over to the window, sipped her cappuccino, surveyed the scene below. The women were chattering amongst themselves. She could feel the excitement through the glass. Okay, Gordon. This is for real now. Can you handle it?
Gordon had asked to wait alone in the Green Room before the interview. The request surprised Charlie. He hadn’t struck her as someone who needed time alone before such events, but she willingly obliged him. She did make him promise not to chase the young female production assistants.
“Back from commercial in five, four, three. . .”
She drew a deep breath, crossed her fingers, sat down gently in her swivel chair, started swaying softly side-to-side. She saw the stage manager count off the last two seconds with his fingers.
Pia broke the silence on cue. “My next guest is creating so much excitement I can feel the buzz from the studio audience -- and I have to say, I’m a bit jealous! But I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit I was just as excited as every one else -- even more so because I get to sit directly across from the man who was my first love when I was but a sweet young thing of ten -- okay, I was really nineteen, but we’ll settle on twelve, okay?! Ladies -- please welcome, Mr. Delicious himself: Gordon James! Oh, my heart’s going to beat out of my chest!!”
The control room crew ripped off their headsets. Screams. Cheers. Laughter. The wall of double-paned glass was no match. Charlie rose to her feet. She looked down. The women in the audience were on their feet. Chanel was bouncing up and down with excitement. Gordon stepped slowly, regally into the lights of the stage. Pia stretched out her arms, opened them wide. He walked into them. She clamped her arms around him, kissed him continental style on both cheeks, continued to hold the hug. That’s a warm greeting. Pia pressed her body tightly against Gordon. Charlie raised her right eyebrow. A very warm greeting.
The audience loved it.
Pia released her vice hug.
Gordon turned, waved to the audience, bowed gallantly.
Charlie bit her lip. There he was, center stage, poised, confident. He wasn’t standing on the stage, he owned it. He was in control of the moment. And his fans went wild. She felt her iciness toward him thawing.
Charlie looked to her right and left. The members of the control room team were standing at the window. They had left their seats to get a view the monitors didn’t capture. Even the director was craning his neck. Gordon looked like a conquering hero who had returned from battle. A broad smile spread across her face. Elliott had been right. The proof was right before her. A hero was returning. The man who had conquered so many innocent hearts so long ago was back. And with him came the fresh flush of first love, renewed.
The welcoming applause lasted three minutes, an eternity of “dead air” for television. No one seemed to care. Pia Songstrom was just as fervent in her welcoming as the audience.
Gordon took a last bow, moved to his seat on the set. “I don’t quite know what to say, after that.” He turned to his host, to the audience, “but thank you, thank you very much. It’s good to be here.”
Pia leaned forward from her chair, touched Gordon’s forearm. “Gordon, you don’t have to say a thing. Just sit there and look gorgeous!” She turned to the audience. “Don’t you agree, Ladies? We don’t need anything more than that, do we?”
The audience roared. Pia waved them quiet.
“I have to say, I’m almost ready to throw my interview questions away and just stare at you, but that wouldn’t be very professional, now would it?”
“Thank you. You are much too kind to an old man.”
“Gordon, if you are what old age has waiting for us, then all I can say is, ‘Bring it on!’”
The audience roared again.
“If you had more gray hair, you’d bring a whole new meaning to silver fox, isn’t that right ladies!”
Charlie settled in her seat, captivated by the onscreen presence of her charge. She looked from the window to the monitor. The camera sure loves his face. And he loves it right back. He was completely at ease in front of it. It was one of the hallmarks of a star. And yes, Charlie had to admit Gordon James was all star.
“So, Gordon,” Pia scooted her chair closer to Gordon, “Why return after 30 years? Or I guess the better question is, where have you been?”
Charlie sucked in a big breath. Here we go!
Gordon smiled warmly. Swooning moans rose from the audience.
“Well, Pia, I’ve been living a very quiet life in England, if you must know.”
“Quiet! That’s certainly an understatement. We haven’t heard a peep from you. What prompted you to break this seclusion of yours?”
Charlie let out her breath. Smooth start. Gordon led Pia with his response, she followed, just as planned. A well-choreographed dance. Charlie pulled her shins up under her thighs.
“To be perfectly honest, I started realizing I wanted to do something more with my life. I suppose it was a mid-life examination type of thing, you might say.”
“You mean, you wanted to do something more than break the hearts of millions of women?”
“Actually, that had never crossed my mind. But what did was this growing sensation that I still had something left to do. There was something inside me that wanted to be released -- and it could only be released if I took up acting once again. . . .”
“So what exactly did you feel you needed to release?”
“Haven’t you ever felt that there was something you had to do, something that was bubbling up inside of you that just had to come out? That’s all I’m saying. I started getting this feeling there were scripts out there I could bring to life and in so doing, find something more about myself. I guess what I’m saying is, I wanted to try my hand at some serious acting.”
“As opposed to what you were doing 30 years ago?”
“I was very serious about those roles back then, too. But -- let’s face it -- the teenage rebel/loner thing is just that, the role of a young man. I’ve grown up over the years and I feel this maturity is something I can bring to my new roles.”
“So does this mean we’re going to see a completely new, serious type of Gordon James?”
“Now, Pia, I wouldn’t go that far. Serious? No, more confident, more sophisticated, more in control? Absolutely. I suppose it’s really all about added depth and dimension.”
“And is that what you think you’ve brought to this new role -- in your first movie in 30 years?”
“Exactly -- and I hope everyone who sees it not only agrees with me, but appreciates this new aspect of my work, of myself.”
“Well, I know I’m certainly appreciating your work. If what I’m going through right now is a hot flash, then all I have to say is, ‘Bring it on!’”
Pia continued, “Gordon this is such a thrill for me -- and I’m sure for my whole audience -- at least my whole female audience -- sorry Gents! You’ll just have to indulge us. You brought a preview clip from your new film, Bump In The Night. May I show it now?
“Absolutely -- and I must tell you, you will be the first one to air it. This is an exclusive premiering just for you, Pia!”
“Gordon James! That’s just about the most exciting thing I’ve done on this show in years. I am so honored. I think I might cry! Let’s play this clip before I’m overcome! Gordon, I honestly had no idea I was going to be the first.”
“Well, let’s just say it’s my little surprise to you.”
Pia grabbed Gordon’s forearm, pulled her chin to her chest, took a deep breath. She looked up at him.
Charlie looked to the monitor as the director called for a close up on camera two. Pia had tears in her eyes. She looked adoringly at Gordon. “Please, let’s roll the clip before I make a complete fool of myself.”
The director called, “Roll tape.”
The monitor displayed the 45-second clip of the movie. Charlie watched Gordon. He reached over to Pia on stage, gave her a hug. She pulled a tissue from her bra, dabbed her eyes. A make-up girl attempted to tend to her needs. Pia waved her off. Gordon released his host with ten seconds left in the clip.
A collective “AHHHH” rose from the audience.
The stage manager counted down the last five seconds of the clip. Charlie sniffed back a tear at the tender moment below her. So there is a softer side to Gordon. Maybe he deserves a little more rope in the tolerance department. Not a total caveman.
Pia pulled herself together at the last two seconds of the count. “Wasn’t that a marvelous little tidbit! It only makes me want to see more!” Pia looked off camera, returned her attention to the audience. “I can’t believe I’ve just been signaled we’re out of time!”
The audience groaned.
“Thank you so much for joining me, Gordon. Even though I do this every day, I have to say, this has truly been a moment I will remember and treasure.”
“Why thank you, Pia,” Gordon said warmly, graciously. “It has truly been my pleasure.”
The theme music to the show built to a crescendo. “Thank you, San Francisco, for tuning in. Please join us tomorrow when our guests will be --” she hesitated, flipped her hand at the camera -- “Oh, who cares! I’ve just spent the most wonderful moment of my life with my first love. San Francisco, just tune in tomorrow to see if I’ve recovered!”
“And out!” yelled the director from behind Charlie. The stage went black. Charlie saw Gordon in the shadows step toward Pia. Two burly stage hands intercepted him, pulled him off the stage. Charlie gasped. A hand grabbed her upper arm.
She whipped around. Her stomach fizzled. It was Stuart Newkirk.
“Ms. Fender, I didn’t mean to startle you, but I just wanted to tell you, at the last minute, I realized there was very little protection between Mr. James and the audience, so I thought it best to get him back stage as quickly as possible. I hope you don’t mind. I want to get the audience calmed before we do the picture signing.”
Charlie caught her breath. “Certainly, Stuart. The perfect call. I completely overlooked that. Thank you so much.”
“You’re quite welcome, Ms. Fender. You both made for a terrific show.”
“Well, thank you, Stuart. You all were wonderful to work with and it was quite a good show.” They shook hands. “Can you tell me where my star is?”
“We’ve put him in the Green Room. Give us 5 minutes to get the audience organized, then we’ll get to the signing.”
Charlie walked down the stairs to meet up with Gordon. She made a mental note to make the same kind of arrangements for each of the other appearances. As their cross-country tour continued, the buzz could only get bigger. A very big smile spread across her face.
UP NEXT: CHAPTER SIX – Walk Like You Mean It
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