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 SIX of Eight: Walk Like You Mean It
The limousine inched its way up San Francisco’s California Street. The spritzer-like mist progressed to a deluge. Traffic heading up and down the hill was at a stand still. With her legs stretched out, Charlie felt like they were straight up in the air, given the steepness of the hill. The phone on the ledge behind the rear seat buzzed softly twice. Charlie reached for it, brought the receiver to her right ear. “Yes?”
“Ms. Fender,” came the voice of the driver. “I radioed ahead to the hotel. They’re jammed right now with a convention group checking in. It’ll be awhile before we can get into the front drive. And this rain ain’t helping things much, ma’am.”
“Yes, yes, I can see that.” Charlie glanced out the limo window, directly into the face of a driver pointed downhill. He was trying to scope out the limo riders as he waited in traffic. “I guess we’ll just have to sit here. Thanks for being on top of it.”
She reached back, placed the receiver on its cradle.
“The driver just wanted to tell us the front drive was all jammed up. It’s going to be awhile. I guess I’ll just make some calls. You okay?”
Gordon looked at Charlie, a playful glint in his eyes. “You telling me you want to sit here and miss all the fun?” He reached for the car door handle.
“It’s a monsoon out there. Are you nuts?”
The door of the limo popped open. “It’s just water, Chuckles, live a little.”
Charlie felt a firm grip on her right upper arm. Gordon dragged her across the seat as he stepped out. Charlie scraped the papers on her lap onto the limo floor with her left forearm.
“You’re crazy! Take your hands off me!”. He pulled her from the dry warmth of the limo.
“And you’re now as soaked as I am!” Gordon threw his arms out to each side, looked up, got a face full of rain. “Isn’t this great?”
“I’m going to kill you, Gordon! And don’t call me Chuckles or Chucky-girl!” Her Tahari suit wilted in the deluge.
“Are we going to stand here in this down pour and debate nicknames or are we going to get to the hotel where it’s dry?”
Gordon grabbed Charlie’s hand, walked a step. Charlie snapped him to a standstill. She grabbed the limo door handle.
“Look at it his way, you’re already wet. Come on!” He gave her a tug. She released her grip. He kicked the car door closed, slapped the front fender, gave a wave to the driver. Charlie twisted around, gave him a fretful look. The driver grinned, waved them on.
“But what about our stuff?” She pulled herself next to Gordon. She looked him in the face. A river of water rushed over it. The sight made her laugh.
“See, I told you this would be fun! The driver’ll get everything to us. C’mon!” He walked briskly. “What better workout could you get than walking up this hill?”
“Don’t make me run. This skirt is too tight!”
“I wouldn’t think of it. Running makes it all look like a mistake. We’re out here to have fun!” Gordon grabbed Charlie by the waist, whipped her around in a West Coast swing twirl.
“Gordon, you’re absolutely mad! Do you know how much this suit costs?”
“And I bet there’s a great dry cleaner at the hotel who needs the business. Isn’t this a great rain?”
Charlie’s hair flattened against her head. She pulled a handful off her face. Her foot slipped. She shrieked, reached for Gordon’s upper arm.
“Yeah, I just slipped!”
They walked briskly up the sidewalk. They followed the gentle curve that led to the main entrance of the Fairmont Hotel, at the top of Nob Hill. Gordon pointed to the hotel’s Porte-Cochere just ahead. “We’re almost there.”
Charlie looked ahead. There was a bustling crowd amidst the solid line of vehicles under the covered hotel entrance drive. She noticed the people in the cars watching them, pointing.
Charlie felt a tug on her foot. Snap! She clung to Gordon’s upper arm. “Gordon! Hold on a sec!”
“What?” Gordon stopped, looked at Charlie.
Charlie glanced back, pulled up her heel. “Ahh shit! Damn!”
“My heel just broke!” Charlie gave it some weight. It buckled. She grabbed Gordon’s sleeve to catch her balance.
“Whoa there! This is really an adventure now! Here, lean on me.” Gordon wrapped his arm around Charlie’s waist. She leaned into him, putting her arm around his shoulder. He took a step, slipped, stumbled into a lamp post. He caught Charlie, stopped her from stepping into the gutter. It had turned into a mini river.
Gordon laughed. Charlie shrieked, giggled. The rain started falling in sheets.
“There’s no way I’m going to walk through this in my nylons.”
“Then we’ll make a mad dash to the door. Can you run on your toes?”
“As much as this skirt will let me.” She tightened her grip on Gordon’s shoulder.
“Then, we’re off.”
They dashed, laughing, screeching, to the protection of the Porte-Cochere like three-legged racers at a Fourth of July picnic. They rushed through the bustle of guests and bellmen, jumped into the revolving door. It ejected them into the lobby. Charlie came to a standstill with a timid squeak. She looked at Gordon. She looked around the lobby. A hundred pair of eyes looked in their direction. She looked back at Gordon. His suit was clinging to his solid, muscular frame like a wet rag. She could only imagine what hers looked like. She leaned to his right ear. “Do I look as drenched as you?”
Gordon looked her over. “You wear it much better, I’m sure!”
Charlie smiled. Laughter was exploding inside. Gordon was right. The little dash in the rain was an adventure -- the perfect way to end a great day and to start a very long road trip. Charlie let loose her grip of Gordon for a moment, pulled a clump of very wet, straggly blonde hair from her face, slipped off her shoes. Gordon attempted to straighten his jacket and pants.
Charlie glanced around the lobby. All eyes were upon them. Couples were whispering, gesturing, pointing.
Center stage, better make the best of it. Charlie turned dramatically to Gordon, “Escort me to my room, sir?”
“Why certainly, Ms. Fender!” Gordon offered his arm. They walked across the lobby to the elevators with as much grace and elegance as they could muster. Gordon pressed the elevator call button. Charlie glanced back at the crowded lobby. Everyone had turned away, continued with their previous business.
“So much for a low-profile entrance.”
“But we did it with impeccable style. My compliments on being a good sport.”
“Like I really had a choice, dragging me out of the limo.”
“You realize, you’ll never forget this moment now. We’ve immortalized it.”
Charlie smiled, shook her head. “I’ve got to hand it to you Gordon, you’re probably not wrong about that.”
“Oh, so you think I’m right about something?”
“No, I said you weren’t wrong. There’s a subtle difference.”
“Ahhhh. I see. Still sniffing me out, are you.”
“Sniffing? I wouldn’t call it sniffing. Besides, you’re following my lead. I’m the boss. You’re the product, remember?”
“Ah, yes. Another moment together that has been permanently imprinted in your memory.”
“And one I wish wasn’t, believe you me. Now what’s taking that elevator so long.”
“Maybe it’s waiting for me. . .”
The familiar voice came from behind. It startled Charlie.
“. . . Waiting for me to catch you with another man -- and at a hotel. How convenient for you!”
A very angry Danny.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She felt Gordon turn, move toward her.
“Excuse me, but it seems you’re thinking with your dick and not your brain, buddy. Is there a problem here, Charlie?” Gordon stepped in front of Danny.
“Oh, like that’s going to calm things down, Gordon. He’s twice your size!” Charlie pulled Gordon behind her, took back the middle ground.
“Oh, so you’re going to protect him, this little weasel?” Danny took a step toward Gordon. Gordon held his ground. Charlie threw her palm into the middle of Danny’s chest.
“Will you just get a grip, Danny? Stop making a scene! You’re going to attract attention.”
A chime signaled the elevator had reached the lobby. The doors trundled open. Charlie pirouetted to face Gordon. “Just get into the elevator.”
Gordon stared down Danny. His gaze locked as though it were a laser sighting beam.
Charlie huffed. Testosterone. “Not the time, place or guy, Gordon. Just get in the elevator.” She planted her hands into his chest, pushed him backward into the lift. The elevator doors closed. Charlie turned around. Danny stood behind her. She looked into his eyes. Anger. Hurt. Confusion.
She put her palm in his chest, pushed him back against the closed doors. “Danny, getta grip. You have no idea what’s going on here and what are you doing here anyway?”
“Trying to find out what’s going on with you! I don’t hear from you, nothing. I call your office, they say you’re in San Francisco on a junket. I have to come up here to interview one of the 49er coaches and bam, here you are with this guy -- in a hotel, heading for the elevators -- after announcing to the whole world for him to take you to your room! Plus you’re all wet!!”
Gordon snickered. Danny looked up, started to lunge. Charlie held her palm in his chest.
“Just stop trying to tackle everything that upsets you, Danny. I’m working here. That’s all. Just working. This is Gordon. He’s the work, Danny.” Charlie let her hand down, looked over her shoulder. “Gordon James, meet Danny Freeman.”
Gordon brightened. “Danny Freeman! The Danny Freeman? Linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. All pro eight years in a row. Most tackles in the league seven years in a row. Danny ‘the Wall’ Freeman?”
Danny looked at Gordon, regained his composure. “Yeah, that’s right. Number 85. That’s me.”
Gordon stepped forward, his hand extended. “I’m a big fan of yours.” Charlie took a side step. She pressed the button for the Penthouse floor. The men shook hands. Charlie watched Danny mouth Gordon’s name, eyes squinted, cheeks scrunched.. She knew that look. She’d seen it a hundred times in their 3-year relationship. He was processing information.
“Gordon James. Gordon James. Why does that name sound familiar?”
“He’s an actor, Danny. But from a while ago. He’s making a come back. You probably heard about him as a kid -- he was a teen idol back then.”
“Let’s not stroke my ego too hard there, Charlie.” Gordon feigned indignation.
Charlie rolled her eyes at Gordon, turned her attention to Danny. Still processing.
Charlie put her hands on her hips. “C’mon, Danny. Let it go so I can just. . .”
“That’s it! Gordon James. The Gordon James. That actor guy from way back.”
“Not exactly that far back but, yes, that’s me. Gordon James -- the ex-teen heart throb, as Charlie would say.”
Charlie feigned a smile.
“Yeah, now I remember. All the girls were crazy about you. My older sister -- all she could do was talk about how ‘in love’ she was with you all the time.”
Charlie looked at Gordon. He squared his shoulders cockily. She looked back at Danny. Something was still clicking away behind his unfocused gaze.
“Yeah -- she was crazy in love with you. In fact, she even got knocked up watching one of your movies at the drive-in! That’s why I know your name.” Danny’s face went red. His fists clenched.
Charlie looked up at Danny. His vision had cleared. He focused on Gordon. “Yeah, that’s right, because of you, my sister’s life was ruined. And now you’re after my girl friend.”
“Danny! Danny, get a grip.” Charlie jumped between the two. “What happened to Natalie happened a long time ago. Gordon really had nothing to do with any of it.”
“Like hell he didn’t.”
“And about that girl friend stuff. . .”
Danny pushed her to the elevator side wall with his forearm, grabbed Gordon by his soggy coat lapels. “You’re going to pay, actor man.”
Danny picked Gordon up, turned around, slammed him against the control panel, wedging him in the corner. Gordon wheezed, the air forced from his lungs.
Charlie shimmied from the side wall to the back. Danny cocked his arm back.
“Don’t hit his face, Danny.” She covered hers, winced.
Gordon ducked the punch.
The solid thud of fist to metal.
Gordon threw body punches into Danny’s mid-section.
Danny pulled back his fist, shook it, looked down at Gordon. Gordon looked up at Danny.
The punches weren’t much of a distraction.
“This ain’t no stunt fight, actor man. You’re gonna pay!” He put his hands on Gordon’s shoulders, slammed him into the corner.
Gordon’s head thumped against the metal wall.
Danny stepped back, cocked his arm to throw another blow.
Gordon’s knees buckled. He grabbed the railing.
Charlie jumped onto Danny’s right shoulder. Her weight pulled him back from Gordon.
Gordon regained his senses. He wedged his back into the corner, lifted his knees, planted his feet on Danny’s stomach, pushed him back against the elevator rear wall. Charlie hit it hard.
Gordon’s arm hit a floor button.
Danny turned to Charlie. “Are you okay?”
Charlie’s wet clothing helped her stick to the wall. She pulled a clump of hair from her face. “I will be when you stop acting like a twelve year old.”
“Charlie’s right, Danny. I’m very sorry for your sister, but I really had nothing to do with it.”
The elevator door trundled open.
“Nothing to do with it?” Danny raged. “I’ll show you what you had to do with it.”
Gordon shimmied from his corner to the opened elevator doors, his hands in front of him. Danny grunted, put his head down, lunged his 245-pound mountain of angry muscle at Gordon.
Gordon caught Danny’s head in his stomach. The force of the blow catapulted him out of the elevator, across the carpeted elevator lobby of the 16th floor.
Gordon slammed into the opposite wall.
Danny tumbled onto the carpet.
Danny collected his feet, stood up.
Gordon stiffly shook off the contact with the wall.
“Danny – stop!” Charlie lunged to hit the door open button. “Stop it. You’re going to kill him!”
“I’m okay, Charlie,” Gordon grabbed his ribs. “It looks a lot worse than it is.” He straightened up, leaned against the wall, recaptured his breath.
“Then it’s just second down time!” Danny grabbed Gordon’s shirt with his left arm, peeled Gordon away from the wall, turned him around. Charlie pulled her hands to her face. Danny pulled back his right arm, held Gordon directly in front of him like a punching bag.
“Stop it, Danny!”
“Not my face!”
Gordon reeled backward from the force of the body blow. He landed against the wall, next to the elevator door. His head cracked the plaster.
Charlie reached around, pulled Gordon inside. He crumpled to the elevator floor. She looked up. Danny was catching his breath. The raging bull empty stare remained in his eyes. She plunged her finger deep into the door close button.
Gordon slid his crumpled body toward the back wall.
Charlie’s knees slumped.
A mountain of rage flew toward her.
The elevator doors closed.
The collision with the outer doors rocked the elevator. It continued its ascent.
Charlie and Gordon grimaced.
Gordon wedged himself into the back corner.
Charlie braced herself against the sidewall. The elevator accelerated toward the penthouse suites.
“Are you alive?” Charlie looked down at Gordon. His chest was heaving, his legs sprawled before him.
“Yeah, I’m a scrappy old guy. Nothing seems to be broken, but I’m starting to feel a bit of it here and there.”
“Men, boys. Not much difference, is there, except maybe the crying.” She stepped over to him. “Can I help you up?”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll have a better shot at staying in one piece if I sit here a bit longer.”
The elevator slowed, settled at the top floor of the hotel.
“It’s now or never, tough guy.” Charlie extended her right hand.
Gordon reached for it with his left, his right groped for the side rail. He tried to find his feet.
Charlie gently tucked her left hand under his upper arm, gave him the final boost to his feet. The elevator doors opened onto the spacious penthouse lobby.
“Why don’t you shuffle your way to that chair over there. I’ll call the front desk and get some keys brought up -- since they’re back in my briefcase that’s down in the limo.”
“You’re just bubbling over with compassion, aren’t you, Ms. Fender.”
“I’m just totally disgusted with this ridiculous display of testosterone. It proved absolutely nothing and now look at you. . .”
“Hey -- he didn’t hit my face.” Gordon inhaled deeply.
Charlie watched him wince.
“And I actually did you a favor.”
Charlie put her hands on her hips. “A favor? That display was a favor to me?”
“Exactly. Do you really want to spend your precious little personal time with a galoof like that? Honestly, Charlie. Do you?”
“And what about you -- aren’t you a galoof, as well?”
“Hey, remember. I’m just business.” Gordon winced as he took a breath. “I’m talking about your time. Danny-boy’s not the guy for you.”
“You know, you’re absolutely right. Thank you for pointing that out to me.”
Gordon smiled through his pain. “Glad to be of service. I wouldn’t have wanted this exercise to have been in vain.”
“Do we need to have a Doctor look you over?”
“No, no. It’ll be okay if I lay down and get a few ice packs. Nothing’s broken. Just getting sore. Besides, the last thing we need is for word of this to get out.”
“Good point. I’ll have the front desk bring up some ice and zip lock bags along with the keys.”
Charlie reached for the phone. The second elevator chimed. Her stomach jumped. She shot a look at Gordon. His eyes widened. The doors rattled open.
“Oh shit!” Charlie locked her eyes onto the opening elevator doors.
A bouquet of dozens of red roses poked through the doors.
Charlie and Gordon sighed.
The delivery boy took two steps from the elevator, stopped. Four eyes were locked onto him.
“Don’t be worried. It’s nothing.” Charlie gave him a reassuring smile. “Who are the flowers for?”
The delivery boy peeked around the stems.
“Ah, I believe they’re for a Mr. James. Gordon James, Penthouse 2.”
“That would be me,” Gordon’s voice crackled with the pain.
“All right, then, shall I take them to your suite?”
“No, that’s fine, just put them on the table there.”
The boy looked at Charlie for reassurance. She smiled. “That’ll be perfect for now. Right there on the table.”
The delivery boy set the vase and flowers on the console table next to Gordon. It was on the wall opposite the elevators. He looked at Gordon, then at Charlie. Charlie shot a look at Gordon, raised her eyebrows, nodded toward the delivery boy. Gordon looked through his grimace at her, but pushed in his jaw, wagged his head side to side.
Charlie shook her head. “Gordon, my purse is down in the limo?”
“Oh, oh, quite right.” He reached into his pants pocket. “I only have hundreds.”
“And that’ll be perfect.” Charlie walked to Gordon, grabbed a bill from his fingers. She stepped to the delivery boy, placed her hand gently on his shoulders, shepherded him to the elevator. She handed him the hundred dollars. The boy’s eyes widened. Charlie pressed the down button. “Thank you very much. We love the flowers. They’re beautiful!”
The elevator doors opened. The boy walked backward through them, staring at the bill held between his hands. “Gee, lady. Thanks a lot. Thank you!” The doors closed.
Gordon shifted his weight in the chair. “Shouldn’t you have asked him to forget about anything he might have seen?”
“Are you kidding? After getting a hundred dollar tip, let me tell you, there’s only one person that kid saw up here and his name is Ben Franklin.”
“Gotcha. Good move.”
“Thank you, sir. Just one of the many I happen to have -- and just let that go with out any further comment.”
Gordon shifted his weight again. “Not another peep out of me.”
Charlie reached for the phone. “More flowers, eh?”
"Yeah, you know the story.”
"And no idea who sends them?" Charlie dialed the front desk.
"Not a clue.”
“Let’s hope it’s a fan and not some stalker.”
“Like I need something else to worry about right now. Can you do something about that ice? I'm dying here."
“I’m taking care of that right now.”
The first elevator chimed. The doors opened.
Charlie saw him get a glimpse of Gordon sitting in the chair, directly across from the elevator.
He let loose a thunderous roar.
She jumped for the flower vase, dumped out the roses.
Danny burst through the elevator doors.
Charlie hurled the vase at Danny’s forehead.
Dead on target.
The blow dropped him to one knee.
“Consider that the end of our relationship, Danny. Good riddance!”
He looked at Charlie through a glazed stare, grunted, stumbled backward into the elevator. Charlie reached in, pressed the lobby button, stepped back out. The doors rattled shut behind her.
“Good shot!” Gordon doubled over holding his ribs as he chuckled.
Charlie turned from the elevator doors, dusted off her hands. “Thank you. All-collegiate second base, woman’s softball. I was a wicked cut-off man.”
“I guess you were. Well done!”
“Yeah, some things you just don’t forget.” Charlie walked confidently to the phone, re- dialed the front desk. “This is Charlie Fender with Penthouse 1 and 2. Can you send up a set of keys, some ice and some zip-lock bags, please, right away? Oh, and, the gentleman in the right-side elevator? Could you have security escort him from the building immediately. Thank you. Yes. Thank you very much.” She placed the phone back in its cradle, smiled victoriously.
“You seem quite proud of yourself.”
“Maybe this wasn’t such a bad adventure after all.” She chuckled.
Gordon chuckled, winced. Charlie stepped to his side, gently put her hand on his shoulder.
UP NEXT: CHAPTER SEVEN -- Checking In
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