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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 EIGHT of Eight: Side of the Road
Charlie woke up at 7:00 am, amazingly refreshed. She pulled on a leotard, rolled out her yoga mat, began her morning routine. It was a progressive series of positions custom-created by her instructor back in LA. Not every hotel had a gym. But every one had room for her mat. The 55-minute routine was the perfect way to start the day, especially on the road. It kept her focused, centered, in shape. At 8:00, the door bell chimed. Room service breakfast. The morning was running exactly as planned.
She loved the attention received at five star hotels. They knew the true meaning of service. Of course, the words “World Pictures” accompanying her reservations opened an amazing number of doors, pushed the level of service to the upper most heights. Did other people get such treatment? She had thought about registering under some other name -- or not mentioning “World Pictures” -- just to see if there was a difference. But that never happened, even when traveling personally. Too spoiled. Like this morning. Breakfast at the requested time. Her wilted Tahari had arrived exactly at 8:30, good as new. And her Ferragamos were repaired with new heel pads, even. Everything was coming together and on schedule for the 10 AM limo ride to San Francisco International Airport. Nothing to interrupt a leisurely shower, blowing dry the hair. Simple pleasures enjoyed.
The flight today was to take them to Seattle, the destination for the next afternoon talk show appearance. Charlie looked at her white gold Cartier Tank watch. Half an hour before departure time. She looked over the day’s tasks in her Day Timer. No surprises. And fortunately, Gordon didn’t have any. She had checked in with him. He was a bit tender, but there were no visible reminders of his encounter with Danny. And he assured her he would be able to take a deep breath without wincing by the time the limo arrived. There was just one thing she had left to do – check in with the office.
Regular updates regarding key activities was a mandate from Elliott. He wanted minute-by-minute details of all activities where his clients and projects were concerned. He was a stickler for being informed of even the slightest details. Charlie had all his direct numbers, was free to contact him anytime directly – one of the perks of being among his chosen favorites. But she typically chose to route the calls through Dorothy. She knew what Elliott wanted to know and was easy to talk with. Most of their conversations turned to girl talk once the business issues were covered. Through the years, they had become close, best friends, though it was more like best phone friends. They rarely interacted in person. Their schedules were such they could only find time for the occasional lunch. The bulk of their relationship was carried on through the phone. It suited them. The ritual helped Charlie feel connected, grounded. Dorothy often told her it helped her live vicariously.
Charlie double-checked arrangements with the limo company and the airlines. She pressed “Recall 01”, send.
Dorothy answered on her usual second ring with a cheery hello. Charlie returned the greeting, gave her the run down on the San Francisco interview -- including the conversations in the women’s room. Charlie knew Elliott would be especially interested in the “closed door” comments. Once the salient information was related, Charlie moved right into the “off the record,” personal adventures.
She expressed her anger at being pulled into a driving rainstorm by Gordon. Dorothy giggled with delight.
“Then just as we get to the elevators, who shows up but Danny!”
“Danny? Your Danny?”
“Exactly -- though that’s ex-my Danny after what he did. You won’t believe it!”
“What was he doing up in SF anyway?”
“He said he was doing some 49-er interview. He knows I stay at the Fairmont, so even he could put two and two together.”
“So are you that off Danny now, after the Australia thing?”
“That was enough by itself, but what he pulled here?”
“Tell me, tell me!”
“I couldn’t believe it. Gordon and I are a couple of wet rats waiting for the elevators. I’m shivering. I can’t wait to get to my suite. My suit is, like, totally wrecked and all I want to do is slap some sense into him and get dry when I hear Danny’s voice from behind me. But here’s the thing -- I forgot to tell you. I’m leaning on Gordon -- he’s got his hand around my waist because I broke my heel on my Ferragamo pumps. So anyway, there we are, Danny shows up and immediately thinks I’m WITH Gordon.”
“You mean like, going up to his room with him?”
“Totally -- which is what we were doing, but we’re on the same floor. Everybody knows I don’t mix business with pleasure. Plus -- please! Gordon James!! Women are revolving doors to him. Just something to get through on his way to something else.”
“Do you really think Gordon’s like that? Don’t you think that’s an act?”
“I can tell you it’s certainly an act he likes playing -- and when women realize who he is -- more than a few are ready to play along. But let me get to what happened. You won’t believe it!”
“Okay, so Danny sees you at the elevators hanging on to each other.”
“Big time, so the Neanderthal starts picking a fight with Gordon.”
“Right there in the lobby?”
“Fortunately I was able to stuff them both into the elevator -- actually, I pushed Gordon in, then Hulkster jumped in behind us. No one in the lobby saw anything -- at least not anything close to what really happened.”
“So tell me! All three of you are in the elevator?”
“Oh yeah. And Danny dum-dum decides to take a few swings at Gordon.”
“You mean they start fighting in the elevator? Danny’s twice the size of Gordon!”
“But he doesn’t seem to care! I mean, Gordon didn’t even blink before jumping into it with Danny. What a maniac!”
“So did Danny hit Gordon. Did he hurt Gordon at all?”
“Dorothy. I was scared to death. I mean, these two guys start going at it right in front of me and all I can do is shout, “Don’t hit his face. Don’t hit his face!”
“So did he? Did Danny hit Gordon’s face?”
“Fortunately not. Just a lot of body blows -- but get this, they even spilled out onto one of the floors! I would’ve died if anyone had been there. It got real ugly. I had my hands over my eyes, screaming. I’ve gotta hand it to Gordon though, he’s one scrappy little guy!”
“He’s not that little!”
“Five ten versus Six-six. There’s a mismatch if I ever saw one.”
“So is Gordon all right? How did you get them to stop?”
“I couldn’t believe it. I dragged Gordon back into the elevator before Danny could get back up. So we got to our floor by ourselves. But then, Danny shows up in the other elevator. It was like a bad movie that wouldn’t end!”
“So what happened then?”
“The doors open. Danny sees Gordon sitting in a chair, trying to catch his breath. As he steps out of the elevator, I take this bunch of roses that had just been delivered, throw them on the floor and toss the vase right at Danny. I hit him square on the head. Sent him right back into the elevator. My old softball days came in handy, I tell you. I called security and had Danny escorted out of the Hotel! I almost wish I had a camera to record the whole thing. It’s actually kinda funny right now, now that I think back on it. But you wouldn’t believe it. I was terrified through the whole thing. All I could think about was Gordon getting his face mangled and how could I explain that? I mean, can you believe it? I’ve been with Danny for three years, this happens, and all I can do is think about protecting Gordon. I have to admit, it felt really good when I clocked Danny with that vase. Can you believe that, Dorothy! What a cold bitch I am!”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Charlie. You haven’t been into Danny for a long time.”
“It did get to be kind of a place holder type of thing. More convenience than anything. He was there when I needed him -- and when I dressed him, he’d look pretty good, but it was getting a bit too predictable. I know that sounds horrible, but it’s true. I guess I’m just at that point when things needed to change big time anyway.”
“You know its all for the best. It wasn’t going anywhere with Danny, so now you can concentrate more on this project. Is Gordon really okay through all of this?”
“Yeah, I talked with him this morning. His ribs are a bit sore, but there’s nothing visible -- at least that’s what he tells me. I haven’t seen him yet. This is like the third time you’ve asked about Gordon -- and you haven’t asked once about me? What’s up with that Dorothy -- you a secret fan of Gordon’s?”
“Well, I guess you caught me. I’ve been a huge fan of Gordon’s all along.”
“Not you, too?”
“Absolutely! I’ve been his biggest fan from the beginning.”
“Dorothy! Were you like totally crazy over him as a teenager?”
“Once I started to get to know him, you know, as I started following his career, I thought he was the greatest. Even now, the thought of him can make me a little weak in the knees!”
“No way! Does Elliott know about this?”
“Oh, I’m sure Elliott has better things on his mind.”
“No, seriously. Have you met Gordon? Haven’t you seen him at the office?”
“No, no. Elliott always meets with him privately. He’s never been to the office.”
“I can’t believe that! You mean Elliott has never let you meet his big client that you’re a big fan of?”
“Charlie, you’re making too big a deal about it. Besides, if I actually saw Gordon James in person, I’d probably faint. I’d get all flustered.”
“Oh come now. After thirty years? You’d still act like a teenager?”
“You never forget your first love, Charlie. I’d be too embarrassed! I wouldn’t be a good thing at all, trust me. Besides, what does Gordon need with another swooning old lady.”
“First of all, you’re not old and second, Gordon would do well to have a real woman around him like you. Seriously. But honestly, Dorothy, you still would get all giggly and excited over him?
“Without a doubt, without hesitation.”
“I tell you, I’m spending time with this guy and, I guess I’m getting to see too much of him. I just don’t get it. I mean, acting he’s got down. But that’s all there is. He’s always just going from one scene to another. There doesn’t seem to be a real guy in there. It’s all like he’s just doing what the situation demands. He’s like an onion. There’s no real core.”
“Oh, that’s where you’re wrong. There’s a wonderful person there. You just haven’t seen it. He’s hiding it. But it’s there.”
“You’re scaring me, Dorothy. You’re talking like a real fan. This guy’s just an actor, just another pretty face. Just another product for us to sell the public. If there’s something at the center, its totally hidden behind layers and layers of whatever it is that makes actors what they are.”
Charlie looked at her watch. 9:45.
“Hey, Dorothy, gotta run. Gotta keep the schedule. I still have to finish getting dressed then make sure Gordon is set to go. Take care. I’ll check in with you when we hit Seattle.
“You run along then and take care of Gordon. Don’t be running him into any more ex-boyfriends.”
“You don’t have to worry about that! I’ll call you later. Bye.”
Charlie pressed end, ran to her garment bag, pulled on some slacks, threw on a sweater, tossed on a jacket. She zipped up the bag, went to the dressing area counter, where all her makeup was strewn. She opened her carry on bag, scooped everything into it with her forearm. In 45 seconds she was dressed and packed. A new record. She picked up the hotel room phone, called for a bellman. She walked out of her suite, knocked on the door to Gordon’s.
He answered the door promptly.
“So, you ready to go?”
“All packed, showered, shaved and fed. Just waiting for my handler.”
“As it should be, Gordo.” Charlie reached forward to touch Gordon’s chest. He pulled back.
“Not quite ready for a physical inspection, my dear, but I’ll be in fighting shape soon enough.”
“Shape, yes. Fighting no. I’ve had enough of that for a lifetime, thank you very much!”
“We were just a couple of guys letting off some steam, having a little fun.”
“Somehow I fail to see how getting slammed into walls and bashed in the ribs amounts to fun.”
“I guess it’s all in how you perceive it, then, isn’t it.”
“You’ll have to explain that one to me some other time. The bellman’s on his way, let’s get down to the lobby and grab the limo. We’ll talk about yesterday’s show and what we’re doing this afternoon on the way to the airport.”
“Spoken like a true leader. Let’s go.”
Charlie took advantage of the VCR in the limo to help prepare Gordon for the Seattle interview. Though she knew he had done a great job, she also knew he could do better. She wanted to lock the positives in his brain so he could continue to improve. She went through the tape with frame-by-frame detail. Gordon was responsive and receptive.
“Elliott warned me it was a whole new game today.”
“What do you mean?”
“C’mon Charlie. When I started out, we had nothing like this. We could only look at dailies. And trying to see something over and over -- it just wasn’t done.”
“I’ve got to say, you’re really surprising me. I thought you’d be fighting me tooth and nail about doing this.”
“Look, we all have a lot at stake in this venture. I owe it to Elliott to do my best -- and I have to say, you certainly do know how to get that out of me. I’m actually quite impressed with you! You’ve been absolutely right about everything you’ve pointed out. I just have to get myself into the right place to give you the refinements. But don’t worry, I’ll get there.”
“Gordon, you can’t imagine how great that is to hear!” Charlie glanced out the window, caught a glimpse of Candlestick Park. The limo proceeded south on 101 to San Francisco International. She turned back to the TV, pointed the remote at the VCR.
“Now let’s take a look at the very end of the interview Gordon, when Pia went off script. Let me know what you think about this . . .”
Charlie felt she had lost Gordon’s attention. She glanced over at him.
“Driver, stop the car!” Gordon looked out the window at something on the side of the road.
Charlie bolted upright. “What are you saying?”
Gordon pounded his fist on the roof of the limo. “Driver, stop this thing! Pull over now! Now!”
Charlie felt the limo swerve to the right, start slowing. “What are you doing? We’ve got a plane to catch.”
She grabbed his shoulder, leaned over to see what had captured his attention. He rolled down the window, looked out behind the limo. He opened the door.
“For Christ’s sake, Gordon, wait for the damn car to stop. What’s going on?!”
“Stop the damn car now!” He threw the door open, leapt from the rear seat. The limo slid to a halt in the gravel of the freeway shoulder. Charlie rolled onto the floor. She rose to her knees, peeked out the open door. Gordon trotted down the shoulder toward a car that was pulled over, off the roadway.
Charlie crawled to the open door, pulled herself up to the seat, scooted out of the car. She looked back to see the driver. He had stepped out and was looking back over at Gordon and the other vehicle. Charlie waved at him. He shrugged.
What the hell is he doing now? Charlie trudged through the gravel on the freeway shoulder toward the other vehicle. Gordon was talking to the driver through the window. Charlie couldn’t tell what year vehicle it was only that it was one of those old, bulbous cars from the 50’s. A couple of the guys in high school had similar looking cars. Mercury’s? What the hell Gordon was doing?
She reached the vehicle. Gordon had opened the hood, pulled something off the top of the engine.
“Just what do you think you’re doing, Gordon James? We’ve got a plane to catch. We’re on a schedule here with important things to do!”
Gordon held a blackish round thing with wires coming out of it in his right hand. He looked over his shoulder at the fuming Charlie.
“Charlie, this is Mrs. Murphy. Her car stalled and she’s stranded here. She needed our help, or I guess I should say, my help.”
“Gordon, you’re an actor, not a mechanic.”
“Correction, Charlie girl, I was a mechanic before I was an actor! Now look in your purse and grab me a book of matches. And why don’t you introduce yourself to Mrs. Murphy, please!”
Charlie huffed. “Like I brought my purse with me as I strolled down the freeway. Gordon, I damn near fell out of the car while it was moving!”
Gordon stopped, looked at Charlie. “I told him to stop and he was taking too much time. Now will you quit this princess act and ask Mrs. Murphy if she has a match book in her purse?”
“What do you need a matchbook for? This is a car engine. Won’t it blow up if you light a match around it.”
Gordon looked at her, repeated her words in sing-song sarcasm. “Won’t it blow up if you light a match? Of course not! I just need the cover anyway, not the matches. And ask her for an emery board, too.”
“You heard me, just do it!”
Charlie walked to the driver’s door of the car. She was buffeted by the wind of the passing cars and trucks. She glanced in the window. The sweetest looking elderly lady sat intently behind the steering wheel, her hands clasped patiently on her lap. Her gray-blue hair was neatly coiffed in ringlets. She wore a cardigan sweater over her blue print dress with lace collar and bodice. Charlie tapped on the glass.
Mrs. Murphy jumped. She rolled the window down. “My goodness! You startled me, young lady. I was just sitting here thinking how lucky I was that God sent me such a sweet young man to help me in my time of need.”
“Thank you so much for letting your man stop and help me. And you all have such a big beautiful car. You must be very important people. You must have so many other things to do than help a silly old woman stranded on the side of the road.”
“Not at all, Mrs. Murphy, we’re very happy to help. My friend asked me to see if you have a book of matches and an emery board in your purse. Apparently he needs them for your car.”
Mrs. Murphy smiled up at Charlie, reached for her purse on the seat next to her.
“A match book and an emery board to fix a car? Men, they just know all sorts of magic tricks, don’t they. Wait till I tell the girls at the bridge party!”
Charlie braced herself against the car to help steady herself against the wind buffeting. She watched Mrs. Murphy carefully rummage through her purse.
“Oh, here’s the emery board!” She handed it to Charlie. “I know I have some matches in here. They’re probably at the very bottom.” Mrs. Murphy glanced up at Charlie with a smirk on her face that looked for a moment like a young school girl’s. “You know how we little old ladies are. We carry everything in our purses.” She bowed over the gaping purse as though she were going to stick her head into the opening. She raised up. Victorious smile. “Ahh, here we are. A book of matches. And you already have the emery board.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Murphy. I’ll go give these to Gordon.” Charlie turned, felt a tug on her hand. Charlie looked at the soft, wrinkled fingers lightly touching hers. Mrs. Murphy looked up, waved with her right hand for Charlie to lean back to her.
“Did I hear you say Gordon?”
“Yes, I did, Mrs. Murphy. That’s the name of the guy who’s helping you.”
“Any luck with the matches and emery board, Charlie?” Gordon bellowed.
“Yeah, she has ‘em!”
“Well, give ’em here!”
Gordon straightened up from under the hood, stretched out his hand toward Charlie. He smiled at Mrs. Murphy. Charlie stepped forward, plopped the items in his open palm. Gordon leaned back under the hood.
Charlie stepped back to Mrs. Murphy. “Is that the Gordon I think he is?”
“What Gordon do you think he is?”
“Well, that sure looks like he could have been that movie star from the 60’s -- that Gordon James. Do you think that is possible? He was such a handsome young man -- and so sexy.”
“Why Mrs. Murphy! You were a fan of Gordon James?”
“Oh, why yes! I was a big fan. In fact, I used to buy my husband shirts that reminded me of Gordon James, God rest his soul. I always felt a little more, you know, rambunctious when he wore a shirt that I had seen Gordon James wearing. Is that really him?”
“Actually, Mrs. Murphy, it is. That’s the same Gordon James!”
Charlie watched her cheeks flush with red. “My, my, my. My bridge girls will never believe this. They’ll just never believe this. And I just saw him yesterday on that talk show.”
“You watched Gordon’s interview yesterday?”
“Well of course, I did, sweetheart. When I saw Gordon James was going to be on it, I had to watch. It’s been so long since I’ve heard about him -- and he’s looking so handsome still.”
“I can’t believe you tuned in to watch Gordon!”
Mrs. Murphy motioned for Charlie to come closer to her face. Charlie leaned down. “I might be 83, young lady, but I’m not dead yet. A handsome man is still a handsome man. And Gordon James will always bring a twinkle to my eye. Do you think I could get his autograph? Do you think he would mind? I mean, the bridge sisters wouldn’t believe me if I just told them what happened.”
“Not to worry, Mrs. Murphy. I’ll take care of you. I’ll be right back.”
Charlie turned away from the door, stepped up to Gordon. He was still leaning over the front fender into the engine bay. “Everything working out with the matches and emery board, MacGyver?”
“I’m getting it together, Charlie. Where you going?”
“Back to the limo to take care of a fan of yours. I gotta hand it to you, Gordo, you continue to amaze me!”
Charlie strode back to the limo. The driver drove it in reverse to meet her. The rear door was still open.
Charlie stuck her head into the rear compartment. “Thanks for saving me the walk! I just need to get some things for Mrs. Murphy.” Charlie opened her satchel, pulled out a picture of Gordon and a black marker. “Can you believe this 83 year old lady is still a fan of Gordon’s?”
She looked at the driver through the opened partition. He turned toward her, saw she was pulling out a picture, smiled broadly.
“Actually, ma’am, I know I’m not supposed to do this, but since you got ‘em, could I get one of those for my mama? She’d be delighted to have one -- and she would kill me if I told her who I drove today and didn’t come back with something for her -- so I know exactly what you mean. I can believe that little old lady is a fan.”
“Hey, no problem. I’m the one with the problem.” Charlie shook her head. She pulled out another photo, leaned over to the partition, handed the picture to the driver. “Now make sure you remind me to have Gordon sign it.”
“Oh you, bet, Ms. Fender. I certainly won’t forget to do that. Now why don’t you just sit down and I’ll back you up to the other car.”
“That’s a deal. Thank you.”
Charlie jumped into the rear seat and pulled the door to. The driver backed the limo right in front of Mrs. Murphy’s ‘53 Mercury. Charlie stepped from the limo with the picture and marker. She saw Gordon step from the open hood. The engine roared to life. Satisfaction filled his face. Charlie walked up to him.
“An emery board and a matchbook.” She stepped passed him to the driver’s window.
“Yup!” Gordon stepped to the window with Charlie. “Now, Mrs. Murphy, your points in your distributor are badly worn. I filed them down and re-set the gap. But you have to get a tune-up very soon. Do you think you can do that?”
“Why yes, young man, I certainly can do that. How can I ever thank you?”
“Oh, Mrs. Murphy, it was just my pleasure. You remind me of my mother. I just wanted to help. Now you can take care of this tune-up now, can’t you. I mean,” Gordon looked quickly at Charlie. “You’re okay financially. You can afford this?”
Mrs. Murphy blushed. “You’re so sweet to ask. Yes, I’m well pensioned. It was just something I had overlooked. But I’ll do it right away.”
“Please do, Mrs. Murphy, because I’m leaving town very soon and won’t be able to help you again.” Gordon reached to touch her shoulder through the car window, refrained. His hands were covered in engine dirt. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, placed it in his palm, gestured for Mrs. Murphy’s hand. She gave it to him. Gordon grasped it gently, pressed his lips to it tenderly. Mrs. Murphy sighed.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mrs. Murphy. Now you be a good girl from now on.” Gordon turned to walk back to the limo.
“Hey, not so fast, movie star.” Charlie handed Gordon the picture and the marker. He signed it on the closed hood of the car. “Who do I make to?”
Mrs. Murphy pulled at Charlie’s sleeve. “What did he ask? I can’t really hear with all the cars going by.”
“Oh, he asked to whom he should make it.”
“Tell him to make it to AnnaBelle. My name is AnnaBelle Murphy.”
“Write it to AnnaBelle, Gordon.”
“Right -oh!” He finished with a flourish, handed the photo to Charlie.
“I’m going to try and clean up in the limo.” Gordon waved bye to Mrs. Murphy, stepped to the limo, climbed in.
Charlie handed the photo to Mrs. Murphy. “Now you be safe, Mrs. Murphy. And you be sure to see Gordon’s new movie. It’ll be out in a couple of weeks.”
“Why thank you so much,” Mrs. Murphy carefully took the photo, looked at the signature, turned it over. Smudged finger prints. “Look, I even have his finger prints. Oh, what a glorious day this turned out to be. My bridge sisters will never believe this. Thank you so much, young lady. I haven’t been to the picture show in years, but you can bet I’ll go see our Gordon.”
Charlie smiled, turned to leave. She felt another tug on her sleeve. Charlie leaned back to Mrs. Murphy. “Now you take care of our Gordon. He’s a sweet man.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Murphy. I will look after him -- and we learn something new everyday, don’t we.”
“Come on, Charlie!” Gordon shouted from the limo. “We’re on a schedule! We’ve got a plane to catch! Let’s get moving.”
Charlie looked up, shook her head, stepped to the rear driver’s side of the limo. We’ve got plenty more planes to catch. She slipped into the seat, closed the door. Plenty more planes to catch.
This concludes your eight chapter preview of “Glitzbiz.”
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