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Authors: Susan Isaacs

Tags: #Fiction, #General

Magic Hour (10 page)

BOOK: Magic Hour
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"She really got to Santana?"

"Got to him? She had him in a chain collar, on a leash. 'Roll over, Victor. Good boy! Stay!' A
for the rest of the company. The first week, Victor was very strong, full of ideas, energy, really exciting to work with. And actually giving Lindsay a rough time because from day one—well, day three or four—he was under the gun. Sy was not happy with Miss Keefe's work. Naturally, Lindsay being Lindsay, she
picked up that the balance of power had shifted—away from her. She needed a new ally. So she sniffed out Victor's weakness.
her greatest gift, finding a guy's most sensitive area."

"What was Santana's?"

"Oh ... being allowed to live in Movieland. I mean, Victor Santana was a damn good cinematographer and then moved to directing. He's directed two really well-received films, right? But beneath his 'I'm so sophisticated' facade he's still wide-eyed about being in the business. Deep down, he can't even believe he made it out of East Harlem. And here's Lindsay, with her classical-theater background and her Commie Chic reputation and her half-naked
Vanity Fair
. Supremo nympho. The only guys who get into her are
lefties—or very heavy hitters with a net worth of at least fifty mil. So Victor thinks: If the same woman who screws the world's most interesting men—that Latvian novelist, Fidel Castro's minister of defense, Sy Spencer—well, if she wants to screw me, I must be in their league."

"How did she get Sy? What was his weakness?"

"Oh, easy. Sy was the ultissimo intellectual snob. And even though she manages to take off most of her clothes in every movie she makes, Lindsay is still considered a very serious actor; she's convinced everybody she's getting naked as an
to the First Amendment. She gets brilliant reviews in all the right little magazines—the ones with French names and cheapo paper—and the big ones too. And she was politically correct on Nicaragua before anyone else knew you were even supposed to think about a Nicaragua. Also, she's a genuine beauty. No plastic surgery. And that for-real blond hair."

"No shit. The hair's real?"

"I've been told by highly placed sources that the bottom ... it's a match."

"Wow." Then I said: "Okay, we'd better get back to the dailies business. Did Sy see them all the time?"

"He had to. First of all, he genuinely cared. And also, they were the only way to monitor his investment."

"Did he ever say anything about being dissatisfied?"

"No. I mean, it depends on the director, but usually it's not just the inner circle at dailies. There's the director of photography, the writer, cameramen, sound men, assistant directors, production assistants, hair and makeup, set designer. The whole cast and crew, if they feel like it. Usually about fifteen people show up, sit around, stuff their faces with trail mix and watch. So Sy—who prided himself on his classiness—wouldn't sit and bitch about Lindsay in front of an audience." The skin around Nicholas's eyes glistened, almost raccoonlike, in the fluorescence. At first I'd thought it was some weird trick of the light. Then I realized it was face cream.

"So how did you know he wasn't happy with her?"

"Well, one day about a week ago, we'd been shooting
late. Hardly anyone came to dailies. Most people, Santana included, were wiped; they got the hell out the second after the lights came on. I was kind of hanging around, wanting to get a minute with Sy to talk about something—"


"I forget. I'm sure it was nothing important. In any case, Sy starts letting loose to a few of his people. Not loud, and not even angry, which shows you how under control he was, because when you looked at Lindsay up on that screen it was like looking at Big-Tit Barbie. I mean, not one single spark of life. Anyway, Sy was supercool, just kidding about the scene and what a fortune it was going to cost to have an effects man add lightning, and did we really need lightning. Everybody started talking about lightning. All of a sudden, Sy laughs and says how the best thing that could happen to this movie would be if lightning struck
. Then he said, 'Just kidding.' But naturally, everybody knew what he meant."

"What did he mean?"

"If anything really happened to her? It's what the moneymen always say when one performer is crapping up a movie; if lightning struck, the completion guarantors—the insurers—would have to pay so they could begin production again with another actress. Sy was being lighthearted, but the subtext was: Forget the two-hearts-that-beat-as-one shit; he wished to hell he could be rid of her." Nicholas paused. He was working up to something big. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Finally, he got it out: "Can I call you Steve?"

I wasn't any actor, but I flashed my most engaging cop-friend smile. "Yeah, sure."

He smiled back. "And you call me Nick. Now, Steve, just between us. About Sy's wanting to get rid of Lindsay. This last week, I think Sy
have been taking meetings off the set." Nick had heavy eyebrows. He lifted them significantly. "Do you get my drift?"

"He had someone else?"

"I'm not sure. But you could see Lindsay trying too hard to please him, and him not interested in getting pleased. I mean, she'd put an arm around him, and he'd put his arm around her. The movements were right, but hell, I'm an actor. Why do I get the big bucks? Because I'm intuitive. I
body language, and his was saying, 'I have a headache tonight, dear.' "

"Maybe he was just upset about her performance."

"Maybe. But the first two weeks, he'd always be sniffing around her, hanging around the set most of the day. He knew then that she wasn't doing her best work, but he was so goddamn hot for her he couldn't be angry. I mean, you should have seen him: canned heat. But suddenly he's looking at his watch. He's leaving by eleven."

"Did you hear any talk—vague rumors, even—about this from anyone?"

"No. It's just my theory." Nicholas the Graceful stood up, stretching his arms, and—whammo—slammed his hand against the wall. He sat down again and pretended his knuckles weren't throbbing. "Listen, can I
trust you, Steve?"

"You bet." I leaned forward and gave him a light, male-bonding arm punch. "You know you can."

"You know Katherine Pourelle?"

"The actress? Yeah, sure."

"This is not for public consumption, but I used to have a thing with her, when we were both starting out. She was living with this guy from ICM. Her agent, in fact. Well, she was more than living with him. She was married to him. Anyhow, we had this big love, big breakup, big hate. But last winter we met in Vail. New husband—real estate developer. New agent. But you know what goes down. We stopped being silly and became ... I guess you'd call it friends." I assumed what he was trying to tell me was that he fucked Katherine Pourelle in Vail while her husband was out schussing. I gave him what I hoped was a knowing smile. "Well, I got a call from her Tuesday night. From L.A. She wanted to know what was with the production. At first I thought she'd heard about how lousy Lindsay was doing and just wanted to dish. Kat
Lindsay and
to dish. She did a play with her, years ago. Everybody who ever worked with Lindsay
her. Fine, I figured, so we talked about Lindsay and Santana, how he was her first non-Commie Hispanic. Oh, and about how Lindsay always closes her eyes when the director is talking, like she's concentrating on the voice of God, and how you wish you could smack her. Anyway, we had this long, really great talk, but there was something left unsaid. I could
it. I mean, Steve, I earn my living by being open to feelings."

"Right," I said encouragingly.

"So I said to her: 'Come on, Kat. Tell me what you heard.' So she makes me swear not to tell a soul. She'd gotten a call from Sy that morning!"


"He asked if she would give
Starry Night
an overnight read.
. Do you get what I'm saying?"

"He wanted her to look at the part Lindsay was playing?"

"You got it!" Nick said. "I think Sy knew that this was a potential twenty-million-dollar catastrophe.
I think he'd also found himself someone with blonder hair, or
plus grande
boobies. Lindsay had lost her hold on him. You know what, Steve? I think Sy was getting ready to pull the plug on Lindsay."

When Lynne took me on, she knew we had a lot going for us. I wanted what she wanted: love, companionship, a family, plus—since she seemed to average one marriage proposal every two weeks—a chance to stick it to her stick-up-the-ass family. But in taking me on, she knowingly, willingly and of her own free will bought the whole package: recovering alcoholic (to say nothing of a guy with a former fondness for pot, hash, barbiturates and heroin), recovered fucker-arounder, about-to-be-old fart, compulsive runner, workaholic. Her acceptance of me was absolute, unquestioning.

Was she perfect? No. She was a pain in the ass about order, the type who in sixth grade would have won Neatest Three-Ring Binder. I was neat; she was nuts. She had to restrain herself from making the bed the minute I got up to go to the bathroom. She actually inspected her pencils every night to make sure they were all sharpened for the next day. Lynne's idea of wild spontaneity was going out for a nude moonlight swim—after she finished her lesson plan but before the eleven o'clock news. Still, as much as I bitched about it, deep down, her order comforted me. I needed a structured life filled with perfect pencil points and lights out immediately after Johnny Carson's monologue. Her imperfections turned out to be virtues.

So why was I less than wild with happiness? Why couldn't I accept Lynne without reservation, the way she'd accepted me? How come I couldn't say: Sure, she's a little serious, but who gives a shit with that hair, those legs? Why was I wasting time worrying that I wasn't one hundred percent ecstatic? Wasn't ninety-nine percent enough? What was wrong with me? She had five million sterling qualities. Why was I zeroing in on the one she lacked? Why the hell was I waiting for Fun?

It wasn't that Lynne didn't have a sense of humor. She did. But it was a sense of other people's humor. She'd smile whenever I'd say something even mildly clever. She'd laugh at Eddie Murphy and Woody Allen movies, at my friend Marty McCormack's stupid minister-rabbi-priest jokes (where the priest, naturally, always got the punch line) and at any attempt at comedy by any member of grades K through 6 at Holy Spirit Academy, especially her kids, the ones with learning disabilities.

What Lynne lacked was liveliness. I knew it wasn't fair to hold it against her. It was like saying to a woman, I want you to be five foot two and built like a brick shithouse, when she is, in fact, tall and willowy.

Still, I couldn't shake the low feeling that had come over me on the blanket in my backyard the day before. More than disappointment, less than dread. I didn't know what the hell it was. But there I was, taking a phone break, my feet up on the Xerox machine, making it worse—giving her an opening I knew she didn't have the capacity to fill. "Okay, who do you think is sexier? Me or Nicholas Monteleone?"

And as Lynne, predictably, was responding, "You," I found myself ashamed of myself for wanting: "Are you
? Nicholas Monteleone!"

She asked: "Is he a nice person?"

"Yeah. Friendly; a good talker for someone who speaks other people's lines for a living. When I finished questioning him, I felt: Too damn bad he has to leave; he's great company. But he's so terrific that you start wondering whether it's him or it's an act. Like, if he thought that running around the room and imitating an aardvark would put him in a better light with Homicide, would he forget the congeniality bit and start licking up ants?"

"What do you think?"

"Ants," I said. I looked at my watch. It was after five. "Listen, honey, were you counting on lobster?"

"No, but that's what you told me you were counting on."

"Did you melt the butter?"

"No, of course not. And you didn't buy the lobsters. I know you. I know you so well that right now I know I'm going to have a Lean Cuisine and then about ten you'll pop in—just to say hello."

"I'm a very friendly guy."

"Guess what? You won't be able to be too friendly. My roommates are home tonight."

"Shit. All right, if I get finished by ten, ten-thirty, can I pick you up and take you over to my place?"

Just as Lynne was saying, "Okay, but not too late a night, because I have a huge pile of test results for next year's kids I have to go through," a Southampton Village cop appeared at the door with a surprise guest: Gregory J. Canfield.

Gregory gaped at the room, slack-jawed, trying to register everything, as if the decor—including the brown-stained hot plate of the Mr. Coffee machine and me with my feet up—was going to be the subject of his final in Advance Set Design at NYU film school. Now that there was no corpse to upset his delicate balance, he was Mr. Movie

I said, "People. Speak to you later," to Lynne and "Thanks" to the cop who'd shown Gregory in. Then I hung up, swung my feet off the Xerox machine and told Gregory to sit. But he barely got through the door when he stopped short. You could see his mind moving in for a close-up; he stood before the bulletin board, staring at a yellowing FBI Most Wanted list, at hand-printed signs offering Doberman-mix puppies, an '81 Datsun 280 ZX and a model 12 Winchester pump-action shotgun, probably wishing someone else from NYU was there to share this Moment of Authenticity.

"Okay, now you know what lower middle class looks like, Gregory. Time to sit down." He did. "You're here to help me. Right?"

He nodded. He looked slightly less repulsive than the day before, mainly because instead of baggy shorts, he was wearing baggy slacks. His skeletal white legs, with their bulbous kneecaps, were covered. "I remembered what I couldn't remember last night."

"Great," I replied. I waited. He was staring at my holster, which was clipped onto my belt. "You remembered something?"

BOOK: Magic Hour
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