That's Show Biz!
The Hollywood Station Riot, as it was to become known in Tinseltown lore, (and which I inadvertently incited), served to increase exponentially Tina's already high level of notoriety. Although the court was allowing her to reside in Las Vegas between court hearings, she still had to remain in LA to finish filming her scenes in Blow Like the Wind. To evade bothersome papparazzi and tabloid reporters in the meantime, Tina accepted Marta's and Alex's invitation to stay at their mansion, located near LA within the wealthy gated community of Rolling Hills Estates. Before finally driving back to Las Vegas, Angie and I spent Tina's first night of freedom there with her. The three of us gave the enormous bed in her guest room a hard workout late into the night (at least until Lamar had his inevitable screaming fit). Next morning after breakfast, while Angie was trying to sweet-talk Alex into donating a large contribution to her America Votes For Freedom committee, Tina and I took a leisurely walk on a winding path through the estate's immaculately manicured Japanese gardens. Looking out at the slate-blue, gently rolling Pacific Ocean far below us, I glumly told her, “I'm really sorry I got you into this mess, Amazon - and all of the other messes, for that matter.”
She snickered and replied, “Mama always said you'd ruin my life.” Then she took my hand in hers while we strolled and said, a little more seriously: “We've had this discussion before, Herc. It wasn't your fault. If I got a lotta problems right now, it's only 'cause I brought 'em on myself. Y'know, every time somethin' bad would happen, you always told me, 'if only we'd stayed in Seattle, everything would be cool', but how do you know that? No regrets, Herc - if we had stayed there, we might be dead by now, who knows.” Her mood plunging suddenly, she said with quavering voice, “Lord, I still can't believe he's dead, dead! I ain't never been as drunk as I was that night.” She slowly shook her head. “Tsk - man, I flipped-out over fuckin' nothin'. And with a baby to take care of - what a rotten mother I am!” She then surprised me by leaning into me, weeping on my chest. I doubted she had ever cried more than a few times in her adult life.
I held her tightly and tried to soothe her. “It was just an accident, honey,” (although it hadn't been entirely accidental). “Donna liked to shoot heroin into his leg veins – that's what really killed him.” I had nearly managed to convince myself with that statement. “I'm gonna do everything possible to make sure you don't spend another day in jail. You've never been in trouble with the law before, so the judge'll probably go easy on you and give you probation.“
With a heavy sigh, she said, “I always swore I'd never fall for all that Hollywood bool-shit – what a joke that is now.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Amazon - I swore to myself that I'd never take a government job.”
She giggled in spite of misty tears. “Oh, shut-up, Hercules. You an' yer corny-ass humor.”
“Well? Do you still want to make movies?”
“Maybe. The way things are goin', I won't ever be able to get a normal job anymore, or even good modeling gigs. But I ain't gonna sign any more movie contracts unless I get paid a lotta money in a short time – before I get the fuck out completely. I already told Jimmy that.”
I glanced at my cheap digital watch. “I wonder if Jim's gonna show before we have to leave. Angie and I need to get back to Vegas this afternoon.” I rather hoped to slip away to avoid being subjected to another one of Jim's sales spiels.
Right after we returned to the main house, a triumphant Angie waved a $20,000 personal check under my nose. She gleefully announced, “Success!” After a quick kiss, she told me, “Hey, Jimmy called while you were outside. He's on his way over.”
I turned to Tina and said, “Your contract is up for renegotiation soon, so if he asks me for money to finance a movie, I'm gonna try to take him to the cleaners this time – assuming we make a deal at all.”
Evidently, she lacked confidence in my ability to negotiate a business deal. “Herc, if you don't get me a big-ass payday outta this, yer fired.”
Ten minutes later, Jim Walters' black, 1941 Lincoln Continental convertible rolled up to the front of the ivy-covered mansion. He appeared to be in a better mood than the last time I saw him, on the day after Donna died. On that occasion, he was having a panic attack because he now had to write Donna's role out of the movie or hire a replacement, and either choice entailed the expensive re-shooting of many scenes. But now he seemed back to his usual dapper, pencil-thin mustached self, dressed as he was in a canary-yellow suit with matching patent leather loafers, plus a purple ascot and scarlet beret, looking like a gay Hollywood directors from the 1930s – not unexpectedly, as he was gay.
Marta's maid Serena opened the front door and Jim made is usual grand, gesticulating entrance. Tina greeted him with, “Looking stylish as always, sweet boy.”
Jim hugged her and said, “Kiss-kiss, baby girl. What's my jailbird superstar up to today?”
Tina grumbled contritely, “Stayin' outta trouble – for good.”
“Tut-tut! Now don't go to extremes, Amazon Woman. A little bad publicity never hurt anybody. So, are you ready to go back to work?” Tina nodded and Jim then said, “Wonderful! I need everybody at the studio by 6am tomorrow.” Then he draped an arm around my shoulders and whispered, “Big Fella, could we have a little private discussion for a minute?”
“Yeah, let's go into Alex's study and talk.”
As we settled into leather armchairs in the book-filled study, Jim chuckled and said, “Heavens, that was the greatest unintentional publicity stunt ever when those protesters' set their signs on fire! Every time those goons show up, my movies get tons of media exposure - the TV news must have mentioned Blow Like the Wind a hundred times in the past three days! It's a perfect time to invest - “
I held up the palms of my hands. “Whoa, wait, Jimmy. Before I put any money in, I need to know a few things: What are you gonna do about replacing Donna?”
“Well, at first I thought it was gonna be a disaster, but I've had time to think about it and came to the conclusion that I can just use the miles of footage I already have of him, dub-over his voice and use a body double for missing scenes– filming his character from behind and so forth. That will save about two-million in production costs.”
I was stunned. “Wow – really? Isn't that going to create a big stink with the public? Using a dead guy to promote the movie?”
“Did the producers of Giant have any compunction about doing the same thing when James Dean died? Hell, no! And how about when Vic Morrow got his head sliced off by a helicopter during the filming of The Twilight Zone movie? The show must go on, Barrymore.”
Copyright 2013 by K.D. Bishop