The Universal Grill at Universal Studios was crowded, and Stan was fifteen minutes early. Erik, the maître ’d, had been kind enough to seat him anyway and the wait was made more tolerable by the companionship of a vodka on the rocks. He nodded now and then to familiar faces, willing them not come over to the table. He was in no mood to have a forced conversation.
The only person he wanted to talk to now was Jennie, the one person who would understand—a fact that would sound strange to anyone who knew him for the dyed-in-the-wool chauvinist that he was. He wasn’t sure if the film business bred them, or if chauvinists were attracted to the business because the multitude of beautiful, untalented, ambitious, so-called actresses made it easy for men to use and discard them like so much soiled toilet paper. On second thought, it was undoubtedly the same in any business.
If women thought they could get what they wanted by making themselves available for their boss or forced themselves to put up with unwanted advances out of fear of losing their jobs, then that’s what some women were going to do. They would make it rough for decent, hardworking women like Jennie. Of course, he could never reveal that kind of traitorous thinking to Sonny and Maury and the rest of the New York contingent at the studio. With those guys, the only accepted mode of behavior was getting loaded after work, hitting on barhops, and talking macho bullshit all evening before going home to the wife and passing out. Bedding down an occasional actress who wanted her SAG-AFTRA card in the worst way was par for the course. He himself had enjoyed introducing several actresses to the Screen Actors Guild—a practice he had cut down on drastically since he married Lila.
No, having a meaningful discussion about your fears and insecurities was not something you did with Sonny and the rest of them unless you wanted to become the butt of jokes for the next ten years. Better to talk to Jennie, who he knew would understand and care. He smiled to himself. If his best friend was a woman, maybe he wasn’t the chauvinist they thought he was or used to be. The slim possibility was there.
As an actress, Jennie was mediocre; as a friend, there was no one better. She would do a lot better in the business if she would just concentrate on her behind-the-camera skills and forget about acting but she wanted too badly to perform, and he had stopped trying to dissuade her. He wanted her to be happy, so whenever a small, undemanding role came up, he would let her audition and hope she wasn’t too disappointed that he never considered her for the larger parts she craved.
Stan glanced anxiously at his watch. He had to be back on the set in an hour and a half. They were shooting the last few location scenes of the season of his cop show, Tanner, in a nightclub downtown and traffic on the Hollywood freeway would be murder. Moe Tayler, his transportation captain, had volunteered to take him back to the studio to look at dailies and have lunch. Moe could give you a heart attack the way he wove in and out of traffic, but you knew you would get where you were going on time and this way he could spend more time with Jennie.
Moe had also witnessed the ugly scene in Stan’s trailer this morning when Howard had caught Stan taking a hit. The self-righteous bastard had exploded and threatened to fire Stan off the feature and reveal the reason why, if he had to. Howard was making a big deal out of nothing. Stan had made sure there was no one around before taking out the cocaine. It had just been bad luck that Howard had chosen that moment to look for him and had seen him slip surreptitiously into his mobile home. Moe had been following Stan to ask a question about one of his drivers and had heard every word. But he was no problem since, up until last week, it had been one of Moe’s relatives from Las Vegas who was his main supplier. This was before Lila went ballistic in front of everybody. Howard, however, had the power to destroy him, and Stan had to beg and plead and call on all their years of friendship to get him to agree for Stan to stay on. On top of that, he had to promise to lay off cocaine as long as they were in production, and Stan knew that was impossible. He would just have to be a lot more discreet and not get caught next time.
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