Category Archives: Starlets

Shimmy 3

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part Two

by Maya Sloan

The Burlesque starlet must seduce this new sophisticated film-savvy audience. 1,845 words. Part One. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1937

One hour till open. I stretch out my arms, brace myself on the wall and find my center of gravity. Then I wiggle a little and take a deep breath, sucking in the tummy. I give the signal. A few tugs, and I re-adjust by wiggling again. Breathe, suck, signal. Another round. Another.

“Harder,” I tell my new maid. On the signal, she gives a sad little tug. Nothing can be sad today. Nothing can be little. This is Hollywood and, after a month of focus, late night rehearsals and a sleepless tech run, costume fittings and interviews, the audience will rush for their seats and I’ll be in front of them. But, for now, there’s still work to be done.

“Better, dearie,” I say, biting my tongue. I can’t have her bawling; that would throw off the whole schedule. “But this time, put more oomph into it. They’re not apron strings, if you catch my drift.”

A slight lift of my chin, giving the signal. I brace myself, and… nothing. I glance over my shoulder, and she’s just standing there like a dumb hick, mouth gaping open, limp laces hanging from each hand.

“What’s the problem?” I ask, trying not to blow my lid.

“I don’t want to hurt you!” she squeaks. “Isn’t it painful?”

“Don’t worry about that,” I soothe. “You gotta wear your pain like high heels, understand? That’s how it is in this biz. Besides, no one was ever corseted to death.”

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Shimmy 1

Shimmy Into The Picture
Part One

by Maya Sloan

A Burlesque starlet finds herself at the center of a Hollywood seduction. 2,678 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City – 1937

I’d never met Millsap myself, or believed anyone who claimed they had.

Marvin Millsap – Boy Wonder, Burly Q Impresario, The Titan Of West Coast Tease – was as elusive as his success. While the Minsky brothers were never afraid to talk up their game, working the scene from Friar’s to Mulberry Street, Millsap was as elusive around Tinseltown as a ghost. Not that I cared for the Minskys so much, despite the hype. In fact, I avoided them like a plague, keeping to the occasional one-nighter gig in their Burlesque theatres if the price and terms were right for a limited engagement. They weren’t a fan of yours truly, either, or so went the talk. “Hot on the stage,” Billy Minsky was rumored to say, “but ice cold bitch in everyday life.”

To be fair, he was right. We all have our charms.

But Millsap? He was a different story, the kind that changed depending on who did the telling. Bootlegger money, said some. Inherited green. Murder Inc. wiseguy, big in the shylock biz. I’d heard he was a Rockefeller. That was the thing about show business: you heard a lot. But most of it? Just an illusion. Cheap scenery and a trick of the lights.

One thing, for sure: when it came to a Millsap show, money flowed like the Niagara. He’d only been on the scene for a couple of years but had made quite an impression. New York might have been the soul of Burlesque, but since Millsap landed in Hollywood, he’d given 42nd Street a run for its money.

That’s why, when I first heard the rumors of a new show six months earlier, I knew where the train was running. A spectacle! An extravaganza that would put the Big Apple to shame! The girls were in a tizzy, talking everybody’s ears off. But the one thing they wouldn’t say? A slot on Millsap’s roster was just a tiny step from a face up there on the big screen. The secret showgirl fantasy was a starring role in picture shows. Of the few who’d been scouted by casting directors, flown out for screen tests, even shot the forgettable cameo from time to time, they’d inevitably came back tail between their legs.

As for me, I had no comment. Unlike my contemporaries who’d never shut up – Gypsy Rose, for instance, or should I say homely Rose Hovick of Seattle Washington? – I believed less was more. At least when it came to my words.

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Western Spaghetti

Western Spaghetti

by Matthew Licht

An American screenwriter becomes entangled with a zealous Italian film director. 2,780 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Rome, with the voice of all its sparkling fountains, said to me, You can’t leave. Los Angeles never spoke so imperiously. Or maybe she did, but since I was always in my car or in my office on the studio lot, I never heard the message.

In any case, I left.

Rome didn’t offer me a job, or a place to live, or a Vespa to get around. Language was a hurdle, but before too long I could order a plate of spaghetti alla carbonara alongside Pasolinian primitives without drawing a second glance.

The San Calisto bar in Trastevere was a decent substitute for Schwab’s as a place to sit and watch the world go by. The management put rickety tables outside on fair afternoons and evenings. Pretty often, they left them out when it was lightly raining so the drunks could watch the rainbow skies and the fountains carved from travertine marble which gurgled within earshot. Rome’s water is tasteless, or maybe taste-free. But I’d never drunk anything half as refreshing.

A well-dressed perfumed young man stared through face-making eyeglasses. When he came over, I expected tentative pick-up overtures. Instead, he explained his film theory.

“When you ordered white wine, I knew that you are American. From the world of spectacle. This is synchronicity at work. An Italian-American director has usurped an autochthonous genre, with great success” – he was talking about Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece – “at roughly the same time that an Italian director attempted an American-style road movie, which, at least in my view, is a dismal failure.” Maybe Sergio Leone’s Giù La released the year before? “My mission is to re-appropriate and re-subvert a classic theme to re-ëstablish purity of form.”

Ah, he wanted to make a Western.

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JULES  AZENBERG 04

Tyrannis Rex
Part Three

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s challenge for Act Two is seamlessly threading the studio mogul’s public and private lives. 2,260 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

The second act of his screenplay, the Untitled Jules Azenberg Biopic – First Draft, gave Dave problems as second acts generally do. Determined to push ahead, he rose every morning at seven and, hangover or not, sat down at the typewriter with a pot of coffee and waited for his fingers to magically click into action. On a day when his hands just sat there stiffly poised on the keys and not a single coherent scene emerged, Dave took a break. He and his pal Joel Rodgers went out on the town for a movie, dinner and drinks at Trader Vic’s where Joel regaled him with the details of the latest showbiz scandal. Dave listened, but without much enthusiasm. Like most current gossip, it was graphic and tawdry and destroyed what little illusion was left about movie stars’ private lives. What was Hollywood without glamour? Without fantasy?

When the muse finally revisited Dave, she came equipped with a metaphor. Act Two opens with Jules at a gaming table tossing dice in a visual motif establishing the studio mogul as an inveterate gambler and a smart one at that. For Jules proves himself an expert crapshooter, knowing exactly how long to play, how high to raise the stakes, and when to walk away from the table.

By the early 1930s, his Argot Pictures is on a roll. Most of its B-movie competitors fall by the wayside, victims of the Depression. Argot slowly buys up all the rivals and establishes itself as a viable rival to the A-list studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Here, the script hones close to the real story by assigning Jules due credit. Given his brother Mort’s cautious nature, Argot might have survived the transition to sound but not the economic reversal of the times. It took more than business savvy to keep Argot afloat: it took Jules’ ingenuity and daring.

His risky gamble is to jump head-first into larger budget movies at a time when everyone else, including the established major studios, is cutting corners. And for that he needs an ally because Jules feels inferior to the task of convincing talent to sign with Argot rather than a more deep-pocketed institution like MGM. He needs someone with the polish and finesse to talk to theater types. So he enlists a celebrated and ceaselessly charming German-born director and appoints him vice president of production. It’s a curious choice and, at first, the board expresses concern that a creative type will run financially amuck.

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The Million Dollar Bikini 03

The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood private eye McNulty is probing a crime puzzler that’s more complex than a missing two-piece swimsuit. 2,782 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Guiding his El Dorado off the 101 Freeway in Hollywood and down Gower toward Sunset, McNulty put in a call to LAPD Lt. Tony Ventura. “That last location you gave me for Tabasco was old and cold. But I’ve got a pretty solid lead I’m following up now.”

For the past two hours, the Hollywood gumshoe had been canvasing Downtown L.A.’s pawn shops and pumping the brokers on the high-end for Tabasco’s whereabouts. McNulty was almost certain Ramon De Soto, the fence’s real name, was involved in the theft of long-ago actress Misty Marlowe’s billion dollar bikini from the Stardust Treasures auction house. The P.I. was well aware that many of the pawnbrokers were into hot merch themselves and might be inclined, for a price, to put a competitor like De Soto out of business. By the time McNulty got a good lead on the fence’s latest location, his wallet was $1,600 dollars lighter.

“So where is Tabasco?” Lt. Ventura demanded.

Laughing, McNulty responded, “He’s in the movie industry.”

According to McNulty’s snitch, Tabasco had set himself up in the property rental business and occupied office and storage space at the newly renovated Hollywood Global studios. “It’s not exactly the heart of Tinseltown,” McNulty joked, “but when you get to the spleen, turn right.”

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The Million Dollar Bikini 02

The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood P.I. McNulty pursues missing movie memorabilia only to find mystery and murder. 2,079 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As he approached the woman standing in the open doorway, McNulty nearly froze in his tracks. Though she was clearly in her early sixties, the wife of the legendary movie producer Nathan Grandstone was a much older and still strikingly attractive mirror image of dead Hollywood movie star Misty Marlowe.

“You’ll have to forgive the security guard,” Mrs. Grandstone smiled. “He’s become a bit overprotective since my husband’s stroke.” She ushered the Hollywood gumshoe inside and they retreated to the rear terrace where they seated themselves.  “Lt. Ventura said you were coming by. Something to do with Julian Hayvenhurst and the auction house selling Misty Marlowe’s swimsuit.”

“Just a formality,” McNulty said, unable to take his eyes from her face which was so much like the one on the iconic poster of Misty in the missing billion dollar bikini. If sixty was the new forty, he thought, she was living proof. At first he thought she was winking at him, but quickly realized it was a slight facial tic next to her right eye. “We just want to confirm that Mr. Hayvenhurst was here when the bikini was stolen.”

“Indeed he was,” she said, pouring cold lemonade into two tall glasses. “We were discussing the auction, as well as some of Misty’s other mementos we were thinking of offering at future sales. He was here until quite late.”

“Mind telling me how Misty’s belongings came to be in your possession?”

“Not at all. She left them to me in her will.”

“You’re a relative?”

“A very close one,” she said, a Mona Lisa smile creasing her lips. “I’m Misty’s sister. We were twins.”

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The Million Dollar Bikini 01A

The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The Hollywood gumshoe McNulty is on the case again, this time asked to search for his wet dream. 2,296 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


She was as iconic a sex symbol as any film goddess who had ever scorched the silver screen. Even now, some forty years after her mysterious and tragic suicide, Misty Marlowe with her statuesque allure and curvaceous figure was seared indelibly into the male, and a fair number of female, memories as well.

That she should perish in the cold embrace of the Pacific was somehow as sadly fitting as it was ironic. Everyone knew the genesis of Misty’s stardom had been her gasp-inducing debut in the low-budget B movie Neptune’s Nymph. Cast as an uninhibited seductress, Misty emerged from the sea in a glorious slow-motion shot glistening in a barely-there bikini. One critic was so taken with her ample bosom that he was compelled to observe rather cheekily how “newcomer Misty Marlowe is perfectly cast as the titular leading lady.”

That single bikini image had become an instant poster sensation and fifty-five years later was still producing more erections than an ADD kid with a box of Legos. For the last few weeks, Misty’s iconic swimwear was making worldwide headlines once again, accompanied by a photo of Misty in her scanty nymph costume: “MOVIE BABE’S BIKINI STOLEN FROM AUCTION HOUSE!” “COPS CONDUCT TOP TO BOTTOM SEARCH FOR STAR’S STOLEN BIKINI!” “HUNT FOR SEX SYMBOL’S BIKINI PETER’S OUT!” “LAPD ADMITS NO PROGRESS IN BIKINI THEFT!”

“Tits,” McNulty mused as he eyed the famous photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. “The mother’s milk of Hollywood.”

“Good line,” said the writer, tapping it into his iPad mini. “I’ll definitely use that. I’m the Boswell to your Johnson.

“Stop saying that,” McNulty demanded. “It sounds like you’re writing about my dick.”

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Falconer 3A New-ART-3

Falconer – Part Three
Creatively Speaking

by Jason Pomerance

The screenwriter is being watched and followed. Will a woman expose his crime or blackmail him? 2,546 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


In the dream, screenwriter Gavin Falconer struggled again with story analyst Dale Tomasis. They were in the dirt at the base of the deck. Dale threw Gavin to the ground, and then Gavin couldn’t move, as if he’d been paralyzed. He screamed and woke up, covered in sweat. He took a moment to catch his breath, then rose, naked, from the bed. He walked through his silent house. In the kitchen he downed a Xanax with a slug of Kettle One. He grabbed his laptop and headed outside. He took some deep breaths and gazed at lights twinkling up from below. It was dead silent in the hills, a good time to start writing.

He typed a slug line: EXT. DEEP SPACE – NIGHT.

He sat back and stared at the words and thought about his pitch of story analyst Dale’s idea. The first act covered so much ground, he wasn’t sure how to begin. He paced the length of the deck several times, then sat back down and began stabbing at the keys again.

“Lame!” he said out loud, deleting the opening paragraph.

He tried again. “Fuck!” he shouted, because these new words sucked, too. Then he remembered the flash drive from Dale’s desk. Gavin headed inside, found it and plugged it into his computer. Dale’s “Movie Ideas” came up on the screen. Gavin scanned through them but couldn’t find notes or even an outline. Jesus, Gavin thought, was that all this fucker had?

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Falconer 1a

Falconer – Part One
You Are Cordially Invited

by Jason Pomerance

A screenwriter needs another hit movie. Will he scheme it or steal it? 3,890 words. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Ilustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Up ahead, beneath twin palms swaying in a whispering hot breeze, Gavin Falconer could see a massive production — klieg lights crisscrossing the night sky, the blinking neon of the marquee, a line of gleaming black hybrids and town cars at the curb, and a Red Carpet sweeping into the theater.

Fuckers, Gavin thought as he got nearer. “Motherfuckers!” This he shouted out loud without even realizing it, until he noticed people ahead of him had turned to stare and were giving him wide berth, as if he was crazy. Well, he wasn’t crazy. He was a screenwriter, although some might equate the two. He was, however, in a foul state of mind, and when he realized his invitation didn’t include VIP parking, his mood grew even darker.

But he put on a big smile as he passed through security. He made his way up the Red Carpet and stepped into the lobby, a sea of sleek flesh in equally sleek outfits. He scanned the crowd for a familiar or friendly face. He found neither. He did spot Trish Danaher surrounded by an unwieldy entourage. He could go up and tell her he’d read her script and thought it was mediocre at best. But she already considered him a douche so he didn’t bother. He moved through the crowd toward the concession area. Kurt McCann was in front of him in line. Gavin recognized his agent by the sharp cut of his suit but said nothing, just stared and briefly imagining driving the pen in his pocket into Kurt’s skull. Then Kurt turned.

“Dude,” said Gavin, aiming to keep things light, “thought your assistant said you weren’t gonna show. You could’ve returned my call.”

Kurt aimed for light, too, even though his eyes were looking everywhere except at Gavin. “You know what? I changed my mind at the last minute. Got any pages for me? Because they’re getting antsy over at Netflix. You’re way past owing them a draft. I mean, like, breach-of-contract late.”

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Baby-Love72line

Baby Love

by Christopher Horton

A self-satisfied agent who stubbornly doesn’t want to change his life gets a surprise. 3,113 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Jack was looking through his picture window at the neon radiating up from the Sunset Strip below. It was getting tiring to be alone. Not that he noticed that often, and not that he was alone that often. In fact, hardly ever. He was supposed to be at some club tonight for an after-screening industry party. Nothing better to make you feel alone in public. Jack knew some European philosopher had gone on about this. But he couldn’t remember which one. His mother had been far less interested in philosophy than in Shakespeare. She had just turned sixty and was a professor of literature at a small New England college. Anyway, he really believed it would be nice to have someone he could trust. Maybe he should get out of the industry. Life didn’t seem to be getting any easier as Jack got older. And no matter how much he skipped thinking about starting a family, it leeched in anyway.

“Don’t you think it’s time to think about settling down with one woman?”

“Why? I already have a cat that interrupts me when I’m doing something I want to do.”

Jack’s mother laughed. She had a healthy sense of humor. She and Jack had always gotten along. At least after he’d grown up.  She was smarter than he was, but he had an advantage. She was his mother. No contest

“I’d like to have a grandchild to spoil in my dotage.”

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Stepping Stone FINAL

Acting Coach Unrequited

by Juliana Ashe

A Hollywood acting coach makes a dream offer to an inexperienced young woman. 2,958 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I had no idea who Erwin Eckelson was when I first met him. After I did understand, I was shocked and happy he invited me to participate in a free weekend of acting classes he was offering, Erwin was well-known in Hollywood as an acting coach who’d taught many movie stars over the years. He combined the methodology of both Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler to train over 100,000 students. And in case you were wondering, yes, he’s still alive.

I met Erwin in a way-out-there spiritual class led by a woman who went into deep trances and brought through entities from other realms of life to give pearls of wisdom about life on this planet. My spiritual journey with her changed many of my naive attitudes. Erwin was also into this woo-woo stuff. Who knew?

Not many, because the classes took place in Tucson. There were no actors there. We all sat on chairs and some on cushions around the room. Erwin sat very straight and quietly on a pillow on the floor. Most people got up and told a little about themselves. The very odd thing was they took off their clothes to do it. I did not get the memo. The majority of the attendees were over fifty and I never saw so much flesh pointing south. Erwin did not get naked but he did wear a lovely silk robe that looked just like Hugh Hefner’s.

When I stood up and told my personal story, Erwin noticed me. I was a 5-foot-8 blue-eyed blond 115-pound stick figure at the time. He came over to where I was sitting and said, “You’re so beautiful and such an anomaly. I can’t figure you out. When you speak you have a bit of country twang. You’re like a cross between Grace Kelly and Minnie Pearl.”

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Golden Land - Part Two yellow

Golden Land
Part Two

by William Faulkner

Nobel Prize-winning author and screenwriter William Faulkner concludes his short story about a Hollywood scandal: the 1930s tycoon goes to court where his starlet daughter is on trial. Last of two parts. 5,129 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


His mother lived in Glendale; it was the house which he had taken when he married and later bought, in which his son and daughter had been born a bungalow in a cul-desac of pepper trees and flowering shrubs and vines which the Japanese tended, backed into a barren foothill combed and curried into a cypress-and-marble cemetery dramatic as a stage set and topped by an electric sign in red bulbs which, in the San Fernando valley fog, glared in broad sourceless ruby as though just beyond the crest lay not heaven but hell. The length of his sports model car in which the Filipino sat reading a paper dwarfed it. But she would have no other, just as she would have neither servant, car, nor telephone: a gaunt spare slightly stooped woman upon whom even California and ease had put no flesh, sitting in one of the chairs which she had insisted on bringing all the way from Nebraska. At first she had been content to allow the Nebraska furniture to remain in storage, since it had not been needed (when Ira moved his wife and family out of the house and into the second one, the intermediate one, they had bought new furniture too, leaving the first house furnished complete for his mother) but one day, he could not recall just when, he discovered that she had taken the one chair out of storage and was using it in the house. Later, after he began to sense that quality of unrest in her, he had suggested that she let him clear the house of its present furniture and take all of hers out of storage but she declined, apparently preferring or desiring to leave the Nebraska furniture where it was. Sitting so, a knitted shawl about her shoulders, she looked less like she lived in or belonged to the house, the room, than the son with his beach burn and his faintly theatrical gray temples and his bright expensive suavely antiphonal garments did. She had changed hardly at all in the thirty-four years; she and the older Ira Ewing too, as the son remembered him, who, dead, had suffered as little of alteration as while he had been alive. As the sod Nebraska outpost had grown into a village and then into a town, his father’s aura alone had increased, growing into the proportions of a giant who at some irrevocable yet recent time had engaged barehanded in some titanic struggle with the pitiless earth and endured and in a sense conquered it too, like the town, a shadow out of all proportion to the gaunt gnarled figure of the actual man. And the actual woman too as the son remembered them back in that time.

Two people who drank air and who required to eat and sleep as he did and who had brought him into the world, yet were strangers as though of another race, who stood side by side in an irrevocable loneliness as though strayed from another planet, not as husband and wife but as blood brother and sister, even twins, of the same travail because they had gained a strange peace through fortitude and the will and strength to endure.

"Tell me again what it is," she said. "I’ll try to understand."

"So it was Kazimura that showed you the damned paper," he said. She didn’t answer this; she was not looking at him.

"You tell me she has been in the pictures before, for two years. That that was why she had to change her name, that they all have to change their names."

"Yes. They call them extra parts. For about two years, God knows why."

"And then you tell me that this that all this was so she could get into the pictures "

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Golden land 1 - William Faulkner1 FINAL

Golden Land
Part One

by William Faulkner

Nobel Prize-winning author and screenwriter William Faulkner wrote one short story about Hollywood: a 1930s real estate tycoon is driven to drink after his daughter becomes a scandalous starlet. First of two parts. 3,555 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


If he had been thirty, he would not have needed the two aspirin tablets and the half glass of raw gin before he could bear the shower’s needling on his body and steady his hands to shave. But then when he had been thirty neither could he have afforded to drink as much each evening as he now drank; certainly he would not have done it in the company of the men and the women in which, at forty-eight, he did each evening, even though knowing during the very final hours filled with the breaking of glass and the shrill cries of drunken women above the drums and saxophones the hours during which he carried a little better than his weight both in the amount of liquor consumed and in the number and sum of checks paid that six or eight hours later he would rouse from what had not been sleep at all but instead that dreamless stupefaction of alcohol out of which last night’s turgid and licensed uproar would die, as though without any interval for rest or recuperation, into the familiar shape of his bedroom, the bed’s foot silhouetted by the morning light which entered the bougainvillaea-bound windows beyond which his painful and almost unbearable eyes could see the view which might be called the monument to almost twenty-five years of industry and desire, of shrewdness and luck and even fortitude: the opposite canyon-flank dotted with the white villas half hidden in imported olive groves or friezed by the sombre spaced columns of cypress like the facades of eastern temples, whose owners’ names and faces and even voices were glib and familiar in back corners of the United States and of America and of the world where those of Einstein and Rousseau and Esculapius had never sounded.

He didn’t waken sick. He never wakened ill nor became ill from drinking, not only because he had drunk too long and too steadily for that, but because he was too tough even after the thirty soft years; he came from too tough stock, on that day thirty-four years ago when at fourteen he had fled, on the brake-beam of a west-bound freight, the little lost Nebraska town named for, permeated with, his father’s history and existence, a town to be sure, but only in the sense that any shadow is larger than the object which casts it. It was still frontier even as he remembered it at five and six: the projected and increased shadow of a small outpost of sod-roofed dugouts on the immense desolation of the plains where his father, Ira Ewing too, had been first to essay to wring wheat during the six days between those when, outdoors in spring and summer and in the fetid half dark of a snowbound dugout in the winter and fall, he preached. The second Ira Ewing had come a long way since then, from that barren and treeless village which he had fled by a night freight to where he now lay in a hundred-thousand-dollar house, waiting until he knew that he could rise and go to the bath and put the two aspirin tablets into his mouth.

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