Jason is down but not out yet after growing up too fast. 1,902 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Melody Alden had no idea that studio execs, actors and other big deals in Hollywood don’t give out their cell numbers. They preferred to torture supplicants by having them talk to their self-important assistants, who then made them wait for a return call. It was all about timing, and how miserable and nervous can you make the next guy. The underdog waiting game.
Her son knew better. But right now, Jason was on his way out the door – he’d get to it whenever. Whenever came a lot sooner than he’d anticipated. The next morning the Korean landlady was knocking on his door at the break of noon, asking to inspect the place and get it ready for the next rich kid tenant. That was when Jason made his first mistake. He called Beverly less than twelve hours after she’d given his mother her cell number. Jason knew it was a sign of desperation to call this quickly. Hopefully she wouldn’t realize how uncool it was.
Unfortunately for Jason, Beverly had read those social tea leaves just fine. This could be interesting, she thought to herself when her assistant handed her his message. She’d given Melody her work cell. Not her private number, the one she answered herself. But even giving a business cell number was what passed for intimacy in this town.
“Tell him I’m on a call and I’ll get to him when I can.” When I’m good and ready, she thought to herself. Melody’s kid can wait. More to the point, Teddy’s kid can wait.
Jason put his clothes and books into black garbage bags and loaded them into his car. He’d have to couch surf for a while or live with his mother. All the old ladies in his mother’s circle already had their guesthouses full of “charming young men studying at UCLA.” He was shit out of luck on that front. And, besides, ever since OJ a lot of those wealthy widows were jumpy at the prospect of a long term “house guest” even if they knew the family.
Heading out of downtown L.A., Jason wasn’t sure where he was going. Then it struck him. Glenda, his mom’s housekeeper, the woman who’d always protected him and loved him and welcomed him, no matter what. Her daughter, Emmy, was away at Harvard Law, a brilliant girl with a great future, as Jason’s mother liked to point out. They’d been at Brentwood School together until Emmy went away to Phillips Exeter on a full ride scholarship. He hadn’t seen her in years but heard that she was still on the East Coast. Maybe he could crash with Glenda til he got some things figured out. After all she had been with his family forever. She was off today and might be home. He could never fool Glenda but, if he really worked it, maybe she wouldn’t notice how down and out he was. Or maybe she would and take care of him. Kiss the boo-boo and make it go away.
Glenda turned as she heard the car pull up. She waved to Jason, a huge smile on her face. Her boy. She had helped raise him. Had raised him, if truth be told. Now he was off at college – not doing a stellar job – but considering his home life and the people who surrounded him, not too bad. He was superficial and silly but then who wasn’t at that age? He’d managed to stay out of trouble pretty much and out of the drugs and drink that bedeviled his parents.
Like all adolescents, he came to her when he needed something. It was easy for Glenda to love this vulnerable kid who wanted her attention. She had worked for Melody since she was a starlet newly arrived in Hollywood, sent by Big Jack to tend to his only child. She’d stayed through Melody’s marriage, the birth of Jason and his sister, and the divorce. Glenda married briefly, had a child, but remained all these years at Big Jack’s request. She’d bought a little house in Santa Monica when it was still affordable, and with Big Jack’s help invested well. She was set and her child was set, but she still had a job to do.
Glenda wasn’t a housekeeper who dusted. She was more of a major domo, but she was hardwired into the domestic help’s gossip. All the maids, butlers, gardeners and drivers from Pacific Palisades to Hancock Park knew the intimate details of their employers’ lives. And they all talked to Glenda. Despite the Oprah rule. The talk show host was one of the first to insist on iron-clad confidentiality agreements signed by everyone, even the catering crew. Now everyone did it. Pool boys and the lowest maintenance staff all had to sign, whether they could read the English language or not. The paranoia was not without reason. Good help didn’t talk. Except to each other. Glenda knew it all, but she wouldn’t dream of whispering about the Alden family to those tacky gossip scavengers. She had, in fact, protected the family’s reputation and privacy more than once, hidden behind the scrim of “the help.”
Glenda and Jason hugged. Walking together into her bungalow, she lightly scratched his back just as she had done when he was little. "Are you hungry?" she asked, knowing not to bring up the serious stuff right away.
They settled into her kitchen table with a pot of tea and fresh baked bread, butter and salt. It had always been “their” snack. Like many households on the Westside, there was never anything much to eat at Jason’s house growing up. Melody secretly binged, hiding food. But Glenda managed to get him fed properly all those years. Food was love for her – not the enemy.
He knew too much for one so young, thought Glenda, who over the years had learned a great deal more about his social set than he realized. She knew all about that young female celebrity whose parents arranged to participate in the profits of her sex tape after it was “stolen.” She knew that they’d had an opportunity to stop the tape but chose the money over privacy. Glenda also knew about the lawyer who’d negotiated to protect the family from shameful publicity, striking a clever a deal to prevent the sale. Sickened by the parents’ actions, the attorney had never taken their calls again. The family was disinherited by the patriarch, but they continued to be invited everywhere while their daughter’s career was launched by the raunchy tape. The mother went on to open a business advising young women and their mothers on etiquette. How to dress appropriately and which fork to use.
But that young woman in the infamous sex tape, not yet twenty, was part of the group Jason had grown up with. Photos of them as little kids at an Easter party, framed in Tiffany sterling silver, were in Melody’s library as were pics of their graduation, sweet sixteen parties and proms. What Glenda didn’t know was that Jason had been looking at porn tapes since he was pre-pubescent. Many had been shot in some of the poshest bedrooms in L.A. and passed around a very private circuit including his father and his friends’ fathers.
It took a couple of hours in Glenda’s company but Jason finally came out with it. He had no place to go. Glenda laughed. She’d assumed it was going to be something much worse. Of course, he could stay with her. Jason might think he was ready for the world, but Glenda knew better.
"You have to tell your mother where you’re staying. And get a job. Have dinner with her. She’s lonely,” Glenda called after him after she sent him off to Melody’s.
Jason went reluctantly, but he went. He knew he’d have to tell his mother where he was. Good thing she trusted Glenda. Not only because she was "our beloved Glenda," but because, whether she would admit it or not, it was important to his mother that Glenda didn’t live in East L.A., a place as foreign to the denizens of West L.A. as Kabul. But Glenda was right nearby so nobody had to cross the city’s version of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Beverly was in a fury. She was being forced to let one of her best editors go. He’d been sexually harassing a young staffer who, after Beverly ignored her complaints, had the cojones to take the matter up the chain, over Beverly’s head. Bobby was incredibly valuable and she hated to dismiss him. Beverly had tried to contain the problem and convince the girl to take a job at one of the other magazines and let the matter drop. But the little twit’s lawyers had gotten involved, emails read and computers seized. He had to go. As far as Beverly was concerned, Bobby could have trolled local schoolyards in a white minivan as long as he brought her what she needed. He was connected and more importantly, heartless. He had no hesitation in selling anyone out for a byline. He was a fifty-year-old guy who was interested in Beyonce’s ovulation calendar. Do you have any idea how hard that is to find?
Fuck me with a broomstick, Beverly muttered to herself.
She had to start damage control immediately. Perez Hilton was all over it already. Hopefully it wouldn’t make the TV entertainment shows. It was too insider for the general media, but still Keith Kelly at the New York Post had left two messages already. Shit. Add to all that, her rep with the suits in New York had taken a beating. They kept asking during the insufferable conference calls how could she have not known about this and stopped it? Well, maybe she had known a little. Maybe she’d had inkling. But who could have predicted that the skinny bitch would have had such gonads. Barry Diller’s famous quip after he’d lost a big business deal was Beverly’s thought exactly: "Next." She was over it. "Next."
Beverly canceled her upcoming weekly lunches and drinks with personal reps and studio executives. She didn’t want to answer their questions. On a whim, she had her assistant dial the Alden kid. It was unheard of for someone in her position to ask for an impromptu lunch. Much less a nobody. But today was not one to play by the rules.
"You’re set for lunch with Jason Alden at one," said her assistant. "Do you want to go to The Grill, or somewhere else?"
God, not The Grill. Nor the Waldorf. She’d see everyone in the Industry. “Let’s go someplace funky and fun. How about Cora’s Coffee Shop in Santa Monica?” No one goes there.
Her assistant relayed the message to Jason, and Beverly got down to the business of denying and lying about Bobby. The bastard. Why couldn’t he pay hookers like everyone else? If he had a taste for juveniles, pros could easily be found in this town. He could have put them on his expense account. But now that it had gone this far, there was no way to hide a lawsuit among the business travel and dinners.
Beverly sighed and farted. She had to stop that raw vegetable diet.