A hot mess Hollywood starlet provokes a bar fight with the hot tempered manager. 3,778 words. Illustration by John David Carlucci.
The bar went silent as the jukebox changed songs. At that moment, just as a popular song blasted through the speakers, the door opened and she walked in. The regulars had a habit of turning to look, and this was no exception.
Scott was pouring a beer when he first saw her. He immediately lost all concentration and let the glass overflow. Her long blonde hair cascaded down her back and her bright blue eyes lit up the room along with her red cocktail dress. Spilled beer continued to cascade from the glass, but Scott didn’t care. The bar’s waitress, Alison, turned off the tap and punched Scott on the shoulder.
Alison followed Scott’s eyes to the door. “Hey! Isn’t that…” Scott was still staring. “No, it can’t be Laura Summer. What’s she doing here?”
“It’s that movie that’s about to film here,” Scott replied. “We’re becoming a Hollywood hotspot in Pennsylvania. Ka- ching!”
He jumped over the bar and rushed to Laura’s side. “I’m Scott, the manager here. Actually, tomorrow I’ll be on my way to becoming the new owner.” Laura was used to star treatment. Scott was in a trance. Finally, Laura broke the eye contact and looked around, waiting for Scott to say something. She seemed to get bored fast. He got the hint.
“Come in and sit down,” he said.
Scott led her to a less crowded area of the bar. The current owner, Dennis, didn’t have kids of his own, so treated Scott like a son. He was giving Scott a fair chance to buy the place at a reasonable price, even though Dennis really needed the money after accumulating years of debts that only Scott knew about.
As Laura sat down on a barstool, Scott bumped Alison out of the way. “Hey!” Alison yelled. She threw an ice cube at him and missed.
Scott announced to Laura, “Whatever you want is on the house.”
Dennis overheard. “My place still, junior.”
“Ignore that guy,” Scott told Laura.
Laura spoke. “Water with lemon, please.”
Scott was expecting her to order a glass of wine or at least an imported beer. Laura was well known in the press as a heavy drinker. He clumsily poured a glass of bottled water as Alison nudged her way in front of him. “Don’t mind him, Laura. He’s star struck.”
Laura stared rudely at the bad makeup job on Alison’s face, then remarked, “What’s with the mask?” Alison pretended she didn’t hear the comment and headed for the ladies’ room. Laura watched her go and laughed. “What’s her problem? Whatever…”
And just like that, Scott’s brief infatuation with the actress was over. In mere seconds, she’d managed to insult his sister. This was normal behavior from his regulars, but Laura had to earn that privilege.
All he could do was laugh at himself for finding her so irresistible at first. Now he knew better. “So what brings you to town?”
Laura was offended he didn’t know and furrowed her eyebrows. “I’m in the movie. Why else would I be here?”
“Oh really? Who do you play?”
“Beth, the lead character. The bartender.”
Laura was annoyed at having to explain herself. She wanted to get away from Scott. She wiggled off the barstool and danced her way to the jukebox. Scott looked at Dennis and pointed at Laura as she flipped through the songs. “That girl is trouble. She will ruin the movie and she’ll ruin this bar. My bar.”
Dennis knew the movie’s producer Victor Cashman and had named the bar after him after the Hollywood bigwig had helped Dennis buy the place twenty years ago. “Be thankful he’s shooting his movie here at all,” Dennis told Scott. “What’s it matter who the star is?”
Until now, Scott had believed this movie was the best thing to ever happen to this town and the bar. Now he wasn’t so sure. Besides, many felt that Pretty Ugly was Victor’s comeback film and last chance to turn his company around and get his career on track.
Alison was wiping tears from her eyes as she walked out of the bathroom. She passed by Laura at the jukebox and they exchanged dirty looks. Alison walked up to Scott and Dennis and told them, in no uncertain terms, “You can wait on her. She’s all yours.”
But Alison realized that Laura was still staring at her. Alison smacked the bar. The noise got the attention of most of the patrons. Laura was startled and nearly fell off the barstool. Then Alison got right up in Laura’s face. “Do you have a problem with me?”
Laura replied calmly, “I’m watching you bartend because I am playing a bartender in this movie. I’m an actress, remember?”
Alison purposely knocked over Laura’s glass, spilling water all over her lap. Laura jumped back. A look of shock quickly turned into anger. Alison laughed. “There’s your first lesson. That’s how you spill a drink on somebody you don’t like.”
Laura was becoming unglued. “You stupid bitch!” Scott quickly intervened and took his sister aside. “Alison, call it a night.” He had only once witnessed his sister act like this with a customer, and it had not ended well. These two were headed for a bar brawl.
“Good idea,” responded Alison, exchanging one more dirty look with Laura then quickly hurrying out the door. “I’m out of here.”
Laura let out a sigh of relief as Scott placed a new glass of water in front of her. “Thank god. You should seriously fire her.”
Scott needed to draw a line. “Watch it. She’s my sister.”
As Laura sipped her water, Scott wanted so badly to smack it out of her hand and send her back to Los Angeles. The film shoot was supposed to take a month, but now that seemed like years. So much for looking forward to seeing a movie get shot. Not anymore.
She was still sitting across from him. He had to be smart about what he said next. He smiled as he thought of the easiest, most obvious way to take a shot at Laura and asked, “How’s your father? Is he producing this movie, too? He got you on his TV shows so I expect he got you cast as the film’s lead. It’s good to be the princess.”
Most people didn’t know Laura’s father was the television producer behind the hit show My Little Robot which had turned Laura into a child star. After the series ended, Laura didn’t work again until her father cast her in another successful show, Venice Beach 90291. And even then the real star was her brother. Scott knew his info from Victor was solid. The movie wasn’t just Victor’s comeback film but also Laura’s.
“I had to audition for those parts!” Laura almost shouted.
“The auditions were fake,” Scott countered. “You already had the roles.”
“I worked hard on those shows! I paid my dues!” Her jaw was tense, her teeth clenched. Scott knew he had either to call it quits or push her over the edge. It was an easy decision. He was enjoying this.
“Bartending is a real job. No limo. No craft services. No agent. Just a day’s work.” Scott tossed a washcloth at her. “Why don’t you come over to this side of the bar and do more of your research? Unless you’re afraid to mess up your manicure?”
Laura suddenly reached out, grabbed Scott’s arms and yanked him across the bar, over her stool and onto the floor. Her glass of water shattered. “You’ve got nothing to say now, do you?” she asked him.
Scott was still in shock as he got to his feet. As he tried to process the situation, Laura landed a solid right hook on his chin. Absorbing the punch, he remembered that she’d made a few Krav Maga moves on her TV shows. Dennis stood between them as customers gathered.
“Get out!” the owner yelled.
Laura pointed to the door and glared at Scott. “You heard the man!”
“Not him, you! Leave now!”
Laura swung her arm around and caused Dennis to flinch, but she was only grabbing for her purse. “Fine. This place is a dump anyway. You’ll never see me in here again. Not for a drink. Not for food. And definitely not for the movie!” She ended her tirade and bit down on her lip. Dennis and Scott could feel daggers coming out of her eyes.
Laura took the first step to leave, but slipped on the water from the broken glass and hit her face on the edge of the bar. Scott involuntarily rushed to help her, but she pushed him away.
Then she turned and ran out of the bar.
The customers erupted with applause. Scott was used to bar drama. He saw it as part of the job. But he’d let the situation with Laura spiral out of control too fast. He should have held his tongue and let her just be the spoiled movie star she was. After a few minutes, Scott could feel his customers’ eyes on him. He pretended his jaw didn’t hurt, but it did. He was embarrassed and wished it was closing time.
Scott noticed a pink cell phone lying on the floor and picked it up.
She was once America’s favorite little girl. My Little Robot had been the number one television show in the country. Everyone watched it on Thursday nights. The reason was Laura Summer. When it aired, she was only five years old and already a bonafide star. Magazine covers. Talk shows. TV awards. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by the age of ten. But, like most child stars, she never recaptured that magic as she grew into adulthood. Laura struggled to get film and television roles and instead dated famous actors and got caught up in the Hollywood nightlife. She was photographed dancing on tables, falling over drunk and pantyless getting out of cars. She got into bar fights, posed for countless police mugshots and entered her twenties a fixture in the tabloids.
At age twenty-two, Laura’s attempt at a comeback had begun on a first-class flight with her mother from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Sophia Summer even in her in her fifties was a handsome woman thanks to heavy makeup and plastic surgery. They were mother and daughter, but they could pass for sisters. While Sophia was no longer married to Laura’s father, she served as her momager. This was probably a mistake. Laura needed someone to be tougher on her. Instead, Sophia spoiled her just like when the actress was a child star.
Tonight, as Laura headed back to the hotel from the bar, Sophia was about to cozy up to Victor Cashman. He was the embodiment of the slick Hollywood producer. It had taken him over twenty years to achieve that lofty position. He started out making B- movies and his big break came when he produced the popular Stuntman superhero films. Then he began shooting low budget but high grossing indies that generated award nominations every year.
When every film began failing at the box office, he turned to reality TV and created a hit series called Spirit Chasers. The success was short-lived: the show was abruptly canceled amid rumors that it was staging hauntings for ratings. Now he was making another movie, and as he stood impatiently in the hotel hallway holding a bottle of wine in one hand and pounding Sophia’s room door with the other, he needed this film to gross big. And everything depended on Laura.
Sophia answered eventually. Victor made himself comfortable. “Your daughter’s not here, is she?” he asked.
“No, she went down to that bar to research her part.”
“The bar? She’s there by herself?”
“Stop it, Victor. She’s doing good. She has a sponsor now and goes to meetings. AA is working wonders for her.”
“She better behave herself,” Victor warned.
“She’ll be fine. She wants to work. She needs this film for her career.”
“I heard about what happened last month in Bel Air.”
“Yes, she had a little incident.”
“Little? I will pull the plug. I can replace her with one phone call.”
Victor was right. But he was making idle threats. Hollywood was waiting for this production to implode and Victor was determined to prove the town wrong. He would only fire Laura as a last resort.
“There won’t be a problem,” smiled Sophia, who whispered, “Can we wait to talk business over breakfast?”
Sophia snatched the bottle of wine out of Victor’s hand while he unbuttoned his blue jeans. Their on-and-off relationship went back years. Suddenly, the door to the room flew open and Laura burst in. Sophia pulled the duvet over Victor before Laura could notice that his leg was hanging off the edge of the bed. Sophia quickly yanked it out of view and joined him under the covers.
“Not right now, Laura! Go back to your room. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“No, Mom, now! I have to tell you what happened…”
Sophia peeked her head out from under the covers. “Oh my god, Laura. What happened to your face? Did you get into a fight? Have you been drinking?”
“No!” Laura climbed onto the bed, but quickly realized that someone else was there. She backed away. Victor popped his head out for her to see. Laura kicked the bed. “What are you doing, Mom? God!”
Victor immediately went into panic mode. “The first shot is Monday and she has a black eye!” Laura ran out of the room. Sophia tried to kiss Victor, but he resisted. “Really, Sophia? She can’t even make it through one night? She’s going to need a lot of makeup to cover that.”
The next morning, Victor and Sophia shared breakfast at a small table in the hotel restaurant. They were both fully clothed and nicely dressed. They were in full-on business mode. Victor picked up right where he’d left off last night. “She’s already causing trouble…”
Sophia cut him off. “I can’t watch her twenty-four hours a day. And now I have to go back to L.A.”
“No! You’re her momager.”
“I have other clients, Victor. Deals to make. Contracts to sign.” Sophia wasn’t kidding. Her calendar was booked.
Victor insisted, “We need somebody to babysit your trainwreck of a daughter.”
Upstairs in her room, Laura was still in her pajamas, asleep on the bed of her luxurious hotel suite. Knock. Knock. Knock. Laura didn’t move as the knocks continued. Then the knocks turned to pounding. She flinched, slowly sat up and managed to ask, “Who is it?”
“Laura, it’s me. And Victor,” said her mother. “Open the door!”
Laura froze, then ran over to the mirror and checked her face. It was swollen and disfigured. She grabbed some makeup off the dresser and attempted to cover the scratches, but it didn’t work. Laura looked at the clock, then back in the mirror and wiped the makeup off.
Victor slammed the door and spoke first. “I’m sorry, Laura. You’re a wonderful actress but this film is important to a lot of people. You just got out of rehab. You need more time to adjust. Go back home.”
Laura went on the defensive. “You’re firing me? I wasn’t drinking!” Then she turned to her mother. “Mom, do something!”
Sophia just shrugged hopelessly as Victor headed for the door.
Laura pleaded, “No, Victor! Wait. Please?”
Victor paused, and without Laura seeing, winked at Sophia.
“Just give me another chance,” Laura begged.
“If we work this out, you’re going to have to follow some rules,” he said.
“Whatever it takes.”
Victor explained, “We’re going to get you a bodyguard. Somebody to make sure you get through the days and nights this movie shoots.”
Laura processed the idea.
“Now I’m going over to that bar to do some damage control.”
“No!” Laura ordered.
“What did you say to me?”
Laura lowered her voice. “Can we film the movie somewhere else? I don’t like it there.”
Victor wasn’t angry anymore. “Laura, I believe in you. So I need you to believe in me. Let me produce and I’ll let you be the star. Are we on the same page?”
“Well, if you’re going to that bar, can you get my cell phone? I left it there last night.”
“For you, my dear, anything.” He smiled at Sophia and left the room.
On the other side of town, Scott arrived at the bank to finalize the loan for his purchase of the bar from Dennis. He was dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase. He rarely cleaned up like this, but when he did he cleaned up fairly well. Even though he’d been punched in the face the night before. Sitting across from the loan officer, Scott clenched a pen, ready to sign. And then he heard the word that seemed to echo throughout the room, “No.” Scott’s heart pounded and sweat ran down his forehead. All the words that followed blended together. But when the loan officer reached out to shake his hand, all Scott knew was that his loan had been denied.
Outside, he sat in his car, removed his tie and stared at himself in the rearview mirror. Getting hit by Laura Summer was nothing. Not getting the loan was a sucker punch to his gut. He struggled to breathe. He wanted to throw up and cry and scream. But he held it all in. Now how was he going to break the news to Dennis?
Scott arrived at the bar, tossed his briefcase and took a seat in the corner. “Well?” Dennis asked. No response. Scott had a way of speaking to Dennis without words, something they’d developed over the years. Scott didn’t have to explain he’d been turned down.
Dennis sat down next to him. “Did they tell you why?”
“Yeah, they started talking about numbers. I don’t think there was enough collateral. I still owe too much on the house.”
“I have another buyer, Scott,” Dennis reminded him.
“Can you give me some time to come up with more money?”
“Four weeks is the best I can do. That gives you until the movie crew leaves.”
It wasn’t enough time. This wasn’t something he could solve with a yard sale or by donating blood. This was big bucks. But Scott assured Dennis, “I’ll figure something out. I always do.”
Scott always believed that when one door closed, another one opened. And, in that moment, the door to the bar swung open and the first customer of the day strolled in. It was Victor, who was admiring his portrait on the wall. Dennis stood up to greet him.
They shook hands, then gave each other a hug like the longtime friends they were. Scott immediately knew who it was.
“This is my manager, the future owner of the bar,” Dennis said, introducing Scott to Victor.
“Good to finally meet you. I love your movies, sir. Deer In Headlights was awesome. Thanks again for bringing the production to film here. It means a lot to Dennis, me, and the whole community.”
“This is my hometown. Besides, the place is named after me. How could I film a movie about a bar elsewhere?” Victor looked around and began to reminisce. “My first beer was in that seat right there. I wasn’t even twenty-one, and neither was Dennis.”
Victor looked closely at the rickety wooden stool. It was covered with hand-carved initials from over the years, including his. “Back then, this place was called The Firehouse. Dennis and I used to get into all kinds of trouble here. Actually, I heard you had a little trouble with my movie’s star, Miss Summer, last night.”
“I hope last night’s incident didn’t affect your decision to film here,” Dennis said carefully, looking at Scott.
“No, not at all. But I was hoping you could do me a favor. I need some help. A bodyguard. Someone to watch over Laura 24/7. I’m in a bind here.”
Scott and Dennis looked at each other with disbelief.
“Are you serious?” Scott asked.
“Absolutely. I need someone by her side at all times. To get her back and forth to the set and keep her from harming herself. She’s a mess.”
Scott shook his head. “My sympathy goes out to the poor guy that takes that job. She’s a piece of work.”
Victor handed Scott a business card. “If you think of someone, give me a call. We are budgeted for this. It’s very good pay.”
“How much?” Scott instinctively asked.
“A couple grand a week,” Victor quickly replied.
Dennis looked at Scott, “How much more cash do you need for the loan? Would twenty grand do it?” Dennis turned to Victor. “Is that in the budget? Scott’s been my best employee for years. Never calls in sick. Never late. Always goes above and beyond.”
Victor looked Scott in the eye. “So you’re interested?”
The whole thing was happening so fast. So Scott slowed things down a bit. “Wait a second. What exactly do you need me to do?”
“Make sure Laura’s on time every day and keep her out of trouble. It’s more like babysitting than bodyguarding,” Victor explained.
Financially this was an easy decision for Scott, but personally he was torn. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Laura Summer again but that might be impossible with the movie shooting in the bar. Then there were the things she’d said to his sister. And that right hook she’d used on him. He grabbed his chin as if she’d just jabbed him again. No way he could spend the next four weeks babysitting a stuck-up spoiled movie star like her. There had to be another way he could find the money he needed to secure the bank loan.
“I don’t think I’m…”
But Dennis didn’t even let Scott finish the sentence. Dennis gave him a look as if to say that if he turned Victor down, the bar would be sold to someone else. That Laura Summer was the only thing standing between Scott and its ownership. Scott knew what he had to do.
He extended his hand to Victor. “I’m your guy. I’ll take the job.”
“Done deal,” Victor announced. They shook on it.
“But can you give me some kind of guarantee she’ll agree to me doing this? She wasn’t exactly friendly to me last night.”
Victor assured him, “She has no say. I do the hiring and the firing.”
That was all Scott needed to hear.