A female Hollywood executive takes a friend on a tour of her misogynist showbiz world. 1,957 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
On the afternoon of the evening in which Lacey Blaire’s life was irreparably altered, the sun cascaded through a French window pane onto Lacey and her best friend from childhood having brunch. It made tiny prisms of light dance against the rims of two diamond-cut cocktail glasses which had been filled with blood orange vodka martinis. The crisp white linen tablecloth had a stain of red where drippings from the lingonberry-braised lamb chop, plated on fine china, had dripped.
“More cocktailS, ladies?” the waiter asked, in a tone that suggested they could request the hair of an Egyptian prince and he would gladly produce it.
Lacey glanced up at him with eyes bright, hair glossed, her 26-year-old freshly microdermabrasion-ed skin glowing. With an air of humble kindness, which meant that she belonged there, Lacey replied: “Why, yes, thank you.”
And Lacey did feel like she belonged there because she had earned her seat at Hollywood’s table. Arriving straight out of college with no help and no contacts, she’d worked her ass off as an unpaid intern until she proved that she had value. Value in keeping a desk organized, value in finalizing multiple calendars, and then, once she scored the chance to offer ideas on story and project execution, value in conceiving ideas that got her recognized as… yes, someone of value in a labor pool inundated with bobble-headed value-less people.
That struggle bludgeoned her idealism but not her drive. Tonight a movie she had helped produce was premiering. That made her worthy of white linen-ed brunches. And she was glad to show Jenny what the “good life” felt like. There was no freshly imported Swedish lingonberry back home. That was for sure.
Lacey sipped her cocktail and continued her dissertation.
“Women need to stop apologizing for not having dicks. That’s the problem with this town. We don’t have dicks and too many women assume they’re not invited to the top of the mountain because of it. So they give up. They go home. And that’s a shame.”
Jenny Walker felt terrible admitting it, but she didn’t like the lingonberry lamb chop. She didn’t say that, of course; she just kept admiring Lacey’s freshly glowing cheekbones and wondering why she herself had never desired a microdermabrasion. Probably because Jenny suffered from sensitive skin and allergies in general. The arid L.A. air had caused her to battle nosebleeds every night since she’d arrived.
As she listened to her friend wax poetic about the trials of show business, Jenny remembered when they were eleven and Lacey’s fucked-up mother dropped her off at gymnastics without her leotard. Jenny had found Lacey crying in the locker room and lent her an extra. They’d been inseparable ever since. That is, until Lacey’s mom O.D.’d and Lacey got it in her head that she wanted to move to L.A. It seemed the hole that was inside of Lacey, a hole Jenny had noticed on that first day in the locker room, had finally been filled up with something good. That made Jenny happy for Lacey. Even though she missed her.
“Look, the women who don’t quit climb the mountain in heels, wear the perfect clothes, walk the perfect way, say just the right thing. They’re smarter, more professional, eternally classy. The women at the top are some of the most impressive and intelligent badasses I’ve ever met. They’re like showbiz ninjas. The men? It’s like they showed up to the mountain dribbling on themselves in shorts and someone handed them a ticket to the ski lift… And do you want to know what the women find at the top after all of that climbing? What they should have guessed all along: one big dick convention. So then, in addition to all the other work they must do, they also have to watch out for the swinging dicks. Because let me tell you what I’ve learned: swinging dicks take care of swinging dicks. That’s the reality you uncover when you get to the top. I mean, not that I’m at the top… I’ve just interned there.”
Lacey laughed at her own joke.
I’m talking too much about the business, Lacey thought to herself. Jenny has no idea what I’m talking about. How obnoxious of me. Lacey turned the conversation back to something they had in common.
“So, what’s it like back home?”
“Cold as fuck.”
Lacey and Jenny laughed and talked about the latest news from their small town: who got married, who got divorced, who cheated on who with whom, who got fired, and in more hushed tones, who committed suicide, who got hooked on drugs and who wound up in jail.
They changed the subject and talked about old times in high school when life was simpler and their biggest problems were with the boys they were crushing on. And eventually the stories circled back around to: what became of them?
A deep desire burned hot in the forefront of Lacey’s mind. She never wanted someone from her hometown to ask, “What became of Lacey Blaire?” and get anything short of an astonishing and enviable answer. Lacey grasped Jenny’s hands.
“It means so much to me that you traveled out here. I’m sorry I’ve been so busy at work since you arrived but tonight we are going to have the best night of our lives.”
When the check arrived, Jenny almost fainted. But there was nothing to worry about: Lacey expensed it.
Lacey through the window of her BMW pointed out the gold embossed Beverly Hills police station. The women ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the iconic shops of Rodeo Drive and gaped at the ostentatious houses nearby. Jenny guffawed at the rather large replica of the Statue of Liberty gracing the front lawn of one particularly obnoxious house.
“These people are crazy!” she exclaimed. Lacey agreed. But when they made the left onto Sunset, everything changed. The subdued ambience became quiet, classy, lush. Lacey still got goosebumps at the sight of the West Gate entrance to Bel Air, the epitome of exclusivity: wrought iron flanked by rococo style monuments and engraved with the unspoken announcement that people who drove through that gate had made it to the next tax bracket. The one that doesn’t give a fuck about the state’s lack of water supply, or anything at all really, except maintaining the aesthetic in their residential hotbed of impudence. Lacey sat behind the windshield of her used (but in fair condition when it was bought) BMW, staring at that gate, longing for exclusivity.
Lacey did not drive through. She followed Sunset about a quarter mile more, turned left, down a hill, into a cul-de-sac and parked in front of her rented 1,000-square-foot portion of a concrete triplex owned by a Middle Eastern man she had never met. Though, he was very polite whenever he called about the $2,500 a month Lacey owed on the more than few times it was late. She made sure to show her friend a piece of her mail that indeed declared “Bel Air” in the address.
“You want a bump?”
With curlers interwoven through her hair, and a La Mer base coat of moisturizer freshly applied to her skin, Lacey deftly cut some cocaine into lines spread on the surface of a mirror on her vanity. She sniffed one up. Jenny balked.
“I didn’t know you still partied. I haven’t in years.”
“You’ll need it eventually. Believe me, we’re gonna be up all night.”
Jenny figured Lacey was right and did the bump while the two of them continued getting ready for their special night.
Right around this time, a text popped up on Lacey’s cell phone: Wear something sexy so at least I won’t be bored all night.
“Oh my God, how tacky. Is that a guy you’re dating?” asked Jenny.
“No. That’s my boss.”
“Yeah, he’s a sleazebag.”
“What do you even say to that?”
Lacey picked up her cell, typed a response, and hit send: LOL. No problem.
Jenny was horrified: “No. You text back: Fuck you, sleazebag.”
“Not if you want to keep your job.”
“It’s very inappropriate.”
Lacey laughed, “You think that’s inappropriate? You have no idea. My first job? The exec installed a stripper pole inside the office.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes… and that’s nothing. The last pilot I worked on, the 45-year-old director was fucking his 19-year-old assistant in his trailer every day between takes and then barking orders at her on set like she was a dog. It was awful. I wanted to grab her and say, ‘What are you doing? You’re better than this.’ Look, in this town, you’re either getting hit on or screamed at, take your pick. Once, I was in a production meeting and one of the producers told us his ex-wife’s vagina smelled like factory-farmed tilapia.”
Jenny screamed in disbelief.
“And who was his ex-wife you want to know? The other producer about to walk into the meeting. That’s in-a-fucking-propriate.”
Another text came in from Lacey’s boss. Jenny grabbed the phone and read it aloud: You never have a problem with that body. See you later.
Jenny mimicked vomiting in her mouth.
Lacey laughed. “Look, it’s just harmless flirtation. A game you play. It’s not real. It’s like I said: you just roll your eyes, know you’re smarter than them and keep moving up till you can get into a position where you don’t have to deal with it anymore. I have daydreams about all of the slimebags I’ll kick out of production meetings when I get to be the head of a network.”
Jenny said with finality, “It’s just not normal.”
“Of course it’s not normal. If I wanted normal, I’d go home.”
The limo picked them up in the cul-de-sac and they excitedly sat in the back, drank complimentary champagne and toasted themselves. The movie premiere was just five miles from Lacey’s triplex, and since five miles in L.A. takes three times as long to travel than anywhere else, they had plenty of time to enjoy the champagne and go over Lacey’s agenda for the evening.
Jenny thought the agenda was for them to have the best night of their lives. And while Lacey assured her that absolutely was the frontrunner plan, there was also something very important at play. Lacey’s career depended on it. The production company that Lacey worked for had produced the movie that was about to be screened in conjunction with a studio whose execs were also going to be there. Lacey explained that she had gotten inside information from an assistant who worked at the studio that its top exec, Anita Addington, was about to leave and start her own independent production company.
“Anita is the ultimate showbiz ninja,” Lacey explained. “She’s everything I was telling you about. ‘Badass’ doesn’t even do her justice. She gives a note in the room and everyone just listens and nods. I have to work for her. Tonight is my opportunity to let her know who I am.”
Jenny interjected. “I’m just a little worried.”
“That your ass is gonna fall out the back of your dress.”
Lacey was incredulous: “What?! Do you have any idea what I had to do to fit into this dress? I’ve been giving myself apple cider vinegar enemas for a week.”
Jenny laughed. “That’s disgusting.”
“No shit! Worked though.”
They laughed some more at the absurdity of it all. But then Lacey asked seriously, “You think it’s too short?”
Jenny reassured her friend. “No. You look amazing. Just don’t bend over.”