Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Divas & Deals

 

SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA 3:15 P.M.

Bill returned to his office. He didn’t normally schedule appointments for the weekend, but he had a once in a lifetime meeting that had to be attended to as soon as possible. He also rarely ever let himself get personal about any deal, but this particular opportunity would be an exception for him. As he walked in, his beleaguered receptionist Janet Doran was at her desk asleep. He crept past her into his office. She worked so hard during the week, he thought, she deserved a little down time, especially since he had called her in at the last minute to work on a weekend.

As he opened his office door, he saw one of the most gorgeous women he had ever seen. She had a perfect figure with long, smooth legs that led up to a beautifully slim waist wrapped in a tight mini skirt. Her chest was just perfect. Not too big, not too small. Her face was a work of art. She had a slender nose with red, ruby lips, and deep blue eyes. A flawless complexion all topped off with wavy, Strawberry Blonde hair. The only complaint Bill could think that anyone would have was that she was just little older than one would expect. Bill smirked slightly thinking about how many people would wonder what a perfect creature such as that would be doing in his presence. He walked around to his chair and plopped himself and his considerable girth into the small, creaky wooden chair and pulled himself up to the desk.

“Hello, Sasha.” He said with an impish glee. Sasha DuPre, once prominent actress and leading lady of stage and screen, looked at him with a stilted glance. Her eyes only half open. “How are you today?” She crossed her legs and set her elbow to rest on her bent knee.

“Let’s just make this quick. I’m only here because I promised my agent I’d do this one favor for him.” Bill leaned back in his chair, allowing the lower portion of his considerable gut to be exposed. Sasha turned her head away trying to block her eyes from the sight.

“Relax, honey. I know exactly why you’re here.”

“Honey!? How dare you,” She yelled in extreme outrage. “It is only because my agent has done so much for me that I agreed to do this! I will not tolerate being spoken to in that tone! I have performed on every stage between New York, and this cultureless wasteland. I don’t need this.” With that, Sasha got up and turned to leave.

“According to your sainted agent, you do need this. Badly,” Sasha stopped in her tracks. “You haven’t had a paying job in over ten years! I know all about your current financial situation and I’m quite aware of your resume Ms. DuPre, and I have nothing but respect for that track record. That’s why I asked for you in particular. You are truly one of the greatest actresses ever,” Sasha smiled slyly and then slowly turned to face Bill. He stood up and extended his arm to offer her to sit down again. She accepted. “That’s better. I’m your friend in all this. I just asked you to come by and listen to my proposal. Can you do that?” Bill asked. Sasha replied with a silent stare. Bill accepted. “Okay, as I’m sure you know, I have spent most of my career doing movies of the horror genre, but I’m looking to expand. I managed to find this great new script about a family torn apart by the mother’s self-destructive addiction to shoe shopping.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“Hold on, it may sound a little silly, but at least read the script. It is chalk full of drama and pathos and shit like that. It’ll rip out your heart and stomp it flat.” Bill pulled a script of the top drawer of his desk and handed it to Sasha. She leafed through a few pages.

“I don’t know. This reads more like a movie of the week kind of thing. Not really my caliber.”

“I just need something juicy to get into the festivals. It’s a low budget, quick shoot. Just a week. Two tops. I even have a great new actress lined up as your daughter. A kind of Reese Witherspoon type. A cute, bubbly blonde. The rest of the cast is still in the speculation stage.”

Sasha continued to read through the script when her face froze and she looked up at Bill. “Daughter?” She asked. “You want me to play a character that has a daughter?”

“Sure. You got a problem with that?”

“Yes, I do. I really don’t think anyone will take me for anyone’s mother.”

“Really?” Bill said with a light laugh. “Maybe no one’s told you this before, so let me be the first. I can read the odometer quite clearly.”

“Excuse me?” Sasha’s anger was growing.

“You’re old. I mean, by Hollywood standards. You’re still a knock out babe and all, but you’re just kind of showing your years. Especially when you wear stuff like that.” Bill said as he looked Sasha up and down.

“This is a designer exclusive.”

“Maybe, but it would have looked a hell of a lot better on you twenty years ago. Maybe you should try dressing your age.”

Sasha swallowed her rage and closed the script between her hands. She shut her eyes, counted to ten and then opened them again. She looked up at Bill and forced a smile.

“I’m going to have to think about this.”

“Okay, but I’m going to have to have an answer by the end of the day.”

“I’ll have to read more to consider this. I’ll be in touch with you later.” Sasha got up and turned to the door. As she was pulling it open, Bill walked up behind her.

“Listen, I could have gone to Streep or Sarandon with this. I’m doing you a favor and the money you get from this will get the IRS off your back.”

“Oh, please! There’s no way you would have gotten within a country mile of those two, or any other self-respecting actress, with this and you know it.” She said. Bill’s friendly facade faded away and he had a cold, disturbing expression on his face. Sasha found herself a bit scared by this.

“Yeah. You’re right. No serious actress with a viable career would ever consider this. I know that. Enter you. You’re on the skids, lady. Like I said, I’m doing you a favor with this, and you’d be doing me a favor too. You still pull some weight in Tinsel town, and in the right vehicle you could be back on top, but you gotta start at the bottom, and this is as bottom as it gets.” His eyes captured hers and they were held in an intense lock.

“I’ll think about it.” She said with a quiver of fear in her voice. Deep down, she knew Bill was completely right.

“Think fast.” Sasha fumbled with the knob and stumbled out the door. Janet was still asleep as Sasha made her exit.

Later that afternoon, Sasha had a fresh glass of bourbon in her hand when she answered the door. Her agent, Carl Bryman, stood there on her front stoop. His back hunched over, exposing his bald spot at the top of his head.

“Get in here, Carl!” Carl scurried in. He had heard the tone before and he knew he was in trouble again. “How could you do this to me? I’ve been nominated for awards! Honors! This can’t be happening. This can’t be my only option! Tell me there’s something else. Tell me!” She begged. She noticed Carl’s hunched position. “Look at me when I’m yelling at you!” She grabbed him by a small tuft of hair and pulled his head up. She could hear the crunching sound, over his scream, as his back straightened.

“There’s nothing else, Sasha! I’m sorry.” He said with deeply apologetic eyes. “I’ve been doing everything I can, but no one is interested in hiring you. It was just a lucky break I heard about this opportunity.” He said trying to get to the couch to lie down.

“That’s what you call this? An opportunity? Have you read this script? It’s trash! It’s the most contrived piece of drek I have ever had the misfortune of reading.” She said.

“It’s a paycheck. I hate to remind you, but you are just days away from possible jail time. Do you want that scandal? Because there’s nothing I can do for you if that happens. Look on the bright side; a lot of actresses who’ve been out to pasture for a while have had tremendous luck breaking back in through small cinema. Look at Debbie Reynolds. She had a new career after ‘Mother’.” Sasha slowly walked over to Carl, who was then on the couch with his arm stretched across his back, massaging the sore spot.

“I am not Debbie fuckin’ Reynolds! I’m too young to need a comeback this badly.”

“That may well be, but you need one nonetheless.” He felt very confident in talking to Sasha like that. He knew he was absolutely right and he knew that she knew it too. She just needed to come to accept it. He would normally run to pack for a trip to a safe house if he ever dared talk to her like that, but this time, right was on his side. He saw it in her eyes. He could see her anger flaring, but it soon cooled. She knew she had few options left her, after a disastrous career and personal life had left her broke and alone. There was no more hiding.

Sasha took a deep breath, gulped down her drink and went to her phone. She dialed Bill’s number. A bright, cheery voice answered.

“Kaslow Entertainment Unlimited. How may I direct your call?”

“Give me Kaslow.” As she waited for Bill, she thought about what she just said and realized it made his name sound like a deadly disease, appropriately enough.

“Sasha, love!” Bill’s voice came on as happy as any voice could sound.

“I’ll do it.” A tear formed in the corner of her left eye. She couldn’t hear it, but she had a feeling Bill, despite his size, was jumping up and down and doing cartwheels. So satisfied he had bested the grand diva.

“Fantastic! I’ll messenger the contract to you right now, and we can get the show on the road as early as Monday.”

“I thought you said you still had to acquire the rest of the cast.”

“I do, but I’ll have that all squared away soon enough. I’ll be in touch soon.” Without a word more, Sasha dropped the phone down on the cradle. She trudged over to a nearby leather chair and flopped down onto it.

“Is this what selling your soul feels like?”

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