VIEWS: 2 PAGES: 19 POSTED ON: 11/13/2011
CHAPTER ONE When St. Peter meets you at the pearly gates and asks you to look back over your life, I wonder if he takes spiritual amnesia into account. You know, like if you can’t remember being a total asshole when you were alive, does he give you the benefit of the doubt and let you into heaven anyway? Somehow I don’t think that’s the way it works. If it was, I wouldn’t be about to embark on what will turn out to be the weirdest, most belief-shattering assignment ever to go down in journalistic history. Not that I’ll ever be able to publish most of it. Not unless I want to go and work for the National Enquirer and write about aliens, hermaphrodites and bigfoot (and I can tell you right now, there is more chance of me finding out I am a hermaphrodite myself than there is of that happening). I would however still be having yet another banal conversation with someone I’ve just met who, unlike me, thinks my job is “like just the coolest everrrr!” “Oooh, Katherine, celebrities. That must be so exciting and glamorous.” No, not really I think to myself, smiling weakly at Marjorie, who is looking at me expectantly like a hungry puppy. Marjorie is from Toowoomba, in her fifties and has incorrectly assumed that because we sat next to each other on the sixteen hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, she is my new best friend. My real friends however, all call me Kat. “Sometimes,” I lie, not quite faking a massive yawn, hoping my one word answer and obvious exhaustion will discourage a further line of questioning. I used to think my job was exciting and glamorous but the gloss started to rub off a while ago. There are only so many spoilt movie stars with a tenuous grip on reality you can pander to, only so many soap actors you can interview about whatever childhood trauma drove them to be the flaming success they are now and only so many sex-addicted rock gods you can fend off before it becomes just like any other job. Most of them are completely unimpressive in person. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve turned up to interview the latest and hottest heart throb only to find a shorter, pimplier version in his place, with questionable personal hygiene and an even whiffier attitude. It’s almost as though the more famous they are the more they want to show they don’t give a crap. So much for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Despite the hot California sun, a strong breeze whips my shoulder-length blonde hair around my face. I dig a hair band out of my jeans pocket and, scraping it back into a loose ponytail, I glance impatiently up the growing taxi queue outside the international terminal at LAX, hoping Marjorie has lost interest. “Only sometimes?” She squeaks. No such luck. “But Katherine, you must get to meet so many interesting people and go to all those fancy parties with the big red carpets.” I fight the urge to roll my eyes. People are so celebrity obsessed. But, I guess that is the reason I have a job and why magazines like STAR sell so many copies. I automatically hear my Dad’s voice in my head with his usual teasing remark. Don’t people have anything better to read about than that trash? Despite the fact the apple (that’d be me) had literally flown way out of the journalistic tree (that’d be Dad) and landed three gardens over, he’d never said anything but that he was proud of me. He knew I loved my job, tacky tabloid or not. In the six months since his funeral though, the celebrity soap bubble I’d been happy to swish around in had been leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. All the gossipy titbits I’ve published since then have seemed to me to sit like grubby smudge marks on the three Walkley Awards bearing his name that now reside on my bookshelf like solid reminders of just how crappy my personal interpretation of the word ‘journalist’ is. Anyway, I know I shouldn’t take it out on Marjorie. Once upon a time I found it all just as exciting. I’m just jetlagged, cranky and desperate for a pillow, vodka and some generic cable television. I suck it up and, with a tight smile, tell her what she wants to hear. “Of course, you’re absolutely right Marjorie, I am very VERY lucky. I do get to attend lots of parties and most celebrities can be really interesting and lovely people.” If only that part were true. “I knew it,” she gushes before gasping suddenly and clutching her chest. Oh my god. I have a brief, terrible vision of the poor woman literally dropping dead of a heart attack right there in the taxi queue. To be honest, I’m more concerned about being stuck there, waiting for the ambulance, than I am about her potential expiration. I am simply too weary to play Good Samaritan today. Thankfully, she just grabs my hand and looks earnestly into my stricken face. “Do you know Angelina Jolie?” This time I do roll my eyes, glad the action is hidden behind my heavy, black Prada sunglasses. I’d managed to get away without telling her about my job until just before landing and now I wish I’d simply told her I was a juggler, or a dog groomer. Somehow the phrase Hi, I’m Katherine Alley, entertainment journalist always seems to open up a particularly curious can of worms. I’d known it was going to be a long flight as soon as she squeezed her hefty, terry- towelling track suited behind into the neighbouring seat with a cheery ‘Isn’t this SO exciting… I mean Los Angeleeees.’ The interrogation started ten minutes after take off and I ran through my standard Q&A answers. “Yes, Kat is short for Katherine. I’m thirty-four and yes, I know I don’t look it. No it’s not Botox thank you, must be just my Mother’s genes. Lucky me. I am originally from Brisbane. No, I don’t live there anymore, I live in Sydney in a small and of course overpriced Darlinghurst apartment. No, I don’t think Sydney is dirty, overcrowded and aggressive. I actually quite like the buzz and the sense that something is always about to happen. Yes, I like dogs more than cats.” That was a random question. “No I’m not married and no I don’t have a boyfriend.” (Well, not anymore - ouch). “Oooh, are you a lesbian?” Marjorie had looked hopefully at me as if my potential gay-ness was just as fascinating as if I had just sprouted an extra head or given birth to a pterodactyl. “No, Marjorie. I am not a lesbian,” I said, “but my best friend Chrissie is if that helps.” Ah, the gorgeous Chrissie Maxwell - heavily tattooed and perpetually half-cut music journo/TV presenter, chronic practical joker and the only friend I have who understands my occasional need to get drunk on Bundaberg Rum and dance with my eyes closed to Dave Dobbin’s Slice of Heaven. Right now she would probably jam her iPod earphones into her heavily pierced ears and simply stare Marjorie into quiet submission. Or simply ask her politely to ‘please shut the fuck up’. “Alley Kat, babe,” she always says. “Learn where to draw the fucking line!” And therein lies my problem. Not wanting to disappoint anybody, I have no idea how to say no. Not that I haven’t recently tried. “No,” I’d said to my editor Mish, “I do not want to go to L.A. on assignment.” “No Mum, I know you’re lonely but I really can’t move back to Brisbane at this stage of my career,” I’d said, feeling like the most terrible daughter in the world with every single traitorous word. And then I’d tried saying no to Michael, my live-in-boyfriend and the latest love of my life. “No, Michael, I do not think we should see other people.” Oh, you already are? Ok then. Shit. It’s the most recent break-up in a string of disastrous break-ups stretching across the past fifteen years. I immediately decided I must be allergic to the Y chromosome and that both moving back to Brisbane and going to L.A. were infinitely more appealing options than staying in Sydney to watch him divide our apartment up into ‘his’ and ‘mine’ before moving out. In the end, as much as I love my mother, I simply couldn’t face the thought of suburban Rochedale so LA won hands down. Standing in Mish’s office a couple of days ago, dazed and bruised from my tsunami of a personal life, I was still attempting faintly to resist the pull of L.A. in favour of a dark room and a truckload of Tim Tams. I really wasn’t fit to be out in public for fear of scaring small children and tiny dogs but Mish had insisted I come in to discuss ‘my future’. Standing in the middle of the room in my three day dirty tracksuit pants with puffy eyes and what I believe were Cheezel crumbs stuck in my unwashed ponytail, I looked like a mucky blot on the shining ecru plush pile. The stress had brought about the reappearance of my teenaged nervous tic; chronic hiccups that would break out like a cuckoo clock on helium as soon as my heart rate went up. Not only that but, after nearly a week under my doona, my pasty skin smelled like sour milk and the banks of glistening windows and the sun bouncing off the harbour were making my eyeballs want to explode. ‘Mess’ was understating it slightly. “Why do I have to go to L.A? I thought you’d talked to Bradley about me moving over to Review six months ago Mish.” I knew I sounded whiny but quite frankly the previous few days had been hell on wheels and I was a little bit over having my life valet- parked for me. The Monthly Review is our sister magazine; part of the same publishing stable but run by hardnosed editor, Bradley Mitchell. It’s the total opposite of the tabloid style STAR Magazine which hits the streets weekly in order to feed the public’s insatiable hunger for trashy gossip and celebrity interviews. Considered serious journalism, The Monthly Review is full of in-depth features, exposés and hard news stories for the ‘intelligent, successful working man and woman’. It is also one of the magazines my Dad had written for. “Well, I did mention it to him in passing but I’ve needed you here, Kat,” Mish said, smoothing back her GHD straightened, auburn hair with one hand and drumming her long, French polished fingernails on her glass topped desk with the other. “Try to see it from my point of view dear, why on earth would I want to let you go? You’re the best writer I’ve got. Look, think of it as a trade. You do this assignment and I’ll think about getting Bradley to give you a run. Although god knows why you want to go and write that god-awful, boring and depressing shit.” “Because I’m a real journalist Mish, not just a gossip columnist. And that stuff’s not boring, it’s important, you know, it stretches the brain. This stuff that we do, it’s just fluff.” I had a journalism degree with Honours from UQ dammit, that had to count for something. When I first started out as a journo I would pride myself on triple checking every fact, no matter how small; from the winning recipe in a bake-off to the spelling of a lost pet’s name. I hated loose ends and my articles were always informative, balanced and hearsay free. Good, strong ethics were drummed into me not only by my Dad but also by Dr Sean Peachman, a cute and bookish young professor who spent the semester breaks rescuing child sex-workers in Thailand. Even if my Dad never said so, I know Dr Peachman would have been disappointed to find out where I’d ended up. Until I started working at STAR, I clung steadfastly to these ideals. Anything to do with the supernatural or unexplainable was laughed off as little more than an over-active imagination. Unfortunately, the lure of a large pay check, a STAR magazine by-line and the chance to rub shoulders with the glitterati had gradually made my good, strong ethics more than a little wonky. These days most of my information came from the clichéd ‘anonymous source close to x’. If Mish had taken offence at the fluff comment she didn’t show it. “This is a big feature Kat, not just a film plug or an interview. If you are that crazy about proper writing then this is perfect.” Her tone changed. “Besides, thanks to you and your newly discovered ethics, we’ve been scooped by Max Magazine three times in the last six weeks. Circulation is down and you owe me.” I admit, I’d had a crisis of conscience after dad died and it all came to a head after I printed an unsubstantiated rumour about Kelly Craig, a tiny reality TV star turned pop- singer. Turns out the much older man seen with her was not her sugar daddy, which is what I’d splashed across our front page complete with ‘incriminating’ photos. He was her Alcoholics Anonymous buddy. Nobody even knew at that stage she was battling alcoholism. D’oh. The media attention after I ran the story was enough to send the already depressed star headfirst into a big bottle of pills. I’d retracted the story and sent an apology with flowers to the hospital but the damage was already done. “You know I couldn’t run those other stories Mish. I didn’t have confirmation on any of them.” Unfortunately our counterparts at Max had no such scruples and ran with the stories anyway. Of course they all turned out to be true, making STAR look like it was out of the celebrity loop. “That never stopped you before Kat.” Mish splayed her long, gold and diamond encrusted fingers out in front of her, not even looking at me as she casually drawled, “anyway, no matter. If you do this for me, all will be forgotten.” I got it loud and clear, if I didn’t do it, I could kiss a career at The Monthly Review goodbye. “I really need you to cover this one,” she finished, “you’re the only one that really knows L.A. and we need this scoop.” Bitch. “Ok, ok, enough blackmail, just tell me. What’s the big story?” She paused for dramatic effect and, when she spoke, her collagened lips curled slowly and triumphantly around the name. “Evander Hill.” I stared blankly at her for a second. “Huh?’ Mish tilted her head, birdlike, to the side as she spelled it out for me as if I were four years old – or very very slow. “Ev-ander H-ill, the movie star…” she frowned as if I was extremely thick and took a breath as if to repeat the name AGAIN. “I know who Evander Hill is Mish,” I let out a half laugh of disbelief, “everyone does. But how is that a scoop? He’s been dead for almost fifty years.” “Really? Well I never, how ever on earth did I miss THAT newsflash?” She arched a finely tweezed eyebrow at me as I flushed. “I know he’s dead, stupid. The point is, he’s been dead exactly fifty years next week.” I continued to stare at her. Why the hell did she want me to write a story about that? It was hardly gossip. It’s not as if Evander Hill had been spotted pashing on with someone he shouldn’t be in a dark corner of Sky Bar, or been snapped climbing out of a limo sans panties (or been caught wearing panties for that matter). Because, let’s face it, that would be extremely creepy and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ of him. “Oh for god’s sake Kat, stop staring at me like an idiot,” Mish finally snapped, exasperated. “People are still obsessed with him. You do know they never figured out who killed him? Conspiracy theorists love this stuff. Not to mention teenaged girls going ga-ga over him. He’s still bigger than James Dean. There are more than one hundred Facebook groups dedicated just to Evander Hill.” “Yes, but that’s not saying much,” I interjected, “there are hundreds of Facebook groups dedicated to “Which Sesame Street Character Are You?” and the difference between ‘their’ and ‘they’re’. “Smart arse.” She glared at me and my chuckle screeched to a halt in my throat. “Sorry.” “Look, everyone’s covering this, MAX, ET, NW. They’re all running it the week of the 14th, just after the anniversary of his death. We’ll look stupid if we don’t cover it too. Come on Kat, all I want you to do is write a retrospective. You know, his movies, his friends, his love life. His sex life. Hmmm? Find out why women were SO into him. Although that’s not really so hard to fathom.” She slid a bunch of photographs across the desk. The one on top was an old black and white publicity still, the kind the big studios used to send out in the 50’s. I picked it up and studied the familiar face. It was easy to see where some of the attraction lay. Evander Hill really was gorgeous. He had the kind of face that makes me want to speak in clichés involving dark eyes and square jaws. I flipped to the second photo. It was a red carpet shot of Evander and Marilyn Monroe. I felt a strange urge to reach into the image and brush Evander’s hair back from his face. From the look on Marilyn’s face I guessed she felt exactly the same as she clung to him, her dress strap slipping off one shoulder as her arm snaked about his neck. My stomach flipped involuntarily. I was completely drawn in despite myself. The carnal look on Marilyn’s face was answered by the frank stare on his. He was there, in the moment with her. My cheeks flushed and my throat filled with a cold lump of disappointment. Michael never looked at me that way, not even once. “So, um, what about how he died?” I asked, not taking my eyes of the photo. It was weird thinking the smiling face on the page simply didn’t exist anymore. “What about it? “Well, should I look into that?” Loose ends, I told you, they did my head in. Mish shrugged. “He was alive. Now he’s dead. End of story.” “But I can’t write this piece and not talk about the fact he was murdered. That’d be like writing about Elvis without mentioning deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches.” Mish pursed her lips, thinking. She knew me too well to think I’d be able to resist a bit of digging. “Ok. You can put the basic who-dunnit stuff in, the stuff everyone already knows, but don’t go getting any ideas, Kat. If the police didn’t figure it out fifty years ago, you’re not about to. Just focus on the sexy stuff, ok? It’s what we’re about remember… the fluff. We don’t do investigative journalism.” No, but Review does. I acquiesce for now, knowing better than to argue. “Fine, but I still don’t get it Mish, why do I have to go all the way to L.A. for a retro? I can use Google for that. What’s the big scoop?” “We may have an exclusive interview.” “With who?” “I can’t tell you yet.” “Mish…” I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know if it’s going to come off, so I’d rather not say, but if it does, it’s huge and I need you right there ready to go. I’ll email you the details, you can get the interview, file from L.A. and then we can run with everyone else. Except this time we’ll have the scoop.” I still mustn’t have looked convinced. “Look, I’ll put you up at Chateau Marmont the whole time.” she was resorting to flat out bribery. “That’s still where everything happens. You’ll be in the thick of it all. I know you love all that celebrity bullshit.” Pfft. Aren’t you behind the times. I sighed. “Ok.” “Ok? You mean you’ll do it?” “Yes, Mish I’ll do it,” I looked at her squarely, “on the condition you get me a run at Review as soon as I get back.” “Fine, ok, whatever,” she waved her hand dismissively at me, “when you get back you can go off and be a bloody boring real journalist. I warn you though, Bradley’s not easily impressed. It’s not going to matter who your father was, you’ll still have to find one hell of a story for him to take you on.” My stomach clenched, partly at her characteristic insensitivity and partly in anticipation. “I’m sure I’ll be able to dig something up Mish. Now, when do you want me to leave?” Mish clapped her hands together briskly. “Tomorrow.” “Miiiii-iiiisshh!” I wailed. ‘Oh stop,” she flapped her hands at me, irritated. “I knew you wouldn’t say no. You never say no. Your tickets are booked, your passport is current, all you have to do is go home and pack.” As she bustled my unwashed and slightly ripe body out of her gleaming office she promised to email me all the background info I needed and made me swear that, while I was to focus on Evander Hill, if I also happened to stumble on the latest place Paris had left her knickers or witness Lindsay Lohan getting wasted (like that was news), I was to report on that too, of course. “Oh, one final thing Kat,” she swished as she shoved me unceremoniously into the lift and pressed the down button. “What’s that Mish?” I said, expecting well wishes for a safe trip, considering my fragile state. “Please wash your hair. You smell like Cheezels.” And with that, the lift doors slid shut. * So, that’s how I’ve ended up here in L.A. at the nasty end of a sixteen hour flight, with no boyfriend, a career that suddenly feels pointless and my ear being chewed off by a needy housewife whose enthusiasm is directly proportionate to the size of her arse. All to write a story about the sex life of a long dead movie star. Christ. If I didn’t think there was a remote chance I could turn it into more, there is no way I would have gotten on that plane. I am next in line for a taxi, thank god. My feet feel like bricks and I’m certain I have cankles by now. My red alligator tote chomps brutally in to my shoulder but at least Marjorie has stopped yapping at my sneakered-for-comfort heels and is standing docilely behind me in the queue. I soon realise she’s just waiting for the right moment to pounce. “Hey Katherine… I was thinking,” she says with a bright smile. Oh dear. “I’m enjoying our conversation so much, it’s been so lovely getting to know you and, seeing as we are going pretty much the same way…” I steel myself. No, she can’t be thinking… “Maybe we should share a cab.” I groan inwardly. I’m not sure how much more I can take although I’m fairly certain it’ll result in me needing extra vodka back at my hotel. She looks at me with such a friendly expression, how can I say no without hurting her feelings? So, I do what any self-respecting brand new friend would do. I lie. “Oh Marjorie, I’m so sorry, that would have been great but I’m not actually going straight to my hotel. I’m, ummm, stopping in to see a friend in Beverly Hills.” I make a suitably disappointed face to round out the fib that, for once, rolls so glibly off my tongue. She looks crushed and I try not to let it bother me. “Oh. Ok. Uh, that’s fine,” she says hurriedly, “I mean I just thought, you know, to save on cab fare and uh, well it was nice meeting you anyway.” “You too Marjorie,” I smile, relieved. That was easy. See, I can say no. “Have a great time in L.A.” I climb into the cab and immediately sink back, exhausted, onto the seat, eyes closed. “Where to lady?” The taxi driver’s voice reminds me quickly that I can’t fall straight asleep and my gritty eyes struggle unwillingly open. Smiling and chewing gum, he’s peering at me through the rear view mirror. “Chateau Marmont.” I say. And that’s when I make the mistake of glancing out of the side window. There stands Marjorie, by herself with her garish, hot pink suitcase, looking rather lost. I feel really mean. Don’t do it. All of a sudden there’s a tiny, tattooed Chrissie sitting on my shoulder, wearing a pair of red sequined devil’s horns (she actually does own a pair of those for the record) and smoking a cigar. Don’t do it Kat. “Hold on driver,” I lean over and wind down the window. “Marjorie…” I call, wanting to kick myself immediately. But it’s too late, she steps eagerly up to the kerb and leans into the window. “I can visit my friend another time. Hop in, we’ll share the ride.” She clambers into the back seat next to me, gives the driver directions to her hotel and starts waffling on about how excited she is to finally be seeing her son, who lives here in L.A now and doesn’t have a steady girlfriend, even though he is thirty-five and leaving it a bit late, but that he does something exciting to do with the LAPD which keeps him sooo busy and doesn’t leave much time for… yada yada yada. I tune out. My imaginary Chrissie shakes her head in disapproval and blows smug cigar smoke rings at me. Alley Kat, Alley Kat, I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again… learn where to draw the fuc… “Oh shut up!” I mutter and close my eyes. Chapter Two 8221 Sunset Boulevard. Some things in Hollywood don’t change and the Chateau Marmont is definitely one of them. Castle-like and secretive it hovers above the north side of Sunset Strip, all white washed gothic arches and turrets. Two years earlier I’d sat facing Leonardo DiCaprio in its dark and decadent lobby lounge, sinking into the overstuffed velvet sofa and awestruck by both the surrounds and the company. That was in the days, post-Titanic, when the thought of Leo still elicited a sigh worthy of a hormonal thirteen year old. I might have gone right off spoilt celebrities but the hotel still thrills me no end. Walking through the lobby I’m instantly portalled back in time. The slightly worn rugs give off a slightly shabby air but the vaulted ceilings echo with the whispers of a luscious, rich past. Everything from the velvet lampshades to the deep red carpet has a slightly tarnished patina, a wicked glow that might just be my imagination, fuelled by stories of real and imagined scandal from the so-called golden days of Old Hollywood. That’s when stars were really stars. Now that would have been an interesting time to be a celebrity journalist, I muse. I run through names in my head. Clark Gable. Marilyn Monroe. Greta Garbo. They all stayed here. James Dean and Natalie Wood first met here during a script rehearsal of Rebel without a Cause. Everyone knows the story about a completely smashed Jim Morrison falling out of one of these very windows and of course a drug-addled John Belushi took his final tragic breath in Bungalow Three. While I’m checking in, I am amused to overhear a fellow guest requesting to stay in that particular bungalow in the hope of encountering the dead funny man’s ghost. “Ma’am,” the Tom Cruise look-alike at the desk says with a toothy grin, “I can’t put you in Bungalow Three but, if it’s a ghost you’re after, the staircase near Apartment Four often has an elderly gentleman visitor that we believe to be Helmut Newton. How ‘bout we put you there?” I shake my head in disbelief. Only in L.A. Obviously you can order a friendly Casper along with your room service. Hey, maybe I’ll be able to scoop an actual interview with Evander Hill from beyond the grave. Wooooooooh … spooky! I get a silly mental image of myself in a shiny purple turban, fingers poised over one of those spirit board thingies, eyes rolling back in my head. The vision makes me laugh as I take possession of my room key and make my way upstairs. I’ve watched enough Entertainment Tonight specials to know that the last time Evander Hill was seen alive he’d been arguing with his co-star (and of course rumoured lover), the much older, and supposedly happily married, Lola Tennant. The very public spat, right there in the lobby below, had done nothing to dampen the rumours of an affair and, when Evander was found shot dead in his car later that same night after storming from this very hotel, police naturally tagged Lola’s husband, director Zachariah Tennant as their prime suspect. Nothing was ever proven and the bloody murder of one of Hollywood’s biggest stars had gone unsolved. The dimly lit corridor is silent as I search for my door number. I run my fingers absently along the silky, flocked wallpaper and recall reading somewhere that a young William Holden was told, “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” I can’t help thinking Evander Hill got more trouble than he bargained for along with his pillow mints when he checked in. I had been hoping to stay in one of the hotel’s famous bungalows but I guess STAR magazine’s bribery budget doesn’t quite stretch that far. Not that I can complain, as I push open the dark, heavy door to room twenty-nine. The cherry wood parquetry floor glows in the clean and bright sunlight streaming through the gauzy white drapes and there’s even a glossy black baby grand piano tucked into the corner. In the other room I can see a king bed beckoning and I totter gratefully towards it, dropping my heavy shoulder bag with a loud thunk. I am exhausted. I collapse back on the soft bedding, my body sinking deep into the luxurious white quilting. It’s only 10am local time but my body tells me it’s 3am in Sydney and I haven’t slept yet. At thirty-four I’m well past pulling an all-nighter, well, without the aid of a bucket load of cocktails and some cheesy dance music anyway. Being a Tuesday, all of my friends back home in Sydney are bound to be tucked up in bed putting in serious snooze time (except Chrissie who a: thinks a Tuesday night out simply means shorter queues at the bar and b: is currently living it up at the World Music Awards in Monaco). I wonder what Michael is doing? I squeeze my eyes shut, instantly wishing I hadn’t let my mind wander down that particularly painful path. Is he sleeping alone, missing me, or is he curled around someone else? Is he still awake, with her, whoever she is, at 3am? Which meant… well, there’s only one reason people are still awake in bed at 3am, it means he’s… Gaaahh. Shit. Why did I have to think about Michael? Shagging someone ELSE! L.A. is supposed to be a distraction for christ’s sake. Pathetic Kat. I sit up sharply, catching my image reflected back at me in the large gilt framed mirror on the opposite wall. Oh dear. I certainly look like I belong at the Chateau Marmont. I am reminiscent of one of those paparazzi photos of a trashed Lindsay Lohan or a crazed Britney. I look like a cockatoo. My blonde hair sticks up in matted tufts on one side and my mascara has mysteriously decided to migrate underneath my eyes, presumably to party on with the dark circles that already lurk there. I scowl at my reflection. Hey, I am entitled to look like crap. I kick off my sneakers and socks and stomp barefooted over to where I am pretty sure a fridge sits concealed cleverly in a peach coloured art deco cabinet. Aha! Mini bar, mini bar, oh how I love thee. I peruse the selection for about two seconds before deciding on the lot and gather up as many of the miniature bottles as I can, hungrily adding two Snickers and three packets of Pringles to the mix. I line the bottles up on the bedside table like tiny alcoholic soldiers ready to march valiantly on my depression. Scotch! Yessir. Gin! Yessir. Vodka! Present. Another vodka. Excellent! Vermouth! Vermouth? I eye the tiny green bottle suspiciously. Yuck. Of course there’s no Bundaberg Rum, that’s to be expected, only some kind of sweet Jamaican equivalent. Oh, and of course some tequila. Who can forget trusty old Jose. I wonder momentarily if the concierge will be able to find Bundaberg Rum anywhere in downtown Hollywood. I doubt it, although they do say the concierge at Chateau Marmont can ‘get you anything’. I’m sure that has been tested a million times, with a million substances, but I find it doubtful he’s ever been sent out in search of the Bundy Bear. Emptying the first of the vodka minis in two swigs I glare at the black laptop case the porter has considerately placed on the desk next the port for the internet connection. Get to work! It seems to shout at me. Get stuffed, I shoot back telepathically. I can almost hear Mish echoing “I’m not paying you to get pissed – you’ve got work to do.” I poke my tongue out defiantly at my computer as I crack open the tiny tequila and crawl, fully clothed, into the bed. Evander Hill has been dead for fifty years, he can wait another day. It’s not like he’s going anywhere. * From underneath my pillow which, for some reason, is firmly wedged over my head, I can hear an insistent and annoying beeping. I wish it would stop. I don’t remember setting the alarm and I reach out blindly from underneath the tangled bedclothes to grope around on the bedside table for the offending clock. I find nothing except the massacred remains of my tiny bottle army, their little glass bodies clinking morbidly together under my hand. I groan at the sound, pressing my face into the bed. Oowww. The light tinkling of glass sounds more like a window shattering and the back of my skull throbs in response. Ever since Brad Peters’ birthday party in Year Twelve, where I got completely plastered on Nikov vodka and orange in a cask and ended up sleeping in my own vomit on an inflatable swimming pool lilo with my Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt over my head, I haven’t been very good at hangovers. I usually try to avoid them. Not by drinking less alcohol mind you because how the hell could I maintain a friendship like Chrissie’s with that kind of defeatist attitude. No, a piece of vegemite toast and a couple of blessed Berocca in a litre of water before falling drunkenly into bed usually allows me to wake relatively vomit and headache free, leading both Chrissie and I to think whoever invented the fizzy orange magic should definitely be awarded a Nobel prize. The shrill beeping has stopped for now and I slowly roll over thinking maybe my head will hurt less facing the other way. Nope. It hurts exactly the same amount but moving makes my stomach heave in protest. Something sticky and warm oozes underneath the small of my back where my white Bonds t-shirt has scrunched up in my sleep. Uh-oh. I reach hesitantly down and retrieve half a Snickers bar, squished out of its wrapper, from between my crumpled jeans and the chocolate covered sheet. Oops. That’s gonna look like something else entirely to housekeeping. Eeww. As I lift my throbbing head (which all of a sudden seems to weigh approximately the same as a watermelon) and blink blearily in what now seems like much harsher Californian sunlight than before, the bloody beeping starts up again. Bip, Be-beep, Bip Bip… Bip, Be-Beep, Bip Bip. Grrr. What the hell is that and why won’t it go away? I peer around the room, trying to locate the source of the mysterious chirruping. My inner mogwai is shrieking Bright light! Bright light! (Note to self, next time you choose death by mini-bar, think ahead and close the bloody curtains). I try in vain to move only my eyes so that my brain doesn’t slosh around too much in my skull. It doesn’t work. It just makes my eyes hurt. Aha! The sound appears to be coming from my bag and, as I attempt to focus, I can almost feel tiny intrepid fingers belonging to a vital piece of information clawing their way towards my foggy frontal lobe. Oh. That’s right. D’uh. My brain is obviously so impaired that I am unable to recognise the sound of my own mobile phone, a cherry red Nokia, cheerily announcing the arrival of several text messages. Ugh. How did those tiny bottles get me that drunk? I thump cross legged on to the floor and find the culprits. Two tiny green bottles. Empty. Damned Vermouth. I kick them accusingly under the bed as if they, and not the other fourteen bottles, are the sole reason for my hangover. I look around. I’m not sure how long I’ve been asleep but it can’t have been that long, it’s still daylight. Then it occurs to me that maybe it’s just daylight again. Surely not. A quick check of the time confirms I have indeed been comatose for more than twenty-four hours. Holy crap. There are five text messages in all, queued up on my phone. The latest is from Chrissie, clearly sent after having a few as her spelling is all wonky. Never mind predictive text, someone should invent ‘drunk-corrective text’. I’m sure it would be wildly popular among trashed twenty-somethings, all too eager to text the ex after a few too many cosmos. Or drunk lesbians as the case may be. I was used to deciphering Chrissie’s messages though and knew that ‘Miss you. No duo when you’re not herd’ was nothing to do with the two of us and some cows and more to do with her having no fun without me. I met Chrissie on a press junket in London when I was twenty-four and pretty new to the hows, whys and whats of the entertainment game. We were both sitting, thumbs up our bums basically, amongst twenty other journalists in a cramped and over heated hotel room in Knightsbridge, waiting for our 10 minute ‘turn’ with the talent. I tell you, twenty-two stressed journos, all on deadline, squished into a small, hot room together does not make for casual steam room fun. The celebrity in question, Tate Martin, was the lead singer of hot new rock band Red Rock; a band still on the up side of a meteoric rise. Shaggy haired and tattooed, he’d just made a movie with another up-and-comer, home-wrecker-in-training Sienna Miller, and was rumoured to be sleeping with every female celebrity within a hundred miles who had a thing for bad-boys. He was also the proud owner of a raging coke problem and had kept us waiting for 6 hours. When a platinum blonde PR princess popped her shiny head through the door to sweetly inform us that ‘Mr. Martin’ would be another hour and even then we might not get our ten minutes, Chrissie immediately uncoiled her five foot ten, to-die-for body out of her chair with ophidian grace, and tossed her dead straight black hair over her brightly inked shoulder. She fixed her cat-like green eyes on the poor girl with an icy stare. “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” she said loudly. The publicist stared at Chrissie in shock. So did I and so did every other journalist in the room. We all knew full well her outburst had ruined any chance she had of getting an interview now. It was common knowledge; you simply didn’t mess with the PR bitch. Before anyone could say a word, Chrissie turned on her biker-boot clad heel, throwing casually over her shoulder, “This is a load of bollocks. You can tell ‘Mr. Martin’ I’ll just make it up.” She stopped and looked around the room at us all. “And if you mugs are just going to sit and wait for him you’re more fucking stupid than he is. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a tequila shot with my name on it waiting in the bar.” I loved her immediately. I sheepishly grabbed my notebook and bag and crept passed the angry, stuttering publicist and the sweaty, whispering journalists and joined Chrissie in the lift where she was in the middle of lighting up a cigarette. She winked at me and blew smoke from between her perfectly made up red lips. “Atta girl,” she said. It’s been nearly a month since I’ve seen her and the funny text makes me realise how much I miss her. The other four messages are from Mish and three of them had apparently beeped through quite some time before. ‘Call me when U arrive & have chckd email.’ Oops. Then from 12 hours later, ‘Pls tell me ur plane didn’t crash!’ How very caring. Like I’d be able to text her back if I’d perished in a fiery mid-air mishap anyway. The next two texts are more business like. ‘Called hotel. Confrmed chck in. Assume U R 2 busy working hard 2 call. PS Don’t touch the minibar’. Double oops. Then the last one, ‘Meeting with Quentin 2morrow @ 1. Don’t B late’. Who the hell is Quentin? I hope this isn’t one of Mish’s weird attempts at setting me up with some guy without actually telling me I am being set up. In her opinion, the only way to forget a guy is to start shagging another one and she’d already tried setting me up with several friends of her husband’s brother’s accountant’s gardener (you get the idea). None of them had worked out, mainly because I was still actually with Michael at the time. She never did like him much. Then, as my brain clears a bit more, it occurs to me that maybe Mish doesn’t really give a crap about my love life and that this is probably the ‘big scoop guy’. Quentin. No, it can’t be. If it’s who I am thinking of, no wonder Mish said this is big. There’s only one way to find out. I give myself a mental shake, because I’m wise enough to realise that a physical shake will probably make me vomit, and I unpack my laptop. The thing is slightly battered and long overdue for an upgrade. It whirrs and beeps and hums, taking its own sweet time to boot up. Knowing it doesn’t like to be rushed, I haul myself towards the bathroom for a long overdue shower. Fifteen minutes later, hair washed and face scrubbed, I feel halfway human again. The heat and the steam have soaked away my jetlag and purged at least some of the remaining alcohol from my pores. I check on the progress of my computer, toothbrush in hand. Deftly logging in to Hotmail with one hand, I scrub hard at teeth that are on the Fozzie Bear side of furry with the other. Christ, Mish wasn’t joking when she said there was plenty of stuff to send me. Twelve emails, all with multi-megabyte attachments sit weightily in my inbox. I am so not equipped for this right now. I don’t even open the first one. This is going to need caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
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