I Love You, Good CarlenebyDinsmore©
Phil Vassar had a big hit with a song called, "Carlene". It's seems only fitting to expand the story of "good Carlene" with a few changes and twists. As is my habit the characters are larger than life. There is no real nasty sex in this romantic story. Don't read it looking for the stroke material and then bitch because it isn't there. Yes, it is a somewhat formulistic love story...I always seem to slip back to the formula I enjoy. Edited by "Crazysoundguy".
"Welcome to Carlene's 'business family'. You are replacing someone who has been with her since day one, one of her best friends. It was time for her to get off the road and start a family. With a full point share of the business and a strong desire to have children, I don't expect her to come out of retirement in the near future. Carlene demands stability in her team. You've probably been poked, prodded and checked out more than a candidate for President. Your credentials are as good as it gets. Carlene likes you---so do I. Always remember rule number one: Carlene is the CEO of this outfit; she doesn't micromanage, she hires people she trusts, gives them clear guidelines and expects them to act with integrity on her behalf. Carlene has more integrity in her little finger than the rest of the industry combined. I hope you have discovered over the last few weeks that she is neither a 'celebrity' nor a 'diva' and she has none of the weird quirkiness of most stars. She is a kind soul with a big heart but she does not suffer fools, nor have any tolerance for people who are unethical or dishonest. This business has made her tough and given her a thick skin. Don't ever mince words with her or tell her what you 'think' she wants to hear. She expects---demands---candor, openness and honesty. She is loyal to those close to her---and expects the same in return. If you're ever not sure of an action---ask. Ask me first and if I'm not sure, I'll tell you to ask Carlene. I never assume---you shouldn't either."
"I've gotten to know her a little bit, but, well, what's the 'story' on Carlene?"
"Other than being one of the most beautiful women in the world, a perfect size two, with the voice of an angel, an uncanny ability to pick or write the perfect song every time, astounding business acumen, an IQ that's off the charts, more industry awards---to include eighteen Grammy's---than she has room on her mantle for and on the way to becoming a billionaire by the time she is thirty?"
"You know what I mean...her personal life...guys...love life...romance..."
"She doesn't have either a love life or a personal life...I take that back, she does have a personal life. She is extremely private about it and it involves nothing more exotic than spending time on her farm, far away from everyone in the 'business' alone with her dogs with regular and special time with her family---mom, dad and siblings."
"How old is she really?"
"She's twenty-eight, as advertised. She graduated from high school at sixteen---skipped twelfth grade and earned her PhD before she was twenty-one---even took ROTC and accepted a commission in the Army Reserves. She started modeling to help with college expenses and ended up on the cover of Vogue and every other magazine. She graduated to TV ads while she was still in grad school. One of the early ads she did called for her to sing; they were going to voice over with a 'professional'. In order to lip sync it, she had to sing the song in the video. The producer discovered that she sang better than the singer they had hired. The rest is history. She wrote all the songs on her first album which went double diamond. She prefers to write all of her own stuff but with the top song writers in the industry offering her their best stuff she'd be a fool to refuse---and Carlene is no fool. She has a vault full of her own songs, every one a potential top ten hit. She's big enough now---hell, she's a frigging icon---that she's going to dramatically cut back on touring just like King George and Shania, not more than one very selective tour every two or three years. She'll slip into the studio a couple of times a year to bang out another multi-platinum album. She has her own label---and produces her own albums. Everyone in the industry wants her to produce for them."
"So, she's finally going to have time for a personal life---and a love life?"
"Personal life, yes. She's very close to and protective of her family. Love life? I don't know. First, it's not easy being one of the ten most beautiful women in the world, a mega-star and a near billionaire and finding romance. Most guys are completely intimidated by her...her looks...her success...her wealth...her talent. Carlene is not into casual romance. The business types---the moguls---aren't her type. I know for a fact that she isn't interested in dating other performers...particularly the ones that might even approach her level of success. Any guy that marries her is going to be viewed as...who was that loser that pop tart married? You know who I'm talking about. Shania was a different story all together. She and her hubby connected on an artistic and a personal level. He is not remotely intimidated by her beauty, talent and fame---hell, he's been an integral part of it! I honestly hope there is a special someone out there for Carlene; she deserves nothing but the best in life. She has a heart of gold...she truly is, 'good Carlene'. Whoever he is, he's going to have to be someone pretty special, secure in who he is, not put off by fame and wealth or intimidated by her accomplishments or her intellect."
"Any prospects on the horizon?"
"Not that I know of. I mean, I'm her manager---although Carlene controls every major business move---so I guess I'd know. I think there was a guy, back in college, or was it high school? No, it had to have been college. They were pretty serious in that first adult love way. I don't have any sense that it ended badly; life and careers just got in the way. I'm almost positive they don't stay in touch...but she has his picture in a locket that she never takes off and that has to mean something."
"So what's on the agenda for her this morning?"
"Right now she's listening to several songs that people are pitching to her. She's not happy with the current album project; she wants it to be a stunner since she's going to take some time off. We've got more than enough stuff on tape to release it, it's just not the package she's looking for. Speak of the devil, here she comes!"
"Hey Simon! Good morning guys. So Marie, what kind of dirt is my favorite manager sharing with you? I hope he's helping you get settled in?"
"He's been extremely helpful."
"I'd like to remind you that I'm your only manager---I was your first manager---and I live only to meet your needs."
Turning to Marie, Carlene spoke. "Try not to become quite as much of a sycophant as my first and only manager has become, okay, Marie?"
The three business friends laughed in unison. "Yes ma'am." Marie replied, having learned that the barbed banter was an integral part of the very special relationship that Carlene and her inner circle enjoyed.
"What's up hon?" Simon inquired.
"I just listened to three songs that may well have been the best three songs I've ever heard in my life...certainly far better than anything I've ever written. It's uncanny...they were written for me to sing. One is a duet; I don't recognize the guy's voice but he's amazing. We need to get in touch with this guy and the song writer if he's not the guy singing, now, before he peddles it to Faith, Shania, Reba or someone else. I'd really like to get him in the studio for the duet."
"What's his name, or his manager's name? I'll get on it!"
"That's just it, there's no manager, no name---nothing but a phone number, hand written in glitter on the CD...strange. Do you mind digging in to this?"
"I live to serve." Simon replied.
Simon went back to his office and dialed the number; he received an answering machine. "If you called this number it must be pertaining to three songs I wrote for Carlene. Leave your name and number and I'll call you back within ten minutes." Simon left his name and number with no further elaboration.
Simon sat back in his chair and contemplated his next move. The phone rang. He answered it. "This is Simon."
"Simon, I'm returning your call, my name is...Phil."
"Phil, Carlene listened to the songs you submitted and has a passing interest in your work. I'd like to..."
"I'm sorry to have wasted your time, Simon. I had hoped she'd actually like them a lot---not simply have a passing interest in them. I wrote them with her in mind but I'm sure Shania can handle them quite admirably or maybe I'll just spread them around. Have a nice day." The phone went dead. Simon contemplated some more and redialed the number.
"Look, Phil, I'm sorry if we got off to a bad start. Carlene liked your songs a great deal...she loved them. She'd like to arrange to record them. She'd also like to meet the male singer who..."
"So you lied to me Simon?"
"I apologize, it was just a negotiating ploy."
"I'm the male singer on the duet. If Carlene wants to record the songs, they're hers. There was no real need for you to negotiate, I'm sure your---her---standard song contract will be fine. Let me give you an email address to send the contract to." Simon entered the email address he received; it was obviously a law office. He sent the required documentation.
"Carlene is also interested in singing the duet...with you, if it works out."
"What's the time frame?"
"She needs to get the next album completed by the end of the month."
"I'm out of the country at the moment. I'll be back at the end of the week for one week, then back on the road. Any chance we can schedule some studio time next week?"
"Carlene will be out of the city at her farm but she has a complete studio there. She doesn't normally like to bring new talent into that venue but let me see what she thinks. Can you hang on for a minute or so?"
Simon buzzed Carlene to fill her in.
"Who is this guy, again?"
"I'm not sure, hon, I'll explore that. He's pretty emphatic about the time frame."
"Okay, set it up. The songs are all acoustic on the demo and I'm pretty sure I don't want to change that. It's piano and guitar with no overdubbing. Find out if he can get the same pianist and I'm sure I can cover the guitar work or maybe he plays. Arrange transportation and I'll have my board guy standing by...he lives just down the road from me. Assume we need two---maybe three days."
"Phil? Simon, how does next Wednesday sound?" Simon knew Carlene liked a couple of days to unwind when she went home.
"It's quite a hike up there, so you may want to come in the night before; I can arrange travel and lodging for you. There's a small village with several nice B&Bs within fifteen minutes."
"I'll fly in---she does have her own air strip, doesn't she? Do you have the coordinates handy?"
"Actually I do, let me pull them up."
"I live less than an hour from there, at least at Citation speed; I assume her strip can handle the Citation CJ3? Four thousand feet would be nice."
"I've landed there in her G150 several times."
"Great! That says over 5,000 feet so that'll work. . I'll take you up on the offer to arrange lodging and transportation to and from the village. What time does she like to get started?"
"Eight o'clock too early? Can you bring the same piano player?"
"That'll work; I'm an early riser. I am also the piano man."
"Phil, just a little background information, if you'd be so kind. I assume this isn't your first song writing experience?"
"No, Simon, it's not, but it's not what I do for a living---it's what I do for fun. I've written under several aliases depending on the genre. I write in this specific genre under...well, you're obviously sitting in front of your computer; look these songs up...there all country and I wrote them, some with star collaboration but it's all essentially my work."
"Wait a minute! I've seen that name before. Didn't you write that song for King George..."
"Several. Look, not unlike Carlene and George, I'm very protective of my privacy and I never mix my day job with my song writing...fair enough?"
"Okay, well on the subject of collaboration, Carlene, not unlike Alison, never expects song writing credit for a word change here or there and from her reaction I think she likes your songs just the way they are so there shouldn't be an issue."
Whatever Carlene is comfortable with, Simon. By the way, I was fibbing a little myself. If Carlene had not wanted to record the songs I probably wouldn't have let anyone else have them. I wrote them for her...I believe she is the only artist who can do them justice."
"Dare I ask what your day job is?"
"I buy and sell things; I also travel too damn much, a habit I'm planning to curtail."
"Where the heck are you right now?"
"In Switzerland about to enjoy breakfast with my second favorite chanteuse and her family. 'Gotta go."
It could have been BS but something told Simon that Phil was in fact about to dine with the most successful female country artist in history and her family. He trotted next door to brief Carlene.
"So who is this guy, Simon, other than one of the most talented song writers on earth?"
"Writing songs is a hobby. He's some kind of business dude. I have no idea what he looks like or how old he is. I guess you'll find that out when his jet crew drops him off in your back yard. He made it clear that he wrote the songs for you---if you want them. I'm pretty sure that right this minute he is having breakfast with a certain Canadian brunette who happens to be your same dress size."
"Well, more surprises, Simon. I put the CD on my laptop and there are data files, all the sheet music, multiple arrangements and this...I printed it off."
These are love songs...real love songs...songs you can feel...touch...hold. I wrote them for you, "good Carlene" because no one in the world delivers a love song the way you do. I hope these songs help you find the true love in your heart that you so richly deserve.
"Sweet and not remotely weird...almost touching."
"I think I'm going to enjoy working with this guy. I'm going to make a couple of calls and get some more skinny."
Carlene called several artists who had recorded songs written by Phil. All had glowing comments. The King himself called back the next day—they were friends and had toured together---to ice the cake.
"Carlene, Phil is one of my favorite people in the world. He's almost like a son to me. He's a straight shooter and an astounding musician in his own right. If he ever decides to quit his day job he could be a star in our business. You'll enjoy working with him and I know he's a huge fan of yours."
"Almost like a son to me?" George had said...Carlene was roughly the same age as George's son...
Maybe he should have just called her on the phone...no, wait a minute, you don't just call a mega star on the phone....you have to go through underlings... "Hi, my name is Phil and Carlene and I used to be friends, well more than friends...and, well, I got busy getting rich and she got busy getting rich and famous and we've lost touch over the years and I was just wondering if maybe she'd like to get together for coffee or whatever just for old times sake." He wondered what might have happened if they'd stayed together...as a couple...fallen in love...gotten married...had babies...love...had they been in love? Yea, well, sorta, kinda, first adult love...college...she'd stopped to offer assistance one day when his old car had broken down...given him a ride back to his place.
They were both country kids but that's where the similarities ended. Different majors...she was going to get her Doctorate...he just wanted to get his MBA and go out and make money. At the time they didn't even like the same music but they clicked...she was easy to talk to...she was so beautiful...out of his league. Had they not met as they had he probably would never have had the nerve to ask her out. Unfettered by the stress and strain of dating and romance, they became friends. Falling into each others arms the first time had been so natural...easy...no stress...no angst. They had made love that first night...neither were terribly experienced...it hadn't mattered. Over the ensuing weeks and months they had done so at every possible opportunity. He graduated. He had things to do with his life....she did too. They'd stay in touch...be friends...maybe more....they were so young. It hadn't happened as they had planned. Life got in the way. Now, ten years later, here he was, rolling the $6 million, single pilot certified biz jet---his $6 million dollar biz jet, or at least his company's and he was 70% of the company----on final approach to Carlene's hideaway. Did he still mean anything to her? Would she be surprised or angry at his subterfuge? He hadn't been dishonest; he simply hadn't shared all of the details with her manager.
As he turned the jet around and taxied back to the appointed tie down area, Phil knew in his heart that he would trade all of the success he had enjoyed to have held good Carlene in his arms every day of the last ten years. She had been his first real love; she had captured his heart. He had been a fool to ever let her slip away...maturity and experience had taught him that. His heart was hers to keep forever or hers to let go. He prayed for the former as he closed the hatch and walked toward the expansive farm house. And there she was.
After the final concert of a grueling tour, Carlene had flown home to her farm, arriving early on Sunday morning. Her flight crew had dropped her off and departed; there was an ample guest house for their use and they would gladly have remained but she didn't plan to go anywhere for a while. Her mother, who lived half an hour away, stopped by Sunday afternoon; Carlene had slept almost until noon, totally exhausted from too many nights on the road. She dearly loved her mother and they were extremely close. She always felt wonderfully grounded when they were together. She missed her brother and sister, both off at college many miles away.
She began rehearsing the songs she would record during the week; she loved them more with each pass. She had once hated country music, or so she thought. There had been a time when she rejected her rural roots and almost got caught up in the big city whirl of a fashion model. Phil had changed that, not the Phil who was coming to record with her but the other Phil...her first true love...the first man who had ever excited her...the man in whose arms she always felt special, safe...loved. Phil had embraced his country upbringing, even taking pride in being a red neck. He had introduced her to country radio, honky-tonks, slide guitars, banjos and fiddles. He had introduced her to the "good stuff", those classic country songs that drive right to the heart, tell a story and wrap the listener in the comfort of their expansive, warm musical arms.
The Nashville establishment had not been crazy about her at first; even after recording a diamond album, albeit decidedly pop, she received no invitation to the Opry. Some claimed that her voice couldn't be real, that it was produced in the studio. Traditional country stations wouldn't play her music until their listeners demanded it over and over. She had resisted touring in the beginning; she wanted a body of work---her work—not covers before she went on tour. She had made a few friends in the business, winning them over because not unlike Carlene, those who were truly giants were at heart honest, ethical and genuine.
Her first major live performance had been as essentially a minor opening act for a charity concert put together by George, Dolly, Brad, Vince, Reba and other straight shooters in the industry. Her set had been planned for twenty minutes. When she came on stage the applause was less than enthusiastic. Twenty minutes later, no one in the audience of close to a hundred thousand wanted her to leave. Brad invited her back to do a duet which he had not planned to perform; they later recorded it and she won her first Grammy. Virtually every headliner invited her back on stage to perform with them. She went back to the studio and cut her second album and while many of the bass lines and rhythm tracks were stronger than classic country generally dictates, it was unquestionably a country album. Even more important, she had written seven of the tracks exclusively on her own and the other five with collaboration---but they were all her songs and everyone knew it.