tagCelebrities & Fan FictionAdventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 71

Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 71

byhollywoodjim©

Some kind of secret project was being worked on at AU. All I'd been told was to be at the airport early in the morning, I was to fly to New York with Chuck Tyler, my boss, and Jeff Murphy, his second in command. Usually any trip to corporate headquarters in New York involved the big bosses at the company, and I was never a part of those trips. I just knew to stay out of Chuck's way when he returned as he was always in a foul mood for at least 3 days.

This trip was different because I was going.

Yawning in the early morning chill, I sat in my Mercedes and now wished I'd pulled into that Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru when I had the chance.

When we were airborne in the corporate jet, Chuck unbuckled his seat belt and turned to me.

"OK, I know you're wondering why you're on this trip."

"The thought did occur to me..." I replied with another yawn.

"Don't be a wiseguy, Jim." he said "This is potentially the biggest deal we've ever put together."

I was intrigued.

"OK, uh, how big?"

"We've been in negotiations to buy up Famous Artists and all their clients. And the deal is just about done."

"You're right, that is a big deal."

"Right, that's why I was in New York so much lately." he continued "And...that's why whenever Scott Jackson's name came up I got a little bitchy."

"Uh, is Scott part of this deal?" I asked.

"That's the part we need to keep quiet." Jeff said

"He's going to be eased out of the company when this deal is concluded at the next board meeting." Chuck added.

I was stunned, and my face must've showed it. I was to be witness to a boardroom coup.

"It's not as bad as you'd think," Jeff said "I have it on good authority he'll be given a very generous severance package. So he'll be well taken care of."

I took a deep breath and tried to absorb all this information.

"Well...that's something." I finally said "But now I need to ask where I fit into all this."

"You, my friend have the easy job." Chuck said as he sat back in his chair and took a sip of his drink "You just need to show off your work if asked, and maybe take a few snapshots for the company photo wall."

"OK, I can do that."

"Good, I'll give you the details when we land."

"Is it safe to say there's no love lost between you two?" I asked

Chuck gave me a look that spoke volumes.

"The sooner that bastard's out of the picture, the better." He said in a low menacing tone.

"Do you mind if I ask why?" I asked hesitantly.

Chuck took a long sip of his drink and his mood seemed to lighten.

"Well, Scott and I have had our differences." he began "It's a long story but he tried to have me eased out, no, make that thrown out of the agency."

"Really?"

"In a way Jim, you saved Chuck's job." Jeff said

"I did?"

"It's another long story, but acquiring your old company was what sold New York on keeping Chuck where he is now."

My "old company" was East Coast Image. It had been started as a promotional photo agency. Its founder, and my close friend Chris Foster, was responsible for me coming out to California and made me a partner soon after I arrived. Our work caught the agency of Artists Unlimited.

And as they say, "the rest is history".

"I-I never knew that."

Chuck waved his hand nonchalantly.

"Don't think about it, let's concentrate on the meeting."

The rest of the flight saw Chuck going over issues and strategy related to the meeting, and what my part would be. Turns it would be largely ceremonial, fine by me! I knew I'd be a nervous wreck the minute I entered what was sure to be a huge conference room with everyone staring at me.

I was right.

Famous Artists was located in mid-town Manhattan and their conference room seemed as big as a football field. Their lawyers and reps were on one side, ours were on the other. I was seated on the outer edge of the room with Jeff and just listened as Chuck ironed out the final details.

Scott Jackson was nowhere to be found, though.

"Where's Scott?" I whispered to Jeff.

"Chuck set this up so he'd be arriving when we're leaving." he replied "Ideally, we'll be in the air back to LA when he gets the boot."

"Gee, our boss plays dirty."

"He learned from that guy over there." he replied pointing to an older gentleman with snow white hair, glasses perched low on his nose and idly reading a stack of documents.

He looked familiar to me.

"Who is that?"

"His name's Victor Mitchell, his family founded the agency." Jeff said quietly "I hear he's one scary son of a bitch."

"JEFF!"

Chuck startled us back to reality.

"The incorporation memos from Roger, if you don't mind?" he said with annoyance directed at us.

As the meeting continued on, I kept wondering where I'd seen this "Victor Mitchell" before. He said very little out loud, preferring to give whispered instructions to his own second in command while he continued to read the documents in his hands.

"I think this would be a good time to take a break." Mitchell's assistant said.

As we all stood, a sharply dressed woman who'd been sitting against the opposite wall helped Mitchell to his feet and handed him an elegant walking cane, I watched closely as she led him from the room.

"Does Mitchell get out much? I mean, to like events?" I asked Jeff.

"Sure, I think he's a big opera buff here. Why?"

"Does he get out west any?"

He looked at me quizzically now.

"Why are you so interested? You've never met him before...or have you?"

"I keep thinking I've seen him somewhere."

"I doubt it, supposedly he hates California."

I kept looking.

"Yeah...maybe you're right..." I said as I looked at Mitchell as he conferred with the pretty girl who'd led him out of the conference room "I must've mixed him up with somebody else."

I got out my iPhone and clicked on the camera app. I carefully stood at an angle that gave me a clear view of Mitchell but not enough to make anyone suspicious.

Click!

The photo was just right.

On to step 2.

"Uh, Chuck, will you be needing me in there? I just got a text I need to return."

"Sure, go ahead. I think we'll be wrapping things up soon anyway."

"I shouldn't be too long, I'll see you in there."

I scrolled through my contacts, found the one I wanted, and quickly began typing;

"I know you can't give specifics, but is this the person you were with at the Hollywood Bowl?" I wrote.

I clicked "send" and hoped for the best.

I returned to the meeting and it was more of the same until I felt a buzz in my pocket, indicating an incoming text message.

The message was just what I expected.

"Yes, how do you know him?" it read.

It was signed simply "LA".

I smiled and quickly replied;

"will explain later" adding a smile face to the message.

The mystery was solved.

Victor Mitchell was the elderly gentleman I'd seen the night I took my colleague Natalie Hayden to see Katherine Jenkins at the Hollywood Bowl. He was with 2 equally well dressed women who I knew to be Laura Austin and her occasional sidekick/co-conspirator Vicki.

It wasn't hard to guess why they were with him.

"You ol' dog, you." I thought as I looked across the table at Mitchell, still idly scanning documents, his glasses low on his nose.

With a handshake and some applause, the deal was done. Artists Unlimited now owned Famous Artists and its list of clients. Our New York office would handle things from here.

Chuck was ready to celebrate, but on the plane ride home. He knew what might happen when Scott got word of this deal, and he wanted to be as far away as possible.

When our limo arrived for the ride back to the airport, Chuck hesitated for a minute before getting in, then he began to chuckle.

"Right on time...that little bastard..." he said in a voice that now turned to anger as he looked out the back window "...Try stealing my job now you little shit!" he yelled.

I looked out the back window and could see a large Mercedes pulling up near the end of the block. He knew it was Scott Jackson's car when he saw the chauffeur open the rear door.

"Come on, Chuck, let's go." Jeff said urgently as he tried to get him in the car "Let's go, boss."

I knew he was nervous about this whole scene and wanted to get away. Even though no alcohol had been served, I think Jeff sensed when Chuck's temper could get the better of him. The best way to handle this was to get him out of the line of fire, fast.

When we arrived back in LA that evening, Chuck immediately wanted to celebrate back at the office. And he wouldn't take no for an answer from me.

With his Italian leather shoes propped up on his desk, cigar in mouth, scotch in hand, he held court in his office.

Then the phone buzzed.

"Scott Jackson on line 1." his secretary said.

I took that as my cue to look for the bathroom. But curiosity got the better of me and I stood just outside the door as Natalie Hayden looked over at me from her desk.

"What the hell are you doing?" she asked.

"Staying out of the line of fire."

Chuck had his phone on speaker and even from the outer lobby I could hear Scott shouting at him from the east coast.

"Whoa! Look at the time!" I said, trying to make an exit as quickly as possible by saying to her "You need a ride home?"

Natalie looked at me with a seen-it-all look on her face.

"Not this time...do you?" she replied.

A few days later, the smoke had cleared and things got back to normal. On the one hand I wanted to know what Scott had said but on the other I figured that it was best not to know. Chuck and Jeff were immersing themselves in the new clients we'd inherited in the deal so luckily the temptation to ask wasn't there.

"How's a weekend in Miami sound to you?" Jeff asked.

"Sounds like a good deal..." I replied, then added "what's the catch?"

By now, I knew how to detect when Jeff was setting me up.

"The catch...right." he began "well, uh, it's related to the merger."

"Why isn't Chuck going?"

"This is different, it's ceremonial...largely."

"Largely?"

"Right, and the perk here is you get to meet one of the prestigious clients of the former company who is now a member of the present company, that is, us."

We both looked at each other, and realized the absurdity of Jeff's statement.

"And that person is...?"

"None other than J-Lo herself, Jennifer Lopez."

"Whoa, now you've got me interested. Tell me more."

"She's doing a concert down there, and Chuck thought it would look good if someone from the company was there."

"But why not Chuck? He's a natural publicity hound."

"He's going to Vegas to smooth things over with one of the hotels."

"The hotels?"

"Yep, you heard right. I'm not completely sure of the story there so don't ask."

"I guess we're Miami bound, then."

The concert was tied in to the opening of new beachfront hotel/casino called The Ultra. And J-Lo would be inaugurating their concert hall in a show with Pitbull.

"Quite a place, huh, Jim?" Jeff said as we looked around the vast complex.

"You said it...reminds me of that place out in Vegas, the Aria?"

"More like the Eldorado."

I looked at him and we both laughed at his reference to the hotel on "Lady Vegas".

"TV name-dropping, huh?"

"It comes in handy sometimes." he said "Ah, there's our contact here."

The AU rep for Miami was one Sarah Smith. I met her last time I was here, but also knew she had a connection with Scott Jackson.

"Hi there, boys!" she said in that flirty tone of hers as she hugged us both "Good to see you two."

"How's the launch been going?" Jeff asked.

"Right on schedule, Jennifer's gonna be doing a sound check about now...wanna watch?"

"Yes! Absolutely, let's go Jim." Jeff immediately responded.

"Star fucker..." I thought.

But then, what was I?

As we entered the hall, she was in the middle of a giant stage with video screens and a light show like no other. She and Pitbull were in the midst of a pounding techno number where they seemed to be lyrically taunting each other.

"She looks good." I said to Sarah.

"Of course, she does, she's J-Lo." She laughed "Let's go down to the floor."

Sarah led us down to the floor of the arena and looking around it, I felt so small.

"Am I really here?" I thought to myself.

I had come so far, hadn't I?

With the music playing around me it just made me think about where I was, how far I'd come. I used to be this geeky kid from the suburbs who was routinely shoved aside by those who were supposedly in power, and saw themselves as all-powerful. Now I was on a vast arena floor, in Miami by way of Hollywood. I was getting first-class treatment and looked up to for my talents behind the camera, I had contacts in the industry who saw me as a valued asset. And other contacts who saw me as someone who could be trusted with their secrets, one of the "nice guys" in what could be a cruel business.

I could almost hear my partner's voice in my head;

"You did good, "Hollywood"."

"Are you modeling for a statue?"

I was startled momentarily, then looked up to see Jennifer Lopez looking down at me from the stage, smiling and laughing.

"Me? Uh, no! I-I-I'm...just at a loss for words." I finally said.

"OK, just making sure." she said as she carefully came down metal steps used by the stage crew.

"Hi, I'm Jennifer." she said as we shook hands

"I'm Jim, I'm with Artists Unlimited."

Jennifer looked great in a bright yellow Nike t-shirt and thin cotton pants, her hair tied up in a tight bun.

"Ah! My guys told me you were coming." she said with that subtle, yet very flirty smile she was famous for. "You do all the photos, right?"

"Yes, and hopefully do them well, too." I said, gaining more confidence.

"Hell, yeah! I love your work!" she said excitedly.

Before I could respond with something modest or witty, there were other voices clamoring for the attention of Ms. Lopez.

"Jennifer!" I heard Sarah say as she came over with Jeff and what seemed like members of her team who quickly surrounded her and slowly pushed me aside. Jennifer looked back over her shoulder at me, like she wanted to say something but was quickly overtaken by "her team".

"Oh, well..." I thought

Whatever disappointment I might've had earlier disappeared that evening. It turned out the grand opening of this place was the mecca for the entertainment community. All the entertainment TV shows were well represented as they all jockeyed to get interviews with Jennifer and anyone else in town that night. I was part of the VIP group that had prime seats for the show, and a well-stocked luxury skybox.

This wasn't the first time I'd seen a show this way, but this one made me realize how different things were "up here" as it were. I was watching the show like I did back in Connecticut, glued to my seat, not wanting to miss a second of the experience, the build-up to showtime and the lights going down. But what I found here was that everyone was schmoozing with one another, trading phones, text messages, drinks and gossip. The show almost seemed secondary to whatever they were doing here. It was like a cocktail party with audience accompaniment. There were a few moments when I was the only one watching the show.

"Enjoying yourself, Jim?" Sarah asked as she grabbed a glass of wine off a tray.

"Oh, yes...the concert's good too."

She laughed and went off to greet a late arrival.

Some people don't know sarcasm when they hear.

As I left the arena, I began to think "VIP" really stood for "Very Insensitive People", then thought otherwise.

They just watch shows differently than I do, for all I know it might not be the first show of hers they'd seen. I was still a novice in this game, they were the pros.

And "the pros" were now whisking me off to an after-show party.

Jennifer looked gorgeous, her thick brown hair cascading around her as she breezed into the beachfront club amidst a million flashbulbs. Jeff and Sarah were immediately brought to the big table she commandeered and were deep in conversation with her managers.

"Jim! Get over here!" I heard them yell "We need a photo of this!"

"Will my phone do?"

"Yes! Yes! Just get the photo!"

I got out my cellphone and snapped off a couple of shots, but the reason why didn't seem clear. And as soon as I was done, they jumped up from the table and quickly took off, leaving me very confused.

"What the hell was all that?"

"Maybe you just witnessed another boardroom coup." someone next to me said.

I turned to find an attractive redhead with glasses and wearing a beautifully simple black dress.

"Uh, who are you?" I asked

"Abby Rhodes" she replied as we shook hands "I work out of the New York office, I saw you at the board meeting, sorry we didn't get to talk."

I suddenly remembered her as the girl I saw with Victor Mitchell at the meeting.

"Oh, yes...you were with Mr. Mitchell, right?"

"Yes, he's been grooming some new agents for the company and I was working with him that day."

"Ah, I see. Then you probably know about Scott Jackson."

She responded with a nervous laugh.

"It made for a memorable afternoon, I'll say that."

"I take it he wasn't too thrilled."

"Noooo...he wasn't." she said slowly "Can I give you some insider dirt?"

"Uh, sure."

Abby led me to a less crowded part of the club.

"I've got it on good information that he's met with his lawyer and is contemplating a lawsuit against Chuck and everyone at AU, illegal termination, that sort of thing."

I was stunned, going through another lawsuit.

"You're kidding?"

"It might not happen though, Victor might offer him the top spot at Famous Artists as a concession."

"But Famous Artists is part of AU now."

"Not necessarily, the production wing of the agency wasn't part of the deal."

"Really?"

"He could get a production deal with one of the studios and that would really let him call the shots."

"Which one?"

"That part I don't know, he still has to accept the offer if Victor makes him one."

"Think he will?"

"Who knows?" she replied "Victor's always been a master deal maker, but with Scott...I don't know."

I nodded. This would be a tough sell to say the least. And even tough we'd just met, I could tell by the tone of Abbey's voice she was uncertain how this would turn out.

"Remember, this is between you and me." she said

"Right, I won't even tell my cat." I said with my own nervous chuckle.

"I'll be in touch if I hear anything." she said as she walked away and disappeared into the crowd.

I took a deep breath.

I needed a drink but before I could get to the bar I heard Jeff's voice over the din of the club;

"Hey! Hollywood! Get yer ass over here!"

He'd obviously been taking advantage of the free Tequila shots and who knows what else.

"You've been MIA all night long, you need to meet clients." he said as he put his arm around me "Jennifer! This is the guy you need to meet."

Jennifer looked up from her own drink at me.

"Hey! I didn't get to talk to you, you were too busy modeling for statues!" she laughed.

"You'll probably see a lot of him whenever you're out in LA, he's our photo guy." he said as he shoved me down onto a chair next to her.

"Great!" she said with a smile at me.

"Time for a refill!" Jeff said boisterously as he staggered back to the bar.

"I think he's having a good time." I said to her

"Is he always like this?" she said

"No, I think he's just letting off steam. We had all that business up in New York to deal with, so he's just happy it's over with."

"What about you, are you happy the deal's done?"

"Me? I'm just an employee. I didn't have anything to do with the deal."

"Aw, you're just being modest."

"Maybe." I shrugged before giving her a shy smile.

"You shouldn't be, I've seen your work. You're good!"

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