tagCelebrities & Fan FictionAdventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 81

Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 81

byhollywoodjim©

The "spit take" has been a part of TV comedy for years. It involves one person making some shocking remark to another person while they're drinking, making them explosively spit out the drink. It always guarantees laughs.

But in my case, I didn't spit out the drink, just swallowed it hard and coughed like crazy while trying to make sense of what Mike Schneider had just said;

"We want you to be the new head of Artists Unlimited."

"W-w-why me?" I somehow said between coughs, my eyes watering.

"Hear us out on this," Jeff started "You don't have the kind of baggage Chuck's got, the guys in New York just know you from your work and what everyone else has said about you, all good by the way."

"Chuck hasn't always played nice, you know." Mike added

"You got the wrong guy!" I said "I'd never even seen the New York office until the merger talks."

"And that works in your favor!" Mike said

"How?"

"Your focus has always been on the work, the clients, that looks good to them."

"Yeah, well, so does experience...which I don't have!"

"Look, Jim...if Scott takes over, then it's all over for us!" Jeff said sternly.

"What do you mean?"

Jeff looked at Mike, who nodded.

"When Dad died, he was beginning the proceedings to take the company public."

"Public? As in publicly traded? Stock exchange?"

"Exactly."

"This hasn't happened since the 80's or 90's, we finally have a chance at real power." Jeff said while looking straight at me "If Scott wins, he'll either move everything to New York or clean house here."

"He might even do both." Mike quietly added "And if he did...guess who'd be gone first?"

Mike was right. My last encounter with Scott ended with me pulling off his hair piece and having a battle royal wrestling match with him before escaping into the night with Laura Austin and a couple of her friends before a dozen of the LAPD's finest raided the house and had their own match with him. I was sure someone like him wasn't going to kiss and make up if we met again.

"Look, uh, I'm no CEO...I see your point and all, but...why me?" I repeated.

"Why not?" said Jeff

Before I could answer, Mike jumped in.

"What about this?" he started "If I'm correct, as CEO you'd have the power to appoint whomever you want..."

"Or fire whomever you want." Jeff added

"Suppose, just suppose, you took over...you could name Chuck chairman of the board, stay out here and never set foot in the boardroom."

"Hell, you could even give me the job." Jeff nervously laughed.

We all sat in silence.

My head was practically swirling at this moment. The last time I could recall this feeling might've been when told of Chris' death, or maybe when I nearly died at the hands of Marty O'Brien. But still I wondered, how had all this happened? And why was I suddenly forced into a corner, having to make a life-altering decision like this? My eyes drifted across the room and stopped on a framed photo of me with a pretty brunette girl, dressed in retro-sixties garb and leaning against a vintage Porsche Speedster, the picture cleverly aged to look like it was taken in 1960-something.

"Lea..." I said with a small smile as I thought back to a meeting at the Polo Lounge.

Artists Unlimited was already known as a diverse entertainment enterprise, we handled the careers of numerous people in the business and our fingers were in the pies of projects in the film, TV and music world. And under the steady leadership of Chuck Tyler, it had been quietly getting into partnerships with established studios and exploring film projects with him as a producer. He'd seen his colleague's crash and burn with supposedly can't miss projects in the past so he knew not to jump into something big without knowing everything there was to know. I think he might've seen what happened to Marty O'Brien and used him as a cautionary tale of what not to do.

As Chuck explained it to me, the script for "Spotlight" had been languishing in development hell for some time. He read it once and knew it could be a hit, but only if in the right hands. So when the rights to it expired, he bought it for (if you'll excuse the pun) a song. But he could see the challenges with this film, so he waited until the time was right to really put all his energies into it.

The trade papers quietly announced plans for the film and soon after, the casting of Lea Michelle in the lead role of Julie the aspiring singing ingenue. The other roles were filled by up and coming actors I knew little about.

Set at a resort modeled on the famous/infamous Cal Neva Lodge, the film followed a trio of nightclub performers; a young lounge singer, an aspiring comedian and a band musician all working a season at a mountaintop resort.

But Chuck found that doing a film was harder than he thought. First, the current owners of the resort refused his request to film there. So rather than waste time negotiating, he had me dig through the agency's photo archives for any photos taken there, I found several good ones that the studio's CGI department was able to work with. But as good as these were, I felt there were better photos out there.

"These are good...real good." Chuck said as he looked over a selection of photos from the resort's glory days of the sixties "Can you get any more like this?"

I took a deep breath.

"I could try but our best bet would be to contact some outside agencies."

"OK, do it." Chuck immediately replied "who'd you have in mind?"

Hesitantly, I replied.

"Well, there's really only one I can think of..."

Chuck's smile suddenly turned into a look of dread when he realized the "outside source" I'd have to contact.

"Well, well, well, mister Hollywood is calling me."

The voice on the phone belonged to Mitch Harrigan.

Mitch ran The Vision Agency, a competitor that Chuck had tried to buy long ago. But the deal had fallen through because Mitch was, let's say, somewhat difficult to deal with. Chuck found that out the hard way, he figured he could just throw money at this little photo archiving firm and they do whatever he pleased. Mitch finally had had enough of Chuck's condescending attitude and cut off negotiations. He'd originally been the photographer handling the Demi Lovato shoot in Vegas that I took over. Chuck knew he was good but always said he'd never work with the guy again, then inevitably was forced to if I was busy and the cycle started all over again. There was a famous studio executive who once said of a particular actor; "I'll never hire him again unless I need to." That summed up Chuck's feelings perfectly. I think Mitch felt the same way, in my case though he somehow believed I'd stolen a prime business opportunity from him. Now I was the one in the position of dealing with him because he had access to one of the largest entertainment photo archives outside of a studio and I was the one who had to kiss ass.

I reluctantly called him and after explaining what we were looking for, the real fun began;

"Mitch, hear me out..." I started "I know you and Chuck have some baggage but you're dealing with me on this, not him." I said diplomatically

"And the difference there is...?"

"I know you're talented and just want to use some of your expertise. I'm not looking for any kind of turf war."

There was a long pause on his end.

"Besides, when have I ever said anything bad about you?"

Another long pause.

"What's in it for me?"

I was afraid he'd say that.

"You know I can't make any guarantees about that. You'll have to take that up with Chuck...but I'll be on your side and owe you a favor and I like to think I come through on those."

Another long pause.

"Be here at 9 tomorrow morning."

Mitch was a man of his word and he presented me with a flash drive of photos that were even better than I expected.

"Awesome, Hollywood!" Chuck said excitedly over the phone the next day "Meet me at the Polo Lounge, we can have a look at them."

Try as I might, the idea of going to the Polo Lounge still turned me into a star struck fan because I never knew what (or whom) to expect there. And when I parked my SLK I had to look around to see if a certain vintage Corvette was parked nearby.

This time though, it was nowhere to be found.

"She's probably on a beach in Bora Bora with some CEO..." I mumbled to myself.

The patio was crowded with industry-types sipping their morning coffee and probably discussing deals. Chuck appeared to have just returned from the tennis court and was deep in conversation when I arrived.

"Hey! Here's the guy I wanted you to meet." he said as he stood up "Jim, meet my star, Lea Michelle."

Like I said, I tried not to be star struck.

Lea was a knockout as usual. Her brown hair had some soft highlights within and her eyes sparkled just like her smile.

"Hi, Jim!" she said exuberantly as I got a soft kiss on the cheek from her "Chuck's told me so much about you."

"Great, I hope I live up to expectations."

"Of course he will!" Chuck laughed "Have a seat kid..."

Chuck quickly ordered another round of coffee for everyone, and got down to business talking up the project in such a way that all we could do was nod as he ran off detail after detail.

Finally Chuck ran out of words, and a long silence came over the table.

"So...sounds like a great film." I said, hoping to find a way to end things.

"Yes! I really like it too." Lea added

Like me, she must've sensed how fast Chuck had been talking and figured it was best to just agree with me than question Chuck.

"Terrific! Jim's been working with a CGI agency to recreate the old Cal-Neva Lodge, this is where the film will be set." he said as he pulled out an iPad with photo mock-ups of sets for the film, Lea was impressed.

Chuck's phone buzzed and he excused himself to answer it.

"I hope my boss isn't too much of a motormouth." I said

"No! Not at all!" Lea quickly replied "Maybe that's just his way of doing things."

"True, I see that every day." I replied as I took another sip of coffee "Um, are you gonna do a tour for your album?"

"I'm not sure yet, I might do a couple of one-off shows somewhere."

"Like in Vegas?"

"No, anywhere but there. I'm not ready for that just yet." she said with that million-dollar smile of hers.

Her response surprised me, but before I could question it, Chuck returned.

"That was a certain Mr. Harrigan..." he said with a little bravado "For a change I've got the upper hand with that little twerp."

Lea started to laugh.

"You have no idea the satisfaction that call gave me." Chuck said with a proud grin "Albert! Another round for us!" he called out

"Oh, no I've gotta get going." Lea said as she stood up "Save it for next time."

"Yes, me too. Guess you'll be drinking alone, Chuck." I said as I did the same.

"Not the first time, pal!" he said with a laugh as he got out his phone and began checking messages.

"So, where are you off to?" she asked me in the lobby.

"Probably back to the office, why?"

"How'd you like to be the first to see me rehearse?"

"Uh, sure! Why not."

Lea gave me that huge smile she was famous for.

"Great! My assistant will call you with the details." she said as she gave me a big hug "It was great meeting you, Jim."

As she exited the hotel, I could hear the calls of paparazzi as she tried to make her way to a waiting car. My departure caused less attention.

The call I got to see her rehearse didn't come a day later but 3 weeks later, after the formal announcement in the trade papers of "Spotlight"'s production. And it wasn't to see her rehearse her album, but the music she'd sing in the film, a mixture of show tunes and torch songs of the era. And I wouldn't be there as an invited guest, but as an assignment for Artists Unlimited.

My work is never done.

On a huge sound stage was gathered a full orchestra and a big name conductor. Lea sat on a single stool in the middle of this huge gathering. An equally large gathering of movie people was also milling about.

It seemed like I was the odd man out in all this, I decided to wait for the right moment to catch a few fly-on-the-wall shots and hope I'd get lucky. Lea somehow saw me in the dim light.

"Hey, Jim! Come on up here!" she said in that happy voice of hers.

She greeted me with a hug.

"How are you gonna photograph this? Just curious."

"I hadn't really decided." I said as I looked around "Maybe some film noir black and white?"

Lea's face lit up.

"Oh! Awesome!" she said excitedly "I can see it now, light and shadows, that kinda thing?"

I nodded

"I'll make the necessary settings, Miss Michele."

She gripped my arm as she laughed.

The conductor called for attention and everyone scattered.

Lea transformed into this singing ingenue before my eyes. With her eyes closed she totally inhabited a song like "The Very Thought of You", I clicked off shot after shot and the rehearsal flew by. Before I knew it, the music director for the film called a wrap.

"Could we do one more?" Lea asked

"Which one?" the conductor asked

Lea quickly flipped through a small binder of sheet music.

"Oh! This one, gotta do this one."

The conductor called out a number from the book and the band began to play "Makin' Whoopee", with Lea singing in a slow sexy tone while looking at me.

She let out a childlike giggle when she finished, then thanked the band.

"So, whaddya think, babe?" she asked as she quickly joined me.

"You were...great." I said

Lea hugged me joyously.

"Uh, how 'bout I buy you dinner?" I bravely said

"Oh, I wish you could! I've got another commitment tonight, but, uh, maybe when we get started on the movie, how 'bout that?" she said

"It's a deal."

Not long after, we were up in the mountains at a ski resort whose exteriors would serve as the Cal-Neva's with help from the CGI people. This was another big production and I soon found myself hovering around the fringes of shots getting photos where I could. It was remarkable what the costume department had accomplished, everybody looked like they'd stepped out of the "Mad Men" cast.

This day would be devoted to scenes introducing the main characters as they arrived at the resort. Naturally, Lea's character would arrive last in a sleek little Porsche Speedster convertible. She looked very glamorous with a scarf around her head and dark sunglasses.

"Could I get some shots of her in the car?" I asked the director.

My motives were more to photograph the car and not the girl in it!

"Yes! Go ahead!" the director said

Lea gave me a big smile, then seductively pulled the glasses down her nose.

"How's that?" she asked

"Don't ask ridiculous questions, my dear." I said as I snapped off several shots, making her laugh "This is a big production."

"One more, for me." Lea said "I want you in this one!"

I handed my camera to an assistant and at just the right moment she kissed me. I turned to her and she had a giggly smile on her face. We took another picture where she had her sunglasses pulled down slightly.

My photo op over, Lea was called to the set by the director and was whisked off with a crew of minders following her. She threw me a kiss over her shoulder as she walked away.

"I still got it." I said to myself

I then tripped over a cable on the ground and nearly fell flat on my face.

"Oh, yeah. I still got it."

"That dinner offer still good?" Lea asked me when they wrapped for the day.

I'd spent the last hour going through photos I'd taken and was eager for a break of some kind.

"Sure! I wondered if you'd forgotten."

"Me? Never turn down dinner from a handsome man, I always say." she said with that big smile of hers.

"Well, let's see what we can find, then."

Lea was in a joyful mood as we ate dinner in the resort's grand dining room. The filming was going smoother than expected, Chuck was getting daily reports on its progress and we figured the longer he stayed away, the better the production must be going.

"Where you from, Jim? I meant to ask you that."

"Connecticut, I came out here to work for my friend's photo business."

"Really? That's different. How'd you meet Chuck?"

"Long story..."

"I've got time." she said in a flirtatious tone as she leaned in closer.

"I guess so...uh, well, Chuck had been following the work we'd been doing and made us an offer to merge with Artists Unlimited."

"Was it a tough decision?"

"Sort of...my friend passed away before we could decide and since I was his partner, it fell to me to decide."

"Ohhh...I'm sorry about your friend, were you planning to marry?"

I almost spit out my drink.

"Wh-what do you mean?"

"Were you going to marry?" she asked again, now she was confused. And the sudden silence between us spoke volumes.

"Uh, I'm not gay. He was a business partner, nothing more."

Lea's hand went to her mouth in shock and embarrassment.

"I'm sooo sorry! I guess when you hear the word 'partner' as much as I do, after awhile it starts to mean something else!" she said before dissolving into laughter, I was laughing too.

"We'd never be compatible as a married couple anyway. I was like Felix Unger around him..."

"And he was Oscar Madison?"

"Exactly, I never figured you for an Odd Couple fan."

Lea's cute smile only made her prettier.

"Well then, let me ask this, are you married? To a girl?"

"No, not at all."

"OK, now we're back on track!"

We both laughed at that.

As the night wore on, we finished off a bottle of wine and Lea was getting a little tipsy, I think I was too.

"Maybe we should be going?" I said

"Yes...good idea." she said as she stood up, then nearly fell over "Whoa! That wine was a bit more than I thought it would be."

"Take my hand, little lady. I'll get you home."

Lea was happily smiling as we walked out of the dining room.

We staggered a little but somehow made our way to her hotel suite.

Lea clicked on a light and it revealed a very lavish suite. She casually tossed her purse on a chair and turned to me.

"Do you like the room?"

"Yeah, maybe when I'm a star I'll get one of these."

Lea gave me that cute giggle of hers and embraced me.

"You know...you're a sweet guy..." she said in a tipsy voice "...and I want to show you how much I appreciate...you..." she slurred, giving me a playful jab on the word "you".

"OK, howya gonna do that?" I replied in an equally slurring voice.

Lea put her hands on my shoulders and slowly pushed me into a nearby chair.

"Lemme show you..." she slurred.

With a wobbly walk, Lea went over to an iPod that was hooked up to a portable music system and after a few clicks, a deep bass thump was heard long with a jazzy piano.

"Let me...entertaaaain you..." she began to sing in a soft, sexy tone as she ran her fingers down my chest "...I've got lots of tricks...I'm very verrrrsatile..."

Lea stepped back a little and playfully shook her ass for me before looking over her shoulder and giving me a sexy wink. She turned around and slowly walked back to me before kissing me on the lips while her hand drifted down to my crotch and slowly rubbed it. She gave me soft kisses on my cheek before whispering in my ear;

"I want you...want you sooo bad..."

I deeply inhaled a soft perfume that only enhanced her sexiness. Lea put her hands on my shoulders and was soon sitting in my lap, seductively moving her hips back forth, and giving me a somewhat clumsy lap dance. All the while she was humming or whispering the words to the song. She now wrapped her arms around my neck and we kissed. Her lips were soft and wet.

"...want you soooo bad..." she repeated.

I wrapped my arms around her waist and stood up, she instinctively held onto me as we stood. There was no fear on her part as we moved to the large bed. I tried to gently lay her down on it, but we ended up collapsing onto it. She just laughed as she sat up and climbed on top of me.

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