Paparazzi Ch. 01 of 02byFrancisMacomber©
I hate my life.
The last thing I wanted to be doing was stalking a tramp like Jinx McClure down Rodeo Drive on a pretty afternoon. Somewhere, somebody must be laughing their ass off at the joke they'd played on me.
It's not as though it was hard to follow her. She'd donned huge sunglasses and wrapped her trademark bottle-blond hair in an ugly orange scarf. To top it all off, she was wearing some kind of belted jacket, even though the Beverly Hills afternoon was quite pleasant. "Maybe she's channeling Liz Taylor trying to go incognito," I thought derisively.
Whatever her influences, the result wasn't working : she stood out like a pimple on a teenager's nose.
I was sweating under my sports coat, and the digital camera concealed under my armpit wasn't helping. So I was heartened when she suddenly ducked into some boutique with an Italian name I didn't recognize. Maybe the air conditioning would help me cool off.
I really couldn't see the attraction. Jinx was sexy enough in a fleshy, vulgar sort of way, but L.A. is filled with beautiful, sexy women. Of course most of them didn't have their own reality TV show. And, hopefully, most of them didn't waste their lives eating, drinking, dancing, cursing and screwing in front of TV cameras to the horrified fascination of millions of weekly viewers.
But it's not up to me to judge other people's taste, though I do all the time. No, my curse was to document photographically the off-screen lives of people like Jinx for the titillation of fans and foes alike. What a shallow, wretched way to make a living!
I casually stepped behind an androgynous mannequin so I could keep an eye on my prey. She was loitering around the jewelry counter in a manner that seemed to me either drunken or suspicious. Come to think about it, in her case it could be both. I pulled my camera out and began shooting.
Sure enough, the little bitch suddenly leaned over the counter, snatched up an expensive looking watch and stuffed it into her jacket pocket. "Gotcha!" I smirked.
She must have caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of her eye because she jerked upright and turned to face me full on. I figured she'd beat a hasty retreat, but I'd misread women before and would probably do so again in the future.
A look of rage came over her face, and she suddenly charged at me screaming "Stalker!" at the top of her lungs. I couldn't believe it, but I kept filming as she got closer and closer. Then, just as I started to dodge to one side, a man grabbed my arms with surprising strength and held me immobile. Shit, I hadn't even noticed the uniformed security guard!
A moment later the store manager magically appeared on the scene. "Has something disturbed you, Ms. McClure?" he asked unctuously.
"This creep was following me," she yelled. "I think he's some kind of pervert!"
The manager turned toward me and asked for my I.D. After examining it, he said, "Very well, Mr. Cowan, what do you have to say for yourself?"
I stared at him coolly. "Look in her jacket pocket," I told him.
When he stared at me in confusion, I held up my camera and switched it to display. The small screen clearly showed Jinx snatching the watch.
The manager deftly dipped his hand into her pocket and retrieved the watch; the price tag was still attached. He motioned to the store security man, who released my arms. Then he looked at Jinx shrewdly. "Ms. McClure, we would prefer that you do your shopping somewhere else today."
I raised my camera again and resumed shooting, thinking she was going to slink off in shame, but she surprised me a second time by reaching up and shoving my camera back into my face. "Fucking paparazzi!" she screamed, and dashed for the exit while I stood there holding my bruised and bleeding eye. Sunovabitch, that hurt!
The store manager wasn't fazed. He turned to me and said unsympathetically, "Mr. Cowan, we'd like you to leave as well before you bleed on the carpet."
"That was cold," I thought to myself as I walked out the door, but I couldn't find the anger within me. It's about what I'd come to expect. In Hollywood, a guy in my profession doesn't get much respect. Hell, I wasn't all that impressed with me either.
But despite the throbbing from my eye I'd had a successful outing so I headed back to the agency to show my boss what I'd gotten.
These days most paparazzi don't work for magazines or tabloids, we contract with an agency that sells our work to the highest bidder. The bad thing about the arrangement for a guy like me is that if I ever do hit the big time -- like catching a British royal in flagrante delicto, for example -- the agency would get the lion's share of the money. On the other hand, the chances of lucking into a shot-of-a-lifetime like that are about as good as my chance of winning at Powerball. At least the agency checks keep coming during those long droughts between saleable shots, and if you do get a hot seller the bonuses are pretty nice.
Anyway, I felt certain the agency would be pleased with what I had captured on my memory card, so I made a beeline for Starla's desk. Starla was the assignments editor, which made her my titular boss, but she was also my best friend at the agency. Actually, she was my best friend in L.A. She was also drop-dead gorgeous, which gave me an added incentive to see her every chance I got.
Now before I give anyone the wrong idea, let me hasten to add that I'm a faithfully married man. I'm not going to say that Starla never figured in any of my fantasies, but I never, ever acted on them.
Truth to tell, it wouldn't have mattered anyway. Have you ever had a girl who was a friend but nothing more? That was Starla. Right from the start it was clear that we were simpatico; in no time we were cracking jokes and sharing stories about the agency, our clients and the celebrities we cover. But there was never a hint -- no veiled glances, no lingering touches, no subtle invitations -- that we were anything more than buddies.
When my wife met her, Kelly wasn't the least bit jealous. Actually, that surprised me a little because there'd been times in the past when Kelly got her claws out any time she thought some woman was coming on to me. But she didn't even blink when I introduced her to Starla. I've already demonstrated that I can't predict what a woman will do, and my disability was proven again when the two of them seemed to get along famously.
Anyway, I breezed into Starla's office with a hearty, "Hey, Starla, you're going to love what I've got for you today!" She looked up with a warm smile when she heard my voice, but when she saw my face she gasped, "Oh my God, David, what happened to your eye? It's bleeding!"
She made me lie down on the sofa in her office and rushed out, only to return moments later with a bag of ice which she carefully applied to the wounded area. As I recounted my adventure with Jinx, Starla became more and more upset. "That little tramp!" she exclaimed. "She could have blinded you! You should have her arrested!"
"Yeah," I thought, "in Hollywood? Sure, that'll happen." So I just lay there nursing my throbbing eye and wondering not for the first time how I had managed to wind up like this.
I was born about as far from Hollywood as you can get, on a mountaintop in Tennessee -- Monteagle Mountain, to be specific. Actually, Monteagle isn't really a mountain, it's just part of the rim of the Cumberland Plateau. Anyway, we lived in the little town of Sewanee, notable primarily for being the home of the University of the South, where my Dad taught philosophy.
Growing up, I was a hopeful, optimistic little boy, and my mother did everything in her power to grind that optimism out of me. I don't know if she was born a pessimist or just became that way over time. Whatever the case, she had a negative outlook on almost everything in life, starting with her only offspring.
When I wanted to try out for Little League she told me flatly that I'd never make the team. She was similarly dismissive of any attempt on my part at any other activity. When I told her I was going to work as a photographer for the school newspaper, she warned me it would be a waste of my time. As I look back on my childhood years, I can't remember a single time when she had a positive word to say.
Over time she became so disgusted with my dreams and aspirations that she began calling me Don Quixote because she said I was always pursuing hopeless causes. She even called me that once in front of my schoolmates, and, as kids are wont to do, they picked up on it and used it to tease me.
Of course it wasn't just me who bore the brunt of her attitude. She was equally ready to belittle my Dad, and she didn't hesitate to do so in front of me.
When you're little, you don't stop to question why people are the way they are, you simply accept them. Looking back, I can't understand why Dad tolerated her. Yet he never spoke a harsh word to her, and they seldom argued. Maybe he was cowed by the force of her personality, or maybe he loved her so much that it didn't matter.
I do remember one time after she had reduced me to tears that he took me walking with him. We wandered down Green's View Road past the Sewanee golf course until we came to the edge of the plateau. From that viewpoint we could look out over the valley below us. He put his arm around my shoulders. "Don't let your Mom get to you, David. She doesn't mean it, that's just the way she is. You keep going after your dreams and they'll come true some day."
I did go on, but for all the success I've had I'd have to admit that my Mom's forecast has been a lot more accurate than my Dad's.
Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas presents was a cheap camera my Dad gave me one year. I was fascinated with how the little box could capture and preserve an instant in time, yet also invest it with artistic and emotional values that exceeded the actual subject. I spent many hours wandering through the forests and along the clifftops snapping photos of everything that caught my eye.
So it was no great surprise that when I went off to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville I wanted to major in fine arts with a concentration in photography. My mother, of course, thought I was wasting my time and their money, but my Dad bought me a book about Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt and other great photographers to inspire me.
I also soon became inspired by a student who was majoring in the Visual and Performing Arts named Kelly Mathes. Kelly too had a dream: she wanted to become a singer-songwriter. We met our sophomore year and I quickly fell under the spell of her beauty and her personality.
I remember taking Kelly back to Sewanee to meet my parents. My Dad was quite impressed by my new girlfriend. My mother was cordial enough, but when she got me alone she warned me bleakly, "That girl is going to break your heart."
By now I was mature enough to understand that pessimism and negativity were simply a part of my mother's personality, and they no longer exerted the suffocating effect on me they had in my younger days. Accordingly, Kelly and I got married shortly after graduation, and the world seemed full of promise for both of us.
You can be a photographer almost anywhere, so I was flexible about where to start looking for my dream. But for a singer-songwriter there's only one Mecca: Nashville. So Kelly and I moved to Music City. While she made the rounds on Music Row looking for someone to listen to her audition, I went looking for any kind of work in photography. Eventually, I found a job as a photographer's assistant, not in a studio but at a retail chain that offered cut-rate portraits to those who couldn't afford something better.
For the next two years, our lives were a frustrating mix of dreams and disappointments. When the head photographer at my store came to work drunk one day, I got promoted to fill his job. But I was still stuck trying to persuade unphotogenic people that they really needed a set of eight by ten glossies to give to their relatives. It was photography and it was a paycheck, but it was a long way from my dream.
As for Kelly, she made lots of contacts, met tons of people in the music industry and received plenty of encouragement, but the closest she came to the stage of the Ryman Auditorium was a job serving drinks at a bar on Lower Broadway. There's a joke in Nashville that all you have to do to find a musician is to shout, "Hey, waiter." It wasn't funny to Kelly, so I wasn't really surprised when she announced one night that she wanted to move to Los Angeles. Nashville didn't understand her, she complained, and she was sure that the West Coast vibe of L.A. was just what she needed.
My own assessment was that the odds of scoring a recording contract in L.A. were no better than in Nashville, and the cost of living in Nashville was a heck of a lot lower. But logic and common sense carry little weight in an argument with a young woman who's made up her mind, especially if her partner is crazy in love with her. So we packed our meager possessions into my Toyota and, with a loan from her parents, made the interminable drive to L.A.
At first it appeared that the pattern of my life would repeat itself, but a casual friend out there turned me on to the opportunities for freelance photographers. "This town is filled with celebrities," he told me, "and people are obsessed with what those celebrities do and how they look. If you can catch a few of them in candid poses, you can make decent money selling their photos." On the strength of such modest conversations is history made -- hah!
I should tell you a little about Starla. Technically, she's my boss because she's the assignments editor for the photography agency. As I indicated before, paparazzi don't sell their stuff on their own any more, or at least most of them don't. Instead, they work for an agency that takes their best shots and shops them around to the highest bidder, giving us a small cut on any deal they make. It's easier on the media because they don't have to deal with dozens of photogs, and it's easier on us because we don't starve in between sales.
When I'd been hired by the agency (it's best if I don't use its name), they sent me to see Starla Wilson. When I heard her name, I was half expecting some over-the-hill actress. What I found was a young woman about my age who was exceptionally bright and talented. On the basis of her looks I thought she could have been an actress or model in her own right, but she had absolutely no interest in that side of the industry. Truth be told, she had little interest in the publicity side either (that's what we call ourselves to try to sound more reputable) but she was very good at what she did, even if she hated how phony it all was.
I think that's what brought us together really: neither of us could believe we were stuck in the self-involved little cesspool that constitutes the entertainment industry. We used to talk about it for hours, regaling each other with tales of wretched behavior, negotiations in bad faith and bloated egos that had long since lost all touch with reality.
Of course it was no chore to hang around someone as gorgeous as Starla, but I never hit on her because of Kelly, and Starla made it easy for me to stay in line. It was clear that she liked me, but she never flirted with me, never seemed to notice me when I noticed her. We were pals, buddies on a quest that neither of us could define but one made easier by having a like-minded spirit along for the ride.
Once when we were eating lunch together I asked her what she was looking for and she actually blushed. "I'll tell you, but please don't laugh at me." After I swore a solemn oath, she said, "I guess I'm looking for that proverbial knight on a white horse who'll take me away from all this."
I wasn't even tempted to laugh. "The truth is I'm looking for something similar: not a white knight, but a way out, a path to a better life than this," I told her.
"Well ain't we a pair, raggedy man?" she asked, and I laughed as I recognized the line from the third Mad Max. It was another bond of friendship between us: we even liked the same old movies.
It was late when I got in from work that evening, but I beat Kelly home. She still hadn't had any luck as a performer but she'd gotten a job that made her feel a little closer to her goal. Kelly now worked as an assistant at a major talent agency, and she loved being around Grammy winners and movie stars every day. The money was almost as much as I was earning, which helped, but I didn't like the fact that she often had to work late. Sal Manucci, the agent who was her boss, always seemed to have some last-minute task for her, and lately I felt like I was spending more time with the people in my office than I was with Kelly.
Anyway, she got home not too long after I'd popped a cold one and she'd at least had the decency to pick up Thai take-out for us, so we settled down to what passed as a family dinner in our little apartment. Kelly was full of the latest gossip about this star and that celebrity, and she was so caught up in talking about her day that she didn't even notice my black eye.
Her neglect pissed me off a little, so when she paused over a mouthful of particularly hot curry, I seized the opportunity to begin talking about my little run-in with Jinx. Kelly actually began to pay attention after I mentioned Jinx's name, and when I pointed out my eye as the punch line to my story, she suddenly became very sympathetic. "Omigod, David, your eye looks terrible. Does it hurt?"
I guess the combination of my injury and my close encounter with a reality star must have had a real effect on Kelly because she came to bed nude that night, something she hadn't done in quite a while. I made a grab for her because I was pretty horny, but she fended me off. "No, David, you're the one who got wounded today. Tonight's all about you. Now lie back and let me be good to you."
She then proceeded to give me what had to be one of the all-time great blow-jobs I'd ever received. Her fingertips ran up my thighs, urging my cock to expand to full height. Then she began to shower it with little butterfly kisses that were maddeningly arousing. Her tongue licked and moistened its entire length, and her lips sucked on the head before sliding down to encircle its girth. Then, kneeling on either side of my legs, she began moving her slippery mouth up and down, varying the pace as I began to moan. Every time I'd reach my hands out to try to grab her head and encourage her to speed up, she'd take my wrists and lower them back to the mattress. At one point, she even deep-throated me, and I tried to think if she'd ever succeeded in doing that before. But before I could remember, she began to accelerate her bobbing while applying increasing pressure with her tongue on the underside of my cock, and I quickly lost the capability for rational thought. My hips arched into the air involuntarily and then I was cumming so hard I thought the top of my head would blow off.
When I recovered my wits, I tried to reciprocate for Kelly, but she kept repeating that tonight was just for me. Then she scurried away to the bathroom to brush her teeth. When she returned, she had her pajamas on, so I pulled on my boxers, did my own preparations and crawled into bed beside her. As I pulled her warm body tight to me, spoon style, the last cogent thought I had before sleep claimed me was, "I hope somebody socks me in the other eye tomorrow."
When I woke up the next morning, Kelly had already left for work. That wasn't unusual; she often got an early start. But I was disappointed because I had wanted to let her know again how much last night had meant to me, and maybe even sneak in a repeat. Since that was no longer an option, I decided I'd pick up a bunch of flowers to bring home. Kelly always loved fresh flowers around the place.