Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 47byhollywoodjim©
East Coast Image had shut down operations for the Holidays. Chris and I were heading back east to see our families. I was eager to get out of town for at least a week. Ever since the Dark Hills project, things between us had started to sour and there was a definite edge to everything. I felt like anything I said or did would set him off. Chris and Marty O'Brien weren't speaking much, not just because Tigress was off the road, but because they still hadn't really settled things between them. I really didn't want to referee their battles. Exchanging palm trees for ice and snow was starting to look good to me now.
Chris grabbed the earliest flight imaginable that day. I was grateful not to be on the same plane east with him that day. LAX was jammed with travelers. We'd become experienced enough travelers, or at least I had, to take advantage of whatever deals we could get. As well as membership in VIP clubs the airlines provided. My flight out was delayed because of weather so I headed for the VIP lounge. It was crowded in there too! Once I'd spotted a seat I made a beeline for it, just as another lady saw the same one. We reached it at the same moment and found ourselves staring at each other.
"Ah, well...beauty before age." I said as I graciously waved my hand to her.
"Thank you!" she said with a smile "that's very nice of you."
She had on navy blue sweatpants and a matching jacket, a black t-shirt underneath. Gold rimmed aviator glasses and her blonde hair was tucked tightly beneath a pink Avon cap that topped it off. As she took out her phone I looked around for another seat, no luck, so I went off to find a newspaper and try my luck later. When I returned, a few seats had opened up and the blonde I'd given my seat to saw me. She'd since removed her sunglasses and her eyes seemed to smile at me.
"Hey, there!" she said happily "figured I'd repay your favor, saved you a seat."
"Hey, cool." I said sitting down next to her "Your flight get delayed too?"
"Yes..." she said with a sigh "what about yours?"
"Same luck." I said as I offered my hand "I'm Jim"
She returned her hand "Uh, Laura Jean." she said hesitantly
"Well, uh, so is yours."
"Thanks, I've always liked it." I replied.
We both smiled
"So where is Miss Laura Jean headed?"
"New York, then it's down to Nashville for Christmas with my family. What about you?"
"Same place, but I go to Connecticut for my family first and then work on New Years Eve."
"You have to work on New Year's Eve? That sucks!"
"Well, yes, but at least it's a job I like."
"Oh, what do you do?"
"Photography, I do tour photos for bands, movies, that kinda stuff."
"What bands? My daughter probably knows all about them."
"Mostly this band Tigress..."
"No way! Oh, my god! My daughter loves them! I was hoping to get her tickets for a show of theirs for her birthday but every time I tried I was working."
"Ah, and what do you do?" I asked casually
Laura Jean was about to reply when a representative came up to her with an envelope.
"Ms. Witherspoon? I've got your new ticket and your flight will be leaving in a few minutes." He said to her.
"Oh, great!" she said as she quickly gathered her things "I guess you figured out what I do, huh?"
"Uh, no. Should I?"
She smiled back at me
I stood up quickly and fumbled through my pockets
"Uh, here" I said handing her one of my business cards "I can set things up for you if you'd still like to see Tigress."
"I like that, thank you so much. Nice talking to you Jim." She said as she walked away.
"Nice talking to you, Laura Jean."
She stopped walking, then turned around
"You can call me Reese, everyone else does. Bye." She said, adding a small wave goodbye
"Okay, bye Reese."
Nice lady, I thought as I sat back down and started to read my newspaper. A man next to me watched her walk away.
"Wow, were you ever lucky." He said
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"You don't know who that was?"
"I think she said her name was Laura Jean."
"Well, son, I'm from Nashville and I know Laura Jean Witherspoon by another name, I reckon the rest of America does too. Take care, son." And he walked away to board his flight.
Wait a minute, I thought. Laura Jean Witherspoon? Call me Reese? Had I been talking to Reese Witherspoon the whole time?
Nah, no way!
I had returned to the frigid Northeast; back in the family unit as it were. And it was the usual holiday whirlwind, but I loved it. Chris was home with his family down the street from me. The whole time I was there, I was peppered with questions about life out in La-La Land. I suppose the leather jacket with "Tigress World Tour" gave me away. I knew I should've left that thing home. Before I knew it, New Years Eve was upon us. Marty hadn't been saying much about any plans he had for us or his clients.
"I don't know 'Hollywood', maybe you and I should hit a party somewhere." Chris said when we met up for coffee one afternoon. "There's gotta be somebody we know throwing a party."
"What if Marty calls? Would you be willing to do anything for him after the last time?"
"Good question." He said as he looked down and idly scrolled through his IPhone's address book trying to see who he could contact.
"Still thinking about that deal?" I said referring to the big bucks deal we'd been offered by Chuck Tyler.
Chris looked up at me, eyebrows raised.
"I think being independent is best." He said slowly "but it would be one less headache if someone else was paying the bills, you know."
"You still feel like getting out altogether?"
"Tempted." He said "It would be nice to lounge around a pool for a year."
"Look, man, here's my opinion. And you can take this anyway you want." I started "we've got a great thing going out there. I'm having more fun than I ever dreamed, you are too, and you can't deny that. Don't let guys like Marty get you down."
Chris nodded and took another sip of coffee.
"OK...Let's give it another year, and see where we stand. And if we hate it, we'll split everything down the middle, close up shop and go to Vegas."
Chris reached over and held out his hand.
"You know, you'd make a great studio boss." He said shaking my hand in agreement "You know just how to negotiate a deal." He said.
"And I've got the perfect name, too."
We both chuckled, and as if by magic, Chris' phone rang. His ringtone was Pink Floyd's song "Money". He looked at the caller ID and showed it to me.
"Now, now, be nice." I said in a motherly tone.
"I'm always nice!" he growled back "Marty! What a surprise!" he said as he gritted his teeth.
I took this as my cue to get a refill. I looked back and saw him jotting down info before hanging up.
"Looks like we have our new year's party." He said as I returned
"Really? Where this time?"
"The grand opening of the Universe Pavilion at Mohegan Sun Casino." He said with a smile.
"Whoa!" I said as I sat back "Now THAT'S gonna be a big deal."
"Here's the best part, we get to be guests. So we can leave the cameras home."
"Nice!" I said "I thought Tigress was doing a show that night."
"Apparently they put their collective paws down and told Marty they wanted a night off."
"They must like to live dangerously."
"So do we." Chris said with a smirk as he stood up. "Time to suit up, Hollywood."
That was his way of saying we needed to get the proper attire for a shindig like this.
The Universe Pavilion had been a major expansion for the casino encompassing an upscale hotel, several bars and other eateries and even a Playboy club, the first one on the east coast in, well, a long time. I doubted Hef would show up, although it made me think back to when I helped out his girl Bridget long ago, maybe she'll be there?
We had the luck of being VIP's as we arrived. Not to brag, but we looked like a million bucks in matching silk suits. I never felt comfortable walking past all the other people waiting in line, it made me flash back to my days seeing all the cool kids get lucky while I didn't. You try not to feel that way, but some memories stay with you, for better or worse. We had that same glassy-eyed look from our first time in Vegas as we walked in and saw the commotion around us, bells going off at slot machines, different shouts from the craps tables, flashbulbs everywhere. To one side were several bars, another had two massive dance clubs; the Playboy club was at the far end, its white rabbit logo could probably be seen for miles. In the middle of it all were row after row of blackjack and craps tables. Numerous sponsors had their logos prominently displayed, and there were high-end retail shops too. I couldn't help but notice Rolex watches had their shop, apparently the first of its kind. I'd probably need an appointment to get in there. And right next to the Mercedes dealership too. "Where do we start?" I said to Chris.
"You tell me." He replied "Hey! There's someone we know."
He had spotted Amy Adamson, we'd met her from our Rihanna photo shoot long ago and now she was the A&R rep for Tigress. She was chatting with someone from the casino and we headed to her.
"Wow! You guys made it!" she said as she hugged us "Are you looking for Marty?"
"Right now we're just trying to get our bearings on this place." I said
"Me too," She replied "Go check in with Andre over there." She said pointing to a well dressed man in a smart tuxedo. "I'll catch up with you guys later."
Andre had already set up everything for us, we could get a complimentary dinner at any place we chose and free drinks all night. Plus Marty had arranged rooms for us if we chose to stay overnight.
"I guess we're all set." Chris said to me. "And I think I see my companions for the night."
"Look over at the video wall." He said
Two lovely and leggy blondes were holding wine glasses and chatting.
"Uh, you know them?" I asked
"I soon will," He said adding that smirk of his that always spoke volumes.
"See you in an hour for dinner Hollywood."
"I'll bet you will..." I could only shrug my shoulders as he walked over and began to work his magic on them. "Well, Hollywood, let's see what you can find" I said to myself in a resigned way.
The gambling tables were crowded and it was tough to see what action was going on. The bars were bustling with orders. I got lucky with a passing waitress who had complimentary glasses of a new wine produced by the casino. The TV cameras were filming the arrivals of the beautiful people who seemed to be everywhere. I almost felt like I was back in Hollywood that famous night our business took off when we met a certain blonde "celebutante", this certainly seemed like her kind of place.
Luckily another familiar face appeared, Mike Jensen, whom I met in Nashville on the Carrie Underwood and Gretchen Wilson photo shoots.
"Hey! Jim!" he called out
"Whoa, good to see someone I know."
He was with his wife, a gorgeous redhead named Trisha.
"Y'all here with Marty and his crew?" she asked in a deep southern accent
"Just as guests, he gave us the night off."
"Of course, it is a holiday and all." He said "Hey, we're going to the Playboy Club for dinner, wanna come?"
"Uh, sure let me text my partner, I'm not sure what his plans were."
"OK, come over if you can make it. We'll save you a seat."
Mike and Trisha went off to one of the craps tables to watch the action while I texted Chris. It was tough to get a clear signal on my phone so I went closer to one of the huge windows. It was out side of a dance club called Hidden Treasure. Just as I finished texting Chris, I heard a boisterous club MC inside the huge club;
"Alllllllrrrrright everybody...Are you ready!!! Give it up for your host here tonight...Billionaire Barbie herself.....Paris Hilton!!!!"
My head almost did a 360 as I heard her name amidst all the screams from the crowd.
"What the..." I said out loud
It really WAS her! She bounded up onto the elevated stage above the dance floor. Wearing an electric gold and silver dress with shimmering sequin accents she smiled broadly, her blonde hair looked even more gorgeous than it usually did.
"What's up everybody!!!!!!" she yelled out to the screaming crowd "Welcome to my party!!! I've got DJ Freddy here...hit the tunes Freddy!"
And the party kicked up again as she shimmied to the music on the large platform.
"I'll be damned." I muttered "Maybe I found my date too."
But I had to remind myself that it was always impossible to get close to her; she was always the one who found ME.
Ah, well. One can always hope.
My phone buzzed with an incoming text from Chris
"BZY NOW C U B 4 MIDNITE" it said
"OK GO N 2 PBOY CLUB 4 DINR" I wrote back
"LUCKY U HVE FUN" he responded
Well, got my plans set, I thought.
The flashbulbs were still popping as I stood in the doorway to the dance club, and enormous bouncer blocked the entrance.
"You want somethin' bro?" he snarled
"Uh, not anymore!" I quickly replied before walking away, breathing a sigh of relief.
I better get to the club, now!
The Playboy Club was everything I expected, the bunnies were gorgeous as usual as they wandered about in their high heels, satin costumes in different colors and trademark bunny ears. The VIP passes we got were an instant entry anywhere we went. "Bunny Sherry" immediately knew who I was meeting there as she guided me to Mike & Trisha's table. With them was a gorgeous blonde with her back to me.
"Hey! There he is!" Mike called out as he spotted me.
The blonde turned around
I wasn't sure I recognized her at first
"Jim, this is Julianne...she was at Gretchen's show, remember?"
The blonde stood up
"Hi, Jim! I'm Julianne Hough."
"Wow, yes, I sure do remember you."
Oh, man I recognized her for sure! It was Julianne Hough, all right. And she looked gorgeous! Her thick blonde hair had that slightly feathered look, which only showed off her beautiful eyes all the more, and a black mini skirt with a deep "v' in the front and subtle sequins that showed lots of leg only added to the look of a beauty.
"Man, you look incredible." I gushed
"Oh, come on!" she giggled "I wore this at an awards show last year, it's an oldie."
"But a goodie!" I quickly replied making everyone laugh.
"OK, sit down chuckles." Mike said "the comedy club's next door."
"Right, sit next to me." Julianne said
Like I'm gonna turn that down?
Mike quickly got a round of drinks for everyone. Julianne sipped a glass of red wine as did the rest of us.
"Not too bad, I must say." I said after a few sips. "Although, I'm no connoisseur. Any wine usually tastes good to me."
"No, you're right, this is good." Julianne replied "I like a good glass of wine. I'm usually more of a beer drinker though."
"No way, really?" Trisha said in a surprised tone
"Uh-huh, Corona with lime. But not too much" She said between sips "Have to be a good girl, you know."
I couldn't believe it, a Corona gal right next to me. What were the odds?
"Wow, that's my favorite too. I like having some sense of control." I said
"I always thought dancers stayed away from that stuff." Trisha said
"Well, I usually do, being from Utah and all. I never drink anything harder though. But I love champagne, I'll say that."
"I can only imagine how much they stock this joint with." Mike said as he looked around the club. Trisha knew what he was looking at and gave him a playful elbow.
"Keep lookin', honey that's all you'll be doin' tonight." She said making us all laugh.
"It feels so weird in here, I tell you." Julianne said as she looked around too "It's almost like a strip club!"
"With your legs, Julie you'd make a great bunny." Trisha said
"Ha! Oh, if you only knew!" Julianne giggled
"Why?" I asked
"Well...Playboy actually made me an offer to pose awhile back."
Mike and I both said "Whoa!" simultaneously.
"I knew you'd say that!" she laughed "They made me an offer, but my god, my Mom would freak out! So, I never told her."
"Well, if it's any consolation, you'd certainly have the perfect Halloween costume." I said as Bunny Sherry refilled our glasses.
"Aw, thank you Jim." She said placing her hand on mine for added effect. It felt incredibly soft. "You were at that Nashville show over the summer, right?"
"I sure was, did the photos for Gretchen's website."
"Oh man, that was a fun tour we did! She sure does love to party." Julianne said with a wide smile and laugh.
"Yeah, I got a taste of that too." I said shaking my head "She invited all of us up to this bar after the show. It was one of those nights where I lost track of how many drinks I had."
"Oh, yeah I forgot about that!" Mike said with a laugh.
We didn't really eat anything big while there, we were too busy drinking and talking. Plus it seemed every few minutes someone was coming up and asking to get an autograph or photo with Julianne.
Guess who took the pictures?
But I liked being close to this lovely dancer. And I had the feeling she felt the same. She sat close to me and we seemed to catch one watching the other. She had such a cute smile, and she had the most beautiful perfume on.
"Think you'll be going back to Nashville soon?" Mike asked me
His voice snapped me back to reality.
"Huh? Oh, uh, not sure just yet. All depends on what your people have in mind."
"We might be putting together our own version of that tour you did with Rihanna."
"Who would be on it?" I was intrigued
"Well, obviously Julianne, here."
She looked at me with a big smile. Oh, she was hot!
"Possibly Gretchen Wilson or Miranda Lambert, all depends on their schedules. That show we put on in Nashville was a huge success and my firm used that as a test to see how it would do."
Mike wasn't kidding. He represented a booking company called Scarlett Productions that was based in Atlanta and handled country music talent all over the U.S. If anyone could put together a Triple Threat-type show with country music people, it was him.
"For me, it all depends on how well 'Footloose' does, too." She added, referring to her upcoming movie. "Plus, I might be doing the Rock of Ages movie."
Bunny Sherry returned to pass out complimentary cigars with the Playboy logo. The girls got a good laugh at seeing how Mike and I looked with cigars propped in our mouths.
"Tell ya what, doll..." I said to Julianne in my best showbiz hotshot voice "I'll make ya a star in this town." I added a flourish with one arm raised to the stars and the other around her.
She was in hysterics laughing
"Am I really gonna be a star...it's been mah childhood dream!" she said in a comical southern accent.
"Stick with me babe...I'll show you how to fly...we'll dance until dawn and watch the world go by...in the night time." I sang out the words to the old J. Geils Band song, and to my surprise Julianne knew the song too.
The wine was definitely loosening us up.
I now spotted Chris wandering over to the table, but with two different girls in tow, namely Candy and Mandy from Tigress, amidst much head turning and flashbulb clicking.
"Hey! It's our fearless leader!" I called out
Chris was definitely a little buzzed.
"Look at this guy, without me, he'd be nothing." He said to the girls "now look at him...hanging with the stars...does he remember me? Nooooo..." his voice was a bit of a slur. He stretched out a hand to Julianne.
"How ya doin', doll?" he said "I'm Chris, his boss." He said gesturing to me
She looked at him warily but at least smiled.
"Uh, Where you off to?" I asked trying to steer him back on track
"Oh, uh...dunno." He seemed to now be staggering.
I quickly got up and got close to him. We'd done some drinking in the past but the way he was acting didn't seem right.