Adventures of Hollywood Jim Ch. 61byhollywoodjim©
I hate when I get myself into situations like this. On this day, untangling some power cords forced me to crawl under my desk just as I heard footsteps enter my office.
"Jim?" I heard Jeff Murphy's voice.
I sat up quick and promptly banged my head on the desk.
After grumbling some choice words I got up and fell back into my office chair, rubbing my head.
"Does it hurt?" he meekly asked.
I gave him a look that spoke volumes.
"Only when I laugh, what's up?"
"Small favor I need to ask of you," he said as he closed the door behind him "and if you refuse, I'll understand."
That got my attention, I could actually say "no" to something? I mean, meetings with Jeff Murphy in his office were an everyday occurrence. A meeting with him in my office was another story, especially when it was unplanned.
"...But I'll also remember your answer when Holiday bonus time comes around."
Well, so much for saying no.
"Remember Gary Mackas? The man behind that little part of the business we didn't talk about?"
I thought for a minute, and then remembered the brief meeting I had with him awhile back. I remembered Gary was a little obnoxious but understood how he'd been important to the early success of Artists Unlimited, and I also remembered someone with him that day named Laura.
"Uh-huh" I nodded.
"He's calling in a favor and wants someone to photograph a show of his."
"What kind of show?"
Jeff started to stride around my office, idly looking at the photos on the wall
"Well, I wouldn't call it a show; it's more of an appearance by his Calendar Girls."
Jeff turned back to see me staring at my watch.
"Having problems with your watch?"
"No, I was just looking at the date on my fake Rolex and it's nowhere near December."
"Very funny, he calls them the Calendar Girls but it'll be posters and photos they're signing, that sorta stuff. He sent a stack to the troops overseas and it's his way of thanking them."
"How could he do that? Don't they have, like, Islamic laws against that?"
"Well, with this guy, where there's a will, he finds a way."
I looked at him skeptically.
"Oh, come on! Think of it as a Tigress show without Tigress."
"That doesn't make sense."
"You'll get paid double your usual rate."
"That makes sense, where am I going?"
"Ah! That's the really interesting part. You get to go down to Camp Pendleton. Semper Fi, Hollywood!" he said, adding a jaunty salute.
Well, I guess it beats some strip club or car dealer in the Valley.
"Transportation will be provided, you ship out at 0900, Soldier."
"Aye-aye, sir" I replied with a lopsided salute of my own.
So that would be my adventure for the weekend. Saturday morning, I had my photo gear ready to go and was grabbing some last minute things when I heard a car pulling up. I looked out the window and saw a white Cadillac Escalade in the driveway. As I came downstairs, at the door were three ladies, when they saw me, their eyes lit up.
"Hi, Hollywood!" they all said in a giggly chorus.
The trio consisted of a gorgeous blonde who looked like she'd just dropped off her surfboard before coming here, an exotic Latina lady, and a brunette whom I knew all too well, Laura Austin.
Laura immediately came inside and hugged me.
"Hey babe!" turning to the blonde she said "This is Chrissie, and that's Stacy." She said as she pointed to the Latina beauty.
Each one gave me a hug and were all dressed in some kind of t-shirt and shorts combo.
"OK, ladies...uh, that's Smokie over there." I said pointing to my cat, who gave them a look of bored amusement as they all immediately began to fawn over him.
"So you're running this little trip?" I said to Laura.
"Right!" she said before looking at me "You're not wearing that are you?"
"What's wrong with it?" I said as I looked over my polo shirt and jeans combo.
"Everything, come on girls this man needs a makeover." She led the girls and me upstairs and began to rifle through my closet.
"Man, he needs a style overhaul." Chrissie said.
"I know. I should've taken him shopping when I had the chance." Laura said idly as they looked in the closet.
"Ah! This is a start!" Chrissie said as she found a colorful Hawaiian shirt.
"What are you gonna be wearing?" I asked, what else could I do?
"We're not the ones clothing challenged, Jim." Laura said as she looked for a good pair of sneakers "Yes! These will do fine."
She tossed me a pair of checkerboard Vans slip-on sneakers that nearly hit me in the head. They'd been a promo gift from a client and I forgot even had them.
"What about these?" Stacy said in a little girl-like voice as she held up a pair of green cargo shorts.
"Perfect!" Chrissie said "Perfect for the Marines."
"Aren't you supposed to be respectful at a place like this?" I said.
"Oh, come on! These guys like to party and that's what we're gonna do." Laura said
"They deserve it!" Chrissie echoed.
"Right, now double-time it Hollywood! We gotta hit the road!" Laura said as she led the others out.
"We've got some of America's finest waiting for us." Stacy said with a laugh as they went back downstairs.
I think they're serious.
I got dressed, again, and outside was their Escalade. Bright white with ultra-tinted windows, it looked nice.
"OK, ladies, let's invade the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli." I said as I climbed inside. Stacy was driving with Laura alongside; Chrissie was in the back with me.
"This is a pretty sweet ride you've got." I said to Stacy.
"Actually it belongs to my boyfriend." She replied "He thinks I'm helping a friend move today."
"If he only knew!" Chrissie laughed.
"Oh! My god! He'd be so jealous!" Laura laughed.
"So what's the story on this party, anyway?" I asked as we got on the highway.
"Colonel Parker's battalion just arrived home from Afghanistan and he's giving a big party for them."
"Save your energies, Jim" Laura said idly from the front seat "He's heard every joke you can think of."
"So there's no one in his battalion named Elvis?"
"No!" all three girls replied.
"That's the oldest joke of them all!" Stacy said.
"What's this Camp Pendleton like, anyway?" I asked.
"Huge." Chrissie said.
"And this is the famous one?"
"The one and only" Laura replied "You're gonna like this place, Jim. It's right up your alley."
"Well...you'll see." She said with a smile" I'll leave it at that."
Knowing her, that could mean anything, but I still had plenty of questions.
"If you don't mind my asking, how is Gary involved in this?"
"It's a little sideline business of his, the Colonel was his commanding officer and he likes to give back to his old unit."
After awhile on the freeway, Stacy pulled off into a big gas station/ rest stop.
"Make yourself useful, Jim" she said as she handed me her Union 76 credit card. "I'm gonna get some munchies!" she said as the other girls followed her inside.
One thing I discovered as I watched the "total sale" crawl upwards on the gas pump, I was sure glad I didn't own an Escalade! The area was abuzz with activity and filled with all manner of cars, trucks and bikes heading everywhere imaginable. Thought the windows on it were heavily tinted, I could see Laura striding towards me. She handed me a cherry Coolatta drink and sipped one for herself.
"Hey, gorgeous." She said as I was finishing up.
"Howyadoin', hot stuff?" I replied to the diminutive brunette "Do you mind if I ask you something?"
"Go ahead, you know you can ask me anything."
"Your friends, Stacy and Chrissie, are they...I mean...do they..." I was unsuccessfully trying to find the right words.
"Work for my friend?" she replied, knowing just what I meant.
I nodded. I knew she frequently did "private parties" arranged by a mysterious woman I'd never met whose name now escaped me.
"One of them does, I won't say who." She replied
"OK, fair enough" I said as I replaced the gas cap and grabbed a receipt from the pump "Was the card I found on my windshield the other night from your friend too?"
"Ah, you are the perceptive one, aren't you?"
"I guess it's a talent I've discovered out here" I said "So the car on there was yours?"
I was referring to the red Corvette on the unmarked business card that was left on the windshield of my car the night I was at Michael's office.
"How'd you guess?"
"Well, let's just say I only know one other person with a Corvette and his doesn't look anything like yours."
We both laughed.
"Um, what did the message on the inside mean about 'call me anytime'?"
"Just what it says, call me anytime" she replied "You've got a rare item there. Very few people ever get that card."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's her way of thanking you for your help recently. You're a good secret keeper" she said as she sipped her drink "Think of it as an unlimited gift certificate...I sure will."
Laura emphasized this by rubbing the crotch of my shorts, making me jump back in surprise as she laughed.
"Geez! People will see us!"
"Like who?" she replied with a giggly smile.
"I don't know! Uh, all the little kids going to Disneyland! You know what I mean!" I said as I waved my hand around.
She seemed to like throwing me off balance at times like this.
Stacy and Chrissie returned, giggly as ever and loaded down with munchies and drinks.
"Did you rotate the tires, Jim?" Stacy asked with a giggle.
"Give it a lube job?" Chrissie added, making them all laugh.
I could only stand there nodding and smiling.
"I feel like I'm with a bunch of teenyboppers." I grumbled as I got back in the Escalade.
"Did you remember the Justin Bieber CD?" I asked in the same giggly tone as theirs "I refuse to be in a car without my Justin!" I added.
They were all laughing as we got back on the highway.
"Alright, there it is!" Laura said excitedly as we saw the camp's entrance. Camp Pendleton had a huge entrance that stretched across all lanes of the road with a giant "welcome" sign across the top of the gates and the Marine logo in the middle, etched in either stone or marble. A stern looking guard approached us wearing a razor sharp uniform with traditional blue pants, sand colored shirt and white hat.
"Good afternoon, ma'am." He said in a welcoming tone, so unlike his looks
"Hi, there!" Stacy said as she handed him a card, probably from the agency.
"What's your name, soldier?" Chrissie said as she tried to get a look at his name badge.
"Corporal Thompson, ma'am."
He checked a list and looked at all of us.
"Welcome to Camp Pendleton." He said.
"Thanks, Corporal, We'll remember you!" Stacy said as we drove in.
"Whoa, he's a cute little soldier boy." She said as she looked back at him in the rearview mirror.
"Don't you get any ideas, Stace!" Laura said from the back seat.
"What ideas could she have?" I said to Laura
"Plenty!" she replied.
As soon as I saw a column of tanks, I knew this was the real thing.
"Man, are those real tanks?" I said excitedly as I fumbled for my camera.
"Relax, Hollywood." Laura said "You'll have plenty of time to do that."
Not far away I could see recruits marching in super-straight columns, the sound of their marching cadences further telling me this was the real thing.
My eyes were bugging out as we passed a huge jet-powered helicopter and then a giant statue recreating the famous photo of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Stacy pulled up to a large building that looked like some kind of recreation center. Randy emerged from a side door to meet us.
"Hey, ladies, good to see you made it" he said before turning to me "I remember you! We met in Chuck's office, right?"
"Right, I just can't believe I'm down here." I said looking around.
"Well, it's a little like home to me. OK, let's get everybody situated; the party's going on out back."
Chrissie had the hatch open and pulled out several identical duffel bags and gave one to Laura and Stacy.
"This way, ladies." Randy said as we went inside "Jim, you got your gear all set?"
"Yes, right here." I said tapping the weathered messenger I used or shoots like this.
"Great! I'm gonna take the girls to the dressing room, I'll buzz you when they're ready to come out, I want to get lots of photos of their, uh, 'entrance', if you know what I mean?" he said adding a playful elbow bump.
"Right, I know what you mean."
I rolled my eyes as he walked away. I thought personalities like that faded out with the leisure suit.
I followed the crowd noise and a set of glass doors opened onto a huge field with a live band playing and Marines of various types talking and laughing. The beer and food were plentiful. A huge barbecue grill was up and running with every variety of food imaginable on it. Coors beer provided a full setup of their products, but it was the sight of several lovely and suitably attired Hooters girls certainly caught my eye just as much as everything else there.
"Man...these guys go all out." I said to myself.
Just as I was about to get a beer, the band finished and I heard Randy over the loudspeakers.
"Alllllllrrrrright, Marines!" he yelled "Semper Fi gentlemen...and ladies!"
"Ladies?" did I hear right? "Lady Marines?"
The troops gathered bellowed various yells in response.
"I give you the man responsible for all this, your Commanding Officer, Colonel Parker!"
Colonel Parker stepped up onto the stage. He wore a bright red Marines t-shirt and khaki fatigues that showed he was still a muscular man of indeterminate age who'd definitely seen action not just on the field of battle but in barroom battles worldwide. He was accompanied by a brown and white bulldog wearing a matching shirt and ready to run off on his own, probably to attack the burgers on the grill. Or anyone that got in his way.
"Marines!" the Colonel bellowed "TENNNN-HUT!"
Everyone went ramrod straight at that instant.
"Gentlemen!" he bellowed before dropping into a more welcoming tone "...and ladies. Welcome home."
I kept looking around, where were the lady Marines?
"I'm proud of you all, this is your day. Welcome home..." he began a short speech thanking the battalion for their efforts overseas, I saw Randy move over to a table setup near the stage, he spotted me and called me over.
"You're in just the right spot. Stay right here." He said.
The Colonel wrapped up his speech and Randy returned to the stage.
"Alright, Marines...say hello to the Calendar Girls!"
A group of 10 girls came onstage wearing gray Marine uniforms and walking in formation, just like the recruits we'd seen as we drove in, serious expressions on their faces. Even though their hair was tucked into their caps, I could just pick out Chrissie, Stacy and Laura in the group. They marched to the end of the stage and stood ramrod straight.
"Ladies...present...arms!" Colonel Parker said in his best drill sergeant voice.
All the ladies moved their arms to the left side of their uniforms.
"What the hell has he got in mind?" I wondered as I snapped photos.
"Platoon..." Parker said before adding one of those official orders that sound like grunts to ordinary civilians like me.
At that instant, all the women in the group yanked what seemed like some kind of Velcro tab and their uniforms disappeared to reveal bikinis all in matching red with "U.S." on the left bikini top and "M.C." on the right. The bottoms had the Marine Corps. anchor and globe logo. All the troops yelled and hollered when the girls all saluted and said "Semper Fi" to everyone there.
"All right! Your Calendar Girls! Let's hear it!" Gary yelled out
All the girls were all escorted to a big table and were immediately swarmed with guys looking for autographs and photos.
"Jim, need you down here!" I head Gary call.
"Here, compliments of the Colonel." He said as he handed me a bag.
Inside was a similar red t-shirt and hat with "Camp Pendleton" stitched in gold
"Cool!" I said as I put on the hat and stuffed my Red Sox cap into my camera bag.
"Now you look like you fit in here, pal!" he laughed as he went to check on the girls.
Laura, Chrissie and Stacy were happily signing and flirting with the soldiers while I was snapping away.
"This isn't routine for you is it?" Laura was asked by a Marine just fitted with a prosthetic leg as I took their picture.
"Are you kidding, I love it!" she said happily as she sat on his lap and gave him a kiss "Last year we went to Okinawa, the flight took forever but we had fun."
I knew what she meant by the flight taking forever, but I'd bet hers was in the daytime and not at night in the rain like mine was.
"OK, that's it for now!" Gary said to those waiting in line "The girls will be back later." He said as he led the girls away.
"Jim, get yourself something to eat." He said over his shoulder as he put his arms around two of the girls "I'll see you later on."
"What a sleaze..." I mumbled with a smile as I shook my head and went to the food tables.
"Hey, man...you with the girls?" I was asked as I got my beer and a pulled pork sandwich.
"You bet" I replied.
"Wow, must be cool." He said as we sat down with at a table "I'm Scott."
"Jim" I said as we shook hands "I take it your back from wherever it was you were?"
"Yeah, a year in Kabul, Afghanistan. The garden spot of the world."
"Do you mind if I ask, did you see a lot of action?"
"Action? HA!" he said with a laugh "The only time I fired off my weapon was when I got word we were going home!"
"Where's home for you?"
"San Antonio, Texas."
"Cool, I know one of the girls is from that area."
"No way! He said excitedly "which one?"
"Uh...the one who's coming over here now." I said as Laura came to our table with a beer.
"Hey, Hollywood" she said "who's your friend?"
Scott quickly introduced himself and told where he was from, immediately they bonded over stories of the Lone Star state. Laura had put on a black t-shirt over her stage bikini and added white shorts and flip-flops. For the heck of it I took out my camera and casually snapped a photo of her with Scott.
"Take another one, Jim." She said as she moved to sit on his lap.
When have I ever said no to her?
After another signing session later on, Gary ended things for the day and began to lead the girls off, then stopped when he saw me.
"Thanks for everything, Jim." He said quickly as he handed a small envelope to me "the more formal payment will go through Chuck."
I only nodded and started to open the envelope, then decided to wait for a better time.
"C'mon, Hollywood! Let's roll!" Stacy called as she slammed the hatch on the Escalade.
"Coming, dear!" I replied as I tossed my bag in the back.
We were all loaded up and ready to head back to L.A. I took a last look around as we drove out the front. It had been quite an adventure.
"Aw, rats...that hot Corporal's gone." Stacy groaned
"Well, that's show biz." I said with a chuckle.
Laura and Chrissie snickered.
As easy as it was driving down here, it was quickly becoming just the opposite on the way back. For some reason the main road back to the highway had become a parking lot. We pulled off into the lot of a burger joint and began checking the Escalade's GPS system. Just then a tricked out Jeep roared up nearby.
"Hey! It's him!" Stacy yelled excitedly "It's him!!"
"Who?" Laura said.
"That cute guy from the guard post!" she said as she got out.
"Well, you did say plenty could happen if she got any ideas." I said to Laura.
We all got out of the Escalade and went over to Stacy who was already chatting up the Corporal, now in civilian clothes and accompanied by two other ladies, both stunning brunettes one with short, bobbed-style hair, the other with shoulder length hair.