Read an Excerpt
Friday Night Chicas
Sexy Stories From La Noche
By Mary Castillo, Caridad Piñeiro, Berta Platas, Sofia Quintero
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Mary Castillo
All rights reserved.
When you're a failure in Hollywood, that's like starving to death outside a banquet hall with smells of filet mignon driving you crazy.
"So what are you wearing with my shoes?" my sister barked over the cell phone and straight into my earphone.
Meet my sister. My happily-married-to-her-high-school-sweetheart sister, who recently provided our mother's only grandchild.
When I think of her that way, it's really hard not to hate that bitch.
"These aren't your shoes anymore," I informed her. "You gave them to me."
"I let you borrow them. Now what are you wearing?"
I looked out the window and instantly forgot Lydia's question. Twelve years of living in L.A.—eight of them wasted in various low-life positions in the movie industry—had ruined plenty of my illusions and my romance with the city. Except this. This view of downtown L.A., as my BMW flew down the 105 onto the 110, still got to me. Ribbons of red brake lights crept toward the cluster of green sky-scrapers that rose out of the milky darkness. Downtown L.A. at night was the closest thing to Oz on this earth.
"Oh, Goddamn it!" Lydia shouted, the force of her voice tickling my ear. "You're wearing my shoes with the uniform."
"God give me strength," she muttered. "Let me guess. Black suit with a button-down shirt from the Limited and a silver necklace. How could you do that to my shoes?"
Not that it's conducive to this story, but I actually have suits in gray, brown, tan, blue, and black with red pinstripes, that I could wear if I had time to work out.
And furthermore, with the way Lydia carried on about the damn shoes you'd think they were Manolos. Between us, they're faux designer from Footsie Tootsie.
"Don't you have a child to breast-feed?" I asked her.
"Not for two more hours."
If I hung up on her, Mom would be calling within five minutes. "I'm wearing a sheer black 1920s dress—"
"Sheer? How sheer, cochina?"
"Sheer enough for a nude-colored slip."
"'Bout damn time you show off that figure you got. Shit, I'm never gonna get mine back."
Now I shouldn't blame Lydia for thinking I live this glamorous life up in L.A. She lives back home in Chula Vista where the epicenter of fashion is Toda Moda.
"Where are you?" she asked.
"On the One-ten"
"You got the pass?"
"And your boss let you have it?"
Nerves knifed my insides, which hurt by the way.
"You're not going to get fired again, are you?"
For the record, I've never been fired. Well, not that Lydia needs to know, but yes, I was "let go" last week.
"Dale is in Chicago," I answered.
Dale is my boss—sorry, ex-boss—who is unaware that a year ago I optioned a short story with money reshuffled from loans and credit card debt. It was the boldest move I'd ever made and when I think about it, I get lightheaded. But this story was the only thing in a long, long time that gave me The Feeling. The same feeling I got when Candace Bushnell was trolling Sex and the City to Hollywood. (I made the photocopies at the production company I was interning at.) And again when I read that adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Lady in the Lake, which Tyler Banks directed and which resurrected David Duchovny's career.
When I pushed for Sex, I wasn't hired after my internship ended. After I insisted on Chandler, my boss axed my position and hired his niece as his assistant. Calling him a moron might have played a factor in that decision.
"I hope you know what you're doing," Lydia sighed.
"I do. I just need to schmooze the right people."
"That's what you've been doing the last eight years. And look where you are."
Here it comes. I moved the phone so she wouldn't hear me sigh.
"Why don't you think about coming home?" she asked. "Tony knows this guy who has a video production company that makes commercials and wedding videos. You could work there."
A shrill car horn sounded behind me and I jerked the wheel back into my lane. "What? Are you trying to kill me?"
"Okay, forget I said that," Lydia insisted. "I never even said it."
"Yes. You did." I felt something catch in the back of my throat. Where was my bottle of water? With the wheel in one hand, my life suddenly depended on reaching across the passenger seat to pluck my water bottle from where it lodged itself between the door and the seat.
"It's just that—"
"I know, I know, I fucking know."
I heard her breathing on the other end. "I just worry about you. All alone up there."
Shit. I slammed on the pedal and the car heaved forward, brakes groaning as the red taillights of the beater in front of me came at my car. Even if my lease payments put me in debt, thank God for German engineering.
"I'm meeting someone tonight," I told her with that mad dog feeling flaring up inside me as I sat there stuck in a sea of traffic.
"But there are plenty of guys down here," she pled. "And you can still stay in the movies."
Traffic stayed locked in a standstill and I squeezed my eyes shut with frustration. If I had the money to replace it, my cell phone would've been splattered against the windshield.
You see, Lydia wasn't looking into the face of thirty after having jumped from one windowless office to another. I was staring down into a pit of failures.
I'd pitched my project all around town for a year and no one wanted it. There was only one chance left and his name was Tyler Banks. He appeared out of nowhere three years ago with a movie about a con gone wrong, and his second film, the Raymond Chandler flick I mentioned earlier, won him the Palme d'Or and an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. And every subsequent film of his knocked it out of the park at the box office.
Tonight Tyler would be at Que Bella's post-Screen Actors Guild Award party in downtown L.A. Tonight I had Dale's VIP pass in my nifty clutch purse for said party. Tonight was my last chance to pull myself out of the depths of development and unemployment hell and make all these years worth something.
"I gotta go." Or else I was going to say something that would guarantee Lydia wouldn't speak to me for six months. "Give Jody a kiss for me, okay?" I said, missing my little niece.
"Won't you just think about what I said?"
"I'm not that desperate."
"Excuse me but you're wearing my shoes."
Okay. So she had me there.CHAPTER 2
You're a lying, conniving human being and all I can say is that karma will bite you in the end. And BTW, would it be okay if I stopped by Friday after work to pick up my stuff?
—Email to Isela from her ex
"Hey, excuse me! Who are you?" asked a guy with a name tag that read "Dave," when I stepped onto the red carpet under the glittering marquee of the Orpheum Theatre.
"Isela Vargas, Arabella Productions," I said, pressing my way toward the doors. I really didn't have time for a flunky with a clipboard.
"You're not on the list. Are you someone's date or something?"
A visual scan of his unhemmed pants and high-top sneakers confirmed him as a film school student. I bet he calls famous directors by their first names when debating the difference between movies and films. I should know; I'd been just like him once upon a time.
"I'm attending in Dale Berkowitz's place," I shouted over the screaming photographers and TV show cameras with logos from Entertainment Tonight,E!, Access Hollywood, and hundreds of others from all around the world. At the end of the carpet were the faceless, waving, and hysterical fans, most of whom were professional autograph hounds that had spent the night on the sidewalk so they could get Britney Spears's signature to hock on eBay for $500.
Dave pressed a finger against his headset and shouted into his mike, "I have an Isela Vargas in place of—"
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sex goddess of the early '90s (one really shouldn't name names in this town) shove Christina Aguilera's handler out of the way to present herself and her twenty-year-old boy toy to the screaming paparazzi. She kissed his cheek, leaning on him like a hotel convention hooker, and the flashes pulsated wildly. Word on the street was that when the old girl wasn't bashing the kid on the head with Grey Goose bottles, she was trolling for a role, any role in whatever project she could get her hands on.
No matter how famous or infamous, desperation and age do that to a girl in Hollywood.
A quick side step and I ditched Dave to merge with the passing entourage of the latest teen TV sensation.
"No photos," the heartthrob barked, flipping his glossy black hair over his shoulder. "Fucking people."
While one part of me thought his attitude wouldn't guarantee him a long career, the other blessed him for his sense of entitlement as we sailed past the bottom-feeders waiting to take their turn through the metal detectors. All I had to do was pretend to be hip enough and "somebody" enough to follow them straight into the VIP room.
"Whoa, wait a second, you." I had one foot in the door when someone bigger and stronger than me snagged my arm. I might've heard the word "loser" uttered by someone in the entourage that disappeared into the crowd.
"Excuse me, but who are you?" I demanded.
The guy could've had a career as a double for The Rock, but instead he was stuffed into a black suit with the curly wire thing in his ear and the discreet lapel mike clipped to a no-nonsense black tie.
"Detectors first." He walked me to the metal detectors, glaring at the Colin Firth wannabe in line to step back. He jerked his thumb at me to walk through.
I did. The machine dinged and his crack team descended with their wands.
"Take off your shoes."
"Cindy Crawford lost her shoes in a situation like this," I said.
"Don't care. Take 'em off."
I really didn't want anyone to see the Footsie Tootsie imprint. But what can you do standing in front of a 200-pound black lady in flammable rayon pants?
After they X-rayed my purse and then pawed through said purse's contents, it became apparent I was neither a terrorist nor a reporter for Tattler magazine. Security tagged me with a wristband and released me into the party.
There were so many bodies packed tight that I just flowed with the human current to the center of the main lobby. I was about to find my compact and regroup. But—I know it sounds cheesy—for some reason the smell of the place stopped me short in that moment. Old and dusty yet full of the magic and nostalgia of what L.A. had once been, that was the smell of the Orpheum.
If you imagined hard enough, you could almost see the men in their fedoras and the women dressed in their smart 1940s wool suits and pumps walking in through the lobby for a newsreel, a short, and a movie starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.
Time and neglect gave it an air of elegant decay. The giant chandeliers burned through the decades of dust on its crystals and the gilded vaulted ceiling had lost some of its shine. But the grand staircase built for the Gloria Swansons and Bette Davises of the world hadn't lost its arrogant sweep.
The last time I'd been here was with my film school buddies, the summer before graduation. We saw Vertigo. And we dissected the entire film afterwards at the Grinder on Fig. Over the years my friends—Carly, Paul, Erik, and Stan—left L.A. and our dreams of making Important Films.
And here I was. Another hapless Hollywood bottom-feeder picking up every crumb, scrap, and bit of something I could to survive.
With a snap of my compact, I headed straight for the stairs, roped off in tasteful red velvet, leading to the VIP Lounge. All I had to do was charm my way past the two beefy sentinels who stood watch with hands clasped in front of crotches, gazes straight and feet planted shoulder width apart.
Someone yelled, "Hey!" when I ignored the line.
"I'm meeting a friend," I said, stopping short as if I expected them to let me pass.
One turned his soulless gaze on me. "No hand stamp, no entrance."
"No one told me I needed a hand stamp." Which was true, by the way.
"Not my problem."
"But someone is waiting for me."
"Not tonight." He practically picked me up off my feet with one hand to make room for the current star of another Melrose Place–clone show. When the snarling blonde of the moment and her entourage swept into the VIP lounge, Sentinel One stood away from the podium and resumed parade stance in front of the velvet rope.
"Excuse me, but Tyler Banks's assistant called this afternoon to inform everyone that I would meet him here," I insisted, my back breaking out in a sheen of sweat as the other hangers-on watched me.
"Talk to the head of security."
"I really don't have time for this—"
"Neither do I." With one sausagelike finger, he pushed me away.
"I've got forty bucks." I wrested the clasp of my clutch open. If faux authority didn't work, then bribery was the only bow left in my quiver. "I won't touch or harass anyone prettier than I am."
His lips twitched, but he shook his head.
Okay, what was this dude's problem? This is Hollywood. Women, with a wink and a twiddle of the fingers, could get in anywhere. Why wasn't this working for me?
Oh, wait, I'm not blonde, six feet tall, European, or wearing silicone slapped to my chest. Think brown eyes, brown stick-straight hair, pixie-sized boobies, and no butt, and you'll get the picture.
"Ma'am, you can enjoy the party in the main room," Sentinel One said. "Or you can wait outside for Mr. Banks, who isn't here tonight."
Did you hear that? That was the sound of my heart dropping into my stomach.
If he heard it, he didn't give a shit.CHAPTER 3
La suerte de la fea la bonita la desea ("The luck of the plain girl the pretty girl envies.")
—Isela's mom to both her daughters
This was a bust.
A loser would skulk back and pose with the wannabes. Not this Mexican bitch.
No. I waited for an hour and a half, hoping Tyler Banks would come out of his self-imposed exile at tonight's party.
But no. He could be anywhere: the Standard, the Miramax party, or still nursing his broken heart in Fiji where he took off with his brother about a year ago.
You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you? Okay, short version: Tyler had been dating Carson Ridgeley, the nitwit they cast as Wonder Woman in that god-awful movie a couple of years ago.
I know, we should just pretend it never happened.
Anyway, she somehow ended up with a role in Tyler's third movie and then they're on the cover of People with a 4-carat Indian sapphire blown up in one of those little boxes. Not six months later Carson was caught kissing some bartender from the Monkey Bar on the balcony of the Chateau Marmont.
After that bomb dropped, Tyler wrapped movie number four and skipped town.
But he was back. Ted Casablanca said so, and Ted, my friends, is never wrong.
I'm telling you, story of my life if Tyler doesn't show. In high school, I had no boobs. Hence no boyfriends. In college I was laughed away from the MEChA table at Freshmen Orientation for not speaking Spanish. I showed them and joined the Latino Business Student Association. And in this industry, I'd frozen in too many lines while one tipsy bimbo after another stumbled out of industry parties with the men who could've given me a job.
So the setback and I weren't strangers. Except next week, I wouldn't have enough money to pay my rent.
I nursed my stale lemon drop martini, knowing that my mark would emerge sooner or later.
My phone trilled. I tried to open my clutch without snapping an acrylic nail. I had to stop gnawing on my real ones.
"What?" Damn it. I shouldn't have snapped my purse shut.
"So what happened?" It was Lydia.
"Aren't you supposed to be getting milked?"
"Not so good, huh?"
"He's not here."
"Then go find somebody else!"
"I'm not moving. I'm just reassessing my game plan."
"Moving back home and getting married to Rodney?" Lydia asked hopefully. Unfortunately obstinacy was a familial trait. "He's single again."
Sorry, but I shudder at the thought of dragging an ice chest to Little League games, overseeing piñatas at birthday parties, and running into the people I went to high school with at Toda Moda. "No."
"Whatever. Is Hugh Jackman there?" Hell if I knew, standing out here in the main room where the current celebrity to civilian ratio was 4,000 to 2. Oh, now that Courtney and David slipped past the sentinels, it dwindled to zero.
Sentinel One, who pushed me around, patted David's shoulder like an old buddy. My eyes narrowed. "No."
"Damn. Well, call me if anything else happens. Tony's passed out and I can't go to sleep."
"You're still not sleeping?"
"No. I don't know what's wrong and I can't take those pills Mom keeps trying to give me because I'm breast-feeding."
My mother's answer to any and every ailment, especially motherhood, was her sleeping pills. I doubt Mom ever had a natural state of rest after she turned eighteen.
"I guess I just worry too much." Lydia sighed and if she hadn't laid it on so thick I might've offered to come down next weekend. "If things don't work out, m'ija, you can come live with us."
That was about all I could take. Lydia was probably sleeping just fine for all I knew. Discreetly I pressed the End key. I'd tell her it must've been a bad connection.
I slapped my hand on my purse and then tried to pry it back open. A solid arm brushed mine and I looked over and then up into his eyes. Cha-ching.
My first thought was, what did he look like naked? My second was, is that really him?
No. In the pictures I'd seen, Tyler Banks had short hair and this vision standing beside me, smiling at me, was Brad Pitt with the Ocean's Eleven wardrobe, but with Legends of the Fall hair.
"Looks like you need help with that," he said.
My brain flatlined and then blipped. "Oh thanks," I said, handing him, a complete stranger, my purse.
His blunt-tipped finger brushed mine and when he looked down at my purse, a gold strand of hair fell into his face.
I was never this lucky. Something had to go wrong. I couldn't even shut my mouth.
Unlike most directors, Tyler Banks didn't do Steven Spielberg geek chic. His face was all strong lines and hard features, a beaklike nose that was balanced by a stubborn jaw, a broad forehead with a wave of blond hair, and green eyes that saw right through a girl.
"There," he pronounced, holding my opened purse.
Excerpted from Friday Night Chicas by Mary Castillo, Caridad Piñeiro, Berta Platas, Sofia Quintero. Copyright © 2005 Mary Castillo. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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