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In the past ten years he'd become a fat little sixty-year old guy with frizzy hair. The same guy she once thought was a genius because he could shoot a ninety-minute feature in ten days and be looking at a workprint two weeks later . . .
Harry doing the first of the Slime Creatures in Griffith Park when she read for him in bra and panties, he said to give him an idea of her figure, and she got the part. Karen asked him if he did horror or T and A and Harry explained to her the philosophy of ZigZag Productions. "Zig for the maniac, escaped lunatic and dope-crazed biker pictures." No vampires or werewolves; she would never get bitten or eaten. "Zag for the ones featuring mutations fed on nuclear waste, your slime people, your seven-foot rats, your maggots the size of submarines. But there's nothing wrong with showing a little skin in either type picture." She told him if he was talking about full frontal nudity, forget it, she didn't do porn, hard or soft. If she had to go to bed with him, okay, one time only, but it would have to be an awfully good part. Harry acted insulted. He said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, I'm old enough to be your uncle. But I like your spunk and the way you talk. Where you from, somewhere in Texas?" She told him he was close, Alamogordo, where her dad was a rocket man and her mom was in real estate. Karen told him she left to study drama at New Mexico State, but since coming here had done nothing but wait on tables. Harry said, "Let's hear you scream." She gave him a good one and he gave her a big smile saying, "Get ready to be a star."
Karen was slimed to death within twenty minutes of her first appearance on the screen.
Michael, who hadalso read for a part and was turned down, told her she was lucky, not have to hang around the set. It was where she first met Michael, when they were casting Slime Creatures fifteen years ago, saw him a few other times after, but they didn't seriously get it on until Michael was a star and she was living with Harry . . . tired of it, saying mean things and arguing by that time, picking at dumb lines that had never bothered her before. Like the one Harry threw at her in bed, out of nowhere . . .
"Maybe it's only the wind."
Knowing she'd remember it.
Instead of giving him a look, she should have said, "What're you up to, Harry? What can I do for you?"
Make him come out and say it instead of trying to take her down memory lane. It was so obvious. Harry wanted her to use her influence with Michael to set up a meeting. But wanted it to be her idea, happy to do him this favor because she owed him, theoretically, for putting her in pictures, making her a ZigZag Productions star.
But it was weird--hearing that line again.
When she first read it she said to Harry, "You've got to be kidding." It was his line, he was always rewriting, sticking in additional dialogue. Harry said, "Yeah, but it works. You hear the roof being torn off, you look up and say to the guy, 'Maybe it's only the wind.' You know why?"
"Because I'm stupid?"
"Because you want it to be the wind and not that fucking maniac up there. It may sound stupid, but what it does, it gives the audience a chance to release nervous laughter."
"At my expense," Karen said.
And Harry said, "You going to sulk? It's entertainment, babe. It's a put-on, the whole business of making pictures. You ever catch yourself taking it seriously you're in trouble."
Karen recited the line. It got a laugh and a picture that cost four hundred thousand to make grossed over twenty million worldwide. She told Harry it was still schlock. He said, "Yeah, but it's my schlock. If it doesn't make me famous, at least it can make me rich."
She might ask Harry in the morning, "Who's taking it seriously now?" Harry dreaming of a twenty-million-plus production he'd never get off the ground. And a star he'd never sign. With or without her help.
She might ask him, "Remember I told you last night about a picture I've been offered?" After a seven-year layoff. She had expected Harry to at least be curious, show some interest. "You remember I wanted to talk about it and all you said was 'Yeah? Great'?"
Now she was the one taking it seriously, standing on the upstairs landing in her T-shirt . . . listening, beginning to see the stairway and the foyer below as a set.
It would be lighted to get eerie shadows and she would have on a see-through nightie rather than a T-shirt. She hears a sound and calls out softly, "Harry? Is that you?" She starts down the stairs and stops as a shadow appears in the foyer, a moving shadow coming out of the study. She calls again, "Harry?" in a stupid, tentative voice knowing goddamn well it isn't Harry. If it's a Zig shadow, now the maniac appears, looks up, sees her. A Zag shadow is followed by a gross, oversized mutation. Either one, she stands there long enough to belt out a scream that will fill movie theaters, raise millions of goose bumps and make Harry a lot of money.
Karen cleared her throat. It was something she always did before the camera rolled. Cleared her throat and took a deep breath. She had never screamed for the fun of it because it wasn't fun. After only three takes--Harry's limit--her throat would be raw.
The house was so quiet.
She was thinking, Maybe do one, hang it out there for about five beats. See what happens.
And in almost the same moment heard Harry's voice coming from the study.
"We gonna sit here all night?"
Now she heard a faint murmur of voices, Harry's and another voice, but not the words, Harry carrying on a conversation with someone who had walked in her house, or broken in. You could take that seriously. Now she heard Harry's voice again, unmistakably Harry.
"Yeah? What's it about?"
Those familiar words.
A question she heard every day when they were living together and Harry got her involved in story development because he hated to read. What's it about? Never mind a script synopsis, coverage to Harry meant giving him the plot in three sentences, fifty words or less.
Karen went back through the bedroom to the bathroom and turned the light on. She stared at herself in the mirror as she took a minute to run a comb through her hair.
What's it about? . . . It's what Hollywood was about. Somebody making a pitch.
From the Trade Paperback edition.