Tracy Vance has a fun job guiding tours at a California movie studio, but her last few dates have all gone horribly wrong. To make matters worse, Tracy's parents have an amazingly perfect life together--so perfect, in fact, that one of their friends has worked the story of their love and marriage into a movie script being passed around town. Tracy quickly decides she needs a real love to cure her string of bad first dates. After meeting current "It Girl" actress Christy Caldwell during the premier of Christy's latest blockbuster, Tracy decides to pattern her Hollywood romance after formulaic romantic comedies. After all, if the movies keep following the same basic patterns, and moviegoers keep paying to see the same story with different twists, there must be some truth to the genre. Tracy sets her eyes on Connor, a hot marketing intern, and enlists the help of her best friend Liz and Liz's twin brother Dex to carry out Operation Ro Com. The plan works perfectly, from an endearingly clumsy "first" encounter to a day-long montage of dates, and Tracy soon has Connor meeting her parents and making great impressions all around. Still, something seems amiss--until she remembers the necessary "girl loses boy" half of the girl-gets-boy, girl-loses-boy equation that she hopes will lead to a girl-gets-love ending. In hopes of forcing a break-up, Tracy enlists Dex to make it appear that she is cheating on Connor, but the plan goes awry when she forgets that the most elemental plot twist of any romantic comedy is that the heroine's perfect match is always the guy she overlooks. Neither the characters nor the writing present any real depth, but the book is ideal forreluctant readers seeking a lighthearted romantic comedy. Reviewer: Jennifer Wood
Love, Hollywood Styleby P.J. Ruditis
True love doesn't always follow a script....
Tracy Vance's love life is a total flop. Sure, she has a cool job as a tour guide at a real Hollywood movie studio, but when it comes to her personal life, she can barely get her crush, Connor, to notice her.
Then Tracy gets a brilliant idea: Why not win Connor's heart with some help from the/big>… See more details below
True love doesn't always follow a script....
Tracy Vance's love life is a total flop. Sure, she has a cool job as a tour guide at a real Hollywood movie studio, but when it comes to her personal life, she can barely get her crush, Connor, to notice her.
Then Tracy gets a brilliant idea: Why not win Connor's heart with some help from the big screen? Taking her cues from her favorite chick flicks, Tracy puts Operation Ro Com into action, and it actually seems to work!
But Tracy soon realizes that getting the leading man isn't the same as keeping him. Maybe things never work out like they do in the movies--or do they?
Read an Excerpt
"I'm not supposed to tell you this." I spoke in a voice slightly above a whisper, forcing more than a dozen bodies to lean forward so they could hear me. "But this is the exact spot where Christy Caldwell is sitting in the opening shot of her upcoming film, Table for Two. You know, the scene they show in all the commercials, where she's eating alone at a fancy restaurant and she thinks everyone is laughing at her."
I waited as the tourists processed this information, scanning them for those telltale signs of confusion a tilted head or a furrowed brow. I found one on the face of a dad from Wichita. His mismatched pale legs and sunburned face was something we often saw in midsummer at Sovereign Studios. It's the sign of someone who never gets out of the office and doesn't wear shorts or know the proper method of applying suntan lotion.
"But, Tracy," he said, double-checking with my name tag to confirm he got my name right. "You said this was a movie theater."
I did my best to suppress a smile as we stood in the lobby of the Sovereign Theater. It was such a help when the tourists unknowingly went along with the script I laid out in my mind. "And that, my friends, is what we call movie magic." Now they all broke into smiles as if that line explained everything. "All the director does is show an establishing shot of the outside of a real restaurant, and then the inside can be anywhere she wants. Throw in some tables and chairs, a waiter or two, and what used to be the lobby of a movie theater becomes an elegant restaurant. Last week this same lobby was used as a church in a music video."
Several people nodded their heads in awe while they tried to picture the theater lobby as a church. I could tell they were having trouble seeing it. The Sovereign Theater lobby doesn't have a concession stand or anything of the tackiness of a public theater, but it certainly doesn't have the stained glass windows and wooden pews of the church I grew up in.
It probably would have been easier for the tourists to imagine if a half dozen people weren't in the process of hanging a huge banner in the middle of the lobby of Christy Caldwell dressed in a slinky black dress. The premiere of her new film, Table for Two, was scheduled in a few hours. Everyone was just at the point of scrambling to get the theater ready for the celebrities, studio bigwigs, and paparazzi who would be showing up later. Fearing that we were about to be kicked out for being in the way, I led my tour out of the theater lobby to continue the Sovereign Studios tour.
It was my second summer as a page at Sovereign Studios, so I was pretty good at knowing when it was time to move the tour along before I got yelled at for interfering with the working studio. Besides, I was also scheduled to work the premiere later, so I didn't want anyone angry with me who could make my life miserable. Pages are at the bottom of just about every food chain on the lot, so it's always good to make sure you don't give anyone a reason to report you to the boss.
By the way, "page" is the formal name for tour guides. Pages also fill in around the lot doing different odds and ends where needed, like working a movie premiere or helping catalog dusty, old archive boxes that have been stored under a soundstage for a few decades. The job isn't exactly all that glamorous.
During the school year, the pages are all college graduates, but the page staff is supplemented by high school and college students for the summer travel season. Even though they only make slightly above minimum wage and sometimes have to give walking tours in hundred-degree heat being at Sovereign Studios looks pretty good on the resume. Having graduated high school a month earlier, I'd been thinking a lot about my résumé that summer. And I still had four years of college to get through before I even started looking for a real job.
"It looks like they've finished laying the red carpet," I said, once we were back outside the theater. I looked over to one of the workmen. He knew what I was thinking as he waved me along. I gave him a thankful smile and nod as I turned to my tour group. "Anyone want to walk it?"
"You mean we're allowed?" asked a girl who was clearly younger than the twelveyear- old age limit for the tour.
"Go right ahead," I said with a flourish of my arm as I escorted my tour group onto the red carpet.
The tourists beamed as they walked down the carpet. Even though there was no one around but workmen and we were walking away from the theater instead of into it I can't imagine that any of them had ever walked a real Hollywood red carpet before. Then again, neither had I, so I have to admit I was also a little thrilled by the experience. And I was totally caught off guard when the flashbulbs started going off.
I squelched my momentary panic as I scanned my group for cameras. Tourists are only allowed to take pictures at three studio-approved photo spots. The studio is very strict about that and I clearly briefed my tour group before we started. I could get in a lot of trouble if any pictures of the setup for the premiere of Table for Two showed up on TMZ.com.
My panic was unwarranted, though. Nobody had a camera out. Everyone was simply walking along, enjoying the sights, hardly noticing the flashing lights that seemed to be coming from above.
I looked up to see my friend Dex on a scaffold hanging lights for the premiere. Dex was a part-time lighting apprentice and full-time aspiring actor who, along with his sister, Liz, I'd been friends with since kindergarten. In fact, his parents were the ones who got me the job at Sovereign Studios the summer before senior year.
Dex was flipping some of the lights on and off to imitate the flashes of the paparazzi. Leave it to Dex to come up with a perfect way to make my tour all the more memorable. I let out a relieved sigh and raised my arm in his direction.
"Everyone wave to the paparazzi," I said as the tourists turned toward the flashing lights and struck their best poses. The little girl even did the patented Paris Hilton "turn and glance over the shoulder" move that the celebutante made famous. It was a little disturbing to see a girl who couldn't be more than eight imitating Paris, but I'd seen worse in Hollywood.
In fact, I was seeing worse at that moment.
A mail cart with a distinctive pirate flag hanging on one side was driving in our direction. It was the one mail cart or, more specifically, the one mail cart driver that I had hoped I could avoid running into during my tour...or ever.
I had a brief moment of panic as we continued down the carpet. Considering the distance, we were going to come to the end at the same time the cart passed by. I thought about stopping the tour to point something anything out to them, but I didn't want to call any attention to myself, lest the driver see me. Instead, I slid in behind the rather tall, partially sunburned tourist from Wichita and hoped for the best while scrunching down as much as I could, trying to make myself invisible.
Dex shot me an odd look from his light tower, but didn't yell out to ask me what I was doing. I couldn't blame him for being confused. I didn't usually guide my tours hunched over and frog-walking. But if he had realized what was coming down the paseo, he would have understood. He had known me long enough to know about my history with guys and how sometimes it was easier to avoid them than to deal with them.
My group continued down the carpet while I silently prayed that the driver of the mail cart wouldn't see me. I also hoped that the tourists didn't notice I'd suddenly become very quiet and was effectively hiding in the middle of them. When the young Paris Hilton wannabe looked up at me to ask a question, I silently shook my head. Thankfully, she took the message and asked her mom instead.
"Mom, why is Tracy hiding behind Dad?" she called out, loudly, to her mom who was somewhere in front of us.
Thanks, kid, I thought as the group reached the end of the carpet.
I peeked out from behind Little Paris's dad and saw the pirate flag flapping in the breeze as the mail cart passed without slowing. Once I was sure the driver was out of earshot, I continued my tour. "And now when you get home you can tell all your friends you walked the same red carpet as Christy Caldwell," I said. "You don't have to say anything about walking it five hours before her, though."
Every single tourist got that familiar gleam in his or her eye. They all tend to get that same look when I give them interesting exaggerations for when they get back home. I'm sure more than a couple of them were already working on lies to make it sound like they were special guests at the movie premiere.
Now that we were through with what was likely going to be the highlight of the tour, I figured I'd hit them with the historical part while I still had their attention. July tours could be a drag sometimes. All the TV shows were on vacation and the heat kept the few people working on movies indoors most of the day. Most of the two-hour Sovereign Studios walking tour was spent looking at the outsides of buildings while I talked about what went on inside. I had to parcel out the few highlights carefully so nobody got bored along the way.
"Sovereign Studios was formed in 1914 under the leadership of cousins, Harry and Max Burnbaum," I recited from memory as I led my tour group along the beige and red brick paseo at the front of the studio. "They started out in New York, but quickly moved out to Los Angeles, where the year-round nearly perfect weather was ideal for filming...."
I guided my tour group through the studio's various office buildings at the front of the lot, explaining how each building is constructed in a different style of architecture, from Spanish Mission, to Victorian, to Modern. The building exteriors are all designed that way so they can be used in filming. Over the decades, every inch of Sovereign Studios has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows. The tourists get a kick out of figuring out what building has been used where.
As I finished my history on the building that houses the human resources offices which is called "the castle" because of its palatial design I saw that familiar mail cart with the familiar pirate flag heading in our direction once again. Sovereign Studios is large enough that I could usually go through an entire two-hour tour without running into a single friend. Figures that the one day there's someone I wanted to avoid, I couldn't not run into him.
"Let's go down here." I directed my group, taking an abrupt turn down an alleyway between the commissary and the childcare center. I'd never taken a tour down that particular road before, so I was struggling for something to say.
I looked over my shoulder in time to see the mail cart parking at the end of the alley. Since I couldn't go back, I would have to press on. Still with nothing to discuss about the most nondescript alleyway in the entire studio, I fell back on one of the tour games we rehearsed for just such an emergency to fill the silence.
"Does anyone know what their actor name would be?" I asked my tour group, and, once again, evoked looks of confusion. It used to be familiar practice for the studios to change an actor's name if it was too long or too ethnic or simply didn't fit. It still happens today. For instance, Natalie Portman's birth name is Natalie Hershlag.
"There's an old Hollywood tale," I told my tour, "about how actors used to come up with their stage names by using their middle name and the street they grew up on. In that case, my stage name would be Louise Lake. Sounds kind of old Hollywood, doesn't it? So, what would yours be?"
Naturally, my little Paris-in-training piped up first. "Ann Fremont," she said with an excited kind of glee.
"Joseph Brockton," another tourist called out.
"Christine Shisler," said a third.
Everyone in the group took a turn coming up with his or her stage name as we continued down the alley. We got stuck on a lady from New Jersey who had no middle name, and everyone chimed in with a suggestion of what to do. Ultimately we decided that she should go with a singular name like Madonna or Pink and we christened her "Magnolia."
That one not only gave us all a laugh, but the conversation carried us onto a main thoroughfare and back to the regularly scheduled tour. I continued to wind the group through the one hundred and fifty buildings that made up the Sovereign Studios lot as I told them more Hollywood stories. We didn't have any star sightings and weren't able to get onto any of the locked soundstages, but we did see the filming of a car commercial on the backlot. So the tour wasn't a total bust.
We ended in the studio store or as I like to call it, the Bric-a-brac Shack. The tour is designed to begin and end at the shack so the studio has two chances to milk as much money out of the tourists as possible by selling them cheap key chains and other things they'd stick in a drawer the moment they got home. It's the same concept as Disneyland, where almost every ride ends in a souvenir shop.
I said my good-byes after Little Paris asked me to sign her autograph book. All in all, it was a pretty good tour considering it was a slow day on the lot. In my post-tour wind-down buzz, I'd totally forgotten about my near misses with the pirate mail cart until I walked out of the store and right into the driver's path.
Copyright © 2008 by Paul Ruditis
Personally, I think the sound of the screeching breaks was overkill. Sovereign Studios mail carts don't move that fast. Besides, I wasn't even in the cart's path, really.
"Tracy!" Mailroom Guy hopped out of the cart, shaking his unruly long brown hair out of his face. "You need to watch where you're walking."
"Yeah," I said in as noncommittal a tone as I could muster. Silly me for walking on a public thoroughfare.
"I guess you didn't see me earlier," he said. "I passed you on your tour a couple of times."
"Did you?" I asked, trying to sound surprised. "I didn't notice."
Mailroom Guy looked disappointed that he hadn't made more of an impression. By the way, Mailroom Guy's real name is Xanthe. My best friend, Liz, and I decided that he was far too bland for such an interesting name, so we call him Mailroom Guy...but not to his face.
I'd gone out with Mailroom Guy over the weekend. He'd taken me to this Piratethemed dinner theater with a swashbuckling show and serving wenches and every pirate cliché I'd ever heard of in my life. I'm sure it could have been fun, but Mailroom Guy got way into the festivities, speaking in "pirate" with "Arghs!" and "Avast, ye mateys!" all night long. I should have known something was weird when he picked me up for the date wearing an eye patch.
"So," he said as he leaned an arm on his pirate-flag-draped mail cart. "I was thinking "
"You know," I interrupted. I knew where this was going and I wanted to head it off quickly. "You were so much fun the other night. But I have to tell you, I have kind of a thing about pirates."
"What kind of thing?" he asked.
"It's kind of a fear," I said. "A phobia. It goes back to the first time I saw Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Pirates terrify me. I can't even see Johnny Depp in any movie now."
I could tell that he was having a hard time wrapping his brain around the concept of pirates being scary. "Why didn't you say something?"
"You seemed so into the pirates," I said in a major understatement. Now that I was closer to his mail cart, I could see the inside was tricked out with an old-fashioned compass on the dash, a spyglass tied to the metal frame, and a trio of gold coins hanging from the rearview mirror.
"I am," he said with a solemn nod, knowing where this conversation was going.
"And I would never want to keep you from the thing you loved," I said. "So, maybe we should just be friends."
Mailroom Guy tried to protest, saying that he could cut back on his pirate fixation, but after a few rounds discussing our potential "future relationship" it was clear that this was too big a part of his life. He agreed that we weren't a good match and we decided to part as friends, which was good since I couldn't spend the rest of the summer altering my tour route to avoid him.
After he drove off in his cart, I remained standing along the paseo for a minute, wallowing in a minor bout of depression. Not that I missed Mailroom Guy or anything. I was kind of glad to have the whole thing over with so I could stop worrying about him. But Mailroom Guy was part of a bigger problem, one that I was doing my best trying to avoid dealing with as well.
I turned away from the departing cart and went to the cafeteria to grab a quick dinner and to shake off the bad feeling I had. I hated breaking up with guys. Even though one bad date hardly counted as a relationship, it was still hard to say "no thanks" when asked to go on a second. In spite of the fact that I'd been getting a lot of practice saying no to second dates lately, it was still an uncomfortable experience. I tried to put it out of my mind as I entered the Sovereign Studios commissary.
Liz had already gotten her food and grabbed us a table by the window overlooking the fountain on the paseo. I waved to her before turning into the serving area. This part of the commissary was cafeteria style, with one line for hot food and one for sandwiches. The formal dining room was on the other side of the building, separated by a glass wall that allowed us worker bees to look but not touch the executives and celebrities who regularly dined there. I didn't much mind. I'd seen the dining room menu once, and a simple hamburger would have cost me three hours' pay.
The dinner crowd wasn't nearly as bad as the lunch rush. The only people eating were the ones working or attending the premiere later. Normally, I'd be going home after my tours, but I'd agreed to pull a double and work the premiere. I never turned down the extra cash from working overtime.
Even though the place wasn't packed, I'd been on my feet all day and didn't feel like waiting in line for food. I grabbed a premade Asian chicken salad and a Sobe green tea out of the refrigerators, paid for them, and joined Liz at our table. She was busy writing in her journal.
"Revising?" I asked as I sat.
"Always," she said as she put down her pen. Liz had this incredible to-do list of experiences she wanted to have before she started cosmetology school in the fall. The list covered everything from crashing an A-list party to biking to San Francisco. There was no way she was going to get it all in before September, but the fun part was imagining it all up...at least as far as I was concerned. If you asked Liz, I'm sure she'd say she had more fun actually doing the stuff.
Liz was going to be a makeup artist and hairstylist for movies and TV, like her mom. Considering her mom's fame in that area, Liz knew she'd have no problem getting work right out of school, so this was her last summer "to experience life!" as she said. And, of course, she wanted to do all of it with her best friend alongside. Personally, I thought I was more suited to experience summer lounging by the pool, but I'd agreed to some of the less strenuous activities. But while she was planning to end the summer by going skydiving on her eighteenth birthday, I was going to lie back and watch her from the ground.
Somehow, I didn't think watching my best friend leap out of a plane at ten thousand feet was going to be nearly as relaxing as the pool.
"And Mailroom Guy bites the dust," I announced while I poured dressing over my salad.
"I thought that was a good thing," she said. "Your mood's as blue as your blazer."
"And about as comfortable too," I replied as I slipped out of my uniform jacket. Sovereign Studios tour guides are made to wear the traditional page uniform at work: a blue polyester blazer, gray polyester pants, a white polyester shirt, and a blue tie. The tie is actually silk, but it's also a clip-on. So, any points the designer gets for the material choice are totally negated by the construction.
Liz was stuck in the same uniform, but she'd done some alterations that made it far more comfortable. It's amazing how a simple cut or a whole new lining will do wonders. The outfit still looked boringly bland as far as fashion statements went, but it was a ton lighter and more flexible than the scratchy polyester that I was bound in. I kept meaning to ask her to give my uniform the once-over.
"I think I'm in a funk," I said.
"A generic funk or something specific?"
"A guy funk," I said, taking a bite out of my salad.
"Ah," she said.
"There seems to be a pattern developing," I said, finally forcing myself to deal with the thing I'd been avoiding for weeks. "I D-Q'd Dairy Queen guy, slammed the book on the worm I met at Barnes & Noble, and couldn't even find an interesting way to describe how boring the dude from the surf shop was. All before we even got to a second date."
"You have been going on a lot of first dates lately," Liz said. "Not to say there's anything wrong with serial dating."
"Except for all the Froot Loops you meet along the way," I said. Like she knew anything about serial dating. She was a serial monogamist. The queen of relationships all through middle school and high school. At the start of every school year, she'd begin dating a new guy. It would be months of bliss, until about mid-April when the guy realized that after spending every weekend hiking through the Santa Monica mountains, skiing in Big Bear, and dirtbike riding in the desert going out with Liz could be exhausting.
Every guy she ever dated tended to break up with her before the year was out. She kept saying how she didn't mind since she liked to take the summers for herself, but I knew that she was ready for a serious long, long-term thing, even though she hadn't turned eighteen yet.
I understood how she felt. I'd never had a real relationship before. Sure, I'd had boyfriends. I'd been going out with a real sweet guy named Scott at the start of senior year. He was the longest relationship I've ever had, and we didn't even make it to Christmas. After a while we both realized there was no spark and ended it...blandly.
The first-date syndrome seemed to be a recent development. In my post-Scott world I was so busy getting ready to graduate from high school and start my life that guys always seemed to take the backseat. It was almost like I would give up on a date before I'd even started, because none of those guys seemed to fit my picture for the future. I wasn't in some great rush to settle down or anything, but I wasn't really seeing the point of random dating when everything else I was doing was planning for the long term. Not that I had any clue what my life held in store for me beyond college. I hadn't even settled on a major yet.
"If only these dates were...more, well, just more," I said.
"Not every first date can be a candlelit dinner at the Griffith Observatory," Liz said.
"True," I agreed with a sigh.
Liz was talking about what my parents did on their first date. Dad was an astronomy student at the time. He'd given up an entire month of his life to help one of his professors rewrite the manuscript for a textbook about the universe. The professor's editors had hated the first draft.
After Dad gave it the once-over, it was accepted by the publisher and much congratulations were heaped on the professor for the amazing work he'd done revising it. The professor thanked Dad by getting him access to the famous Griffith Observatory after hours so he could take the woman who would one day become my mom there on a date. Spending an evening alone together looking at the cosmos is a pretty impressive way to start off a relationship.
And it was just the inspiration I needed.
"I think it's time I fell in love," I declared, slamming down my bottle of Sobe tea to punctuate the statement. It felt like the moment required a dramatic action. We were at a movie studio after all.
"Always a good way to pass the time," Liz agreed with a smile. That smile dropped when she saw the look on my face and realized I was being serious. "Tracy?"
"Hear me out," I said. "I'm spending so much time thinking about the future that I'm missing out on the present. And the thing I've been missing out on most is a good guy. I've got to stop worrying about all that future stuff and just let myself fall in love."
Liz nodded. "Okay, yes, that's a good point," she said. "But should falling in love really be a goal? It's not something to put on a to-do list."
"You know what I mean," I said. "I don't have to worry about school until the fall. I don't have to worry about my future until after that. I can spend my summer finding the perfect love."
Liz cocked her ear like she was listening for something.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Waiting for the music to swell," she said. "If this were a movie, this would be the point where the sappy romantic music hits a crescendo."
I flicked a sesame seed at her.
"Ladies!" a familiar male voice said from behind me.
"Hey, bro!" I said as Dex sat beside me. Technically, he was Liz's brother, but I'd been calling him "bro" since before I found out it was actually lame to call anyone "bro," and it kind of stuck. "Thanks for the light effects earlier. The tourists got a kick out of it."
"Anytime," he said with a smile. "Now maybe you can help me. I've got a bet with the guys on the light crew. I need to know what the first movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was. They're telling me it was a Sovereign Studios film."
"Ha!" Liz and I spat out in unison. Even in its earliest days, Sovereign Studios was never known for quality films. Huge moneymaking blockbusters? Yes. But awardwinning works of art? Not even.
"I've got a case of Jones soda riding on it," Dex said. "Bubblegum flavor."
"Eww," I said, sticking out my tongue. "Too sweet."
"Thanks," he said. "You're sweet too."
I smacked him on the shoulder. Dex was actually the first of the Sanchez siblings that I had met back in kindergarten. He and Liz are twins. They look a lot alike actually, with the same straight black hair and green eyes, and this beautifully tanned skin they get along with their Mexican heritage.
Dex and I probably would have become best friends the moment he offered me his chocolate milk on the first day. I mean, come on, he was gifting me with chocolate! But he was a yucky boy so it was only natural that Liz and I would be friends while he followed us around pretending to hate us.
"Wait a minute," Liz said. "A bunch of union guys made a bet for bubblegum flavored soda?"
Dex blushed. "Well...if they win I give them beer money. If I win I get bubblegum soda."
His sister tried her best not to laugh. She failed.
Dex is only an apprentice in the studio's lighting department since he just got out of high school. He's not a full-scale union guy, but he doesn't really want to be doing that for the rest of his life like most of his coworkers have been. He'd much rather be an actor. Dex took the job because his dad works on the studio's light crew and Dex needed the money for college. The guys are always making fun of him because he's so young.
"You know the answer, right?" Dex asked.
I stole a french fry off his plate. "The first film to win an Academy Award was Wings. It was produced by Paramount Pictures in 1927."
Dex gave his fist a pump in the air. "Yes! I can't wait to tell those guys. I will totally split the soda with you."
"That's okay," I said. Really.
"So, what was the topic of conversation before I got here?"
"Tracy and her guy problems," Liz said casually.
"Liz!" I shouted through clenched teeth. Luckily the teeth clenching and the volume of the conversations around us kept my voice from carrying.
"What?" Liz asked, all innocent-like. "If you can't talk to your brother-substitute about guy troubles, who can you talk to?"
But I wasn't about to talk to anyone about anything, because at that very moment the door to the commissary opened and he walked in.
If my life were a movie, this would be the part where the film went into slow motion as the dusty blond-haired, blueeyed, stylishly-dressed-in-a-suit-two-levels-above- his-pay-grade guy of my dreams entered the picture: Connor Huxley.
Connor was a summer intern in the motion picture marketing department. I'd met him when I gave the orientation tour on his first day at the studio. Every Monday a tour guide takes the new employees around to give them a little background on the studio and point out the necessary places, like the commissary, credit union, infirmary that kind of thing. Sovereign Studios covers over seventy-five acres in the heart of Hollywood so it's not like your typical office place. New employees can get lost just looking for a bathroom.
During the one hour mini-tour, I learned that Connor was going into his sophomore year at USC as a marketing major. We hit it off pretty well in spite of the fact that I was about to start at UCLA in the fall, which made us natural enemies because of our rival school choices.
We'd both been so busy with our summer jobs that we'd hardly talked since then, other than saying "Hi" as we passed while I was giving a tour or he was running an errand. A couple of times I thought he was going to ask me out, but then a tourist interrupted, or he got a call from his boss on his cell phone and had to run off. I thought about asking him out too, but considering how unlucky I'd been with love lately, I didn't see the point.
"Where did she go?" Dex asked, waving his hand in front of my face.
"I don't know," Liz replied. "But she always goes there when Connor's around."
I had a sneaking suspicion that they were talking about me. "Excuse me?"
"You're all dreamy-eyed," Liz said.
"I am not dreamy-eyed," I replied, blinking pointedly at her. "I was thinking."
"About Coooonnor," Liz said in a singsong voice that made both Dex and me roll our eyes.
"Him again?" Dex asked. He always hated when we got all girly, talking about guys. I guess there are some subjects guys are uncomfortable about hearing from their sisters or sister-substitutes.
"Abrupt subject switch," I announced, hoping to derail the topic of conversation before it got started. "Do we know how long this movie's supposed to run? I don't want to be stuck on VIP transport all night."
"You got shuttle duty?" Liz asked. "That sucks."
"One of the biggest movie premieres of the summer and I'm stuck driving the guests back and forth from the theater to the dining room all night, and I don't even get to see the movie."
"But you probably get to meet celebs," Dex said. "Maybe hang with Christy Caldwell."
"Ha!" Liz and I said again in unison. We'd both done VIP transport before. We knew full well that shuttle duty was the last place anyone got to interact with the glamorous glitterati.
"The celebrities all get personal handlers escorting them," I explained to Dex. "Shuttle duty is for the executives who think they're somebody "
"Well, technically, they are somebody," Liz said. "They do kind of run the studio."
"What are you doing for the premiere?" Dex asked his biological sister.
"Ushering," she replied. "Which means I'm stuck inside watching this drivel."
Dex shook his head. "What is it with you two? We get to work at Sovereign Studios, one of the oldest motion picture and TV lots in Hollywood." He looked at me. "You're going to be rubbing elbows with some of the biggest power players in town "
"More like carting their butts around."
He turned to his sister. "And you're going to be one of the first people in the world to see what everyone is saying will be the blockbuster romantic comedy of the summer. You are both way too young to be so jaded."
"When did he become the voice of reason?"
I asked Liz.
"Always been that way," Liz replied.
"It's damn annoying."
Dex was right, though. And we weren't seriously upset about working the premiere. We just like to whine sometimes. It was kind of exciting to be involved in a big movie premiere with movie stars and the Hollywood elite even if I was nothing more than a second-rate chauffeur. But you never want to look like you're excited about those things. That would be tacky.
Jaded is the Hollywood version of excitement.
"Are you sticking around for the premiere?" I asked Dex.
"Can't," he said. "I've got an audition for a play in a little theater on Santa Monica."
"Break a leg," I said. I wanted to ask him more about it, but Dex didn't like talking about roles until he had them. Like everyone else in Hollywood, Dex had aspirations for something beyond his day job. Well, like everyone but me. I still wasn't sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew that tour guide was not a career option. At least Dex wasn't going the typical route of being a waiter while he pursued his acting dreams.
"Hey," Liz said. "Here comes lover boy again."
I willed myself not to look up from my salad, but I could see Liz's body shift as she turned toward the kitchen. I silently repeated to myself, Don't look. Don't look. But the salad could only hold my interest for so long.
My head popped up to catch a glimpse of Connor as he elbowed his way out the door of the commissary. He was loaded down with about a half dozen to-go containers, heading back to the office with his bosses' meals, I guessed. I bet I'd see him at the premiere later.
Suddenly, my outlook on the event was a lot less jaded.
Copyright © 2008 by Paul Ruditis
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