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Chapter One: Tony
There is something very exciting about the beginning of the evening -- well the beginning of my evening, which is usually about ten-thirty, eleven o'clock. Every night at Hobo is like a party -- a great party where everyone knows and likes everyone else.
They start coming in slowly. First the ones that want to be sure of a good table, then the watchers. Usually this whole group is stacked neatly out of the way on the wrong side of the room or, if they are really rough, in the back room. We've got a closed membership, but a few managed to find their way in. Then everyone sits around waiting for the swingers, and about twelve-thirty, one o'clock they start arriving. Golden-haired girls in cowboy outfits, Indian gear, boots, backless topless see-through dresses. The wilder the better. Their escorts varying from the long-haired mob of rock groups to the latest young actors. Elegant young debs in full evening dress, with chinless wonder escorts. The older society group. The rich Greeks. The even richer Arabs. An odd movie star. An odd M.P. or visiting senator. Anybody famous who's in town. Young writers, dress designers, photographers, models. They all come to look and be looked at, to see their friends. It's like a building excitement -- reaching a breathless climax at around two A.M. when the room is so jammed you couldn't get anyone else in except maybe Frank Sinatra or Mick Jagger.
It seems ridiculous that six months ago they would hand me a pound or two and wouldn't recognize me if we passed in the street. Now they couldn't wait to grab hold of me. "Dahling" -- kiss-kiss-kiss -- "Who's here tonight?" Sly grab ifthe boy friend or husband wasn't looking. "Please don't give us a lousy table like last time" -- affectionate squeeze and promising look. Then husband or boy friend steps forward -- firm handshake, a few masculine chummy words, and I hand them over to Franco, swinging headwaiter supreme, who whisks them off to whatever table their position rates: the watchers on one side of the room, the doers on the other. All very neat, the duds with the bread tucked firmly away in the back room.
Yeah, I'm very popular now, everyone wants to know me. Funny thing isnt it? I'm the same guy, talk in the same voice, the clothes are a little more expensive, but that's about the only difference. You wouldn't believe it though, the ladies practically fight to climb in the sack with me. You would think I was doing them a big favor, and listen, the way things have been going I think I am!
I tell you it's a great life if you don't weaken.
Well, I suppose you're wondering how this all came about, how a guy like me, Tony Schwartzburg from somewhere near the Elephant and Castle, turned into Tony Blake, man about town, friend of the stars, host at the most "in" discotheque, Hobo. I have exchanged confidences such as "Where can we get some pot?" and "Got any birds?" with some of the most famous in the land. "Tony can arrange anything" is a well-known catch phrase around town.
Well, to begin with, I had the same useless tough life as most of the kids in my neighborhood -- fighting in the back streets, watching in on the fights at home. My parents, Sadie and Sam, were a nice old Jewish couple who hated each other. Sam couldn't care less about me, but to Sadie the sun shone out of my left ear. "Learn a trade, like your cousin Leon," she would say; "let the family be proud of you." I got laid at thirteen, just before I got barmitzvahed. If the family had known they'd have been proud of me! The girl -- she was a few years older than me -- gave me the crabs, and I spent about six months alternately trying to get rid of them and passing them on to any girl who got lucky! Eventually I passed them on to the wrong girl, and everyone found out. Sadie had hysterics and Sam patted me on the back and bought me some ointment.
By the time I was sixteen, I had been through a variety of jobs. Delivering papers, sweeping up in a factory, ushering at the local cinema -- I got fired from that when the manager found me making it with a bird in the back row of the stalls. She was his best usherette and he was screwing her at the same time so he was a bit choked up. Unfortunately I knocked her up, and there was a family scandal, but seeing the manager wanted her back, as good usherettes were hard to come by, he paid for her abortion and everything was all right.
By this time Sadie and Sam were getting a bit fed up with me, and who can blame them? Sam stopped screaming at Sadie and started in on me. It was a good job someone thought of Uncle Bernie.
Uncle Bernie was the success of the family. He owned two delicatessens and had sort of cut himself off from the rest of his clan. Anyway Sadie felt that as she was his only sister he owed her a favor, and she dragged me down to his place in Great Portland Street and insisted he give me a job. He wasn't too thrilled at the prospect, but knowing he wasn't going to get rid of Sadie any other way, he agreed.
He had a daughter, Marion, a big strapping girl with lots of thick black hair -- everywhere. You name a place, Marion had thick black hair there. She wasn't bad apart from that, a bit sexy looking. Big tits and a thin, crooked nose. I suppose I shouldn't have, I mean she was my cousin and all, but one day the opportunity arose, and if the opportunity arises, who am I to put it down? Of course Uncle Bernie found out and there ended my career in the delicatessen business. It was all too much for Sadie, and even Sam wasn't too pleased.
Life at the Elephant was becoming a drag anyway, and having got as far as Great Portland Street, I thought why not go a bit further. I got a job as a dishwasher at the Savoy, and a room in Camden Town. Life was great. I entered my twenties a happy man.
I met a girl, Evie, a pretty curly-haired blonde. She was a hostess at a clip joint. She fixed me up with a job as a waiter, and I discovered the world of tips. It was great, taught me a lot about people. Taught me the right way to milk a pound from a drunk whose intention was to leave nothing.
I was making twenty quid a week. I branched out to striped Italian suits and pointed shoes, then dated girls with a bit more class, hairdressers, shop assistants, and all that group. Not bad. I felt like a king! Visited the Elephant on Sundays, and handed Sadie a fiver. Of a course she never took it, she always came out with a speech about how I should save my money, settle down, look for a nice Jewish girl and get married, be like cousin Leon -- in my book a real schmuck.
I left the clip joint and started as a busboy in high-class restaurant, not so much bread but a road to better things. And the better things were all around me. The birds that came into that place. Beautiful! Furs, jewelry, expensive smells.
From there I started as a waiter in another high-class place where I became involved with Penny, daughter of the owner. Penny was something else. She had red hair, was very neat, small and compact. I suppose I fell in love with her. Couldn't make it, that was probably why. Looking back on it now I reckon she was undersexed, but at the time it bothered me a lot. She was the first girl that I had wanted and couldn't have.
I don't want to sound conceited, but imagine a taller Tony Curtis with a touch of Michael Caine and Kris Kristofferson!
Anyway Penny and I wanted to get married. Her father of course was furious, but she got around him and, since he didn't want his daughter marrying a waiter, he opened a new place and put me in charge -- as a sort of a deluxe headwaiter.
It all started there. That's where I first saw Fontaine.
Of course everyone's heard of Fontaine Khaled, she's sort of like a national institution, though not so old -- around thirty-five I'd say, but even now I still don't know the truth.
Fontaine looks very haughty upper-class English. Beautiful of course, with chiseled bones (whether by nature or cosmetic surgery no one knows), a fine parchment skin, and angular bony body which lends itself to fancy clothes and long dark hair pulled back.
When I first saw her I couldn't take my eyes off. Here was a lady. Sounds corny I know, but there was no mistaking the fact. She had been a world-famous photographic model, and had retired to marry Benjamin Al Khaled, billionaire. She was always in the papers, jetting here, there, everywhere. Showing us around her villa in Acapulco, her castle in Spain, her town house in London or penthouse in New York.
I read the columns a lot; in my business it's always good to know who's who. So as soon as she came in I knew who she was. She was with three men and two women all of the same social scene, but not in the same class as her. I led them to their table personally, a thing I had stopped doing when I took over the place. I even referred to her by name just to let her know I was around. But she didn't give me a glance. So much for the instant impact of Tony Blake.
There was no husband with her, and I didn't think she was anyone's date. They were very square, the fellows with her, typical no-balls types with loud public-school voices.
She was wearing what I thought was a rabbit coat, but later -- during an intensive course in social education -- I discovered that it was chinchilla. I thought I was pretty hip then, but I didn't even know a Gucci handbag from a Marks & Sparks.
I hovered around the table a lot, but not so much as a look.
I eavesdropped -- "St. Moritz is becoming a terrible bore." "Did you know Jamie broke his leg in Tibet?" "Do you believe St. Laurent this year?" Pretty dull snatches of conversation.
The guy that paid the bill left a nothing tip.
Two nights later she was back, this time with her husband. He was much older than she. They were with another old guy. She threw me a brief smile on her way in, which startled me, and after that they came in a lot, whenever they weren't flying around the world.
Penny was causing me problems. Since her father had promoted me, so to speak, I was having a fair amount of success. Customers liked me, I remembered their names, I saw their food was just right, and I became casually friendly with some of them. The place developed a good reputation, and people were disappointed if I wasn't there. They liked to be greeted by name and made to feel important.
Penny's father realized I was good for the joint, and I realized Penny was no good for me. It was not a good situation. She started to get very narky and jealous, accusing me of all sorts of things, most of which were true. Well I don't know if she thought I was jerking off or what, but I certainly wasn't getting any action from her. I moved to a small one-room flat off the Edgware Road and she caught me there one day with a red-haired croupier -- female of course! What tears and scenes! She even offered me her virginity, but by that time I didn't even want it. So we parted bad friends.
Needless to say it was just a matter of time before her father and I would also part company. I had my eyes open for another job. By that time I had had the waiter bit. I wanted to move up in the world, progress. The ideal situation would be to get my own little place, but for that I needed bread.
I cast my eyes around and one memorable night they met squarely with Fontaine's. It was one of those looks, her cool aquamarine eyes clashed straight on with my moody dark stare (many's the bird who's told me I've got a moody dark stare) and that was it. We both knew something had to give.
She went to the ladies' room shortly after and I was waiting when she came out.
"Tony," she said -- she had a deep, very English, clipped accent -- "you're wasting yourself here. Why don't you drop by and see me tomorrow? I have an idea that maybe you can help me with." She handed me a small hand-engraved card with her address, and added, "About three o'clock will be fine."
I nodded dumbly. To tell you the truth, I was knocked out by the whole thing.
I must have changed my outfit ten times the next day -- was a casual look best or should I go for the slightly formal Italian gear? I finally settled for a pale lilac shirt with a stiff white collar, and a black silk suit.
I arrived a half-hour early at this knockout pad she had in Belgravia. It was too much! I found out it was an ex-embassy. They even had a swimming pool.
A butler settled me down in what I supposed was the living room, but it turned out to be just a waiting room. It was all expensive, with crazy carved furniture and jazzy old pictures on the wall. Some of them were a bit naughty -- there was one with three birds and one guy, but just when I was studying it closer, Fontaine came in. "Are you interested in art, Tony?" she asked. She looked great in a long sort of silk robe and her hair all loose.
Man, I can still remember how nervous I was. This was real class.
"Let's go into the study," she said. "Would you care for a drink?"
I asked for a sherry, figuring it was the thing to have.
"You don't look like a sherry man to me," she said, her eyes cool and amused.
I started to get excited there and then, and in the tight black trousers I was wearing that was no joke. I approached her warily; she didn't back away. In fact she came toward me. I put my arms around her. She was tall, and I could feel her bones through the thin robe. She fastened her arms about my neck and pulled my mouth onto hers. It was some kiss. She was like a hungry animal pushing and probing with her tongue, biting and sighing. I think I can safely say I gave back as good as I got.
"Let's go upstairs," she said at last, and added, "it's all right, Benjamin is away."
I followed her to a small elevator and we pressed closely together as it started up. She unzipped my trousers and rubbed me with her long talented fingers. Man, I was ready to shoot off there and then!
Suddenly the elevator stopped and she shrugged off her robe.
I stared at her lean body. She had tiny breasts with pale, extended nipples. "Are we there?" I asked foolishly.
"No, but we soon could be," she replied, pulling at my trousers.
The elevator was small, gave you a bit of claustrophobia, but she managed to get me down to my bare skin.
I must say, in all my dealings with birds I'd never had one behave like this.
"Tony, you come up to all my expectations," she muttered. "Now, I'll show you how to do it in an elevator."
Oh, God! What an experience!
Thinking back I didn't get a chance to do much, because she did everything. Of course I rose to the occasion magnificently. I was out of my depth and knew it. I just let her have her way, I wasn't going to blow this setup.
She dug her nails deep into my back and twisted her long white legs around me. She didn't moan or cry out. She muttered, "Screw me, you bastard, keep it hard."
Well, I'd never had any problem doing that.
Afterward she was all calm and businesslike. She stood up and put her robe on. She waited for me to struggle into my clothes, and then the elevator took us back to the study.
I was destroyed. I flopped into a chair. She rang a bell, and the butler appeared with tea. She chatted away in her high-class tinkly voice and who would have thought that a half-hour earlier she'd been raving about in the elevator.
"I want to open a discotheque," she said. "Something different, something chic, somewhere to go that's fun -- something mad and exclusive."
"Yes." I was all interest. Here came my big chance.
"You could manage something like that, couldn't you?"
She chatted on about how there was nowhere to go that was chic -- "All these places now are filled with scruffy little bores. Don't you think this town needs something different -- somewhere for grownups, like Paris has, or, Rome?"
Her line of chat killed me. Somewhere for grownups yet! However, I nodded seriously. I was looking for an out from the restaurant -- this could be it.
"You start looking for premises, Tony. Money's no problem, my husband will finance the whole thing. We'll pay you a good salary and five percent of the profits. How's that? Of course, you'll be running the whole show. Does it appeal to you?"
Did it appeal to me? You bet your ass it appealed to me.
She stood up, smoothing her robe. "I have to get dressed now. Start looking and keep in touch." She turned at the door. "Oh, Tony, in the elevator, that was nice, very nice. Let's do it again soon." Then in the same cool voice she added, "The butler will show you out."
It was all too much. This was a real cool lady and a raver to boot. I had a feeling I'd fallen in the right direction.
I set to work, started getting up early in the mornings and hanging around the real estate agents. I saw a lot of lousy joints. I had a feeling for what she wanted and I kept right on looking until I found it. It was a rooftop restaurant that had gone broke -- bad neighborhood everyone said, impossible to park -- but baby, you get the right doorman and nowhere's impossible. To me, it was just right.
Not too big, not too small. Different because instead of creeping down to some cellar you went up and you had windows and a view. I called Fontaine right away, and she came gliding over with a chauffeur in a Silver Cloud Rolls. She loved it, too. We were in business.
We had tea at Fortnum's. I hadn't seen her since the day at her house. She was wearing a silver mink coat and hat, and everyone turned to take another look.
She stared at me with those icy eyes and I knew the look. "Benjamin's home," she said, "but I have another place."
"Well, let's go," I said, gulping down dainty tea sandwiches and feeling pretty good.
She dismissed the chauffeur and we took a cab to a small apartment building in Chelsea. It was one-room luxury, a big bed covered in white fur, rugs, mirrors everywhere, louvered shutters to remove the daylight, and red-tinged lights. A few erotic pictures on the wall, a lot of dirty books and a built-in bookcase next to the bed.
"This is my whore's room," she said with a small tight smile. I didn't know what to say; I'd never met anyone like her before. She took off her clothes and stretched out on the bed. I fumbled with mine, I mean, well, I was embarrassed!
I finally got them off and started some action. She just lay there very stiff, smiling slightly. Very different from the last time. It was rather exciting, really, took me off guard so to speak. I mean, I was expecting it to be like the last time.
It didn't take me long before I was through -- wowee! I rolled off her and studied our bodies in the mirrored ceiling.
She said very slowly, "Tony, how would you like to learn to be a good lover?"
I sat up on one elbow and stared at her. Was she kidding? I mean I was all there, you know, I'd never been lacking in that department.
As it happens, looking back on it now, I suppose she did teach me a lot. Little tricks she'd picked up in Beirut, Tangier, South America. You name it, she knew it. She was a great teacher, very detailed, I grew to look forward to our little classes more than anything. Of course I was knocking off another bird on the side. Fontaine didn't know about it, but it was useful, gave me a chance to do my homework so I'd be in good shape for Fontaine.
Lana was a stripper, a bit of a scrubber, but a knockout when it came to practicing my lessons. In fact, she added a few ideas of her own. She had the best pair of knockers around, a big full, juicy bird. I mean Fontaine was very classy and all that jazz, but a bit lacking in the tits and ass department. A man likes his steak rare, but he needs his bread and potatoes, too.
Life was really good. I left the restaurant and started organizing the new place. Interior decorators, waiters to find, members' lists, ordering stock. There were a million and one things to do. Fontaine chose the name, Hobo. It was good, although Benjamin offered the suggestion of calling it Fontaine's. She said that would be tasteless and vulgar. She was right. She was usually right.
And so eventually we opened. Big party, lots of publicity, all the right people. They all came, they always turned out in bulk for anything free. Fontaine personally supervised the guest list and I think that's what started the whole thing off -- her guest list. It was such a wild mixture -- from rock groups to movie stars to high society to hookers (international ones of course)! It was great. It all just happened, and within a few weeks Hobo was the place and all of a sudden I was the person to know.
It's wild, really, I still sort of expect the bubble to burst. But here I am, Tony Blake -- ex-nothing, ex-waiter, now great host, lover, and friend of the stars.
Copyright © 1969, 1978, 1984 by Jackie Collins