Lucky Santangelo Golden steered her red Ferrari through the ornate metal gates of Panther Studios, waved a friendly greeting to the guard, then drove across the lot to her personal parking space located directly outside her well-appointed suite of offices. Lucky was a wildly beautiful woman in her late thirties with a mass of tangled jet curls, deep-olive skin, a full, sensual mouth, black-opal eyes, and a slender, well-toned body.
She'd bought Panther in 1985, and since then she'd been running the studio. After two action-packed years, it was still exciting, for there was nothing sheenjoyed more than a challenge, and running a Hollywood studio was the biggest challenge ofall. It was more absorbing than building a casino/hotel in Vegas—something she'd done twice, or managing her late second husband's shipping empire—a task she'd relinquished, handing everything over to a board of trustees.
Lucky loved making movies—reaching out to America—putting images on the screen that would eventually influence people all over the world in a thousand different ways.
It wasn't easy. The opposition to a woman taking control of a major studio had been formidable. Especially a woman who looked like Lucky. Especially a woman who seemed to have it all together—including three children and a movie-star husband. Everyone knew Hollywood was just one big boys' club—female members not exactly welcome.
The legendary movie mogul, Abe Panther, had sold her Panther only after she'd proved she was capable of taking over. Abe had challenged her to go in undercover as asecretary and work for Mickey Stolli—his devious grandson-in-law who was running the studio at the time. Abe's deal was, if she could find out everything Mickey was into, he'd sell her Panther.
She'd found out more than enough to close the deal. It turned out Mickey was skimming big bucks every way he could; his head of production was snorting coke and supplying two-thousand-dollar-a-night call girls to movie stars and VIPs; the head of distribution was smuggling porno flicks overseas along with Panther's legitimate productions, scoring an under-the-counter bundle; the movies Panther was making were soft-core exploitation crap full of sleazy sex and outrageous violence; producers were getting massive kickbacks; and women around the lot were treated as second-class citizens—it didn't matter whether they were star actresses or mere secretaries, chauvinism ran rampant.
Lucky offered Abe a great deal of money and salvation for a studio whose reputation was being slowly ruined.
Abe Panther liked her style.
Lucky took over in a big way.
Abe had warned her that bringing Panther back to its glory days was going to be a struggle.
How right he was.
First of all, she'd refused to continue making the kind of cheapo garbage Panther had been churning out. Then she'd fired most of Mickey's key executives, putting a new, first-rate team in place. After that, it had been a question of developing new projects—a slow process that took time and patience.
The studio had been running at a loss for years, with astronomical bank loans. Lucky and her business advisor, Morton Sharkey, had been forced to arrange another massive loan just to keep the studio operating. Then, after the first year's disappointing net loss of nearly seventy million dollars, Lucky took stock and decided it was time to recoup some of her initial investment and diversify. Morton suggested selling blocks of shares to several corporations and a few private investors. It seemed like an excellent idea.
Morton had taken care of everything—finding the right investors who would basically leave her alone to run the studio; setting up a board of directors who wouldn't interfere; and making sure she still owned 40 percent of the stock.
The good news was that currently Panther had two big movies on release, both of them performing extremely well. Finder, a showy vehicle for the controversial superstar Venus Maria—who also happened to be one of Lucky's best friends. And River Storm, a sharp-edged detective thriller starring Charlie Dollar—the middle-aged hero of stoned America. Lucky was especially delighted, as both movies had been put together under her regime. She hoped this was the start of the turnaround she'd been working toward. "Give them good, interesting movies and they will come," that was her motto.
She hurried into her office, where Kyoko, her loyal Japanese assistant, greeted her with a lengthy typed phone list and a morose shake of his head. Kyoko was a slight man in his thirties dressed in a Joseph Abboud jacket and sharply creased gray pants. He had glossy black hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, and an intelligent expression. Kyoko knew every aspect of the movie business, having worked as personal assistant to several top executives since graduating from college.
"What's the matter, Ky?" Lucky asked, throwing off her Armani jacket and settling in a comfortable leather chair behind her oversized Art Deco desk.
Kyoko recited the day's business: "You have fifteen phone calls to return; a ten-thirty with the Japanese bankers, followed by a production meeting regarding Gangsters; then a noon appointment with Alex Woods and Freddie Leon; lunch with Venus Maria; another production meeting at three; your interview with a reporter from Newstime; a six o'clock with Morton Sharkey; and "
"Dinner at home, I hope," she interrupted, wishing there were more hours in the day.
Kyoko shook his head. "Your plane departs for Europe at eight P.M. Your limo will pick you up at your house no later than seven."
She smiled wryly. "Hmm...a twenty-minute dinner break—you're slipping."
"Your schedule would kill a lesser person," Kyoko remarked.
Lucky shrugged. "We're a long time dead, Ky. I don't..." Vendetta
. Copyright © by Jackie Collins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.