Read an Excerpt
The Unidentified Redhead
You do realize I have seen you naked before, right?” Holly shouted through the bedroom door.
“Yes, love, but it’s been a while. I don’t think you’re ready for this.”
“Is this an ‘I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly’ situation?”
“Did you actually just say that to a half-naked girl? Seriously, you should know better. You’ll give me a complex. Asshead.”
“You’re making this too hard, Grace.”
“That’s what she said,” I muttered, and laughed quietly to myself. I was in the process of trying to get my butt into a new pair of low-rise jeans that were so very, very low, they might have been illegal.
“That’s it,” Holly announced. “I’m coming in. Suck it in, Grace!”
She came barreling through the door, stopping short when she saw me struggling on the bed. I was laid out flat on the sheets in a charming lacy peach bra, halfway in and out of the damn jeans that she had convinced me to buy, even though I knew I was in no way young enough to work them in the way they deserved to be worked. Holly had always had a way of getting me to do things she wanted me to do, under the guise that she knew what was best for me. And, mother-of-pearl, she was almost always right.
“Sweet rack,” she said, acknowledging my bra. “Do I need to get a pair of pliers and pull the zipper up myself? Didn’t we see that done in a movie once?” she mused.
“Yes, yes we did . . . a little help? I’m giving a full salute here. I’d like to get the girls back under wraps,” I answered, struggling to stay on the bed at this odd angle.
“I can see that. Okay, hold your breath,” she said, and grabbed the button of my jeans. I pulled with all my might as the zipper finally closed, leaving me breathless.
“Holy Lord. I think my uterus just left. Yep, there she goes,” I moaned.
I couldn’t believe how tight these jeans were, although I was damn proud to be wearing them. A “you go, girl” thrill rolled through me, but it could have also been the lack of oxygen from the denim restricting my air supply.
Holly helped me climb off the bed, and I turned to admire the way I looked in these badass jeans, thinking that maybe I could actually pull them off. I still caught myself examining the mirror at times and having to look twice to make sure it was really me.
She saw me checking myself out and chuckled. “You’re looking sassy there, my friend. I would totally fuck you.”
“That’s charming, Holly. Thanks.” I smiled back at her as I continued to pose in the mirror. I began to vogue and got to giggling.
“Grace, settle down. Vogueing is just wrong.” She laughed, giving me one last thumbs-up as she left the room.
I had recently shed quite a bit of weight. In fact, I was in better shape now than when I was in college. Holly was proud of me and made sure to tell me often.
Holly Newman and I met in college. While we both majored in theater, she knew early on that she preferred the behind-the-scenes world, especially the business side, while I was a major drama queen. The entire time we were in school together, we made plans for when we would conquer the entertainment world. She would have her own agency and manage only the best talent, working with artists who shared a similar creative vision. I, however, had stars in my eyes and wanted to be famous, famous, goddamned famous.
She made it out to the coast six months before I did, and when I finally got there, she was already working her way up as a junior agent at one of the major firms in town. She had a real knack for artist management, knowing when to be tough and when to coddle. She knew when to really fight for her artists and when to lay the groundwork for future projects. When I arrived, she got me a job temping in the agency, and I watched in awe as she maneuvered in what was still very much a man’s world.
With Holly’s perfect golden hair, fantastic figure, and stylish sensibility, she was asked all the time why she was working behind the scenes rather than in front of the camera. The girl was a knockout. But she always laughed and said, “It’s just not for me,” and then worked harder than everyone else.
I loved L.A. I’d moved in with Holly, started taking acting classes, and worked at the agency with her, while waiting tables at night in a restaurant in Santa Monica. I really felt like I was living the Hollywood lifestyle I’d been dreaming of since I could remember.
After about six months, Holly convinced her boss that I should come in for a reading and be considered for representation. I was prepared, I read well, my headshots were flawless . . . and then I waited. And waited. And then waited some more. Finally, they agreed to take me on if Holly agreed to sign me personally as my sole representation.
She began sending me out on auditions. I auditioned all over that town, and I was damn good. But so was everyone else.
I didn’t book a single job.
What they don’t tell you when you grow up in the Midwest, light-years away from L.A., is that when you move to Hollywood, everyone is the next Miss Hot Shit. We all think we’re the prettiest, we all think we’re special, we all think we are the only one who truly has what it takes. We all think our talent is genuine and true, we all think we have something to share with the world, and we all can’t understand why we aren’t booking jobs all the time.
The thing is, in L.A., you can’t just be a pretty face, because you can airbrush that. You can’t just have a good bod, because everyone else is nipped and tucked in places you don’t even want to dream of. You can’t just giggle and toss your hair and be the punch line, because someone else already has that job sewn up.
For all the people who move to L.A. each year, just as many leave, limping back to their hometowns like pretty little sad sacks, telling their “I lived in California” stories over cocktails with their old high school friends.
I became one of those sad sacks—I only lasted in Los Angeles for eighteen months. I limped away, feeling like a failure for the first time in my life. I let the city and the industry beat me.
But now I was back. It had taken me ten years to make it back, and this time I wasn’t going anywhere.
Holly was having a party at her house to celebrate the launch of her new management company and had invited her close friends and several of the actors and actresses she represented. She had recently left a very high-profile position with a major agency. A few of her clients had chosen to stay with the other agency, but she was so good at crafting a career, particularly with fresh new talent, that many had followed her.
Since I’d moved back to L.A., I’d been staying with her at her house in the hills. She’d done very well for herself and had a great house off Mulholland Drive with a view of the city below.
Which brings us to the illegal jeans. As a thirty-three-year-old with some preexisting body image issues, I was trying to get into the mind-set I would need to navigate this party in this particular pair of jeans. I had matched the illegal jeans with a fairly conservative turquoise, cowl-neck tank top and slid my feet into some very nice peep-toe sling-backs. I had great toe cleavage.
I was wearing my hair down, which I rarely do, but Holly had banned all my ponytail holders this evening. We had gone that afternoon to get our hair done, and my red hair was a mass of soft curls. That stylist really earned his money, and even I had to admit the curls were shampoo-commercial-worthy.
The party was in full swing, and everyone was having a great time. Because Holly only took on talent she truly wanted to invest herself in, they became her close friends as well. They were always at the house, and her circle had become my circle.
“Grace, you can’t be serious. Feldman is way hotter than Haim.”
I was deep in a discussion with Nick, a screenwriter whom Holly had known for years. He’d become one of my friends and could always be counted on as a good wingman at a party. Tonight we were knee-deep in the dirty martinis. Extra dirty. He was waiting for an actor to arrive whom Holly had recently begun to represent, an actor who apparently was poised to be the next big thing. I had yet to meet him, although Nick had admitted he was, and I quote, “yummy, scrumptious . . . a bit scruffy, but in a totally hot kind of way.” Also, his British accent was “lovely,” “to die for,” and “knock-me-down-and-fuck-me.”
“Fine,” I said. “I will admit that Corey Feldman was genius in Goonies, and even semicute in Stand by Me. But no one holds a candle to my Lucas.” I was determined to win this round. We had recently gotten into a similar discussion about Steve Carell versus Ricky Gervais, and it didn’t end well. Someone got scratched.
I heard a snicker behind me and a British voice said, “I think you’ve gotta give the edge to Haim, if only for getting to kiss Heather Graham.”
I turned to acknowledge the obvious genius of the newcomer who knew License to Drive.
“Hey, you’re Super-Sexy Scientist Guy!” I cried out, clapping my hands over my mouth as soon as I’d said it. I could feel my face redden instantly.
Holly had a picture of this guy on her computer and had been referring to him as “Super-Sexy Scientist Guy” for the last month. This was her new client—the next big thing. He had the lead in a movie slated for a fall release that was already generating big buzz in town. I didn’t know much about the movie, but I knew that Holly was very excited to be representing him.
Super-Sexy Scientist Guy gave me a confused and somewhat sheepish grin. Did he know how hot that grin was?
Oh yeah, he totally knew.
He extended a hand to me and in the queen’s English said, “Actually, I’m Super-Sexy Jack Hamilton.”