Things are changing on the set of prime time’s new hit series. For starters, the producer’s daughter, bratty twelve-year-old Susie Goldstein, now has a role on the show.
Sixteen-year-old Alison Blake, a former Miss Young America, has been wowing audiences since she was three . . . and supporting her family on her looks. Now she wants to be judged on her own merits. She gets a welcome reality check when her high school boyfriend, Seth Lewin, shows up on the set and announces he’s moving to Los Angeles to be near her. Alison has to fight for the right to date Seth while keeping a secret that could get Molly fired from the show.
Seasoned TV veteran Bill Douglas is vice president of his junior class. He wants to have it all—success, celebrity, and love. But his longtime girlfriend, Calista Hasbrouck, doesn’t seem to see things his way.
They’re all on their way to stardom. But will the limelight translate into lasting fame—or leave them with broken dreams?
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Wanting It All
Make Me a Star, Book Three
By Susan Beth Pfeffer
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1985 Susan Beth Pfeffer
All rights reserved.
"Daddy! Please no!" Molly cried out, tears streaming down her face. "Don't!"
There was a moment of silence on the Hard Time High set, and then everybody, even the camera operators and sound people, burst into applause.
Alison Blake had never seen anything like it.
"Molly, that was wonderful," Jerry Zigler, the show's director, said from the control booth. His voice came over the loudspeaker, and everybody clapped some more at the official announcement that Molly had been terrific.
Alison applauded with everybody else, because if she hadn't, people would have thought she was a spoilsport, which, she suspected, they thought already. And Molly had been good. But that only made things more aggravating.
Take the way Molly kept on crying. All she'd been doing was acting, for goodness' sake. Her character, Kathleen, was right in the middle of a hot incest story line, but that was no reason for Molly to take it so seriously. Her father wasn't really making the moves on her. If she had a father. Alison had her doubts.
Molly certainly had a mother, though, and she raced to her daughter's side when she saw that Molly hadn't stopped crying. Somehow Molly's mother had gotten herself a bit part on Hard Time High, the better to be close to her daughter the upcoming star. It practically killed Alison's mother when she discovered what Molly's mother had managed to accomplish. No one was paying Alison's mother to hang around the set and be useful, except maybe Alison. Alison suspected that her mother was indeed on her payroll, but every time she asked a question about money, she was told not to worry about it. So she didn't. She knew she was helping to support her father and kid brothers, Craig and Jason. So she might as well support her mother as well.
"Molly, that was brilliant," Dick Goldstein said, walking over to her and putting his arm around her.
Alison noticed that Molly immediately stopped crying. She lifted her head up and managed a heartbreaking smile. Alison wanted to puke.
"She's some actress," Bill Douglas said.
Alison turned around, glad to see him. There were six of them on the Hard Time High cast, six teenagers, all selected for one mysterious reason or another. Seven if you included Susie Goldstein, who was twelve and who had gotten her part because she was the producer's daughter. No mystery there. But of all of them Bill was the one Alison liked best. He'd been an actor for years now—she could remember seeing him on a hundred different shows—but he didn't make a big deal out of it. Not like T.J. Tyler, who used to be a big TV star when he was a kid and never let you forget it. Or Molly, who had done theater all over the country and knew how to cry on cue and when to stop and when not to. T.J. and Molly were both such show-offs, but Bill, who knew every bit as much about acting as they did, wasn't, and Alison liked that a lot. She knew all about showoffs, having been one herself for years.
"She was good," Alison said, because it was expected of her. Actually, she thought Molly had overdone it just a bit, but in her opinion Molly overdid everything. "Of course with a scene like that, it would be hard to blow it."
Bill grinned. "You'd be surprised," he said. "I once had a part on The Hot Cops. I was supposed to be this ten-year-old kid, dying of leukemia. Real tearjerker, right? I was supposed to be tough, didn't believe in Santa Claus, and the cops finally got me to believe in him, and then I died."
"I'm touched," Alison said.
"You and millions of other Americans," Bill said. "I hardly had to do anything except show up, the writing was so thick. I stank. It was the worst acting I've ever done."
"But you were only ten," Alison pointed out.
"No, I was eleven by then," Bill said. "God, I hated that part. First of all, as far as I was concerned, I was practically twelve and the thought of having to play some little kid who gets convinced by two white cops to believe in Santa Claus was pretty repulsive."
Alison laughed. "So you were bad," she said. "Did it work anyway?"
"Good question," Bill said. "Yeah, the director knew what he was doing and he wrestled the part out of me. I mean, I knew the tricks by then—I'd been acting long enough to know what I was doing. They still rerun that damn episode every Christmas."
"I've seen it," Alison said. "The Hot Cops is my brother Jason's favorite show."
"Jason has no taste," Bill said. "What a piece of crap. Two years later I did another episode for them, only this time I wasn't dying and didn't have to believe in Santa Claus, so I was all right."
"How come they gave you another part if you were so bad the first time?" Alison asked.
Bill shrugged. "First of all, I probably wasn't as bad as I thought I was," he said. "They do rerun it. And secondly, my uncle's production company makes The Hot Cops."
"Nepotism," Alison said. "I should have known."
"Don't knock it," Bill replied. "It's furthered a lot of careers in this town."
"Like Molly's mother's," Alison said. She was still there, talking with Molly and Dick. Molly's mother looked less like a mother than any other mother Alison had ever seen. She might even be thirty, the way she claimed. Alison's mother, on the other hand, was forty-one and looked every minute of it.
"It's good for Molly to have her mother around," Bill declared. "She's been kind of rootless."
Alison wasn't in the mood for another version of Molly's childhood saga. She'd heard it often enough.
Alison rubbed her forehead with her hand and discovered she still had makeup on it. "I'm going to get my skin back," she told Bill. "I'm through for the day. It's crazy for me to stick around here."
"Okay," Bill said. "Just don't forget about the party tomorrow night."
Alison's stomach clenched. "Of course not," she said, trying to sound cheerful. "I've been looking forward to it."
"I'm not sure I am," Bill said. "As long as we've just been filming the show, I could believe whatever I wanted about it. But tomorrow night it actually goes on the air, and then who knows what's going to happen."
"We'll be in a hit TV series," Alison declared. "Isn't that what all American kids dream of?"
"Most," Bill said. "So I can expect you and your mother?"
"Sure," Alison said.
"T.J. too, then," Bill said.
"Of course," Alison replied. "Aren't all of us invited?"
"Sure," Bill said. "But I just figured you and T.J. would be coming together. In any event, he has the directions to my house."
"All right," Alison said. "See you tomorrow."
"Right," Bill said.
Alison started walking toward the dressing rooms. She wished Bill hadn't said that about her and T.J. They weren't a couple, and Alison wasn't sure where Bill had gotten the idea they were. Sure, she and T.J. went to officialHard Time High functions together. Their characters on the show, Kevin and Jenny, were lovers on the show. It made sense for them to be paired off together at publicity events. But that didn't mean they dated, really dated, in their free time.
"Hey, Alison," Rafe Marquez said, and put his arm on hers to slow her down.
Alison raised her eyes to the heavens. "Yes, Rafe," she said. "What do you want?"
"I was just wondering if you were going to Bill's party tomorrow night?" he asked.
"Yes," Alison replied, breaking away from him.
"You want to go with me?" he asked. "Like a date, I mean."
"I'd rather get leprosy," Alison told him.
"That means no, right?" Rafe said.
Alison smiled. "You got it," she said. "Now if you'll excuse me."
"You'll be sorry," Rafe shouted at her. "Someday I'm going to be so big, I'll be the biggest thing this show has ever seen, and then you'll be sorry."
"You'd better believe it," Alison muttered. Rafe kept pestering her, and sometimes she dealt with it better than others. Life would be so much easier if he just got interested in one of the other girls—Molly, or Miranda Newgate—but he'd fixated on her. Alison was accustomed to having boys crazy about her, but usually there were a lot of other boys around to provide her with some cover. Here there were only the three boys and the other two girls, and there was less room to maneuver.
It didn't help that Rafe was the sexiest guy Alison had ever seen, bar none. He had a smoldering look that used to make her shiver with excitement. But that was before she got to know him and realized what a turkey he was. He was right, he probably would be the biggest thing on Hard Time High. The one thing Alison had figured out in the five months since she'd been cast as Jenny was that nothing in television made any sense.
"Oh, Alison, I'm glad I caught you," Dick Goldstein said. "Could you spare me a minute?"
"Of course, Dick," Alison said, and smiled at him. If Dick asked her to cut off a couple of her fingers, she would at least consider it.
Dick smiled back. "Let's walk to the hallway," he said. "Get away from the noise."
It had to be bad news, Alison knew. Good news was open to the public. She closed her eyes and willed her mother to join them.
"What's going on here?" her mother promptly asked. Alison would have credited it to magic, except she'd spent too much of her life under her mother's watchful eye.
"Ah, Mrs. Blake," Dick Goldstein said. "Alison and I were about to have a little talk. Would you care to join us?"
"If you don't mind," Alison's mother replied.
"Not at all," Dick said, and the three of them walked out of the studio together. Alison walked next to Dick, with her mother a half step behind them.
"Now as you know, the show is going to be aired tomorrow night for the first time," Dick began once they had some privacy. "The network is just as excited as I am. We all expect big things to come out of Hard Time High for all its cast members."
She hadn't been fired, Alison realized. Whatever was going on, she still had her job.
"None of the kids has seen the shows we've filmed," Dick said. "Not even Susie. I decided on that as policy before we began casting."
"It's a good rule," Mrs. Blake declared.
"I think so," Dick said. "But it has the drawback that it's hard for the actors to get a sense of how they're appearing, since they haven't seen themselves yet. For the ones who've been working in television for a long time, that's less of a problem than for the actors who are new to the medium."
"You mean we might be making little mistakes," Alison said, "only we don't know it."
"In a manner of speaking," Dick said. "And on the other hand, you don't know the positive things either. For example, Alison, you look ravishing on screen. Not that you aren't an exceptionally pretty girl in real life, but there have been a lot of actresses just as pretty as you are who looked like nothing in front of a camera. But the camera loves you. A girl with your natural beauty has quite a future."
"There's more to Alison than just looks," her mother declared. "Don't underestimate her. A lot of people think she got selected as Miss Young America because it was a beauty contest, but it wasn't. Grades counted, and personality and talent. They were looking for the best of young American womanhood when they selected Alison."
"I would never underestimate Alison," Dick said. "And we certainly didn't cast her because she was another pretty face. Not even if she was Miss Young America. We picked Alison from all the hundreds of girls who auditioned because she had a special quality to her that made her best for the part of Jenny."
"A part you haven't done very much with," Mrs. Blake said. "It's pitiful how few lines you've been giving Alison."
"Mother!" Alison said.
"No, Alison, it's all right," Dick told her. "Your mother is right. We haven't done that much with Jenny yet. We realized very early on that Molly was capable of handling a difficult story line that had a real potential to grab the audience, and we felt we should go that way. You're both aware of how important the ratings are. And the way television is structured these days, if you don't get the ratings right off, you get cancelled. There are no second chances in television anymore."
"Alison doesn't need second chances," her mother declared.
"She certainly doesn't," Dick said. "But she does need some help with her acting."
"What do you mean?" Alison asked.
"It's nothing serious," Dick said, turning away from her mother. "But you're not a professional actress, and it shows. You're not the only one on the show with that problem, and we've decided it's best to take care of things now, before you get set in your ways. So we're setting up a little acting class for you and a couple of the other kids on the show. It's just to smooth over the rough edges, so that you can give the performances we know you're capable of. And then we'll be able to give you better story lines."
"Who else?" Alison asked.
"Rafe and Miranda," Dick replied. "They've both agreed to it. Miranda was actually the reason the idea came up. She approached me about acting lessons, realizing that there was a lot she needed to learn, and I decided I didn't want her studying with somebody whose methods weren't congenial with what I'm attempting to do with Hard Time High. So I asked Don Prince if he'd be willing to take you on. Don is one of the best acting teachers in California, and he has a lot of experience with younger actors. Don agreed, and the lessons start on Friday."
"Oh," Alison said, not sure what else she should say.
"Absolutely not," her mother said, sparing Alison the decision.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Blake," Dick said. "But I don't think I understand."
"Alison doesn't need any lessons," her mother declared. "Miranda might and Rafe certainly does, but they're amateurs. They have no experience whatsoever. Alison came in third in the talent section of the Miss Young America pageant. That's third out of fifty-two of the most talented girls in America. Does that sound like she needs acting lessons?"
"Mrs. Blake, the situation is not exactly parallel," Dick replied.
"The answer is no," Mrs. Blake said. "I know what happens in this world, Dick. I'm not a fool. You get it in your head that Alison isn't quite as good as some of the others, you'll never change your mind. Alison will always be the girl who needed lessons. Well she doesn't. Sure, acting on television is new to her. But there's nobody on this show who's as smart as Alison. She's a hundred times sharper than Miranda Newgate, which Miranda realizes and which is why Miranda asked for those acting lessons in the first place. Don't you lump my daughter in there with Miranda and that nothing Rafe. My daughter is Miss Young America and she's smart and beautiful, and if you just gave her a story line that showed off all her talents, you'd realize just what a jewel you have in her."
"I'm going," Alison said. "You don't need me for this conversation."
"No, Alison, please stay," Dick said.
Alison shook her head. "No," she said. "You've heard what my mother has to say. I'm going for a walk."
"Alison," her mother said, but it was too late. Alison broke away from both of them and ran out of the hallway, past the dressing rooms and the makeup rooms, and all the other rooms, until she was outside.
At that point there were only a couple of voices Alison would have turned around for, and that was one of them. "Seth?" she cried, and sure enough, there he was. She flung herself into his arms and felt sheltered by his embrace.
"So you remember me, after all," Seth said, and then they laughed and kissed and then laughed some more.
"When did you get here?" Alison asked. "How long have you been here? Were you waiting for me?"
"I got to L.A. yesterday," Seth said. "I moved into my dorm and I unpacked and tomorrow I register for classes, so I figured today I'd spend tracking you down. I found this building, and I tried to impress on some secretary that you and I knew each other from good old Kansas City, but the secretary could see right off that I wasn't trustworthy. So I figured I'd just wait outside until you made your appearance."
Excerpted from Wanting It All by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Copyright © 1985 Susan Beth Pfeffer. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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