JUMP Chapter 7 : Screen Test!
Desmond has a screen test on the Warner lot. He thinks about old Hollywood and stars like Norma who were swept away with the advent of the Talkies.
The day opened like a movie premier and, yes, Desmond knew that today was his day. After days, weeks, months of waiting, after countless false starts and meetings and promises he had landed exactly what he knew he needed. This very day he would scale the fortress wall. He had a screen test for a swashbuckling costume drama on the Warner lot. He liked a challenge and this one may have intimidated a lesser man but he understood that all he had to do was be there and not give a shit. It was a trick he played with his mind. He knew that the more he didn't give a shit, the more he didn't need something, the more it shifted towards him. Stay loose. Exercise, beat the shit out of your sparring partner, fuck as many broads as you can, drink, smoke reefers, swim in the big Pacific ocean and not give a rats arse about what anyone thinks and above all don't fucking worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Cross that bridge when you come to it. Today was here to be slurped up, sucked in, masticated, mangled, devoured, stroked, touched, felt, eaten, tasted, and yes, fucked. The day, today, was a neat block of time and you can either give it your best shot or dog-in-the -manger, mope and whinge.
That sun was unrelenting and the blinds on the pool house window provided no resistance. Up, up, lad, grab the pool net, give it a quick sweep, say hello to his lovely, (and I mean lovely, lovely, strawberries and cream lovely, would-do-her-with-no-encouragement, a fine, fine looking woman) new landlady, and to the noble Mr Takahashi, grab a bite to eat on Sunset and enter the fortress.
My, that sun was unrelenting. He was grateful that his profession, movies star, (for which he had served the best known apprenticeship, carousing and rollicking in the bars and whorehouses from Sydney to New Guinea,in a gold rush, for god's sake!, to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Shanghai, oh what a journey it had been) would be spent inside a sound stage.
He loved these dark, cavernous spaces. He loved the blast of light as he stepped out of the darkness into the bright, even L.A. light.
Desmond felt his cock, which had the same recuperative powers a the rest of his body, wake from its slumber beneath the sheets. It wanted his attention. Not now, old man, you have to wait until tonight. He needed the edginess, the tension of unmet needs.
The shower felt good. He let the hot water run down his back. His muscles still ached from his work in the garden yesterday. After he had towelled himself, he began shaving in front of the bathroom mirror. He was pleased with what he saw. He looked good and his brain was clear. As the steam began to fog the mirror he was reminded of the fleeting nature of beauty and how his looks were his fortune. He knew he was part of a freakshow and was glad of his freakish good looks. He had seen tough broads giggle and blush when he spoke to them. He had seen women's knees buckle, seen them swoon, moisten, surrender. And why? Because he was simply one of those that the Gods had decided to curse by giving them everything mere mortals could only dream of. What if his eyes had been set differently in his skull or if his nose or mouth had ruined the perfection of his features? What if he had been a fool or a choir boy or his cock had been smaller? The fact was everything had come together and screamed 'movie star'! The camera loved him and most importantly his personality kept ticking over even as the cmera whirred. If you don't freeze when they point a camera at you you are already half way towards being a movie actor.
The blade moved across his face and he thought about the breakfast he had planned for himself at th diner near the lot and the cute waitress who did the early shift. The test was at 10am which gave him plenty of time to wake up (done), shower and shave (almost done), greet his current employer and colleague, then stroll down the hill to the diner, have a coffee, eggs and sausages washed down with a freshly squeezed orange juice. Not a huge breakfast. Just something to kick start the day.
He could feel the adrenalin pumping and his hand shook. His stomach churned and he knew now more than ever he needed to not give a shit. This game was not for the weak hearted!
Ah! By God he felt good striding the cement sidewalk letting the cool morning and sun activate his senses. He felt like a million bucks! And he looked it too in his best jacket, shirt, trousers and shoes, which was confirmed by the way girls looked at him and giggled. As though he was already a movie star. Or his fly was down!
Ha! What a game! He thought of the blokes who talked themselves down - can't do this, can't do that. It will never work. That's why they were still desk clerks at Brown and Sons on Phillip Street and here he was on his way to the Warner lot to show all those bastards at Warners that he will be the goose that laid the gold. If they have his name on the marquee the movie would be a hit. The women would come to see him being himself, behaving like he wanted to fuck them by teasing the shit out of them, like a kid sister. Like he couldn't give a shit, and they would bring their boyfriends and husbands who would envy and hate him because they wished they were movie stars and could fuck anyone they wanted and sit around in their dressing room waiting for the next set up. Poor bastards!
Ah! What a day for life to begin! What a perfectly formed morning. It felt like the footpath wanted nothing more than to be there for his shoes to walk on. That the sprinklers were splish-splishing a rotating watery greeting. The girls looked prettier, the cars shinier, the old ladies kinder. The shine, shine, laugh, laugh. Oh! Desmond today is your day. You can feel it, can't you? You can, can't you?
The guard at the entrance of the lot checked his clip board and then pointed down a canyon-like lane between two sound stages. Desmond surveyed the scene in front of him savouring every part of it: the well manicured lawns of the main administration building, the lines of smaller buildings for production, writing, stars bungalows. The whole place had a feeling of permanency which its owners intended, although they knew, and he knew, that a few flops and the place could disappear. The flickering image in a darkening theatre had been joined now by sound. With the arrival of talkies actors and actresses like his employer, Norma, had been swept away. Who would have thought? Who would have guessed.
As Desmond was thinking about his place in all of this a battalion of dragoons marched past, coats open, cigarettes in hands and on lips, sweat on brows. God they must be warm in those outfits, thought Desmond.
The tall walls of the sound stage framed and shaded the activity through which he now walked. The sky and light had been marginalised as though this place knew its prime function -the corralling and husbandry of light (and sound). Light was the thing being manufactured here and when once the sun was a factor in production now it had been marginalised, as it was on this morning. All the architecture surrounding him filtered the light,like half shut eyes. Over in the distance he could see parts of the back lot with New York brownstones and Bohemian townscapes, but even there the sun was no longer enough. Huge banks of lights would bathe even the simplest of scenes.
Well. Whatever. They may be manufacturing light but this was merely a front for the real product: dreams and fantasies and that is where he, Desmond Furey, came in.
Desmond thought about the old days and the stories Norma told about old Hollywood, about a friend of hers who had bought up whole stretches of orange orchards on which now sat houses. The stories about Mack Sennett and the Keystone Cops and how they filmed scenes on the streets of L.A.
Desmond tried not to worry about whether he was too old or whether he had left his run too late, or whether he had arrived in Hollywood too late, at the end of the party. That the best days were over. The Golden Past of missed opportunities. Deal with now, Desmond, old man, he thought. He breathed in and wondered what activity was going on inside those sound stages.
Clinton De Vere