I reach Tony at the Sunset Marquis. He agrees to open the club for rehearsal and get Elton there, as soon as he is finished with Twit. I call Tommy’s house but no one answers. I hope they are off to the airport. Jack has the Lear’s arrival time at Teterboro, which I pass to Nina on the set. When she finds out there is a plane to the Coast, she begs to let Jules and her come, too.
“You need to teach Liza the ‘New York, New York’ lyrics on the flight. Tell Jules to bring an acoustic. Watch out for my old love, Tommy. He’s fifteen and a crazy red-neck.”
“I’m fourteen now. I can handle a fifteen-year-old boy.”
“Sic Jules on him. Tommy won’t have a clue about his dad.”
When we get back to the hotel, there are five messages from Marty, anxious to know how our meetings went. I debate whether to tell him I have hijacked his stars for a week. Maybe I need another million from MGM as publicity for the unfinished film. I need a publicist. I called Joan at Larrabee Studios. She contacts Kim Fowley’s office. They promise to send a hack to deal with the press. Joan insists on meeting us at the Troubadour. Jace instantly appears, ready to play his ½ role in our menage a trois et demi.
Elton is already on stage, working the rhythm to Cabaret’s ‘Wellkommen’ intro. We’ve all seen the movie, so we chose the parts we will play. Jack is a natural for the Joel Gray MC role. His German is impeccable from his months in Switzerland. Elton isn’t happy with the sound he’s getting out of the Steinway. Jimmy at Larrabee agrees to move the honky-tonk stand-up with the muted pads to the Troubadour.
“I’ll charge Doug an arm and a leg,” he laughs. He is glad to be rid of it.
We decide not to do the full Cabaret act tonight – just ‘Welkommen,’ the song ‘Cabaret’ and the finale being the debut of ‘New York, New York.’ If we get an encore, Tommy will come out and do the ‘Gatorsaurus tale, with us ending with Gatorsaurus Rock. ‘Palisades Park’ can be the second encore, but we are over-thinking it.
Time is flying. Elton needs a first dinner at Dan Tana’s to rev up. I take him aside and explain why Edgar Bronfman Jr is joining us at ten for the second dinner. I sell it that Liza is coming to get the money Marty needs to finish the film. We end up singing “Money, Money, Money’ a Cappella.
The restaurant staff is amused. Joan is pissed we are not going back to the hotel. We drag her into the Men’s and have extended stall sex. She is fucked, eaten out and cum on, much to her surprised satisfaction. It is like the good old days at Sorrento’s in Miami. Jack is happy to observe I am not excited about Tommy’s arrival. I take the publicist hack aside to explain how we have to publicize the secret that the kids arriving with Liza are the offspring of Leonard Bernstein and John Lennon. I lie that Tommy is Cher and Greg Almond’s secret love child. I figure she will recognize De Niro when he comes on stage. We cast him as the Nazi Ernst Ludwig, to sing ‘The Future’ with Jack and Jules (who is to be a bar boy) – these castings will be worked out on Tuesday’s rehearsal for a full Cabaret show. Tonight will be just about Liza’s surprise appearance. Hollywood can be so much fun. And it is only Monday.
Sitting with Andy and Blair, we tell them all the elaborate plans that are coming together. Andy teases Jack that I am bringing back my old boyfriend to make him jealous. We fake slap each other, then kiss and make up. The flashbulbs go crazy. Joan’s publicist is doing her job and is not just a hack. Jack tells Andy about Bronfman’s days after Collegiate, about trying to be a songwriter.
“Well, Elton knows how to handle a hustler,” Andy observes, watching Twit flit around the super star.
“You think all the kids you shoot are just hustlers?”
“You can’t save everybody, Tim. Once a kid crosses that line where they believe their own hustles, they’re lost.”
“I remember Jace as so innocent. He was deceiving everyone, trying to keep it together and hiding what was really happening to his younger brother and him. All it took was someone to trust and believe in him. He never needed to lie or steal again.”
“Jack believes he’s a real ghost, that you can see him?”
“Yeah. ‘Do you believe in magic… How the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me.’
“The Loving Spoonful???”
“Yeah. Did you believe at that age?”
Elton’s first set is what the fans expect. They cheer the hits and give him two encores. Soon we are in the back booth at Dan Tana’s, waiting is Edgar. He rises and introduces himself. Elton is cordial. Two encores do that.
“I hear my boys, pointing at Jack and me, put on a real song and dance for you today.”
“Yeah. The suits were none too happy that I green-lighted their movie.”
“Nice to have the power,” Elton snickers.
“The pretty boy’s dad is partners with my dad. It was a no-brainer.”
“They want another million to pay for me promoting the movie’s headline song. Six million in all.”
“Hey, I’m the one who’s selling you.”
“Everyone’s selling it in LA,” Elton winks.
“How about you come to my label for the extra million.”
“That’s nothing to do with me. I have an agent for negotiations. What the boys are doing is on themselves. I’ll have my agent call you.”
Elton turns back to shoveling in the pasta. I push Twit in his direction.
Edgar turns to me, “You want more money?”
“Marty’s gonna kill me when he wakes up this morning and finds his two stars are in LA. He’ll havta shut down the shoot.
“You had the MGM execs believing you were negotiating for him.”
“We were just messenger boys. Once we saw how bad the film was, we had to do something. The negotiations are solid because Minnelli and De Niro are in our pockets. There’s no film without them.”
“So why will they be here tonight?”
“Stick around. You’ll be amazed. Elton’s going to debut the song that Leonard Bernstein wrote.”
“Liza’s going to sing with Elton?”
“If they get here in time.”
“I better order pasta myself.”
“Get a pepperoni pizza, too,” Jack pipes up.
“Your granddad know about the deal we signed?”
“He’s my dad. We talked afterward. He’s not that happy, but he’s only a silent partner.”
“Yeah. A silent shark. Better stay out of the water.”
“That’s what Marty always says.”
“Well, you delivered Elton, but I doubt he really cares. Maybe you should be his agents.”
“The music bizness ain’t fer kids,” we both say at once.
I call Marty’s assistant. He is grumpy and half-asleep when he finally answers. It is 1:30 am in New York.
“What? Did you lose those dailies?”
“Naw. They’re at UA. You got to tell Marty that Liza and Bobby are flying to LA right now. He has to reschedule the day’s shoot.”
“What have you done?” he shouts.
“Tell him he’s got the five million, plus another million for the cost of promoting the new title song in Hollywood. It’s called ‘New York, New York.’”
“You’re fired!” he yells.
“Call Marty. Read the LA papers in the morning.” I hang up.
I have done my duty by notifying Marty – due diligence. ‘There will be no joy in Mudville tonight.’
The Lear is due in at 11pm. Jack & I take the limo to the Santa Monica Airport. Tommy comes running into the waiting room, jumping into my arms. Bobby looks perturbed. Jack is relieved that we don’t kiss. Liza glows – she has adopted another gay pet.
“You really expect me to sing after a long flight?” she complains.
“Just ‘Cabaret’ and maybe the new song for the movie.”
“I like it – the song.”
“I’d rather rehearse it with Elton first.”
“If all goes well tonight, we’ll do a Hollywood-style Cabaret for the rest of the week. Plenty of time to rehearse during the day.”
“I have an agent, you know. Spur of the moment performances are on his ‘not-to-do list.’”
“Com’n Liza. This will be fun. Do you like the songs Marty has you doing?”
We take off in the limo. No one has brought luggage. Tommy whispers to me, “Does I git ta tell ma story tanite?”
“Y’all ready to perform?”
“Yeah. Why all the commotion? Who is these old people? I jist wanna perform with ya, Huck.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll all be up there with ya. All y’all has ta do is speak up to the mic and make sure they kin hear ya in the back.”
Bobby bursts out laughing at my good ol’ boy speech. He thinks everyone should sound like they’re from the Bronx. Tommy looks worried, so Bobby hits him on the arm to straighten him out. It works. Liza put her arm around him. Tommy glows. Bobby looks jealous.
Jimmy lets us in the back door. Elton is still playing on stage. Tony gives him the thumbs up. At the end of the song, he pauses and looks at stage right.
“Looks like we may have guests again tonight.”
The audience expects teenage ragamuffins to walk out. Liza and Bobby stride out, hand in hand. The audience gasps and then gives them a welcoming hand. Elton moves over to the mic stand, shouting ‘Welkommen.”
Jack rushes out with a devilish Joel Grey look in his eye and speaks his lines in perfect German and French.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Fremder, étranger, stranger Glücklich zu sehen, Je suis enchanté, Happy to see you, Liza’ Bleibe, reste, stay. Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! Cabaret, oh, Cabaret. Cabaret.”
He bows to Liza and Bobby.
Elton is plinking the notes on the standup piano.
‘I’m Cabaret, Au Cabaret, To Cabaret!
Meine Damen und Herren
Mes dames et Messieurs Ladies and Gentlemen,
Songwriters: FRED EBB, JOHN KANDER
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Liza is at the mic, still holding Di Niro’s hand, as Elton plunks the intro to ‘Cabaret.’ We all run out and mime like extras from the movie.
‘Come taste the wine, Come hear the band. Come blow your horn, Start celebrating; Right this way, Your table’s waiting
What good’s permitting some prophet of doom To wipe every smile away? Life is a Cabaret, old chum, Come to the Cabaret!
Songwriters: FRED EBB, JOHN KANDER
Liza has the audience in the palm of her hand. “Thank you, LA, for the welkommen. And thank you Hollywood. Tonight I have the pleasure of singing the title song to my new movie, ‘New York, New York.’ What a better place to debut it than Hollywood.”
Polite applause by the LA scenesters, for themselves.
“Com’n out, Nina and Jules,” She motioned stage right to us. “Nina wrote the song, with maybe a little help from her dad, Leonard Bernstein, at least in the genetics department, as well as with her band mate, Julian Lennon, with his own genetic advantage.”
LA loves nepotism. The kids bow and pick up their instruments. Liza nods to Elton and Nina’s song came to life.
‘Start spreading the news,
I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it,
New York, New York
These vagabond shoes,
are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it,
New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city, that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap
These little town blues, are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it,
in old New York
If I can make it there,
I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you,
New York, New York’
Songwriters: ADOLPH GREEN, BETTY COMDEN, LEONARD BERNSTEIN
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
We all rush out and Elton repeats the ending, with everyone singing,
‘New York, New York
New York, New York’
Since 90% of the audience is originally from New York, we get a big response. Elton quickly moves on.
“Last night, you may have heard we redid ‘Crocodile Rock.” Bernie isn’t pleased, so I brought back from the Everglades, Mark Twain’s hero, Tom Sawyer, to recite the original tale of ‘Gatorsaurus. Com’n out Tom.”
I know Tommy is melting into the floor at his curtain call. I grab his hand and we skip to the floor mic. Elton plunks a few riffs of ‘Crocodile Rock’ to give him a beat.
He takes a deep breath and starts off.
“Y’all knows my friend, Huck here. I guess he’s real famous now. But before all that he was my hero. This tale’s ‘bout a mighty large ‘gator we knowed last summer when we was livin’ it up in the Everglades. It’s a big swamp in South Florida where I’s always lived. Ain’t never bin nowhere else, ‘til tonight. So’s I’s pleased to be tellin’ this story dedicated to ol’ Huck, my hero.”
A few people start laughing at Tommy’s accent and grammar. By the time his introduction is done, most everyone is laughing. He figures they are not laughing at him but are liking his story. Elton keeps up the light piano tinkling as background support. Elton starts banging the opening chords to our version of ‘Crocodile Rock,’ as Jack, Joan and I jump on stage with our guitars. Tommy keeps speaking,
“‘Gatorsaurus, he’s both a curse an’ a blessing fir our ‘scape from juvie. We jist hadta git outta that place. They’s condemnin’ boys to the state mental hospital for not followin’ they’s rules. It t’were hell. Ta tell ya the truth, I’s scared of ‘gators when we slipped over the fence that dark and moonless night. They never guard the back of that prison camp as ever’one knows there’s ‘gators out there that as soon ‘et ya as not. Ol’ Huck, he hadda hold my hand. I’s petrified I’s ‘bout ta be ‘et. Soon’s they knowed we’s escaped, the guards let them hounds out ta track us down. They was a’bayin’ and a’howlin’ on our trail until that ol’ “Gatorsaurus leapt into action. Jist a few bites and them hounds was a’whinin’ and a’cryin’ ta git home. Guess that ‘gator he et ‘nuff hounds ‘cause he let us go rather than have a second course of runaway boy. We’s a‘scaped. The next days is pure labor. Huck had me a’workin’ like an ol’ slave setting up camp and learnin’ hows to caitch catfish in the swamp wid jist ma bare hands. I taught him how to spot wild rice, jist like I did at my granddaddy’s farm upstate. We’s even found wild chickens fer eggs ta make fish chowder. I’s ‘fraid o’ that ol’ rooster ‘tills Huck kicked ‘im in the head. We’s havin’ so much fun, we plumb firgot ‘bout ol ‘Gatorsaurus. After a hot day’s work settin’ up camp and gittin’ food, we was a’splashin’ and a’goofin’ around in the water, havin’ a blast. Suddenly Ol’ Huck’s eyes gits real big and he screams “’Gator,” over my shoulder. I’s so scared I jist jumps right inta his arms. As he turns to run. I seen them two eyes with ugly, scaly bumps behinds ’em a’swimmin’ right at me. I’s a’kickin’ ol’ Huck ta hurry up as we scurried up the swamp bank and safety. Sure ‘nuff, Huck gits there a’fore that ol’ ‘gator kin git us. We’s lay there a’laffin’ ‘til I jist hads ta go see that ol’ ‘gator lookin’ hungry from missin’ his dinner. I’s throwin’ rocks at his ugly face. That ‘gator don’t cotton much ta bein’ mocked. Up the bank ‘Gatotsaurus comes. His feets a’goin’ 80 miles an hour. I scream like a girl an’ Huck, he grabs me again, throwin’ me up on a tree branch. But ol’ ‘Gatorsaurus, he don’t give up. He’s charging right at Huck. Huck jist jumped right up on that crazy ‘gator’s head and bounced up into the tree, with ‘Gatorsaurus’s jaws snappin’ at his heels. Huck pulls me up to his branch and we’s sittin’ there naked as jailbirds, like we really was, laughin’ again at ‘Gatorsaursus. That ‘gator, he don’t like bein’ laffed at. With hundreds of slobber-covered teeth he attacked that tree, trying ta bring it down. “Gator must be stupid to be so stubborn. He looks like an ol’ dinosaur, with scales oozing green slime covering his back and bugs living on that slime. He snorts water out his nostrils, lookin’ like a dragon breathin’ out fire and stinky sulfur. We knowed not ta mock that ol’ ‘gator no more. It took more’n two hours fir ‘Gatorsaurus to finally give up on ‘etin’ us fir dinner. He swum away and never bothered us a’gin. Huck he told me that ‘gators got big noses so’s they smells everythin.’ I figure ol’ Gatorsaurus never did come back ‘cause ol’ Huck, he smells real bad.”
Somehow Julian finds a guitar and is rockin’ out on ‘Crocodile Rock.’ Tommy has a big grin on his face and starts dancing with himself on stage. The audience rushes into the open space in front of the stage. Tommy launches himself into the crowd. They catch him. He crowd-surfs while whooping and hollering. Finally, I get Tommy to join me at the mic. He does the ‘lalalala la’ chorus to back me up. We follow up with ‘Palisades Park’ and several other 50’s dance songs.
I only have to pinch him once to get him back on key. We bow and everyone leaves the stage. Cries for encore go on and on. Finally, Elton walks to the floor mic.
“We’re done for the night, folks. If you liked it enough to want more, we’re doing a Hollywood Cabaret for the next few nights. Remember to get tickets for the late show. Goodnight LA. I love you.”
Back at Dan Tana’s, they keep the kitchen open for Elton’s third dinner. Well-wishers learn of the star’s hangout, coming by with praise and a need to be in his presence – celebrity groupies. The restaurant doors are locked. They provide pizzas for all the teens and wine for the adults. No beer and pot like Sorrento’s but we are a happy bunch. Elton warns us to be prepared for a long rehearsal for the cabaret show he plans for the next nights.
“Relax,” I tell him. “Wait until you see the reviews for tonight. These fans love you. The crazier and more improvised the cabaret seems, the more they like it. Each show is unique. They cannot sell enough tickets to satisfy your fans.”
Twit hates me because Elton needs someone to tell him truthfully how loved he is. He mopes until Elton runs off to the Sunset Marquis with him. Andy is entertaining Jules and Nina. Tommy is non-stop praising himself. Jack is amused and pleased that I am barely listening. Liza and Bobby are off by themselves. I realize we have not booked them a suite in the hotel. I figure they can just take our room. All us kids will tuck in with Andy. Blair is not pleased. Tony suggests the kids and us can reopen Doug’s tee-pee. Joan leaves early; we know where she’s going. It takes two limos to transport the stars/celebrities and their assistants. Tony tells us to get into his Datsun and to bring the kids. We end up overlooking the Hollywood Sign at the top of Beachwood Canyon, as the sun comes up over Downtown LA.. Jules brings out a joint. We wake and bake without having been asleep. I worry that the Dragon Lady will soon discover her stepson has flown across the country without her permission. Maybe she won’t read the LA papers. I know better. I make them call home from the pay phone at Bronson and Franklin. They giggle as their respective parents chew them out. Jack gets on the line with each and uses his charm (and Japanese) to assure the parents that the kids are safe. They’ll have to fly back that afternoon. The Lear has to be in Teterboro anyway. It hits me that I am beyond multiple parental control.
We sleep for a few hours, until Tony informs Jack and me that Elton has called for a noon rehearsal. The kids get up and have breakfast with Doug.
“Did you have fun last night?” he asks Jules and Nina.
“It seemed odd to call it a performance. We just did our own thing.”
“Your song is a hit, Nina,” Doug predicts.
“Told you,” she turns and mocks us.
“Thus sprachen der Prinz des rock and roll,” Jack jokes.
Liza and Bobby show up late for rehearsal. It seems Marty has been calling the hotel trying to ream us out, and then fire us. His first call woke them up. Blair had the other calls go to the front desk. He brings about twenty message notes, all saying to call Marty. Elton has to work with Liza, so I go into Doug’s office and call him. He had expected Jack to put on a charm offensive. I’m not that sophisticated.
“I know we’re fired,” I take away his ammo.
“You’re damn right. And that’s not the end of it. You’ll never work in New York or Hollywood again. You stole my stars off my set. Do you understand how wrong that is.”
I decide not to explain how I saved his movie. I know that money talks and bullshit walks.
“I got MGM to pay the costs for shutting down for a week, as a publicity campaign to promote the movie. They upped their offer to six million.”
He snorts like a bull in the ring. “This is not about money. This is personal.”
“Everything’s about money, Marty.”
“At the least, I don’t want you near my stars, ever again.”
“Have you seen the papers today. They’re the new Sonny and Cher. We’re rehearsing for tonight’s show right now.”
“She’s under contract to me.”
“Well, she’s promoting your film, that’s in the contract.”
“Just use this week to do those shots where you don’t need the stars. Jack and I used an Astaire and Rogers dance routine to sell the revised screenplay.”
“That will never happen.”
“It already got you five, six million dollars. Don’t waste it.”
“You’re impossible,” he slams down the phone.
“Are we still fired?” Jack asks when I return to the rehearsal.
“Yeah, we’re doing this week’s shows as unpaid interns. Time to get ready for Harvard.”
“On with the show,” Elton orders.
The Cabaret goes over well. The reviews say Elton is rejuvenated, calling Twit his muse. Jack, Joan and I are called Andy’s Gang. The shows are sold out instantly. Tony makes a mint letting people in the back door. After showing the Jace Tribute film to his backers, Andy obtains the support of the LA County Museum to curate the Jace’s Place exhibition to major US and European cities.
Tommy is offered a role on the Waltons but refuses to wear overalls. He is holding out for a revival of the Hillbilly Brothers but refuses to let me use the line about ‘makin’ babies with one another.’ Joan adopts him and introduces him to her Runaways groupies who satisfy his every need. Jack is relieved. I find it amusing and wonder why I had sex with him in the first place. Was turning straight guys gay some dark perversion? Jack says I had just been slumming. Jace announces he is turning straight after so many 3½-ways with Tommy’s groupies. Tommy spends every night catting about. He still insists on snuggling in with me when he returns from his nightly adventures. Once I love someone, the feelings never go away, just the hormones.