‘New York, New York 2
Way too early, the room phone rings and rings. Why didn’t the message machine pick up? Why didn’t Jack or even Jace pick it up. Finally, I remember where we are. I groggily grab the receiver.
“What? It’s early. Why are you calling. We don’t need room service.”
“Shut up, you fuck. Marty’s on the line.” It’s his Assistant, not my favorite wake-up call.
“It’s three hours earlier here,” I complain.
“Good. All the more time to do what I’m paying you to do.” It’s Marty. “Why haven’t you delivered those dailies and the edited film stock? It’s Monday. You’ve been there three days now.”
“They were open on the weekend?”
“Why’dch think I sent you out there on Friday night? They’re screaming at me. It only makes me wonder how I could send you two on a simple messenger job.”
“Well, we were busy with Andy. Your partner, remember?”
“Yeah. I read all about that in today’s LA Times. You can’t help yourself getting on stage and in the papers.”
“They reviewed our show last night?”
“The same old pervert stuff, kissing Elton’s ass and elsewhere, I don’t even wanna think about. I’m pulling out of your vanity project.”
“No,” I wake up. “We were just celebrating my birthday. I turned 18 yesterday.”
“Well, grow up, for once. I ain’t gonna have nothin’ to do with your gossip exploits. At least, you’s legal now.”
“Yer right, as usual, Marty. It’s still early. We’ll get over to United Artists by ten.” It was already eight.
“No. Take the whole package to MGM first. I want them to see it and get an opinion.”
“You don’t trust your own opinion?”
“Not since I made that bomb with your old band. I seem to alternate between hits and misses. UA is spending way over budget on this film. I need a back-up plan.”
“And, what is the current name of this film?”
“I’m calling it ‘The Lady Sings All that Jazz.’”
I yell to Jack to get up.
“And tell Jack to stop saying he’s an assistant producer. You boys are just messengers.”
“Yeah. I know. Movies ain’t no bizness for kids.”
“Yer 18 but yer still a kid.”
“I’m learning that.”
“Finally,” and he hangs up.
I jump on top of the sleeping Jack. He just rolls over and tells me to go away. Marty’s call somehow makes me horny. We are both stark naked and I’m hard. Licking his butt gets him squirming and hard himself. Morning delight. I get off quickly, much to Jack’s dismay. I drag him into the shower. He gets even in the quickie department. We barely make use of unlimited hot water at the Beverly Wilshire. Jack tries to order breakfast from room service, but I cut him off.
“We can eat later. Marty wants us to sell the film to MGM.”
“What? I thought he’d sold it to United Artists.”
“No wonder. All those sets, costumes, extras, and crowd scenes. He’s trying to out-Hollywood Hollywood.”
“I was to remind you that you are only an assistant director in your head.”
“Okay, but if we have to sell something, we need proper titles.”
“How about songwriters?”
“The songs Marty chose suck.”
“Well, we can use that song Nina wrote about New York. We’ll say her dad wrote it. That’ll get their attention.”
Mummy has packed suits and ties for us, which we had laughed about. We want to make the right impression. Jack is trying to get his hair to behave. Our Taxi Driver baldies have grown out about an inch.
“Forget that, let’s go.” I had made coffee in the room. We took the expensive Beverly-Wilshire porcelain with us. A cab out front knows where to go at MGM’s studios in Culver City. We renamed it Vulgar City, from our New York entitled point of view.
Two teenagers with a film attract scant attention at the corporate offices. A junior executive comes out to take the package. Except we had\ve to deliver it to UA, so we told him he could only look at it today.
“Where are you boys from?” he remarks sarcastically.
“Miami,” Jack retorts. “My dad’s Edgar Stone.”
That gets his attention. “You mean he’s your granddad?”
“No. I’m their November mistake.”
We all laugh.
“Well, he’s partners with Kirk Kerkorian, so maybe you need to speak with an executive.”
“All we want is someone who can decide whether to invest in Marty’s film. He’s over-budget.”
Junior leaves and soon an older man comes into the conference room.
“What’s up, boys,” he turns to Jack. “I understand Edgar Stone’s your grandfather.”
“No,” Jack carefully explains. “He’s my dad.”
“Well, I’ve met your brothers. You’re too young to be siblings.”
“All this posturing has nothing to do with why I’m here.”
“Listen, kid. Your brothers were no great shakes. None of their ideas were worth listening to.”
“I’m working for Martin Scorsese this summer, on ‘The Lady Sings All that Jazz.’ I’ve got dailies and some edited footage. Do you want to see it or not?” Jack is being tough.
“What is your role on the set? You must be in school or something.”
“Tim and I are at Harvard. We’re musical coordinators for Marty.”
“The word is the music sucks, even with Minnelli.”
“You’re no one to judge Liza. She’s a genius,” I pipe up.
“Not with that goombah De Niro.”
“Hey. You’re just a suit. Bobby earned his Oscar last year.”
The exec looks meanly at me, but defers to Jack. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Before you even see it, I’m telling you what we want – a five million investment in the budget for distribution rights and residuals, plus a profit percentage.”
“You’re negotiating for Scorsese?”
“No. I just want to know if you want in or not, before showing you anything.
He looks nonplussed, turning to the junior staffer, “Get Scorsese on the phone.”
“You’re not even interested in seeing what we’ve got?”
“Cancel that. Get Edgar Stone on the phone, instead. I can’t believe this kid’s his son,” he orders.
A secretary rushes in, with the day’s LA Times. “You better read this review. These boys played with Elton John last night.” She waves the Arts section with our picture on the front page.
“Get Junior Bronfman.” Then turning back to us, “You really played with Elton John?”
“I told you. We’re musical consultants. It was Tim’s birthday yesterday. Elton got us up on stage for a couple of songs.”
Shortly, Edgar Bronfman Jr walks in. He was barely older than we are. Everyone else moves back as he approaches us. “Can you get Elton to sign with us?’
“We’re not agents, although if you want a real rocker, I’m sure Joan Jett is available.”
“She’s just a punk. What is this all about?”
“Marty needs additional funding to finish the Minnelli/De Niro jazz musical. He sent us with dailies and some edited segments for MGM to consider funding.”
“What about UA? They have a signed contract.”
“Yeah, but MGM rules distribution. You get both ends of the profits,” Jack seems to really know what he’s talking about.
“I don’t have time for this,” Bronfman turns to the executive. “Look at what they’ve got and recommend what we should do. Do your jobs. I’m here about Elton.”
“Come to the Troubadour tonight and catch the shows. He eats at Dan Tana’s between sets. Elton will talk then, but all we can do is get you in,” I tell the crowd of suits. They look stunned.
“That’s what I need. Someone who delivers.” Bronfman walks out.
The suits look confused.
“Where’s the screening room,” Jack asks. We have them on the run.
Once the edited footage is set up, we settle in to watch it for the first time. It is horrible. Liza looked like a cheap version of her mother, Judy Garland. Bobby was still acting off-kilter. And there was little spark between them. The songs were horrid, but then, we both hate jazz. Once the footage is finished we jump up and get in front of the screen.
“Look,” I confess. “The film’s in trouble. Marty’s trying to do a Busby Berkeley musical in New York, with big numbers, crowds of extras, Hollywood sets, and music that wouldn’t fly even in the 30’s.”
“It’s worse than that, kid. You’re not selling the project.”
“We’re the musicians. We got De Niro to shack up with Liza at the Chelsea.
“The Chelsea,” someone gasps. A reputation that doesn’t travel well.”
“The spark between the stars needed a bit of slumming. The Bronx meets Park Avenue.”
“That remains to be seen.”
“We’ll bring the pair out to Hollywood and get them on stage with Elton John. That’s spark.”
The Elton name brings them back to life.
“But what about the music?”
“We’ve got the song to make Liza more Ethyl Merman and less Garland.”
“I suppose you wrote this song.”
“Naw, we got Leonard Bernstein to do it. Remember West Side Story.”
“Don’t lecture me, kid.”
“I wouldn’t dare. But you’ve gotta pay him. It’ll make the show.”
“Any more ideas?”
“Tons,” I looked at Jack. “We’ll add an Astaire & Rogers dance routine.”
Jack and I revive the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ routine we’d done for Mummy. We sing and dance right there in the screening room.
It’s too much for the suits. Amid the laughter, the senior suit concedes. “Okay. Okay. Enough of the chutzpah. This ain’t New York.
“That’s it,” I yelled. “The film and song are called, ‘New York, New York.”
“You win, kid. But ya gotta get Edgar into dinner with Elton John tonight. Tell Scorsese to call and negotiate with us. He’ll get his money. And you ain’t takin’ any credit fer what ya pulled off.”
Jack whispers, “What song are you talking about, or is this all bull shit?”
“Dakota, our band. Nina wrote the song but we told her it wasn’t rock n roll.”
“Oh, yeah,” He looks at me. We put our arms around each other and sing to the suits:
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York.”
“Okay, okay,” they shake their heads and wave us away. “Have Marty call us. And Edgar better get to eat with Elton.
“Tell him, Dan Tana’s at ten tonight. Elton will expect him. Tell him to bring a bottle of Seagram’s.”
We rushed out of the screening room and found an empty office. I dial the set in New York, while Jack calls Daddy to stay ahead of the shit-storm. After twenty rings someone finally answers on the set. They go and find Nina. She sounds down.
“What’s up, sweetness?” I ask.
“Marty’s a jerk. He banned Jules from the set.”
“He’ll see the light once we tell him the news.”
“We sold that song you wrote about New York last winter to the suits at MGM. It’s gonna be the title song to the movie.”
“I thought you hated that song.”
“It’s just not rock n roll. But ya gotta let your dad take the song writing credit. His name sold it.”
“Oh,” she sounds disappointed.
“Don’t fret. It’s just Hollywood. You sell your soul to get your name in the credits. This bizness ain’t fer kids.”
Jack is laughing in the background. I have Nina get Marty to let him know what we’ve done. He promises to never let us out of his control again.
“You coming to Harvard, then?” I joke.
“Shut the fuck up. This bizness ain’t fer kids.”
We run back to the screening room and get Marty’s package. We still have to go to United Artists. Also, I forgot to tell Marty I promised that Liza and Bobby are coming to perform with Elton. Details.
I call Doug, who is barely awake.
“Read Robert Hilburn in the Times today. We’re a hit. Get Elton booked for another week, we got more surprises. Tell you later,” I hang up before he can answer.
Glee is more than just a club.
United Artists is more of the same Hollywood disrespect. Without saying anything about the film, we leave the package with another low-level assistant. We’re not going to upset the apple cart any further. As we walk out, a couple of secretaries run over with the LA Times in their hands.
“Are you the boys in the paper?” they ask, our latest fans, I think.
“Yeah. It was Tim’s birthday last night,” Jack explains.
“Do you really know Joan Jett?” is all they want to know. I’m used to it, having played second fiddle to a dog.
“Of course, she’s great.”
“We love Joan,” they both confess.
“Well, come to the Troubadour tonight. We’ll introduce you.”
“Would you?” they are dying, but have sense enough to hug us and give us modest kisses. Jack loves it.
“Hey, where can a lonely New Yorker get something to eat around here?”
We all jump in a cab, as they girls giggle that we’re ‘so New York.’ Jack wants to read our review by Robert Hilburn. It’s mostly about Elton and the two different sets he played Sunday night. Jack is reading it aloud and skips all the details about Elton’s set, until finally coming to our appearance.
‘At the second encore, well past midnight, a rag-tag bunch of teenagers were invited onstage, as the oldest was celebrating his 18th birthday. Elton did a quick ‘happy birthday’ riff, and then announced that the kids were going to do their own version of ‘Crocodile Rock.’ Elton had skipped this rocker during his solo set. With three guitars, including the Runaways’ Joan Jett, and Elton standing at the piano, a ripping electric version got the crowd up and dancing at the normally staid Troubadour. The boys suggested another 50’s style dance song and Elton had a huge smile as they covered Freddie ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon’s ‘Palisades Park.’ The crowd down front loved it. Swing dancing broke out. The big surprise of the night closed the show with gasps from the Elton fans as another boy rushed on stage and planted a big kiss on the lips of the flamboyant Elton.
The Elton John solo act was great, pleasing to all his fans. Teenage exuberance added to his pop lyrics took it to another level. I spoke with the artist afterward. He admitted that his collaborationist Bernie Taupin would not approve of what they called ‘Gatorsaurus Rock,’ but it was all in fun. It is a shame that the Elton John Tour is moving on. Maybe Doug Weston can change that?’
We were all giggling and poking each other as our PR efforts have reached a West Coast audience. The girls want to know if Joan is a lesbian.
“From what I’ve seen, I think she’s more of a necrophiliac,” I confess. Jace giggles, making Jack and me break up. The girls aren’t sure what I mean, but seem comfortable with Joan just being different.
At El Coyote, across the street from Paramount, we are greeted by more young secretaries at lunch. As soon as we join them, the table is surrounded by other girls who saw our photo in the LA Times. Some even like us as much as they like Joan. Most thought Elton is too old, too fat, or too gay. Youth has its advantages, but is a double-edge sword. At 18 I’m now an adult, day two.
Back at the Beverly Wilshire, Andy is having breakfast. Blair is hastily organizing the portraits into a coherent sample of what the Jace’s Place exhibit would look like with Andy’s film on the Jace Tribute.. All of us are meeting patrons at the LA County Museum of Art that afternoon. Blair has ordered more Big Shot film from Polaroid and is bemoaning how backward LA is compared to New York. I tell him he is a long way from an Alabama plantation. I call Doug who is negotiating an extension of Elton’s booking at the Troubadour. Hilburn’s suggestion has caused an avalanche of calls for tickets. When I tell him Liza Minnelli is coming out and wants to perform with Elton, he quickly sews up the deal. I don’t tell him that Bobby will be singing as well. There is a message from Joan to call her at Larrabee Studios. We arrange to meet at Dan Tana’s again at ten. Jack is eating half of Andy’s breakfast, saying the Mexican food wasn’t settling well. His solution is to just eat more. I sit and have coffee with them. Jack has heard of Edgar Bronfman Jr. He had been at Collegiate in Manhattan a few years ahead of him. Instead of going to college he tried to be a songwriter. Failing that, he got his dad to sell off some of their Canadian Seagram’s liquor business and bought into MGM. That explains his interest in Elton.
“We’ll introduce Edgar as a songwriter. I don’t want Elton to think we’re taking advantage of him for some studio schmuck.”
”Except that’s what we did to get the MGM deal.”
“Okay, but let’s not complicate things. We need Liza and Bobby out here to sing with Elton. I’m not sure we’ll be able to just keep doing ‘Gatorsaurous Rock’ every night.”
“The Lear can bring them out.”
“Well, that brings up another possibility,” I cautiously make a suggestion. “We can also bring out Tommy to tell the ‘Gatorsaurous story.”
Jack gives me a sharp look, but then laughs. “Okay, but no drama. Right?”
“Isn’t that what it’s all about.”
“Okay, but he too young for you. You’re 18 now.”
“Not too young for Casper,” I look over and see a gleam in the dead boy’s eyes.
“Tommy thinks you’re too old. Old and boring,” Casper announces. “I’ll keep him amused.”
Why was I making an effort for a boy who no longer loves me? The allure of a past shared history?
“No fucking way am I shutting down the shoot so my stars can go chasing around Hollywood,” Marty proclaims.
“You have no choice. You need the MGM money and Bronfman thinks he’s a musical genius. Get Liza and Elton on stage and it’s a done deal.”
“You little fucker. I seen the article about you and Jack-Off in the LA Times. You don’t give a shit about my movie. I’ll shut it down if only to keep it from being hijacked by a couple of teenagers.”
“You may be right about our need to be in the papers, but we care about you, Marty. It’s obvious to everyone that you’ve gone off the deep-end on this shoot.”
“What makes you a critic?” he asks.
“I saw the clips you sent. They suck. Your devotion to Hollywood makes you a 30’s wannabee. You’re over budget. The music isn’t good. The costumes are all shoulder pads and the styling looks wooden. We have a Leonard Bernstein song and new movie title to save it. Wake up before you drown in your own ego.”
“Fuck you,” he slams down the phone.
I call back and get Liza and Bobby on the line. “You’re coming to Hollywood and performing with Elton John tonight. After today’s shoot go directly to Teterboro and get on Jack’s Lear. Say nothing to Marty. I made him so crazy and angry that he can’t think straight.”
They both laugh and agree to come to LA. They need a break from the lousy shoot.
Next I call Aunty Em and tell her to get Tommy to the Ft Lauderdale airport’s private plane terminal. He’s coming to Hollywood.
“He doesn’t get home from summer school for a couple of hours. What’s this all about?” she is concerned.
“It’s my 18th birthday. He’ll understand. Can you get him out of school early?”
“We trust you, Huck. But keep an eye on that boy. I know he loves you, but he’s still a teenager. He’s been acting strangely, saying he sees ghosts.”
“His imagination is a gift. We’re having him perform the ‘Gatorsaurous story on stage.”
“Well, he certainly does that well. It’s even more elaborate than ever.”
“Good. Tell him he’s riding with two Hollywood stars who also will perform with him.”
“My goodness gracious. Our boy in Hollywood.”
Jack coordinated the airlift. Luckily the Lear is in Ft Lauderdale, as the Stones returned to Coral Gables for the week. By the time Tommy boards, they’ll go to Teterboro for the stars and be in Santa Monica by late evening. Jack arranges a limo to bring the performers directly to the Troubadour. Sometimes everything falls perfectly into place because it’s what’s right. Marty will literally kill me if the MGM deal falls through. I’m not worried. Right?
Finally, I call Doug back and assures him that Liza is arriving for tonight performance. I suggest he tell Robert Hilburn to come for a second night. Tony agrees to set up a bigger table at Dan Tana’s at 10 pm.
Andy drags us to his meeting at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). He is proud of us in our suits and ties. I feel just like another Hollywood hustler. I promise to keep my mouth shut. This is Andy’s crowd. He introduces me to the patrons, including Armand Hammer.
“Oh, like the baking soda?” I innocently ask him.
The room goes silent. Jack whispers that he is the owner of Occidental Petroleum and has ties to the Communist party; his dad named him for the arm and hammer on the USSR flag.
“What an interesting idea,” Mr. Hammer notes. “Maybe I’ll buy that company. It would explain everything.”
Everyone else laughs. I’m off the hook. My mouth stays shut the rest of the day. I had bitten off enough to chew. I’m thinking about what to tell Elton. His surprise for my birthday deserves a response. But Liza appearing out of the blue in West Hollywood might not tweak his artistic sensibilities.
Cockamamie is as cockamamie does. I have to let him prepare. It is bigger than I can handle. Then I realize that all this is bull shit of my own making. What the fuck? It’ll work out on stage and no one can complain. Except for Twit. Here I am, starting to like the poof. Stupid me. Right, shit for brains.
“I gotta call Elton,” I tell Jack.
“Not ‘til we perform,” he stops me. ‘It’s why Andy brought us.”
“What? What are we performing?”
“’False Gods’ shithead. Our band, remember?”
“This is the money crowd. It can’t be loud. We’ll do it a Cappella.”
“No way. We’ll do spoken word and act all Nazi.”
I run and called Elton. He is cool. Getting to perform totally changes my perspective. He does want to rehearse. Something about ‘Welkommen’ from Cabaret. His creative juices are flowing. I let him take the lead on Liza’s big entrance.
Blair gathers us. It’s showtime. We take off our jackets, straighten our ties, and march into the reception area, stomping our feet in unison. As soon as the room quiet, we stop stomping and loudly recite a spoken version of the ‘False Gods’ lyrics. We are little princes, ready to spit invective words at our really old minders.
‘Where others feared to tread,
they gave us up for dead,
memories linger eternally,
as Lucifer’s proud plea,
a world of our own,
on high a black throne,
sing to make them see,
happy for eternity
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
a world so meek and blind,
we laugh at all of mankind,
we’re Satan’s band,
a world of endless flaws,
facades and miracles applause,
eulogized but despised,
shed your false disguise,
fall to your knees,
utter useless pleas,
…we are False Gods, we are False Gods…
pray in foreign tongues,
shoot your useless guns,
sacrifice hallowed sheep,
shun cold, dark streets,
you’re just nasty fleas,
Set your minds at ease
…False Gods, False Gods…
we live eternally,
we hear your painful screams,
Just wait 20 years or so
You’ll know just what we mean
….We are False Gods, False Gods..
… False Gods’
We start stomping again, until a few people politely clap. We march out which brings out more enthusiastic clapping and even a few stomps.
“Such good little Nazi’s we make,” Jack crows.
“Hey. We met those Kraftwerk guys. They‘re no Nazi’s. They were nice. They let us try their drum machines.”
“It’s what gets people off, thinking they’re Nazi’s.”
“That Hammer guy is a Nazi?”
“No, just a Commie.”
“When did we get so political?”
Andy’s assistant meets us in the vestibule.
“What the fuck was that? We needed to entertain the patrons, not intimidate them.”
“They’re all Nazi’s. They love a little S&M.,” I explain.
“Andy isn’t leaving the reception right away.”
I tell him, “We’ll see you later at the Troubadour.”
“Andy needs to rest from last night. He hates these patron meetings.”
“Meet us at Dan Tana’s at ten. We have a surprise for him.”
“I don’t need surprises” The harried assistant complains. “One display of arrogance is enough for today.”
“Oh, Andy will be entertained. We’re putting Elton through his paces.”
“Okay,” he winks. “Andy actually likes how you manhandled his patrons. Don’t tell him I told you.”
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 assumed they’re 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’s 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’ve 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’ll play. Jack is a natural for the Joel Gray 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’s glad to be rid of it.
We decide not to do the full Cabaret act that night – just ‘Welkommen,’ the song ‘Cabaret’ and the finale being the debut of ‘New York, New York.’ If we got 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’re 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 s amused. Joan is pissed we weren’t 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’m not anxious about Tommy’s arrival. I take the publicist hack aside to explain how we have to keep it a secret that the kids arriving with Liza are the offspring of Leonard Bernstein and John Lennon. I lie that Tommy is Cher’s and Greg Almond’s secret love child. I figure she’ll recognize De Nero 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, looking at 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 and 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?”
“Magic. For sure.” He smiles at me. We kiss and for the first time it’s more than just affection.
Not quite sex, but still special. More flashbulbs go off.
Elton’s first set was what the fans expect. They cheer the hits and give him two encores. Soon we’re 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 greenlighted 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 Nero 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.
“You’re 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.
Edgar turned back to Elton, who had Twit sitting in his lap.
I call Marty’s assistant. He is grumpy and half-asleep when he finally answers. It was 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?”
“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 did my duty by notifying Marty – due diligence. ‘There is no joy in Mudville tonight.’
The Lear is due in at 11pm. Jack & I take a limo to the Santa Monica Airport. Tommy comes running into the waiting room, jumping into my arms. Bobby looks perturbed. Jack s relieved that we don’t kiss. Liza glows – she had 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.”
Nina looks pleased, while Jules just scowls, as usual.
“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?”
She just shakes her head, which has Bobby amused. He take charge. “We’ll show up and knock their socks off.” What a trooper.
We take off in the limo. No one brought baggage. Tommy whispers to me, “Does I git ta tell my story tonight?”
“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!
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 Nero’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 exit shortly. 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 weren’t laughing at him but were liking his story. Elton keeps up the light piano tinkling as background support.
“‘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, they 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 boys. 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 up State. 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 jumped right inta his arms. As he turned 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 away toward the swamp bank and safety. Sure ‘nuff, Huck git there a’fore that ol’ ‘gator git us. We’s lay there laffin’ ‘til I 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’s branch. But ol’ ‘Gtorsaurus, he don’t give up. He’s charging right at Huck. Huck jist jumped right up on that crazy ‘gators head and bounced 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, laughing 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 a’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.”
Elton starts banging the opening chords to our version of ‘Crocodile Rock,’ as Jack, Joan and I jump on stage. Somehow Julian finds a guitar and was rocking with us. Tommy has a big grin on his face and starts dancing with himself on stage. The audience rushes into the open space below 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 followed up with ‘Palisades Park’ and several other 50’s dance songs. I only had to pinch him once to get him back on key. We bow and everyone leave the stage. Cries for encore go on and on. Finally, Elton walks back on stage 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.”
Twit knows it’s his moment to run on stage. He and Elton kiss for the crowd. It’s the show stopper.
Back at Dan Tana’s, they keep the kitchen open for Elton’s third dinner. Well-wishers learn of their star’s hangout, coming by with praise and a need to be in his presence – celebrity whores. 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 warned us we had to be prepared for a long rehearsal for the cabaret show he had planned for the following 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 will like it. Each show is unique. They can’t 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 with him to the Sunset Marquis. Andy is entertaining Jules and Nina. Tommy is non-stop praising himself. Jack is amused and pleased that I’m barely listening. Liza and Bobby are off by themselves. I realize we haven’t booked them a suite in the hotel. I figured 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 Beechwood Canyon, as the sun comes out. 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 made them call home from the pay phone on 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’m beyond my multiple parents’ control.
We slept for a few hours, until Tony informed Jack and me that Elton had 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.
“It’s just not rock n roll,” Julian insists.
“Thus sprachen the prince of rock n roll,” Jack jokes.
Julian glowers then laughs. “Dad’s the king. Yoko the Queen says is “Off with their heads.”
Liza and Bobby showed 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 had to work with Liza, so I went to Doug’s office and called 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.”
“Jesus, kid. You’re giving me gas.”
“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 went over well. The reviews said Elton was rejuvenated, calling Twit his muse. Jack, Joan and I were called Andy’s Gang. The shows were sold out instantly. Tony made 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 job 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 introduced 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 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.