‘New York, New York 2
Way too early, the room phone rang and rang. Why didn’t the message machine pick up? Why didn’t Jack or even Jace pick it up. Finally, I remembered where we were. I groggily grabbed 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 was his Assistant, not my favorite wake-up caller.
“It’s three hours earlier here,” I complained.
“Good. All the more time to do what I’m paying you to do.” It was 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 woke 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 yelled 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 hung up.
I jumped on top of the sleeping Jack. He just rolled over and told me to go away. Marty’s call somehow made me horny. We were both stark naked and I was hard. Licking his butt got him squirming and hard himself. Morning delight. I got off quickly, much to Jack’s dismay. I dragged him into the shower. He got even in the quickie department. We barely made use of unlimited hot water at the Beverly Wilshire. Jack tried 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 had packed suits and ties for us, which we had laughed about. We wanted to make the right impression. Jack was trying to get his hair to behave. Our Taxi Driver baldies had 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 knew 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 attracted scant attention at the corporate offices. A junior executive came out to take the package. Except we had to deliver it to UA, so we told him he could only look at it today.
“Where are you boys from?” he remarked sarcastically.
“Miami,” Jack retorted. “My dad’s Henry Stone.”
That got his attention. “You mean he’s your granddad?”
“No. I’m their November mistake.”
We all laughed.
“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 left and soon an older man came into the conference room.
“What’s up, boys,” he turned to Jack. “I understand Henry Stone’s your grandfather.”
“No,” Jack carefully explained. “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 are 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 was 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 piped up.
“Not with that goombah De Niro.”
“Hey. You’re just a suit. Bobby earned his Oscar last year.”
The exec looked meanly at me, but deferred 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 looked 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 ordered.
A secretary rushed in, with the day’s LA Times. “You better read this review. These boys played with Elton John last night.” She waved 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 walked in. He was barely older than we were. Everyone else moved back as he approached 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 seemed to really know what he was talking about.
“I don’t have time for this,” Bronfman turned 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 told the crowd of suits. They looked stunned.
“That’s what I need. Someone who delivers.” Bronfman walked out.
The suits looked confused.
“Where’s the screening room,” Jack asked. We had them on the run.
Once the edited footage was set up, we settled in to watch it for the first time. It was 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 hated jazz. Once the footage was finished we jumped up and got in front of the screen.
“Look,” I confessed. “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 gasped. 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 brought 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 revived the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ routine we’d done for Mummy. We sang and made the moves right there in the screening room.
It was too much for the suits. Amid the laughter, the senior suit conceded. “Okay. Okay. Enough of 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 whispered, “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 looked at me. We put our arms around each other and sang 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 shook their heads and waved 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 dialed the set in New York, while Jack called Daddy to stay ahead of the shit-storm. After twenty rings someone finally answered on the set. They went and found Nina. She sounded down.
“What’s up, sweetness?” I asked.
“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 sounded 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 was laughing in the background. I had Nina get Marty to let him know what we had done. He promised to never let us out of his control again.
“You coming to Harvard, then?” I joked.
“Shut the fuck up. This bizness ain’t fer kids.”
We ran back to the screening room and got Marty’s package. We still had to get to United Artists. Also, I forgot to tell Marty I had promised that Liza and Bobby were coming to perform with Elton. Details.
I called Doug, who was 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 hung up before he could answer.
Glee is more than just a club.
United Artists was more of the same Hollywood disrespect. Without saying anything about the film, we left the package with another low-level assistant. We were not going to upset the apple cart further. As we walked out, a couple of secretaries ran over with the LA Times in their hands.
“Are you the boys in the paper?” they asked, our latest fans, I thought.
“Yeah. It was Tim’s birthday last night,” Jack explained.
“Do you really know Joan Jett?” was all they wanted to know. I was used to it, having played second fiddle to a dog.
“Of course, she’s great.”
“We love Joan,” they both confessed.
“Well, come to the Troubadour tonight. We’ll introduce you.”
“Would you?” they were dying, but had sense enough to hug us and give us modest kisses. Jack loved it.
“Hey, where can a lonely New Yorker get something to eat around here?”
We all jumped in a cab, as they girls giggled that we were ‘so New York.’ Jack wanted to read our review by Robert Hilburn. It was mostly about Elton and the two different sets he had played Sunday night. Jack was reading it aloud and skipped all the details about Elton’s set, 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 had reached a West Coast audience. The girls wanted to know if Joan was a lesbian.
“From what I’ve seen, I think she’s more of a necrophiliac,” I confessed. Jace giggled, making Jack and me break up. The girls weren’t sure what I meant, but seemed comfortable with Joan just being different.
At El Coyote, across the street from Paramount, we were greeted with more young secretaries at lunch. As soon as we joined them, the table was surrounded by other girls who had seen our photo in the LA Times. Some even liked us as much as they liked Joan. Most thought Elton was too old, too fat, or too gay. Youth has its advantages, but is a double-edge sword. At 18 I was now an adult, day two.
Back at the Beverly Wilshire, Andy was having breakfast. Blair was hastily organizing the portraits into a coherent sample of what the Jace’s Place exhibit would look like. All of us were meeting patrons at the LA County Museum of Art that afternoon. Blair had ordered more Big Shot film from Polaroid and was bemoaning how backward LA was compared to New York. I told him he was a long way from an Alabama plantation. I called Doug who was negotiating an extension of Elton’s booking at the Troubadour. Hilburn’s suggestion had caused an avalanche of calls for tickets. When I told him Liza Minnelli was coming out and wanted to perform with Elton, he quickly sewed up the deal. I didn’t tell him that Bobby would be singing as well. There was a message from Joan to call her at Larrabee Studios. We arranged to meet at Dan Tana’s again at ten. Jack was eating half of Andy’s breakfast, saying the Mexican food wasn’t settling well. His solution was to just eat more. I sat and had coffee with them. Jack had 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 explained 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 made a suggestion. “We could also bring Tommy out to tell the ‘Gatorsaurous story.”
Jack gave me a sharp look, but then laughed. “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 looked over and saw a gleam from the dead boy’s eyes.
“Tommy thinks you’re too old. Old and boring,” Casper announced. “I’ll keep him amused.”
Why was I making an effort for the boy who no longer loved 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 proclaimed.
“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 asked.
“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 slammed down the phone.
I called back and got 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 laughed and agreed. They needed a break from the lousy shoot.
Next I called Aunty Em and told her to get Tommy to the Ft Lauderdale airport’s private plane terminal. He was coming to Hollywood.
“He doesn’t get home from summer school for a couple of hours. What’s this all about?” she was 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 had been coordinating the airlift. Luckily the Lear was in Ft Lauderdale, as the Stones had returned to Coral Gables for the week. By the time Tommy boarded, they could go to Teterboro for the stars and be in Santa Monica by late evening. Jack arranged a limo to bring the performers directly to the Troubadour. Sometimes everything falls perfectly into place because it’s what’s right. Marty would literally kill me if the MGM deal falls through. I wasn’t worried. Right?
Finally, I called Doug back and assured him that Liza was arriving for tonight performance. I suggested he tell Robert Hilburn to come for a second night. Tony agreed to set up a bigger table at Dan Tana’s at 10 pm.
Andy dragged us to his meeting at LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). He was proud of us in our suits and ties. I felt just like another Hollywood hustler. I promised to keep my mouth shut. This was Andy’s crowd. He introduced me to the patrons, including Armand Hammer.
“Oh, like the baking soda?” I innocently asked.
The room went silent. Jack whispered that he was the owner of Occidental Petroleum and had ties to the Communist party; his dad named him for the arm and hammer on the USSR flag.
“What an interesting idea,” Mr. Hammer noted. “Maybe I’ll buy that company. It would explain everything.”
Everyone else laughed. I was off the hook. My mouth stayed shut the rest of the day. It had bitten off enough to chew. I was thinking about what to tell Elton. His surprise for my birthday, deserved a response. But Liza appearing out of the blue in West Hollywood might not tweak his artistic sensibilities.
Cockamamie is as cockamamie does. I had to let him prepare. It was bigger than I could handle. Then I thought that all this was 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 was, starting to like the poof. Stupid me. Right, shit for brains.
“I gotta call Elton,” I told Jack.
“Not ‘til we perform,” he stopped 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 ran and called Elton. He was cool. Getting to perform totally changed my perspective. He did want to rehearse. Something about ‘Welkommen’ from Cabaret. His creative juices were flowing. I let him take the lead on Liza’s big entrance.
Blair gathered us and said it was showtime. We took off our jackets, straightened our ties, and marched into the reception area, stomping our feet in unison. As soon as the room quieted, we stopped stomping and broke out with a spoken version of the ‘False Gods’ lyrics. We were 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 started stomping again, until a few people politely clapped. We marched out which brought on more enthusiastic clapping and even a few stomps.
“Such good little Nazi’s we make,” Jack crowed.
“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 met 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 explained.
“Andy isn’t leaving the reception right away.”
I told 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 complained. “One display of arrogance is enough for today.”
“Oh, Andy will be entertained. We’re putting Elton through his paces.”
“Okay,” he winked. “Andy actually liked how you manhandled his patrons. Don’t tell him I told you.”
I reached Tony at the Sunset Marquis. He agreed to open the club for rehearsal and get Elton there, as soon as he was finished with Twit. I called Tommy’s house but no one answered. I assumed they were off to the airport. Jack had gotten the Lear’s arrival time at Teterboro, which I passed to Nina on the set. When she found out there was a plane to the Coast, she begged me 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. He won’t have a clue about his dad.”
When we got back to the hotel, there were five messages from Marty, anxious to know how our meetings went. I debated whether to tell him I was hijacking his stars for a week. Maybe I needed another million from MGM as publicity for the unfinished film. I needed a publicist. I called Joan at Larrabee Studios. She contacted Kim Fowley’s office. They promised to send a hack to deal with the press. Joan insisted on meeting us at the Troubadour. Jace instantly appeared, ready to play the ½ role in our menage a trois et demi.
Elton was already on stage, working the rhythm to Cabaret’s ‘Wellkommen’ intro. We’d all seen the movie, so we chose the parts we’d play. Jack was a natural for the Joel Gray role. His German was impeccable from his months in Switzerland. Elton wasn’t happy with the sound he was getting out of the Steinway. Jimmy at Larrabee agreed to move the honky-tonk stand-up with the muted pads to the Troubadour.
“I’ll charge Doug an arm and a leg,” he laughed. He was glad to be rid of it.
We decided 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 would come out and do the ‘Gatorsaurus tale, with us ending with Gatorsaurus Rock. ‘Palisaides Park’ could be the second encore, but we were over-thinking it.
Time was flying. Elton needed a first dinner at Dan Tana’s to rev up. I took him aside and explained why Edgar Bronfman Jr was joining us at ten for the second dinner. I had to sell that Liza was coming to get the money Marty needed to finish the film. We ended up singing “Money, Money, Money’ a Cappella.
The restaurant staff was amused. Joan was pissed we weren’t going back to the hotel. We dragged her into the Men’s and had extended stall sex. She was fucked, eaten out and cum on, much to her surprised satisfaction. It was like the good old days at Sorrento’s in Miami. Jack was happy to observe I wasn’t all anxious about Tommy’s arrival. I took the publicist hack aside to explain how we had to keep it a secret that the kids arriving with Liza were the offspring of Leonard Bernstein and John Lennon. I lied that Tommy was Cher’s and Greg Almond’s secret love child. I figured she’d recognize De Nero when he came on stage. We had cast him as the Nazi Ernst Ludwig, to sing ‘The Future’ with Jack and Jules (who was to be a bar boy) – these castings would be worked out on Tuesday’s rehearsal for a full Cabaret show. Tonight would be just about Liza’s surprise appearance. Hollywood can be so much fun.
Sitting with Andy and Blair, we told them all the elaborate plans that were coming together. Andy teased Jack that I was bringing back my old boyfriend to make him jealous. We fake slapped each other, and then kissed and made up. The flashbulbs went crazy. Joan’s publicist was doing her job and was not just a hack. Jack told Andy about Bronfman’s days after Collegiate, about trying to be a songwriter.
“Well, Elton knows how to handle a hustler,” Andy observed, looking at Twit flit around the super star.
“You think all these 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 smiled at me. We kissed and for the first time it was more than affection.
Not quite sex, but still special. More flashbulbs went off.
Elton’s first set was what the fans expected. They cheered the hits and gave him two encores. Soon we were in the back booth at Dan Tana’s. Waiting was Edgar. He rose and introduced himself. Elton was 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 snickered.
“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 winked.
“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 turned back to shoveling in the pasta. I pushed Twit in his direction.
Edgar turned 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 piped 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 said at once.
Edgar turned back to Elton, who had Twit sitting in his lap.
I called Marty’s assistant. He was grumpy and half-asleep when he finally answered. 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 yelled.
“Call Marty. Read the LA papers in the morning.” I hung up.
I did my duty by notifying Marty – due diligence. ‘There is no joy in Mudville tonight.’
The Lear was due in at 11pm. Jack & I took a limo to the Santa Monica Airport. Tommy came running into the waiting room, jumping into my arms. Bobby looked perturbed. Jack was relieved that we didn’t kiss. Liza glowed – she had adopted another gay pet.
“You really expect me to sing after a long flight?” she complained.
“Just ‘Cabaret’ and maybe the new song for the movie.”
“I like it – the song.”
Nina looked pleased, while Jules just scowled, 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 shook her head, which had Bobby amused. He took charge. “We’ll show up and knock their socks off.” What a trooper.
We took off in the limo. No one had brought baggage. Tommy whispered me, “Does I gets 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 burst out laughing at my good ol’ boy speech. He thought everyone should sound like they were from the Bronx. Tommy looked worried, so Bobby hit him on the arm to straighten him out. It worked. Liza put her arm around him. Tommy glowed. Bobby looked jealous.
Jimmy let us in the back door. Elton was still playing on stage. Tony gave him the thumbs up. At the end of the song, he paused and looked at stage right.
“Looks like we may have guests again tonight.”
The audience expected teenage ragamuffins to walk out. Liza and Bobby strode out, hand in hand. The audience gasped and then gave them a welcoming hand. Elton moved over to the mic stand, shouting ‘Welkommen.”
Jack rushed out with a devilish Joel Grey look in his eye and spoke 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 bowed to Liza and Bobby.
Elton was 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 was at the mic, still holding Di Nero’s hand, as Elton plunked the intro to ‘Cabaret.’ We all ran out and mimed 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 had 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 loved nepotism. The kids bowed and exited shortly. Liza nodded 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 rushed out and Elton repeated the ending, with everyone singing,
‘New York, New York
New York, New York’
Since 90% of the audience was originally from New York, we got a big response. Elton quickly moved 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 knew Tommy was melting into the floor to avoid his curtain call. I grabbed his hand and we skipped to the floor mic. Elton plunked a few riffs of ‘Crocodile Rock’ to give him a beat. He took a deep breath and was 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 started laughing at Tommy’s accent and grammar. By the time his introduction was done, most everyone was laughing. He figured they weren’t laughing at him but were liking his story. Elton kept 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 was condemnin’ boys to the state mental hospital for not followin’ they’s rules. It 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 guarded 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 the 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 was 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 gots real big and he screamed “’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. We 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 goin; 80 miles an hour. I screamed like a girl an’ Huck, he grabbed 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 rigt 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 looked like an ol’ dinosaur, with scales oozing green slime covering his back and bugs living on that slime. He snorted 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 smelled real bad.”
Elton started banging the opening chords to our version of ‘Crocodile Rock,’ as Jack, Joan and I jumped on stage. Somehow Julian had found a guitar and was rocking with us. Tommy had a big grin on his face and started dancing with himself on stage. The audience rushed into the open space below the stage. Tommy launched himself into the crowd. They caught him. He crowd-surfed while whooping and hollering. Finally, I got Tommy to join me at the mic. He did 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 bowed and everyone left the stage. Cries for encore went on and on. Finally, Elton walked back on stage to the floor mic.
“We’re done for the night. 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 knew it was his moment to run on stage. He and Elton kissed for the crowd. It was the show stopper.
Back at Dan Tana’s, they kept the restaurant open for Elton’s third dinner. Well-wishers had learned of their star’s hangout, coming by with praise and a need to be in his presence – celebrity whores. The restaurant doors were locked. They provided pizzas for all the teens and wine for the adults. No beer and pot like Sorrento’s but we were 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 told 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 hated me because Elton needed someone to tell him truthfully how loved he was. He moped until Elton ran off with him to the Sunset Marquis. Andy was entertaining Jules and Nina. Tommy was non-stop praising himself. Jack was amused and pleased that I was barely listening. Liza and Bobby were off by themselves. I realized we hadn’t booked them a suite in the hotel. I figured they could just take our room. All us kids could tuck in with Andy. Blair was not pleased. Tony suggested the kids and us could reopen Doug’s tee-pee. Joan left early; we knew where she was going. It took two limos to transport the stars/celebrities and their assistants. Tony told us to get into his Datsun and to bring the kids. We ended up overlooking the Hollywood Sign at the top of Beechwood Canyon, as the sun came out. Jules brought out a joint and we waked and baked without having been asleep. I worried that the Dragon Lady would soon discover her stepson had flown across the country without her permission. Maybe she wouldn’t read the LA papers. I knew better. I made them call home from the pay phone on Bronson and Franklin. They giggled as their respective parents chewed them out. Jack got on the line with each and used his charm (and Japanese) to assure the parents that they were safe. The kids would have to fly back that afternoon. The Lear had to be in Teterboro anyway. It hit me that I was 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 got up and had breakfast with Doug.
“Did you have fun last night?” he asked Jules and Nina.
“It seemed odd to call it a performance. We just did our own thing.”
“Your song is a hit, Nina,” Doug predicted.
“Told you,” she turned and mocked us.
“It’s just not rock n roll,” Julian insisted.
“Thus sprachen the prince of rock n roll,” Jack joked.
Julian glowered then laughed. “Dad’s the king.Yoko says is “Off with their heads.”
Liza and Bobby showed up late for rehearsal. It seems Marty had been calling the hotel trying to ream us out, and then fire us. His first call had woken them up. Blair had the other calls go to the front desk. He brought 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 wasn’t that sophisticated.
“I know we’re fired,” I took away his ammo.
“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 decided not to explain how I had saved his movie. I knew 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 snorted 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 slammed down the phone.
“Are we still fired?” Jack asked when I returned 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 ordered.
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. Andy obtained the support of the LA County Museum to curate the Jace’s Place exhibition to major US and European cities.
Tommy was offered a job on the Waltons but refused to wear overalls. He was holding out for a revival of the Hillbilly Brothers, but refused to let me use the line about ‘makin’ babies with one another.’ Joan adopted him and introduced him to her Runaways groupies who satisfied his every need. Jack was relieved. I found it amusing and wondered why I had sex with him in the first place; was turning straight guys gay some dark perversion? Jack said I had been slumming. Jace announced he was going straight after so many 3½-ways with Tommy’s groupies. Tommy spent every night catting about. He still insisted on snuggling in with me when he returned from his nightly adventures. Once I loved someone, the feelings never go away, just the hormones.