The call came early, midway through his first latte. He tore his attention away from the window and it’s vista of satellite dishes and palm trees, and double clicked on the blinking icon and Bernie’s face appeared in a window on his center monitor. “Bernie.”
Bernie shook his head, but perfectly coiffed hair remained rock solid. “It’s not good, I’ll tell you that right now.”
The Producer shook his head with impatience. “Just… what.”
“She’s refusing to work, Boss. Won’t walk onto the set.” Bernie shrugged.
“Again I tell you I don’t get how that’s possible.”
Bernie laughed nervously and said, “You know actresses.”
“Bernie, I swear to God.” It was way too early and this was way too serious. Bernie was one of his best associate producers, a real go-getter. Something about the situation had Bernie spooked, and the Producer had a feeling he knew what it was.
“I’ve talked to her handler, and she says Lips is unhappy about the Trachtenberg project. You know, the one with the…”
“I know it. It’s a great script. But she didn’t get it, Method got it. We move on. None of which is relevant, because it’s not possible.”
“Right, sorry. But you told me to talk to the handler, and that’s what the handler says. She’s good too, she handled Tits before this, and she’s even handled meatresses. She tells this story about…”
Coldly, with eerie calm, he replied, “Bernie. You too can join the exciting world of meat actor handling if you don’t get to the…”
Bernie snapped into focus. “Nobody knows what’s wrong. They can’t find anything wrong. I have them looking again, but…” Bernie shook his head. “It’ll take time to get through it all. Lips is pretty huge. They say there’s bits everywhere.”
“We don’t have a whole lot of time, Bern. The bond company had a man at the Farm, he’s probably reported in by now. We lose tens of thousands of dollars in CPU cycles every minute they can’t render. Is she back up, realtime, at least?”
“Yes, for now. They may have to take her down again in an hour or so. But the tap shows her in her Star Waggon.”
The Lips was one of their best draws. She opened movies. Guys tripped over their own johnsons to get into the theaters when she was in the picture. If they had to render with another Star, they’d lose hundreds of millions. “I’ll talk to her then.”
“Gonna threaten her with squigglevision?” Bernie asked, but the Producer clicked the red ‘x’ and Bernie’s window was gone before he could laugh at his own joke.
“Candy!” The Producer yelled through the open office door. “Patch into the production cloud and get Lips on the phone.”
“I’ll try,” came the reluctant response from the outer office.
“And when was the last time I was over there?”
There was a pause. Through the door he heard Candy’s voice; low murmurs, commiserative clucking. Momentarily the icon on his desktop began blinking again, and Candy was at the office door. She was pretty, smartly dressed. Good tits. Not Tits good, but good. In another age a girl like that would have tried to fuck her way into movies.
“She’s on. You were over there a week ago. Brought her flowers. Took her to that Korean Rib Place after she wrapped.”
“Good, good. Just her?”
“Just her. Dude had an MTV drop-in and the Lady had a charity appearance.” Candy smiled that smile that got him all worked up in that way.
“Good. Wish me luck.” He winked.
“Like you need it. I get; she feels unappreciated.” She withdrew, turning in such a way as to make sure he got a good look at her rear.
The producer clicked the icon and Lips appeared, wrapped in a fluffy robe and ensconsed in her lavish trailer. “Bat, what’s going on, how can I help?”
“Arch, it’s just… it’s impossible. Why do I put up with this awful business? And these people? Why do we do it, Arch?” She was exasperated, but confessional. And she said ‘we’, which was a good sign.
“Because we love the work, Batty my darling. We’ve got something to say. And when Bathilda Geist taks, everyone listens.” A little warm butter never hurts, as long as you don’t go too thick.
“That’s right, Archie. Fucking right.” She sighed. “Almost everyone, anyhow. That fucking Trachtenberg woman…”
“You can’t win ‘em all, Bats. And writer-directors, you know how they are. They get a whim in their heads and…”
“And fuck them, is what. Let her put Brett Dusek in her little fucking movie. She can’t put up my numbers….”
“I thought you liked Brett… you did that comic book movie together, what was it?” He should have rememberd, but they all run together after a while.
She waved it off. “You know what her assistants call her, Arch? Do you know? They call her ‘Tits’. ‘Tits’, Arch. That’s why she’s a star, Arch, that’s the only reason. Her tits. You notice the tops she’s always wearing in those movies? She couldn’t act her way out of a wet paper bag. Fuck that old hag Trachtenberg and her fucking movie about tits.”
Someone would be getting a talking to about using Star nicks around Stars. “I hear you, Bats.”
“You know they’re going to give her a star, Arch? It was in Variety. Brett Dusek gets a star in front of Grauman’s Chinese. And meanwhile I fucking open movies.” She pointed at the screen. “Meanwhile, Arch.”
“Yes you do. Yes you do.” He nodded emphatically. “Believe me, you’ve paid for my summer house, Bats. I want you happy and at work. I just want to know how to help…. Hold on a second baby.” Candy was at the door, and the Producer minimized Lips. “What?”
“Bernie’s waiting again.”
He clicked. Bernie appeared, with geeks in an array behind him. “Boss. Any progress?”
“I should be asking you that, Bernie. But she’s worked up, alright, I’ve got her on the line now. Something about Tits and Trachtenberg’s movie and Grauman’s Chinese.”
“Yeah. The render farm guy tells me… here, you tell him!” he waved one of the geeks forward.
The man was authoritative, as much as a geek can be. He spoke. “We want to try a defrag. We’ll have to take her offline. And it’ll take at least 12 hours.”
“We’re already behind schedule. Why will a defrag help?”
The geek shrugged. “I don’t know that it will. I do know that it’s not a hardware problem; we’ve run every diagnostic we have, there are some running in resident even now. It might be code. If it’s code we’re fucked. But I don’t think so, because why would it be code, why now? Nothing’s been added but data, not for a couple years. All I know is that there’s lots of traffic, more than there should be, and it could be because she’s too fragmented across the Cloud. Hence…”
“Hence. All right, do it, but wait till I’m off with her. And Bernie….”
“Tell the handler; if she ever again uses a Star nick while online she’s all the way fired.”
The Producer hit the red x and Bernie and the geeks disappeared. He took a moment to collect himself before maximizing the window where Lips waited. “Batty. Sorry. Bernie says hello.”
“Oh, Bernie’s a sweetie.”
“Bats, about the Trachtenberg movie….”
“Oh, Archie, it’s not about the fucking Trachtenberg movie. I’m just having a day. And then I pick up Variety, and there’s Brett who I love, she’s a doll and everything. But, fucking hell, Archie, she gets a star in front of Grauman’s?”
The Producer shook his head. No doubt Lips would be thinking he was agreeing, shaking his head in dismay. She had no way of knowing Grauman’s had been torn down years ago, that there weren’t any stars in the sidewalk anymore. “Those things are political,” he said. “It’s not worth getting worked up about. You open movies. That’s better than getting cement on your hands, isn’t it?”
“Oh…” Lips sighed and shrugged. “I suppose it is. It’d be nice though. You know. It’s not like that kind of thing is why I do it.”
“Of course not. No one’s saying that. They’d have to answer to me… hey, can I call you back in a few minutes?”
“Sure Arch.” Her window disappeared.
“Candy! Get me Bernie!”
Bernie appeared. “Boss? They’re ready with the defrag.”
“Hold off. I have a possible solution. It’s a minor data edit. They’ll be more to do next week, but… it’ll get her back on set now so the Farm can start rendering her scenes for today.”
Ten minutes later the Lips, back up and running realtime, was calling him.
“My Bathilde... how are things on set?”
“Archie, you towering figure of a man. I only have a minute, I’m waiting for a setup. Did you read Variety today?”
“I pay people to read that rag for me. Anything interesting?”
She beamed. “Guess who’s getting a star in front of Grauman’s Chinese?”