But upon pulling up into a convenient parking space in front of the Mark Twain, Gil was faced with a more immediate task—getting Rosie’s extensive luggage and voluminous purchases up to her room which she told him in an apologetic manner was a third-floor walkup.
So as Rosie led the way with a light overnight case in one hand, Gil struggled behind her carrying a fully packed shopping bag in each hand and a heavy suitcase under each arm. Fortunately for Gil, who would be the first to admit that he was pitifully out of shape, the unloading took only two trips.
Unceremoniously dropping the last couple of bags in the middle of the floor of her tiny bedsitter, he collapsed in a straight-backed wooden chair panting, puffing and wheezing. As he slowly recovered himself and Rosie was busying herself in taking the various bags and jamming them into a small closet, he took the opportunity to look around. The room was as depressing and threadbare as a room could be, containing only minimal furniture—a table, a couple of chairs (unupholstered) and a day bed which he assumed served her as both couch and bed. For decoration there were a few hastily taped-up theater programs and pictures of men and women, presumably actors whom he didn’t recognize.
As she emerged from the closet and sat down on the day bed he remarked, “We’ve got to find you a better place to live.”
She bristled at that, saying, “Well, I know it’s not much, and certainly not up to your standards—“ he winced at that— “but it’s all I can afford,” and she gave a little fatalistic laugh. “At least there’s not much housework involved.” She pointed to a table that was underneath the room’s only window situated opposite the door, a small wooden framed one with only a stained roller shade to block the light. “I’ve got a small microwave, a hot pot and a hot plate, and for entertainment there’s a lamp, some books, and I also have a small radio that I keep under the bed when I’m not using it.” She stared at him accusingly, “All the comforts of home, wouldn’t you say?”
He was of course taken aback by this but managed to stammer, “Yeah sure, I suppose it’s okay. But wouldn’t you like something better?”
Now she stood up and put her hands on her hips. “If you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, let me set you straight. I’m no kept woman. I work for what I have.”
Gil put his hands up in a pleading gesture. “No, no,” he said, embarrassment evident in his voice. “That’s not what I meant at all. Look,” he said, “I’ve got a proposition for you.” Again, he waved his hands. “No, no, I mean, a real business proposition. Tell you what, there’s a nice restaurant just around the corner on Sunset. Let me take you to lunch and I’ll explain everything.”
She seemed a little dubious. Finally she said, “Well, I don’t know. But I guess that would be all right.” She considered that in one sense, at least, he was still her boss and she didn’t want to alienate him. On the other hand, she knew she didn’t want to get into a situation with him that she would quite probably regret later.
“So,” said Gil, standing up and speaking casually as if the previous scene had not occurred, “shall we go then? I’m starving and I’ll bet you are too. After all, it’s been a long time since breakfast.”
Yeah, she thought ruefully, and now that I’m back to reality I’d better start eating sensibly again. After all, my purse knows my limits even if my stomach doesn’t. But she only smiled and said, “Sure, that would be nice.” Then she led him out of the room, locking the door behind her and went downstairs and out the front door. But instead of turning to walk towards Sunset Gil led her to his car, and opening the door for her he said, “Do you mind if we drive? I want to put my baby in the office parking space. I’m not sure it would be safe leaving it here.”
Rosie shrugged her shoulders and got in saying, “It’s your car.”
As they drove around the corner to the parking lot of the building which housed FineHall Productions, he parked in his own private space and as he fastened the club to his steering wheel, he recalled how much had happened in the three days since he had last parked here. He went around and opened the door again for Rosie, and they walked down Sunset the half-block or so to the Cat & Fiddle, the restaurant in which he had lunched with his cinematographer Richard Ellsworth the previous Friday that now seemed so long ago.
Entering through the front gate he said, “The weather’s really nice, don’t you think? Want to sit out here in the courtyard?”
“Sure,” she said, “that would be nice.”
Being Monday and a little late for the early lunch rush, he had no problem finding an empty table for two that was equipped with a nice umbrella to shade them from the intense rays of the sun.
As the same super-efficient waitress that had served him on Friday bustled over with a couple of menus, Gil gave her a cheery wave and said, “Hi, I’m back again.”
She took a quick look at Rosie, noticed her age, and then said impassively, “So you are.” Then she said professionally, “Do you know what you want or should I come back in a few minutes?”
“No,” said Gil, “I’m ready. How about you, Rosie?”
She nodded and then told the waitress, “I’d like a mixed green salad with baby shrimp and vinaigrette, please.”
The waitress noted this and then, turning to Gil she asked, “And you, sir?”
“Hmm,” he said, still perusing the menu, “I think I’ll have a turkey club on whole wheat with French fries.” Then turning to Rosie he said, “How about a glass of wine? After all, you don’t have to work until tomorrow.”
She frowned a little but said, “Okay, but only one.”
“Fine, said Gil, “I’ll drink the rest.” So he ordered a bottle of chardonnay and the waitress hurried off to place their order.
As Gil was still trying to decide how he would approach the subject, he settled for making small talk with her until the food and wine had arrived and they were both well into their meals. Then he said tentatively, “Here’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Now, don’t get me wrong. You’re under no obligation and what you’re doing in the office won’t be affected if you say no. But do hear me out and keep an open mind.”
Upon noting the seriousness of his tone, she put down her fork and looked at him attentively. “Okay,” she said, “I’m listening.”
“First,” he said, “let me ask you a question. Well, really, two questions. First, and believe me, I’m not trying to pry into your life or anything, but just between you and me, how much money do you have to live on?”
She thought about it for a few seconds as if deciding whether or not this was a proper question. Finally she said, “Well, I don’t have any savings or support from anybody, if that’s what you mean. My parents are still down in San Diego and still working but they’re getting old and it’s all they can do to support themselves well enough to be able to live decently. All I get is what I make doing temp work. I don’t want a regular job because then I would have to quit if I got cast in a major production. So,” she spread her hands as if to indicate bottom line, “doing temp work, I’m lucky to be able to work three weeks out of every four. Which leaves me with about eight hundred dollars take home pay, and that’s in a good month.”
“Wow,” said Gil, obviously completely amazed that anybody could live on that kind of money. Then, thinking back over twenty years to his arrival in LA and his better-than-two-year search for decent work, he began to remember how it had been and began to sympathize. “Gee, that’s tough,” he managed. “It was like that for me when I first got here. In fact, I was only about the age you are now when I was scrambling around for any kind of directing job I could get. In fact,” he continued, “that’s the reason I was so, let’s say, dismayed by where you’re living. It reminds me of my old basement room on Alvarado back in the early seventies. But anyway, the second question I want to ask you is, how much do you know about our production company?”
She looked puzzled but replied, “Not very much, really. Only what Ms. Jordan has told me, and that’s mostly about office work. I know that you’re an executive in an independent movie production company but that’s about it.” Then she leaned forward slightly and looked him in the eye. “Why do you want to know?”
“A fair question,” he admitted, “but first let me tell you something about the company. We’re a corporation. Natalie my wife is the president, I’m the vice-president, Nancy Cheney, who is also my assistant director, is the secretary, and Money, that’s George Mooney, everybody called him Money, is our treasurer. He’s also our Chief Financial Officer and makes all the budgets and does the line producing.” Now it was his turn to lean towards her. They had both stopped eating for the moment. He took a large gulp of white wine before continuing. “The way we stay independent is that I have what would normally be called department heads under contract to the company. I say they would ordinarily be called department heads, but they have no deparment in the usual sense. Each person is responsible for contracting the help he or she needs in fulfilling the duties of that department. So far, not including Natalie and myself, we have eight people under permanent contract.” He ticked them off on his fingers. “We have a lighting guy, a sound person, somebody for set construction and dressing, somebody for costuming and makeup, and of course Money for financing and Nancy as my assistant director. That leaves a woman for casting and a woman for publicity and press releases. Let’s see…I don’t think I’ve left anybody out.”
She had been listening to all this attentively and when she thought he had finished said, “It sounds like a good system. But what does all this have to do with me?”
“Well,” he said, and then as if carelessly tossing out a piece of information about the weather, said, “well, I want you to be number nine, or eleven, depending on how you look at it.”
She gave a little gasp and said, “But that’s ridiculous. I don’t know anything about filmmaking. What would I do?”
“That’s a good question,” he admitted. “I’ve never really done this before. I’m not even sure I really have the power to do it. But after the last couple days, the way we worked together on the script, it’s sort of like you’re my lucky charm or something. You give me a kind of clarity I’ve never had before.” He straightened up and said in what he hoped was a more businesslike voice, “I want to put you under contract to FineHall Productions.” He scratched his head thoughtfully. “Let me see. I think we’ll call you Script Consultant. Yeah, that’ll work. Okay, here’s what I’m offering you: a contract for one year, renewable at the end of a year at $50,000 per year payable monthly.” He held up a hand as if expecting her to protest. “I know you have your heart set on being a stage actress. But I’m going to give you a part in Raising Ezekiel and we’ll see where it goes from there. Also, if you’re not satisfied, you can cancel your contract at any time with a thirty-day notice. And you will be paid only for the thirty days after you give notice.”
She looked at him as if he were a little insane. “Fifty thousand dollars! But how could I possibly justify making that much money? I mean, what would I do every day?”
“Well, I guess that depends,” he replied, “on what needs to be done. You can continue to work with Georgie in the office when she needs you, you can assist Nancy with whatever she needs script-wise, things like research, continuity, even suggestions for changes, like you’re so good at.” Then he took her hand and said in a pleading voice as if he were proposing marriage, “Just say yes, okay? I really need you.” And then, before she could answer, continued quickly, “As soon as we finish here I’m going to go straight to the office and get Money and our legal department to work on drawing up your contract. It’ll be ready sometime tomorrow when you come to work. You don’t have to make a decision until you read it. Is that fair?”
She squeezed his hand and said, “Okay. If you really think I’m worth it and you’re not just kidding around.”
“No,” he said, “I was never more serious. And just as soon as you sign the contract, you and I are going to go look for a good apartment for you. Is that understood? Don’t worry,” he said hastily, “it will come out of your salary. But I think since you’ll be making over four thousand a month you can afford eight hundred or a thousand for a decent apartment. Okay?”
She nodded her head, obviously running things through her mind and then, having settled the matter, they returned to the serious business of finishing their lunch.