PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 14

For the next few weeks Gil and Natalie spent much of their time getting used to the apartment. Natalie spent much of her evenings and weekends shopping for various things that she told Gil would make the apartment nicer—everything from a proper set of china to glistening new stainless steel pots and pans to darling little knickknacks and bric-a-brac she would place around the apartment, turning it into sort of a shrine to kitch.

Gil for his part, being mostly between jobs and not really caring that much, enjoyed getting up early with Natalie on the weekday mornings she had to go to work. He would kiss her goodbye and then, it being high summer and always clear and sunny, would take himself out to the pool where he would drink his morning coffee, eat his morning bagel, and spend a leisurely hour or so in the sun reclining on a deck chair and reading the LA Times and The Hollywood Reporter.

Thus they passed a quiet couple of weeks until one sweltering afternoon towards the end of July Natalie was sitting behind her desk in Gorman’s office, alternately fanning herself and reading the latest copy of Variety when her intercom suddenly buzzed. That’s odd, she thought. It was usually she who buzzed Gorman, not the other way around. And then it was usually because it was someone on the phone to whom he might conceivably wish to speak. Putting down her makeshift fan and Variety, she wondered what this could be about. In the nearly six years she had been in Gorman’s employ, she had only been called into his office a handful of times since her first few weeks. She drew quick uneven breaths. Thank God I’m living with Gil, she reminded herself.

A few days after they had moved into their new apartment Gil had come to her and said rather hesitantly, “Natalie, I mean, I’m for women’s lib and all that stuff, but I’ve got enough money now that you can quit your job. I mean, if you want to.”

She had told him sweetly thanks for the offer, but she enjoyed working there, it being, she told him, her only real connection to Hollywood. When things were slow she was in the habit of calling up agents and casting directors in the guise of speaking for RoddiGore Productions, just to keep an eye on what was going on around town. Surprisingly often she was put in touch with the actors themselves and she was able to schmooze with them, gaining information about their doings and other Hollywood gossip, while being suitably vague about some fictitious project or other that Gorman allegedly had in development. She would close by saying she would let their agents know if anything happened.

She was startled out of her reverie by a second buzz, which was of longer duration and therefore sounded somewhat impatient. Trying to put her misgivings about the status of her job out of her mind, she got up and hurried into Gorman’s office. Though there was no one in the outer office, she automatically closed the inner door before saying formally, “You wanted to see me, Mr. Gorman?”

“Yeah, Natalie,” Gorman replied from behind his desk without getting up. He waved a hand towards a chair at the left of his desk. “Sit down, why don’t you,” he said. “You busy on anything at the moment?”

Settling herself in the chair and keeping what she hoped was a neutral expression she replied, “No, nothing that can’t wait,” hoping to imply that she actually was working but that it wasn’t urgent.

Gorman took no notice of her ploy. “I’ll get right to the point,” he said. A brief smile crossed his face. “I understand from my sources on the grapevine that you’ve been doing a little, uh, moonlighting as an agent, have you not?”

Natalie could feel the blush creeping over her face. “Ah, well,” she stammered, “I guess you could call it something like that. But I swear it hasn’t interfered with my work.”

He shook his head and waved his hand at her again saying, “No, don’t worry, that’s not important.” He edged his chair closer to her chair and leaned his head closer to her. “What I’m about to tell you,” he said. He broke off suddenly and looked around as if to make sure no one was listening. “What I’m about to tell you,” he repeated in a low voice, “is strictly confidential. Strictly between us. You got that?”

Natalie hadn’t a clue but answered quickly, “Yes, sir.”

Seemingly satisfied he leaned back in his chair again. “I’m considering doing a project,” he said, “a project that is both like and unlike my usual sex-and-violence drive-in flicks. I’ve got just about everything together. But,” he paused for dramatic emphasis, “I’m lacking one element. And,” he stabbed a chubby finger at her, “this is where you come in.”

Natalie felt like an ingénue in a bad B-movie of the Thirties. “Me, sir?” she managed.

Gorman chuckled. “Word around town has it that you have a young man, Natalie. Not only a young man, but a handsome and personable young man. A man who is reputed in some circles to be some sort of a director. Am I close?”

Natalie thought it was time to reveal all. In as few words as possible she filled him in on her meeting Gil and how their relationship had progressed.

At several points, though keeping silent, Gorman nodded his head as if satisfied. “So,” he said, “let’s cut to the chase. Purely objectively, you think this guy’s got potential?”

Natalie thought for a moment, then told Gorman about the many long talks they had had during the last winter and spring concerning Natalie’s scripts. She told him how perceptive and relevant she thought Gil’s comments to be.

Good,” he said. “So the kid’s got potential. What’s he done?”

“Well, mostly documentaries and shorts, a few commercials, a few industrial films. His only real feature-length directing credit is for that East LA documentary Stupendous Pictures released early in the year.”

Gorman chuckled again. “Yeah,” he commented, “we all had a good laugh over that one. But,” he said more seriously, “I gotta admit it was well-produced and well-directed for what it was. Anyway,” he said, “here’s my problem. I’ve got this project, it’s kind of an experimental crossover type film. Of course it goes without saying I’m not sinking a lot of money into this. I don’t have really high hopes for its commercial potential. But I owe some guys a favor so I agreed to do it if possible. What’s holding things up is I don’t have a director. The good established directors want too much money and the established second-raters are too chickenshit to risk their reputations on an admittedly experimental film.” He shot a sharp look at Natalie. “What’s your boy’s asking price?”

Natalie thought for a moment about padding Gil’s experience and therefore his price but rejected it immediately. These things were too easily checked and besides, she wanted to remain on good terms with her boss. “Well,” she admitted, “that Stupendous Film was his biggest paycheck to date. I understand that he got a bonus which brought his gross up to about twelve-five. He said something about getting expenses during the shoot but I don’t think it was very much.”

Gorman smiled broadly. “Great,” he exclaimed. “We of course are talking peanuts here. Wonderful! I’m only planning to sink maybe only a hundred into this potential turkey anyway, so I think your boy and I can come to terms. Do you think he’d do it? Is he doing anything right now?”

Natalie smiled for the first time. “I think he’d love to do it,” she replied. “And he is between jobs right now. We just moved into an apartment together,” she continued proudly, “and we’ve been getting settled in.”

“That’s fine,” said Gorman. “I believe your guy goes by the name of Gil Hall, right?”

“Right,” she agreed.

“So can you get him in here sometime tomorrow afternoon?”

“I sure can,” she told him confidently.

“Okay,” he said dismissively, standing up and directing his gaze toward the window as if his mind were already on other things. “That’s it then, go back and do what you were doing.”

“Right sir, and thank you, sir.”

He grinned slightly but waved her away as she got up and went back to her desk, closing the inner door behind her.   

That evening when she got home at around five-thirty she found Gil sitting in his accustomed spot by the pool contentedly sipping a beer. When she told him the news he jumped up at once, so excited that he dropped his beer on the cement where it lay gushing its foam unnoticed while he practically yelled, “A chance to work with Rod Gorman! You bet!” He jumped over the chaise lounge and embraced her fiercely continuing to babble, “Where? When? How do I get there?”

“Easy tiger,” she told him, gently disengaging herself and attempting to straighten her work clothes. “You can meet him tomorrow afternoon. I’ll drive out here on my lunch hour and you follow me in your car.”

Gil was still dancing around, hopping from one foot to the other and making childish utterances which seemed to consist mainly of “Ohboyohboyohboy” interspersed with a stream of incoherencies.

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