Cold Open, A Tale of Modern Hollywood // Chapter 11. The Morning After

For was the second time that weekend Nina woke up in an unfamiliar setting. She sat up, stretching high her arms, and looked around. This time to her delight she was in a comfortable double bed in a large luxurious room, with bright sunshine flooding in through the huge picture window.

There was a knock at the door. “It’s me, honey,” she heard Bebe call out. “Are you decent?”

“Just a minute,” said Nina, getting out from under the bedcovers and reaching for the terry robe at the foot of her bed. She tied it on. “Come on in.”

Dressed in a flowing print caftan, Bebe entered carrying Nina’s jeans and underwear, now washed and pressed. “Your boots, jacket and sweater are in the wardrobe, and here’s the rest of your things.” She draped them on the back of the vanity chair and sat down beside Nina on the edge of the bed. “And I asked Fitzgerald to bring up a breakfast tray.”

There was another knock at the door. “There he is now. Come on in, sweetie!”

Wearing a tight T-shirt and Spandex shorts that showed off his freckled, well-muscled limbs, Fitzgerald entered with a folding stand slung over one arm and carrying an enormous tray laden with enough items to make several breakfasts. Besides plates, cups, glasses, utensils and a couple of snow-white linen napkins, there was a pot of coffee, a pitcher of fresh-squeezed orange juice, a ceramic mug of milk, a matching crock of raw sugar, a crystal bowl of meyer lemon marmalade, a basket heaped with buttery croissants, and a platter piled with Canadian bacon and another one with a cloud of scrambled eggs. Fitzgerald put down the tray on the vanity table, opened the stand in front of Nina and Bebe, placed the tray on the stand and wordlessly exited.

“Well, dig in,” said Bebe.

Nina surveyed the dishes on the tray. “My goodness, it’s like craft services.”

“Better. Our kitchen staff makes them fresh.”

“I think I’ll just have a little juice. But you know, those do look good…”

Bebe poured a glass, handed it to her, took a croissant, split it, spread it with marmalade and offered it to her on a plate. Then she proceeded to fix herself a plate of Canadian bacon and eggs along with a steaming fragrant cup of coffee.

For a few minutes they sat without talking as they enjoyed their breakfast.

“Ummm,” sighed Bebe contentedly between mouthfuls. “You’ll have to excuse me. I still eat like there’s a day’s shooting ahead.”

Nina finished her croissant and juice and shook her head. “Bebe, I’m so sorry about Teddy.”

“Yeah, he can be a jackass, can’t he? Leslie was so upset we spent most of the night talking it out. Teddy really got to him, you know?”

“Is Leslie still in bed?”

“He never came to bed. After we talked he went to his office. I think I heard him in the screening room just now.”

Nina sat straight up. “Omigod, Teddy — ”

“Relax. Manolo tells me your boyfriend’s in the kitchen. He had cook make him a hoagie sandwich.”

Going over to the vanity chair, Nina slipped off her robe, picked up her bra and panties and put them on.

“I think I’d better find Leslie and get this thing between him and Teddy resolved,” she said, pulling on her jeans.

“Finish dressing,” Bebe told Nina, “and I’ll take you there.”

Going over to the wardrobe, Nina found the rest of her clothes and put them on.

Bebe led her out the door and down the hall, her caftan flowing about her. Soon they came to a wood-paneled room furnished with several long couches arranged around a huge DVD flat screen that covered almost the entire wall. Braverman was sitting on a couch facing the screen watching a movie.

Feeling like a dutiful daughter, Nina went over and kissed him on his forehead. “Morning, Leslie.”

“Good morning, my girl,” he replied. “See what I’m watching?”

Nina turned and saw a tense but familiar courtroom scene. “Oh my goodness. Setting Sun.”

He pointed to the screen and said, “When I saw the dailies, with you there on the witness stand defending your lover for killing your husband, I thought, there’s my Oscar.”

As Bebe sat down on one side of him and Nina sat down on the other, he put his arms around them both.

Bebe stared intently at the young Nina on the screen. “Look at that glowing skin, that hair,” she murmured. “You shouldn’t have cut your hair, Nina. It’s your best asset.”

“There’s too much gray in it now,” she replied.

Braverman gave Nina’s shoulder a squeeze. “It’s so good to have you back in Hollywood after all this time. I’ve got some projects lined up I think we can work together on. Projects that might turn out to be as successful as Setting Sun, maybe even better.”

“What are you talking about, Leslie? I’m not back,” said Nina.

“What do you mean you’re not back? I got a call from your agent this morning.”

“You mean Sid? Is he still alive?”

“Not Sid, that goniff, God rest his soul. I’m talking about your new agent, Ruth Woolley. She said you and Sunnegaard came to see her the other day.”

“That was Teddy’s idea. So?”

“She told me she’s already got you in mind for one or two interesting things.”

“Is she crazy? I’m not even signed with her.”

“What are you, kidding me? You didn’t sign? Sign! She’s one of the most powerful agents in the business.”

Nina turned to Braverman with a coy look. “Really? But she seems so polite and dignified.”

“Don’t let that schoolmistress act of hers fool you. She knows what she wants and she always gets it,” Leslie replied, looking Nina straight in the eye.

Bebe, who had been listening to the conversation silently but intently, now turned to Nina and said, “Leslie’s right, dear. I know your heart’s here in Hollywood with us.”

“Okay, okay,” she sighed, “I’ll think about it.”

“You go ahead and think about it,” said Leslie, taking his arm from around Nina’s shoulder and getting to his feet. “After Ruth called I put on Setting Sun, just to remind myself what a rare and wonderful actress you are.” He picked up the remote, clicked off the movie, and turned back to Nina. “You know the Oscars are tonight.”

Nina shrugged at this apparent non sequitur.

“What better place to start your comeback than right there on the red carpet?” he continued. “I’m calling Valerie, my personal publicist. She’s already at the Hotel Roosevelt across from the awards. Valerie will arrange for that interviewing girl, what’s her name?”

“Amanda Rivera?” offered Bebe.

“Anyway, she’ll get you thirty seconds with Amanda Rivera live on the air. That will start the buzz. Everyone will be talking about you by tomorrow morning.”

“Um, that’s very sweet of you,” said Nina demurely, “but didn’t the tickets already go out weeks ago?”

“Don’t worry about that. I’m past president of the Academy, among other titles.”

Nina smiled at him hesitantly. “But Leslie, come on, look at me. I can’t go to the Oscars like this.”

Bebe chimed in. “Honey, you come along with me. Half my friends are designers. I’ve got a wardrobe full of sample evening gowns I’ve never worn, they’re way too small for me. In an hour I can make you look as great as anyone on the red carpet tonight.”

“There you go,” beamed Braverman.

“Wait a minute everybody, you’re going too fast.” Braverman’s forceful ways were starting to come back to Nina and she knew she had to slow him down. “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

“What?”

“Teddy. He’s my director. We’re a team. Where I go he goes. And I’m not going to the awards without him.”

“What, you want me to dress up that schmuck Sunnegaard and send him to the Oscars after the way he treated me last night? He hasn’t even had the nerve to face me this morning. And Manolo says he’s been up for hours in my kitchen, eating my food! There’s no way I’m doing anything for that coked-up loser until I at least get an apology.”

Bebe reached out and put a hand on Leslie’s arm. “Come on, Leslie,” she crooned, “do it for us girls. He was my director too.”

Braverman’s expression softened and he slowly shook his head and gave a short laugh. “Okay, you win. If it means that much to you both, he can go.” He bent his head down to the couch and lightly kissed Bebe on the cheek.

Nina sprang up from the couch and gave him a warm hug. “Thanks, Leslie. I’ll make sure Teddy apologizes.”

“Bebe,” he said as Nina let him go, “you both run along now and get her ready. I’m going to my office and make some calls.”

Fifteen minutes later Teddy knocked on Braverman’s office door. When there was no immediate response he opened it slightly and popped his head through the doorway. “Manolo said you want to see me…?”

“Right. Get your sorry keister in here, Sunnegaard.”

Teddy was puzzled at Braverman’s tone. Was this a continuation of their somewhat productive meeting last night? He had a vague memory of reminiscing with somebody about Bob Evans and doing a little deal-making relating to his project.

“I, uh, guess I was a little unfocused when we finally got together,” he said. “You’re absolutely right, it’s a mistake to try to talk business at a party.”

Braverman glared at him. “What are you, meshugenah? You’re gonna make out you don’t remember what you said to me? You think that gets you off the hook?”

“Leslie, if I said anything to offend you — ”

“Offend me? You babbling idiot. After everything you said, you’re lucky I just gave you a dunking in the pool, that I didn’t have you thrown out the door!”

Teddy knit his brows. “Oh, that’s how I got wet.” He leaned across the desk and confided, “Look, I’m afraid I got a little loaded last night.”

“No kidding.”

“Anyway, you should know how I really feel toward you,” Teddy said in a low conciliatory tone. “Admiration… respect…reverence, even…”

“How about gratitude?” Braverman growled.

Teddy nodded vigorously. “Yeah, that too.”

“And gratitude toward the industry that’s given you a very good living?”

“Especially.” Teddy grinned nervously. “I love Hollywood, Leslie. Just love it.”

Braverman stood up, crossed his arms, and stared at him. “All right, Sunnegaard, I believe you. I’m going to ignore all those times I heard that you denigrate how we do things around here.” He sighed and relaxed his stance a bit. “You know, you can’t throw a hundred years of history out the window. That makes for bad business and bad art. What your generation tried to do in the seventies, well, it was, to put it mildly, just wrong-headed. It sent us on a wrong direction guys like me are still trying to change. You understand where I’m coming from?”

“Sure, Leslie, sure, I get where you’re coming from.”

“And you can insult me all you want. I’ve been insulted by better men than you.” Braverman stiffened. “But when you insult the whole fabric of Hollywood, well, that’s — You just don’t do that in front of me.”

“I won’t Leslie, and if I did, I humbly apologize. I was wrong,” said Teddy, feeling like his insides were crumbling.

“Good,” said Braverman, a sudden briskness in his voice. “Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s get down to the matter at hand. You realize of course you’re attending the Oscars tonight.”

Teddy blinked. “I am?”

“I’m taking care of everything. A studio limo should be here in a few hours to take you.”

Teddy was speechless.

“Well?” said Braverman. “What have you got to say now?”

“Leslie…um…can I just ask, why am I going?”

“Why?” He looked at Teddy for a moment with a strange faraway look. “For one thing, you deserve to go.”

Teddy brightened. “Oh! Well — ”

Braverman reverted to his harsh tone. “Don’t get a swelled head. Not for any of your disasters. For Setting Sun.”

“Oh.”

“Right now I’ve got some reasons why certain people should remember that movie. Your presence will help to remind them.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I think I should bring Nina along. Would that be all right?”

Braverman smiled, almost to himself. “Nina? I think that’s a great idea. Now look, there isn’t much time and I’ve got to get you a tuxedo.” He opened a desk drawer, and to Teddy’s surprise brought out a tape measure. “Let’s do your measurements.”

You’re going to do them?”

Braverman came around from the desk and held the tape measure out wide. “If you want something done right, you do it yourself. My father always told me that. He was a tailor, I used to work in his shop. Now spread your arms.”

Half an hour later Braverman was sitting again on his rattan throne on the marble platform while Manolo moved around him, supervising the few people remaining who were on the clean-up crew for last night’s party.

“Hey boss,” Manolo called from a corner of the room near the door. “I almost forgot about these,” he said, holding up the handcuffs he had removed from Teddy the previous afternoon. “What should I do with them?”

“Bring them over here,” said Braverman. “I want to keep them as a souvenir.”

Manolo complied and Braverman took them from him and slipped them into his pocket.

Just then, Bebe appeared at the top of the left staircase and called down to him. “Honey! You ready?”

“I’m right here waiting, my love,” said Braverman loudly.

“Great! You are gonna be in for a treat.” She turned and said in a stage whisper to Nina, “Okay, showtime. Time to make your entrance.”

Gracefully, but slowly and carefully (for her borrowed pumps were one size too large), Nina descended the stairs.

Braverman nodded and gave a wolf whistle.

She walked up to him, spread her arms and spun around. “Well? What do you think?”

“Fantastic. Only fantastic,” said Braverman. “You look just like you did in nineteen eighty-two.”

“Actually, this fall is a bit much,” she said, turning to Bebe, who had quietly joined them. “You don’t mind if I get rid of it, do you? Long hair isn’t my look anymore.”

“Oh, go ahead,” sighed Bebe.

Carefully removing the false hair and placing it on a nearby end table, Nina ran her fingers through her pageboy.

“Here, let me do it.” said Bebe, taking a comb from her pocket and running it through Nina’s hair several times until it was smooth.

“Thanks,” Nina said. “Everything else is practically perfect, the makeup, the jewelry, the little clutch, everything. I love this dress, it’s so elegant, a little long but otherwise it fits me like a glove.”

“You look like you were poured into it,” said Braverman appreciatively.

Nina asked him shyly, “Do you think Teddy will like it?”

“He’ll come in his pants,” said Braverman.

Nina gave an embarrassed giggle.

Sometime later as the three of them were earnestly discussing the strategy for the evening, the doorbell rang. Manolo went to answer it and within a few seconds closed the door again. He turned to Braverman and held out a long flat cardboard box. “This just came for you, boss.” he said. “What do you want me to do with it?”

“That must be the tux for Teddy I had studio wardrobe send over,” said Braverman to Bebe and Nina. “Got him the whole schmear — tux, shirt, tie, the works.” Turning back to Manolo, he ordered, “Take the box to the second-best guest bedroom and go find Sunnegaard. You’ll probably find him in the kitchen stuffing his face. Tell him to go and get dressed right now.”

About an hour later, Braverman and the girls heard footsteps coming down the stairs. It was Fitzgerald with Teddy in tow. Fitzgerald was gesturing to a slightly embarrassed Teddy, obviously telling him to come downstairs and make an appearance.

This time Bebe whistled, while Nina applauded.

“Teddy, I’ve never seen you look so good,” she said. “You’re as handsome as Cary Grant.”

“Gosh, thanks,” said Teddy as he reached the foot of the stairs and turned around arms spread wide, just as Nina had done, so they could all get the full view. He was dressed winningly but conservatively in a simple black form-fitting tuxedo complete with simple white dress shirt, black bow tie, and black highly-polished shoes.

“Not bad,” commented Braverman, as he took in Teddy’s sartorial splendor and fresh-scrubbed appearance. “In my day we wore white tie and tails. Of course,” he added somewhat ruefully, “standards have changed since then.”

“Leslie, I want to thank you for this opportunity,” Teddy said. “I know I don’t deserve it.”

“Damn right you don’t,” replied Braverman. Then in a softer tone, he said, “You can pay me back by listening to Nina. She knows what to do.” His voice grew stern again. “And for God’s sake don’t make an ass of yourself.”

Teddy replied humbly, “I promise. I’ll be a good boy.”

Braverman checked his watch and descended his throne. “It’s already about three-thirty and your limo’s already here. Ready?”

“Ready,” said Nina.

He went over and put a hand on each of their shoulders. “Now go out there and make me proud.”

“Don’t worry, Leslie,” said Teddy, “we will.”

Fitzgerald and Manolo led them ceremoniously to the front door and opened it for them as Bebe and Braverman followed. As Teddy and Nina went down the walkway toward the limo, they stood in the doorway waving to them.

“So long, kids!” called out Bebe.

“Don’t forget to have fun!” quipped Braverman.

TO BE CONTINUED EVERY FRIDAY 13 MAY — 12 AUGUST 2022

NEXT: CHAPTER 12. THE TRUE CONFESSION

© Cantara Christopher 2012, 2022

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