I find a parking space on a side street and fix my hair and make up. After I check myself out in the rearview mirror, I get out of my car and make my way through the crowds on Wilshire. A group of burly guards in yellow security jackets checks names with the lists on their clipboards as they let people through the barricades that separate the location from the street.
“Name.” One of the guards gruffly requests as I approach him.
The guard looks down at his clipboard. “Don’t see a Marilyn Marie here.”
“There must be a mistake. I was told there was an audition here. I’m supposed to be on the list-”
“Audition?” the guard inquires with a quizzed look on his face.
Ava cuts through the guards and smiles at me. “Er…She’s with me.”
The guards give me a once over then grimace at Ava’s smile as they open the metal barricades to let me through. That’s odd, usually when I’m doing a reading I’m on the list and everyone knows it. Well, I did get the audition yesterday afternoon. Maybe no one had time to revise the call sheet.
Ava leads me over to the commissary tables where a bunch of extras and crew are chowing down and schmoozing. I get some answers to some lingering questions.
“Why wasn’t I on the list?”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“Why shouldn’t I? You don’t have a script, I’m not on the list, is there a job here or not?”
Ava gives me no answers as a PA approaches us. “Ava, you should get your extras up over by the commissary tables for attendance.”
So that’s why she didn’t have a script. She was supervising extras!
Ava smiles back at the PA. “Will Do.”
Ava turns away to address the extras. I’m not through with her. “Extra? You said this was a supporting role!” I snarl grabbing her arm.
Ava pulls out of my grip and scowls at me. “Look, you do the extra work, network with the producers and maybe you can work it into a larger supporting role.”
Work it into a larger supporting role? That’s bullshit and she knows it. Once the producers and directors cast their roles and contracts are signed, nothing changes. Extras do not work their parts into larger supporting roles. Stunts like that would bust a production’s budget.
Ava pastes on a smile to reassure me. “Look, this is gonna work out. Trust me.
Clearly I’m not working with someone who is professional or ethical. Bri would never pull something like this. Sure people steal clients all the time, but no one lies about having jobs they don’t have. That kind of stuff can cost an agent their reputation and their license.
I have to get out of here; the longer I stay the bigger the chance I put AATA’s reputation at risk. The entire agency could lose its business if the producers found out what Ava was doing.
I’m rushing past the commissary table when a familiar face spots me. I light up as one of my best friends on the set of All About Nikki approaches me.
Man, I haven’t seen Garrett in over 15 years. The tall muscular chocolate colored man dressed in jeans, a button down shirt, and spice tan Timberland boots looks much sexier than the slender kid with a high-top-fade who used to run around our set making copies and getting coffee for everyone. I wish I looked a bit more presentable.
It looks like the business has been treating him well. From the looks of the production tag around his neck and the binder he’s carrying seems to be a big wheel on set. Maybe he’s a script supervisor or an assistant director. I wonder if he’s married yet.
“Mari. Man, I haven’t seen you in years.” Garrett greets giving me a big hug. “How you doing girl?”
“Surviving Garrett.” I reply. “You still a PA?”
Garrett smiles proudly. “PA? Man, I’ve come a long way since your show back in the day. I got my greenlight.”
I can’t contain my excitement. “This is your movie?”
“Yep. We’re finally shooting SELL OUT.” Garrett says handing me his binder.
I flip through the shooting script; it’s almost word-for-word to the screenplay we tried to pitch to Apex Studios fifteen years ago. Except back in 1996 they said it was too “urban” and it wouldn’t appeal to my white tween and tween demographic. But it was okay for that same demographic of kids to see me naked and having sex onscreen in Dark Ride. Whatever.
“It looks like they didn’t change it too much.” I say handing him the binder back.
Garrett smiles at me. “It’s a miracle it made it through this much intact. But a brotha is getting a nice fat production budget for making the changes they asked for.”
“Wow. The studio must really be behind you-”
“This is Apex Studios’ tentpole movie. We’re set for a July 4 release next year.”
I ask a question I probably know the answer to. But I just want some confirmation from someone on set who would know what’s going on. “Are you still casting?”
Garrett grimaces at me. “Man, we completed casting six months ago. The only scene with a lot of extras is this one.”
That confirms my suspicions. Ava had no connections. She was jerking my chain. Probably looking to use my name as a way to pitch to the list of younger clients she planned on stealing from Bri.
“Just like your old draft.” I say.
“So what bring you by Mari?” Garrett inquires.
I’d love to tell him what I’m really here for. But it’d be embarrassing to tell him I’m working as an extra on the same movie I helped him pitch to the studio fifteen years ago.
I paste on a smile and come up with an excuse as I extend my hand. “Er…I just came down to…congratulate you. Good luck on your project Gar.”
Garrett shakes my hand. “I’ll be looking out for you in my next movie.”
A PA runs up to Garrett and grabs him. They rush into a trailer down the street. I slink past the commissary tables and disappear into the crowds. Marilyn Marie can’t let Nikki Desmond ruin Garrett Williams’ movie.
I’m about to make a clean getaway. Then I pass by someone else who recognizes me.
“HEY MAN, NIKKI DESMOND IS HERE! HEY NIKKI!”
I turn around; it’s the Clown I met yesterday out of his greasepaint and dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a T-shirt. He lights up as he and his two friends approach me.
“I told you my name is Marilyn.” I snap.
The Clown swats his one of his friends on the chest. “See man, I told you I met Nikki Desmond yesterday!” He tells him.
“Can-can we get a picture?” One of the Clown’s friends asks nervously as he eases a digital camera out of his pants pocket.
I catch the awe-struck look on the kid’s face. It’s the first time he probably saw celebrity in his life. It’d break his heart if I said no to him. Guess I can spare a second.
The kids hurry around me as the Clown’s friend hands his camera to another of the Clown’s friends. The Clown and the kid who asked for the picture stand on either side of me. When the flash explodes in our eyes we take a picture with big smiles.
The flash of the kid’s camera sets off the rest of the extras and the production staff on the street. As the Clown and his friends look at our picture in the viewscreen of their digital camera, a herd of people rush up to me pulling cell phones, ipods, and digital cameras out of their pockets. Others pull out sheets of paper and pens. As they recognize me, I hear them scream her name.
“HEY THAT’S NIKKI DESMOND!” A girl exclaims.
“OH MY GOD! IT IS NIKKI! Another girl squeals.
The giddy mob of young adults regresses to a bunch of screaming children at the sight of me up close in person. I had to wear mules today.
I’m swarmed by young adults shoving digital cameras, cell phones, and sheets of paper in my face. There’s no way I’m going to make a quick getaway in these shoes; I’m going to have to work my way through this crowd if I’m going to get out of here.
I look down at the barricades a few yards away as I smile and sign autographs. If I plan this right I can get out of here in one piece.
“Oh, I used to watch your show all the time! A girl tells me as she hands me her call sheet. “I even had your doll!
“OOOOOOH! I can’t believe this! Another girl gushes as she hands me her schedule. “Can I get your autograph Nikki?”
The flashes of a dozen digital cameras explode in my face as I sign the girl’s schedule. The frenzy of the crowd reminds me of an appearance I did at the way back in 1994 at the height of Nikki’s popularity. I’d love to soak up the energy, but I know this isn’t about me. They’re just remembering the good times they had watching Nikki Desmond on Monday Nights.
The security guards at the barricades don’t seem to be caught up in the nostalgia, they see me trying to get away. The men hurry away from their posts and start making a wall between me and the hundreds of extras and production staff. I’m only about twenty feet away from the barricades when I pass by a trailer. Just a few more autographs and I’m outta here.
The flashbulbs of the digital cameras pop like firecrackers and the screams of the crowd turn into a roar. The crowd can’t be that excited about seeing me leave, someone else must be coming out of that trailer. Someone more famous than I am.
I find out who it is as I hear footsteps rushing behind me. I’m violently grabbed by the shoulders and my body is twisted around to meet the twisted scowl of Tabatha Strong.
“JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE COMING ON MY MOVIE!” She screams at the top of her lungs.
The glassy look in her eyes of the tall blonde-haired-blue-eyed-starlet clad in only a bathrobe and Ugg boots tells me she’s high as a kite. It’s Meth; I saw it a dozen times on the set of Dark Ride.
My heart races in my chest as Tabatha’s manicured hands clench into fists. Maybe if I explain things to her she’ll go back to her trailer.
“I-I’m just trying to get out of here.” I explain.
“No, you bought your washed up ass here to take my job!” Tabatha orders.
“Tabatha, she can’t take your job. She’s not under contract.” a blonde woman in a black suit says.
Tabatha scowls at her. YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR JOB BITCH! YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR JOB! I TOLD YOU TO SHUT THE FUCK UP IN THE DAMN TRAILER!”
The handler cringes on the threats; Tabatha turns her attention from her back to me and I feel her cold blue eyes cutting into my soul. The world is like it’s in slow motion; I feel the heat of the flashbulbs, I hear the screams of the crowd but I dare not make a move. Meth is a crazy drug. There’s no telling what she’s capable of doing.
“You’re not gonna take my job.” Tabatha orders.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I plead.
“DON’T TELL ME I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I’M TALKING ABOUT! I SAW YOU TALKING TO THE DIRECTOR!”
The crowd gets antsy in anticipation of something big happening between us. The flashbulbs and the chatter make the air tense. I’ve got to find a way to diffuse things. Maybe I can still reason with her.
“He’s a friend of mine. I just wanted to wish him luck-”
“You just wanted to take my job. Well, You’re not gonna do it. I’m not gonna let you do it. This is my job! I earned it and you’re not gonna take it from me you understand you’re not gonna take it from me not gonna happen you hear me-”
Her paranoid rambling gets to me. “You’re high. Go sleep it off.” I dismiss.
Tabatha puts her finger in my face. “Bitch you don’t tell me what to do, it’s not All About Nikki around here-”
The crowd is hot and looking for a fight. Something to make the tabloids. The Nikki comment gets under my skin. I catch myself before I say something I regret. “Look, don’t make a scene-”
“THIS ISN”T YOUR MOVIE!”
The back of her hand swats against my cheek; I hear a smack then the screams of the crowd erupts into a roar. I’m hit so hard I’m knocked out of my shoes.
Camera flashes explode in my eyes like fireworks as I tumble to the ground; I put my hands in front of my face to protect myself from the violent onslaught. As the kids charge in for a better shot, Tabatha’s sheepskin and rubber boots kick me in the gut.
“THIS IS MY MOVIE!” Tabatha growls as she kicks me in the stomach again and again. “MY MOVIE!”
“OH MY GOD! TABATHA STRONG IS BEATING UP NIKKI DESMOND!” I hear a girl squeal.
“SOMEBODY GET HER OFF HER!” Another girl barks.
Me having the crowd behind me infuriates Tabatha; her kicks and stomps become more violent. I gasp for air as I feel her boots stomping into my back, my kidneys and my ribs.
“HEY! LAY OFF MARILYN!” The clown yells.
I want to tell the kid to get out of here; he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with. This chick is high on meth and in a rage. I cough up blood as I try to catch my breath.
It’s hard to breathe; her kicks and stomps must have broken a rib or two. I’m sick to my stomach as I peer up and watch as the Clown charges at Tabatha. The crazed junkie takes the fight out of him with a kick to the nuts. The kid collapses to the ground.
A guard pulls him away and the other guards do their best to push the kids back. The crowd sees me bleeding and fights even harder to get pictures of the catfight between two Hollywood stars on Wilshire Boulevard. I’m on my knees when I hear footsteps charging at me then feel fingernails digging into my scalp. I see the hem of her white bathrobe as my face smashes into the pavement.
My blood spatters on the asphalt and I feel my forehead tearing from my scalp as Tabatha pounds my face into the asphalt four more times. My body goes limp; she stands over me and the kids who were eager to take pictures a minute ago are freaked out.
“OH MY GOD SHE’S KILLING NIKKI!” A girl screams.
“SOMEBODY HELP HER!” Another girl calls out.
“LEAVE HER ALONE!” Another cries.
Blood pours from my forehead; I’m so out of it I can barely think to wipe it from my eyes. I feel Tabatha staring a hole through me; I sense the feral woman’s footsteps as she stalks about my body for signs of life. She takes her eyes off me for a moment and I get to my knees and stumble into a crouch. As I scramble to get away from her, she grabs the back of my slipdress. I hear it tearing off my body as I make it to my feet.
I wobble several times; I try to keep my balance as I stand up. The world is a blur of screams and colors; I can barely make anything out but the shape of those steel barricades as I stagger about. Out of the blurs of sounds and colors in the crowd, I catch the crazed look in Tabatha’s blue eyes. Meth has turned her into wild animal; she’s not gonna stop pursuing me until I’m in a body bag.
The world goes from blurs of colors and sounds back in and out to blackness and silence. It takes all my concentration force my hands into fists. Blood pours into my face as I grit my teeth and focus. For a moment adrenaline clears my vision and I see Tabatha clad in her bloodstained white robe, her pale skin a beet red color from the rage she seethes in.
I put all my strength into one punch; I feel a fist slam into my jaw as I connect with air. The force of the blow is like a hammer; I crash to the ground and my head bounces off the asphalt. I barely make out the sinewy silhouette of a man in a black suit among the blurs of colors, sounds, and blackness.
“YOU DON’T TOUCH TABATHA!” Her bodyguard growls.
The blur of colors and sounds turn into long periods of blackness and silence. I hear some kids crying and screaming, others making calls to 911. I push myself to stay conscious. As I get another adrenaline surge, I see my blood dripping on the asphalt, my shoes scattered ten feet away from me, and the feet of the guards pushing kids back.
In the distance I hear Tabatha muttering about me not taking her job then glass breaking. The kids scream at me; “NIKKI GET UP! NIKKI GET UP!” I try to move, I try to push myself to get up; my body doesn’t respond. As I flutter in and out of consciousness, I hear footsteps rushing towards me.
My heart races as Tabatha’s bloodstained boots approach. I feel the weight of her body on top of me. She grabs my head by the hair and smiles at me; I let out a scream as I see the jagged edges of a broken bottle swung at me.
Tabatha looks me dead in the eyes as she smiles at me. “Now it’ll never be All About Nikki again.” She chuckles.
Tabatha jumps off me; I hear the bottle breaking in the distance as I feel blood running down my neck. My head slumps to the ground, my heartbeat slows, the world turns back into intermittent moments of silence and darkness then blurs of colors and sounds. I hear the sounds of kids screaming and crying. I make my last prayer to God before I die.
Father forgive me for the sins I participated in today. For betraying Bri. For disrupting Garrett’s movie. I’m sorry for all I’ve done. Just don’t let them suffer for what I did.
I hear my heart struggling to make beats, Garret crying, the sound of sirens. The last thing I hear before everything turns black and silent is a girl screaming:
“OH MY GOD! NIKKI’S DEAD. NIKKI’S DEAD!”
There will be an epilogue explaining why I didn't finish the novel This Saturday. Then this blog will return to articles until the release of The Temptation of John Haynes on amazon.