The Last Time I Looked: (Stories, Real and Unreal) - PARTNERS Chapter Six
April 1, 2013


Katherine was about five foot ten, broad shouldered with the shiniest black hair and the whitest powdery skin he had ever seen. Her black eyes were oriental like and wild, her halting cultivated soft speech made you strain and come closer to hear her. Then, oh then you could smell, powder from another time, powder from a boudoir, powder of the rich, of the exotic. She was wearing a long white dress of Fortuny pleated silk. She wore eight tiny strands of pearls with a large old-fashioned diamond rectangular buckle in its center around her absolutely swan-like neck. When she took his hand and air kissed his cheek, Howie thought he was going to faint. It’s not that he had always dreamed of meeting someone like her, he didn’t even know there was someone who looked and smelled like her or talked as softly as she did. “Iyah…simply cahn’t…I really cahn’t…well…put into any…uh…words…I mean there simply…aren’t ANY...ANY…possible…uh…words…to tell you…you are…soooo…simply well…miraculous… exuuuude…uh exude…shheeer…raw…sheeeer.…raw.… talent…uh just amaaazing…talent…every…pawwwr….ooooozes…uh…yes… performing genius….yes…oh Rob, stop me…I’m baaaaabling…Mistah Bates…thank you for tonight…Iyah…suppose…Iyah will just have to come every night…oh deah…Thank you………”

Her face was so close to his when she spoke and she was so alive but not vivacious…he didn’t know the difference until then and still couldn’t put it into words or thoughts.

Howie introduced her to Bea, who was temporarily too stunned to be jealous. He whispered to Rob that the three of them should go right to his table at the party. His relatives would just have to take a bus… this was the big time, and after all it was his opening night on Broadway…His family could sit at his table the next time at the Catskills.

It’s always a shock to see an insignificant and doughy looking cock when it belongs to a dynamite and sexy performer whom you’ve been hotly watching all night. Katherine didn’t seem to mind, but then again she didn’t seem to mind anything. She was plotzed. They both had a lot to drink at the party. The party had a lot to drink. It was more like a bar mitzvah than a Broadway opening. The music was loud, the dancing got sloppier, the buffet table was an ethnic nightmare. Egg rolls and spare ribs, tortillas, stuffed eggs, shrimp, bleeding beefs and dried chicken legs competed for the guest’s guts. The Jackson Pollock caterers had done it again.

They stumbled out of the empty dressing room that was their …what?...a love nest? No, more like a rest stop on the Jersey thruway. No one seemed to have noticed their absence in all the tumult.

The reviews were mediocre to poor, but Howie did well, got a lot of publicity and the people came.

The Broadway scene was fun for awhile. Bea’s days consisted of shopping like a madwoman. Her best friends were the personal shoppers in every major store. They all knew that most of the goods would be returned, but it was worth their while. Every so often she’d keep one of the most expensive mistakes of a famous designer.

Her other hang out, the beauty “salon” at Saks 5th Avenue, treated her like a star. Actually they treated her hair like a star. They dyed, streaked, curled, extended it while gossiping about the very same A-minus, B-plus celebs she would see later when she met Howie after his show. They’d go to Sardi’s or some other watering hole with a gang, and even the most expensive vodka couldn’t turn the endless evenings into a “good time”.

Finally, Bea decided to accept one of the offers from the Carson show, and go back to L.A. for awhile, back to a studio to cut a single record. It was play, but didn’t set the world on fire.

Howie was getting bored doing the same show eight times a week. They wouldn’t let him improvise or mess around.  Some shows, the audience was silent, full but silent. He wanted to use the old Milton Berle shtick... “Is this an audience or a jury?” He tried it, and the stage manager was apoplectic, said he would bring Howie up on charges. He went through the requisite screwing around with the cuties in the ensemble. He never pursued the Katherine caper.

O.K. you get it...Bea was good on her own, but she wasn’t pretty enough or a good enough actress to be in movies like Doris Day. She didn’t have the incredible warmth and persona of Rosie Clooney. She was a girl singer and a damn good one but just another girl singer. Her pisk and package weren’t enough.

They both missed the "push me, pull you" of their previous life. They liked hanging around with the old comics and their boring wives at the Friars Club. Their only conversation were jokes, grosses and show biz gossip, and that was enough for them. Most of all they missed the yelling... at each other, from the audience during the bows. And, of course chewing me out for not getting them more money, better bookings, a television series and on and on.

As soon as his contract was over we all whipped into action like in a fifties movie musical montage. Rehearsing day and night, costume fittings, publicity appearances all leading up to their big reunion in Vegas. The extra garish marquee in front of Caesar’s Palace, in tasteful red and green…proclaimed on and off: YOU BEGGED FOR THEM!… YOU WANTED THEM!!! YOU’RE GETTING THEM!!!!


The Pair from Hell was back where they belonged.
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