George doesn’t need to ride the train from his hometown San Francisco to L.A., he can fly first class but that would be too fast. He relaxes in a window seat, rolling down the state so he can visit his old movie studio, where he balanced the books, and the homes where he lived when his children were young. Those were exhilarating years when he met gorgeous women and left his wife and married three more times and divorced, or was divorced by, all four. The kids, five by three wives, didn’t all hate him forever. He’ll just stop in and surprise one or two. They’ll remember his introducing them to stars and taking them to the beaches and Disneyland and Dodger games. They’ll probably tell him what their mothers were doing. He hasn’t heard much since moving back north when he retired.
He can relive his prime time later. In front of him walks a lady who may be an actress. She’s tall and slender yet stacked and has thick brown hair flowing back over her shoulders. George knows he once could’ve at least had a flirtatious conversation with her. Now, at age seventy-one, rules have changed.
Where did she go? George hopes she’ll be back. There’s no one else to motivate him. He picks up the Chronicle and laments it no longer has the legendary green sports sheet. In other sections his favorite columnists Herb Caen and Charles McCabe are dead and, far as George can see, so’s the paper. He probably couldn’t concentrate this morning anyway. He sees the young lady on every page and, eventually, feels her coming again. As she passes he tosses his newspaper onto the adjacent seat and says, “Going to Hollywood?”
“Yes,” she says.
“I bet you’ve already got a movie role.”
“Someday, I hope, but right now I’m only lined up to be a waitress in Santa Monica.”
“You just need to meet the right agent to get a screen test and some small roles. Then you’ll take off.”
“Are you an agent?”
“No, but I know plenty of them.”
She smiles and asks, “Okay if I sit here, sir? I’m Jennifer.”
“Sure. Call me George.”
“So many beautiful women are trying to get into movies. It’s intimidating.”
“They don’t have your special something, the quality that makes a star. Let’s call it charisma.”
“You think so?”
“I was always the lead in high school and college plays.”
“A great training ground. Have you done any professional stage work?”
“Not yet, I’m only twenty-three.”
“You need to get started. Here, let me make some calls.”
George rises gracefully as he can, eases by her knees, and walks to the snack bar where he pulls out his cell phone. In a little while he returns and says, “Saturdays most agents aren’t picking up, but I’ll show you around.”
“Okay, I’ll let my friend know I’ve got a ride.”
At the station in L.A. a black limousine awaits and George opens the door and Jennifer smiles. He tells the driver to cruise Sunset Boulevard and into the hills of Hollywood and Bel Air. During the drive George points to mansions of movie legends dead and alive.
“I know Spielberg, a great guy, down to earth,” he says. “I’ll give him a call Monday. Harvey Weinstein, too. These guys can get you parts immediately. Nothing big to start, but good for launching a career.”
“You know Stephen Spielberg?”
“Aren’t many in this town I don’t know.”
“Why’d you move to San Francisco?”
“Same reason Bing Crosby moved up to Burlingame: to get away from the bad parts of Hollywood.”
“What are they?”
“Here, let me explain, and I want you to listening carefully because I’m concerned about you,” George says, tapping the driver’s shoulder and pointing. “I’m taking you to the hottest show biz spot on earth, The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Everyone hangs out there.”
“I’ve heard of it. They serve food, too, don’t they? I’m starved.”
“They’ve got great food and drinks as well as the best people. That’s where I always stay when visiting L.A.”