Friday, January 12, 2007

The Liquid Life (installment nine)


Something had to be done for money. Work was beyond the bounds of what Elendele considered acceptable behavior, convinced as she was that the planet’s every evil could somehow be traced to it. So they decided on acting.

It was no big surprise really. Elendele already had done some studying, small theater, and short films. So she gave Saturnina lessons herself and the flounce thing cozied right up to the craft. People thought they were pretty good. Who wasn't going to like them?

“Our secret is that we don’t put too much into it,” Elendele often explained after not having really been asked.

Gina Night came over and gave the girls singing lessons. Then she would do cartwheels with her voice, bound across the Alps of Sound, as Elendele opened the window in a payback to the Mexicans next door for their rude music habits.

“Some culture for the barbarians Gina, please,” she would smile at her fifth favorite friend, four back of Saturnina.

If my mom could see me with my delectable collection of step-sisters. What liberty might grow out of that rupture! Revelations of activities that had confirmed for me a maxim I still hold to regarding actresses and the amount of the time they spend on their backs with all manner of guests.

So the girls started doing auditions for commercials, but nothing much worked out.

When they needed a little bit of money, they would show-up at look-sees for models and get the editorial work. They were good at that. They did their twin thing, wearing the same white Chanel suit and bare feet, in a hat-tipping to their favorite designing step-sisters in Dallas, the sassy Barboglios.

But editorial wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted to be moving images. I often suggested they weren’t doing well in the film and TV auditions because they were going to the wrong ones.

“What you two need is a good agent,” I kept telling them, so we could talk about something else.

Elendele said they should just be patient and they would learn, but one night she got up and went and cried in the bathroom, and we could hear it. Saturn stopped me from going to see what was wrong.

“She had a tough day,” Saturnina explained. “A producer grabbed her sides right in the middle of the audition…”

“Th….that’s sexual harassment,” I went green.

“Sides, silly,” she whispered me, “sides is actress-talk for script. He grabbed them and told her the part didn’t call for a shango.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means she didn’t get the job.”


They had just started getting call-backs for auditions and inquiries from personal managers and agents and others who saw profit in their talents, when the Writers Union called a strike.

It was said by Elendele to be an act of bad economics and pure defiance. It nearly
stopped the city and it fogged the air with strange, if slow, joys. Business columns were forced to discuss the subtleties of plot and their profound shock at the enduring importance of the written word – at how well it had withstood the onslaught of duplication.

Elendele and Saturnina had stopped going to auditions because there weren’t any. The girls typed, did gardening on the roof, and passed little packages at the door to stay alive, because there was no show business.

The studios were shut down. Typists could find no scripts to type. Equipment renters were forced to give breaks to smaller, poorer, non-union crews and their stuff always came back broken. Caterers found no mouths to feed and producers could find no one to sculpt for them the plaster Paris of their notions. The conversation at gallery openings was laced with arsenic and leeriness and everything in town got tensed and tensed.

Saturn was horrified and didn’t understand why Elendele said that the strike was about her, too.

“Man, why can’t these writers just settle up?” she whined.

Elendele didn’t care that her life was going to hell. She lived for the larger question and gave herself a role in history where she could find it.

“But everyone says that the union got taken over by a bunch of writers who don’t believe in work so much as they do in striking,” Saturnina shuffled.

“Yeah, but most of those are the great writers,” said Elendele, who had involved herself in the dispute personally.

“Elendele, you’re always for the union, even when it’s wrong. You’re always defending the rights of the mediocre to do nothing for money,” charged Saturn in her offensive taking.

“And you, Saturn, have forfeited the revolutionary birthright of our cruel and ambitious family,” Elendele stripped her complete.

As the strike went on, Saturnina was stripped of the family birthright many times, until it was decided in a caucus of Cortez, Trevor, Saturn, and Dominique, Gina
Night, and Elendele’s dealer, that a birthright was something that could only be forfeited once. And then we censured her – party style.

She was flummoxed, backknocked, but quick to regain composure, accept the verdict, and write an unsigned and contrary pamphlet on the toilet paper roll two days later.

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