What Ever Happened to Baby June?
We all make mistakes in life - leaving the womb,
getting married that third time, buying a Yugo - but the important thing
is to learn from them. I think it was Carlos Santana who said that those
who will not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I guess that's
why he didn't play Woodstock II.
Anyway, there's another saying that goes: Fool me once shame on me; fool me twice shame on you.
An addendum: Fool me thirty-seven times and I must be Marty Burns.
The first time I ever appeared on a talk show to
do one of those "former child star" reunions was in 1979. It was a local
L.A. morning affair with two sickly-sweet, Barbie & Ken hosts who went
all cobra and mongoose the second the On-Air light flicked off. Fortunately,
I was drinking heavily at the time and wasn't aware of just how badly I
embarrassed myself. I still had an agent then, though he dropped me the
day the show went out. I can remember even now the phone call in which
he dismissed me: "You'll never not work in this town again," he said. I
could hear them all laughing in the office behind him. I can see the joke.
That show proved to be my last public gig for years. At least until 1985 when I got a call to do another reunion gab-fest, this one on cable: "Child Stars, Adult Ruins." Who could say no to that?
I did okay that go-round - it's amazing what a simple switch from Jack Daniels to Coors can do for your personality - and subsequently got invited to appear on a series of copycat programs all around the country. What the hell? I was barely scraping out a living as a PI and suddenly found myself flown hither and yon for free, put up like the star I once was in nice hotels with room service, and handed a tidy little cheque besides. And no agent to swipe fifteen percent. Ha! I'd show them who'd never not work again.
The most interesting thing about doing those shows - not counting the fact that there is a major Chicago hotel which allows you to charge hookers to room service if you know who to ask - was seeing all the other ex-child actors again. Of course, I knew quite a few of them from my own fifteen minutes in the sixties. Hollywood was (and is) a shockingly small and insular town, and even in those glory days of family sitcoms, there just weren't that many of us around. Lots of the kids went to the same studio "schools", and shared tutors and acting coaches and drug dealers. Nothing much had changed from the days when they pumped Judy Garland full of amphetamines to float her over the rainbow.
Most of the former kiddy stars had come to depressing, though not entirely tragic ends. Of course, the seriously tragic ones were already dead and that never looks good under the hot lights. Not to mention the smell. On every show where they'd gather five or six of us, there was always one guy (in a wooly sweater) who'd found Christ and was on a mission to help all us other lost souls - but then that's the case just about everywhere. And there was always one sad bastard still plugging away at it, doing Shakespeare-in-the-round in a Kiwanis Lodge-cum-dinner theatre in Bakersfield or developing a one-man show for off-off-off-off-off-Broadway (i.e., Bakersfield). Most of the others were just getting on getting on, and like me, were in it strictly for the room service.
And a desperate, teasing taste of what once had been.
So why, with a moderately successful series on Fox, a nice house on the beach at Hermosa, two shiny and very fast luxury automobiles tucked in the garage, an honest-to-goodness Japanese gardener attending to my Zen, and all the room service (not to mention the odd hooker) I could possibly want, would I agree to appear on a child celebrity reunion TV show?
If she was still alive -- goddamn it - you'd have to ask Baby June.
You remember her, don't you? June Alice Harvey in
the credits, but always better known as Baby June. The Macaulay Culkin
of her day. (Macaulay who? you ask; well, don't be such a wise-ass.) She
was adorable: America's TV sweetheart in 1961 according to TV Guide.
(And who better to know such things?) Everyone loved her in No Reservations,
for my money the best sitcom western ever made. (With all due respect to
Larry Storch.) June was big for a while, though she was very little
at the time. I thought my life was a woeful free-fall down the misery mineshaft
because I peaked at age fifteen. How must June have felt to have started
that long slide down from the summit at the age of four?
Curiously, I'd never met her during my child star days, but perhaps that made her all the more intriguing to me. I knew people who knew her (frankly, the Kevin Bacon game should have been the Marty Burns game; there's rarely more than two degrees of separation between me and anyone, fat lot of good it's done me), and I heard lots of amazing stories about her -- June was also, briefly, the alcohol-period Drew Barrymore of her day - but somehow our star-crossed paths never actually crossed. Which was a shame because for all the tail I was getting in those days, I had a crush on her that could have smashed diamonds to paste.
Which is, I suppose, how my troubles began.
Kendall, my agent and the best person I know (when
have you ever heard those words spoken in the same sentence), mentioned
the offer to appear on the kiddy-star show as an afterthought. She was
calling to tell me I hadn't landed the part in the new Farrelly Brothers
"Too dumb even for them?" I joked, chuckling.
I stopped laughing when the only response was silence and a nervously cleared throat.
"So anything else available for the hiatus?" I asked.
"Nothing at the moment. Oh, ABC called to ask if you'd do one of those former child-star thingees. A prime-time special. I told them you wouldn't be interested."
"Let 'em get Danny Bonaduce. Again."
"Exactly," Kendall said. "The last thing you need is to go on and trade de-tox tales with Baby June."
"June Harvey's going to be there?"
"Yeah, I think that's what they told me."
She recited the list. Don't worry, you either won't remember them or never heard of them. Though you'd recognize the Walton kid. There's always a Walton kid on these shows.
"You're not interested, are you?" Kendall asked. "Please tell me you're not."
"I don't know," I said, my lifelong crush on Baby June eviscerating my common sense. "It might be sort of fun. I haven't seen some of those kids in ages."
"Have you wanted to see them?"
I avoided the question. In my head I was seeing the pictorial June had done for Penthouse a few years back. Airbrush or no, she'd looked pretty damn good. "It is in prime-time," I said. "Go ahead and book it."
Kendall tried to talk me out of it. She's not only the best person I know, she's pretty smart, too. But I wouldn't have it. Why she continues to have me is a mystery. God knows, no one else would. But she booked the appearance.
And son-of-a-gun, the show was perfectly painless. Given my newfound return to celebrity, I was treated like a king. That nice Diane Sawyer asked me a few softball questions, they showed some only mildly-embarrassing clips from my oeuvre (I didn't even know I had an oeuvre until I read it in Psychotronic), and I hugged and air-kissed and smiled benevolently at the other ex-child stars who now lived in ignominy or worked in Bakersfield (or vice-versa). Though I wasn't too thrilled when the Christian guy in the wooly sweater pinched my butt during our hug.
Most of all, I finally, finally got to meet Baby June. Whose butt I didn't pinch (at least, not on air), but who looked amazingly good - airbrush good - and who was deeply flattered by my invitation to go out for a drink.
Who was a jollity and a delight and a warm evening breeze over dinner and cocktails. Who was witty and bright and sexy as hell, not just for a forty-something woman, but for any woman. Who had skin that tasted of rose water and lips as soft as ripe mango flesh.
Who slept with me and fulfilled a decades-old fantasy leaving not so much as a hint of disappointment or shattered illusion.
And who, it seemed, was truly, deeply, deathly batshit crazy.
* * *
The phone rang at seven-thirty, two mornings after
I'd woken up next to Baby June. Normally that wouldn't bother me, because
I rarely answer the phone, and certainly not at that time of day. But the
machine picked that moment to die and the ringer kept ringing and so, very
much getting up on the wrong side of the bed, I grizzled an Edward G. Robinson-like
"nyeah" into the receiver.
"This is Paula Jones," a soft voice told me.
"Really?" I said. Holy Toledo! Was she out to sue me now that she was through with President Clinton? What the hell was my lawyer's name, anyway?
"Not that Paula Jones," she said. Phew! Close one. "I'm June Taylor's sister."
I puzzled over that for a little while - didn't June Taylor lead the dance troupe on the old Jackie Gleason show? - before remembering that Baby June had taken to using her first husband's surname. It was a bit silly, but even having had sex with her, I still thought of her simply as "Baby June".
"Oh, right," I said, a little confused. "Hey there."
"What are you doing with my sister?"
I flashed on a strenuous sexual position that Baby June had taught me. I still had a crick in my neck and my left pinky was out of joint, but I suspected that Sis didn't want to know about that.
"Ummm. Nothing," I told her. Close-to-the-vest Burns, they call me.
"Bullshit. You're fucking with her head."
In a technical, oral sex sense that was true. Again, it didn't seem the kind of thing to discuss with a girl's sister.
"Listen, Paula is it? I haven't got the faintest idea what you're talking about. I went out with your sister the other night and had a very nice time. We...did things that adults sometimes do. Things that this adult could frankly do with doing more of, but that's another long and sad story. I bought Ba...I bought June breakfast because I tend toward knight-errantry, if only in the legend of my own mind, and I put her in a cab. I'll tell you, though I can't imagine how it's any of your business, that she made me feel like a man, and that's no small accomplishment. I hope I made her feel pretty good, too. We said 'see ya' the way you do, and that's honest-to-goodness all I know. I've not spoken to her since."
A long silence ensued down the line. Then: "Shit, shit, shit."
"You all right?"
"Listen: June is...she has a...goddammit, this is hard. You haven't heard from her this morning, have you?"
"No. You just woke me up."
"Is there any chance that I could meet you? Sometime today maybe?"
I had planned a vigorous workout on my PlayStation, but I reckoned I could put it off. My thumbs were pretty buff already. "Okey-doke," I told her.
"Do you know Cooper's on Rose in Venice?"
"I'll find it."
"Noon?" she asked.
"Do not forsake me oh my darling."
"Nothing. I'll see you there."
"And Mr. Burns: if June calls or stops by your home, could you give me a call?
I took the number and said I would, though she wouldn't explain why. But I found I wasn't looking forward to lunch.
* * *
Cooper's was a typical Venice eatery with pretensions
toward Santa Monica. The place seemed to cater more toward locals than
tourists, which is always a plus, though the decor struck me as a little
too neo-Melrose, if you know what I mean. If you don't, you haven't missed
A handsome, thirty-odd woman in a dark green trouser suit waggled a finger at me as I glanced around the room. I introduced myself, shook her hand and sat down across from her. A screwdriver - I could smell the vodka - sat half-drunk in front of her. I glanced at my watch, saw I wasn't particularly late.
"Been that kind of day," Paula Jones said, noting my glance. She took a healthy slug from her drink. "Already."
I ordered an Anchor Steam from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer clone waitress and took a good look at Paula. She bore no resemblance to her sister. Where Baby June was all fleshy curves and softness, Paula was hard angles and straight lines. Her skin was darker than June's - she had a Mediterranean cast about her - and her brown hair was cut in a short, not entirely flattering bob. Her lipstick was on crooked, she had a zit on her chin and the beginnings of what could well turn into steamer trunks under her eyes. But there was something about her that I took an instant liking to, the way you sometimes and inexplicably do. Pheromones. Vibrations. Ley lines.
"So. You're June's sister." I'd practised saying her name without the "Baby" the whole drive over.
Paula picked up her glass and drained it. "For my sins," she sighed.
"I don't understand."
She nodded. "Marty. My sister is a troubled woman."
"Huh! If she takes a number she can get her own sitcom."
Paula's features grew tight. "You didn't tell her that did you?"
"Tell her what? That was a joke. Obviously not a very good one."
"It's just that I have a strained sense of humour these days. Living with June will do that to you."
"You two live together?"
"Somebody has to look after her. And there is nobody else."
"Look after her. As in..."
"As in look after her. Watch out for her, be responsible for her. Make sure that she doesn't hurt herself or anyone else."
I felt something prickly on the back of my neck. My hair rising on end.
"Why do you have to look after her?" I asked.
Paula signalled to Buffy for another drink. I'd barely touched my beer, found I wasn't at all hungry when the waitress asked if we wanted to order food.
"June has some very serious psychological problems. They're...longstanding. She's not exactly a multiple personality..."
"What?" I gagged.
"...but she tends toward that condition. She's seen a lot of doctors for a lot of years and takes an awful lot of medication, but the results have been limited."
"I know. June has made a number of suicide attempts over the years, and she's come very close once or twice. She almost killed me once, and has...had other conflicts, often violent, with people she's become involved with. Sometimes those involvements are entirely in her head."
Of course: what else would you expect of Marty Burns' dream girl.
"She seemed perfectly okay the other night. I mean...she was lovely. We had a great time. She told me she was in training to become a therapist, that she thought she'd finally found her niche in life."
"I know. She can be lovely," Paula said. "She has her good days, when the June I know and love is there and whole. But she has bad days, too, and she always pays for the good days with a whole slew of bad ones. The therapist fantasy is just some kind of transference thing. At least that's how I understand what they told me. We thought, hoped, she'd finally gotten past that. It's not a good sign if she's talking about it again. It means she's slipping back into delusion."
"How did you even know about me? I mean, about me and Baby...me and June."
Paula narrowed her eyes at me when I slipped on the name, but let it pass. She signalled for another drink, though I hadn't even seen her down the second one.
"It's all she's been talking about. Marty this and Marty that. How you're going to get her back into the business, give her a part on your show."
"I know. The thing is, she was very calm about it. So much her normal self, that at first I thought it might even be true. I mean, I knew you did that child star thing together and I thought, who knows, maybe you did say something to her about acting. Even if it was just, you know, a line."
"The subject never even came up."
"I realize that now. I guess I knew it when she started to get manic about it. By last night she was talking about having her own show and started to talk about herself as...Baby June again. That's when I knew I had real trouble. This morning she was gone when I woke up. I keep track of her medication and she hasn't taken any for two days."
"Is that bad?"
"Very bad. Bordering on dangerous."
"Paula, I've got to ask you: if June is in such bad shape, how could you have let her go on that show? What were you thinking?"
"It was her psychiatrist's idea. June had been making good progress recently. She's been steady on her meds and pretty even personality-wise for a while. She has a new doctor and they've been working through a lot of her problems. The doctor's convinced that it all stems from her early celebrity, her acting days as a little girl. He told me that June had started to come to terms with what happened to her, the way her childhood was...stolen, I think is how he puts it. And the way she's been trying to live up to it, to her fame, ever since. He sees what happened to her as a kind of abuse."
"I understand completely."
"I can believe you do. That's why we thought her appearance on the show might be good for her, that seeing the other child stars and how they'd coped might serve as an exemplar to her. Might even help her to cope a little better herself. Obviously he...we were wrong."
"Tally another mark in Hollywood's column," I muttered.
"Nothing. Some of us just keep score. So what do you want me to do?"
"Please just keep away from her. If she calls, don't talk to her. If she comes to your door, do not let her in. But call me if she turns up or gets in touch with you. I'll deal with her as best I can from there. I don't suppose she left you with a phone number or some way to get in touch with her."
"No, she didn't."
"Damn. I'm sure she has a hidey-hole somewhere, but I don't know where it is."
"There's nothing else I can do? I mean, I feel really guilty now. For the other night. We...Christ, I feel like I took advantage or abused her myself or something."
"You couldn't know. And she is a grown woman."
I nodded, feeling a little better. Until Paula added four little words.
"Most of the time," she said.
I walked along the beach at Venice for a while, which
usually amuses, but after leaving Paula at the restaurant (three more screwdrivers
later) I was just upset. I replayed my evening with Baby June, but couldn't
find a hint of craziness in her behaviour on or after the taping of the
show. Other than the fact that she slept with me, of course. She'd been
bubbly and witty and just plain fun. We'd barely even talked about The
Business which, even without sex, pretty well constitutes a dream date
in this town. Not even a sausage sandwich at Jodi Maroni's to make up for
the lunch I didn't eat with Paula could cheer me up. It wasn't that I had
any particular concern for my own safety or well-being - I really am a
big boy and can take care of myself better than appearances suggest - but
I couldn't believe that someone as messed up as June could possibly fool
me so completely.
But then again, maybe only someone as messed up as June was could be so convincing.
Back at home, I paced around. I tried sitting out on the beach for a while, but I just kept glancing over my shoulder, expecting Baby June to be there waving an axe or boiling a bunny or something. I went back inside, locked the door and turned on the PlayStation. I'd barely started slaughtering polygon zombies when the phone rang. Of course, I hadn't had a chance to buy a new machine, so I either had to answer it or just let it ring. My inclination was to ignore it, but then I thought it might be Paula with some news, so I picked it up.
I could tell the line was open, but no one said anything on the other end. I said "hello" a few times without reply. I slammed the phone down.
It started ringing again almost immediately.
It's amazing how unsettling the simple, unending ring of a telephone can be. When it finally stopped, after what must have been a hundred rings, I felt a huge shudder of relief pass through me. It didn't last, because ten seconds later the phone started ringing again.
I yanked the cord out of the wall, grabbed my keys and headed for the hills.
Actually, I only drove as far as Playa Del Rey. There's a little joint just off the beach where I sometimes like to hang out. It looks like a dive - okay, it is a dive - but the burgers are big fat and juicy, and the beers are cold, wet and come in large pitchers. The bartender knows who I am - he asked me about the show once - but he never makes a fuss, and there's always a ballgame on the projection TV. They even put out bowls of Bavarian pretzels, so what more could you want?
I hadn't planned to make an evening of it, but I managed to manufacture excuses not to go home. I had a burger and fries for my dinner, but then had to stay till ten because it was a Thursday and that meant two-for-one chicken strips for one hour only. I certainly should have gone when the first pitcher of beer was empty, but the Dodgers and Pirates went to extra innings, and gee, is there anything more exciting than watching Pittsburgh baseball? (That's a rhetorical question.)
It was getting on one o'clock by the time I cruised slowly back down to Hermosa. I might just as well have sped as fast as my Lexus could take me. Two police cars, cherry-tops a whirling, were parked in front of my house. A small crowd of neighbours had gathered to watch, a couple of kids in pyjamas running about and giggling as if it was Halloween night.
I could see right away that my big living room window had been smashed. As I identified myself to one of the uniforms, I saw that an upstairs bedroom window was broken as well. The cop led me through my own front door, past two very bored colleagues scribbling down reports, and into my living room. Shards of glass littered the carpet and a few knick-knacks had been smashed up, but it didn't look as bad as I expected.
Then I caught a whiff.
A plainclothes detective -- plain my foot; he was wearing Armani -- who'd been sitting in my La-Z-Boy stood up and nodded at me as I made a face.
"Yeah," he said. "I'm afraid they shat on your coffee table."
I glanced over and sure enough, two hearty brown turds formed a swirl atop my cable guide. I thought I could detect traces of corn in the faeces, but I couldn't bear to look close enough to be sure.
"Could be worse," the cop said. "You can toss the magazine. If they'd done it on the carpet, it'd be a real bitch."
"I'm always thankful for small favours."
"That's the spirit. I'm Detective Carl Khan, I'm with CAD."
"Celebrity Affairs Division."
"Of course. To protect and serve caviar."
"Something like that," Khan said, smiling. I like a cop who can take a joke. "The old guy next door called in the disturbance. Didn't see the break-in, but he saw someone running out and noticed the busted windows."
"He doesn't see too well."
"Was it a woman?"
"Should it have been?"
"I don't know."
"Fellow couldn't be sure. I guess that's old age for you. Though my pop's looking at eighty and he gets more action than I do. So go figure. Your other neighbours didn't see or hear a thing. So you think it was a woman."
"I'm not sure. I lead a complicated life," I said.
"That's why CAD exists. Anything in particular you want to tell me about?"
I considered the matter for a minute. It had to be Baby June - the coincidence was too much for any other explanation - but I hated to nark her. If she was as disturbed as Paula had suggested, the last thing she needed was police trouble. LA cops aren't famous for their sensitivity. And I didn't actually know that it was June, so...
"I don't think so," I said. Khan pursed his lips, didn't say a word. "I might have something for you tomorrow."
"It's your coffee table, friend."
"I know. And I don't generally jack cops around. But like I say, it's...complicated."
"Hokay. Here's my card if you want to reach me. Caviar on demand." He winked at me and made for the door.
"Hey," I called after him, "how did you know I lived here, anyway? A celebrity, I mean."
Khan looked at the uniforms, then back at me. "We're LAPD. We know where everyone lives."
The other cops all laughed. I smiled along, but didn't think it so funny.
I covered up the broken windows with some old wood
panelling that I found in the shed. I vacuumed up the glass and broken
items and tossed the cable guide and its contents. There's never anything
good on anyway. I sprayed a can's worth of air freshener all around the
house, but "Tropical Rainforest" isn't actually all that much more appealing
than fresh turd.
As I was clearing up the mess, I came across a folded sheet of notepaper tucked behind one of the sofa cushions. It didn't look at all familiar, and when I unfolded it I saw why.
It was a note from June, thanking me for our night together, with a phone number written inside a very girlishly drawn heart. I half-expected the paper to burst into flames in my hands. I thought about dialling the number, then about calling Paula and giving it to her. But it was well after two and I figured either way it should wait until morning. I was certain that I wouldn't be able to sleep, but wouldn't you know I dozed off on the sofa, the note clutched in my hand, the dullness of Pirate baseball having finally achieved its delayed effect.
It must have been the cops who plugged the phone back in, because I know I didn't do it. I nearly jumped through the roof when it started to ring. It was still dark outside, but I'd left the lights on. I glanced at the clock on the VCR and saw that it was 3:48. I let the phone ring and ring, afraid to even pull the cord out of the wall again. At 3:50 Sony standard time, I gathered my courage, gritted my teeth and picked up the receiver. I didn't say anything though.
"Marty?" a voice tentatively inquired. "Are you there? It's Paula Jones."
"Paula," I practically yelled. "Are you all right. Where are you?"
"It's June. She left a note saying she was going to see you. I only just found it. I was...is everything okay there? Have you seen her?"
I gave her a brief recap of what I'd found when I got home and asked her if she thought June was capable of such a thing.
"Oh, Marty, I'm so sorry. It had to be her. She...I'm afraid she's really lost it again. I'm just at my wit's end."
It was only then that I realized I was still clutching the note from Baby June with the phone number on it. I gave the number to Paula.
"Do you want me to call?" I asked. "Or to come over? Do you need help?"
"No, don't do that. I'm going to try and reach her doctor right now and ask what's best to do. Tell him what she did to you. I'll handle it from here, Marty. I've been dealing with June for a very long time now. But thank you, Marty. Thank you for what you've done for us."
I couldn't sleep again after hanging up. I was worried for Baby June and for Paula. I hoped she wouldn't do anything foolish, take any unnecessary chances with her sister. I thought, not for the first time, that Paula was someone I could really get along with.
I am not merely an ass. I am the perfect ass.
I'd been meandering around the house for hours, thinking about June and Paula. The sun had risen, but the marine layer was still thick overhead. Some days it doesn't burn off till eight or nine along the coast. As I wandered into the den, because I was sick of staring at the living room walls, I happened to spot my copy of Yeovil's Utterly Illustrated Encyclopedia of TV Trivia. I don't know who Mr. Yeovil is, but he must be some kind of lunatic to have devoted his life to the project of gathering the information contained in that fat book. A wonderful lunatic, but a lunatic nonetheless. Because I hadn't looked at it before, I thumbed through to the entry for Baby June. It was standard enough stuff, mostly about her salad days on No Reservations, but I started to shake when I read the last couple of lines:
Baby June's career was already on the wane when she gave up acting for good. The motivating event, as she recounted in her self-published autobiography, Oh Sister, Where Art Thou (Airgedlámb Books), was the tragic death of her younger sister Paula in a swimming accident at the age of three.
I mis-dialled Carl Khan's number three times, before
I was able to get through and tell him the story.
The detectives who arrived with Khan weren't nearly
so well-dressed, nor did they have much of a sense of humour. Of course,
they were homicide boys and that's the image most of them are keen on.
Khan tried to be sympathetic, I think it must be part of the job description
for CAD, but clearly he felt that I should have told him everything the
night before. I can't blame him a bit.
Paula Jones - that really was her name, though the Paula bit was changed through a court petition - had been trailing, stalking and harassing June for two years. She'd been obsessed with her since she was a kid. Paula had done a brief stint in jail and there was an injunction prohibiting her from approaching within two hundred yards of June. So there was that. June had an unlisted phone number and had just moved house for the seventh time in fifteen months to escape the crazy lady. Paula was able to use the phone number I gave her - that June had thoughtfully left for me - to track June down again. It had certainly been Paula who'd broken into my house and taken the dump on my coffee table, made the harassing phone calls. She used me like a cheap condom.
The homicide dicks were rather insistent about regaling me with every detail of what Paula had done to Baby June. They weren't supposed to, I'm sure, but one of them showed me a Polaroid of the crime scene.
I didn't even know they sold cordless jigsaws.
Paula had a gun, too, but she spared Baby June that, saving the bullet for herself. The gunshot alerted the neighbours. Both women were dead when the cops broke down the door.
The homicide cops threatened me with various charges they could file, but it was all bluster and in the end Khan shooed them away. I don't think I'd like his job at all.
"From what I hear, she was a pretty together lady," Khan said to me when we were alone. "She'd endured a lot of tough times, but had put her past behind her. It was only Jones that was holding her back and June was even pretty sympathetic to the psycho. She was training to be some kind of counsellor or something. That's what I understand."
I found I could barely speak. I wished I didn't have to breathe. Khan headed for the door.
"How's the coffee table?" he asked before he stepped outside.
"Clean as a whistle," I told him.
"How's the conscience?"
"Stinks of shit," I croaked.
Khan nodded and started walking. "Just another day in CAD," he said.
I barely moved for hours. I just sat on the couch, sick to my stomach, holding my head. The phone rang a few times and I ignored it. Six rings each time. No problem.
I thought and thought about what had happened. How I could have so misjudged the situation. Paula I could almost rationalize: she was a psychopath, experienced at fooling people, at living a lie and something and someone that she absolutely was not. There's no defence against a true psychopath. I've been in The Business long enough to know.
But Baby June was another matter. She'd been so lovely on our night together that I wondered how I could so readily have believed everything that Paula told me about her. The more I considered it, the more I decided that it was the very fact of who she was, an ex-child star, a Hollywood victim (or so I thought) like myself, that I was able to believe just about anything. And everything.
This town will do that to you.
I tried to get some sleep, to close my eyes. But every time I shut them I saw that picture the cops showed me of what had happened to poor Baby June.
At three o'clock, I finally picked up the ringing telephone. It was my agent Kendall. She knew the whole story (she always does) and was worried sick. She kept insisting that it wasn't my fault, that it could have happened to anyone.
"There's one other thing," Kendall told me, fumbling her words. She's the most straightforward person I know, never missing a beat when she talks. She wasn't fazed by the Baby June incident, so what could possibly upset her?
"Yeah," I said.
"I got a call from Oprah's people."
"Say it, Kendall. I can't go any lower than where I am right now."
"It's just...they're putting together a special on former child stars. They want you."
I laughed. I laughed so hard I cried.
"You told them what to do, right? Where to go? Which orifice in which to insert it and with how many pounds of pressure?"
"You don't say no to Oprah."
"Marty, you'd be a marked man. You can't just..."
"Tell her to go eat Jerry Springer," I said, and slammed down the phone.
Marked man, my ass. I'm not afraid of Oprah.
I'm only afraid to close my eyes.