This is a scene I wrote this morning from an idea I frankly cribbed from Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” which I read decades ago and recommend. His conceit was that if Jesus returned today he would be seen as a simpleton. Mine is what if Lucifer rather than God was on the creative end of such a figure? Wouldn’t he rather quickly find his way to Hollywood? I’m about 40k into this.
Molly’s experience choosing faces for TV commericials gives her sound footing for evaluating the men and women who drop by the booth at the plush Polo Lounge. They are young and fit upward-strivers or middle-aged men who watch their weight and have had light plastic surgery. These are in mid-career and their hyper-alert manner tells her they are aware of the double threat from the kingpins that loom above and the sharks climbing the ladder from below. Whatever the age, their manner varies from sham geniality to hard smiles. The women have a bright, brittle charm, but she sees through them. Peel away the tinsel in Hollywood, she reminds herself, and you find more tinsel. The woman have priced to the penny her new Seafarer flared velvet pants and mauve silk Gucci blouse and pitch a gushy welcome-to-Hollywood-sisterhood line, but she doesn’t buy it for a minute.
They come in relays of two and three, sliding across the pale leather banquette during her aperitif and appetizer of lightly smoked Hawaiian amberjack, the almond-crusted Dover Sole with buttered New Potatoes and winter truffles, and the spiced chocolate Gateau. At some signal from Lazarus, one group finishes drinks or leave them untouched and is replaced by another. All are senior executives of one sort or another, a production head, a chief of marketing and another of finance, lawyers, people savvy about talent and deals. It is clear Lazarus is exposing the studio’s entire leadership team to Rex. And it is just as clear that he blows them away. They see in him easily a decade or two of summer tentpole action-thrillers that will gross billions globally as well as starring in small prestige films that will rake in Oscars and advance the studio to the front rank of cinematic standing. These box office savants can tell this just by looking at him sitting there toying with his food. Rex has no awe for the powerful people on the other side of the table. At a meeting like this he should show at least a little tension over the enormous stakes on the table, instead he is so laid back he even politely stifles a yawn at one point. They are ravished by the smiles he allots them and lean forward to catch his humdrum remarks about sports, the news, or a joke from the Jimmy Fallon Show; they rear back like they have received pearls from Oscar Wilde. This is far from ordinary Hollywood synchophancy, Molly realizes. This is as genuine as it gets here.
(Looking over the above in the evening, I thought it was kind of prosy. But the previous chapter had a lot of movement and dialogue and I wanted to set the stage for the Hollywood action…