High on Arrival

I couldn’t have been happier to see Frank’s face in the hotel lobby. That reproachful expression he always wears like I’m his teenage daughter and he just caught me drinking Malibu rum in the basement with my friends—I could have hugged him for it. He reminded me why we were really here—to do work, to find A-list clients with A-list stories to tell. Ian had just made me feel lower than a dog, and I couldn’t control that. But I could control how well I did my job, how much my boss valued me, and there is something incredibly soothing about that.

“Ready?” Frank asked, and I nodded.

Our first stop was a meeting with one of Frank’s old friends, an agent at CAA. The meeting wasn’t until 10 (“LA,” Frank sneered, and I didn’t dare mention how William used to get in closer to 11), and we arrived twenty minutes early.

Finally, we were ushered through a long hallway and into an office less spectacular than I thought it would be, given the level of talent CAA represents and the fact that we were in LA, where the real estate potential far outweighs New York. I mean, our office was nicer than this, and as Peter put it—we’re bleeding money.

Frank is a slight man, barely taller than me. We could totally share jeans if he was into that sort of thing. Frank had briefly mentioned something, a few weeks back, about having to share his Sag Harbor home with his ex-partner, which made me think his ex-partner was a man, but I couldn’t be entirely sure. I had these hippie dippie professors in college, together thirty-three years, with kids and a mortgage, who balked at the institution of marriage and refused to make it official. For the longest time, I’d assumed Professor Chiala was a lesbian, because she was always talking about her partner this, her partner that, until someone clued me in to the fact that her partner was actually Professor Leonard, my English teacher, the sweetest man who teared up whenever he read poetry to the class (oh, Professor Leonard!).

So when Frank hugged Simon, his agent-friend, and Simon asked him, “How’s your kid doing?” I was shocked. I had no idea that Frank was a father. He didn’t exactly have the warm fatherly thing going on unlike my dear Professor Leonard.

“Doing well,” Frank said. “I’ll be seeing him tonight.”

Tonight? Frank’s kid was in LA? His ex-partner, whoever he/she was, must be based out of here.

“This is my assistant, Josie,” Frank said.

I shook Simon’s hand before sitting down.

“So what can I do for you?” Simon asked, stretching his arms wide and yawning. “Sorry,” he said. “Late night. Had the GQ Men of the Year party last night for Matthew.” He yawned again.

I didn’t think much of that comment until Frank mentioned that he couldn’t wait to see Dallas Buyers Club. Oh, Matthew. McConaughey. I nodded my head nonchalantly. It’s not cool to look impressed but goddamnit, I was impressed.

“Well, we’re reinvigorating the imprint,” Frank said. “Focusing on big names who have big stories to tell. We’re strictly going to publish celebrity memoirs, and we want the next Open or Growing Up Brady.” He held his hands out. “Or, of course, High on Arrival.”

Simon laughed. “Everyone wants to find the next High on Arrival. But sorry, I don’t rep any actresses who have had sex with their famous fathers.”

“That’s a shame,” Frank said, and they laughed. I was starting to feel a little gross. I’d read that Mackenzie Phillips memoir—hadn’t she claimed she was raped by her father? Not really something I’m down with joking about, with two privileged old white dudes nonetheless, but I kept my mouth shut. The perils of being a lowly assistant.

“Here’s the thing,” Simon said, “you approach any celebrity, and it’s, ‘Oh yeah, I could write a book. I have an interesting story to tell’. They’re famous, they’re surrounded by a bunch of yes people, and I’m certainly one of them, and they think every word out of their mouths is so fuckin’ brilliant, when half the time I could take a nap using my fifty dollar filet as a pillow.”

I laughed, and Simon and Frank both looked at me. “Sorry,” I mumbled. “It’s just, I think you’re so right. So it’s our job to actually find the people who have a good story to tell.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Simon said, “I’ll put out an email to see if anyone on staff reps someone who even has the time to write a book. We’ll start there.”

“None of your clients have any interest?” Frank asked.

“They’re all tied up,” Simon said, already typing up the email. “Film schedules and whatnot.”

This was the reason why William shied away from A-lister memoirs. The odds of finding an interesting celebrity, one who would even compel a reader to pick up a book with his picture on the cover, and then keep the reader interested with his story, well, they weren’t that good. And you had to pay these people out the wahzoo to even get them to do it, and it needed an intense re-write when all was said and done because most actors can’t write for shit. It was a tedious process that may or may not result in a big return. William’s idea was to go to the people who were desperate for their fifteen minutes—they would do anything, and for not a lot, and those little lifestyle advice books? Or funny stocking stuffer books like Go the Fuck to Sleep? They did surprisingly well. Frank’s mission was admirable, and I would love to find the next Mackenzie Phillips bombshell confessional, but it’s not going to be easy.

Frank thanked Simon for his time and we collected our things to go. Once we were in the car, I was dying to ask Frank about his kid but I glanced over and saw the expression on his face, even tighter than usual if that was possible, and thought better of it.

The book reading was held at The Last Bookstore in LA, this cool indie book shop. The author was a former rock star, now in his forties, reading an especially moving passage about his battle with heroin. There was a huge turnout, and the book was good. It made me want to make Frank’s vision come to life. Because if I could be responsible for a book like that hitting the shelves, I’d be pretty proud of myself.

After the reading, Frank and I made our way up to the front to speak to the author and his management team. After chatting for a few minutes, I heard someone call my name. It was Ian.

“Oh my God,” I muttered under my breath.

“Friend of yours?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, excuse me,” I said.

Ian had texted me a few times that day, apologizing profusely, but I hadn’t responded. I had told him about the reading and where it was at dinner the night before— I’d asked him if he’d ever been to The Last Bookstore and he said it was a pretty cool place.

I made my way over to him. “What are you doing here?” I hissed.

“You weren’t responding to my texts,” he said. “Please, just give me one minute to explain. One minute, and I’ll leave you alone.”

I glanced over my shoulder. Frank was hugging some guy practically two times his size. “One minute.”

“I haven’t updated that thing in almost two years,” Ian said. “I stopped, because I realized how gross it was.”

“But when you wrote that thing about me”—

“I know,” Ian said. “This is stupid and so embarrassing to admit, but I was excited. I wrote it the way you would write it in a diary. Like, yeah! Going to happen.”

“Even if that’s true,” I said, “You, like, hunted down our classmates.”

Ian shook his head vehemently. “It wasn’t like that, I swear. It started with Nicole. We just happened to hook up at this Labor Day party at the shore. I was shocked—she was such a bitch to me in high school, I couldn’t believe she was interested in me now. Then I ran into Tara at a party and normally, I never would have made a move, but after Nicole, I thought, well, maybe I have a chance now. And it happened. And then again because we had shore houses in the same town that summer. I never like, made a hit list and checked each girl off one by one, I swear. I didn’t even want to hook up with you last night.”

“You didn’t even want to hook up with me last night?” I repeated, incredulously.

Ian smacked his hand against his forehead. “That came out wrong. What I meant, is that I was nervous. We are friends, well, we were. I should never have said that wasn’t true, because it is. It just felt loaded with you, and I froze.”

“But what you wrote,” I said.

“I know,” Ian said. “It’s disgusting. I don’t have any excuse for that. I was in college, or just out of college, and I was an asshole. Just a total asshole.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Frank again. “I have to go,” I said. “I’m here with my boss.”

“I know. I just…I just couldn’t have you leave without knowing the whole story.”

“I have to go,” I said again.

Ian nodded. He didn’t try to hug me, just hung his head and walked away.

I took a deep breath to center myself and went to find Frank.

“Josie,” Frank said, “meet my son, Nick.”

Nick smiled. He was about my age, and he towered over Frank. He had dark skin and I’m assuming dark hair, but he was wearing a beanie even though it was 65 degrees out. Oh, LA. I detected a slight accent as he said, “Very nice to finally meet you.”

Okay, so Frank’s kid was clearly not his biological kid, unless Frank’s ex-partner was in fact a woman and a 6’3 glamazon from Columbia or something, which I found hard to envision.

“Hi,” I said.

“Nick is getting his MBA at UCLA,” Frank said, proudly.

“Very cool,” I said. “In what?”

“Film and media,” he said. “I graduate this year. Can’t wait to get back to the East coast.”

“Well, we’ll see you for Thanksgiving,” Frank said.

“Can’t wait,” Nick said. “Anyway, I’ve got to get going. Nice meeting you, Josie. Maybe I’ll see you when I’m in New York.” He gave me a smile that despite all the drama with Ian, gave me an uh-oh feeling in my stomach. Even so, wasn’t happening. He’s my boss’ son. That would be career suicide.

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