"Ohmigawd! Are you Becky Page?"
This cry came from my left. Bekka and I both stopped on the pathway of the mall to see where it had come from. The source was a teenage girl with two friends, gawking at the two of us. The one who spoke was wearing widely-applied dark eyeshadow in three shades, what appeared to be black blusher, and the deepest of deep red lipstick. In other words, she looked like Bekka did when she had her Gallery magazine shoot. One of her friends was wearing Doc Martens, a short black pleated skirt, and a see-through grey blouse to show off her red bra. The third girl was wearing a swap meet bootleg t-shirt for Bewitched. They seemed to vibrate with curiosity.
"Yes, I am," replied Bekka. "How may I help you?"
The first girl said, "Um, ohmigawd, um, can I get your autograph?" She dropped her book bag and rummaged through it, pulling out a spiral notebook. Bekka reached in her purse and removed a Sharpie.
"What's your name, sweetie?" asked Bekka.
"Um, I'm Megan. What are you guys doing here?"
Bekka said, "First we're going to hit the food court for burgers. Then we're headed to the arcade to play pinball for a while. Just killing time."
While Bekka wrote the autograph, I asked the third girl, "So, have you seen the movie Bewitched?"
She giggled, turned pink, and said, "Yeah."
"I don't believe you're eighteen. Where did you see it?"
Now all three girls giggled and turned pink. The one in the skirt said, "My parents have a copy. They have a few of Becky's movies. We watch them before they get home from work. 'Bewitched' rules."
"Glad you like it," I said. "I'm the one who wrote it."
They looked surprisingly impressed. "Really? No way."
"Wrote it and produced it," I replied. "To be honest, I'm surprised you like Becky's movies. When I was your age girls would have been grossed out watching hardcore porn."
The pink returned to their cheeks. One said, "Well, y'know, it's just people having sex. That's what it looks like. So are you a friend of Becky's?"
"I'm her husband."
Bekka had finished writing in the notebook and had handed it back to its owner. She gave the three girls an appraising stare, then asked the one in the t-shirt, "Did you buy your shirt at the swap meet?"
The girl replied, "Yeah. How did you know?"
Bekka said, "It's missing the Inana logo. That cheap silkscreen ink is going to start peeling off within four washes. My studio, Inana, makes their own shirts. They're much better quality. Order one."
"How?" the girl asked.
Bekka pulled an Inana Productions business card out of her purse and said, "Here. Mail a check for two bucks to that address and we'll send you a catalog. You can order it out of there. You can't order most of the other things in the catalog though, you're not old enough."
"Cool! Thanks!" The girl shoved the business card in her pocket.
"You have a nice night, girls," said Bekka. "We're going to go have dinner now."
As we walked toward the food court, I said, "Underage and female. That's gotta be a combination you haven't dealt with before in your autograph hounds."
"Correct you are. I'm just hoping the teenage boys hanging around the arcade are nice and naive, so we can play pinball in peace."
We hit the "gourmet" burger place for dinner. I got mine with guacamole and portobello mushrooms, Bekka putting Swiss cheese and scallions on hers. After we ate, we headed into the arcade and sidled up to a pinball machine named Xenon. I dumped quarters onto the glass, dropped two in the slot, and we began playing.
You know that feeling you get when you know someone is staring at you? I got that feeling as I watched Bekka playing her second ball. I looked around to locate the source. I traced it back to a cluster of sailors in civvies --- even out of uniform, they still have a look to them, and you can tell --- standing by the change-making cashier and distributor of Skee-Ball prizes. Probably over from Miramar Air Base. I stared back, making my eyes a little too wide as I did so. They pretended to be looking elsewhere.
Bekka lost her ball, it was my turn. I got in front of the machine and was about to pull the plunger when a voice to my right said, "Excuse me, ma'am?"
We both turned to look. One of the sailors was standing there. He said, "Is your name Becky Page?"
Bekka replied, "Not legally, but that's my stage name. What can I do for you, sailor?" (She'd spotted them too.)
The sailor hadn't thought that far ahead. "Um.... Well, I'm a big fan, we all are at the base.... I know, can I get your autograph?"
Bekka smiled and said, "Sure thing, honey. What did you want me to sign? I've got a marker right here."
Now the poor bastard was really flummoxed. There's not a lot of spare stationary sitting around in arcades, and he didn't want to leave, lest we wander off and leave him un-autographed. He quietly sputtered for a moment, then suddenly unbuttoned his Polo dress shirt down to his navel and pulled it apart. "Sign my chest!" he exclaimed.
Bekka blinked. "Um, this is a permanent marker, but it's not that permanent."
"I can have one of my buddies photograph it when I get back to base! Sign my chest!"
Bekka looked at me and asked, "What do you think?"
I said, "Unless he has some sort of Sharpie fetish, he seems harmless enough." Looking him in the eye, I said, "Sailor, you keep your hands at your side and your eyes forward while she's writing. Am I clear?"
The sailor took me in. "Are you her boyfriend?" he asked.
"I'm her husband. Have been for a couple years now. Go ahead with the autograph, babe."
Bekka said, "Nobody can say I don't provide good fan service. What's your name, honey?"
"It's Mitch, ma'am. Ensign Mitch Garfield," said the sailor.
Bekka gave him a cool look and said, "I'll just stick with Mitch, if that's all right with you."
The sailor did as he was instructed, staring forward and keeping his arms at his side, unmoving, while Bekka wrote "Hi Mitch! XXX Kisses from Becky Page" across his chest. I glanced over to his friends. They looked perplexed: he was facing away from them, and they couldn't tell what was going on. Bekka finished, then said, "Hold on. Don't move."
Bekka grabbed her purse and pulled out her lipstick. She applied a coating, then kissed the sailor just above his left nipple, leaving dark red lip-prints. She admired her handiwork and said, "There, you're finished. You got a unique autograph out of me. Better keep your shirt open, otherwise you'll get lipstick stains on the inside.
The sailor looked pleased enough to bust. "Yes ma'am! Thank you so much, ma'am! You have a good night!" He walked proudly back to his comrades, holding his shirt open to show off what Bekka had done. I heard exclamations of surprise and amazement come from the direction of the cashier booth. Ensign Garfield had scored a coup.
I was watching Bekka play her third ball when I realized someone was standing behind me. I turned and it was four someones. Four sailors, all of whom were shirtless. One said, "Um, sir? If it's all right, we'd like to get Becky's autograph."
I shrugged. "You'll have to wait a minute or so, she's playing her ball. Hey hon, do you mind doing four more autographs for these young men?"
Bekka, working the table hard, tersely responded, "Yeah, in a minute. I got multiball." She didn't look up.
The sailors stood quietly and patiently, waiting while Bekka played pinball. I game them the same instructions I'd given the first guy: arms to their sides, eyes straight forward. Y'all are gentlemen, right? You wouldn't want to piss off the husband of a woman who's doing you a favor?
Bekka finally lost her ball. She turned away from the machine, saw the four standing there, and began laughing. The sailors smiled nervously back. She said, "I seem to have started a trend. You, honey, what's your name? Let me grab my marker and lipstick."
She got through all four of them. They behaved themselves. They were rejoined by Ensign Garfield, who was now completely shirtless and drinking a soda. Bekka took them all in, smiled, and said, "I wish I had a camera. I'd take a picture of all you cuties to put up in the studio. I guess they don't care if you're shirtless when you go back on base?"
One of the sailors said, "If they did, we'd just have to explain to them who'd been writing on us. Who doesn't know who Becky Page is?"
They all thanked Bekka profusely and turned to leave, arguing over whose camera to use to document their chests. Bekka suddenly said, "Ensign Garfield, front and center."
Looking surprised, the sailor stepped in front of Bekka. "Yes ma'am?"
Bekka once again applied lipstick, then kissed Ensign Garfield on the cheek. "That's for being the bravest and the first. Put that in your scrapbook."
The sailor turned a bit pink, then looked truly touched. "Thank you very much, ma'am. I will." His friends gawked at him, for the bonus he had received.
The five shirtless sailors departed the arcade, presumably to head for their car and go back to Miramar, where they would document the evening's happenings via photograph. After they left, the cashier wandered over, sidled up next to us, and wished us a good evening.
The cashier said, "So I gotta hear the story behind what just happened. Why the hell did those swabs all take off their shirts, then come over and talk to you?"
Bekka explained, "They all wanted my autograph, but didn't have any paper, so I signed their chests."
"Who are you?"
She smiled and said, "I'm Bekka Schneider. They know me by my performing name, Becky Page. I make porn. They all have a crush on my alter ego, Becky. Just a bit of fan service."
"Wow," said the cashier. "Say, I've heard of you. Weren't you in some trouble with the law a while back? A shooting at your studio?"
I said, "It wasn't us who were in trouble. Some nut came in the studio with an AR-15 and mayhem on his mind. We stopped him using our own guns. I took five rounds that day. When you get shot up like that, you stop fearing a lot in this world. I wasn't worried about some sailors causing trouble, after all, they were sober and just wanted autographs."
"Won't the autographs just wash off?"
Giggling, Bekka said, "They're headed back to base right now to get a camera and document what happened. They'll be the envy of the base, apparently. I'm guessing not a one of them is over twenty-one, if they're hanging around a mall arcade on a Friday night. They were very respectful."
"So you're in porn. Do you get a lot of requests like that?" the cashier asked.
"This was a novelty. I've signed underwear at video signings, but I've never signed a human before. They were lucky, none of them were hairy. I guess I'd have done the guy's back if that was the case."
The cashier said, "I don't really follow porn. I guess you're big in that business."
Bekka sighed and said, "My popularity surprises even me. I also signed an autograph for a high school girl earlier. Hell, go down to International Gifts, they've got my posters for sale. Two posters are rated PG, the other two are definitely rated R. If you want an X-rated picture of me, you'd have to track down back issues of Hustler or Penthouse. Only the adult book stores would carry a poster of me doing a spread shot, so we didn't bother making them."
"Good to know. So how come a porn star is hanging around an arcade in San Diego on a Friday night? I'd think you'd be out partying."
"Even porn stars enjoy a nice, quiet evening," Bekka smiled. "And I like pinball. I don't live like my alter ego."
"How so?" asked the cashier.
"As I introduced myself before, I am Bekka Schneider. My alter ego, Becky Page, is the one you see sucking and fucking on video. According to Hustler, Becky is a twenty-two year old borderline nymphomaniac who is always in control of a situation. Me, I'm twenty-eight, and the one man who turns me on is my husband, this guy here. I refuse to live like my public persona."
"But you just wrote on the chests of five sailors."
Bekka waved her hand. "Just fan service. I made them very happy, they'll be bragging about this one for weeks. And I have Lenny here in case any of them got crude."
I said, "I wasn't worried about them. Like I said, once you've been shot up and survived, you stop fearing a lot in this world. Even if they were drunk and tried to rat-pack me, I'd still get in enough damage to make them regret their decision, and keep Bekka here safe. Her fame has brought us in contact with some weird dudes. Five squids wanting their chests signed is no big deal. None of them proposed marriage, or begged her to run away with them."
A bell rang up front, and the cashier scurried away, back towards his booth. Bekka said, "So what do you want to do after this?"
I pondered. "Um.... We could go to the Fleet Space Theater and see the laserium show."
Bekka frowned. "But that would involve listening to Pink Floyd."
"Oh yeah.... Hey, I know. Let's grab a six-pack and go up to the cross on Mount Soledad, we can see what the local stoner and headbanger population is up to."
"That works. We can piss people off by playing Skinny Puppy really loud with both doors open."
"Let's do it." I scooped up my unused quarters and we left.
I stopped at a liquor store in University City and grabbed a sixer of Anchor Steam, then we headed for La Jolla, pointing up the hill towards the cross. We pulled in the lot and managed to find an open space overlooking the 52. The lot surface glinted with broken glass. There were people everywhere, almost all headbangers, talking in small groups and drinking beer. Ozzy Osbourne --- who else --- was playing out of somebody's car.
Bekka said, "Hey, let's wander around on our own for a little while. I'll bet we meet more interesting people on our own than if we were together."
"You sure you feel safe doing that?" I asked. "What if you're recognized?"
"If I'm recognized, I'll sign more autographs. If I feel genuinely threatened, I'll pull my Colt and put a shot in the air. You run towards the direction of the shot."
"What if some hot stoner chick wants to get busy with me?"
Bekka sneered. "You tell her you're waiting for the results from the clap clinic, but you're sick of it always hurting when you pee. And I'll remind any lusty stoner boys that my husband is meaner than they are, and might be by at any time."
After agreeing to meet back at the Cadillac in a half hour, we got out and walked in different directions. I had one Anchor Steam in my hand and another shoved in my front pocket. The big bag of Ecstasy was tucked in the inside of my jacket. I stalked to the foot of the cross and stood fairly close to a cluster of dudes who were passing a joint around. One of them saw me smoking and said, "Hey dude! Gotta extra smoke?"
"Sure," I said, and handed him one. "Want some Ecstasy? It's free."
The dude, who looked around eighteen, said, "Ecstasy? That's dance-fag shit."
"Ever taken it?" I asked.
"No. That shit's too expensive anyway."
"Not mine. It's free. You want one?"
One of his friends horned in on the conversation. "You're handing out free drugs? Sign me up. What is it?"
"Ecstasy, lab fresh," I said.
Dude Number Two said, "Fuck it, hand some over. I'll try it. You ain't just running around poisoning people, right?"
"Nope," I replied. "I'm out to make people happy. I'll warn you now, you'll be watching the sun rise. It's gonna keep you up all night."
"If he tries it, I will too," said another dude.
I handed out five hits and wandered off. Standing on the edge of the inner circle and staring out at the freeway, I suddenly noticed something that intrigued me: a girl, about seventeen, with a Scorpions t-shirt and a Becky Page haircut. She was talking to a friend. I decided to be pushy.
"Excuse me," I said. "Can I ask an honest question? What motivated you to get that haircut?"
She sneered at the single older male talking to her and said, "'Cos I wanted my hair to look like Becky Page's."
"The porn star."
I said, "Tell me, what about that particular porn star motivated you?"
Her friend answered. "Because Becky Page fucking rules."
"Yeah. Becky Page takes no shit. Becky Page kicks ass."
"How would you like to meet her?" I offered. "What would you say if I introduced you to Becky Page?"
The first girl said, "I'd tell her, bitch, you rule." They both cracked up.
"Great, let's go meet her," I said.
"Yeah, right. We just gotta get in your car with you and you'll drive us someplace and we'll get to meet Becky Page. Sure."
"Actually, no. She's here tonight. She's somewhere off in that general direction. We just need to find her, and that shouldn't be too hard. Shall we?"
The first girl said, "Dude, I don't know what you're trying to pull, but I'll kick your balls off if you try to pull any shit. Fine, lets' go. I want to meet Becky Page."
We walked towards the northern curve of the drive. the two girls clacking along behind me on fuck-me pumps. When we got to where the crowd was thick, I called, "Bekka! Bekka!" I heard a voice call back, "Yeah?"
"Come out in the driveway, I'm right here!" I yelled.
Bekka appeared in the driveway, trailing a pizza-faced kid with her. She looked around, spotted me, and began walking in my direction. From behind me I heard the girls saying, "Oh my god, look, it is her." "No way, it's gotta be some chick who looks like her." "No, it really is her!"
Bekka walked up to me, wrapped an arm around my waist, and kissed my neck. The two girls stared at her, awestruck. Bekka swigged at her beer and said to the first girl, "I like your haircut."
Wide-eyed, the first girl said, "Oh my god. Are you really Becky Page?"
"That's me," Bekka smirked at them.
The two girls looked at each other and squealed. The second one said, "Holy shit! Like, what are you doing here?"
"Well, Lenny here used to party at this place a lot when he was younger, and we felt like sticking our heads in to see what was going on. I'm from Encinitas, so I never came this far south to party. I wanted to see what the place was like, let my husband remember old times."
"Wait, this dude's your husband?" asked the first one.
"Yep," said Bekka, continuing her smirk. "But we haven't been introduced."
"I have no clue who they are either. I just walked up to them and started talking. I asked if they wanted to meet the famous Becky Page. They had me pegged as a creeper, no big surprise, but agreed to at least walk this far. The one on the right threatened to ruin my balls if I got weird. Anyway, who are you two?"
"I'm Brandy," said the second girl.
"I'm Harley," said the first one, the one with the familiar haircut. Hands were shaken all around.
"Oh my god," said Harley. "You kick so much ass. This is just too cool. So, um, are you living in LA now? Isn't that where all the porn gets made?"
Bekka said, "Nope. I still live in Encinitas, only I'm right on the beach now. My studio is in La Costa, so it's an easy commute. I usually just ride my motorcycle to work."
Brandy said, "What do you ride?"
"It's a Harley Sportster. It's an outlaw custom, purple, and it's quick. It was a gift."
"That is so cool."
"I have to ask," Bekka said. "How are you two familiar with me? How did you learn who Becky Page was, and what is my appeal? I'm always surprised when I meet young female fans."
Harley smiled and said, "You totally kick ass! Um, my dad is a fan of yours. He has your Hustler centerfold tacked up in the garage. My mom yelled at him for it like she always does, but he refused to take yours down, like he had the others. He's got your movies, so I'd watch them when they weren't home. You're so great in your movies, I'd love to do what you do. That would be so awesome."
Brandy said, "I learned about you through Harley. For like three weeks straight, we'd go home from school, smoke a joint, and watch 'Rocker Girls.' I love that one scene where you brain the dude with a bottle, then go through his pockets and steal his drugs. You were too cool in that detective movie, too...."
"'Dangerous Desires,'" prompted Harley.
"Was that a real gun you were shooting?"
Bekka said, "Yeah. I was firing blanks through this." She pulled out her Colt and displayed it on the palm of her hand.
The two girls stared at the pistol. Bekka said, "It's a Colt Defender. It fires 9mm ammunition and holds eight in the clip. A girl has to protect herself, you know?"
"Cooool," the two girls said in unison. Bekka sheathed her gun again.
Harley said, "I totally want to do what you do as soon as I'm out of my house. You get paid to fuck and kick ass. That is so awesome."
"You want to make porn?" asked Bekka. "There's a lot more hard work involved than you'd imagine. Can you act? Can you follow stage direction? Are you willing to fuck some guy you met ten minutes earlier while stone sober, and can you handle the physical challenge of being fucked nearly nonstop for three hours straight? Not to mention that while you're paid well, you don't get a lot of respect around most studios. I'm lucky, my husband runs the studio I work for. The best I can recommend is going to LA and trying it for a week, then decide whether you want to make it into a career. I think you'll find it's different than what you imagine it to be. Besides the money, the only real perk is that you don't have to pay for your drugs."
I said, "Speaking of, you two want some Ecstasy? It's good shit."
Harley said, "I would, but I've only got like five bucks on me."
"No, this is free. I don't pay for them, so I never ask for anything more than a hug in exchange. And even that can be forfeited if you still think I'm a creep."
Brandy said, "I'll try it. You with me, bitch?"
"Hell yeah," said Harley. I handed them pills.
Brandy looked at hers and said, "Hey, I've heard of this shit. Smiley Ecstasy. It's supposed to be totally supercharged, it makes you fall in love with the world. Is this the stuff?"
"That it is," I said. "This stuff opens up whole new vistas of comprehension of the world around you. You won't be bored, that's for sure."
The two girls popped the pills in their mouths and washed them down with the can of Coors they'd been sharing. "Sweet dreams," said Bekka.
I said, "And on that note, it's about time we cut out. Good with you, hon?"
"That's fine," said Bekka. "Let's go home and get in the hot tub. Jane is probably wondering where we are."
The two girls followed us to the Cadillac. When we reached our doors, Harley blurted, "Becky, could I get your phone number?"
Bekka considered this and said, "How about you give me yours. It's nothing personal, but I'm at a point where I'm going to great lengths to keep my private life private. I've got a pen in the car."
Harley wrote her digits down on a scrap of paper, handed it to Bekka, and said, "Please call me. That would be too awesome."
"I'll call in the next few days. Promise," Bekka said, putting the number in her purse. I fired up the Fleetwood and got into the traffic lane. Bekka looked out the window at the partiers and said, "So many mullets, so little brains."
"Look at the bright side," I said. "You don't seem to have been recognized by any of the guys here. You know where to go when you want to party incognito."
"It's strange," said Bekka. "Apparently teenage girls view me as a positive female role model. I haven't the slightest idea how to live up to that. It's cool that they see the strength I convey in the characters I play, but I'm still just a damn porn slut. I'm just lucky that Inana is an exception to the norm, so far as how they treat their performers. If I worked for other studios, and stuck around for as long as I have, my self esteem would have been rubbed into the ground years ago. I hate the idea that young girls out there will think working in porn is a cool job because of me."
"Maybe the other studios will learn from Inana and start treating their performers with respect. We do, and look what we've accomplished. We've got happy performers, a happy crew, and our videos outsell every other studio out there. For god's sake, we kick Hustler's ass. Maybe the other studios will learn by example."
"Maybe," Bekka sighed. "Everywhere we went tonight I met fans. Is this my new reality? How many times in my life will I write the words 'Becky Page' on any random flat surface? When do I start picking up stalkers? Lenny, I'm scared."
"You're my love, and I got your back," I said. "I will keep you safe."
"You'll protect me?" she asked in a small voice.
And I did.