Terry, Angel and I sat at a table in the back of the trattoria. With us was Trish, who was making her way through her third cup of coffee and was becoming animate. The China White was wearing off, aided by the float-a-mule-shoe coffee the trattoria served. She took us in and said, "I can't believe he'd do that."
I responded, "Oh, I can. I just had lunch with the prick."
"Ronnie kept going on about how I'd be breaking big, I'd be the next Becky Page. He said he wanted me to meet the morons he was going to fleece, so I should come to lunch with him. He wanted to get high, so we snorted up some junk, but he made my line too big, and I was a zombie."
"Out of curiosity, what did he have to say about me and Inana?"
Trish shrugged. "He was just talking smack, he always does. Ron always thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. His opinion of Inana is that it's run by a bunch of starry-eyed dreamers who understand film-making, but don't know shit about the realities of the porn industry. To him, Inana is a mutation, and managed to scare up a lot of good press and sales, but is unsustainable in the business. He hates you, Lenny. Both the adult video critics and the mainstream press are kissing your ass, making you out to be this great visionary, and he hated it. He thinks all of Inana's scripts are actually ghost-written, that you just put your name on them. I guess he met you briefly at the last Eroticon, and wrote you off as a hustler who had scammed his way into his job. The idea of having to emulate Inana in any way is anathema to him."
"What is his job title?" asked Angel.
"I dunno if he really has one. None of the higher-ups seem to have titles, they're all just.... the bosses, you know? I know Ron is allowed to write checks, so he must be pretty high ranking. Performers hate seeing him coming, because he'll critique them without actually offering positive suggestions. Girls who stick around for a while tend to have pretty thick skins, 'cos to him they're all named either 'bitch' or 'whore.' I been around five months, and I learned in the first week he's just a blowhard, and to ignore him. He'll really give a hard time to the studs, and not all of them will put up with it. He's been decked twice that I know of by studs who got tired of his mouth. They punched him out, put on their clothes, and didn't worry about getting their check for the day."
"Does he hold a grudge?" asked Terry.
Trish considered this. "Probably. What he would do about it, I don't know. It's actually a bit scary, he claims to have mafia ties, and anyone who fucks with him is signing their own death warrant. You think he'll come after you for what happened today?"
Angel and I caught the laughter at the top of our throats. Angel merely smiled and said, "I am highly suspicious of his claims to a mafia association. Mafioso will freely admit to their part in cosa nostra, but will not use it as an idle threat, the way he apparently does. Besides, his mouth operates while his brain is in neutral much of the time, as you said, he talks smack. The mafia would consider him a poor candidate."
"Um.... Is Inana hiring?" asked Trish.
"I will always interview," I told her. "Are you familiar with our hiring policies?"
I explained to her how things went with prospective performers: the three "interviews," the demand for genuine acting talent, blood test, and we didn't want female performers who just fucked on camera. We wanted them to seduce. She frowned and nodded with comprehension.
"So far as the acting goes, I was part of an improv comedy troupe when I was in junior college. Does that count?"
"It certainly helps," I answered. "If you were doing improv, you had to have been pretty damn sharp-minded and adaptable. Do you want to set up interviews?"
She nodded. "Yeah. As soon as humanly possible. I've had a run of bad luck in this town recently, so any change will be for the better. Two weeks ago my car was stolen, and the insurance company still hasn't come through with the money to replace it. Last week my apartment was burglarized while I was in Santa Barbara visiting a friend. They literally emptied me out, they even took food and my dirty laundry. And three days ago, I found out my asshole ex-boyfriend had lifted a few checks from me, and he drained my bank account. I'm living in a motel on Lincoln Boulevard near Venice, taking the bus everywhere, and nursing my last $160 cash. I was hoping to talk to Ron about borrowing a little money, or at least getting back to work."
"You're not working?" I asked.
Rolling her eyes, Trish said, "Okay, Leisure Time wants to start producing features like Inana does, right? They've pretty much divided performers into two groups. One group will be appearing in the features. I'm one of them. The others are knocking out loops. They're the ones who are actually working right now. Those of us they've decided will be stars are waiting around for a production, any production, to start. They don't want the features people appearing in loops, it's like they think it will devalue us or something. We keep getting told, 'Any day now,' but we've heard that for seven weeks. Everyone is running out of savings. I'm lucky, I'm not under contract, they were going to take care of that after productions started. I need to get to work, and I refuse to go with some two-bit operation up in Chatsworth, you know?"
Angel asked her, "How long have you been in the industry?"
"Including a year as a dancer, four years. I'm twenty-three now. I've done like most girls, which is bounce from studio to studio, hoping for a better situation while not burning any bridges. I heard somewhere Becky Page has been at Inana for nine years, and some other girls have been there as long as six. Are they under massive contracts?"
"Not at all," I replied. "Contracts with Inana last as long as the duration of production of a feature, and expire when we wrap. Yeah, Becky has been at Inana her entire career. Rio has been there six years, and Tawny Smith has been there five. I think you were too stoned when I was talking about it earlier, but I was explaining that our performers are so happy with how things are at Inana, they don't want to leave. We don't need contracts to hold onto them, because they like being there. That was something Mr. Haley didn't want to hear, that a positive work environment will help a studio retain performers better than money."
"Wow," said Trish, eyebrows raised. I briefly considered her. A little short, just five foot four, but that was okay. Pretty face, good body, flowing dark hair. Now that she was no longer high, she didn't give the impression of being a ditz. She had some performing experience. With three years in adult video, she wouldn't have to learn the ropes of production. And apparently her life had turned into a shit sandwich over the past couple weeks.
I asked Trish, "Tell me truly. Do you think you could hack all three interviews to get in at Inana? Answer honestly. Like, okay, you've been doing porn for three years now, great. But when you do your video interview, you have to show some spark. Going through the motions of intercourse doesn't cut it, you have to have the appearance of being involved."
"Oh yeah," Trish replied. "One of the reasons I'm lined up to be in features is because of my performance. In fact, it was Becky Page who inspired me. I was watching her features, and realizing how drawn in I felt during her fuck scenes, like they had emotional impact or something. So I started studying her scenes, trying to figure out what she was doing that added so much relevance, such verve. She has all these tiny little tricks she does, it's amazing. Really, the biggest and simplest is that she makes eye contact with whoever she's with, and will, like, soften her face slightly, like she's really happy to see him. Anyway, I started trying these little tricks I picked up from Becky, and the bosses noticed. I improved my performance so much I rendered myself jobless."
I paused briefly before replying, considering what Trish had said. If Bekka was consciously using any technique or tricks while performing her fuck scenes, she had never mentioned them to me. It could be Bekka was just relying on her innate acting skill, and this girl had simply broken down and categorized all the little gestures she made.
"Have you ever worked with a script? That would be a big difference between what we do and an improv group."
Trish looked vaguely discouraged. "Not since high school drama club. I'm sorry."
I smiled at her and said, "Actually, drama club is the exact level of acting experience most of our performers start out with. You'll be fine, so long as you're literate."
Grabbing Angel, he and I went out front to smoke and talk. We lit up and I said, "I know my habit of picking up strays worries you, but I've had good luck with it so far. I want to help this little chick out. I was just going to gift her $500 and wish her luck, but nah. She's waiting for the jackasses at Leisure Time to get their shit together, hoping to start working again. I think she'll get through her interviews just fine, and she could get back in front of the cameras. I've got the room for another performer."
"How will she get to the interviews?" asked Angel. "She has no car, she has no money."
"I'll squeeze the interviews into four or five days, and put her up in the penthouse for the duration. If we don't take her on, I'll give her a ride back to LA and her performance money from the video interview. If we take her on, she can stay in the penthouse for a couple weeks while she saves up some money, like Dawn dd. If things don't work out, I'm only out some gasoline and maybe a bit of food money."
Angel rubbed his chin. Then he said, "Okay Lenny. It'll be nice for you, a new performer who doesn't need to be trained from step one on how video production works. And if she's a hire, let her stay in the penthouse until she has enough saved for both an apartment and a running car."
We went back inside, and I explained my plan to Trish. She was highly grateful but also seemed a little nervous. Angel picked up what it was: she smelled a casting couch. He assured her, in diplomatic terms, that Lenny was happily married to the biggest porno star on the planet, a woman with both a jealous streak and a Sicilian temper. She relaxed some.
Terry nudged Trish and said, "This is an example of what a fuckin' awesome dude Lenny is. He's always helping out strangers. Shit, my friend Dawn got her gig at Inana because she bummed a smoke off him and told him she was homeless. Me, I was a white trash scooter tramp in Ocean Beach living on SSI, now I'm fuckin' Becky Page's personal bodyguard. This kid Roach, who's Inana's best stud right now, was just some punk rock reject they met at the mall. Um, Donna was a strip club dancer. Sue was a shop girl. Jolene was a desk clerk in a motel in the boonies. Gayla was tending bar. Lenny pulled all these people out of the massive ruts they were in. He'd sorta feel them out first, get an idea if they could hack the work or not, then he'd tell them, 'Look, I can give you a high paying job with short hours and a good atmosphere. You'll be a porn star. Can you handle that?' People who were nervous at first would meet us Inana weirdos and relax, it's obvious we're happy to be there, you know?"
Angel told Trish, "If you pass all three interviews and blood test, you'll be an Inana girl. You are certifiably one of the hottest, most sensually dynamic women on earth. Inana girls are the fucking elite of all porn stars, they don't just suck and fuck, they entrance and seduce. Shit, being an Inana girl guarantees you will be employable anywhere in the industry for the next fifteen years. Every studio knows that to perform for Inana, you're like a Navy SEAL of sex."
I moved on to more practical matters, like how much stuff did Trish have to move? "I have a trash bag full of clothes," she said. "When my apartment got ripped off, they really did take everything. What the fuck is someone going to do with my used toothbrush? I had to hit a few thrift stores and find some things to wear. The end result is that I look like I think it's still 1982 most of the time."
The upshot was that Angel would give Trish and her trash bag (plus the backpack she'd had in Santa Barbara) a ride to the mansion, meeting us there. I'd give her the tour, buy her some groceries, and do her script test and blood panel the next morning. She could sit in on a couple shoots and generally hang around until Monday, when she'd have her photo interview and get her blood results back. Then we'd give her the video interview on Tuesday. I decided to match her up with Dale, he was a gentleman and his dick wasn't too big.
We all stepped out front to smoke, Trish bumming a Marlboro from Angel. I told her, "To be honest? You made a really shitty first impression. It was obvious you were on junk, and given some of the predilections of girls in the industry, I just rolled my eyes and thought, 'Aw shit, another one.' I'm glad we stuck around to see you sober."
Trish scowled and said, "Goddamn Ronnie. When I realized how fucked up I was, I told him I just wanted to go back to my motel. No, he had to have his fucking arm candy, and I was it. I'm sure I was a mess. It's a good measure of Ron's lack of self-awareness that he can walk into a five star restaurant with a stoned mess of a woman on his arm and not feel embarrassed. Oh, um, and don't worry. I'm not a junkie. I almost never touch the stuff, if a little is offered it's a pleasant diversion, but I don't ever pursue it. And I hate getting comatose on the crap like I did today."
"Thank you for putting my mind at ease."
"Um.... Let's say I don't make the cut. Have I just wasted a week of my time hanging around in San Diego?"
"Not entirely," I told her. "I'm not worried about your script interview at all, you've done both drama and improv, so you should hack it. And we're not looking for De Niro levels of acting in that interview, just literacy, inflection, and a bit of spark. You've been making fuck films for three years, which means you're not shy with your body, so the photo interview should be a piece of cake. My advice is to bring your A game to the video interview. You said you've studied Becky's little performing cues? Work them. You want to give the impression you've having the most incredible sexual experience of your life.
If you don't make the cut, you still get paid, cash, for the performance. Do you do anal?"
Trish paused momentarily and said, "I do. The only enjoyment I get from it is the extra money I get paid for it. But I will do anal."
"Okay, that's fine. Inana pays $750 for straight suck and fuck, $1000 for anal, and $1300 for a double penetration. With your small frame, I doubt I'd ever ask you to do a DP, you'd be sore for days afterward. Oh, and I pay a $200 cash bounty to girls who take a facial during the money shot, receivable as soon as they're out of the shower that day. I've got a couple girls who get that cash from me every damn time they work, others take it off and on. Taking a facial is never a requirement. But like Tawny Smith points out to new girls, you're getting grocery money for two weeks just to get your face sticky for a few minutes."
"I can take a facial with a smile," Trish assured me. "It doesn't bug me like it bugs a lot of girls."
"Let's see, what else," I said. "Okay, Inana pays weekly. The cameras run Sunday through Friday. You get your check the following Tuesday. The mansion will be open about 7:30 every morning, someone will be there. Steve Stillman, our head director, is invariably the last one out, he takes off around six in the evening. The mansion is on a residential street with very few addresses, so there's always parking. We have kind of unusual security at the mansion. For various reasons, I am on good terms with the Dago Hell's Angels, so I hired a couple of them to work as guards out front. Don't be alarmed by the outlaw biker asking you who you are and what you want if he doesn't recognize you, just have him bring you to my office. We're going to get special Inana IDs made to eliminate any confusion. With a couple glaring exceptions, our male performers are real mental lightweights, but they are gentlemen, and all decent guys. It's funny, the two guys with the biggest dicks are also the smartest ones. Roach is a nineteen year old Hell's Angel with over eight inches, and Eddie The Jew is packing nine inches. Eddie is a clown, I hope you like card tricks. Despite his fraternal membership, Roach is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He's a fantastic performer, a serious stunt cock, but doesn't have the ego that usually goes along with it.
"What else, um, oh yeah. The fridge in the downstairs kitchen is always stocked with free sodas. If you have a preference that's not there, tell me, and I'll pick some up. Lunch is one hour, more or less. People generally car pool to different fast food places or delis to eat. Jeanette, our hair and makeup maven, is a housewife type who has been there longer than I have and can work with blinding speed. When you're sick of listening to porn stars gossip, hang out with Jeanette. She'll tell you about her latest gardening adventures, which is very soothing. There is a performer's lounge. It is a pigsty, and that's how everyone seems to want it. If I walk into the lounge, I cease being the boss, I'm just Lenny, another dude who works there. I will not discuss any business, in any form, while I am in the lounge.... Although I have been known to hang around outside and collar people as they exit.
"What you will find missing at Inana are a few things. First, drugs. We have them. However, if you want some, you have to ask for them. They are there to help provide a bit of impetus on those occasional days where you're just not feeling up to task. Cocaine, Ecstasy, and meth are available. If you're coming in every day asking for something, I'm going to call you out on it. Also missing is any strict hierarchy. Everybody answers to Steve, and Steve answers to me, but that's it, really. Nobody looks down on Terry and Dawn because they're the fluff girls. The crew does not kowtow to performers. And I'd rather have people calling me a total dickhead than kissing my ass. Lastly, Inana is lacking both the caste system and backstabbing you can find around a studio, especially the big ones. We're not a large organization, everybody knows each other. Because of what we've accomplished and the way we do things, the rest of the industry constantly reminds us what iconoclasts we are. Because of this, there is a lot of team spirit at Inana. Everybody, from the gaffers on up, take pride in their work and bust their asses. When we shoot on location, everybody carries equipment, no matter what their job title is. We feel we have achieved something unique in the industry, and are proud of it, so we stick together. Any questions?"
Trish gulped and said, "Yeah, a couple. First, how the hell did Inana get started? It sounds like nothing else in the business."
I replied, "Inana has been around ten years. Most of that time it was making loop videos, just run of the mill jack fodder. When I became COO, I decided it was time to take the plunge and make full features, and the rest is history. That was less than three years ago. No, we're nothing like the rest of the industry for a few reasons. A big one is location. Being down in North County San Diego, Inana has always been out of the loop from the rest of the industry. While the business in LA may be huge, it's still pretty incestuous, so everyone has the same ideas about how things work. Inana has no people with any industry history. Our director came to Inana from local news production. All our performers started at Inana, and have stayed there. The one exception is Eddie The Jew, who used to do solo shoots for gay porn. We don't have industry veterans circulating through, because there aren't any around. Angel started the studio, along with five others. Him and you will be the only people at Inana with any track record in the industry outside of working at Inana itself."
"Wow. So all the bullshit in the business is there because everybody is always jumping ship to work somewhere else, but everybody has the same attitude about how things should be run, so all the LA studios are pretty much alike, then. Fascinating."
"Exactly. Since no one at Inana had any history in the industry, the industry mindset was never installed. We just ran things in a way that made sense to us."
"Okay," said Trish. "The next question is a difficult one. Considering what you've told me, how much culture shock am I in for if I work for Inana?"
I laughed. "Oh sweetie, quite a bit, I'm afraid. Almost all of us are in our twenties, we don't have balding dudes with lots of gold chains loafing around. When you arrive, people will be introducing themselves to you and asking how you're doing, and they'll be expecting an honest answer. If Ron Haley had shown up at the Inana studios, my stunt cock Roach would have gone to jail that day, because he would have grabbed Mr. Haley by the ankles and beat him against the wall like a rug. San Diego is not Los Angeles, we don't have the same tolerance for bullshit like they do in LA. People at Inana don't keep secrets, we share our personal lives with each other. And Mickey, our veteran sound man, is the most mincing, limp-wristed, lisping caricature of a screaming queen you'll ever want to meet, yet has been helping produce straight porn for over five years now. They wouldn't give him a job as a janitor in LA."
"So I'm not going to get snubbed as the new girl when I start? Really?"
"Oh God no. Everybody knows what you had to go through to be a performer at Inana. You've already proven yourself. You are actually at an advantage, you understand video production already, you know how things work on a sound stage. Everyone else learned on the job. And you'll pick up the details pretty quick, too, everybody will give you advice. Becky and Rio have been there the longest, so they know everything. Use them as mentors if you feel like you need to. Roach will fill you in on different personalities, especially of the girls. I swear, that kid puts off a pheromone that drives women crazy. Roach is a ladies man. He fucks the hottest porn stars in the world for a living, his live-in girlfriend is a cutie, and when he goes to topless bars with his Hell's Angels buddies, the dancers are buying him drinks and giving him their phone numbers! Here at Inana, all the girls love working with him, and he with them. He really, truly loves women. You'll see what I mean."
Angel came up and told Trish he wanted to get going, so he wouldn't be mired in too much traffic on the way home. Terry and I headed for the bikes, briefly stopping at the valet stand to shanghai one of the dudes to open the gate with the magnetic card gizmo they used. We rolled out into the driveway, then sat there, letting the bikes warm up.
"So, you rescued another one," chuckled Terry. "You're the fuckin' master of somehow finding women in bleak situations, rescuing them, and turning them into porn stars."
"This one already is a porn star, which simplifies my life greatly. And almost everyone leads a life of quiet desperation, it's just considered poor manners to bitch about it. My main concern is the marriages I've ruined. Jolene ran away from home and her husband so she could work for Inana, and I think Gayla and her husband are feeling some friction. Okay, her husband Mark is feeling insecure and threatened, no big surprise. But Gayla is part of the problem, too. Mark surely has some subconscious conflict about his wife having intercourse with other men for a living. Closer to the surface, he's looking at the equipment our studs bring to the game, he looks as his own, and feels like he doesn't measure up. Mark and Gayla can talk that shit through, even if it means getting counseling. But Gayla is using Inana to explore some of the more hidden recesses of her own sexuality. Particularly an interest in other women. Her and Rio are hooking up with some regularity, I know that. I don't know how her husband would handle it, if he learned what she was up to, and what really happened on the nights she called and said she was going out to dinner with friends from the studio."
We headed out, pointed towards the manson. Traffic was a mess in Long Beach, so we took advantage of what we were riding and lane-split to get through. Terry was by far the more confident one doing this, I was mindful of opening car doors and vengeful pricks swinging to one side when they saw me coming. I turned the screws in Anaheim, catching up to Terry in Mission Viejo. We got to the mansion and I went upstairs to see if anything needed tidying in the penthouse. The bed needed making, because there were two people in it. Gayla and Rio started when I walked into the bedroom.
"Afternoon, ladies," I said. "I didn't know either of you were on the board for today."
"We're not," answered Gayla. "We're just taking advantage of the privacy we can have here."
Rio added, "At both of our places, we have nosy neighbors. Gayla's want to know who the foreign girl in the 300Z is, my neighbors would question Gayla's white skin and Cadillac. Getting a motel room feels sleazy. So we come here."
"Bad news," I told them. "The penthouse will be occupied starting this afternoon, and I'm not sure how long for. We've got a new girl coming in to interview, she's an LA veteran, most recently from Leisure Time. She's had a run of bad luck. She has no car, no money, she's living in a motel, and Leisure Time is refusing to put her to work. She'll be staying here until Tuesday at the shortest, that's if she bombs her interviews. If she's brought on, she'll be here until she saves up enough to get a car and a place."
"Where did you find her?" asked Gayla.
I sighed and said, "Me and Terry went and had lunch with a braying jackass from Leisure Time who wanted to 'talk business.' He brought this chick, her name is Trish, along as his arm candy. She was completely wrecked on China White through lunch, I don't think she spoke once. Due to one thing and another, the jackass split without her, so me and Terry and Angel fed her some coffee and waited for the junk to wear off. Once she was straight, she was fine. She doesn't really use heroin, so this stuff kicked her ass, and the jackass still insisted she come with him, even though she was a zombie. I'm confident she'll make it in, she has experience as a performer, both in hardcore and on a stage. Check this out, the jackass she was with tried to bully me and Angel into selling him Inana. He sat there for half an hour talking shit about both me and the studio, then turns around and tells me he wants to buy the place. Well, you fuckin' asshole, if Inana is so worthless, why do you want to buy it at all? He didn't have an answer."
"Ugh, a big studio buying Inana," said Rio. "Those of us who weren't fired would be farmed out. Lenny, would you work for one of the majors?"
"Not for very long, I'd get the sack for insubordination. I'd insist on doing things my own way, you know, the ways that put Inana on the map. How I do my jobs are so contradictory to the ingrained ways of making porn in the industry they'd probably assume I was trying to sabotage them. I learned today that everyone here is vastly overpaid and over-privileged. You're all spoiled, especially you performers. Nobody is around to call you bitches and whores, so you've developed attitudes. The studs should be cut back to $100 per shoot. And we should stop wasting our money on the weekly blood tests, after all, what's a little chlamydia between friends?"
Gayla said, "Um, Lenny, we were trying to have a bit of together time, alone, just us, in private."
I stared at Gayla and asked slowly and evenly, "How long will you be?"
"How long? Aw, c'mon, Lenny...."
"To be frank, and nothing personal, but I'd like to wash the fucking sheets before this chick arrives. Go squat one of the guest bedrooms or something, go out and use the spa. Don't bitch when you get caught squatting someplace that ain't yours, and you get kicked out. I'm really trying to be patient here, how long?"
"We will use one of the guest bedrooms," scowled Rio. The two got out of bed, scooped up their clothes, and headed out. I heard another door out in the hallway slam. I stripped the sheets off the bed, by the smell of them Gayla and Rio had been using the penthouse water bed to rendezvous on quite a few other occasions. They reeked of women's deodorant, sweat, and pussy. It all went into the washer downstairs. Running back up to the penthouse, I checked things out. The fridge was empty and clean, along with the kitchen cabinets and oven. No detritus in the living area and conversation pit. The bathroom was spotless, only needing a roll of bun-wad.
Angel and Trish were over ninety minutes behind me, much longer than I was expecting. Trish explained, "We stopped by Leisure Time so I could let them know I'd be out of town for a week. I didn't tell them about trying to interview here, but it didn't matter, one of the bosses walked through and recognized Angel."
Angel continued, "The man put one and one together, and got pissed. He thought I was deliberately trying to headhunt his performers. He said a few impolite things to Trish, which I told him I would not allow in my presence. The man called Trish a cunt and a whore, and, um...."
"What?" I asked.
"Let's just say my anger management problems came to the surface. I threw him through a wall, head first. And he went all the way through, his head was sticking out in the next room."
With a small smile, Trish said, "Then Angel goes into the next room, grabs the dude's collar so he can't move, and explains exactly how he and I had come to meet, and enumerated the meeting with Ron. And he told him that if they called the cops on Angel, the studios and the offices would all burn to the ground within three days. We started to take off, but Angel stopped at the receptionist's desk and grabbed a marker that was sitting there, and wrote a big 'M' on the wall next to the front door. Uh, Angel explained what it meant while we were driving down here. Cosa Nostra and stuff."
With a grim look, Angel said, "You know what sucks, Lenny? Right now I feel fantastic, I feel cleansed. I think marathon racers would call it a runner's high. Dammit, I'm supposed to be past this shit."
I said, "Angel, you need some cathartic release, an outlet. Tell ya what. Go buy some cinder blocks and a four foot length of rebar. Once a week, glue the picture of someone who's pissing you off to a cinder block, like a photo of the chief of LAPD or Jerry Falwell. Take the cinder block and the rebar out in the backyard, and use the rebar to destroy the cinder block. Don't stop until there's nothing left but sand. Your hands will be blistered and your shoulders will hurt, but you will feel much more stress-free."
Angel thought about this suggestion and nodded. "Yeah, that would probably help a lot. Burn off the pent-up shit in a way that doesn't hurt anything or anyone. Except the cinder block. By the way, if you hear from Ron Haley or anyone from Leisure Time, give them my number, I will deal with them. Jesus, no wonder Leisure Time always brags about having fresh new faces all the time. Nobody wants to stick around in that environment, so they always need new girls."
I said to Trish, "Yeah, I don't know if you remember me saying this, but everyone here knows the quickest way to piss off Lenny is to have the word 'bitch' come out of their mouth. I will fire people for that. If some stud called one of the girls a bitch and I found out, the stud's name would be taken off the performance schedule for the rest of the week, I would call our lab and have his name removed from our test roster, I would write a check for what he is owed, and I would wait at the door of the sound stage to let him know he had to go find another gig. Everyone around here gets treated with respect, but especially my female performers. My girls work too hard and are too valuable to the studio for them to be putting up with bullshit."
We were lounging around in my office with the door open. Presently I heard the sound of people coming down the stairs from the second floor. I looked at my watch: right on time, shooting was done for the day. Presently Bekka came in, fully clothed. She'd been helping choreograph a couple shots with Small Steve. It was a bit of artsy-fartsy stuff Steve had conceived of, and wanted to try out. I figured it would be a noble failure and keep my mouth shut.
When Bekka walked in, Trish's eyes got huge. She stood up from the office chair she was in and breathed, "Ms. Page?"
Bekka smiled at her and said, "Well, that's what they print on the video boxes."
Trish was inching towards Bekka, like she was trying to sneak up on a wild animal. She said, "Ms. Page, I am a student of your acting. I have studied your hardcore scenes and learned from you. I like to think I am a better performer now because of you. I can't thank you enough."
"You're welcome," Bekka replied slowly, one eyebrow raised in question. "Um, you have the advantage on me. Who are you? You said you're a performer?"
"I'm sorry, I am Trisha Douglas. Yes, I am a performer.... Or I should be. I've been working the studios in LA for three years, most recently with Leisure Time. That ended today, with some finality. Lenny said he would give me the interviews to work at Inana. I hope I get in, I don't want to go back to Los Angeles. To be frank, my life has gone to hell. In the last two weeks I have lost my car, all my possessions including my clothes, my apartment, all my money, and my job. Lenny is very kindly letting me stay here, I guess there's living space upstairs, while I complete my interviews. He says if I do become an Inana girl, I can stay here until I've saved enough for an apartment and a running car. He has no reason to be, but he is being very kind to me."
"Yes.... Yes, Lenny can be that way. So how did you two meet?"
I answered. I said, "Oh shit. That lunch date Terry and I had? The human hemorrhoid we met up with had her with him, his arm candy. He'd gotten her so stoned on China White she could barely walk. Me and Terry dealt with the unmitigated prick for a while, then we were joined by Angel. Check it, this cretin thought he could bully us into selling Inana to Leisure Time. He was a rude, arrogant loudmouth, and he managed to insult and enrage all three of us. I'll spare you the details, but we ended up running him off. He just plain abandoned Trish here. We got some coffee in her and the junk wore off, and we got to talking. Leisure Time has been stringing her along, as well as some other girls, promising they'll get fame and fortune as soon as they start production on their big feature, the movie that will cast a shadow over Inana. Trish hasn't worked for seven weeks, while the suits at Leisure Time fart around, trying to figure out how to make actual entertainment. So anyway, that's how she got here."
"I inadvertently severed Trish's ties to Leisure Time," said Angel. "We stopped by their offices, and I was recognized. I was accused of trying to shanghai Leisure Time's talent. Things, um, got a little physical, and we left. Trish hanging around with me rendered her name instant mud around that place."
"Yeah, well, big loss," muttered Trish. "Seven weeks without work. Every day, hoping the phone will ring and it's them saying, 'We're ready to start production! Get in here!' Like I explained to Lenny, they decided that anyone who appeared in features shouldn't be doing loops. That would be fine, if they were making any goddamn features. No, there were about nine of us sitting around waiting to hear they'd written a better script than 'Bewitched.'"
"What was their hold-up?" I asked.
"Ultimately, I think it was that they refused to accept you can't make a movie like 'Bewitched' or 'Dangerous Desires' on a budget of $150,000. The current script --- the general plot line is about a woman who gains psychic powers when she has sex --- has been re-edited so many times it's probably down to a three by five card worth of text. Okay, they want a woman demonstrating psychic powers. Guess what, you need special effects to show it. They won't spend the money, so they try to cover it with writing, I guess. Also, the cast keeps changing. Some girls were told they'd have a couple solid fuck scenes, and get paid for them. Then they're told no, they just have a couple lines of dialogue and that's it, they'll get a hundred bucks for their time. Even dressing sound stages was a headache, they couldn't keep using the same furniture and props over and over, but they didn't want to spend the money on new pieces...."
I interjected, "Shit, we just hit up Starvation Army and Goodwill for set furniture."
Trish continued, "Anyway, another sticking point was shooting on location. They didn't want to spend the money on permits, but didn't have the balls to just do some guerilla filming. It all comes down to Leisure Time wanting to make a feature that kicks the ass of 'Bewitched,' but refusing to spend the money needed to do so. If they got any cheaper with this project, they'd be re-using toilet paper."
Angel shook his head. "Look, you can't tell me anyone as big as Leisure Time doesn't have a lot of greenback resources available. You take the damn money you made and reinvest it, you don't just keep it all. Look at what we spent on 'Succubus,' for Christ's sake. Yeah, it was an incredibly expensive project for a porn video. But we had the money, and we know what we wanted to accomplish, so we spent some of the money we'd already made. At this point Inana has the money to take on any project it wants to, cost be damned. I'm not gonna hoard all that cash and have a feature my name is attached to look like shit."
"Why don't we give Trish the grand tour now?" I suggested.
Our first stop was the kitchen for sodas. Then we went into the "performer's lounge," our own little slice of Animal House. Trish was amused by the dart board with Catharine Macinnon's face taped to it. She was stunned by the pool and spas. On the second floor we stuck our heads into the three sound stages. Small Steve and Sally were coiling cables and bandying around suggestions for blocking the next morning's shoot. We introduced them to Trish. She told them she'd been working the studio circuit in LA for three years. Steve grinned and clapped her on the arm, saying, "Don't worry, around here you don't need to budget for Pepto Bismol when you go shopping ."
On the third floor we pointed out the spare bedrooms and shower rooms along the main hallway, then took her into the penthouse. Trish was amazed. The penthouse was part Soho loft, part Playboy sin den. We pointed things out to her, like where the thermostat was and how to operate the garbage disposal. She would have a king size water bed to herself, and the decadent pleasure of a four head shower. I explained the phone worked, go ahead and use it, calling LA is fine. And no visitors, sorry.
Trish looked frustrated. She said, "I'm gonna be staying in a place like this, and my luggage consists of a backpack and a garbage bag. How did I turn into white trash so quickly?"
"From what you said, you literally lost everything," commented Angel. "We have faith you'll pass your interviews, and you can start rebuilding. Lenny, Bekka, I'm headed towards home. Take this young lady to Safeway for some groceries."
We drove to Safeway in the Falcon hot rod. Trish was delighted to learn this beast was Bekka's daily driver, that seemed so powerful and awesome to her. On our way, Trish made a comment about stocking up on ramen, to save money. "Balls to that, girl," said Bekka. "This is on our dime. You grab anything you want, you'll be living out of the penthouse for a week, so stock up. There isn't anything convenient to the mansion, even Pizza Hut is a half hour walk."
"Grab yourself a carton of smokes while we're here, too," I added. "Cigarettes are a forty minute walk."
We checked out, went back to the mansion, and schlepped stuff up to the penthouse. After groceries were put away, Trish said, "Look, um, I can't thank you enough." She shook her head. "This is all too strange. I have complete strangers taking me in, setting me up with a good job, housing me, feeding me, and they don't seem to want anything back. No casting couch? Or am I expecting a midnight visit?"
"No, nothing like that," I responded. "I am happily married. I have lovers besides Bekka, but they are all friends. I don't need to chase down strange women for sex, I'm not a rapist, and I don't know you as a person, which would detract from any sexual activity."
Bekka said, "Lenny has three lovers besides me. All three are friends of mine, and also of Lenny's. He has to get to know a woman before he'll sleep with her, it's just a hang-up with him. Angel is back in Encino, Steve has gone home, the front door will be locked, you will be all alone in this mansion. I suggest using the TV and the telephone to keep yourself company. Hell, I'd love it if you did a little project for me. Call up friends of yours in the industry and get their personal opinions of Inana Productions. We are very different than anyone in the business, but people still don't understand us. I would be entertained to hear how others view us."
Bekka and I said our goodnights and headed out to the vehicles. Before we took off, Bekka said, "So when you were a kid, were you always bringing home stray animals to raise?"
"Nope," I answered. "Not a one. Maybe that's why I do it now."
"In the morning we'll check her teeth and examine her to see if she's been spayed."