I'd had Mallory do an extra bit of writing for me. I told her to come up with two or three pages of one-on-one dialogue that would seem like it appeared in the middle of a script. Total fiction, a sample of a script that didn't exist, but had good dramatic moments in the dialogue, along with a bit of humor and some emotion. I'd come to realize that my usual way of conducting the first interview with a prospective performer wouldn't fly any more. How it had worked in the past was I'd pull three copies of an old script out of the files: one for the pledge, one for Bekka, and one for me. Bekka and the pledge would run through some one-on-one dialogue from the script, me reading along. This was a cold reading: the pledge would be seeing the script for the first time. Really, what we were looking for was literacy, inflection, and some energy. We weren't expecting a Alec Guinness-level performance, just a sign they could process the tone of a section of script right off the bat.
That wouldn't work anymore. Our catalog was too well-known. Having seen the completed movie, everyone would have a bias about how a chunk of dialogue should sound, and ape that. With the chunk of imaginary script, pledges would have no frame of reference. Mallory came up with some talk which involved a woman's search for her missing lover, who'd disappeared from his house without a trace. The only "clue" was a half-full ashtray. The lover didn't smoke, and wouldn't allow smoking in the house. There had been a mystery guest, one the lover went out of his way to accommodate. The dialogue had tension, distress, flashes of anger, hope and despair.... It was good for seeing how people would handle the changes in mood.
After the three day open call, we had over 200 potential Inana girls and boys. The decision was made to review them as a group, yeah or nay, majority rule. Small Steve would be sitting this process out, he had to work. So did all the girls. So.... Me, Angel, and Vinny started sorting through the CVs. Our "hiring" goal was nine girls, seven boys. Two black males, three black females, two Asians girls, one Latina girl. The girls would be diluted by the lily-white collective complexion of Inana as it currently sat. (Feel free to call our attitude towards hiring black guys tokenism. You'd be right.)
We narrowed our call-back list to thirty girls, eighteen guys. They'd be asked back for a second interview, one with more detail, and also a lot of talk from us. We wanted there to be zero mystery about how things worked at a porn studio, and Inana in particular. Anyone showing latent nervousness about performing hardcore would be given the bounce. Those who absorbed, and never asked questions, would be watched with trepidation. These interviews were a mix of "We'd like to know you better" and "Are you sure you're up for the job?" We would ask them, point blank, what their families would think of this new path in their career. The answers we were looking for were either, "Meh, they won't be bugged" or "They'll hate it, but fuck them anyway." Performers who have a family-installed guilt complex about their jobs don't work out. Those that passed this interview would be given their still photo and video tests.
The decision was made to vet the black guys first. All of them seemed intelligent, but also seemed to put a lot of stock in personal pride.... Perhaps too much than is good on the set of a porn shoot. Filmmaker Spike Lee had brought out the idea of the Young Black Intellectual, prodding that such an archetype was probably more useful in the long run than the Basketball Star or the Big-Living Rapper, two staples in American black ethos. The black dudes who applied at Inana had probably felt the sting of the conundrum presented in the movie "Hollywood Shuffle," which was about a black thespian whose dreams of film stardom are constantly being assaulted. Nobody in Hollywood cares about your time at the Actor's Studio or how much Konstantin Stanislavski you've read: if you're black, an actor, and in Hollywood, you will be playing pimps or gang-bangers. The fact these guys would probably get more respectable parts as porn studs was another reason for me to loathe the Industry.
(Also relevant, and demonstrated to a degree in "Hollywood Shuffle:" be a black male, and announce to your family you wish to trod the boards as a career. The family will wonder how recent your head injury is. American black culture has no history of "serious" stage performance, there is no black William Shakespeare or Arthur Miller. Robert Townsend's character is an underemployed actor who supports himself at a menial job, but prefers that over the purgatory his mother continually proposes to him: a job at the post office. ("You get a pension!") A subtle message in "Hollywood Shuffle" is blacks won't consider acting a valid pursuit, because almost no roles for blacks are very valid: gangsters, pimps, etc. Nobody brags about their cousin Richard who's out in Hollywood. His most recent role was as "Smoove B." in a TV crime drama. Before that, he was Panicky Black Guy Who Gets Killed Real Quick in a horror movie.)
The five black dudes we asked to return were all struggling in Hollywood. They wanted to act, but they had to eat. Inana seemed like a good compromise, they'd exercise both their libidos and their thespian skills. I explained that while Inana's features were well-developed, the bread and butter for every performer at Inana, from Becky Page on down, were the loops. Our loops at least pretended to have plots. A half hour loop would have about three or so minutes of dialogue at the beginning, then straight into the fucking and sucking, wall-to-wall sex with a few more lines of dialogue thrown in. Maybe forty seconds of dialogue at the end....
.... Although this would be changing, too. Fans of our features would check out our loop tapes, then complain about how boring they were. Mallory and I were batting around the idea of having loops be closer to sitcom episodes, or half-hour drama shows which were sequential. This would take a hell of a lot of writing, we'd need to bring another couple writers on board. ("Or.... I could quit at SoCal Edison and write full time..." Mallory suggested. "Horse, then cart, not the other way around," I replied.) These mini-features would fulfill the primary purpose of what loops are for --- jack-off fodder --- but not be as intellectually vacant as what we were currently doing.
I explained to my interviewees that their Screen Actor Guild cards didn't mean shit at Inana, or anywhere else in adult video. The SAG didn't register adult performers, and the adult film industry didn't ask for SAG cards. While Inana was very proud of what we'd achieved with our features, dammit, we were still just a company that made dirty movies, and while Inana did want genuine acting talent, it had to go hand in hand with looking really awesome when you fuck. Your time performing Beckett was useless to us if you were a dud when fucking on camera. All of them asked about contracts. "None," I told them. "Inana writes contracts when we're producing features, and the contracts last about as long as pre-production and production time. Our performers stick around because they're happy with their jobs, they're happy with the money, and they're happy with the work environment. Becky Page has been with Inana ten years, and has never had a contract lasting longer than seven weeks. We're not averse to contracts, we've just never bothered with them. We've never worried about people jumping ship, so why legally chain anyone to us?"
I was asked how many features Inana released a year. "Currently, four. We want to double that. That's why we've built the new studio, why we've created two new production units, and why we're hiring performers. The next step is locating writers who can write the style and quality of scripts we're used to. Then we're gonna be some busy bastards. But there's no point in having scripts being written if there's no one to perform them, or produce them. Don't worry, you'll be doing something 'real' sooner rather than later."
How long is production time? "We spend three weeks in pre-production, blocking, running lines, sharpening dialogue, rounding out characters. Our performers help establish their roles as full characters, we openly request performers come up with their own ideas about the aspects of the roles they play. Production is usually about three to four weeks, but those weeks can be six or seven days long for some of us. How busy you are during production depends on your role. However, during pre-production, we like everyone cast to be around every day we're working. Someone may only have ten lines in a feature, they're on screen for two minutes. But! They can be sitting there watching a couple people hash out some dialogue and performance, and think of an idea which will really make the scene pop. It's a collaborative effort around here, everybody adds nuances to a feature that make the feature a more full experience."
Wait, three weeks of pre-production? How do you get everything done? How do actors flesh out their characters? Is that really enough time? With a laugh, I responded, "Until recently, do you know how much time was devoted to pre-production in this industry? Jack over shit. Performers would be handed scripts the morning they started production and asked to not fuck up too badly. Jesus, the studios thought twelve days was an eternity for actual production. Everybody's changed that now, they want to make features with the same resonance as what Inana produces, so they've had to re-think how they do things.
"Look, at Inana, you've got to do a lot of your own thinking. You have to come up with the nuances and depth to make your role a full-developed character, then share your ideas with everyone else. Got an idea to add more verve to a dialogue scene? Belt it out, we wanna hear it. Got an idea that might improve on someone else's role? Share, dammit. People at Inana tend to be pretty high energy. When we're working in pre-production, everyone will hang out, no matter what the 'official' schedule says is being done that day. Our performers are part of the creative team, and they like that. Yeah, compared to a Hollywood feature, three weeks of pre-production ain't shit. We just didn't know it. Three weeks seemed like a reasonable amount of time for the tasks, and it was three weeks longer than anyone else bothered with."
This information was carefully considered. In Hollywood, the details of a character are dictated to a performer. Actually being able to help craft a character? That sounds like fun. So people at Inana are asked to put more mental energy into their jobs than anyone would at a major studio.... But wow, the job would be so much more fulfilling.
So, uh, do I have to come up with a stupid screen name, now that I might be in porn? Can I just use the name I'm registered with the SAG under, or even my real name? "You can call yourself anything you damn please as a screen name at Inana, so long as it can be printed in the newspaper. Don't call yourself 'Studley Fuckpole.' However, the name 'Dick Thrust' is perfectly acceptable, it's printable. If you want to hold onto your SAG card, check with 'em to see if they've got some stupid rule about an SAG-registered name showing up in a dirty movie.
"Some performers just stuck with real-life nicknames, like 'Roach' and 'Feather.' Others plowed through a couple translation dictionaries to make up a name. The 'Liscio' in 'Missy Liscio' is Italian for 'lust.' Trish Carezza is, in English, Trish Caress. Becky --- Bekka Schneider, in real life --- chose 'Becky Page' as a homage to Fifties pin-up girl Bettie Page. Yeah, porn screen names can get pretty fuckin' hokey, people around here are pretty restrained." I considered briefly. "Shit, have fun with it. Think up words or very short phrases, then go to UCSD and harass the folks at the foreign languages departments for translations. Like, what's Swedish for 'earth-shattering orgasm'? What's German for 'terminal hard-on'? Find the Tagalog word for 'swollen,' or the Swahili word for 'throbbing.' There, you've got a last name. You can choose any first name you want except one. I will never have a 'Dirk' performing at Inana. 'Dirk' is not allowed. If I'd run across any real-life Dirks during the open call, I'd have wadded up his CV as soon as he left the table."
So, why has Inana never had any black performers? "A complete and total lack of applicants, that's all. Okay, not quite true. I had a few black dudes show up to interview, but they were hopeless, they were nineteen and twenty year old illiterate gang-bangers from Encanto and East San Diego. I'd try and do a read-through with them, and they couldn't read the scripts. They'd get pissed and ask what reading a script had to do with 'fuckin' bitches fo' money.' Yeah.... Um, that reminds me. I have a small allergy. I heavily discourage the use of the word 'bitch' at the studios. And if I hear someone use it in reference to another person, especially an Inana performer, that person is working their last day. They're gone. One of the fuckin' things I take a lot of pride in here is that everyone is treated with respect. For women, the money at the LA studios might be a little better, but they're treated like shit a lot of the time. At a lot of studios, a female performer's motivation is being called a dumb bitch and stupid cunt. Fuck that shit. One of the reasons my girls stick around is they don't have to put up with that bullshit here."
We would stand and shake hands, and they'd express sincere hope they'd be called to do the induction interviews. And by the way, uh, how does one choose a partner for the video interview? "You don't choose, I do. It's partly based on availability, and also on the interviewee's attitude. If a girl getting ready to take the video interview won't shut up about what a size queen she is, she loves 'em large, I'm putting her with either Roach or Eddie the Jew, a couple guys with cartoonishly large dicks. Hey, they asked for it. Those girls quickly learn that what they thought of as a large penis wasn't diddly compared to some guys in porn. And if a guy taking the video interview is an egomaniac, a complete prick, I'm putting him with one of my three man-eaters: Sue, Feather, or Jane. Sue is a goth girl, she looks like she's gonna sprout fangs and drink your blood. Feather is pretty aggressive and totally unflappable. She's nineteen, looks like she's fourteen, is maybe five foot three and a hundred pounds.... And she takes nine inches of dick up her ass with a happy smile.
"And Jane? Oh, holy shit. I put her with a dude named Stallion for her video interview. Stallion thinks he's too good to do the co-star routine in those interviews, so he'll always look bored and indifferent, totally blasé. Jane scared the living crap out of him. She is eighteen, very aggressive, very high energy. Jane has a blue mohawk and a nose ring, and wishes high-impact intercourse was an Olympic event. She wants to be capable of inducing an orgasm in men so intense the man is literally in mortal danger. She'll seriously have a look in her eyes that says to the guy she's with, 'I'm going to destroy your brain now. You will never recover from a sexual event with me.' She has body like a Vargas model and the sex drive of an army of Wilt Chamberlain clones. In her interview, she rode Stallion like a hobby horse, sucked his brains out through his dick, and dirty-talked her way into the Tourette's hall of fame. Stallion was just overwhelmed, he was up against a girl who is the sexual equivalent of the Rodney King riots."
Eyebrows went up and eyes widened. Jane, you say? Okay.... Well, I'll be sure and keep my ego in check.
By September first we had our new batch of performers. The Oceanside studio would ramp up to full power, more or less. The two new production units would have the same three day weeks as our originals. All four production units would circulate through both studios, getting a feel for everything. Both Steves, Rich, Sally, and Bekka were ecstatic with the editing suites at the new facility, brand new high-end equipment whirring along. There were two viewing rooms attached, each seating about seven or eight people. And next door was a larger space, both a large viewing room and meeting area.
Three days after I told Mallory to not get her hopes up about being a writer full time, I changed my mind. I contacted Angel and explained what I wanted to do, and it would involve having Mallory pretty much at my beck and call. Angel gave the okay, and I called Mallory with instructions to quit working for the utility and put a fresh ribbon in the typewriter, we had shit to do. Mallory, as creatively restless as she was, was already a couple steps ahead. She'd thought of scenario outlines for five different series of mini-features, and had kept practicality in mind when she did. One was set in a college dorm, and had both humor and pathos. One was set in a real estate office, the head agent being a woman was neurotic and sexually impulsive. She'd watched "Lust Instructor," and decided a 24 Hour Fitness Center, around three in the morning, would be a prime place for some sexy hi-jinks. The gym members would find highly creative uses for the equipment. Another was just the interior of an apartment occupied by two women and a man. It was like "Three's Company" if Jack, Janet, and Chrissy had stopped playing games and finally started fucking each other (and their friends, and co-workers, and random strangers) pretty much constantly. The last was about a young slacker, just out of high school, who lives in his parents' garage with his girlfriend. It was the sort of stoner haven a lot of suburban youth end up hanging around in at that age: the bong never completely cooled, Bad Company and the Allman Brothers were always on the stereo, friends would drift in and out at all hours. The sort of place where simply saying the word "Dude...." with enough emphasis was considered a profound statement. The running joke was the slacker and his girlfriend cheated on each other pretty much constantly, sometimes while the other one was in the room. They'd break up with each other at every instance of philandering, but then forget they had by the time the bowl on the bong was empty, and continue being happy. The two would never yell or fight, they'd pout at each other, then sit in opposite corners of the garage to sulk. Then something distracting would happen, like someone showing up or the phone ringing. They'd forget they were angry with the other person, and return to normal. My favorite line, which Mallory dropped in the outline so she wouldn't forget was from the girlfriend. "Dude, she sucked your dick for five Whippets cartridges! Jeez! I'll bet if I gave her fifty dollars, she'd give me both her livers!"
Sitting down and writing scripts for these set-ups was a piece of cake. Like I mentioned, the primary purpose of these mini-features was to be masturbation fuel, not any sort of creative triumph. However, any random plot idea could be stretched out through the half hour, and help sew together the sex.... Which no longer had to be one long uninterrupted fuck-a-thon. The fitness center set-up would be the only one which would take a bit of money, we'd need to buy or lease the nice shiny equipment like those yuppie gyms have. But all the others would just take a bit of time haunting second-hand furniture and office equipment places. I decided me and Roach would take care of the set decoration for the garage-dwelling slacker's place, we both knew that scene like our own dicks. The casual but chronic drug use, the heavy metal and black light posters, comic books sprawled across the "coffee table" (a door sitting on cinder blocks), all the minor drama everyone who hung out with seemed to have.... It was a quintessential scene of SoCal suburban white trash.
Our new performers were:
- Sean, one of the black studs. Rabid Sidney Poitier fan. Age, 28.
- Demetrius, the other black stud. Listens to Public Enemy and reads Noam Chomsky. Age, 24.22
- Our three new black girls were Rhonda, Gabrielle, and Tina. I'd called it: all three were originally from the San Fernando Valley, and the better areas within. All three were capable of exclaiming "Oh my God!" in a Valley Girl voice during conversation, without the slightest trace of irony. All three had dabbled around Hollywood, holding SAG cards and taking bit parts. But they also were naturally-occurring Objectivists. Their basic logic in working for Inana was, We're hot, we've got the moves, and we've got the youth. What anyone thinks about us or our jobs is irrelevant in the face of the main point: we'll live well, make good money, and have short work weeks. Those three points trumped all other arguments.
- The Asian contingent was filled by two very different young ladies. Anna Tanaka, age twenty-two, was a career art student, looking and acting every bit the part.... at first glance. Actually, she was a rather dorky Japanese-American chick whose grandparents had been in the Manzanar camp during WWII. One of her stated goals in working for Inana was to "explore the concept of erotic behavior as an artistic medium, sex is the brush we paint another picture with." Translation: I'm horny, but also socially awkward, so even the faux coupling that happens on a sound stage will be a release. Also, I hope after I'm in enough videos, cute boys will finally start to notice me.
Jenna Ng, twenty-one, was from Garden Grove, third generation Boat Person. Her grandparents never picked up enough English to order a pizza on the phone. Jenna may have been of Southeast Asian ethnicity, but was American as credit card debt. She drove a Honda Accord which had been lowered, had huge chrome rims with two inch tall tires, was the color of a box of Tide, and sounded like an amplified beer fart when you hit the gas. It also had a huge wing on the back. Jenna decided Roach was a complete jerk when he pointed out the wing would generate down-force, right? Jenna confirmed this. Roach continued on to suggest that in a front wheel drive car, like a Honda, wasn't applying down-force on the rear of the vehicle kind of, you know.... stupid? Jenna just drank from her can of Barq's, giving Roach an angry glare.
- Our new Latina was Rosie Garcia, of Cuban descent. Like many expatriate Cubans, her politics were very right-wing, the sort of people who thought Reagan was a Socialist. Her political positioning was very shaky. The first day she worked, she spent several minutes complaining about the "tax and spend liberals" who inhabit California. Two sentences later, Rosie proposed a vast increase in public aid to the arts, the federal government acting like the Medici family did in Italy during the Renaissance. There was a lot of eye-rolling in the room. Her own grandparents had fled Cuba by boat just as Castro was taking hold. Rita quickly learned that in America, a dark-skinned girl named Rosie Garcia could easily be almost totally ignorant of her ancestral language. Especially being raised in Florida by ardent flag-waving parents. Rita walked up to Rosie and began speaking in her usual border Spanish. Rosie stared at her, confused, and finally said, "What?".
- Three new white girls, all with experience in the industry. Melissa ("Not Missy!"), Raquel, and "Toxica." This last one was increasing our count of fashion monsters: now we had Sue, Feather, Bekka, and Pill. Bekka was the only one whose hair was its natural color. Toxica had been trying to make a name for herself as a sort of non-threatening punk rock sex bomb. Her hair wasn't too short, she had a single tiny hoop in one nostril, and her nails were nice. Really, she was as punk rock as the Beach Boys. I threw band names at her, and they just bounced off her skull. She wanted "Toxica" to become a brand, sort of a pink-haired Becky Page, but with a much larger line of merchandise.
When I first met Melissa, I wrote her off. There was no way in hell she was going to even get through the photo interview, much less the video shoot. Far, far too reserved and quiet. Plain wire-rimmed glasses. The fashion sense of a Mormon. Then she stripped naked and a camera was pointed at her on a sound stage. Jeckyl became Hyde, if Mr. Hyde had a 42DD rack and a shaved pussy. In her photo interview, she took time between creative poses that would best expose her vulva, to comment how she liked her boys hung like Clydesdales, the bigger the better, and no holes barred. So, I put her with Roach on the video interview, to see if she would gain a little bit of humility. Stupid me. She got Roach in her mouth all the way to the hilt, then began throat-fucking his dick like a jackhammer. A while later, they were setting up for her anal audition. Roach was lubed and getting in position. Melissa said, "Come on, baby, gimme that thing! Pound it in there!"
"Um.... Are you sure?" asked Roach.
"Yeah baby, get that cock up my ass!"
Roach had a horrible look on his face, like he knew he was going to hurt her, but he did as she told him. Instead of her screaming with pain, she cooed, "Yeah, fuck my ass, daddy! Fuck my ass!" Knowing the camera was on Melissa, Roach looked over at me and mouthed the words "Oh my fucking God" with a terrified face. A half hour later, Melissa was back in my office, glasses in place, makeup gone, calf-length wool skirt and white blouse in order. Her soft speaking voice had all the inflection of Steven Wright. She began quizzing me on which local neighborhoods had a high percentage of retirees, she said an area with children would be "too noisy" for her tastes and comfort.
Raquel was to become known as the female version of our stud Vince: talented, a perfectly nice person, and dumber than a mud burrito. When we did her cold read interview, she pleaded to have three minutes so she could read over the script. She spent all three minutes frowning at the pages, moving her lips, trying to sound out words. Twice she asked for the meaning of a word. Her read-through was decent, actually better than I expected, since it was clear she was struggling to read the script. I didn't think she was an idiot at this point, I suspected dyslexia.
Her second day at work in Oceanside, she parked in the lot, got out, and headed in the building.... Leaving the car running and in Drive. It gently bumped into the rear of Ace's '69 Newport, then sat there. Spike, our H.A. doorman, finally went to find where the sound of an idling motor was coming from. He'd seen whose car it was, so he went up to the sound stage to give her the car keys. He asked why she'd gotten out of the car with it still in gear and running. Her response: "Oh, poop, did I do that again? It's not in a swimming pool again, is it?" At lunch someone was taking orders for the local drive-thru. She requested a "cheeseburger, without the cheese." Okay, a hamburger. "No! I want a cheeseburger, but I don't want cheese on it!" Yes, dear, that would be a hamburger. Think about it. So she did, with great effort, and finally said Wow, I guess that is how that works.
- Our five new white studs were all built out of the same parts bin. Healthy, good-looking, in shape, fairly well-hung, and each had the personality of a tater tot. All had worked as studs at the LA studios, part time. One of them elaborated to me --- after we'd signed him on --- they all hoped Inana would be "less stressful" than the LA studios were. Uh.... You guys are aware that when we're making a feature, you're gonna eat, breathe, and live that production, right? "Oh, sure. But there's not a whole soap opera going on at the same time, right? People aren't feuding, the girls aren't trying to status-fuck their way into the producer's life?"
"No, not at all. We're too damn busy, and we resolve conflicts that may occur, get people to sit down and talk. Since most of the time I am the producer, the girls here know better than try something like that. First, I wouldn't call the girl a dumb bitch or anything, I'd just state, 'I thought you had more class than that,' and walk away. And a bit number two, my wife Bekka would surely know about the attempted seduction. Bekka, a.k.a. Becky Page, would grab the girl and beat her against the wall like a rug, then she'd get violent."
All five new white studs (Jesus, that sounds like part of a lumber order) had never had any real trouble with the law. They were employed through temp agencies at clerical jobs. All held SAG cards, having the same dreams of success as Seth and Demetrius. The problem with these dudes was they were so inoffensive looking, nothing made them noticeable at all. Their Hollywood roles would always have names like "Friend of neighbor" or "Man in bank line" or "Bus passenger." Their cars were sedate, reliable, and Japanese. None currently had a steady girlfriend, one of the effects of being a porn stud: women assumed you are a serial philander.
But they had performed in the past and knew what was expected from them. Seth and Demetrius were still up in the air. Both of their video interviews were quite good, they had very smooth, fluid physical action, they looked self-assured without appearing egotistical, and their dicks seemed to be well-trained. Both were still in the process of moving down to North County from LA, so they weren't on the board yet. I asked Small Steve permission to have a third camera running during an upcoming loop, preferably one starring Roach. I would keep my camera on Roach, and not shut off until he was off the sound stage completely. That way, I could sit Seth and Demetrius down and give them a real-time, play-by-play explanation through every moment of producing a loop. Focusing on Roach, I'd have a stud who was professional, warm, and engaging.
Meanwhile, Jane had flown the coop. UC Berkeley started classes a couple weeks before Labor Day. We ensconced her in the shared studio she'd be living in her freshman year, providing a bed, clothes, personal effects, her new 386 PC, and the usual. The girl she'd be sharing with wasn't there yet. Her name was Kaitlyn, and she was from Irvine in Orange County. This worried Jane. You know the insufferable jackasses from Connecticut, the ones with classist attitudes, yachts, lockjaw, and condescending behavior? Irvine was where the West Coast version of these tools are from. Old money families, rich, utter snobs. Sheltered from the world in gated communities. Irvine is a petting zoo of rich, class-conscious honkies.
Jane got Kaitlyn's number from the office and called. No answer. There never was an answer for five days, then finally someone picked up the phone. Jane said, "Hi, is Kaitlyn there?"
"Who is this?" came a suspicious response.
"I'm Jane Osborne, Kaitlyn and I will be sharing a place here in Berkeley this year. Since she's not up here yet, I just wanted to talk to her and hammer out some of the practicalities we have to deal with. Like, furniture. If she wants, I can pick up some stuff, rent a truck, haul it here, and just split the cost. Um, I had to have the phones and utilities turned on, so they're in my name already. Is Kaitlyn available?"
"This is Kaitlyn," said the suspicious voice. "What else did you want to talk about?"
"Well...." Jane pondered. "Okay, what sort of food do you like? Do you enjoy cooking? How about snacks and beverages? I figure we may as well find common ground on stuff like that, and do a lot of our shopping together. Also, were you going to bring a stereo? If not, I'm gonna go to Circuit City and pick up a system, nothing too massive. What sort of music do you listen to?"
"I listen to the radio," came the sullen response.
"Hey, I'll expand your horizons!" exclaimed Jane. "By taste and by fashion, I'm a punk, but I listen to all sorts of stuff, you won't be hearing the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag over and over. Um.... are you a computer user?"
"Okay. I have my 386 with me. I'll give you a basic tour of the system, it's running Windows 3.0, so it's simple enough. The computer is why we have two phone lines, so I can connect to the Internet without jamming up the phone."
There was a long pause. Jane finally said "Hello?" into the phone. Finally Kaitlyn's voice said, "Look, what do you want?"
Jane was shocked into brief silence, when she recovered, she was rather annoyed, responding, "Look, girlfriend, you and me are going to be living together for most of a year. I just wanted to introduce myself, and maybe hammer out the nuts and bolts of being roommates. I don't 'want' anything, except some discourse."
"So where are you from?" asked Kaitlyn.
Silently breathing a sigh of relief, Jane took this question as an opening to conversation. She replied, "I'm from a town called Encinitas, just north of San Diego. Originally, I'm from---"
Kaitlyn cut in to say, "I know Encinitas. That's where that famous prostitute Becky Page lives."
Jane bit off a loud retort and counted to ten. Then she said, "Oh, boy. Uh, honey.... You're probably going to have a hard time believing this, but uh, Becky --- her real name is Bekka --- was my roommate for the last two years. I lived with her and her husband, Lenny Schneider, since I was a sixteen year old runaway from Florida. If it weren't for Bekka and Lenny, I'd probably be turning tricks on Hollywood Boulevard right now, instead of graduating with honors from high school and attending UCB. I'm going to just pretend you didn't say what you just did, okay? We'll let it drop for now. So, uh.... Have you chosen a major?"
Ignoring this question, Kaitlyn sneered, "Wait, did you just say you're a runaway? And you were living with.... that woman and her husband? Oh my God, you also said you're one of those punk rockers, too, didn't you? Oh, God! I told the people at that building to match me with someone who has some class and status, and they put me with you! God, you're originally from Florida? You're just white trash, aren't you?"
Speaking very slowly, Jane said, "I.... am.... going to assume there's something going on in your life at the moment that has you very upset. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, take it on faith you're just lashing our randomly at an unknown voice on the phone. But I will remind you, Kaitlyn, we'll be roommates for the next two semesters. I'm sure our world views are going to greatly differ. However, there is no reason we cannot discuss things and reach a state of detente. You're hurling insults at someone you've never met face to face. Calm down and focus on the reason for this call. Can you do that?"
"Did you go to a public school?" jeered Kaitlyn.
"God, those idiots at that building! They couldn't find me a roommate I'd get along with? Someone of quality? No, they put me with some punk rocker girl who thinks I should get mixed up in her life right away. Great. Look, you do what you want, but don't you dare try to drag me down to your level. We're not gonna hang out together, we're not gonna go to the same parties, you're just some.... girl.... who lives in the same place as me. And keep your scary friends away from our building, I'll call the police if they're hanging around."
In a voice bright with sarcasm, Jane chirped, "Oh, we're going to have such a lovely time, aren't we? We'll be inseparable within a week. Okay, sister, a few things. First, don't worry about furniture except your own bed, I'll cover that, I've got the fuckin' money. I'll also pick up a stereo system. I'm not sure what your goddamn problem is, honey, but you'd better check yourself before you get here. Unless you're the female Mike Tyson, you don't worry me at all. Oh, and by the way? My friends will come and go as they please. Don't try to dig up trouble for them, you'll live to regret it. They've had to handle much bigger hassles than some harpy bitch from O.C. Listen for their Harleys, that'll be them. You can fuck off someplace else when they come to see me."
"Just who are your friends?" pressed Kaitlyn.
With a giggle, Jane replied, "Oh, it's another case where you're probably not going to believe me, until you see for yourself. There's a worldwide motorcycle club called the Hell's Angels, see? They have a chapter in Oakland. I'm in tight with the Dago chapter, and I've made friends with some of the Oakland boys. Guess what, girly, there will sometimes be big scary ugly bikers hanging around. They'll be with me, so give them no concern."
"Yeah, Oakland chapter. Riley, their sergeant-at-arms, is a good friend. There's also Weasel, and---"
"If you bring people like that into my apartment, I'll have you evicted, and I'll have you expelled from school! You had better be making a joke, you can't possibly be serious about having trash like that for friends."
With a chuckle, Jane said, "First of all, our apartment, not yours. You're going to look like an idiot complaining to the management that I should be evicted because you think my friends are icky, and no other reason. They won't hurt a thing, so there's no reason why they shouldn't come to see me. Oh, and you're going to have me expelled? Do enlighten me, what the hell for? How will you pull that off?"
"My parents are Berkeley alumni," declared Kaitlyn. They have money, and they donate to Berkeley all the time. So does my grandfather, he's also alumni. My family has influence there, they don't have to give a reason for you to be expelled. I'll just tell my parents that my white trash roommate is doing things which endanger me, like inviting criminals and rapists into my apartment. You'll go back to being white trash, and leave those of us who have some quality the hell alone."
"What day are you arriving?" Jane asked calmly.
"Six days from now. Are you going to go away?"
"Nope. I'm just curious. Your parents will be with you?"
"Of course, why would't they?"
With a tinkle, Jane said, "I'm just dying to meet them. Their daughter is such a treasure, I imagine they're just as wonderful too." She paused. "I will be carrying a micro-cassette recorder the entire time they're here, saving everything they say. If I hear any threats made against me, my schooling, or my friends, the tape will be played in the presence of the UC Police Department, my counselor, and various deans at UCB. Cupcake, do not threaten me. Ever. You would never believe the resources I have. Anything you try to smear me with will get wadded up and shoved up your ass. Now then, I must be going. I need to go shopping for furniture and buy some groceries. You can do whatever you like. I suggest locating some Thorazine, along with a shitload of Zoloft. Both will do you wonders. Goodbye, roomie."
Jane hung up, then sat and thought briefly. She dialed out again, this time to Lenny and Bekka. The incident was explained, along with the threats.
Lenny grunted with frustration. "Dammit, pet, there's just no way I can be there next week, we've got too many irons in the fire at the moment."
"However, I can," said Bekka. "In fact, I would love to see Riley again. Perhaps we could meet at your place, we can chat a bit."
After a couple ticks, Jane spoke. She sounded morose. "God dammit. My roommate is both a stuck-up rich bitch, and also a paranoid psychotic. As long as she stays out of my face, we'll survive. She can look into moving rooms at the semester."
"Don't worry about the expulsion threat," I said. "This is Berkeley, not some blueblood private college back East. So the cunt's parents are rich and connected, big deal. There's too much oversight at a place like Berkeley, precisely because they don't want shit like influence peddling to happen. And anyways, I'm sure there's an appeal process for expulsion."
"Maybe she'll be kidnapped by Basque terrorists driving up here next week," Jane said hopefully.
I headed for my office. I had some ideas for mini-feature scripts.