"I wanna be an Airborne Ranger," Chris warbled at the top of his voice, "Livin' the life of sex and danger... If I die in the old drop zone... Box me up and send me home... Sound off - 1, 2. Sound off - 3-4. Sound off - 1-2... 3-4."
This was not long after the Andy Warhol Fire Extinguisher caper, and Chris was still in a great mood for having put one over on Irwin (The Towering Toupee) Allen, boss man of the quickly dying TV Series, Code Red.
There was a dirty version of the song, but Chris, who really had been an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam, stuck to the family friendly alternative out of deference to the two ladies in the outer office. One was our secretary, Genevieve, and the other I'll just call by the made up name of Jodie, for reasons that will soon be obvious.
I said, "You sing worse now than when we were kids." (We met in our senior year of high school) "Maybe if you smoked and drank a little more, you'd get a Phil Harris effect. That'd be an improvement."
"I'll smoke to that," Chris said, firing up a Marble. "And drink to it too." He retrieved a bottle of Scotch from a desk drawer, sweetened his coffee, then shoved the bottle over to me.
"What do you say we sneak a little Sten work in?" I suggested. I indicated a stack of Code Red scripts on my desk. "Nothing here that can't wait."
We were in the beginning stages of writing The Wolf Worlds - the second book in the Sten series. The novel was much overdue and we'd been getting heat from Owen Locke, our editor at Del Rey Books.
Chris raised his coffee cup in a toast to indicate agreement and I headed for the outer office to grab a typewriter cartridge. The new IBM Selectric-2 typewriters had the latest technology, including a white correction tape running beneath the regular black ink ribbon. If you made a mistake you just had to backspace to the error, type the letter again, and the whiteout tape would lift it off. Then you'd type the correct letter, and the type ball would whirl around to your letter of choice, and print it in black ink. No fuss, no muss.
I got a cartridge from the supply cabinet and as I headed back to my desk, Jodie caught my eye and motioned me over. Jodie was a good-looking young woman in her mid-twenties, who wore clothes that set off her figure, but tastefully so.
In a low, conspiratorial-like voice, she asked, "Is it okay if I go to lunch?"
I looked at the closed door behind her. The new exec story consultant, who took Larry Heath's place, was obviously home, or the door would be open. Technically he was Jodie's boss, and she ought to be asking him, not me. And why the hell did she have to ask anybody for permission? Genevieve, and every other secretary we'd had, used to just announce they were going to lunch and left - assuming there wasn't some sort of emergency; and even so, they'd already know about it and automatically put off lunch until the crisis had passed.
"It's important," Jodie stressed, still in that conspiratorial voice.
I shrugged. "Sure, go ahead," I said. Then mischievously added, "Take as long as you want. We're not busy today."
She whispered thanks, grabbed her purse and was out of there so fast the branches in the trees would have whipped back forth. If we had any trees in our office, that is.
"What was that all that about?" I asked Genevieve.
Genevieve shot the closed door a look that pretty much answered my question. "He's an ass," she said. "He's always riding her for no good reason. She's one of the best secretaries at TBS and he's lucky to have her."
It was true. It hadn't escaped Chris or my notice that Jodie was a crackerjack secretary, with not just superior technical office skills, like typing, organization, and so forth, but she was the sole of discretion and diplomacy when dealing with the phone, or visitors to our office. Plus, if the load for Genevieve got too heavy, she'd dive right in and help sort it out.
"Well, if he asks about her," I said, "blame it on Bunch and Cole."
Chris' voice came behind me. "Not so fast, Cole. What am I supposed to be sharing the blame for this time?"
I said, "I told Jodie she could go to lunch, and to take as much time as she pleased."
Chris thought a minute, then, with a grin: "Sure I'll take the heat from Old Anger-Concern."
Genevieve giggled. "He won't dare say word if I tell him that. He's scared to death of you two."
I can't remember the name of the "He" we were talking about. Honest to God. Mainly because whenever he comes to mind, I think of the name Chris had given him - Old Anger-Concern. The reason he got that moniker is because of a particularly bad script he'd turned in. And this was from a guy who wrote like a soap opera scribe on dope.
In a nauseatingly touchy-feely scene, he had one of our young fireman stars slumped on a curbside looking depressed after the weekly last-Act big blaze had been put out. A buddy approaches and asks him how he feels about what had just happened. And, in a tormented voice, out young star replies: "Anger, concern... What does it all mean?" This was followed by a list of other emotions that you'd never hear any stalwart fireman claim, even to himself. Our tech advisor, a retired LA County Fire Department Chief was livid. But the guy was the new boss of the story department and so nothing could be done.
And thus, thanks to Chris, he became forever known as Old Anger-Concern. Within a day it was all over the show. And a day later, the whole lot.
Genevieve wiggled her finger for us to come closer. Once again, I was listening to a conspiratorial whisper. "Guess who she's going to see."
Chris and I shrugged. "I give up," I said for both of us.
Genevieve said, "I'll give you a hint. He's the biggest star on the lot."
I thought a minute. There were lots of big stars around. TBS Studios, after all, was three studios wrapped in one - Columbia, Paramount and... It came to me and Chris at the same time.
"Warner Brothers," Chris said. "Clint Eastwood's shooting a movie for them."
At the time Eastwood and Burt Reynolds traded places summer-to-summer as the highest paid movie stars on the Planet. Since we were ensconced in Burt's old offices, there could only be one other guy.
"Give that man a cigar," Genevieve said, confirming our guess.
Then I asked the obvious question. "You mean Jodie's meeting him for lunch? Isn't that like - you know, really public. Might that not get him in trouble with... what's her face?"
"Sondra Locke," Genevieve said, filling in my mental blank. "And, yes, it would be troublesome if she were meeting him someplace public, but she's not." Leaning closer, lowering her voice more, she said, "Jodie told me that's she's meeting Mr. Eastwood in his trailer."
Chris and I laughed. "What a dog," Chris said admiringly.
We did some work on The Wolf Worlds, went to lunch, then returned, planning to dive back into the adventures of young Sten and Alex Kilgour again.
But before we could settle in, Jodie came bursting into the outer office. She was disheveled, one knee of her stockings was shredded and she had a wild, desperate look in her eyes.
"She just tried to kill me," Jodie said.
"Who tried to kill you?" Genevieve asked, rising and going to help the young woman to sit before she collapsed.
"Sondra Locke, that's who," Jodie said.
By now Chris and I were in the doorway looking on.
"What happened?" I asked.
Meanwhile, Genevieve was getting out some tissues and dabbing at dirt streaks on poor Jodie's face.
"I was just... you know... leaving Clint's trailer," she said, "...and I was walking down the alley between some soundstages when I heard this huge roar." She spread her hands apart to indicate just how huge a roar it was. "And I turned around... And... And... There was this big car coming right at me."
"No shit," Chris said.
"Well, I jumped out of the way just in time," Jodie continued. Then indicating her torn stocking, she added, "Fell out of the way, actually. And then...Then... when the car screeched by I looked up and there was Sondra Locke behind the wheel. At least I think it was her." Then she nodded vigorously. "I'm certain of it."
"Are you okay?" I asked. "Do you need to go to the emergency room, or something?"
"We'll drive you," Chris volunteered.
Jodie shook her head. "No. I'm okay. Just - you know - shaken up." She looked down at herself. "I'll just go to the Ladies and repair the damage the best I can." As she rose, she added, "Besides, I don't want a single word to get out about it. You know how the tabloids hang out at the emergency rooms around here. They'll find out and there will be a big scandal."
She left and we turned to Genevieve. "Do you think she's telling the truth?" I asked.
Genevieve shook her head. "I have no idea," she said. "But she's always been very open and honest before."
"A little too open," Chris observed.
Jodie had entertained us all with various stories of her conquests, including the most recent, which was with a handsome young cowboy in the hayloft of a local dude ranch. We listened, of course, feeling vaguely guilty the whole time for reasons that I still don't understand. When I get to the Afterlife I'll check it out with Dr. Freud.
A couple of days later Jodie came back from her break with a stack of newspapers under her arm. She plunked them on her desk and I heard excited chatter between Jodie and Genevieve. A moment later Jodie tapped on our open office door.
"Jodie, my belle," Chris said, "What can we do you for?"
"I just don't know what to do," she said, advancing to our desks. "Look what happened." She held up a tabloid for us to see. "I don't know how they found out," she said.
Chris took the paper and I got up from my desk to look over his shoulder. On page two was a double-column, top to bottom article with some kind of salacious headline about Sondra Locke and Eastwood. There were mug shots of both of them. Basically the article, which was by one of the top 'reporters" of the scandal sheet, repeated the story Jodie had reported to us a few days before. Except, it was told from the point of view of several bystanders who claimed to have witnessed the event.
"They even got my name somehow," Jodie said, stabbing at a sentence in the story where she refuses to comment on whatever the question was the reporter had asked.
"Whatever am I going to do?" she asked.
But she had an odd note to her voice, which both Chris and I picked up on. Jodie was enjoying the hell out of this. Fame, however small, however scandalous, has a way of going to people's heads.
I said, "You did the right thing by not commenting. Keep it up, ignore the whole issue, and by and by it will go away."
Jodie nodded. It was a firm nod. But I could see the light dancing in her eyes. "Thank you, Allan," she said. "That's just what I'm going to do."
She went back to her desk. But, when Chris and I went to lunch we could see a whole stack of tabloids on her desk, all turned to page 2 where the item was prominently displayed. Jodie was on the phone, obviously talking to a friend.
"I just can't imagine how they found out," she was saying. "I only told a few of my closest friends."
I looked over at Genevieve, who rolled her eyes and made dialing motions with a finger, indicating that Jodie had been calling her "closest friends" by the dozens.
Without a doubt Jodie was having the time of her life.
A few days later Jodie was tapping at our door again.
I said, "What's up, Jodie?"
Jodie's face was alight with excitement. "May I take lunch?" she said. "I know it's a little early, but..."
"Isn't Old Anger-Concern around?" Chris asked.
Jodie wrinkled her nose. "He's locked up in his office with that weird guy again."
I didn't want to get into the odd balls who regularly visited Old Anger-Concern, so I just said, "Sure, Jodie. Go right ahead."
And this time it was Chris who added. "Take all the time you need."
Jodie gave a long sigh of relief. "Oh, that's just great," she said. "Clint's been calling me all morning just begging to see me."
"Be careful," I warned. "You know what happened last time."
"I know, I know," Jodie said. "And I told Clint that maybe we ought to cool things a bit. But, then he told me he's going to Africa tomorrow, and there's no telling when he'll be back. And he's really, really lonely for me."
I recalled that Eastwood was shooting some kind of African-themed film, and said, "Go. Go."
She exited in a flash. Half a flash, even.
Chris said, "I think Clint is wanting his weekly BJ."
"Thanks to us," I said, "he's going to get it."
"Man, that guy owes us big time," Chris said, "and he doesn't even know it."
NEXT: TOUPEES ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE.