ALL RIGHTS RESERVED COPYRIGHT 1999-2013
When "That's OK!” the premier entertainment weekly, asked me, Max Dryden, to interview Vanessa Gardner I thought I would die. Nobody in ages has been able to get her to talk about her dark past. With the DVD release of one of her old cult films, the time had come for someone to dig dirt and that someone was me. I spent a long weekend at Vanessa's rental home in Cheviot Hills. I was there just to do the magazine interview, but we wound up bonding. I met some of her darling family members like her niece, Alana. There are no men in the picture. It seems after Chas Childs disappeared or died 40 years ago, depending on which story you believe, Vanessa gave up on ever finding true love. After just one really long weekend, I wound up with way too much material for a magazine interview. I had no choice but to stay longer. The next thing you know out spat this book. Maybe it has something to do with my natural abilities to reinterpret her real-life Hollywood events with such dramatic flair. Or, maybe it's because during all this we developed a true friendship. One that goes far beyond the smoke and mirror illusions Tinseltown makes of its progeny.
I hereby declare Vanessa Gardner to be a model of solidsteel strength, resilience and grace. Most of all, she is a wonderful friend to whom I dedicate this book. M. Dryden - Nyack, NY 2013
I flew in to LAX one very hot and super-sunny Saturday afternoon in early September a few years ago. It was very exciting for me, even though I have been through Los Angeles on several occasions. Sometimes for business, but most always for some kind of pleasure. Coming from Nyack, New York, one does not necessarily think very highly of Los Angeles. It wants to be something when it grows up, but it is still going through a somewhat awkward, post-adolescent phase. I don‟t frown upon this little hamlet; I simply wouldn‟t ever call it home. I was picked up by Vanessa Gardner‟s niece, Alana. Alana struck me as pretty plain. She was pretty, but in a non-descript way. It seemed odd for a celebrity‟s niece to be strikingly ordinary. She fit perfectly in skinny jeans and her hair extensions looked expensive even though they were a light brown shade with barely any highlights. She had on one hell of a pair of what looked - in the awful lighting at United‟s baggage claim - like Louboutins. Later she revealed to me that they were actually knockoffs she had bought at a Ross shop near the house she lives in with her aunt, the very famous Vanessa Gardner. To most people, Vanessa Gardner is not that famous. If, like me, you are under the age of thirty-five, it is possible you have no idea who in the blazes she is, unless, like me, you
she looked amazing with white knee-length boots and a crocheted miniskirt. That. I am not star-struck with people since I interview all kinds of People for a living. Usually.my boyfriend . Her sister was the big star of that old television show and cute little Vanessa had a few walkons on it. she became famous as the star of that counter-culture sensation movie. lonely tedium that comprises non-stop transcribing and writing. It helps a lot to get out of the house and away from the boring. She click-clacks
.happen to have all the episodes of Peggy Powell on DVD or you download them off of Netflix.knows the distinctions between good work and amateur art. “My aunt says we should stop and pick up some sushi. and I help out at my boyfriend‟s gallery part time. Ernest . In it. straight hair and poker straight bangs falling over her big expressive.” Alana grabs my bags and tosses them into the trunk of her crossover. It‟s nice to have him pay me to take smoking breaks and window shop for four-hour weekend shifts. “Children of Now”. know-it-all eyes. That is the best I can do to introduce you to Vanessa as she was when she was a fiery starlet with the Hollywood world on a string. She set off an entire “Seventeen” magazine trend with her long. Obviously she works out or at least is good about fitting in some weights a few times a week. Eventually.
Hah!” I act really stupid when I am nervous. I have to say it wound up being the most phenomenal sushi I ever tasted. “What was your name again? Max?” “I„ve been known to answer to dumb-dumb on occasion. then. We chatted about nothing big. “Sorry. I waited what seemed like forever while she stopped in to get sushi at a place that looked as non-descript as she did. off we went.
.” “Yes. It upsets my aunt. While Alana did not make me feel particularly uneasy.over to me and raises her sunglasses. So. “You are cool with sushi. Then. Step out and have one before we go.” I fumbled with my cigarettes. I didn‟t need to take another fifteen minutes off of my life.” Alana pointed to some busy street past those multi-colored. I never underestimated Vanessa. Any kind. I can‟t have anyone smoke in here. however. I shook my head. lighted LAX columns. the thought of being about one hour away from meeting Vanessa was turning me into a bumble-head. Who knew strip-malls were full of magic? I guess I underestimate Los Angeles sometimes.
in fact. Like I said. I tried even harder not to think how I would manage not fainting when entering that quaint house and making the acquaintance of the Vanessa Gardner. The car went up a really steep driveway and stopped in front of a garage that was stuck next to a pretty Leave-itto-Beaver-looking house. “Is this the tape recorder Aunt Vanessa mentioned that you use?” She arm-curled the bag that did.When we arrived at her house. and even a little on the expensive side. all of it had hints of retro from where I was standing. Alana and I walked inside the house. I was so nervous I didn‟t dare bring it up to Alana. no matter how disgusting public restrooms are to me. which is not really hers. (but that is another chapter) I really had to pee. Alana shut the motor off and went around the back for my bags. I nodded and tried hard not to think about how I should have gone to the bathroom at LAX.
. We had yet to click at that point. hold my oldfashioned tape machine. we did talk a little. despite how sunny it was outside. I kept the sushi take out on my lap. It seemed like a nice place. but somehow stuck in a different era. Yet. and tried hard not to squish it. It was dim in there. but not about anything big. The furniture seemed new.
dangling the sushi bag from her neatly manicured fingers and grinning wickedly. She was wearing sunglasses and a floppy black hat.” she said.” I had no time to call after her to ask what. so it was impossible to tell what color it was. or someone. After a few more hellaciously long seconds she made a face at me. She was a little shorter than I imagined. I would have passed out or at least have had my voice escape me were it not for the very first thing she uttered to me. began grabbing at the sushi I was holding. constituted a “creepy room”. “Do I -. Her voice trailed off as she click-clacked down a hallway. “Well?” She asked. in fact.look gay?”
. I looked and there stood Vanessa Gardner. “I‟m just putting your things in the creepy room. yes she did. Her hair was pulled up under the hat. but was as thin as a woman her age could be.“Hang on to the sushi. That is because something.) Silence dragged for what seemed like eternity itself. I‟ll be right back. tugging at the take out bag in my hands. “Are you gay?” (Oh.
The grin on her face grew bigger.” And with that. Just come out back this way. broke into a loud giggle of a laugh. reminiscent of something that would come from a teenager. I found my way out to
. but she remained silent. “I like you. so we need to get in while the getting is good. “Oh. Another eternal moment passed. Vanessa Gardner. I managed to meet her and not faint or wet my pants. My stomach felt like it did after the time I ate a box of Mexican jumping beans when I was six: “Do I sound gay?” Her grin cracked into a giant smile.” “Could I trouble you to – to –“ “Use the bathroom? Hang a left. “Let‟s eat this sushi quick. “and we‟ll dine together in the sunshine.” She took me by my arm. It‟s the first door open. Things were looking auspicious. for Christ‟s sake. “A lot. I hope I don‟t act gay.” she pointed. Alana can be a pig.” she said. After I got myself situated.” I can‟t believe that one of the first things I asked one of my idols was if I could use her bathroom. Still.
and I wasn‟t about to miss out on my share of the most delicious sushi I ever had in my life. I had to pretend to act calm. Vanessa had Alana show me to my room. All I wanted to do was post copious. It sat smack in front of a beautiful bay window that overlooked the yard in which I had just finished sitting and supping with Vanessa.
. She must have been serious about Alana. It was what once was considered to be a television set. The piece of furniture I refer to was not a table. We ate together with a little bit of a fervor. Plus. “She thinks it will provide you with inspiration. I followed her inside to what looked like a set designed and furnished to mimic mid-century Colonial revival a la Jacqueline Kennedy. I almost forgot all about the “creepy room”. however. I could not believe I was actually sitting in THE backyard of THE home of THE Vanessa Gardner with THE Vanessa Gardner. After dinner. where we shared a seat on a white-washed iron patio bench. but I couldn‟t.the back of the house. The focal point of the room was a gargantuan piece of furniture with four legs. It happened to be the one she called the “creepy room”.” Alana announced. play-by-play details on Facebook or text Ernest a hundred times over.
“I put your stuff over there. I saw that.” “I actually find this room charming. and regained my pride with a swift.“ I laughed for absolutely no reason at all. There I was. I imagined that since they were so
. Still.” “To each his own. “Does it work?” I made a gesture with my hand as if making a call on a cell phone. “The bathroom is set up for you across the hall here. confident walk over to the desk. pointing to a wall of built-in bookshelves which flanked a chair and desk on which a Princess phone rested.” Alana said.” Alana said and headed for the doorway. there were two framed. painted portraits of two little girls‟ silhouettes –one Angela Gardner and one Vanessa Gardner. Alana didn‟t seem to care – or notice. It‟s a step back in time. “The phone works. I cut my laugh short. Bet I will get a lot of work done here.“What‟s so creepy about this room?” I had to wonder out loud. on one wall. I already found my way there. Just don‟t expect to DVR anything on that thing. embarrassing myself like a danged fool.” “Thanks.
“ I swiped my hands across my pants pockets to get rid of some perspiration. “My flight leaves on Monday at eleven. Next to the sofa was an ashtray-garbage bin combo embossed with a black faux-iron eagle. “You‟re leaving on Monday. but well-kept patterned upholstered sofa which was centered smack in front of that old television. suddenly. They were each signed by an unintelligible artist in.M. The portraits themselves did seem a little creepy. “Am I supposed to drive your friend back to the airport. Feeling so welcomed. I hate forgetting to bring a toothbrush whenever I travel. right?” Alana peeked back in the doorway. as far as I could make out the painted black scrawl. That‟s also when I realized that the creepy room had no sign of a bed. Just a very ancient. There had to be somewhere else in the house to sleep. too?” Wow. it‟s a common
. “A. the year “‟66”.” Alana had already headed off calling after Vanessa as she clicked down the hall. I went to take out my equipment and also my toothbrush.famous long ago some artist or another was commissioned by the family to render them. I decided I would discuss the accommodations with Vanessa after showing what a wonderful house guest I could be. Unfortunately.
” I did have a thing for my old tape machine. and walked into the room and eyed my tape machine. the sooner I discover I need to run out for one. Sorry for staring at you.thing so.” “Don‟t apologize.” Vanessa giggled. the better. Vanessa had a thing for her old television set. of course. “I guess we are .” she blotted at her face with her fingertips. Will you kill me if I touch your machine?” She helped herself to pressing a few buttons and stole the microphone from my grasp. why it is so momentous to actually meet a
. She faced me.sort of . Her hair was dark.a match. I should not have to tell you. I felt nervous. You like old shit. she must. color it. “I didn‟t mean to startle you. It was still hard for me to tell since she had it pulled back in a tight bun. dear reader. too. “Getting comfy?” “EEEY-AHHH!” I shrieked. wearing a green face mask. “We‟re a match made in heaven. “I haven‟t had the pleasure of meeting many young people who like old stuff. For a woman her age.
Max. It was a living room. They were all full. If you hear a lot of banging around at five. Force of habit. You might find it‟s easier to just read them and then summarize whatever you like. It was then I realized the creepy room had no door. Besides.” Vanessa yawned. Then she stretched and kissed me smack dab on my forehead before walking out of the room. no explanation is needed. I don‟t really think I have much to talk about these days. it‟s me. my diaries are on those shelves.person like Vanessa Gardner. when she‟s an idol of yours.“ she sang into the microphone while looking right at me. But. what happened happened. I looked at the floor-to-ceiling shelves. it was getting even creepier in that room.” Come to think of it. “This girl is on fiyahhhh. I had no privacy issue about the lack of a door to the room I was sleeping in. by around three that morning it became clear that the lack of a door made for an issue or two concerning noise. “By the way. I get up early. more so than a bedroom. “Seriously?” “Nice machine. But.
I heard her voice getting louder as it travelled down the hallway into the bathroom where I then could hear the loud bang of a toilet lid smacking against the tank. but that is neither here nor there. It sounded like Credence Clearwater Revival. where I have been graced by Richie Havens and so forth at the Turning Point in Piermont. A few moments later. this time very clear. “No one cares about a stupid message board!” There went Alana‟s voice again. So there I was with the faint stirs of classic rock hits to lull me back to sleep along with some delightful puffs of medicinal pot wafting around. Her voice was what woke me up. there was the sound of a flush. I do know from hippy music being from my neck of the woods. “What century are you in?” I thought I started to detect the faint odor of marijuana entering the creepy room. It got a little louder as the bathroom door swung open.” I heard Alana mutter just as she shut another door in the house. I actually could not get back to sleep and after some time I decided to crack open one of
.I could hear Alana yelling through the walls. Then came the distinct sound of Vanessa‟s voice: “I care about my fans.” “Get a life. then a faucet running followed by someone else cueing music from another room.
but I am sorry. especially about Chas. Want one?” “I‟m fine. “You‟re jetlagged and I‟ve gone and made a disaster of your first night‟s sleep.” Vanessa whispered again. “What do you feel like doing now?” “You are joking.” I sat back down on the sofa next to her. just as I was on my feet there was Vanessa standing there in the doorway. I am computer challenged. There are a lot of people out there that want to know more. “Please. But.” I whispered back.” she whispered loudly. this time coming to sit on the sofa. I only know so much about them interwebs. “Of course. just disappear or did he die of heat exposure? What the hell do I
. I am just waiting for my Ambien to kick in. “I hope I don‟t drive you nuts. Don‟t apologize. “Alana‟s a pain in my butt. right?” I kept whispering.” “I feel fine.” I said as she began working to tuck me in.Vanessa‟s diaries. Did he off himself. You‟re not fine. It made her hair beautifully messed up. She had a sleep mask pushed up across her forehead. “I am sooooo sorry. I drive Alana nuts.
I will tell them more. The next morning was remarkably foggy outside. personally. Vanessa abruptly clammed up. The house was empty.really know? If people want to know more. She was right. As long as there is an audience for it…” That was about when I felt myself getting drowsy. but I wanted to hear more. I. It sounded like I was capable of capturing something stellar. I was never one to pry around people‟s things and even with my back hurting I resisted the temptation to take a clichéd scan of the medicine cabinet. however. there was no answer. It‟s known for making people sleep eat.” The expression on my face begged further explanation. When I called out for Alana or Vanessa to ask if they had any aspirin around. “I gotta go before I wind up in the kitchen eating sticks of butter. There was still an audience for this stuff.” She pushed the sleep mask down a little and left. “This medicine. off to bed I go. refuse to get to that point and so. sneak into the kitchen
. I did. I actually wanted to turn my tape machine on there and then. I discovered this after waking up with a ridiculous backache from sleeping on that couch. Then.
ran the faucet and noticed a giant note on the fridge penned in black Sharpie. My cell phone! I ran into my temporary living room quarters and tore through my bags. I had the opportunity to read the diaries. If you need a computer. Help yourself to anything/everything. Will bring home delish dinner. Love. So. I foraged for a glass. Van P.to see if I could get myself a drink of water.
.S. Had to dash out for an appt. Things were getting desperate. Alana says hi I checked the time. Two. It was eight-thirty. the library is around the block and across the bridge. Open to 5. How‟s that for hospitality? I gulped down some tap water. It was down to the last ring. gagged. One. ***************************************************** Something interrupted me as I was spitting into the sink. spit it into the sink and realized two things. I just drank LA tap water. the flat-leavers had me on my own the whole day. I stepped closer to read it to the sound of the running tap: Dearest Max. It was the faint sound of a digitalized disco hit.
I had to clean things up fast when Shawn and Elaine came by last evening.“Ernest!” I shouted at long last into the phone. She wants me to read her diaries!” “Wow.” “Which is why you called the moment you landed. Max?” “Fabulous.” “You left half of your Vanessa Gardner DVD collection all over the parlor. but I stashed everything under the bed.” “Forget it.” “Thank you for saying that. A wayward sock flew into my face before falling to the floor. We didn‟t feel like ending the gallery party.” “Why?” Ernest‟s laugh sounded annoyed. “Because. I‟m getting down to some serious work today. silly.” “Shawn and Elaine came by? Just Shawn and Elaine?” “Just Shawn and Elaine. His new work is
.” “I was ridiculously distracted. “Well? So? How are things.” “I miss you. Hope you don‟t mind. sounds pretty serious. The important thing is you are doing something that really means something to you. Ernest.
” “That‟s fine. I have the patience of Job.really something else.” “Look.”
.” This is where I start to get flustered during each and every conversation with Ernest. come on.” “I am working towards building us a future and me a career. I could have really used your help. She‟s filling in for you for the next few days. It was a madhouse. I am going to be a serious artist in my own way. There‟s Elaine at the door. but sometimes you have your head in the clouds. “I am going to do more than just transcribe interviews for blogs and magazines.” “I don‟t know what you want me to say to that.” “How about something like I promise to start getting serious about life?” “Ernest. Ernest.” “How? By discovering that Chas Childs offed himself? Did Professor Plum help by clocking him over the head with the candlestick? I can‟t run a world class gallery without a partner I can count on.
it could not have been a more opportune time to trek to the local library with a few of Vanessa‟s diaries and a heap load of my own ambition. There were a ton of roses blooming in just about every color imaginable. mwah. It was time to get down to biznatch.” “Whatever you say. green lawns that seemed dotted with the same kind of arrangement of flowers. Daddy. It really was pretty darned
. Several automatic sprinkler systems spat water onto lush. It happens to be fancy enough. I often go around saying I am 26. The walk to the library allowed me to see more of Vanessa‟s tranquil. but try to keep your young little head on straight for me.” I said to the sound of the call disconnecting. There was a quiet corner at the end of the street which looped around to a foot bridge. After that call. The sound of leaf blowers buzzed through the silence as landscapers performed their work for the day. mwah. okay? Mwah. Pink? Sure. Red? Yes. Lavender? Peach? I could go on. I am really 33. but somehow it registered as so-so for me.“Have fun. Ernest is 49. somewhat average suburban neighborhood. with BMWs and a Lexus or three parked in just about every driveway.
sit down and start reading the diaries that I had taken for my first official day on the job. and turned to look at one another hoping to find the culprit. it is partly my business. I looked down at the first page and began reading Vanessa‟s bubbly. I was excited to see the library ahead. I wondered where Vanessa went off to. “Christmas 1966 to January 1968” read the cover of a standard-issue composition book. but. that was really none of my business.
. I could not wait to get in there. When I crossed the foot bridge. Other patrons looked about as shocked as me. because of course. loopy schoolgirl handwritten words. unlike the rest of her life. I placed the diaries onto the table and took a deep breath.quiet. so I opened the cover and – “Who ordered the pepperoni pizza?” A librarian called out. It looked like the earliest dated specimen. except now I could hear traffic from the legendary 405 freeway whooshing to and fro in the distance. I jest. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I took a seat at a table where a placard informed me that I would need to scoot somewhere else at 3pm due to tutoring sessions.
drowning out the pizza delivery melodrama.: Have buyer standing here for the Mitchell Moan-Eh piece. Just then my pocket started buzzing. He seems to love me right back. ARTHUR B. It‟s not what you think. Bling! A chat message bubble interrupted me.‘I love him.” Can a library-goer get some quiet? Apparently not. ME: Busy. I let it go and quickly tapped out a text informing him that I could not be interrupted as I was in the thick of working. for a gaggle of pre-school kids who were showing up for 11 am story hour quickly trampled in. ARTHUR B. Where is it?
.: Need code for credit card swiper. I lifted my eyes from the page I was reading. EEEEEEEEEE! This is better than the day we got George Harrison’s autograph!‟ “Jason? Is this your lunch?” the librarian hollered.” this “Jason” announced. I don’t care if Daddy says he’s married. “I‟ll be back in half an hour. The librarian ushered the pizza guy over to the check out desk. Yee gods! Story HOUR. dear reader. It was a call coming in from Ernest again. “Help yourself to a slice. Betty. here.
People don’t care about how you look. ‘Angela gets all the good parts and all the attention. By the date on the notebook. etcetera. I got distracted by the usual temptations: checking Facebook. she would have been 14-years old. I‘ll show them. Once logged in. Vanessa was dating Chas when he was married. I’ll make it there. What a drag. so I signed up for computer time.ME: In my head. ARTHUR B. but if I am not mistaken. etcetera. That‟s a public library for you. of anything by Maurice Sendak. Taking the bus tomorrow to No. I believe Vanessa would have been indicating a trip to where they make porn. etcetera. Back to reading I went. signing my name on a sheet with a golf-score pencil.’ I‟m really kind of new at all this Hollywood business stuff. Hollywood. apparently. They only care about how you act. It made me feel like a fourth grader. I needed to find out more. I turned to the next page. I often used to bide my online time by looking up all
.: …??! ME: 4455001111222223 I turned the phone off and tried ignoring the crying and whimpering from the kids who were terrified. checking my horoscope.
it was because this supposed youth gang did not believe in passing any judgment. The fascination I had with her began a long time ago. but something in between. She was ubiquitous. When I discovered Vanessa Gardner. I was a fourth grader. I was a confused kid. If you were male or female. She was supposed to be a rebel of the youth gangs of the day. in fact. Black or white –same thing. There she was in a movie called “Children of Now”. Besides my favorite cult movie. She was so confident and
. She was dressed up in a suit with a Little Boy Blue cap and knee high white kick boots. This was back in the days when there were buttons a person actually had to press on a little box thingy that was attached to the television by a cord in order to watch anything. she was a veritable Rita Tushingham.the details I could on every single thing Vanessa Gardner ever did in her professional acting career. dressed to be neither really a girl or a boy. you were equal. she did a lot of small parts in some very popular pictures of the day as well as television. I was home with a made-up flu watching cable. In the story. just leave it at that. a grainy 60‟s picture with a mono soundtrack and a B-movie look. I was immediately hooked. Before she quit acting altogether at the ripe old age of seventeen. I got made fun of a lot.
But. Bling! Intercepted by a chat bubble. once again. ARTHUR B: Still alone at Library?
. I would have loved to be able to go to school dressed as either a boy or a girl and not give a crap. the version I was looking at did not show the scene where she goes topless.such a heroine to me. he was a bad ass. but in real life. Of course. her career went sideways. Chas Childs appeared in every hot rod movie there was in the early 1960‟s. to be honest. such things are made for movies like the one I first watched Vanessa star in. I am sure it had something to do with getting caught up with Chas Childs. Perhaps she was relegated to some degree of porn because shortly after that picture was released. Personally. All the girls went “Eeeeeeeee!” over Chas Childs. What guts for a girl like that to let herself be such a powerful character. That movie is one reason why I started getting into Vanessa in the first place. In the second place. the topless scene was of particular interest to me after reading that passage in her diary about heading up to North Hollywood. I think Vanessa would have been better off having never crossed paths with him. He was cool in the movies.
I have no idea why Ernest would ask that nor why he would care. Come to think of it. ARTHUR B: WTF? ME: What? ARTHUR B: Where is your movie star friend? ME: …|…. That is a somewhat of a lie. Talk later! I decided to just let the chat hang whether Ernest replied or not. She did a lot of drawing. I decided to generously give my remaining ten minutes of computer time to someone else and read some more diaries instead.ME: Yes. She hated her twin
. It was nearing three o‟clock when I finished with half of the first diary. Hearts. Hold up. bubbles. it was getting late in the day. No more bubble. She was in love with life and everyone in it. rainbows and smiley faces. balloons. she did not love everyone. ARTHUR B: Did she just desert you? Take hint!
Pop. From what I could read in diary number one. ME: Researching. except to burst my Vanessa bubble. I must tell you.
“How was work today. Angela. was a much more successful kid actress than Vanessa ever could be. She was on network television for years on a highly rated show. details!” Vanessa implored. by all accounts. Vanessa made Alana drive and made me sit in the back seat with her. so I didn‟t bother asking. If I told you now. who. I had to wonder what the significance was of Alana living with Vanessa instead of her own mother. I packed up my things and headed back to the house.sister.” “Details.
. Max?” “Fine. How in the world could Ernest not understand how excruciatingly important this project was to me? I caught back up with Vanessa and Alana later on when we all headed off to this neat-o restaurant for dinner called Home. I would have to end the story right --Here. If only I knew then where Vanessa went off to for hours and hours at a time some days. No one said anything to me about their whereabouts for the day. I figured it was none of my business. but I will tell you more about that later on. who would be Angela.
It kind of is. but.” Alana hit the brakes just then. noisy and totally rude librarians ordered a pizza before noon and went on and on about it. Vanessa and I were thrust forward. You fu---“ “Never been out this way – not ever. it‟s a small miracle that I was able to read your entire first diary.” said Alana as she hit the gas. though coming off whichever freeway it was into a cement buildingblocked neighborhood. At that moment. I never thought of Los Angeles as being scenic. I got distracted by a bunch of kids attending story hour and.. it made the silhouettes of all the palm trees more noticeable. I could make out the grass on a hill or two..” “Hardy har har. It made me feel mellow. Max?” “A lay over en route to San Francisco.”
. Max?” “Huh? Yes.“Some stupid. When a hill would merge with the setting sun. well. That was when I noticed how pink and orange the sky was getting. “Look at that stupid idiot trying to pass me. No one said anything for a moment. “Is this your first California sunset. They squealed.” “Hear that Alana? We get to be with him during his first time. and most areas did nothing to change my opinion.
Alana? So. “Isn‟t he a hoot. As if someone like her. I made it appear as if I were humoring things. I really couldn‟t believe how Vanessa Gardner was so much like the Vanessa Gardner I saw in my favorite movies. “If ever a New Yorker needed a mind expansion. A person like Vanessa probably wanted me to say “Oooh” or “Aaah” over all the details of her private life. then lifted their arms up and sang: “Go… to… San-fra-ahn-ciscoh-oh!” “I got Alana into Zappa years ago. Know what. Can I get a butt implant at the same time?” Outwardly. LA is the place to have it done. “It was --“ I dragged it out for dramatic effect. what did you think of my first diary?” Now here is where I suddenly made another discovery during my jaunt to Los Angeles.Alana and Vanessa shared a look in the rearview mirror. Max? You are about to have your mind expanded here.” Vanessa warned me with a shake of her index finger. Inside.
. with some exposure and notoriety has a leg up in life experiences simply because she is a Someone of sorts.
We sat down and Vanessa took off her sunglasses and hat. Then she looked at me with a serious expression. then. “You are going to start using that old tape machine on me right?” “Yes.
. embellish it and spruce it up. where Alana decided we would ask to be seated outside since it was such a nice evening. We got out to continue our discussion on the way to Home. what the heck do I care about accuracy?” There she went and grinned again.” “I wouldn‟t mind if you messed up any details. I need to eventually. As long as the story flows. it‟s not like I don‟t know how great I am.” The sun had completely disappeared by the time our drink order arrived at the table. “It was ---pretty good. I need something to transcribe. if I make stuff up?” “I‟m saying if something needs embellishing or sprucing up.” “Pretty…good?” Alana parked us along the street. “You don‟t mind.” she grinned. I don‟t want to mess up any details. Strings of lights were turned on.“A real mind expander! The best you ever read! Go on.
You don‟t just “do” anything. Max. don‟t put yourself down like that. mind your macaroni and cheese.” “When interviewing is done. I usually spend more time transcribing. After all. comes the writing part.dotting the potted shrubs surrounding our table with the magic of holiday glitter even though it was the middle of the year. “Alana. so whatever you want to do I can agree to doing. How could I not love your diary?” I sighed at my iced tea. He thinks I waste my time. It looked sincere. “Look. Then she asked.
. He‟d rather I quit this hobby as he calls it and work for him full time. Then. “What did you really think of my first diary?” “Your work has inspired me and changed my life. You offered to tell us your story. I don‟t make a lot of money.” “Sounds like a sucky job.” Vanessa sipped at her iced tea and then smiled at me.” “I wish you could have a talk with my boyfriend.” Alana murmured. that‟s for sure. Ernest. and only then. I just transcribe stuff.” “No.
” And with that. However. Max.” Alana shoveled another forkful of macaroni and cheese into her mouth. I began the odyssey of learning the truth about Vanessa. I‟m over sixty. “Go get your tape machine from the car. I would love to get more from you. However…” Vanessa trailed off and turned to Alana.” “I‟m missing some details. “I am sure that meeting Chas Childs for the very first time made you feel just like the day you felt when you met George Harrison. Max. It‟s going to be very difficult to tell you things in detail. It felt neat to get
. then?” Vanessa looked right into me. doused it with a gulp of iced tea and then looked up to snap her fingers at some guy in the distance. “Tell Johnny to give us the back room for the rest of the night. they‟re missing some details. Chas and what happened way back in time. I have the funny feeling as accurate as your diaries seem. dear reader. I was gifted a pen and some paper from a kind soul at the bar when he saw me walk in with my machine. Instead of making me a nervous wreck.“What‟s the problem. her intense gaze egged me on. He had also seen me walk in with Vanessa Gardner moments before.
This is where the Gardner family set up a place they called home. For someone who was by all outward accounts slightly shallow. drinking pale ales and getting buzzed and tired. leaving behind remnants and traces of this former inhabitation . I really should not end things like this with you. They head to their destinations. They built tract homes here complete with picket fences. and many others. Alana was also pretty loyal and supportive to her aunt. Kind of recognized. peeling out over sand dunes and glistening ocean waves. Alana kept herself up with endless cups of sugar-free sweetened black coffee. overgrown space. You won‟t miss me that much. there were inhabitants on this now deserted. Long ago.
Jets constantly roar and whine over a stretch of vacant land fenced in along the coastline. It was a good tired.a handful of staircases
. driveways and yards. That was before their house.recognized. were deliberately taken over and destroyed. but still! We worked until the wee hours of the morning. but I am afraid that I need to let Vanessa‟s story take over from here.
The Gardner‟s home was a lot like the ones around it with the exception of Mrs. a lone mailbox poking through a patch of ghostly weeds. George never wanted his kids to suffer the same difficulties in life growing up as he did so when he proved to himself that success was possible. fraternal twins. In its heyday.
. mostly because she prided herself on her good English genes. She liked to think her roses were the best on the block. Angela and Vanessa. They had a dutiful bond between them as well as a sense of humor and their two beautiful daughters. It was in the form of a newfangled thing called network television. this area was a thriving. he stopped at nothing to ensure the same fate would befall his two girls. but well-meaning Bronx native like George Gardner had many people wondering throughout the years. ideal suburban neighborhood. A few odd jobs turned into big advertising deals which paid well enough for George to head out west with his wife and infant daughters. There was gold out there in those hills. He had started a career as a photographer for the New York Times. Gardner‟s rose garden. an occasional street lamp.that lead to nowhere. as far as George was concerned. Why a lovely woman from Liverpool would find herself betrothed to a gruff and husky.
and made sure his wife Marjorie took them to all of their acting and ballet classes on time. at the ripe old age of 12. they did for Angela. In 1963.He had a good eye for subjects.even if the kids had the sniffles. He took headshots of the two girls himself. George‟s efforts paid off. She did her best to temper George‟s increasing drive to succeed. She had failed to pass
. Eventually. Vanessa had to figure out how to be plain-old Vanessa in the bright shadow of her rising-star of a sister. he had enough experience and enough contacts to start shopping them around town. she had actually taken them to a doctor‟s visit instead. but never a pushover. every time . that the family attended a particular Christmas party where things changed for Vanessa forever. Marjorie had to work harder at keeping the family peace. By the time his children were five years old. There were one or two times she lied and told George she had taken the girls to Miss Libertie‟s Dance Studio when. in fact. fearing the sniffles would progress into something worse. The show took off. and Angela‟s success. George‟s ego grew. Angela was cast as the lead in “The Peggy Powell Show”. At least. Vanessa was not. Jealousy ensued. Marjorie was obedient. and quickly transferred his photography skills into casting skills. It was during the height of the show‟s.
She was gaining
. she looked 35 and was ready to pass her natural-blond. Grace recently partnered with George to form the AdamsGardner Talent Agency. artificially glamorous self off as a Hollywood maven. If only she could pass an audition for something more dignified than a nauseating cold medicine commercial. She could pick out the perfect person for any part – child. It seemed like it would be delicious to get the same kind of attention as her sister did. The smoke from his Dutch Treat made Marjorie cough quietly to herself so as not to disrupt his keen focus on not just the road. Why bother trying when there‟s a sister who is already doing spectacularly? Still. there was something compelling about being able to be on that magic box that people sat in front of by the millions. and it was the third one she had botched up. middle-aged adult or canine. At 50. On that fateful night in December 1966. especially since Vanessa knew in her heart she could be so much better.a Congesperin commercial audition earlier that week and was feeling particularly miserable. It was only the third audition her Dad‟s agency had been able to nab her in six months. but the business he was about to undertake. George drove the family Impala to agent Grace Adams‟ Christmas party like he was captain of the Santa Maria.
“You‟re driving into the curb. He‟s bound to cast in a billion trillion dollar picture with me and Grace around. “Can‟t we just stop the fighting and admire the lovely decorations? Mrs. “Chas Childs is really gorgeous. Chas Childs is here. pumpkin dumpling.”
. She opened her mirrored compact to inspect herself and frowned. George put it in reverse. Adams has fabulous candy cane lights outside.prestige in the casting world and George was succeeding by proxy.” Vanessa noted.” Marjorie scolded. “Your career is doomed. “Who can‟t pass a commercial audition?” Angela taunted Vanessa. Aren‟t they gorgeous. The girls bickered in the back seat as the car sailed past yards and palm trees decorated for the holiday season. “God…dammmmmn…How the hell is anyone supposed to park here?” “Look at that XKE over there!” Angela sighed.” “That‟s right.” George whistled in amazement at his potential while backing the car into a tight spot.” “Girls. George?” The car slowed. “Daddy you were right.
” concluded George.” George grinned with his burnt-out cigar wedged between his teeth. thick. A waiter with a tray of drinks nearly bumps into Vanessa. “Everyone? This is Adams-Gardner‟s most famous new client – Angela. The living room was buzzing with partygoers. Grace you are laying it on. caterers. I like it. “Gee. Star of the number-one rated Peggy Powell show. A slight hush came over the room as Angela was introduced. “Let‟s show these people how to get some work done. She then politely took Angela‟s sweater and indicated for Marjorie and Vanessa to follow her.“He‟s going to be worth bazillions because of me. lighted Christmas decorations and a tree that bent over a few inches as it hit the ceiling. “Drats. She immediately ushered Angela inside.
.” said Vanessa and continued following Mrs. But.” Grace gave George a knowing wink as the partygoers applauded and Angela curtsied. “Got any bourbon?” The waiter shook his head. Adams into a room where coats and sweaters piled up on a spare bed.” Grace greeted The Gardner family at the door. recognizable actors. I like it.
too. She had work to do. showing off to the world that she was every bit as cute as she appeared to be on television.” Grace read Vanessa‟s guilty expression and quickly made the effort to save things. He had work to do.” “Really?” Vanessa wondered aloud with a good dose of feigned enthusiasm. Grace.” mumbled Vanessa. Remember. Angela was already busy working the party. Marjorie. She gently pulled Vanessa back towards the spare bedroom.
. “Vanessa? What happened at the audition?” came Grace‟s voice. luck comes from persistence.” George busied himself by finding the nearest recognizable soul and a fresh tray of drinks.“You have a lovely tree up.” “I don‟t think you were focusing. “How about you go downstairs with the young people and grab some cake? I had it catered from the most famous cake place on the planet. anyway? We‟ll start fresh when the new year arrives.” “Yes. okay.” “Thank you for saying so. “That? I had my mind on other things that day. “Who the hell wants anything to do with a second rate pain reliever.
While Vanessa picked at her cake.” His voice was deep. Vanessa was looking for a place to put her unwanted silver balls when her whole entire life changed. Vanessa looked around some more. He sipped at a Coors and grinned. She helped Vanessa get a slice of green-icing slathered wreath cake. Then he asked: “You‟re Angela Gardner‟s sister?”
.” Grace joked as she led Vanessa to her downstairs den. Ms. “That‟s a nice looking piece of cake. Adams?” “I‟m not telling. Grace trailed off back to where the business was being conducted with George and Angela. “I am talking to you. His twinkled stare practically bore a hole into Vanessa‟s heart. “Just where is the most famous cake place on the planet. unsure whether or not he was addressing her. It was speckled with silver confectioner balls which Vanessa decided were too gross to eat.” There before her stood Chas Childs. He dressed impeccably in a v-neck sweater and khakis. but soft.“You know it!” Grace feigned back to her. She swooned a little.
“I can‟t.” He reached for another beer from a cooler near the table. If I want to take a pretty girl for a ride. finishing the beer in another gulp. Chas didn‟t seem to care.” Chas leaned over to whisper in her hear.Vanessa felt herself come apart inside. See? I have a guarantee. Parents.” Vanessa was a goner by this point. She managed not to swoon as she followed Chas out a back door and down a walkway which
.” Chas mused softly. Vanessa didn‟t know what to do. “Must be tough. find out.” Vanessa‟s response was coherent. Should she stop eating the cake? Where would she put her hands? Why was a hot-rod movie star like Chas Childs asking her to go for a ride? Chas winked at a few of the young kids in the den who were waving goodbye to him as they left Grace‟s party. “…from a Voodoo priestess in New Orleans who makes any wish I have come true. It‟s hard enough for me to do this all on my own. her parents will never…ever. cracked off the tab and gulped half the can in one swallow. rescuing her without realizing it. “No one will know. Upstairs. “I can‟t imagine having to compete with a sister. “Feel like going for a ride?” He asked. but extraordinarily awkward.
During the time she was out with him.was railed off from a postage-stamp sized yard. As soon as she got into his XKE. he had her back at the party like nothing had happened. he had showed her off at a hamburger joint to some friends and fans. As promised. her whole life went in a completely different direction and did so at nearly 90 miles per hour the night she met Chas Childs.
. introducing her as his new girlfriend.