Thursday, January 26, 2012

SHOPGIRL: The Novella and the Movie or How I Fell for Mirabelle Buttersfield and Claire Danes

“When you work in the glove department at Neiman’s, you are selling things that nobody buys anymore” ~ STEVE MARTIN, SHOPGIRL

I’ve always been a fan of the talents of Steve Martin; you just can’t call him a comedian, because he’s much more than that (actor, writer, musician, collector of fine art... AWild and Crazy Guy!)  In the year 2000 Steve Martin made his first foray into fiction, with a novella called; SHOPGIRL. I remember when it came out; it was the story of a young woman who works in the wasteland of Neiman Marcus… also known as the glove department. Usually, "the Ray Book Club" (one member... just me) finds himself reading the pistol popping tales typed out by the likes of Elmore Leonard or James Lee Burke. But I’ve always been such a fan of Steve Martin; I knew one day, I’d get around to reading SHOPGIRL.

“Mirabelle is attractive; it's just that she is never the first or second girl chosen” ~ STEVE MARTIN, SHOPGIRL

Well, it took me twelve years to stumble across a copy of it in my local thrift store travels. After I read it, I was sorry that I took so long to read this little gem..  Mirabelle Buttersfield (what an inspired name, I tell ya) is a willowy transplant from Vermont (so willowy, she's sometimes compaired to Popeye's girlfriend Olive Oyl) who comes to the land of palm trees and sunshine after college to pursue career as an artist. Unfortunately she soon finds herself two years into working behind the glove counter at Neimans. Martin’s Mirabelle is lonely, detected, fragile and child like... she lives alone in her little apartment in Silverlake... occasionally doing a self portait of herself on paper in black crayon, that might or might not sell at a local gallery... once every six months? Going even worse than her career as an artist, is her relationships with men. 

One night out of pure necessity, she allows herself to be picked up at the local Silverlake Laundromat by the bumbling goofball; Jeremy. Unfortunately Jeremy fails to sweep her off her feet, and also fails to give her the night passion she desired. All seems hopeless, then one day the mysterious Ray Porter walks up to her glove counter and to changes her life… but is it for the better? And when it seems that Mirabelle might find happiness... unbeknownst to her, Lisa, a fellow Neiman’s co-worker and master of fallatio, who would like nothing better to see her happiness to come to an end, because of pure jealousy… it’s tough out there in the world of Beverly Hills retail, I guess?

Martin's writing style in this piece is long on description and short on dialogue, but he really told a fine little tale, set against the backdrop of Los Angeles. Even his handling of Mirabelle's sex scenes are done with such grace, that you have to remind yourself that it's the former "Wild and Crazy Guy" who wrote this. I'm sure that there's a bit of autobiography to this book for Martin... you can tell the story was written by a man who's lost love. That being said; I must say that truly enjoyed SHOPGIRL. I just found myself as a reader rooting for Mirabelle Buttersfield and in essence just falling for her, until it ended on page 130.


RAY PORTER (V.O.): Mirabelle Buttersfield moved from Vermont hoping to begin her life. And now she is stranded in the vast openness of L.A. She keeps working to make connections, but the pile of near misses is starting to overwhelm her. What Mirabelle needs is an omniscient voice to illuminate and spotlight her and to inform everyone that this one has value, this one standing behind the counter in the glove department and to find her counterpart and bring him to her.

Again, I missed the film version of SHOPGIRL when it first came out. Who knows why? Possibly, I didn’t
see it because I had wanted to read the book first? Well soon after I did finally read the book, I went right on Amazon to order the movie (which was released in 2005.) This little film is wonderfully crafted by Anand Tucker, and adapted to the screen by Martin. Claire Danes was brilliantly cast in the role of Mirabelle. She truly brought this literary heroine to life for me. She just hit all the right notes as Mirabelle; the frustration, the sadness, the feeling of insignificance that can happen in a vast metropolis like Los Angeles. But when Mirabelle in her moments of hopefulness and happiness is channeled through Danes bright eyes and iridescent smile… none is more radiant than she.

I also especially loved how the color palette of the film changes with emotions of Mirabelle. Wonderfully shot by Peter J. Suschitzky, and the establishing shots of Los Angeles itself really gives the film a sense that the city is one of the stories main characters (although, I believe that much of the film was shot in Canada.) In the film Mirabelle leans longingly against the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenuein Beverly Hills, not Neiman Marcus… no matter.

Again inspired casting was Jason Schwartzman as her hapless suitor Jeremy (who will find himself also going through his own transformation in the story.) And Steve Martin himself shows up in the role of phantom millionaire businessman Ray Porter, who seems to be Mirabelle’s guardian angel (as well as lover) and unfortunately possibly his own worst enemy. As Mirabelle’s older suitor, Martin originally thought of Tom Hanks for the role, but eventually stepped into the part, in one of his rare non-comedic turns. Like Danes and Schwartzman, it was a role that he was especially meant to play. The movie follows the book very close, although there are a few changes here and there. The film also loses Mirabelle's emotional back story with her Vietnam Vet father... but in the end, it's Mirabelle story and she finds through her trials, that she is not insignificant at all, but someone to be cherished.

As Ray Porter watches Mirabelle walk away he feels a loss.
How is it possible, he thinks, to miss a woman whom he kept at a distance so that when she was gone he would not miss her…

You might say that SHOPGIRL is a chick flick? Well, I hope you don’t… I’d say it’s a movie about lost people in a big, big city just trying to connect … this kinda stuff happens everyday.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Steve McQueen 30th Anniversary Tribute Event Jules Verne Film Festival


Sally Fields stepfather; Jock Mahoney... my favorite Tarzan!

I must admit, I've been very fortunate to be pretty damn healthy... I get a cold ever couple of years, the flu every ten years (great way to lose ten pounds... by the way), a broken heart here and there... not too many issues... I've always felt grateful for that. What's my secret? It may shock you? I tend to stay away from sick people... IT REALLY WORKS! So when there's a glitch in my machinery, it's really annoys me to no end. This past week, I don't know... something (or someone?) messed up my back! Not a groovy way to start 2012... or is this maybe the begining of the end... with my back?! I doubt it... but I started giving troubles over a week ago; like I had a "Charlie horse or something?" I figure no big deal; I'll eat a couple of bananas, drink some water and I'm good to go! Like the great quarterback of my youth; Joe Namath... I'd just hobble around, and continue with my business as usual. So when my mom asked me to move some Christmas decoration boxes for her... I said, "Sure mom, I'm Tarzan. Why do you think you had me for? Where do ya want them?" When mom needs something; Tarzan swings into action! I think, as far as I can tell... this act was my Waterloo, my Waterworld, my whatever? But this is where I "f'd" myself... made things WORSE!! But, what are ya gonna do, huh? ... The damage (that I didn't realize at the time) was done.
Things got bad last Sunday; I became a tortoise who'd been flipped over in the sun... for four days, on my back in fn back pain!! I couldn't walk, stand or sit without being in serious pain. You know that term "make a grown man cry?" We'll I know it first hand now... that's how I felt... with every move of my lower body. First it hit my leg, then my back and leg, and then just my leg (actually thigh) where I had the mother, father and crazy uncle of all fn Charlie horses; like the mighty King Kong himself was rubbing his giant thumb into my thigh... put that in your ride Universal Studios! I tried every thing to fix it, hot baths, heating pads, sleeping on the floor... not to mention Ibuprofeen (many) nothing seemed to help! Which really made me frustrated, but I know a bad back is like having a baby... its just gotta work its way out. I've occasionally messed up my back before, but when I did it, I kinda knew why... jumping threw windows, being thrown out of cars, trying to out run a fireball. wrestling a wild animal.  Nine out of ten times, one of these will f'up your back! But it never hurt like this before.... that I remember? But how can Tarzan be disabled by a mere Charlie horse (I actually always wondered how the heck Tarzan could run barefoot in the jungle without stepping on something sharp?) I went and prayed to St. Michael this morning... not sure if any of the other Tarzan's ever did that?  But, I personally should have thought of it sooner... although, I really hate to be a bother. I'm now able to move around a little better before the pain kicks into my thigh. So I hope that I'm on the spin cycle of this thing? It's been a real pain in the ass, the back and the thigh! Am I just getting old? Hell no! Am I in denial? Possibly... just a little?  I'll tell you one thing, walking pain free is something that I won't ever take for granted... hopefully, I'll be ready to climb that vine and swing again soon, baby!
... and may you all be healthy and be pain free as well my friends!

Monday, January 2, 2012

James Caan smokes his cigarette in Misery (1990)

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 16

Yasmine couldn’t believe that Tom had somehow finagled her on the Efren Wallenda shoot in French Polynesia. Yasmine knew that she had to let her parents know she was leaving the country? But they were still on their cruise, and she was unable to get a hold of them on their cell numbers. So she sent them off an email.

Hi Mom and Dad, I hope you’re having a blast on your cruise? I have some awesome news; I’m going on a photo shoot with Italian Vogue in French Polynesia for a week!! No Kidding!!  I’m going as the assistant of surfer turned model, Tom Sugerland (WHO IS EPIC!!!) But actually Tom's just letting me tag along with my camera. It’s a long, long story…I can’t wait to tell you all about it when you return. Don’t worry, I’ll secure the house and have Lola all taken care of.

Happy Chanukah!

Kisses & Hugs

On their last day on the set, Christmas Eve went smooth. They were all there that day; Tom, Yasmine, Rockquin and Beatrice. That day Tom even took great pleasure when Dottie Dolen came by for her last visit, before she was off to spend the holiday with her family; which he suspected was a dozen cats. As daffy as she was, she had been instrumental in the good fortune that had all started with this silly job. Tom even thought of that angel Clarence in that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life … perhaps she was kinda like him. Tom laughed to himself at such a silly thought; but you never know he thought to himself?

Tom had asked Yasmine if she would join him for Christmas Eve dinner, but he'd forgotten that most places close early of Christmas Eve. So they decided to throw something together themselves. As they were cruising in Tom’s pick-up Yasmine banged on the dashboard suddenly.
“Stop! Over there!”
Tom looked over to where her hand was pointing. He couldn’t help cracking up.
“You want a Honey Baked Ham?”
“Yes! I love Honey Baked Ham!”
“Well then, so do I,” Tom said.
Tom cranked the steering wheel and headed the car towards the Honey Baked Ham store.

Tom and Yasmine went to the local market to grab more items for their covert Christmas Eve feast. On their way back to Yasmine’s home in Cheviot Hills, they went past a small Christmas tree lot on Washington Blvd.. Again Yasmine pointed.
“I want a tree! Can we get one Tom?”
“You want a Christmas tree?”
 “I know it’s crazy, but I’ve always wanted to celebrate Christmas… not the religious stuff obviously… but the tree and the colored lights… obviously Santa.”
“And don’t forget ham,” Tom said.
“Obviously ham,” she said.
“Well them let’s get you a tree… I bet we can get a great deal one since its Christmas Eve,” Tom said with wink.

Tom and Yasmine pulled up in her drive way with a big fat Christmas tree. They forgot the fact that the needed decorations to decorate it. The best they could think to do was stop at the local 99 cents Store and buy some cost effective lights and bulbs.

As they were unloading their Christmas loot from the truck Yasmine’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Sussman came out of her house with a sour look on her face.”
“Yasmine what on earth is that?”
Yasmine froze; she was at a total loss for words.
“It’s the world’s biggest Chanukah bush ma’am,” said Tom. And without another word grabbed the tree and pulled it out of the truck bed and head towards Yasmine’s front door.
“Happy Chanukah,” Yasmine said grabbing the ham and other groceries and running behind Tom.
“That was no Chanukah bush!”
Mrs. Sussman shook her head and walked back in her house.

Tom and Yasmine made it safely in her house. Tom peaked out the window.
“Who’s Mrs. Kravits?”
 “Mrs. Kravits? Who’s that?”
“Sorry that was the name of the nosey neighbor on Bewitched… that was an old TV show, about a hot house wife who was a witch.”
“Oh, that’s Mrs. Sussman… she’s a Mrs. Kravits all right. She’s dying right now wondering what I’m doing in here with a Christmas tree and a tall older man, with a ponytail no less!”
Scandalous,” said Tom.
Yazmine grabbed the ham and headed for the kitchen.
 “Come on, we got lots of work to do,” she said.

It was about 9:45 PM and things were looking pretty good and Christmassy in Yasmine’s parents Jewish house. They had the radio tuned in to the station that played strictly Christmas songs for the holidays; White Christmas was playing.

“It looks right out of a Bing Crosby Christmas Special,” said Tom proudly.
“Who’s Bing Crosby?”
“Who’s Bing Crosby? The guy who’s singing the song that’s on the radio right now.”
“I love this song, it’s so pretty. Dance with me Tom,” Yazmine said with a smile. Tom took her hands and started to lead.
“Did you know that this song was written by Irving Berlin… who was Jewish.”
“Really? That’s crazy, isn’t this like the most famous Christmas song ever? A Jewish guy wrote it!”
Tom laughed, “Funny, I think the Jewish guys wrote all the Christmas songs that folks listen to at Christmas time? I dare say, Christmas wouldn't be nearly as musical without them."
The little Jewish girl laughed.
“Oh, my God, this is so awesome! But my parents would so kill me… totally.” She giggled.
“Christmas is for everybody… why exclude anyone? If you don’t believe in the story of Jesus, than go with Santa, and if not him… then I don’t know? The Grinch? Like I celebrated Chanukah with you; I was happy to do it… it was because I was in your company… that all. Do you know who Anne Frank was?"
“Of course I do,” Yasmine said.
“Well, if you recall in her diary, Anne and her family would celebrate Christmas as well as Chanukah when they were hiding in their attic… because it made them feel good… didn’t matter that they were Jewish…It was just a time to feel a little better. That’s just humanity, right?”
"You sure know a lot about the Jews, Tom?"
"I guess so?"
Yasmine looked up at Tom, she felt so happy.
“Tom, thank you for making my only official Christmas, the most memorable Christmas ever.”
Bing was over and Sinatra now was singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
“This is my favorite Christmas song; no one sings it like Sinatra.” Said Tom.
Yasmine listened more carefully to Sinatra as he sang the words.
“I can’t tell if this is a happy song or a sad song?”
“I guess that’s the beauty of it… it’s whatever your little heart feels,” said Tom.
“Did a Jewish guy write this one too?”
“Probably,” Tom chuckled.
“I can’t wait to shave this beard off tomorrow, they want it off for the shoot… they’re not sure about the mustache, so I gotta keep that.”
“Tom can I have a another Christmas wish?”
Tom stopped dancing.
“What now?”
“Could I shave you?”
“I’ve always wanted to shave a man. I have the stuff, my grandpa’s old kit. My dad was gonna send it to the thrift shop, but I took it out of his car when her wasn’t looking. I’ve always wanted to use Grandpa Jack’s straight edge razor.”
Tom looked at her a little nervously.
“I don’t know? You could screw up my lucrative modeling career before it ever gets started?”
“Come on, I’m good with a razor. I have a delicate touch. I shave my legs as well as other delicate places every other day.”
“Well it would be nice to have dinner not looking like a damn Billy Goat.

Yasmine took Tom into her parent’s large bathroom. She placed him on a bar stool that they had brought from downstairs.
“You don’t want to mess up your shirt, take it off,” Yasmine said.
“You’re the barber.”
Tom took off his shirt. Yasmine had never seen him up-close without one on before.  His body was lean and trim, but it feature numerous nicks and scars from his many years of surfing. What caught her ever though was a small tattoo that he had on his arm. She couldn’t believe that she had never seen it on Tom before, it simply read; Wanderlust.
“No way!”
“No way what?” Tom said confused.
“Your tattoo,” Yasmine said, again doing her pointing thing.
Tom looked at his arm embarrassed.
“Oh that, I was surfing Shark Island down in New South Wales, Australia.  I was very drunk when I got that damn thing… silly, I know.”
“No! Tom that was the one word I had told myself that I’d get tattooed on me; if I ever did get one!”
Tom shook his head.
“You’re kidding me? You’re not supposed to get a tattoo anyway, you’re Jewish.”
“I’m not supposed to eat ham or have a Christmas tree either ! The point is not whether or not if I ever get one… which I probably will. But the point is that you of all people have my fantasy tattoo! Tom that is so epic!”
“That’s epic too?”
Yasmine gave a pout, then stamped her foot on the ground
 “Okay, I get your point. We’re two jokers in the deck, kid.”
“No! We're kindred spirits!”
“Yeah, you’re right that sounds a lot better. Well are you gonna give me a shave or not? If not I’m gonna put my shirt back on?”
“Get in the chair. I can’t believe you have my tattoo!”

Much to Tom's surprise Yasmine had a real steady hand with Grandpa Jack’s big scary straight edge razor.
“You don’t use this razor when you shave do you?”
Tom said as he spalshed water on his face from the sink.
“Oh god no… much too delicate, can you imagine?”

Tom looked at himself in the mirror; he really did kinda look like actor Sam Elliott.
“That was a very good shave; I don’t see any cuts… no blood whatsoever? Amazing.”
Just then the doorbell rang. Lola, the red lab ran to the door.
“I bet it’s---“
“Mrs. Kravits?”
“Yeah,” said Yasmine.
“Well don’t answer.”
“No way! I’m sure she’s been watching the place. If I don’t answer that would be a million times worse; she’ll think we’re have sex. Wait here okay.”
Yasmine went to the front door and opened in just enough so it didn’t look like she was hiding anything; Mrs.Sussman standing there.
“Young lady, I know that your parents are out of town. They asked me to keep an eye things and to make sure you okay.”
Mrs. Sussman elbowed her way in the front door, to her horror the first thing she saw was the fully decorated Christmas tree in the family room. That wasn’t the worst part, when she saw the ham sitting on the dining room table; her eyes bulged out like something out of an old Bug Bunny cartoon.
“Is that a fucking ham?!”
“Technically,” Tom’s voice rumbled from around the corner.
Mrs. Sussman looked confused; Tom looked different with his shave. His handsome features really caught Mrs. Sussman’s eye.
“You look familiar… are you that cowboy actor… Sam Elliott?
“No ma’am. I’m his cousin, Tom.”
Yasmine tried hard not to laugh.
“Well I don’t understand what all these hams and Christmas trees and cowboys are doing in your house Yasmine? Are celebrating trying to Christmas?”
Yasmine started to gently move her towards the front door.
“No Mrs. Sussman, me and my friend Tom are just celebrating humanity.”
Mrs. Sussman now looked really confused as Yasmine shut the door on her.
“What… humanity? You don’t need a tree and a fucking ham for that?!”
Yasmine laughed as she and Tom watched Mrs. Sussman walk down the brick path and back to her yard.

Tom and Yasmine sat there at the table stuffed. They failed to make a dent in the Honey Baked Ham.
“Tom what are we gonna do with all that ham?”
“What Lola doesn’t eat we can send over to Mrs. Kravits,” Tom joked.
“Sussman, she’s not that bad… I’ve lived next her all my life… twenty-two years.”
Tom just sat there quietly; Yazmine could tell that he was deep in thought.
“Too much ham?”
“No, mashed potatoes… they were excellent.”
“I put cheddar cheese in them,” Yasmine said proudly.
“Ya know, I was just thinking…”
“Yeah, I noticed Tom.”
“These six weeks have been really something… I was broke, and then I somehow end up being Santa Claus… where I meet some wonderful people like you, a gay Filipino elf, and now I’m gonna work as a high priced, at least for me... fashion model in Tahiti---“
“Don’t forget the part about becoming a male prostitute,” Yasmine said.
“Well I couldn’t have done it without you… I have you down as my pimp.”
Yasmine laughed and threw her napkin at him.
“I am not your pimp, Tom Sugerland… if I am? Then where's my cut?!”
Tom playfully threw it back at her.
“Well, what do you think paid for the ham and the tree?
Just then the grandfather clock started to chime. Yasmine jumped out of her chair.
“It’s Christmas! What do we do?”
Tom looked at her a little confused.
“I don’t know?”
“Let’s hug!”
Yasmine threw her arms around the old surfer who resembled Sam Elliott.
“You know something,” Tom asked.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have a Christmas that's this memorable again.”
Yazmine’s eyes started to water.
“Why are you crying,” Tom asked?
“This has been such a perfect time, I don’t want it too end.”
“Nothing last forever but a memory, kid. But don’t worry, we still got one more trick up our sleeve,” Tom said as he hugged her.

Yasmine carried two cans of Coke, as she walked in the sand, past Zara Mia, who was standing on the beach completely naked getting a makeup touch up. She couldn’t help but glace at the super models pubic area. “Yikes, Brazilian wax! I bet that must have hurt?”
Yasmine said under her breath as she continued walking as headed over to Tom who was sitting on a chair in a straw Panama hat. In his view were several other gorgeous models in various states of undress.
"Native women," said Tom lazily.
“Are they too much for you to handle... Here’s you coke.”
“Ha! I knew that there was a reason that I brought you along, Yaz. Your sense of humor.”
“Tough job?”
“I think that this might just be the most memorable New Years Eve ever as well?”
“Who are you gonna kiss at midnight?”
Tom peaked from under his straw hat and motioned his head at a Colombian model with the most incredible breasts the Yasmine had ever seen.
“I like that one,” Tom said with a snicker of Huck Finn.
Yasmine kicked his chair over and he tumbled laughing in the sand.
“Now you gotta get me another coke!”  
Just then a non-super model woman walked up to them.
“Excuse me Tom, Mister Wallenda requests you on the set.”
“I’ll get that Coke later Yaz, duty calls.” Tom got up from the sand.
Yasmine just shook her head and laughed, as Tom nonchalantly jogged over to Efren Wallenda who was standing on the beach with three models who were wearing only grass skirts.

After an incredible New Years Eve meal Tom saw Yasmine talking to one of the Tahitian  crew, a young man around her age. He smiled and then walked over and grabbed a beer from the cooler, then decided to slip away for a walk on the beach. He strolled down the sand until he was far from the base camp. He wondered how in the world did any of this happen? Was he really on an atoll somewhere in Tahiti?… surrounded with gorgeous naked women?… and getting paid for it! Tom found a place on the sand and said a prayer of thanks… if God didn’t hear it, at least Tom knew that he had said one, and that he was grateful.

Tom made his way back to camp about ten minutes before midnight. Yasmine saw him walking up the beach and came running to him; she was in tears. She could hardly speak. Tom immediately became frightened.
“What’s the matter!”
He grabbed her by her shoulders, he could feel her shaking.
“Did someone hurt you?!"
Tom saw the look in her face; it wasn’t fear… it was something else?  She finally spoke.
“It’s this place!”
Yasmine started pointing again.
“It’s this place! You’re here Tom!
Tom now was really confused.
“I know I’m here, I just took a walk on the beach, I’m sorry I left without telling you!”

Now it was Yasmine who grabbed Tom.
“Do you know what this place is? The guy just told me!”
Tom looked out towards the camp at a couple guys smoking.
“Did he get you high?!”
“This place, Tetiaroa! Do you know what it is?!
“No, are you gonna tell me?!
“It’s his island!
“Who’s island?”
“Marlon Brando! It's Marlon Brando’s Island! You finally made it you’re here! And you brought me with you!”
Tom looked at Yasmine, her big toothy smile that he loved was staring at him.
“You gotta be shitting me?!
Tom looked out on the water.
“Well, how do you like them bananas? You wanna see something else funny?”
Tom stuck out his wrist in front of Yasmine, a vintage 1950’s Gruen watch attached to it.
“Is that it? Oh, my god that is so freakin' weird! Why are you wearing his watch?!”
“Hell, I thought this adventure was kind of special? When else was I gonna wear Marlon Brando’s watch? I guess it turned out to be the perfect time… son of a bitch!”
Tom laughed and put his arm around Yasmine, he hugged this beautiful, silly girl that he’d grown to love.
“You know, Brando lied to me!”
Yasmine looked a Tom very confused.
“About what?”
“ I don’t see any good waves around here! He may have known how to act... but he didn't know shit about surfing”
“Boy, Tom you are a surfer till the end all right!”
Tom and Yasmine could hear the crew start to do the countdown to midnight.
Yasmine elbowed Tom in the side,“Didn’t you forget something?
"Where’s your Colombian model with the amazing tits?”
Tom looked to where all the models were gathered drinking beer and champagne.
“Oh those... I mean, her."
Tom could see the Colombian model in the distance, she looked a bit tipsy from champagne.
 "She can’t hold a candle to a sweet girl from Cheviot Hills.”
"Aw shucks Tom," Yasmine said doing her best little cowgirl imitation..
Tom stuck out his arm and they both followed the second hand of Brando's vintage Gruen watch till it hit midnight.
“Happy New Year Yasmine.”
Yasmine gives her old surfer a kiss on his cheek.
“Happy New Year Tom Sugerland.”

Sunday, January 1, 2012

TOM SUGERLAND’S LAST MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS / By Ray Ramos / Copyright Ray Ramos / Page 15

It was finally the eve of Christmas Eve. The Santa photo booth was so busy that day Yasmine couldn’t grill Tom on his activities from the night before with Tiffany Shaw… which was driving the young girl mad. Tom knew this too, and for his part was quite relieved. Surprisingly enough he and Yasmine had become very close in a short time, but revealing any facts about the night before would be too awkward for him. So Tom did his best not to speak to her too much that morning. 
After returning to the set after his afternoon break Tom saw an elf suited Rockquin run up
to meet him, “You have to call this lady right now!” Rockquin handed Tom a piece of paper with a number and a names scribbled on it.
“What’s this for?”
“It’s a woman who works with Efren Wallenda! You need to call her right away!”
“Why is she calling you, for me?”
“Because, I know how laid back you surfer dudes are! Returning phone calls are not at the top of your priority lists of things to do. So I gave her my number as backup!”
“Well I gotta get back to the set, do you see how busy we are today?”
Rockquin pushed Tom into a nearby alcove, “Tom you need to call her right now! Don’t worry, I’ll stall for you! Call her, you fool!”
Looking in Rockquin's eyes, Tom could tell that this gay, Filipino elf meant business.
“Call now,” Rockquin said as he ran off jingling to the set.
Tom pulled out his phone and sure enough, he had some missed call and some messages too. He dialed the phone and got a Miss Brenda Parker. It turned out she was the contact to this photo shoot that Efren Wallenda was doing with Zara Mia.
“Hello, my name is Tom Sugerland… I hear that you’re trying to get a hold of me?”
“Do you have a current passport Mister Sugerland?”
“Great. Mister Efren Wallenda is interested in using you as a model for a photo shoot for Italian Vogue. The pay is five thousand.”
You're shitting me... I mean ah, five thousand, huh?” The phone was silent on the other end for several seconds.
“Okay, you drive a hard bargain Mister Sugerland, seven thousand a day.”
Tom felt his bowels start to loosen up.
“I need to nail this down by tomorrow. You would have to leave the day after Christmas. The shoot will be on location, on an island in French Polynesia called Teriaroa. ”
“French Polynesia... In four days?”
Tom’s eyes glanced over in the direction to the Santa set, as he spoke to the woman he saw Yasmine talking to a mother and her kids in line. Tom felt himself smiling, he had really grown fond of her, he truly appreciated the warmth in her smile. And he appreciated the warmth in her soul that he felt when she was around him. He prayed for a good life that he hoped lay ahead of her. That had to be the only explanation for him to push his current run of good fortune and to go for broke.
“Tell Mister Wallenda thank you for the wonderful offer, but the only way I can possibly do it, is if I can bring my assistant Yasmine with me… I can’t possibly travel out of the country without her. She’s small and she doesn’t eat much.” Tom lied.

The day was long, Tom was exhausted. His lap was numb from little kids sitting on it. The highlight of the day was when Hugh Hefner came by for a picture with three twenty-something blonds, who he had introduced as his girlfriends. Tom laughed and thought more power to old swinger.
Rockquin had just left for the night, and it was just Tom and Yasmine on the set. She was excited; in fact she was actually blown totally away about Tom’s amazing opportunity to work with Efren Wallenda and Zara Mia in French Polynesia. She was so happy for him, that she almost didn’t want to bring it up to much in fear of jinxing it for him. Tom too was being tight lipped and waited to hear back from Brenda Parker.
Tom thought his day was over when what to his wandering eye did appear but Tiffany Shaw coming very near. She looked a sultry as ever; again everything clung to her early 1970's Ann-Margret-ish type body. Tom hoped that Yasmine couldn’t see a twinkle in his eyes stemming from the fact that he’d now seen that body free of all its tight wrapping.
“Hello Mister Claus.”
“Why, hello Miss Shaw.”
“I wanted to thank you for doing such a wonderful job entertaining the guest at my little party.”
“They enjoy it, did they?”
“Oh, y-e-s indeed. You were the best fucking Santa Claus I’ve ever had.”
Tom smiled politely, and tried not to look at Yasmine whose eyes he could feel burning a hole into him at that moment. Tiffany leaned over into Tom’s ear.
“So what are you doing after your big night of delivering toys? I still have plenty of turkey left for sandwiches.”
“Santa does love his turkey sandwiches… but I’m taking a trip right after Christmas. What if Santa gives you a ring when he’s back in town?”
“That would most enjoyable. By the way you forgot this.”

Tiffany put another of her scented envelopes in his hands, then leaned over and kissed Tom on the lips. Tom knew that Yasmine did see his eyes twinkle that time as he watched her walk away.
“You slept with her, didn't you Santa?”
“Technically there was no actual sleeping involved,” Tom said with a devilish smile that just couldn’t help.
Tom opened up the enveloped to find five crisp one hundred dollar bills. He actually used the counterfeit marking pen on them make sure they were good.
Tom looked at Yasmine.
“Let’s have seat on the couch,” Tom said.
“I guess if I take this money that would make Santa Claus a prostitute, huh?"
"Ah yeah!"
Yasmine said looking at Tom rather disapprovingly.
Are you familiar with the term Taft Hartly, my dear?”
“No,” said Yasmine.
“I did some work on a movie back in the late 70’s. It was a surfing movie with Gary Busey and Jan-Michael Vincent called Big Wednesday. I was a surf double for those guys. If you see that movie I’m all over the place in it. Anyway, I didn’t join have to join SAG, they let me do a one time only thing called, Taft Hartly… so that’s how I’m looking at this piece of change… a one time only thing... I'm not joining the union. and I’m not ashamed to say, that  I was worth every dollar.”
“Tom!” Yasmine looked at Tom, her arms crossed, red in the face.

Tom looked at Yasmine. “I know what it is about you? Dammit Yaz, you’re the daughter that I never had.” Tom’s heart again grew lighter as a smile grew on Yasmine’s face.
Tom never realized that as carefree as he was, that he was missing something and it wasn’t money and all that shit. It was to have someone special in his life to appreciate for no other reason then to try and help them, and show them the way, best he could.
"I feel that for you, kid. Can you believe it? I must be getting old?"
“Tom that’s so sweet, I do feel a great connection with… you’re like this character out of a fairy tale… I don’t know how to explain it… I feel like you’d always be there for me… I’m so glad I took this job.”
“Me too. I guess it’s kinda changed my life,” said Tom.
Yasmine staired at Tom face. She didn’t know if it was her imagination but, they seemed his eyes looked a bit watery for a moment. Then Tom’s cell phone made a noise, he looked down at it. He could see that he had a text message. It was the first one that he had ever received. He figured out how to read it and smiled.
“Not to get too much off the subject Yaz… but are you sick of my company yet?”
Yasmine gave Tom a strange look.
“No… I don’t think so?”
“Great. Well then, do you have a passport?”