An excerpt from
The Eighth Day
“If he wants to see my bare chest in his film, then I want to see sixteen million in my account, Myron. Hell, I didn’t do a nude scene for ‘art’s’ sake back when I was doing Indies. I am certainly not going to do it for less than eight million a boob today!” Shari Saks picked up and considered biting into one of the organically grown carrot crudités that automatically appeared in her Beverly Hills mansion every day.
On the other end of the phone, Myron Weisberg, agent to the stars, sat peering through his door to the outer office at International Creative Agency and caught the eye of his assistant, who, as always, was listening in on his conversations via headset and taking notes. He adjusted his posture forward as the leather on the seat of his chair responded with an ungracious sound. He zeroed in on his thoughts and drilled them through the receiver to the “star” at the other end. “Look, I can’t tell you what to do, baby. These days everybody is showing everything ... right on television! But this director, Graham Houser, he’s a hot ticket, darling. He waltzed from Sundance to Cannes to the goddamned best-picture Oscar! This guy is on a roll and you, my dear girl, could see an Oscar as well.”
Myron set his chin. He waited for her to comment, and when she came up for air he jumped in, not allowing her to speak, “Shari, Shari, Shari, boobalah, we’re talking Best Picture here. I can smell Best Actress, I can smell it!” He tapped his nose even though Shari couldn’t see him. It kept him in the moment.
“Myron, Myron, Myron, you also said the last film was a guaranteed Academy Award. Instead I wind up having to do a scene with 2,000 cockroaches on me ...” The memory made Shari stick the carrot spear into the cluster lovingly arranged in the Pierre Deux bone china cup.
“Shari, cupcake! They were beetles. Little kids in Rangoon or someplace keep them as pets ...”
“Beetles, my ass! I’m telling you they were roaches. Big fucking roaches.” She flopped down on the Turkish striped-satin Donghia chaise. “Look Myron, you get me my sixteen mil or I’ll finally take lunch with Jack Newhouse over at CMS.”
Myron’s assistant’s eyebrows went up.
Myron nodded as he closed his eyes confidently as if to say, watch me handle this. “Now, baby girl, has Uncle Myron ever not made money for you? And you break my heart with threats? Threats aren’t going to win you that Oscar.”
“That’s only a threat if you don’t deliver! Love to Marsha and the kids, bye.” America’s current reigning female box-office attraction tossed her Freddi Fekkai–dyed blonde mane as she hung up the phone with no more regret than if she’d had her secretary order a pizza.
Shari felt she had earned her right to piss downhill. Having started out a wiry black-haired Jewish actress doing performance art pieces at the Nuyorican Café in New York’s Alphabet City, she climbed her way up to her lofty perch as Variety’s most bankable female star. She achieved the altitude by latching on to the winged talent of a fringe director who catapulted himself, and her career, into the mainstream when he finally got his big break.
It was of little consolation to her that she had been twice nominated for an Academy Award. Myron Weisberg, agent extraordinaire, was right. Winning the Oscar was the one thing that had eluded her thus far.
She was heading into one of her seven Italian marbled bathrooms when she heard the beep from her computer that announced she had mail. She poured half a glass of Remi Martin 125th anniversary cognac, a surviving bottle of which fetches $6,000 for the 1978 vintage. With one knee on the chair, she bent over to see who e-mailed her. Within a few seconds, she adjusted her position and sat squarely on the custom-designed, body-molded Swedish ergonomic chair. The only perceptible motion was caused by the gentle current of purified air from the filtration system she had demanded the studio install and pay for and which created a gentle billowing of her silk kimono. The richly colored and finely embroidered ancient wrap had been a gift from the head of Sony to celebrate her last film going past the $200 million mark. She was told it had been a ceremonial robe worn by a concubine to the emperor in some Japanese past century. She couldn’t remember which dynasty but she knew the fucking thing was practically a Nipponese national treasure. Shari reasoned that since a French film critic classified her body as an American national treasure, it was perfectly fitting for her to wrap it up in this Jap schmatte.
For the next twenty-five minutes, the motion picture star sat before her computer motionless.
Shari Saks picked up her white, gold-leaf, French-styled phone that was once the bedroom phone of silent screen siren—and later Coca-Cola icon—Clara Bow. In those days, she was known as the “It Girl.” The phone was a gift from Louis B. Mayer who, as the legend goes, presented it to Clara as a peace offering after he tried to get his hands all over her “its.” Jewish film moguls, Japanese electronics moguls, all the same, she equated in her mind. It was as if the word mogul was Latin for “breast-man.” Men are such schmucks, she thought as she started dialing a number to a private telephone that was only to be used in dire circumstances. She could not recall why, but she knew the circumstances were dire.
The president stopped by Hiccock’s office unannounced on his way to a fund-raiser out west for an influential senator. “Any breaks?”
“Janice is just digging in now, she may have something soon.”
“Where is she? I’d like to meet her.”
“She just went over to the FBI profile lab. She’s going to be so disappointed that she missed you.”
“I’m sure we’ll meet sooner or later. Let me know if anything new comes up.”
“Will do. Heading out of town?”
“Another rubber chicken for Dent. He’s got a big state there, with the most electoral votes and gobs of high-tech money behind him. I need to let the good people of California know that I am running for reelection as president and not him. Or at least that’s the line I am supposed to spew according to Reynolds.”
“Dent! You know, right before all the feces hit the air-circulating device, I had my position papers on his national firewall initiative forwarded to him. I think he’s got a good idea there.”
“I have concerns that it smells a little like ‘industrial policy,’ but I’ll be sure to tell him my people like his proposal.”
“I’ll have my executive summary sent up to Air Force One for your review, Sir.”
“Make it short. I got the whole California congressional delegation flying with me ... such fun.”
When Clark Gable drove up to the sixteen-foot-tall front gates, a security guard would nod and let him in. He would never challenge the movie idol, whose face was known around the world. U.S. Senator Hank Dent, however, had to punch in a seven-digit code to activate the now electrically operated gates. As he drove in, Dent scanned for gardeners, butlers, chauffeurs, and maids, but found no sign of anyone. At least Shari was following the rules that he established in their regular e-mail exchanges. Those personal, private, and often provocative missives were protected by using the U.S. Senate’s secure encryption. This was necessary because his liaisons with her, if discovered, would not be advantageous to his standing in the polls and his ambition to be the next White House resident. He was, after all, a trusted public servant—a married trusted public servant. On the other hand, what was the value of being the senior senator from the state that gave Hollywood to the world, if you couldn’t afford yourself the pleasures of one of its true natural wonders?
Parking in front of the seven-car garage that used to hold David O. Selznick’s sixteen-cylinder Dusenburghs, he walked around back to find Shari sunbathing nude by the pool. God she is beautiful, he thought as he took in every part of her. He stood there for a full minute, as someone would admire a Michelangelo painting at the Louvre.
Lying before him was the most coveted body in America, probably the world. The sexual ground zero of a billion male fantasies. Oceans of sperm had been jettisoned, from young boys and old men alike, just imagining what it would be like to be him, right there, right then. It was worth putting his staff off and canceling a few appointments. After all, it wasn’t as if they hadn’t handled presidential visits before. He could certainly squeeze out a few hours.
As he stepped closer, the sound of his Italian leather soles scraping the Israeli marble with which the pool was encircled brought Shari’s eyes to him. Tall cypress trees, planted in the thirties by Rudolph Valentino’s landscaper, stood guard as the most powerful woman in Hollywood gave the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate a classic, downtown, Avenue A, New York City blow job.
This was turning into quite a good day for the senator. Twenty-five minutes after the poolside oral gratuity, he was in full thrust atop Givenchy sheets on the actual, California-size bed that had belonged to Doris Day, humping the brains out of “eight-million-dollar-a-tit” Shari Saks. She was a wildcat in bed; her every squeal of delight, every shift of her Pilates-honed, yoga-tightened, Tai Chi–balanced, vegetarian-fed incredible body was a signal that he was the only man who ever gave her such pleasure.
The fact that she was also an Academy Award– nominated actress never penetrated his mind—which he was literally fucking himself out of right now. As happens in all Hollywood bedroom adventures, they climaxed at the same time. She was sprawled out flatly beneath him and he collapsed on her. They lay there for a minute catching their breath, squeezing the last bit of pleasure from their loins.
They did a little kissing, but mostly just allowed the waves of passion to wash away. His head was buried face down next to hers, his chin on her shoulder, her arm under him, dangling near the bedside table. He felt her move, but didn’t adjust his position. Eyes closed, he never saw her remove the .357 Magnum from between the mattress and box spring. The click of the hammer going back was a curious sound to him, but he never got to lift his head as she pressed the cold steel of the gun’s muzzle into her temple.
Looking up at the ceiling, Shari pulled the trigger. Her eyes widened in her final, frozen-for-all-time closeup as the slug traversed the twelve inches through both her head then his, finally embedding itself in the Chippendale desk under which Harvey Warner was personally serviced by the then-struggling actress Heddy Dukes.
The two most powerful places in America being Washington and Hollywood, the news of the movie star’s and senator’s deaths came as a shock to just about everyone. The details were never released by the LAPD. “Murder-suicide” was the official cause of death in the coroner’s report. The impact on Hollywood was considerable, as Miss Saks was in the middle of a $200-million film that would now have to be trashed. The senator was just about to start his re-election bid and many pundits, posthumously of course, foresaw a possible White House residency in his recently extinguished future.
Unreported in the L.A. Times was the fact that along with the senator’s death came the death of the Dent-Farber Emergency Cyber Crimes Initiative legislation. That bill would have pseudo-nationalized his corporate constituents in Silicon Valley, forcing them to design a new Internet police force in exchange for the political plum of getting billions in funding for advanced computational research engines. This, ostensibly, would be done as a national security issue to thwart any future attempts by any foreign power to gain the advantage in the never-talked-about computational power race.
The Hollywood press, however, reported the following news bulletin: “Self-help guru Kindwa Seiene, multimillionaire TV empowerer and author of My Karma, My Power has offered $44 million for the Saks estate. The mansion and grounds in Beverly Hills was the former home of mogul …”