The Star In The Mirror
Writer David Aloi offers a fanciful tale of Hollywood Narcissism for The Reflections Issue
“One of [Howard Hawks’] friends, Clark Gable, had a .410 over-and- under shotgun that Faulkner admired so much he wanted one like it. The first time they had driven into the Imperial Valley for some dove-hunting, Hawks began to talk about books. He would remember the conversation clearly. Faulkner entered into it, but Gable remained silent. Finally he ventured a question.
‘Mr. Faulkner,’ he said, ‘what do you think somebody should read if he wants to read the best modern books? Who would you say are the best living writers?’
After a moment, Faulkner answered. ‘Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Thomas Mann, John Dos Passos, and myself.’
Gable took a moment to absorb that information. ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Do you write?’
‘Yes, Mr. Gable,’ Faulkner replied. ‘What do you do?’” From Joseph Blotner’s Faulkner: A Biography (2005)
I call Château Margaux and warn them Heaven Lee and her mother are planning on stopping by for lunch this afternoon. The young man’s tone shifts—I’m used to this—to that of someone who’s experiencing the swift onset of meningitis.
“The Heaven Lee?” he asks dumbly. I hear him swallow.
“Put it under Liebermann,” I tell him.
“And what time should we expect your party?”
“Just be sure you have grape Fanta,” I say and hang up.
Introducing, Heaven Lee. My baby girl and the world’s newest Ariel in Disney’s live action remake of The Little Mermaid. Well, almost Ariel. We’re headed to the Château to meet Amerigo Ferrucci, king and kaiser of The Ferrucci Company, to sign the contract and make it official. Usually these production companies send a lawyer or some assistant for all the formalities but Amerigo insists on doing this one himself. He knows what’s at stake. The Hollywood Courier pegged this remake to be “the highest-grossing film in a decade” and the “search for Ariel has been tedious and tiresome for Ferrucci and his clan.” The hottest role in Tinseltown and my baby beat ‘em all—Demi, Carly, Selena, Ariana. I consider myself the woman behind the curtain. The one who’s had to sacrifice, hustle, pray. We were poor in Bethlehem, PA but now we’re fucking booming.
The sun is high and the Château Margaux provides the perfect setting for yet another one of Hollywood’s massive accords: airy, opulent, wicker everything. Wicker chairs, wicker tables, umbrellas, bougainvillea trellises, daylit tikis. The aloha vibe gives the illusion of safety, of a holiday lounging the French Riviera, sipping sparkling everything. There’s even an in-ground swimming pool, fixed dead- center of the Château’s patio, replete with saltwater shipped straight from the Ionian Sea. Next to it, a sign that reads ‘No Swimming’. I’ve co-signed Heaven Lee’s three-season Nickelodeon show, her first Christmas album—a duo with Bruno Mars—and all four of her Neutrogena Acne Wash commercials right here on this very patio.
Ferrucci meets us in the lobby holding a stack of papers under his arm and a pen in his ear.
“Ciao bella,” he says and kisses both my cheeks.
“Oh, how exotic,” I roll my eyes. He’s aristocratic, a young Roberto Benigni. Vast forehead, deep eyes, pencil frame, can’t be over thirty. There’s an AF embroidered onto the collar of his polo.
“Ms. Lee, your eyes gleam like stars on the eve of the—”
“It’s the Kabbalah cream,” I say confidently.
“There’s my girl,” he says and gently nudges me aside. He touches Heaven Lee on the shoulder. She’s dressed the part: purple crop top, green capris, her hair already naturally auburn. She thanks him for the opportunity of a lifetime and bows her head. She’s developed a real reputation in the industry for being difficult. To tell you the truth, it’s a little off-putting.
“Well are we going to just stand here like fools?” I bark at the host who looks like he’s been a failure all his life, even as a baby. He takes us to the table and the waitress runs over a giant bottle of Perrier to the table with wine glasses filled with ice. A second waitress, maybe the manager but who even knows, snaps open a grape Fanta and places it front of Heaven Lee. She slides it over.
“A little birdie told me Nick Jonas for Prince Eric,” I whisper into Ferrucci’s ear.
“We’re reconsidering the part of Ariel,” he says and takes a sip of water. Heaven Lee is on her phone Tweeting her location, Snapping her manchego, Instagramming her jelly shoes. She doesn’t hear the bomb that just went off at this wicker table.
“I’m not sure I follow.”
“Unless we can come up with some sort of arrangement,” he says. I feel his gaze surge over Heaven Lee like a cloudburst.
“Heaven Lee!” I turn to her and snap my fingers. “Part of Your World!”
She rises from the table, holds her fork and spoon into the air with a puzzled look on her face. Look at this stuff. Isn’t it neat? She knows how to turn it on. The guests lose their minds over this. As they should. Heaven Lee isn’t some serial C-lister. Her pitch is perfect, her movements graceful, like Nadia fucking Comănici. Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete. Her face is young and perfect still, pink and creamy. Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl. The girl who has everything?
“Is this necessary?” Ferrucci goes to pull at my arm but I’m already up and standing just a few feet from Heaven Lee, the appearance of a proud mother in the wings. At this point, the guests of the Château believe this is planned, a marketing stunt to reveal what Ferrucci and his company have kept secret for so long. She’s swaying near the edge of the pool now. Up where they walk. Up where they run. Up where they stay all day in the sun. The water is crystalline, gleaming like a galaxy. The guests and some of the staff have their phones out now, recording her every move, Facebook Live-ing the world’s new Ariel.
And that’s when I push her in.
A big splash. A universal gasp. Heaven Lee comes up stunned and sopping, doggie-paddling for her life. A mermaid who can’t swim. Just what I was hoping for.