|the_water_clock (the_water_clock) wrote,|
@ 2009-03-05 10:17 am UTC
|Entry tags:||[ story: a dream that could not last ]|
Title: A Dream That Could Not Last Chapter 3 of 12: His Girl Friday
Pairing: American Idol: Ryan Seacrest/Simon Cowell, Amanda Overmyer/Carly Smithson, Kimberley Locke/Anwar Robinson
Chapter Rating: PG
Chapter Summary: Who doesn't want to be on the radio?
Chapter Length: 7000 words
Disclaimer: People sort of own themselves, don't they? Which means this is a work of fiction.
Notes: A Dream That Could Not Last is an AU romantic comedy set in 1939 London, when everyone knew war was on the horizon but no one was sure when or how it would arrive—which made love of all kinds that much more important. Follow a year in the life of three groups of (mostly) Americans: pilots who joined the RAF, singers and dancers in a swing music revue, and reporters for BBC Radio. As usual there will be plenty of songs along the way to set the mood, plus art by the amazing bhanesidhe.
This was a big undertaking, and needed a team. If I was the writer/director, then locumtenens was my editor, lillijulianne, musicforcylons and evil_erato my producers, dana_kujan the actually helpful studio executive; and ali_wildgoose my executive producer who kept the train on the tracks in ways so numerous I cannot list them here.
Prologue | 1: The Lady Eve | 2: Adam's Rib
15 November 1939
"But sir, if you'd—" Ryan looked up at Joel, shook his head just a touch. "All right. No, no, I understand very well. No, not at all. Well frankly, sir, I think it's a damn shame that their being pilots doesn't override it, but of course I see the problem." He tapped his pencil on the pad in front of him. "Did you get my note about the girl mechanic?" Another long pause, during which Joel lifted his eyebrows and Ryan nodded. "Thank you sir. So we'll go right ahead and do that. What about the revue piece? Yes, we can do that, definitely. That's fine. Well, of course I'd rather it air. Oh really? Yes, that is good news. Very glad to hear it. No, please, thank you. Well, we're working hard to keep that trust. All right sir. You too." He hung up the phone.
"Jeez louise," Joel said.
"Tell me about it."
"Ixnay on the egroesnay?
Ryan nodded. "It's too bad. Their story shouldn't be in just the black press. But maybe one of those affiliates that play race records will want the audio. Anyway, we're clear for the Pyramid Club—"
"—we just can't mention the dancers."
"Not so fantastic."
Ryan shrugged. "Small victories. They were very interested in Sgt. Overmyer."
"Great, we can—"
"No, I think I'll send out Giuliana with Carly, if Simon and the symphony can spare her. The sergeant was a little guarded with us. She's surrounded by men all the time; let's see if a girl will get more out of her."
Ryan sighed. "Well, let's get something to eat and then we can start re-editing that piece."
"No date tonight?"
"Joel. We haven't had that many dates."
"Four dates in eight days. And sleepovers."
"You sound like Helen Broderick."
"That makes you Ginger Rogers. Sure you want to continue that analogy?"
"I can dance backwards."
"In heels? In a silk bias-cut gown trimmed with feathers?"
"If I had to."
"His continental is that good?"
"Fox-trot. He's very well trained."
"Ever let you lead?"
"On the dance floor? Not yet."
"In the bedroom?"
"Have a heart! I'm thousands of miles from my wife. If you're not going to have an affair with me, the least you could do is let me live vicariously through you."
"I dunno, Joel, haven't you been to dinner a few times with Carly?"
"And this is why you would make a bad best friend in a romantic comedy." Joel leaned forward and whispered, though the office door had been shut since the start of Ryan's phone call. "Carly isn't looking for a gentleman friend."
"She already has one?"
"Honestly, Ryan, do you listen to anything I say?"
"Carly isn't looking for a gentleman friend." He sat back in his chair for effect.
"Well. How do you know that?"
"How did I know about you?"
"It's like you have ESP, but only for finding homosexuals."
"The Lord gives His greatest gifts to those who can use them only for good. So as I was saying, how's the sex?"
Ryan rolled his eyes. "You said once that contemplating my sex life made you nauseated."
"Never stopped you before, and I'm hard up now. Come on, how is it?" He grinned conspiratorially.
Ryan couldn't help smiling. "It's really good."
"What, you want details?"
"What part of living vicariously through you did you not understand?"
"So you really want to know about when we get into it? Sometimes, you know, we just suck each other off—and it's weird, because if we do it at the same time, it's almost like doing it to yourself; you kind of lose track." Joel nodded, transfixed, and Ryan felt suddenly shy. He looked down, tracing his finger along a groove in the desk. "But the other night, we were in the buff by then, necking in his bed, and he reached into a jar of Vaseline—that stuff is so useful—and he slid his fingers inside me, which was amazing enough by itself, but he was really just getting me ready for his stiff prick. Then, well, you know what happens after that, god, it's like he's splitting me in two…"
"And you like that?" Joel asked, his voice oddly hollow.
Ryan looked up, into Joel's eyes, direct. "I loved it. I came all over the place."
There was some silence, and then Joel cleared his throat. "Um, okay, I'll meet you in the lobby. Gotta stop at the john."
"To jack off or to throw up?" Ryan asked.
"I'll let my body decide when I get there."
Simon Cowell popped the last of his sandwich into his mouth and tossed the paper into the bin. When Ryan had come by to say that he and Joel were going out to get some lunch and would be happy to get him and Carly something, Carly had smirked at him, and she hadn't stopped even now as they were preparing the studio to record the girl singers from the Pyramid Club. When they'd first started working together he'd been able to put Carly in line with a glare, but she was no longer afraid of him. Which was really just as well; it was only a matter of time before she would transition from engineer to producer and it was probably only her being a woman that had held her back thus far. When they'd started she'd been lucky to be working on such a high-profile show, but now he was lucky to keep her. That said, she seemed very content to continue to work with him, and he'd take that anytime. Even with the smirking, and the elbow jabbing, and the winking, which he deserved, as he hadn't actually dated anyone at all since she'd known him—not since that one girl after his divorce, and that was years ago.
"Did it taste better because he brought it?" she asked.
Simon scowled. "Let's concentrate on the show, shall we?"
"The mikes are set up for voices and piano," Carly said. "We can set levels when they get here." She looked down at her notes. "Do we want three songs, or only two?"
"Let's see," Simon said, writing on a pad. "Forty-one minutes, less ten for the review recap, I want at least nine for the interview—"
"And we have the music hall segment, that's eleven."
"Damn, I keep forgetting about that." He tapped his pen. "Well, I don't see how we can do more than one or two songs. Bit tricky with three singers."
"If they were all as good as you say," Carly said, "we could record them all and play the tapes over the next few weeks, make it a regular feature for the winter, since there won't be many new revues opening until after the holiday."
"We could do," Simon said. "Might spark a bit of competition between the girls."
"That sounds like a lovely idea," Carly said, rolling her eyes.
"Now, Carly, all of life is a competition; you know that."
"Oh? Is that what you're doing with Ryan? Competing?"
"In a sense. I wouldn't want his show to be better or more popular than mine."
"That must make for fun dates."
"He's the same," Simon said. "And we're not taking this dating too seriously."
"Are you sure?"
"He does have a bit of a reputation. A friend of mine in Los Angeles told me—"
"No, I meant, are you sure about yourself?"
"Well! Of course!"
"Even though you wired Los Angeles to ask about Ryan?"
Simon coughed. "I put through a trunk call, actually."
Carly laughed, but Simon was saved from further harassment by the arrival of Giuliana, showing in Paula, Randy and the singers. Simon hopped up to play gracious host. "Hello, welcome to Studio 5C," he said, shaking Randy's hand.
"Cowell. You remember George Huff," Randy said, indicating the man who stood just behind him.
"Yes, of course, your piano player," Simon said. "And this is my—well, really, my producer, Carly Hennessey."
Handshakes all around, then Giuliana went to fetch tea. "So I'll tell you," Simon said, "unfortunately we don't have time to feature all the girls this week."
"But we will over the coming weeks," Carly said. "And if it appeals, we could use it as a regular feature."
"Well," Randy said, "I would want them all featured eventually."
"Of course," Simon said.
"Paula, what do you think?" Randy asked.
"I think it would give each girl a place to shine, in her own special way, and show her heart. You know? I think that could be beautiful."
"Right," Simon said, reminded of why he'd stopped dating singers, however beautiful. Or handsome, for that matter.
"But if we go beyond this week," Randy said, "I'll want to bring in some of the boys, you know, vary the instrumentation."
"Of course, of course. Ah, here's the tea, thank you Giuliana. Well," he said, turning to the singers, "which of you would like to go first?"
Jennifer said, "Uh-uh. I'm going last."
"I'll go first," Kim said, rising.
Simon led Paula, Randy and the two other singers into the engineer's booth while Carly adjusted the microphone for Kim.
"I've never sung on the radio before," she said.
Carly smiled. "You'll be fine. Sing like you would to a friend, not on a stage."
Kim nodded, but she still felt uneasy. Doing something new was one thing, but learning to sing for the radio in front of Simon Cowell, another.
Carly went back into the booth and they "set levels"—which consisted of Kim singing louder, then softer, while Carly fiddled with some dials.
George reached out and held Kim's hand. "You'll be great," he said. "This is your song."
Kim cocked her head at him. "You're right, George. It is my song." She turned back to the booth and saw Carly still smiling, Paula's encouraging nod, and Randy's familiar slight scowl. What did it matter that Cowell, who was lighting a cigarette, wasn't even looking at her?
"I'm ready when you are," Kim said.
I let a song go out of my heartAnd Carly was smiling at her, light and friendly, so she tried not to notice Mr. Cowell in the back, looking down at a paper. Randy was nodding now, hearing how she'd taken his advice. The rest of the song was fairly simple—it wasn't a difficult song, nor the best one she'd ever sung, but it was Ellington, and it was hers. George finished, the light notes trailing off, and they waited. Mr. Cowell leaned forward and said something to Randy, Paula and Carly, low—she wasn't sure even Jen or Kat could hear—and then Carly came back on her microphone. "That was great, Kimberley. Can you do it again but just a little bit warmer?"
It was the sweetest melody
I know I lost heaven
'Cause you were the song
She looked at Mr. Cowell but his face was closed off, unreadable, and slightly turned away.
"Warmer?" Kim asked. "Yeah, I can do that."
"Think we got it?" Ryan asked.
"Yeah, I think we do," Joel replied.
"Let's listen through one more time," Ryan said. He sighed, running a hand through his hair, and finished off his now-cold coffee while Joel rewound the tape. "The Negro radio piece timed out at …"
"9:25, with a 4:40 pool out."
"I hope someone wants it. All set?"
Joel zeroed out the timer on the console. "Yep," he said, and hit play.
Ryan had got used to the sound of his own voice over the years, the delivery just a beat slower than the staccato rat-a-tat tempo that was in vogue. Ryan didn't feel the need to spit out that many words—he doubted the listeners could absorb them—and anyway, it left no space for emphasis. Ryan often wrote his copy with words underlined, though once he got behind the mike he'd mess around with it until it felt right, just a tick or two more polished than regular speech. Well, his regular speech.
They'd been the first press to talk to the American pilots after their arrival, and both the RCAF and the RAF were keen to publicize the Yanks in their midst, as if that could somehow shame the country into joining the war. Lt. David Cook had been engaging and well spoken, and the American pilots, who'd all been training together in Calgary since September, were funny, optimistic and confident in that particularly American way. Even their chaplain, Rev. Sligh, had been something of a cut-up.
Pilot-Officer Christopher Richardson was talking—quietly, they'd had to work on the sound for him—and Ryan said, "I wish we could put him on that television we saw at the fair."
"He is very handsome," Joel replied. "Not really your type though."
"No, he's—wait, you think he's queer?"
Joel cocked his head.
"And that's based on what?" Ryan asked.
He waggled his fingers in the air. "Never doubt the second sight, Seacrest."
Ryan shook his head. "How did we time out?"
"15:40 and 13:10 for the two segments."
"Great. Let's skedaddle."
As they walked down the hall, the two reels of tape boxed and ready for transmission to New York, they heard voices arguing in one of the other studios. Ryan poked his head in and saw Simon sitting with the two directors of the revue they'd seen the week before.
"I don't feel that's the strongest performance," Simon was saying.
"I dunno, man," Randy said. "She's definitely the most versatile. She can sing whatever we throw at her."
"Without complaint, so professional," Paula said. "And she shows us herself, too."
Ryan could sense Simon's impatience, so he leaned further in through the door. "You folks need an umpire?"
"Hey man," Randy said, standing up to shake his hand. "Naw, I mean, we agreed that Jen was the strongest today, but he's just not down with Kim's song."
"No, that's not what I said. I do like Kimberley and the song, but the performance isn't coming across the way it did on stage, nor should it, really."
Paula put up her hand, as though to speak about it further was more than she could bear.
"I think what Simon means," Ryan said, "is that her song is right for the show, and she sings it well, but when it's taken out of the context of the show it doesn't work. Maybe she could have another song for the radio?"
"Oh, well, why didn't you say that in the first place, man?" Randy said. "She could definitely sing a different song. The show is built around Jen—"
"Of course," Simon interjected.
"—and like I said, Kim can sing anything. Kat, she's good at what she does, but it's narrower."
"So we're agreed."
"Yeah, I'll think about another song." Randy turned to Ryan. "Thanks for translating, man. I don't know how you knew what he was saying, but …"
"I don't know either," Ryan said, smiling, "but I'm glad to help. Actually, while I have you," he continued, "I wonder—Joel and I have been interviewing the American pilots. They just got here last week to help the RAF and—"
"And you'd like them to come to the show," Paula said. "Of course. We can easily comp them the door, and perhaps a drink or two."
Randy leaned into Ryan, conspiratorially. "She's got that club owner wrapped around that little finger of hers and I don't mean maybe," he said, winking at Paula.
"Oh, you," she said, but she was smiling.
"But she's right," Randy said. "Anything for our boys, so long as they don't object to, you know—"
"Actually," Ryan said, "two of the pilots are colored."
"Well!" Randy replied. "Same group with the whites?"
"Not enough to make their own," Ryan explained, "and too good not to bring over."
"Don't that beat all," Randy said.
"Tell us the night," Paula said, "and we'll make sure they have a front table—and meet the girls after."
"Thank you so much. They'll love that."
"Cool," Randy said. "Come on Paula, we got a show and we've left the Studdards with all those kids."
Paula rose gracefully from her chair. "Thank you so much, Ryan," she said. "It's so nice to talk to someone positive"
Ryan knew if he even looked at Simon he'd start snickering, so he focused on Paula. "Good to see you too, darling." He kissed her cheek, taking care to avoid the rather large feather on her hat. Handshakes all around—Paula gave Carly a hug which Ryan was sure she very much deserved—and then Giuliana, as was her way, mysteriously appeared to walk them out.
After they left, Simon said, "Well, aren't you the charmer?"
Ryan shrugged. "Goes with the job."
"Before you two start flirting," Joel said, to much rolling of eyes and a chuckle from Carly, "I'm making dinner tonight, and there's plenty for five, if you're interested."
"Five?" Simon asked.
"Giuliana," Joel replied.
"Now, I'm going to speak freely here—"
"When don't you," Carly muttered.
"—but you're a married man, and I happen to care quite a lot for Giuliana. She's a nice, respectable girl with a nice, respectable beau, some American businessman, and I—"
"Say no more," Joel said. "I love my wife, I miss her terribly, I write to her twice a day."
"In other words," Ryan said, "he knows he's already found the only woman in the world who'll put up with him for more than a few weeks at a time, and he doesn't want to louse that up."
"What he said. Anyway, dinner?"
"Why are you cooking?" Simon asked. "When there will be two women there?"
"Hey, brother, this is the twentieth century! And I'm a better cook than my wife, so I'm used to it. Nothing fancy, though."
"Well, when you put it that way," Simon said, "why not."
Giuliana appeared in the doorway, and Joel took her by the shoulders. "C'mon, G, dinner at our place."
As they walked away Ryan turned to Simon and Carly. "Say, I was wondering—can I borrow Carly?"
"Why?" Simon asked. "You and Joel are thick as thieves."
"Oh, not for me," Ryan said. "For Giuliana."
Kim sat in her bed, curled up with a book. It was their night off and many of the girls had gone out, which suited her just fine. She needed a little time alone, to think.
The news that the American airmen would be at the show had all the girls in the cast excited, and the boys in the band irritated, but Kim didn't much care. She'd dance with them, flirt a bit, but she wasn't intending to really make time with any of the men. She was sure they'd be interesting to talk to, but it was really just another part of her job.
Kim was worried about this Simon Cowell. It was, after all, her first lead in a show and while she knew she could sing, and that Paula and Randy were very happy with her work, and that the audiences were responding, it was a little niggle that she wasn't conquering this unexpected challenge. Not that she felt particularly competitive with her fellow leads—the show had been built around Jen, after all, and rightfully so. She had a big voice and a big personality to go with it. As for Kat, even when she wasn't singing that well she was so willing to do whatever Mr. Cowell said that it was like watching a puppy dutifully fetching a stick again and again, happy for nothing more than a kind word and a scratch on the back. Never mind that she was gorgeous, though Kim didn't think that Mr. Cowell was personally swayed by that.
But Kim had a little too much dignity to be so obedient. While she was happy to grow from criticism, she did know what she was doing. And Mr. Cowell's comments were always frustratingly vague. No technical notes as with Paula or Randy, but problems with songs that she hadn't actually chosen, or what overall emotion she was trying to get across, or who she was as a singer. She had an unhappy suspicion that he didn't exactly know what to do with her, and in any event didn't find her particularly memorable. After all, that first night at the Pyramid, he hadn't said anything to Paula and Randy about Kim's singing, only suggestions about Kat and Jen.
She set the book aside and headed down stairs to see what leftovers were in the icebox, vowing to herself not to reach for another piece of pie just because she was feeling a little low. Well not low really, but uncertain. She turned the radio on softly, then found a small bowl of string beans and a Times someone had left on the kitchen table—surely Randy; she couldn't imagine anyone else reading it. There wasn't much news—the Polish government-in-exile had arrived in London; construction was starting on the Jefferson Memorial; Capone was about to be released from prison. She heard a voice in the hall.
"Now Mrs. Studdard, what are you—oh, it's you, Kim," said Paula. "Why aren't you out on the town, like the others?"
"Oh, I just wanted a quiet night at home for a change," she replied.
Paula slipped off her wrap and turned up a flame under the kettle. "You aren't still worried about Simon, are you?"
Kim shrugged. "I thought it was a good song."
"It is," she replied, as she fixed up a teapot and brought two cups over to the table. "It's just not a great song. And you deserve a great song, it's true."
"I sing it well," Kim said.
"You sing everything well," Paula said. "That's why we have you in the show. But for the radio—Simon's right about one thing. You should have a song where you can really shine, and I know that you can because I've seen it!"
Kim smiled a little. "Thanks."
"But that's the only thing that man is right about. We might not be able to put something in the show..."
"I know," Kim said. "Jen."
"Well, not that Jen is particularly sensitive," she said with a little grin that made Kim snicker, "but we can't have two strong personalities in one revue. On the radio, however, there's no reason for you to be in anyone's shadow."
Kim nodded. "Okay."
"Good!" Paula said, pouring the water into the teapot. "Now forget about Simon Cowell! What does he know; he's not a singer anyway, right?"
"Right!" Kim said. She poked at the beans a bit with her fork. "So you were out with Mr. Fuller again tonight?"
Paula grinned from ear to ear. "He is such a gentleman! We went to dinner with a friend of his who works in the government, some lord something-or-other but I couldn't get it straight so he said I should just call him 'Tom' and so I did! Oh, such lovely people, too!" She looked down at the paper, and then sighed. "Oh, what is happening in the world. You know there are some people working to bring the little Jewish children here, to be safe. I met a rabbi tonight who is doing such work. We can't take anyone in, of course, but maybe I'll bring him here for dinner and introduce him to you girls."
"Charity work is good for the soul," Kim said.
"That's right," Paula said, pouring out the now-brewed tea. "So tell me, are you excited about the airmen coming to the show next week? There are some colored men; you might find yourself a fella after all."
Kim smiled. "Oh I don't know. Those flyboys are a bit glamorous for me."
Paula cocked her head. "But Kim, you're a lead singer in a hit revue. You're pretty glamorous yourself."
"Maybe," she said, and poked at the beans some more. "But I sure don't feel like it."
17 November 1939
Amanda had spent the entire week, it seemed, with half her body inside a bomber engine, and she couldn't have been happier. Oh, barnstorming had been fun in its way, and Chris sure loved it, but it hadn't been a real challenge for her, mechanically. But now she had two different engines under her belt and she was learning a third and she felt just flat-out useful in a way that she never had when her mother was showing her how to arrange flowers or set an elegant table. Her back ached a little; because she was small, she had to lift her feet off the ground and balance her waist on the edge of the engine to reach everything, which wasn't particularly ladylike even in her jumpsuit. And once the boys learned that a smack on her behind (friendly, lecherous or otherwise) would be returned in kind (albeit a bit harder) they'd got over it.
She was perched precariously in the engine of a Hampden bomber when she heard steps approaching. "Castro?" she asked, not looking up from her work.
"Um, yeah," he said—he must have ducked his head under the hood because his voice echoed against the skin of the plane. "Uh, those two reporters are here?"
"Oh, fuck," she said. "Forgot all about that. Can they hold on for a minute?"
"Um, yeah, when I said they were here? I meant, right here."
"So you just let me sit here with my ass hangin' out? Jesus!" She ducked her head and slid out of the engine until her feet hit the ground. "Sorry about that, Mister…" She turned the face the reporters, hand outstretched.
"It's Miss. Miss DePandi," said the devastatingly beautiful girl, who held out her hand. "Sgt. Overmyer, pleased to meet you," she said, with a charming accent Amanda couldn't quite place—probably Italian, to match the name.
"Hi! Uh," she pulled back her hand and wiped it on the rag that hung from her waist. "Amanda, please call me Amanda," she said, smiling.
"Giuliana," the dream girl replied. She was tall and slim in her blue polka-dotted dress and wedges. An adorable hat was perched atop a pile of chestnut hair, and Amanda could just see a hint of cleavage in the sweetheart neckline.
"Well, real nice to meet you. Uh," Amanda looked around for a place to sit that wouldn't stain or tear the dress. "Here," she said, putting a clean cloth over a nearby stool. "Have a seat."
"Thank you," Giuliana said. "This is my producer, Miss Hennessey."
Amanda looked up—she hadn't noticed the other girl standing behind Giuliana in a plain suit and brimmed hat, a case slung over one shoulder, and sensible shoes. "Miss Hennessey," she said, nodding.
"Sergeant," she replied.
"So," she said, pulling another stool around for Miss Hennessey before sitting down herself on the step ladder, "Capt. Johns said another reporter would be coming to talk to me but he didn't say it would be a lady reporter."
"We wanted to get the woman's perspective," Giuliana said. "Ready?" she asked her companion.
"Yes," Miss Hennessey said. She was holding the same sort of microphone that Amanda remembered Seacrest and McHale carrying a few days ago. "We're rolling."
"Ryan asked you some of these questions," Giuliana started, "but what is your background?"
"Well, I was born in Virginia, to an old family, and my mama and Pilot-Officer Christopher Richardson's mama are friends—they spent a season in London together; that's how his parents met. So we grew up together, and he was my escort at the cotillion—"
"Cotillion?" she asked.
"You were a debutante?" Miss Hennessey asked.
Amanda grinned. "I know I'm no Brenda Frazier now," she said, indicating her grease-stained jumpsuit. She looked at Giuliana. "But I do clean up well."
Giuliana cleared her throat. "I'm sure you do."
"Anyway, after that I went to Smith, Mama's alma mater, and Chris beauxed me around because he was at Harvard, but we're really just old friends. He had a very temperamental little sport car and I was better at fixing it than he was, which started the whole thing. When he decided to learn to fly, I learned that engine, too, and after we were graduated we greatly disappointed our parents by taking off with the air circus. Kinda rough-and-tumble at first, but I got used to it and I think I'm more myself now in a jumpsuit fixing engines than when I was wearing pretty dresses and learning the difference between a fish fork and a salad fork. Put an edge on my accent, too, which I think horrified Mama more than anything else, since I always was a tomboy. We barnstormed across the country for a few years, and then we read about Hitler and went right up to Canada."
"How is it to be the only female?"
"But I'm not. There are females all over the base, and not just in the office, but in the radar tower, too. That's who I bunk with. But if you mean out here on the airfield, I guess I'm used to it—there was a girl pilot or two in the air circus but never a girl mechanic. I can handle the men. It's the women who give me trouble." She was flirting outrageously now, but what did she care? She'd barely seen a girl out of uniform since Calgary, and she wasn't about to attempt an affair in the barracks, not that any of her bunkmates appealed. But a girl reporter, now that was just her speed; she'd certainly bedded many of them during her travels.
"Can you tell me more about how you handle the men?"
"Sure," Amanda said, smiling. "You can ask me anything."
Simon was in his office, the turntable out, trying to find a new song to suggest for Kimberley Locke, when Carly returned from the RAF station. It only took one look to see that she was in a mood. "How did it go?" he asked.
"Oh fine," she replied, though the way she thumped the remote case down on her desk indicated otherwise.
Giuliana was just behind her. "Carly, I am so sorry." She sat down in one of the extra chairs.
"I told you, it isn't your fault at all."
Simon picked up his phone and dialed. "The girls are back, so you may as well come over," he said, and hung up.
Joel and Ryan popped in seconds later and closed the door behind them. "How was the interview?" Ryan asked as he hopped up onto Simon's desk.
"It really was fine," Carly said. "Giuliana did a great job; she wasn't nervous at all. A real natural. But that Sgt. Overmyer!"
"Did she clam up?" Ryan asked.
"No, the opposite," Giuliana said. "She flirted her way through the interview."
"With Carly?" Simon asked.
"No, with me," Giuliana said. She slumped down into a chair. "I am sorry, Carly."
"It's not your fault you're so pretty, honey," Carly said. "And anyway, she's not my type."
"Riiight," Simon said. "What was she wearing?"
"Oh, one of those jumpsuits," Giuliana said.
"Don't look at me like that, Simon," Carly said.
"She's just your type and you know it. Since I've known you every girl you've dated dressed like a man. Sometimes I wonder why you date women at all."
"We told Captain Johns about the revue and he was very enthusiastic," Giuliana said to Ryan. "He requested Tuesday night."
"And when we mentioned it to that sergeant," Carly said, "she asked if Giuliana would be there!"
"I tried to help! I said we'd both be there!"
"So now she's 'that sergeant'?" Simon asked.
"Don't tease," Carly said.
"Maybe it was the suit," Simon said. "It's rather severe."
"This is what I usually wear when I'm out of the studio. It's professional."
"Yes," Simon said, "but it isn't particularly flattering."
"You should talk!"
"I'm not trying to get anyone to look at me."
"Well, not now," Carly said, nodding her head toward Ryan.
"Maybe Overmyer just likes girls in pretty dresses," Joel said.
"You'll be wearing a dress to the revue anyway, right?" Ryan asked.
"Of course, but—"
"So we'll get you a very nice one," Simon said, "and make sure that Giuliana's suitor escorts her that evening."
"Why do I suddenly feel like Cinderella?" Carly asked.
"Talk about your fairy godmothers," Joel said, which earned him a smack on the back of the head from Ryan.
Amanda spent more time than she'd initially expected in the sunny, pleasant WAAF rec room, as the radar operators she shared her barracks with were smart and interesting when they weren't talking about future husbands, and it was good to get a break from the boys from time to time. But after her interview with Miss DePandi she needed some masculinity around her, and on Fridays there was always poker in the rec room set aside for the Canadians and Australians. She'd earned her invite to the game back in Calgary, where the boys had learned what a good bluffer she was; some of them were still trying to earn that money back from her.
When she walked in most of the men were ambling about the room, chatting, and the radio was on the big band show—Benny Goodman at that moment. Josh Gracin, the Squadron 12 pilot who ran the game, sat at the table with chips and the small cash box; Squadron 15 pilot Ace Young was compulsively shuffling a deck. "Where's Cook?" she asked, straddling the back of one of the chairs.
"Johns took him and Lt. Rogers out a few minutes ago," Young said. "Dunno why."
"You playin' tonight?" Gracin asked.
"Yep," she replied, taking her wallet out of her jumpsuit. She looked about the room and saw that nearly everyone from both squadrons was there, not unusual so soon after dinner. With alternating training schedules, and the hullabaloo over the colored pilots, the squadrons had become two close-knit units who only overlapped occasionally, usually in the rec room. The Squadron 15 pilots were a collection of buddies: Young and Daughtry, Robinson and Rogers, married men Stacey and Bice, and of course Chris and Blake. The men sat on a clump of chairs in the corner, somewhat protectively around the two colored pilots, talking animatedly, though Robinson had a novel in his hand as he often did. Near the radio, laughing and carrying on, were the Squadron 12 pilots Amanda thought of as the "good-time boys," loosely led by Guarini into a good amount of late night trouble. On the other side of the room were the men who hung around with Hicks, a pilot and two mechanics who, like Hicks, took themselves very seriously and were displeased about the presence of Robinson and Rogers, never mind Robinson's leadership role.
Sgt. Lewis took a seat next to Amanda at the table. "Overmyer," he said nodding to her.
"Come to give me your money, Lewis?" Amanda asked.
"I can hold my own against you," he replied.
"No you can't, JP," Gracin said. Lewis had been Gracin's mechanic before the war and joined up with him, just as Amanda had with Chris. The two men kept aloof from their divided squadron, often spending more recreational time with Squadron 15.
Grigsby, Amanda's fellow mechanic, snickered as he sat down next to Young. Castro sat nearby, a guitar in his hands, softly playing a counter melody to the music on the radio. He liked to watch the game, said he liked the way the cards made patterns on the table. Amanda didn't know what he meant, really, but Castro often saw things others didn't, so she didn't worry too much.
Now that there were five at the table, Young dealt out the first hand. Amanda had crap, and folded after the ante; Grigsby had the cards, and he won a modest pot. Young was just about to deal the second hand when footsteps followed by the scraping of chairs announced Capt. Johns's presence in the room.
"As you were, men," he said as he walked toward the center of the room followed by Lt. Cook and Lt. Rogers. Guarini turned off the radio. "I've come to let you know that we've been invited to London to see an American jazz music revue, with girl singers, chorus girls, the usual, on Tuesday evening." A cheer went up from the men, and it was smiles all around, but Johns was waving his hands. "Wait a moment, wait a moment, now. First, this is a high-class supper club, not a—what did you call it, Cook?"
"Honky-tonk, sir," Cook said.
"Honky-tonk. That means dress uniforms—the civilians there will be in evening clothes." The good-time boys slumped a bit at that news. "And one more thing," Johns went on. "Both the club and the revue are mixed race."
"White girls dancing with colored men?" Sgt. Covington asked.
"No," Lt. Rogers answered. "The dancers and singers are all female, but they're colored and white. The band is colored. The audience is mixed, so I can't speak to that."
"Colored girls dancing with white girls is enough for me," Hicks said. "Doesn't seem like the sort of thing a white man in uniform should attend."
"Your feelings on that matter have been noted, Hicks," Johns said. "No one is required to attend."
"Then I'll pass," Hicks said.
"That's fine," Johns replied. "I will be going, myself."
Amanda saw Hicks stop just short of pulling a face, but Lt. Rogers was staring him down.
"Now, how many of you men would like to go? As I said, it is not required."
Amanda raised her hand, as did the other men at the table. She turned and looked around the room, and was unsurprised to see that the only members of Hicks's squadron who wanted to go were Lewis and Gracin.
"All right, thank you. That will be all." Capt. Johns left the room, motioning for Rogers and Cook to follow.
"Damned unnatural," Hicks muttered.
"Aww, c'mon now," Guarini said. "Live and let live, y'know?"
"I think it's nice," his buddy Helton added. "Give you boys the chance to meet some pretty colored girls."
"Naw," Hicks said, moving to stand closer to Robinson's chair. "I reckon they want to get their hands on some o'those pretty white girls."
The entire room was holding its breath but Robinson, who'd been flipping through a Life magazine since Johns walked out, didn't even look up. "I don't know what the fuss is about," he said, quietly. "I've had white girls and they didn't seem much different."
Hicks moved fast but Robinson was faster, up and out of that chair before Hicks could lunge at him. "You goddamned—" Hicks muttered, charging again, and Robinson grabbed his hands before Hicks could get them around Robinson's neck. All the other men were standing, watching Hicks and Robinson struggle, but emotion worked against Hicks and he couldn't pull back enough to get in a good punch.
"Knock it off!" bellowed a voice at the door, and then Lt. Rogers had Hicks up against the wall, one hand on his chest. "I am not in the mood for this shit from you, Hicks. Save it for the Germans. You don't like it, you can go back to the States, because the RCAF can get along without you just fine, good pilot or not. Got it?"
Hicks nodded, still staring at Robinson. Lt. Cook, who had come in just behind Rogers, stood in front of Robinson.
"I'm sorry, did you hear me?"
Hicks turned his head to face Rogers. "Yes sir."
Rogers let go and Hicks moved his shoulders, as though he'd shaken him off. "That goes for the rest of you too," Rogers said, looking around. "Once we get up into the air, it's us and them, and if you don't start working together, they'll pick you off one by one."
Everyone was silent, looking around at each other, or at the floor. Then Cook said, "Is there still a poker game going?"
Guarini turned the radio back on and the airmen went back to their conversations. Cook pulled up a chair next to Grigsby, where he could see the whole room, and handed some cash to Gracin. Hicks was still staring daggers at Robinson, but the other pilot didn't seem to pay attention, and Chris, Blake and Daughtry had closed ranks around him anyway.
"I'll tell you what," Young said, "I am looking forward to meeting some goddamned girls. Uh, no offense Overmyer."
"You're not my type anyway, Young," she replied. "I don't like boys who are prettier than I am."
Cook laughed. "I bet the boys in the band will be more your type than this bunch."
"Don't worry about me," Amanda said, smiling as she thought of pretty little Miss DePandi. "I'll be just fine."
Chapter Four: Bringing Up Baby
His Girl Friday (dir. Howard Hawks, 1941) is a romantic comedy starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant.
Their story shouldn't be in just the black press. But maybe one of those affiliates that play race records will want the audio."Race records" was the term of the time for songs from black singers. While even then there were a few black singers who had "crossed over", they usually sang in a white style. The music that was made by blacks, for blacks, was strictly segregated onto its own radio stations that few whites listened to. However, those white that did listen to race records in the 40s were in the forefront of rock and roll in the 50s.
I know I'm no Brenda Frazier now, but I do clean up well.Brenda Frazier was the "deb of the decade" in the 1930s. After her coming out into society in December 1938, she was often photographed for fashion magazines and was on the cover of Life, which was the People of its day. She's one of the "glamour girls" Ryan refers to at the start of the next chapter.