—Hello! My favorite thing to do is to interrupt readings. You know the sort. I interrupt at least one or two each week, hopefully more if I have the chance and don’t have to take home too much work with me.
Readings? Readings of all sorts. Do you ever go to them? Do they hold them here? Don’t worry. I’d never do such a thing—not here. Well, if I did, you wouldn’t know it. Because I’d be dressed up. That’s part of the schtick.
No, really, do you hold readings here? I’d like to attend. As an attendee. Not to do the thing I said I do sometimes. Really, I’m a lover of ideas. Ideas more so than of literature. Literature is cheap! Like, literally cheap. The glue is worth more than anything else. Not much you can do with it. There’s value in that glue. I’ve tried all the ways. Trust me, I’ve tried the ways. It tastes… fine. Different than other glues, not necessarily worse. It smells better than almost any glue, I think because of the pulp. Who cares?
But the pages. The pages are the thing. Right? I mean, that’s what they’re trying to convince us, at these readings. Objects. Copies. Of copies? When’s your break, do you want to smoke pot?
It’s good stuff, right? I get it from my guy. I don’t know where he gets it. I don’t ask. I ask plenty of questions—too many, everyone says—but that seems rude, you know? Where are you from? What do you do? Do you still have a penis? See, you see how it feels? I know how it feels but I can’t stop. Really, though, do you still have a penis?
—What’s the spread?
—I don’t know what that is, what is that? Is that, like, Mexican juice?—
—It’s filtered water.
—So that’s a no go, then.
—I mean, it’s a Barnes and Noble, Bob. I don’t think they, like, bring in catering. I think it’s just what they have there.
—I’m driving through a tunnel, Sammy. You sound a little fuzzy, Sammy. They don’t do this in movies. Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me? Just Perrier on Perrier on Perrier. You sound a little fuzzy, do I sound a little fuzzy?
—I think they have Perrier. I think they have sparkling water of some sort. Are you really driving through a tunnel? Is this tunnel real?
—Yes, I swear to God, Sammy, real tunnel, and you already sound clearer, as I’m out the other end, although once I hit Malibu you’re going to fritz out again, I’d imagine. I’m sorry, Sammy, I don’t make the rules.
—Which tunnel, though?
—The one at the end of the 10 West, Jesus, Sammy, what’s with the tunnel fixation? I’m not your analyst, Sammy. In fact, as I recall, I pay you. Use your imagination, which other tunnel would I be talking about, the direction I’m heading?
—It’s just a lot of educated guesses to be making, Bob.
—And where are you, Sammy? Where are you making your educated guesses?
—I’m in my home office, Bob. I’m drinking a Boulevardier.
—Which is what?
—A Negroni with whiskey instead of gin.
—What’s the whiskey?
—Black Label, unfortunately.
—Sammy, you have no class. I feel like I’m always telling you that you got no class. I love you dearly, Sammy, if I had a new kid I’d even consider, like, Godfather-status for you, but you got no class.
—I can barely hear you.
—I’m doing 85.
—He killed her, is the thing. Of course he did. No doubt about it in my mind. I met Christopher Walken once. Wig on, wig on, so I wasn’t too scared to approach him. A bar, I think. No, it was in a restaurant, but at the bar. Anyway, he knew what I was right away. Kudos to him! Usually it takes people a minute, if they ever figure it out at all. And you know some people want to figure it out and some people never figure it out and some people figure it out but they don’t want to figure it out, catch my drift? I don’t know which sort of guy he is, to be honest, and you can change which guy you are over time, too.
I offered to buy him a drink and you know he was nice enough to accept? Anything he wanted, he got a Ramos gin fizz, not for me, not for me one bit, but he was… drinking? and talking to me? I don’t expect much from these people, is the thing. Sometimes you meet the contemptible famous fuck who wants to buy you a round and I’m always, what’s your angle? Kevin Spacey bought me a martini once, no joke, at Musso’s. And all I had to do afterward was let him choke me in his Corvette. No, that’s a joke.
But Walken, he was nice! He’s a people person. I’m a people person, too, but not with the sort of money he’s got. Money of course changing how a people person is a people person. The thing is, I knew I’d broach the topic, I knew it from when I first saw him and I touched my head to make sure I had the wig on, I mean, I knew I had the wig on, I don’t know how to explain it. I needed to make sure I was me. That me. And sometimes I have to feel it, I don’t know. I want you to understand but maybe you just can’t? I’m trying my best.
Anyway, of all things we discussed The Country Bears for a number of minutes? Almost ten minutes, maybe. Seen the film? Honestly I think it gets a bad wrap, and surprise surprise, he agrees! He’s the villain, he’s this evil developer who wants to like tear down the Country Bear Jamboree and build a mall there or something, I can’t really remember, I saw it in first run. He’ll take any job he deems the pay’s fair. He loves to work. Can you blame him? If I got paid what he gets paid to do the one thing, the one thing I love more than anything else, well, I’d do it, over and over again, no matter the result.
Eventually I went back to my booth. I never found the opportunity to bring it up. And as I stooped over my shepard’s pie I went over in my mind’s eye the possibilities of a revised encounter. I imagined him throwing his martini into my eyes. This has happened to me before, different context but same result. Stings. Vodka worse than gin. Don’t ask me how I know. I know because I know. I imagine the maître d’ separating us, gently but firmly he grabs my wrist, pulls me aside, and asks me to leave. Walken gets to stay. So soft-spoken though, am I really even mad? I knew what I was getting myself into.
But I also imagine it the other way. Less often, but I do. And Walken starts to cry. No crocodile tears, I can tell because how ugly he is, unless he’s that good of an actor. And I mean, he’s good, but he’s not that good. He tells me that he remembers so much more than he told the LAPD. He buys me another round…
—Good evening, Encinitis. It’s great to be here and I’m glad you all turned out. You’re probably wondering why Bob Wagner of all people has written a book. Well, let me assure you, I’m wondering that, too…
—Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, have you seen it? The Mazursky film. Bob’s Bob Culp, Ted’s Elliot Gould, Alice is Dyan Cannon. And Carol’s… well. It’s her. Natalie. At her most… I can’t even put it into words. That was her last role. Well, not her actual last role, you know the one, the Trumbull film, what’s it called? and I can’t even bear to watch it. The Trumbull film, I mean. Not that it’s actually any good. But this was her last role. It’s the sort of film where, were I Wagner, I know, kind of a wacky thing to grasp, but were I him, and I watched that film, I’d just end it there. I’d slit my wrists or hang myself, gas myself, head in the oven. Because how do you sleep with a god? And the movie’s so, I mean, she’s gorgeous the entire time, and the performance is sublime, really all four of them are, but that’s not the point.
—Good afternoon, Monterey! It’s great to be here and, wow, look at you all, I’m glad you all turned out. Now, you’re probably wondering why Robert Wagner, of all people, has written a book. Well, let me tell you, I’m wondering that, too… no, no, I’m kidding, this is my, hey Sammy what is it, my third?
(From the back of the crowd Sammy mouths to Bob, Third, third.)
MEET ROBERT WAGNER
READING / BOOK SIGNING FOR I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: MEMORIES OF HOLLYWOOD’S LEGENDARY ACTRESSES BY ROBERT J. WAGNER (WITH SCOTT EYMAN)
FRIDAY, APRIL 5TH, 4PM
189 THE GROVE DR.
LOS ANGELES (323) 525-0270
BARNES & NOBLE
—I was once quite rude to Bob Woodward, during a panel for the anniversary, maybe the thirtieth? of his book about Belushi, Wired? I think it’s called, something like that. Shocked? I can’t recall; it’s rubbish, anyhow. He was being interviewed by Tom Wolfe, believe it or not. This is a real event that happened. They held it at the WGA, for whatever reason, and neither of them live in this town, I’m almost certain. I dressed up. I wore Rouge Coco Flash on my lips. During the Q&A portion I stood up and asked Woodward how he could live with himself, having raped Nora Ephron. I was escorted out of the event. I called a yellow cab, this was a long time ago. Men followed me home in black cars, Ford Expeditions.
Hold for applause. Smile. Smile bigger. Laugh. Not that laugh. Your modest laugh. Smile again. Different smile. Your second smile. Teeth.
—Often I try to think about the night. Visualize. I get seasick thinking about the night. One time I went whale watching with my mother when I was ten, maybe. I cannot recall if we ever spotted any whales but the boat rocked back and forth in the bay and I remember retching over the side, and she forgot the dramamine, of course.
Davern told the cops a few years ago the Wagner wouldn’t let him turn the searchlights on when she went over. Davern, captain of the ship. So it’s the four of them. Her, Davern, Wagner, Walken. Bruising all over her body when they found her. But no clue how she went from deck to water. Was she scared? People heard a woman screaming. I think if I heard the screams I’d know it was her. I’m not saying I could have saved her. I’m not a strong swimmer. I cannot operate a boat of any kind. I don’t know what I would have done. It’s hard for me to picture myself on the yacht. Its name was Splendour, spelled like the British. So fucking stupid.
—Good afternoon, um, West LA?
(Sammy mouths, The Grove, The Grove)
—It’s good to be here at The Grove. You know, I’ve never been here before. It’s pretty nifty. The fountain.
—Excuse me, sir…
From the back of the folded chairs, Sammy says —Miss, we’ll get to the Q&A a little later, miss.
—That’s Sammy, my manager, everyone, I couldn’t do it without…
—LIAR! YOU LIAR! YOU LIAR! YOU LIAR!
Sammy says —Call an ambulance, Jesus! call the fucking LAPD!
She stabs him over and over, over and over.
Z.H. GILL is a writer based in Hollywood, CA, and a graduate of Oberlin College. His work has appeared in few publications. Don’t try to contact him.