Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 21

As fast as Coco ran, Leroy still got to Bruno before her. The only difference was, Leroy didn't know that he was in a race. Coco watched the two of them at the top of the stairs, hopping impatiently and trying to look as if he wasn't. Finally Bruno nodded, Leroy clapped him briefly on the shoulder, and they separated.

Bruno came down to join Coco, and together they headed for the pay phones in the lobby. Bruno lined up the change, and Coco unfolded a torn-out page of Variety with the crucial telephone number ringed several times in red.

'It's all there, Bruno,' she said, 'everything you need to know,' and Bruno, nodded and smiled and tried to calm her down a little.

He was kept on hold for nearly three minutes before he was put through. Without wasting any time, he got straight into it.

'I'm Miss Hernandez's theatrical representative, and I was wondering if you had time to see her this afternoon?' He turned in the booth, and gave Coco a reassuring wink. 'Well, I'm not at all sure whether or not she'll read. I just assumed you people would want to see her for the part.'

Coco gestured frantically; Bruno was overplaying his hand. Read for the part? She'd grovel for it if she had to. But Bruno was beginning to enjoy himself.

'Of course I'm with the William Morris agency. My name's . . . ' a fractional hesitation ' . . . Rosselli. Marty Rosselli. The reason you haven't heard of me is that I just transferred here from L.A., so I'm semi-new to New York.'

He looked at Coco again and started to make an okay sign with finger and thumb, but it died halfway. 'Hello? Hello?' He shrugged, and put the receiver back on the cradle with exaggerated delicacy. 'I guess we were cut off.'

It seemed more likely that the casting director's first assistant know a snow job when she heard one, but neither of them said it out loud. Coco was disappointed, but no less determined.

'Bruno,' she said, 'I'm so right for that part, it hurts. I totally understand the character of Angela. You know I saw Cakewalk six time? I cried every time Angela had her big scene.'

'What can I say? Life isn't fair. It's their loss.' Looking at Coco, Bruno was dissuaded from any further attempt to dismiss her feelings. He said, 'Come on over to my place after school. Leroy just asked me if I'll help him work on his showcase. The sounds will cheer you up.'

'Well . . . ' Coco managed a smile. 'Only if it's okay with Marty Rosselli at William Morris. He's my agent.'

Putting a tape together for Leroy offered a good opportunity for Bruno to use his latest gadget, an attaché case-sized studio setup that had started its life on an assembly line in Tokyo and found its home in the Martelli basement. Using the full width of a cassette running at half-speed, it gave him four channels of mixing with Dolby circuits giving every repeat run a first-generation sound. Leroy had some pre-recorded music that he wanted blending into a single sequence with no obvious edits. It was an ideal challenge for the equipment.

Leroy walked through his steps in a cleared area in the middle of the basement, counting softly under his breath. Bruno had a rough idea of what he was going to do - vary the speed of a couple of the tracks to make the rhythms match, and unite the whole sequence with an extra percussion underscoring - but it helped to see what Leroy was hoping to achieve.

Leroy, for his part, had welcomed the idea of having Coco along to watch and give advice. But although Coco was indisputably there, it seemed that her mind was off taking a walk somewhere else.

'Girl,' Leroy said, 'I get more enthusiasm from my eighty year old grandmother. And she's been dead for two years.'

'What is it?' Bruno said, as the upstairs door banged back and footsteps came down towards them. 'Still on the audition?'

'I just can't shake it,' Coco admitted.

'Well,' Leroy said, 'can you at least try? This may just be a project to you, but it's my semester showcase.'

Bruno's father came backing into the basement, carrying a tray with a tall pitcher of Kool-Aid and four glasses. 'It sounded very thirsty down here,' he said.

Bruno went over to help with the tray. 'Good timing, pop,' he said, no pun intended. 'I think we're taking a break anyway.'

Leroy muttered something dark that nobody was supposed to hear, but he accepted a glass of soda with thanks and moved apart to think his routine through while the others sat and chatted.

Angelo said, 'So, how's it going?'

'Ask Coco,' Bruno advised, and Coco looked at the floor with some embarrassment. 'You know,' Bruno went on, 'personally, I don't think Cakewalk is going to make a very good flick anyway.'

Coco promptly forgot her embarrassment. 'How can you say that? With Charles McKay directing? He's a genius.'

'Maybe, but when you put a closed-in show like that up on the screen, it dies.'

Coco almost seemed to take the criticism personally. A group of them had gone to see the show on a block discount booking, and the next day Coco had been waiting for three hours when the ticket booth in Times Square opened for business. She was only fourth in a line that stretched a block and a half. Not only did she re-book then, but she kept going back every few weeks as long as the show was running on Broadway. And then there was Charles McKay; a dancer turned choreographer turned movie director, he'd trodden a path of success that put him right up there in Coco's gallery of showbiz heroes along with Herbert Ross and Bob Fosse.

She said, 'I'm sure he knows the problems and he'll do something to fix them. The important thing is that Cakewalk has got heart.'

'That's just what he said,' Angelo Martelli agreed, nodding.

Bruno felt as if he'd missed out on a piece of the conversation. 'Who?'

'McKay.'

Coco couldn't believe it. 'Charles McKay?'

'I gave him a ride the other day. Real nice guy. He said he puts a lot of stock in what regular people think about his movies. Anyway, I told him I never saw Cakewalk, so he told me about it. He said it had real heart.'

Coco gaped for a moment, her mind working overtime. Then she said, 'How much stock?'

Angelo didn't understand.

'How much stock,' Coco persisted, 'does he put in regular people's opinion? Enough to take your idea about who to cast in the part of Angela?'

'Coco!' Bruno protested. 'He gave the man a ride in his cab. McKay's not going to cast the second lead in his movie on my pop's say-so.'

'I know that. But all I need is a chance to show what I can do.' She turned to Angelo. 'All you'd have to do, Mister Martelli, is tell him you know a very talented young actress who'd be perfect for the part, then leave the rest to me.'

Angelo squirmed a little, but he had nowhere to back off to. 'I don't know,' he said, 'I'd feel kind of funny doing something like that. And besides - chances of me hooking up with him a second time . . . '

Coco suddenly seemed to realise that she was being too pushy. She backed off, hoping that she'd caught herself in time to prevent any real damage being done.

'Yeah,' she said, crestfallen. 'Yeah, I didn't think about that side of it.'

Angelo thought it over for a few moments, and then said, 'You know Edelstein's Deli?'

Coco thought for a moment. Edelstein's Deli. It was somewhere on West Fifty-Fourth, close to the Twentieth Century-Fox office annexe. When she'd been around eleven or twelve years old, Coco had spent some long hot days in the summer vacations walking around the group of city blocks that housed the Fox offices and the CBS building in the hopes of being spotted on the sidewalk and 'discovered'. She'd stood out in plain sight doing her best to look mysterious and charismatic as she contemplated some inner tragedy, but nobody had ever rushed across the street with a contract. She had, however, come away with a knowledge of every coffee shop and deli in a five-block radius.

'Edelstein's Deli,' she said, 'yeah, I know it,' and for a moment Angelo looked surprised.

'Well,' he said, 'when I took McKay to his office, he stopped off there for a Danish and coffee. Said he does the same thing every morning. If you just happened to be there, say, around nine in the morning, maybe you could introduce yourself.'

The wheels were starting to spin again. 'That's a fantastic deal!' Coco said, and she bounced up and started to collect her stuff. 'Thanks a lot!'

A moment later, she was runnung up the basement stairs.

Angelo sat rocking, as if he couldn't believe it. 'Is she always like this?' he asked Bruno.

'Always,' Bruno confirmed, and then he set his glass aside and turned, businesslike, to the tape deck. 'Okay,' he said to Leroy, 'Let's just run it through and see how it all falls together.'
 
 
 

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