The Calculated Chill Beneath Hollywood Heat – Janis Levy (she/her)

The work below is by Janis Levy as part of our MA Creative Writers takeover.

Queen Mary clock tower, made up of Q’s & M’s to form Gridlock Impressionism, with the time 17:13 (Q is 17th letter & M 13th letters of the alphabet)
Queen Mary clock tower, made up of Q’s & M’s to form Gridlock Impressionism, with the time 17:13 (Q is 17th letter & M 13th letters of the alphabet) – Janis Levy

Actor Unseen, Behind the Scenes

Meringue gazed through the window of her charming apartment,
south of Sunset, between views of El Palacio on Fountain where
Marilyn Monroe once lived, and Villa Primavera on Harper,
where Gloria Grahame shot In a Lonely Place.
How apt.

Meringue Pavlova wasn’t her real name. The carefully chosen
moniker was the name on her SEG, SAG and AFTRA union cards,
PKA-ed onto her passport, kitten covered check book, driving
license and social security. She wanted a scrumptious name,
one everybody wanted to devour.

Meringue was fed up and hadn’t heard from her agent in weeks,
despite constantly touching base. ‘Hi Harry, just checking in,
did you hear back from that casting director, you know the
one, what’s his name again? The one who said how terrific I……’
at which point Harry would interrupt, slamming her with yet
another charming response, ‘Fuck off Meringue, I’ll call when
somebody gives a shit.’

Still, she refused to let anything interfere with her self-
maintenance schedule. Gym, facials, Brazilians, liposuction,
Botox, fillers, highlights, extensions, root definition,
augmentation, teeth whitening, Pilates (so boring, she already
spent way too much time on her back). Having zero control over
casting herself, (serious, meaty, character roles), Meringue
was in control of her bathroom habits, thanks to psyllium
husks, colon cleanser and dandelion cocktails.

She worked part-time in trendy boutiques on Melrose, a WeHo
pizzeria, (unusual pizzas, kimchi, matzo ball, chicken fried
duck) and an agency who sent her to accompany men from out of
town to dinner. She thought they could be lonely in a strange
city and anyway, they might know somebody powerful.

Meringue longed to be adored. She suffered from If-You-Like-
Me-I’ll-Like-You-Back syndrome. Lugging her suitcase of dreams
from Hollywood Florida to Hollywood California, swapping the
Atlantic for the Pacific, she’d been in LA for seven years.
Through a variety of equally incompetent agents, working on
three guest spots on episodic TV (one as a dead bimbo and two
under-fives), two commercials (neither of which went
national), a forgettable scene in a forgettable feature, which
ended up on the cutting room floor, and a five day stint in a
play, in a so far off Hollywood Boulevard theatre it was
practically in The Valley. She was still struggling, trying to
get a powerful agent, book a pilot, perfect the perfect eight
by ten to catch the eye of a casting director instead of
lining the trash.

Constant rejection was something Meringue had strangely begun
to relish and use to her advantage. If ever she landed a role
for a ‘pretty, rejected blonde’ she wouldn’t even have to
research her character. She’d just slip into the role, like an
oyster slipping easily down your throat. If you liked oysters.
Which Meringue did not. She thought oysters looked as if
someone had blown their nose into a shell. Boogers on the
bivalve. Yum? But she mustn’t say anything for fear of
offending anyone, because everybody knew somebody who might
know someone influential. So, she kept her oyster musings to
herself.

Hollywood was nasty, she thought, gazing at the flagrant,
fragrant flowers looping through her balcony. She hated it and
everybody in it. Disappointingly, Hollywood was an insidious
city. It drew you in and spat you out like a cow with two
stomachs, chewing you up, sucking you down, regurgitating and
swallowing you all over again. You had to be so tough to get
out of Hollywood. Meringue was unsure that she could do that,
although she desperately wanted to go home to Florida, into
her mother’s arms and sit at her safe, faded kitchen table.
Impossible. For now.

Give it another six months. One more pilot season. Just until
the leaves turn gold. How absurd! LA was seasonless. Leaves,
devoid of colour change, remained emerald, envious, like the
people. Mindless, endless weeks turned into months that turned
into years. And Meringue was still here. Like Dixie the
waitress in IHOP, on the cusp of Sunset and the Big Time.
Dixie with her dusty, crispy, iodine hair. Lipstick edging her
creased mouth, lost in the furrows of her rouged cheeks. The
young, pretty thing who had come to Hollywood thirty-two years
ago filled with stardust fantasy, yet still yearning for a
break. Dixie’s biggest role to date was asking if you wanted
syrup or sugar with your pancakes.

Meringue knew that unless she found inner strength to escape
Hollywood, Los Demonios, one day she would be Dixie.

a blonde woman with red lipstick, pink blush and red nail polish wearing a purple dress and a black feather boa, sitting in front of a green background with a black floral curtain.
Meringue Pavlova acrylic on canvas by Janis Levy – a blonde woman with red lipstick, pink blush and red nail polish wearing a purple dress and a black feather boa, sitting in front of a green background with a black floral curtain.

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