Of course the future is a mystery. But the past? This is nuts!
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After years of struggling to get Hollywood's attention, CLAIRE GREENE, 29, finally gets her big break. She lands a supporting role in a romantic comedy starring box-office bad boy, Alan Handler. Unfortunately, Alan bails a week before shooting begins, citing script differences and a sudden desire to check out an Ashram in Idaho. With Claire's agent.
"It's no use," Claire e-mails her father."The only film I'll ever star in is an x-ray. I'm thinking of moving home." Not that she's anxious to reunite with her oooh-lets-go-to-Applebees family in Plainview, Long Island. Not that she thinks the prospects for love are better in New York (although in L.A, men drink hydrogen peroxide cocktails and wear fur coats). Ultimately, she packs it in because she's had it with being overlooked, underpaid, stood up, felt up, compromised, criticized, lied to and laughed at. And that's just on Monday's.
Sadly, she never expected to return home broke and alone. Or to find the same crummy mattress and clearance-bin comforter still on her bed. Or her twentysomething siblings, Adam and Lindsey, still calling dibs on the bathroom and the computer. Or her parents, Lenny and Roberta, still bickering 24/7. How could she possibly be related to these people? Maybe she isn't.
A week before her thirtieth birthday, Claire heads to Miami to visit her grandmother and to visit a South Beach modeling agency specializing in booking butt doubles for film producers. At this point, even a "back door" opportunity is worth pursuing.
On the flight down, the elderly passenger seated next to her is anxious to make conversation. Claire blows the man off, preferring instead to get lost in her "People" magazine. But no sooner does the plane reach a comfortable cruising altitude than he clutches his shirt and collapses on her tray table. Flight 1311 was Abe Fabrikant's final boarding call.
Claire is so wrought with guilt for ignoring the man, when the plane makes an emergency landing in Jacksonville, she gets off with "the body", meets his next of kin (a one-man Miami heat wave), and concocts a story about how she and Abe connected like dots. It's a decision that will turn her life upside down forever, for although she knew nothing of his existence, there is, indeed, a connection. A very close connection.
Get ready to lift off on a spiritual adventure that promises love, laughter, oh-my-God secrets, and a ride to the "other side" you'll never forget. For once Abe inhabits her soul, Claire discovers she is actually clairevoyant. A girl who knew nothing of her real past, but now her future is coming in loud and clear.
Enjoy the journey, but lock the bathroom door. You're not coming out until you've read to the very end of CLAIRE VOYANT.
“Will your grandfather be needing any special assistance?” The gate agent asked as she waited for my boarding pass to print out.
“My grandfather?” I said. Frankly, it was a little late for special assistance, as both of them were dead. I assumed she must be speaking to the person behind me.
“Does he need a wheel chair? Extra time to board?” This time the woman looked right at me, and without glancing at her airline I.D., I knew her name wasn’t Patience.
Let me guess. She would walk off the job if she had to deal with one more skinny blonde in Prada who couldn’t grasp a simple concept.
Normally this sort of profiling offended me. It was bad enough having just been felt up at the security check-in because my underwire bra set off the metal detector, and I had to be ruled out as a terrorist threat. But to be typecast as a bimbo by a woman who clearly colored her own hair, that was just wrong. It reminded me of all the times Hollywood producers wrote me off because I was more Darryl Hannah than Julia Roberts, and they had like zero imagination.
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “Are you talking to me?”
“Yes, ” she snapped. “That gentleman over there.” She pointed to an elderly man who was dozing in a corner chair. “Aren’t you two traveling together?”
“I don’t know. Is he rich?”
“Mam, I have no idea.... your seat assignment is next to his.... I just assumed... I thought I noticed a resemblance...”
I studied the silver-haired geezer whose pant waist was up to his pupik.. “Yeah, I can see the confusion,” I laughed. “We’re practically twins.”
“Sorry,” she sighed. “It’s been crazy today with the rain and high winds. Flight delays, cancellations...”
“Although I’ll be honest.” I leaned in. “I did request to sit next to a hot, single guy. I guess next time I should be more specific about the age.”
“Believe me, you lucked out.” She handed me a boarding card. “The only other seat is next to that lady with the screaming twins.”
I spotted the young mother whose infants were wailing as if their bottles had been seized by security. So the agent was right. I loved babies, but if I had to listen to those shrill cries all the way from New York to Miami, I just might open the emergency exit door at thirty thousand feet. Better to take my chances with Gramps. Maybe he had a hot, single grandson for me.
Unfortunately, I never got to ask. Right after take-off, instead of doing the cordial thing and chatting with him, I napped. Then when the plane reached a comfortable cruising altitude, I leafed through People magazine, and became fixated on this picture of Penny Nichol at her fiftieth birthday bash. I was wondering, was it just me, or had the legendary film actress gotten a little porky around the ass, when suddenly, the elderly man seated next to me, the stranger mistaken for my grandfather, started waving, and collapsed on my tray table.
Damn! Too late for a do-over. There would be no reversing his heart attack, nor my abject indifference to him. And I felt terrible. For had I known that his last few hours on earth might be spent on American’s Flight 1165, I would have been much friendlier. Offered him my bag of pretzels, or any section he wanted of my New York Times.
Trouble was, it never dawned on me that this could be his final boarding call. Yes, he looked to be in his mid-eighties. But there weren’t any signs that his health was failing. No note pinned to his checkered blazer that read, CAUTION: THIS MAN IS A TICKING TIME BOMB.
My first and only indication of distress was when he gasped, clutched his shirt, and fell on top of my magazine. Shame on me. It was only after I realized that his bifocals had fallen in my coffee, and his hand was resting in my crotch, that I screamed for help.
Please don’t think I’m a snob, or insensitive to strangers. I’m always chatting with people with whom my only bond is that we’re bracing for a bikini wax, or sitting in a casting agent’s office, hoping the audition won’t be another waste of highlights and lip treatments.
Nor as a rule am I unkind to the elderly. I’m not the one groaning in line at the supermarket when the old ladies fumble for exact change and expired coupons. And never do I honk at senior motorists, even when the old farts need as much time to make a left turn as I need to brush my teeth.
But as I watched the lead flight attendant try to revive the dying man’s heart using one of those new portable defibrillators, I asked myself a God-fearing question. How could I, Claire Greene, Very Nice Girl, have completely ignored a member of my species?
The truth? I thought no one would ever know. It’s not like undercover flight attendants walk through the aisles with little notepads. Unfriendly passenger in 8B. No interaction with seatmate, hogged the armrest, ripped several pages out of our magazines without permission....
There’s more. I had counted on being able to use my time on board to indulge in self pity, not humor some old guy who was thrilled to have a captive audience for three hours. First he’d expect me to kvell at pictures of his brilliant and beautiful grandchildren, who in all likelihood, only called around the annual festival of Checkbook. Next would come the stories of his remarkable feats in the stock market, when everyone else was screaming about their useless brokers who didn’t get them out in time. Finally, he’d drop the name of the world renowned surgeon who was honored to perform his triple bypass for free (although if it was actually true that he got a freebie, it might explain why he was lying unconscious in the aisle of a 757).
Anyway, that was my state of mind. So when the man kept smiling at me during take-off, indicating his interest in starting a conversation, I’d said to myself, no thanks. What little solitude I got these days, I wasn’t going to waste it on some stranger I would never see again.
Funny thing is, I normally love to chit chat on planes. It’s fun to network (maybe they’ll be related to Spielberg) or to discover a mutual interest (“Oh, I know. Isn’t Dr. Drasin’s collagen lunch lift the best?”). And if there is no common ground, I’ll play this game I made up called “Liar Liar”, where I’ll listen to the words, but check out the body language. If the two don’t match, if the woman raving about her husband’s successful import business, is simultaneously twirling her hair and scratching her arm, I know that there is much more going on here than free trade with China. So I’ll probe further, and wait for the nuggets of truth to fall.
But on this particular Monday in May, I was feeling tired, angry, bloated, anxious, depressed, unloved, a failure, sad, and did I mention bloated? Naturally the perfect antidote was devouring a bag of overpriced, high-calorie trail mix while flipping through the pages of People.
The new issue had darling Prince William on the cover, and I was fascinated to read that the royal grandson intended to find a real job after college, not squander his manhood by turning into another polo-playing, ribbon-cutting, fox-hunting philanderer like dear old dad.
So what if the story was a bloody lie? Focusing on hot Willie’s future sure beat dwelling on mine. In no small part because my thirtieth birthday was in exactly six days, and not one lousy aspect of my life had gone according to plan.
My current occupation was out-of-work, straight- to- video actress, on leave from L.A. after years of trying to get noticed, and that was by my agent. My current address was my old bedroom in Plainview, Long Island, home to six CVS pharmacies, and the high school football field where I lost my virginity (not exactly one of the “scheduled” homecoming festivities). And my current boyfriend? Definitely the strong, silent type, provided the batteries didn’t die.
Not that I hadn’t been lucky in love. Only a month before, I had a special sweetie. A sexy, successful movie producer named Aaron Darren (would I lie?) who indulged me with little goodies from Gucci and Godiva, and who convinced me that our bond was eternal.
Not only had I blabbed to everyone that this was the guy, I hinted that he would soon be placing a ring on my finger. Maybe even at a theater near me. Only to leave the gym one morning and get this cryptic message on my cell phone. Something about my agent, Raquel, inviting him to check out a new Ashram in Idaho with her. “I luv ya babe,” Aaron said. “But this feels so right.”
“Do you wish to erase this message?” The lady inside my phone asked sweetly. No, I wanted to keep it forever so I could play it back anytime I needed to be reminded that love was a beautiful thing. Of course I wanted to erase it! Along with the memories of every other guy who had dumped me Hollywood style. “It’s not you darling, it’s me... I was wondering. Can I keep that chamomile foot balm by your bed? I’m like addicted.”
I think I would have reacted better to the bombing of my love life if my career hadn’t been decimated the same week. Only six months earlier, after dozens of false starts, false hopes and false breasts, my agent had sent me a bouquet of roses with the message, I did it! I got you your breakout role.
Naturally his assumption was that my talent and beauty were inconsequential to the deal, but who was I to argue? After two screen tests and a meeting with the director that, thankfully, did not involve a request for a blow job, I had landed a supporting role opposite Alan Handler. How perfect! A romantic comedy that would showcase my much lauded comedic timing. “You’re fucking Carol Burnett with tits!” Alanhad swatted my ass.
Despite my maxed out credit cards, and a pile of nasty late notices (why do bills travel at twice the speed of checks?), I did a victory lap on Rodeo Drive, splurging on a new treatment to boost up my cheekbones, and a pair of Manholo Blahnicks’ that cost more than my first semester at Indiana. I figured once word got out that I was a hot property, my financial pain would end.
Sadly, my big debut was a wrap before principal shooting began, thanks to the studio’s supposed script differences with the box office bad boy. Except that I’d been around long enough to know the truth. The writers had so botched the latest draft, Alan didn’t give a rat’s ass if he was getting fifteen percent of the gross, and all the Absolut he and his entourage could barf before dawn. His movie days would he numbered if he was the main engine of yet another infantile train wreck. Good-bye Alan.
In spite of studio assurances that a new star would be cast, a week later I read in “Variety” that the project was dead, and that was that. My final dirty martini. I was broke and alone, and couldn’t decide which was worse. Not having a boyfriend with a great car who always got an “A” table at Mr. Chows, or, not having a way to support the high maintenance rituals considered bare necessities for a Hollywood “B” list actress like myself.
I chose “B”. If I couldn’t afford basic upkeep to stave off all those nubile 20-year olds who were landing at L.A.X. every day, the only parts, or guys, or parts of guys I would be able to score were the old, agentless actors with bad breath who had no choice but to do summer stock in the Berkshires.
“What’s the use?” I E-mailed my father. “The last film I starred in was an X-ray. I’m thinking of moving home for a little while.”
To my relief, both my parents were fine with the decision, but only because they would rather talk to me than each other. Apparently, the once happy couple had lost their oooh-let’s- go- to- Applebees’s enthusiasm. Now all they did was fight. He wanted to travel. She’d rather have a new kitchen. He wanted to quit the Temple. She loved the new Rabbi and said nothing doing. He hated her cooking. She hated his mother. It wasn’t like this growing up.
“What the hell is going on with them?” I asked my brother after listening to a few days of the bickering.
“It’s not hard to figure out,” Adam shrugged. “He’s a cheap son of a bitch, and she’s the freezer queen. You’ll get used to it.”
And typical of my younger sister, Lindsey, who had always been a few sandwiches short of a picnic, she was clueless that anything was wrong outside her own universe. She was too busy carrying on that now that I was home, she had to vacate my closet and find another place to put the computer. “And I would appreciate it if you didn’t hog the bathroom like you used to.” She informed me on my first night back. “Some of us have to get to work in the morning.”
Work, my ass, I thought. You answer the phone at Daddy’s office, and spend the rest of the day shopping on-line.
“No way did I ever think me, Adam and Lindsey would still be living at home in our twenties.” I bitched to my childhood friend, Elyce Fogel, at our old hang-out, the Plainview Diner. “We’re like the plates and silverware here. Relics from the eighties, but nowhere else to go.”
“Could be worse.” Elyce patted my hand. “At least none of you moved back, divorced with two kids, like at everyone else’s house.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I should have toughed it out in L.A.”
“Maybe you just need time to adjust. And look at the bright side. Now you can be in my bridal party.”
“Oh no, no, no. I mean I’m honored, of course. I just wouldn’t feel right taking someone else’s place who, you know, is closer to you now.”
“Are you kidding, Claire? Ask Ira. I was so excited to hear you were home. You’re my oldest and dearest childhood friend.”
“But I’ve never even met Ira....”
“You’re going to love him. He’s so funny, and he’s an accountant like your dad. Oh, and you should see his absolutely adorable cousin who is going to be our best man.... could be a match made in heaven. You never know, right?”
Oh, I know all right. “See, it’s just that...”
“Look, if you’re afraid this is going to turn into one of those huge, crazy affairs, I promise you, that won’t happen. The Bergs are very classy. We’ve all agreed on small and tasteful.”
“Terrific.” I gulped my last sip of coffee. “How many on the guest list?”
“Three twenty-five. Three- fifty tops.”
“People?” I gulped.
“Yes, people!” Elyce laughed. “You are still such a rip.”
“Gee. I always thought small and tasteful was forty of your nearest and dearest at a nice little seaside restaurant.”
“Claire, oh my God. Are you insane? I’ve waited my whole life for this day!”
I had yet to break it to her that if Vera Wang personally sewed my dress, I wouldn’t subject myself to a torturous year of engagement parties, showers and bridal registries. Say nothing of the urgent phone calls I’d have to take after the caterer shortened the cocktail hour, and the videographer insisted he’d need to use flood lights, which didn’t he know would melt the ice sculptures, and about the second cousin on her mother’s side who expected to be invited like his sister, but he didn’t include her brother’s family when their son got married, so why should they?
Not for me, thanks. I had done this tour of duty twice in my life, and in both cases the mission was a bust. The first friend accused of me of trying to lure her fiancé away for a weekend of rough sex, and the other decided last minute that her mother was right, the guy was a nothing loser, and everyone would forgive and forget as long as she promptly returned all the gifts, except for that sterling gravy boat from Tiffany’s, which if she was smart, would swore she never received. It was a beauty.
I promised myself that as soon as I returned from Miami, I would sit down with Elyce and explain that although I was very happy for her and what’s- his- name, I just wasn’t in a bridal party frame of mind these days. I hoped she’d understand.
But what I was dying to say was, I couldn’t believe she needed a whole year and a half to plan the affair. Jewish funerals were thrown together in less than forty-eight hours, and they had all the same things as a wedding. The rabbi, the chapel, flowers, speeches, limousines, guests... And just like a funeral, once Elyce married this guy, I was guessing her life was over.
Not that I would fret over her future. I had returned to New York on a “Me” mission. Goal # 1: Fall in love. Goal # 2: Pursue opportunities unique to the East: Broadway, commercials, and for sure a visit to “Law and Order’s” casting office in Chelsea Pier to audition for a guest spot.
Unfortunately, after reading “BackStage” diligently for weeks, it appeared that the open-call season was over. The only promising try out I could line up was located a little south of the city. Specifically, South Beach, Florida. And it wasn’t exactly for a speaking part. More like a go-see at this hot modeling agency that specialized in booking asses for the studios.
You heard me. I was so desperate to break into movies, I was flying to Florida to drop my thong in front of the gay, prima donna photographer who owned the agency. So that after a few test shots, he could give me his opinion if my aging, but still pilates-tight tuchas was the perfect size, shape and color producers would pay thousands for when their ass-ashamed stars needed an understudy, so to speak.
I had learned of this incredible “back door” opportunity only a week earlier when my former roommate in L.A., the awesome Sydney Sloan, instant- messaged me.
SYDERELLA (11:56 PM) : u should go... butt doubles can make a quick 10 gs
CLAIREBEAR1(11:57 PM): r u serious that’s how much they’ll pay u? SYDERELLA (11:57 PM): i no this grl who made 20G to do a crappy little scene for
CLAIREBEAR1 (11:57 PM): a love scene?
SYDERELLA (11:58 PM): in the shower/// show her ass
CLAIREBEAR1 (11:58 PM): wow
SYDERELLA (11:58 PM): then Goldie canned her ... said her ass was 2 fat and pale... her fans would no its not hers... EGO bitch.
CLAIREBEAR1(11:59 PM): did she still get the $?
SYDERELLA (11:59 PM): hell yes.
Naturally, my parents thought the very idea of having my ass evaluated was ridiculous. Didn’t I have any pride (not for twenty grand I didn’t)? Didn’t I care what the neighbors thought (translated: how could they brag I was in a movie if they had to ask everyone to close their eyes)? Didn’t I want to help out cousin Arnie who ran a drama school for kids and was looking for teachers (sorry, but the most valuable lesson I could teach was showing girls how to duct tape their breasts to give them the appearance of being perkier).
But after reminding them that I didn’t need their approval, and that the connections the agency could make for me would be worth the humiliation, they backed down. Even agreed to pay for my air, provided I stayed with my grandmother (I called her Grams), and took her around to look at all the new assisted living centers going up in the area. It was a great plan.
Until I ended up seated next to a heart attack victim on a flight without a single doctor or nurse on board. Only a group of anxious flight attendants who looked much happier passing out headsets than operating high-tech life-saving equipment.
Meanwhile, all I could think was, I sure hope God hadn’t put me in 8B as punishment for my growing list of transgressions. Yes, I had run out on my creditors, abandoned my agent, been unsympathetic to my parents, and judgmental of Elyce. And yes, I had just ignored a perfectly nice person for no other reason than I was in a pissy mood.
So as I stood over the grayish-colored man whose name I never bothered to ask, I prayed for a miracle. Please God. Revive this man’s heart. Otherwise I’ll never be able to live with the fact that his last few hours alive were spent with me, Claire Greene, Not Very Nice Girl.