Even Mary Kate and Ashley, they have a star. They share one, but still…
Since moving from Colorado Springs, Donna has strolled Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame at least a dozen times. Enough to keep her legs tone and her body in shape. The first month of their move, Adrian joined her. It was nice and warm on those evenings, mid-eighties, the end of August. Adrian is a software developer so it didn’t take long for him to land a job in Century City. Donna is an actress, still to be discovered.
It’s a Tuesday in January, and Donna has bundled up in a pullover sweater and velour jacket to conduct the walk on this afternoon. She likes coming on weekdays since it isn’t so crowded. She enjoys hovering in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where Marilyn put her prints, Groucho set his cigar. Donna always pictures her own star there, wondering whether she’ll get more traction beside Jack Nicholson or Michael Jackson. Now that he’s gone, does anyone know how long the King of Pop’s fame will endure?
A couple things are certain: Donna has more talent than Mary Kate, more moxie than Ashley. Mrs. Cassidy wasn’t just blowing smoke when she told Donna that her performance as Desdemona was far and away the best Lincoln High had seen in decades. Having taught drama for a quarter-century, Mrs. Cassidy knows. Really knows. So it is simply a matter of time. If the Olsen twins, Christina Aguilera, Tony Danza, and Keanu Reeves have stars, so will she. Siegfried and Roy have a star and they were lion tamers. As Donna recalls, their last show didn’t turn out so good.
Originally, when she and Adrian decided to take the plunge and move to LA, he had big-time ambition too. Besides his computer smarts, he’s a pretty talented artist. An illustrator who can sketch by hand or by cursor. He planned to get hired by Disney, or so he claimed. But he bailed on his aspirations before they’d unpacked half the boxes in their little apartment.
Give in? Not Donna. She’ll conduct home-invasion auditions at producers’ homes along Rodeo Drive before she ever decides to settle. She isn’t a waitress, or an admin, or a retail clerk; she is an actress. She knows that the road to stardom is littered with the carcasses of many pretenders weaker than she. She’ll sidestep them all on her way to the top, just as she did Joni Ferraro back at Lincoln High. While Mrs. Cassidy championed Donna, Mr. Wolfe didn’t. And he cast the roles for the school’s production of Grease that semester. Somehow and someway he got things reversed. Wolfe, that graying, balding, spectacled dinosaur, tapped Joni for star-of-the-show Sandy, and Donna for bad girl Betty. After a forged note and compromising photo, though, Wolfe wised up and switched his picks. Donna shined as Sandy. Truly shined! Joni was right for Betty anyway. It gave her the excuse she needed to chew gum while speaking.
Donna now ambles down the 6600 block. Some of the stars bedevil her, like Woody Woodpecker’s, or the Munchkins’. Woody was just a cartoon character. All the Munchkins had going for them was their squeaky high voices—and besides, their entire careers boiled down to a single scene. But the star that really gets her is the one she passes without wasting a glance. It belongs to the Rugrats. The Rugrats, for god’s sake!
Enough stargazing for now, Donna needs a break. She pads off the Boulevard and down toward Sunset. She picks up a pack of smokes in a convenience store, then continues on, passing her favorite record store before stumbling in to a coffee shop she likes. The place lets her smoke inside, by the open door. She smokes like a celluloid star, and one time a family from Tennessee—the father and son wearing Volunteer orange—asked Donna if she was in pictures. The young daughter swore she’d seen her in the latest Matt Damon film. “Not yet,” Donna had told them. “But keep an eye out. I’ll be a star soon!” Members of the family had glanced uncomfortably at one another then, and the father apologized for interrupting her reverie, but Donna didn’t mind. She didn’t mind at all.
She lights up at that same table, her table. The incoming draft brings chills, so she zips her jacket tight and enjoys an occasional sip of her frighteningly hot espresso. The caffeine and nicotine give her a jolt; make her feel a bit more sophisticated, a shade smarter. Her thoughts are awash in the panorama of stars, and what it will take for her to get there. To be etched in Hollywood Boulevard would be one thing. Making it there with the gravitas of a Paul Newman, a Marlon Brando, a Marilyn Monroe, would be another thing altogether. Oh Marilyn. Her star shines brightest of all. She was adored by everyone, loved by the powerful: Joltin’ Joe, Arthur Miller, the Kennedys.
Donna knows the lure to such fame may lead her into compromising situations. Her relationship with Adrian could face a test way worse than the ones she repeatedly failed in trigonometry. Back in Colorado Springs, she did things a girl from there just didn’t do. At a party she blew an air force officer who professed to be a brigadier general, a commandant. She bumped into him weeks later in a movie theater lobby. He was dressed in full regalia, and claimed amnesia concerning the events of that night. Then he pushed her aside and scooted for the exit. Adrian had been with her, watching the encounter, thoroughly confused. Now Donna sips again from her espresso and ponders how Adrian might react to catching her in bed with some legit guy, that special someone who could jumpstart her acting career. The scene would probably turn out rather ugly.
Before leaving the coffee shop, Donna orders a double-cap for the road. She sparks another ciggie and continues her loop back to Hollywood Boulevard. She considers her Netflix account as she paces. All About Eve and Frances sit on the coffee table, ready for the DVD player. Donna is a fine actress but a humble one. She realizes she can still learn a trick or two by studying Hollywood’s greatest performers, like Bette Davis or Jessica Lange. She hopes she’ll remember to include their names in the speech she gives upon receiving her own bronze star and becoming a bejeweled stepping stone along the Walk of Fame. In fact, she’ll use the moment to advocate for Jessica. That Mary Kate and Ashley have a star but Jessica doesn’t is a tragedy, plain and simple.
A phalanx of German-speaking tourists impedes her progress, so Donna lowers her shoulder and holds out her smoking cigarette as if it’s a torch and she is staving off zombies. She bounds through the group at a brisk pace, slowing down only when she’s halfway across the following block. She steadies herself. Takes a drag off her smoke and sucks down nearly half of her cappuccino, which has cooled considerably. She glances to her right, notices she’s at the foot of the Kodak Theater. Uh oh! That means she now stands dangerously close to the star for the Olsen twins. Sure enough, it’s only two, maybe three strides before her.
Donna gets there in a quick little burst, like a soldier following marching orders. She gazes down at the star. The Olsen twins star. A debacle of epic proportions. She withdraws the lid from her to-go cup and dumps the remaining coffee on Mary Kate. Then she drops her burning cigarette on Ashley and mashes it down with the heel of her shoe.
Roland Goity edits fiction for the online journal LITnIMAGE. Recent stories appear in ACREAGE, Fiction International, Blue Lake Review, Bartleby Snopes, Caper Literary Journal, Necessary Fiction, Raleigh Review, and Grey Sparrow Journal. He is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fiction (Vagabondage Press).