The director for Monterrey Mick’s Mad Mods television show leaned in toward the array of iPad size video monitors in front of him, motioned to a lighting tech to back a floor diffuser out of the shot.
“Bobby? Bounce your eyebrows like you just saw something amazing. No, more clown, more locker room…There we go. No, don’t look at the camera OR the monitor. Good. Give me two more. Makeup? Grease monkey?”
The make up artist took a thumb covered in black eyeshadow, wiped it across Bobby’s forehead. She screwed up her face, looked at him and her thumb, ran it down the side of his nose, tapped the tip of it.
“Okay, Bobby, clown brows again. Give me some corner of the eye…there we go. Turn the hat around…Good…a little despair. Despair, Bobby. Sad, hopeless, bummed out…There it is. Makeup? Sweat?”
Makeup stepped in, wiped Bobby’s forehead and nose with a wet wipe, re-smudged him in different places, misted him in the face with mixture of water and baby oil before she took off his cap and replaced it with a welder’s flame-print do-rag.
“Okay, more of the same…Good…Good. Are you sure you’ve never done this before? Okay. Everybody! Reset for the drops and fuck ups. Bobby, change shirts, get dirty, get some dust in your eyes. We need you sleep deprived in fifteen minutes.” He turned to his assistant, lowered his voice. “Don’t reset any monitors but mine, we’re going Candid Camera on the fuck ups. Bring cam three up in handheld through the stacks of tires and tell the op I want him stuck to Bernie’s ass like a sweaty thong.”
“Wait for it…Wait for it…Wider. Get Bernie in frame, pray she doesn’t do anything with her hands…Good…Wait…Two? Tight on Bernie’s face, Three lock on…Pyro…GO!”
Sparks blew into Bobby’s face, he jumped back, stumbled. The piece of replacement frame he’d been holding clanged on the floor of the shop, the gay biker sheet metal mentor who’d been standing beside him ripped his goggles off and jumped over a tool cart. Bobby landed on his ass right at Bernie’s feet. She went true surprise what-the-hell face that morphed into concern, grabbed him in a spontaneous two arm hug and dragged him back.
“Three…Did you get the bent over pull from the flip side? Yes!” The director grabbed a congratualtory handful of his assistant’s butt cheek, shook it. “Art, Jeannie. Fucking art. You can’t script that shit. I could have used more sparks. Fire pyro, find me somebody who understands what ‘sparks’ means. Everybody! We shoot the tire drop bounce and then lunch.”
“Hey! Get out of there.”
“Get over it, Bern.” The wardrobe guy squatting behind her continued to fold the hem of her cutoffs under with two fingers, and run them around the side. She caught his hands when he found hip bone.
“I can get this side. Goddammit, what —”
“Director’s orders. We’re on a wild Bernie’s Butt Safari here in about twenty. Walk like a cobra, walk like an Egyptian, walk like a stripper. Change shirts, change hair, do it again.” He hooked a belt loop on either side with his index fingers and pulled her shorts up her crack. “He’ll really like that.”
“Tell that asshole I draw the line at pure objectification. Walk and wiggle is money in the bank.” She pulled the shorts out and down. “A denim relief of my business is out. That’s what he has the two airheads and their sex biscuits in spandex for.”
“It can stay. I started in swimsuits,” she twisted, put her own index finger on the side of her butt. “Ain’t nothing wrong with dat little ass, but I’m for certain damn sure not showing it to the world. Or you.”
He shook his head, put a drop of superglue on her hem. “Some days your Southern roots betray you, Bern.”
“Some days knowin’ I’m not from here is comforting. Get out of my cut-offs and beat it.” She heard that echo in her head. “Oh, God. Not in front of anybody.”
Mick’s “assistant” Syd banged the non-TV office door open and stormed out past Mad Mod’s director on his way in. He followed her with his eyes.
“S’up with Syd?”
“S’up yourself, mofo.” Mick had been halfway through pulling his man Spanx when the door banged, finished pulling it and threw it on a filing cabinet. “What are you doing spending half an afternoon on Bernie’s ass? The two bitches we pay for you to grab clips of their fortune cookies are revolting.”
“Not very bright and occasionally temperamental. Revolting?”
“You know what I —” The manila envelope thumped on the desk in front of him. Mick opened it, fingered the contents. “Has to be fifteen, twenty grand in here.”
“Twenty. Your half. The swamp rat and the parts babe are a thing.”
“Since when? He’s dumber than a metric crescent wrench and she’s hotter than a pawn shop iPhone.”
“Since a messenger for ‘interested and powerful parties in Louisiana’ hand delivered the money and the ‘creative requests’. I’ll use quick cuts of his eyes and her ass, her running to see if he’s okay on the faked fuck ups, candid clips of them talking about burritos vs egg rolls or whatever stupid shit he says that she rolls her eyes about. All shot from the side to squeeze them together. A few ‘deliveries’ to his station. Hell, Mick, I got ‘demure flirt’ out of Bernie like she’s been selling weaponized sex her entire life. All that shit through the magic of television adds up to them being a thing. The best parts are neither one of them know, won’t till we air, and the cash is tax free.”
“Great.” Mick nodded at the open door. “But how does all that help me with my immediate problem?”
“Tell Syd the redneck and Bernie are seasoning, not a TNA coup. That we still love both sides of her great divide, her ankles were why God made high heels, and she’s the missing Wyeth sister. Then go buy her an expensive dinner. In public. Let valet open her door. She’ll get over it. Business is business.”
“So it is.” Mick sniffed the envelope. “God I love being in the niche content game. We couldn’t do this if we were a network sitcom.”
“We wouldn’t need it if we were a network sitcom. And I thought you were in the custom car ‘game’.”
“That was before I found the spend other people’s money to live well and get laid as often as possible game.”