Fame is a seductive life sentence. ST suffers consequences as he strides the red carpet.
In Fame’s Victim, ST ends one century attending Oktoberfest in Munich, the biggest party in Europe, and starts the next hiding away from the world’s Press that hound him for his opinion of the Y2K problem. He is there with his lover movie star, also in disguise. His pet name for her is Garbo.
Excerpt From Fame’s Victim:
UM PA PA! UM PA PA!
Kafer’s Wiesnschanke seems not to be a `tent’, but a permanent wooden structure, with lattice at the front. There is outdoor seating, and strings of lights along the peak of the roof. At this time of night guests to the interior are handpicked. No one has given him an invitation or a code word, or any such means of identification. He has not had to prove who he is for so long that he really doesn’t know of any way other than the removal of his disguise. He could show his passport or driver’s license, but the photo displayed doesn’t display him.
People sitting outside give him a once-over, just as they do to all the crowds washing by. Oktoberfest is a people-watching event, but at this time of night, after a festival of beer, there is a sameness and a tiredness to their actions. He has no reason to fear a close scrutiny. ST walks briskly through the seated people and approaches the main entrance. Waiters and waitresses come and go through the door, liter mugs of beer held aloft. There is a small table to the left, and a man wearing a hat sits on a stool behind it. This is obviously the person whose scrutiny ST must meet and pass. He prepares a firm handshake, and a brief explanation of who he is.
From the corner of his eye he sees a figure approach. From its size and build it appears to be a woman, but she is wearing a Harlequin costume and holding a Venetian Sun Mask in front of her face. The gold (it looks like real gold) mask is attached to a long, slender stick, and the hand holding the stick is gloved.
Gloved hand, stick, gold mask and harlequin-attired body all lean toward him. ST is tempted to back away, but an exotic perfume reaching his nostrils is too enticing. He is sure his own disguise will not reveal his identity, so he affixes his fake beard smile.
This sound hissed in his direction seems to be a woman’s voice. Perhaps he is to be asked the time or offered some cut-rate passage to the giant Ferris Wheel. Both have already happened this evening. Some response seems expected and ST decides to resort to his rusty German.
The eyes blink behind the mask and an irrepressible giggle is barely muffled by a gloved hand.
“Annie’s crackers. That better be you.”
“Garbo?” ST takes a surprised step back.
“I was about to take a bite from your cookie.” She removes her mask. “If that wasn’t you, I would have either made an enemy or a friend I don’t want.”
“What are you – ?”
ST can’t tell if he is more surprised by the presence of his lover, or by the fact he didn’t recognize her. As he ponders he hastily pushes her hand so the mask is once again in front of her face. What they both don’t need is the exposure of the beautiful, young movie star. For if she is recognized, will ST be far behind?
“You don’t want to look at me?”
“I don’t want others looking at you.”
“Mmmm.” Garbo steps close and rubs against him. “Jealous?”
“No more than usual.”
This generates a snort from Garbo and a thwack over ST’s head with the mask. She still finds it hard to accept he doesn’t get jealous, even about the explicit love scenes in her last couple of movies.
“Garbo.” ST leans toward her. “We’ll lose our concealment.”
“If we’re being so secretive, don’t call me that in public.”
ST realizes even he is affected by their disguises, for otherwise her pet name would not have been uttered. Garbo is very particular that this name is for his use alone.
“But we’re not even supposed to be in public.” He looks around at the mass of revellers. “I’m here because – ”
“I arranged it.” Garbo giggles again.
“Do you know … ” She lowers her voice, making her words barely audible through the mask. “You look surprised, even through that beard.”
This is a dig at his array of beards. She is far more comfortable with the recognition she receives. ST assumes this difference between them is partly due to her age, and partially because of her business. But he is not above retaliation.
“Who’s wearing the mask?”
“I’m supposed to be a surprise.” Garbo shakes her head, deliberately making the bells on her Harlequin cap jingle. “You are already on the agenda.”
“Let’s not stray off topic.” ST reaches forward and flicks one of the bells. “What do you mean you arranged it?”
“You were asked to come here, because I asked them to ask you …” She jingles the bells again. “… to come here.”
His voice rises as the name-not-to-be-used spills into the night. ST avoids a hit on the arm and puts his mouth next to her ear.
“Garbo.” Her name is now spoken slowly but quietly. “Why did you do such a thing?”
“To get you out of the mansion.” Her lips are close to his ear, but she is not whispering
“Let’s get this over with.”
“Mr. `Life-of-the-party’.” Garbo shakes her own finger. “You need to sing and schunkel.”
“Hook your arms with those of your neighbors, and weave back and forth while singing lustily.”
“I don’t plan to sing – lustily or not.”
“Oh, yes you do.” Garbo links her arm through his, and starts to pull him toward the entrance. “Timely or not.”
She maneuvers ST past the man sitting at the table, and aims for a large, dirndl-encased woman standing at the far side of the door. She has the girth to block the whole doorway by herself, and ST has some hope that she will stop them.
“Remember – you’re with me.”
Garbo chuckles as she says this. When they are a few steps away from the door she lowers her mask and smiles that smile which charms millions. Even though the woman must have been expecting them she looks surprised, and then delighted. She makes a little bow, then opens her arms as if to embrace them.
“Wellcommen. They will be so pleased. The mayor keeps sober until you arrive.”
“That’s asking a lot.” Garbo replaces the mask in front of her face, and tugs ST toward the interior. “We have not expected such a sacrifice.”
“Why not?” ST directs the bearded question toward her ear. “I’ve kept myself without lubrication so I can appear here in fine form.”
“But you have me to get intoxicated on.” Garbo pushes him through the door. “You don’t need vile alcohol.”
“But there is going to be some, isn’t there?”
“Annie’s crackers – it’s Oktoberfest.” She pulls him forward. “It’s a feat you’ve managed to stay sober this long. Now it’s time for your reward.”
Garbo turns toward the table of officials and lowers her mask. The grim face of the dignitary ready to bar their way changes in a second, replaced with a broad smile. He holds out his hand to shake, though obviously debating whether or not to give her a hug. The temptation is great, and the occasion offers a license to such familiarity. Garbo avoids the situation by holding her mask out between them, and pointing toward ST.
The official stops momentarily, the smile trapped on his face. He is confused, wondering if he is being introduced to a bodyguard or some secretary, equivalent to himself. Garbo smiles, and sings a couple of lines from `Don’t Shortchange Us.’ She sings loudly enough to be heard by the other officials at the table, and immediately two heads whisper into the mayor’s ear. The man jumps up, his chain of office clanging against the beer stein in front of him. He pushes past his own officials, and makes a lunge for ST’s hand.
“Mein Herr. Welcommen!”
The mayor’s grip is so forceful that ST is again pulled off stride and they both bump into the table at the same time. The heart shaped gingerbread cookie around ST’s neck gets caught in the mayor’s heavy chain, and they are pulled together as they try to come apart. ST smells the beer on the other man’s breath, and has a pang of envy. Alcohol would be a relief right now, Glen Grant or not.
“We do a little dance – yes?”
The mayor is laughing, but ST realizes that he may be in some danger of losing his disguise. He doesn’t plan any further excursions tonight but his life proves unpredictable, and he can never be sure. Plus, the pull of glue from his face will not feel very pleasant or look very dignified. He can neither escape, nor risk the energetic contact his dancing partner encourages.
“Does this mean you have no time to dance with me?”
Garbo eases herself close to the two men. She stands in such a way that she could be speaking to either of them. They are confused and stop moving. Garbo reaches over and using both hands, manages to untangle the ornate mayor’s chain, and the string which the giant cookie hangs from. She winks at ST, then nudges against the mayor with her hip.
“Or do you boys prefer each other’s company?”
ST takes note of the most flamboyant dancers on the floor, and starts to copy their steps. Garbo is initially surprised, but quickly follows his lead. She is prepared to match his every move, and ST is determined to make her lose her step. Other revellers make room for them, and some even start to clap to the music. The bandleader has noticed the commotion, and after watching the couple for a minute turns the beat around to their rhythm. By this time even the mayor’s table is back on their feet, thumping their beer steins on its slippery surface.
“Bring it home, Mamma!” shouts the mayor.
Garbo growls with laughter as ST puts a hand on either side of her waist, and lifts her from the floor. She places her hands on his shoulders, and kicks back with her feet. ST actually aims her in different directions, and other dancers dodge away, squealing in delight.
“And another thing.” Garbo is panting and shouting into his ear at the same time.
“What would that be?” ST precariously leans back, almost losing his balance as he lets her slide to the floor off his chest. He twirls her on her stomach before he scoops her up again, and grips her hard against him.
“You’re heading into two months of Millennium stuff?”
“And it’s going to be serious?”
“Then ya gotta have some f-u-n.” She throws her hands over her head and leans way back, knowing he is not going to let her go. “And what better place is there than the biggest party in Europe?”
As she presses against him again he has a different answer to her question, and he whispers it into her ear. Her eyes go wide, and she brings up her hand in a motion to slap his face.
But she kisses him instead.
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