Authors: Iris Rainer Dart
Other Novels by Iris Rainer Dart
THE BOYS IN TIlE MAIL ROOM BEACHES ‘TIL The REAL TILING COMES ALONG
I’LL BE THERE
Iris Rainer Dart
LITTLE, BROWN AND COMPANY Boston Toronto London
Copyright Š 1991 by Ratco Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Permissions to quote from copyright material
appear on page 254.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Dart, Iris Rainer.
I’ll be there / Iris Rainer Dart. — Ist ed.
Sequel to: Beaches. ISBN 0-316-17328-2 I. Title.
813’.54 — dc20
Published simultaneously in Canada
by Little, Brown & Company (Canada) Limited
Printed in the United States of America
This book is dedicated to every member of my beloved, crazy, brilliant, outspoken, opinionated family. With gratitude for the support, the laughs, the inspiration, and the love you each give so willingly and so well. Particularly my husband, Stephen Dart, who never fails to be there for all of us.
As long .s there’s the two of us
Wc’vc got the world and all its charms And when the world is through with us We’ve got each other’s arms.
from “The Glory of Love” by Billy Hill
“Making a living is getting. Making a life is giving.”
from a magnet on my
Aunt Sylvia’s refrigerator.
Bobbi Ybgel M.EC.C.
Rabbi Scott Spcrling
Vicki Gold Levi
Francois R. Brenot
Charlotte and Amanda Brown Helen Lasley
Doctor Ramsey Kyriakas
Marcia, Nicole, and David Harrow Jim and Gail Andrews
Gregory Michael Wolf
Sandi, my hero
My love, and thanks, and prayers for the many anonymous parents and kids who shared their stories with me.
And a special thank ynu to my editor
Fredrica Friedman for the faith, the confidence, the constancy, the accessibility and above all, the grace to make some of the little yellow slips contain love notes.
I’LL BE THERE
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
ONCE CEE CEE told Bertie if anyone ever wanted to torture her, they could tie her up and make her watch herself on television. Now it was Sunday night at seven thirty-eight, and while she sat watching a clip from one of her old television appearances she remembered that conversation. 60 Minutes was using the tape as part of a feature story on Hal Lieberman, and they intercut the old shots of Cee Cee singing, with current shots of Hal talking about the days when he was her rehearsal pianist and accompanist.
There she was, singing her heart out on The Ed Sullivan Show, with a beehive of teased hair, eye makeup Cleopatra would kill for, and my dear, the way those voluminous bazooms were fighting their way out of that slutty little sequined dress, it was a wonder Standards and Practices hadn’t called to say, “Kindly tuck in your tits.”
Not to mention the fact that the chestnut of a song was about the same vintage as Ed Sullivan’s tie. But the best part was the way Hal, a blurry image just behind her on the screen, wearing a tux he had obviously borrowed from a maitre d’ two sizes smaller, swayed along joyously, plunking away at the Steinway, grinning and mouthing the words with Cee Cee as she sang.
Nights are long since you went away I think about you all through the day My buddy, my buddy
Nobody quite so true
It was truly a toss-up as to which was schmaltzier, the singer or the song, but considering how nervous she used to get on those shows,
IRIS RAINER DART
she had to admit her voice sounded pretty damn good. Now they cut away to the interview they’d shot at her house last spring, where Mike Wallace was asking her to talk about her relationship with Hal, and that part made her sound like a Mis America Pageant reject.
“Hal Lieberman is truly the swcctest man in the world, and I love him very much.” Oh please, she thought. Why in the hell when the people from 60 Minutes called, hadn’t she told them to shove it? After all the timcs she’d seen that show make dog,neat out of so many people, the way they could make a genius look like a bimbo just by the camera angles they used and the clips they chose, why didn’t she say, “Sorry, folks,” and hang up on them? Well, she should have. And if it had been for anybody but Hal, she would have.
Naturally Hal came off great in his interview. He was charming and bright and so funny he even made that stiff Mike Wallace laugh, which was what was supposed to happen since the segment was about him, not about Cee Cee. Go figure, she thought. My former rehearsal pianist, Harold J. Lieberman, has become the man being honored for saving the American musical theater from extinction. Three hit shows on Broadway in five years.
“I played in piano bars endlessly,” Hal said, now in a two-shot with Mike Wallace. “Then, thanks to a friend of mine who was supposed to have the job and got sick, I started playing backup for Cee Cee Bloom, and just because she’d kill me if I did, I won’t tell you what year that was … but one of our gigs was George Burns’s bar mitzvah.” Hal laughed at his own joke and Mike Wallace smiled.
“Oh, Harold, you need new writers,” Cee Cee said out loud to the television. But she was laughing.
“I became her accompanist, in fact most of the time I was her whole band, and boy did we work some dives.” Then as Hal let himself truly remember the past, Cee Cee saw his expression turn soft. “Of course nobody could compare to Cee Cee even then,” he said. “I believe she’s the greatest performer since Judy Garland.”
“She really put your songs on the map, too,” Mike Wallace said. “She did. She always sang a few of my tunes in her act, which gave me confidence in the songs and myself. Then years later, when she had her own television show, she insisted they make me the musical director, and the security of that job gave me the luxury to start composing in earnest, so I’m very grateful to her.”
I’LL BE THERE
“You’re welcome,” Cee Cee said, feeling a chill and hugging herself to get warm, because she knew if she went to get a sweater she’d miss the end of the interview, which sounded as if it was winding down now, and she promised herself that the second it was over she would call Hal and gush. Then, of course, she would have to tell him the news.
“And now you have three shows running on Broadway all at once,” Mike Wallace said to Hal, as they cut to shots of the three marquees above the Broadway theaters where Hal’s shows were playing. Then there was an extreme close-up of Hal smiling that philosophical smile of his Cee Cee knew so well. How she loved his funny dear face. The Hirschfeld drawing in the New York Times last month had captured it perfectly. The bushy eyebrows over the sad eyes, the too-large bumpy nose, and the pouting, wonderful mouth. “It’s been a very good year,” he said. “A very good life, actually. I’ve been very lucky.” Then there was a freeze frame on him, and they cut to a commercial.
“Me too,” Cee Cee said. “Me too.” And she punched Hal’s number into the phone, but the line was busy, so she turned down the volume on the television and watched the commercials without the sound. After a while she tried his number again, and then again a few minutes after that. By the fourth try the busy signal started to sound like a taunt. Jeezus, 60 Minutes had been on three hours earlier in New York. You’d think by now she could get through to him.
She considered calling the operator and asking her to break in on the call, but Hal was so nuts, if an operator said the word emergency to him, he’d probably panic and think something had happened to his eighty-year-old mother, so instead she kept pushing the buttons and getting more and more pissed off by the minute, while she waited for him to get through with all the well-wishers and F.B.s.
F.B.s. That had been one of her jokes with Bertie. One night, when was it? A million years ago, she and Bertie were yakking on the phone and Bertie asked about a guy Cee Cee had been dating for a month or two. Maybe it was that bozo Zack. “You won’t be hearing me mention that lowlife again, because it’s all over with him,” Cee Cee reported.
“Ahh, Cee, I’m sorry,” Bertie had said with that sincere concern she could get in her voice. “You were so excited about a future with him. What happened?”
IRIS RAINER DART
“I found out he was an EB.”
“Well, kaowing you as I do,” Bertie said, “I already know what the F stands for, so let’s see. Is he an F bastard, or an F bullshitter?”
“I don’t know why I let you use language like that in front of a lady like me, Bert,” Cee Cee had said, putting on her most dignified voice. “All I was trying to say is that the guy turned out to be an F.B. A phony baloney.” Bertie had laughed a big “Oh, Cee Cee” laugh at that, and from then on, anyone who was the least bit full of it, which applied to a lot of people they both knew, was referred to as an EB.
Cee Cee dialed Hal again, and this time, instead of the immediate busy signal, there was a long hesitation and her heart raced, because she wondered how he would react when She told him what she was going to do, but then there was the busy signal again and she had a reprieve. A few more minutes to decide how she would say it, phrase it, break the news. For a long time she continued to sit and alternately press the buttons on the telephone and the buttons on the TV remote control, cursing the busy signal and seeing the images flash by her. A cough medicine commercial with a worried mother sitting on her little girl’s bed reminded her of the first of many nights she had spent with Nina after Bertie died.
“Will you stay in my room until I fall asleep?” Nina would ask her when it was time to turn off the lights, and Cee Cee would say, “Of course I will.” Then in the child’s room, lit only by a night light, she would sit quietly at the foot of the bed wondering where in the hell she was ever going to get the strength to pull off raising a kid, and watching as the ruffle on the front of one of those night-beforeChristmas flannel nightgowns Nina always wore rose and fell with her breathing until the little girl was in a deep sleep. Many nights Cee Cee, still drained from the past many months, would fall asleep too and wake, surprised to find herself still at the bottom of Nina’s bed, in the early morning.
Hal’s phone was finally ringing, and when Cee Cee glanced at the clock, she realized she’d been trying him for so long it was nine o’clock. Midnight in New York.
“Savior of the Great White Way,” he said when he picked up the phone, instead of hello. It was how they had described him on 60 Minutes.
“Harold,” was all Cee Cee said.
I’LL BE THERE
“Cee, are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she said, “I’m just calling to add my name to the list of people who .thought you were great on Sixty Minutes. And to thank you for thanking me in front of the entire country.”
“I could have gone on about you for hours,” he said so sweetly it made her want to cry. “in fact I did go on about you for hours when they interviewed me, but they cut most of it.”
There was a long moment of only the shush of the long-distance line, the way it sounded when she put a seashell against her ear, until Cee Cee said, “Hal, I need you to come out to Los Angeles right away. It’s very important to me that you be here.”
“Say no more. I’m on a plane. I’ll be in Los Angeles tomorrow, and you don’t even have to tell me why.”
“I will tell you why,” Cee Cee said, “but you’d better sit down.” Hal was already sitting, on the bench of the baby grand piano in the living room of his high-ceilinged, Art Deco Park Avenue apartment. And as Cee Cee told him why he had to drop everything and come to Los Angeles, he was so overwhelmed with emotion he sat shaking his head with his eyes closed. And when she’d finished, he promised he was on his way and would see her as soon as possible. Then he hung up the telephone, and stayed where he was for a while, picking out a few bars of “I’m Bad,” because it used to be one of Nina’s favorite songs in those days that seemed so long ago.