Authors: Dyan Sheldon
For the two Carolines, R and S
a beautiful spring morning in Southern California.
High in the hills of Hollywood, with a heart-stopping view of the tireless sprawl of Los Angeles, sits a large, elegant, white building with pillars and turrets and leaded-glass windows that would make most monarchs feel right at home. This house (for reasons that will never be obvious) is called Paradise Lodge. But although the day outside is bright and cloudless, inside a storm is raging.
There are two people at the centre of this storm. The girl sitting at the table, screaming, who was born Susan Rosemary Minnick but is now known as Paloma Rose; and the woman standing beside her, stoically, whose name is Josefina Primavera Trudenco but who around here is called Maria. Neither of them thinks she is anywhere near Paradise.
“I can’t eat this slop!” Paloma’s voice is shrill as a siren, her pretty face distorted by rage. “It’s, like, disgusting! It’s total garbage! I don’t know why I can’t ever have anything
want. Is that so freakin’ much to ask? Just
to have what
You might wonder how someone can be so emotional over a disappointing breakfast. The reason is that Paloma is a princess. Not the kind descended from European royalty but the kind who stars in what until recently was one of the most popular television shows of all time. Today Paloma is a princess in a very bad mood. Which lately is about as rare an event as freezing temperatures in Siberia. Paloma’s bad moods are caused by the fact that she’s very unhappy. It may seem strange that a girl who has so much – celebrity, money, looks, adoring fans – can be unhappy, but having everything is no more a guarantee of happiness than beauty is a guarantee of love.
Paloma pushes her plate away with so much force that a slice of toast shoots onto the table. “I mean, like, look at it! Just look at it! It’s so gross I could barf. It’s like two revolting yellow eyes staring up at me.”
Because Paloma is usually only pleasant and polite when someone’s pointing a camera or a microphone at her, the housekeeper knows better than to remind Paloma that she asked for fried eggs. Maria has worked for the Minnicks for four very long years (a record for the Minnicks, who usually go through help the way other people go through socks), and is still here because she says so little that the Minnicks are under the impression that she doesn’t speak much English. Now Maria puts the toast back on the plate, and says, “Scrambled? Boiled? Omelette?”
“Boiled. And only one.” The person who says these words is not Paloma, but her mother. Leone Minnick snaps into the room on her Louboutins like a soldier on parade. Always impeccably and immaculately turned out, Leone can walk through a rainstorm without getting wet. This morning she is wearing a seriously understated dark suit set off by several pieces of gold jewellery, and looks as if she might be on her way to address a meeting of investment bankers. Nevertheless, from her pinched expression, it seems likely that Leone doesn’t think she’s anywhere near Paradise, either.
Things haven’t been going well this year. Ratings for Paloma’s TV show,
Angel in the House
, are dropping steadily; the network is threatening to cancel after the upcoming series; and the sponsors are very unhappy – which in this world is not unlike God being very unhappy in the world of the Old Testament. Watch out! Leone blames Paloma for all these problems. Paloma is pissing everyone off even more than usual. Arguing. Complaining. Acting out. She brought the set to more than one standstill during the last season. That could be forgiven, but what can’t be forgiven is the bad publicity and notoriety Paloma attracted over the winter. Drunken incidents. Suggestive photographs. Compulsively bad behaviour. Most of this her agent and her publicist have dismissed as gossip and rumour, but the hostile interviews and on-air temper tantrums couldn’t be made to go away without supernatural help. Since her meltdown on the most popular late-night talk show – when she threw the contents of the water pitcher over the host – Paloma has been banned from such appearances. Which has done nothing, of course, to improve ratings, win over the network, or gladden the hearts of the sponsors.
“You know you shouldn’t have fried food, Paloma,” says Leone. “Think of your skin.” She puts her handbag on the counter with a thump. “And your hips. You’re supposed to be thirteen, not thirty.” Thirteen being the age of Paloma’s character, Faith Cross.
Think of your freakin’ skin
,” mimics Paloma. Paloma blames her mother for her unhappiness. Paloma is sick of looking like she’s thirteen. She’s almost seventeen, which is practically an adult. She doesn’t want to be treated like a child any more. “
Think of your freakin’ hips…
”And, before Maria can step away, she reaches up, grabs one of the eggs from the plate, and hurls it across the breakfast nook, hitting the wall. She wipes her hand on the tablecloth.
“Paloma, please…” Leone, searching through her bag for something, still doesn’t look at her daughter – or at the mess made by the egg. She won’t give Paloma the satisfaction. “I’m in no mood for one of your childish displays of histrionics right now. I have errands to run before lunch and I don’t want to be late.”
“God forbid you’re late for lunch,” snarls Paloma. “I mean, the whole freakin’ world would just drop dead and roll over with its feet in the air if you were late for lunch. I mean, oh my freakin’ Lord, can you imagine the chaos and destruction if Leone Minnick was ten minutes late for her martini and bowl of lettuce?”
“Language, Paloma.” The more heated Paloma gets, the calmer and more reasonable Leone becomes. “You do still have an image to maintain.” If barely. “You can’t go around talking like a guttersnipe.” She sighs. “And it happens to be a business lunch.” Besides being Paloma’s mother, Leone is also her personal manager. This is not only a job that is handsomely paid, but it also means that Leone considers just about everything she does – from having a manicure to mailing a letter – as business. “Although, for all I know, you do live on the street now. If I’m not mistaken you didn’t come home until dawn. Which is not going to be tolerated, Paloma. I told you that.” She has told her that, but Paloma, apparently, hasn’t been listening. If anything, her escapes and escapades have increased since “the problem” was resolved. “You are not allowed out by yourself. Not after what happened last winter. How many times do we have to have this argument?”
What happened last winter was that Paloma was secretly seeing Seth Drachman, the head scriptwriter on
Angel in the House
. Until, Paloma believes, Leone found out, made him break up with her, had him fired, and ruined Paloma’s life. Which means that the answer to the how-many-times-do-we-have-to-have-this-argument question is: until penguins are skating up Sunset Boulevard.
“What’re you going to do?” taunts Paloma. “Chain me to my bed?”
Chaining Paloma to her bed is just about the only thing Leone hasn’t tried yet. She took away Paloma’s car keys; Paloma, who’s never been seen to so much as microwave a cup of coffee, somehow managed to hot-wire the car. Next, Leone had the car disabled; Paloma started calling cabs and sneaking out of the house. Leone locked her in her room; Paloma climbed out of the window. Leone had it nailed shut; Paloma set fire to her wastebasket – and then she broke the window. Leone’s next move was to hire a full-time bodyguard to drive Paloma everywhere she went and pad after her like a loyal dog. Paloma then developed a top-spy’s ability to give Vassily, her bodyguard, the slip, leaving him wandering through elegant shops where a man built like a bear has no business being on his own and is eventually asked if he needs any help. Vassily quit.
“If that’s what it takes to keep you in this house, then that’s what I’ll do.” At least if Paloma’s chained up she won’t be able to burn the house down.
“That’ll look great on the front page of the papers won’t it?” Paloma squares off her hands as if she’s holding up a sign. “‘MOTHER CHAINS TEEN STAR IN ROOM’.” If smiles could kill Leone would already be a lifeless body on the floor. “I can’t wait to see the pictures of you being tried for child abuse.”
Leone sighs and decides to try reason instead of threats, since her daughter is obviously so much better at them than she is. “All right, Paloma. Let’s forget about your tight schedule. And let’s forget your millions of fans who look up to you and want to be like you. And let’s forget about the fact that Ash drove all the way out here this morning for your training session and you were passed out like a flophouse drunk. But let’s not forget your career. Aside from the fact that you’re going to end up looking ten years older inside of a month if you keep running around like this – drinking and God knows what – filming for the new series starts soon and you have to be ready for it. Because you know what’ll happen if you’re not? I’ll tell you what, Little Mis—”
“Shut up!” Paloma isn’t quite up to standing, so she leans forward, pressing her hands against the edge of the table. “Just shut your stupid mouth!”
But as anyone who has spent more than two minutes with her mother could tell her – and as Paloma very well knows – shutting up never appears on Leone’s list of personal options. “Because if you think you’re going to continue playing a thirteen-year-old angel when you look like an old hag you better think again.” Leone finally finds her keys and snaps the bag shut. “You know they’re talking about cancelling the series. And you seem to be determined to give them a reason.”
Paloma, of course, doesn’t believe her mother. She thinks she’s just trying to scare her. Well, good luck with that.
“What’s wrong with you? Are you deaf?” she screams. “Shut the hell up! I don’t care! I couldn’t care less about losing the series if I was dead. Everybody knows it’s crap since you got rid of Se—”
“I did no—”
“Yes you did! You had him fired. Everybody knows that!” shrieks Paloma. “And I’d rather live on the street than in this dump. I’d rather live anywhere but here with you and all your lies and all your freakin’ rules.”
Leone neatly steps over the part about lies. “There have to be some rules,” she says evenly, apparently unaware that she does, in fact, have enough rules to run the government, including all branches of the armed services. Since Paloma’s first commercial, when she was still Susan and wearing diapers, Leone has told Paloma what to eat, what to wear, what to say, and what to do and with whom to do it and when. “It’s for your own good. Everything I do, I do for you. I’ve dedicated my life to you.”
“Pig crap! Everything you do, you do for
!” Paloma, of course, is speaking out of incandescent rage, and doesn’t yet really understand how close to the truth she is. But if you own the goose that lays solid-gold eggs you certainly don’t let it wander out in the road.
“That isn’t true, darling. Ask anyone. I—”