Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Character Cindy Marshall Tells an Author’s Bio And New Year’s Resolution - Part Two

Character Cindy Marshall Tells an Author’s Bio
And New Year’s Resolution - Part Two

If you took all the Cindy Marshall’s and all the Helen Kane’s
and laid them end-to-end…I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
                                                                                                (A Dorothy Parker-ism)

Anne and her husband put their inn up for sale, but the market was slow and it took a full year for a sale to happen. In the meantime, there was a nagging recurring dream which Anne had experienced for many years, about the murder of a woman in the late 1800’s, in a town named Bodie. She’d always wanted to explore that dream further. Then Anne learned her sister had a recurring dream, too--the same as hers. The writer began to postulate what it would take to make that possible. She researched the town of Bodie as best she could from her rural village of Cloverdale--but really, isn’t that tantamount to polishin’ cow patties? There wasn’t any meaty information to be found in the local libraries of easy country--land of church socials and lemonade stands. So, Anne sent for materials from U.C. Berkeley, where all of the preserved Bodie newspapers were kept, as well as information from California’s State Parks Department, and from a small preservation group called The Friends of Bodie. Well, Anne turned up an interesting, buried morsel by reading all of those old newspapers, and there was just no stopping her after that! She investigated recurring and genetic dreams, read books written by a renowned regression therapist at a Boston University, and even had her husband take them to Bodie for their annual vacation. It was when her boots touched Esmeralda dust that Anne knew she was going to write a story about Bodie.

It was the first story she wrote, but it became her second novel, some seventeen years later. Again, not unlike me, Anne lost a few years. She’d had some other successes, such as having two of her short stories published, and then a movie producer made an offer on the rights to “Bodie.” While the manuscript was being haggled about, Anne wrote her next novel--the one about me, sort of. She’d found a vintage photo of me during the restoration of her inn, and she’d decided she would one day write a story about it. You see, although I was smiling in the photo, Anne somehow knew I was sad. She’d thought often about what could make a pretty young girl so horribly sad. I could tell you how close she came to the truth, but you wouldn’t believe me. And why should you? I’m a literary character. I’m not her, even if at times she is me.

With two recently-published short stories and two completed manuscripts, one being optioned for a motion picture, we all believed Anne’s star was on the rise. And yet, my story was the last thing Anne wrote for more than fifteen years. Oh, she wanted to write, but there’s no rest for the wicked. In order to keep up the house payments until the businesses could sell, Anne began working full-time jobs between her post-accident surgeries, while her husband ran the inn by himself. Pain medications weren’t cutting it, money was tight, depression set in from chronic pain, and then the movie deal fell through. When Anne’s most recent surgery was completely undone by an aggressive physical therapist, and she debated another surgery and three more months of eating baby food through straws, she gave up writing entirely. Naturally, I thought of my friend Helen Kane during those dark times.

When I’d first met Helen, I had been living in Chicago for a couple of years. While many of my important and affluent customers referred to me as, “the toast of Chicago,” Helen Kane was a popular nightclub singer and stage actress from New York City. The actress had a love for champagne to equal my own, and we traveled among the same social circles. It was only a matter of time before we met. It was at a nightclub where she was singing, and we hit it off immediately. This was after her shiftless second husband, Max Hoffman, Jr., a mediocre actor at best, left her penniless and alone in Chicago, in 1933. Months later, Helen and I shared a magnum bottle of champagne with the director and a one of the producers from her last Broadway show. We over-indulged, just a bit. When Helen got up to sing another song, she finished the number with a slight shoulder roll and a batting of her lashes, which she borrowed from me, plus a little, “oop-boop-be-do,” borrowed from a young black girl she saw perform with a jazz group in Harlem. Then she giggled like a little girl, herself, and all the men in the club went mental! My slightly pudgy friend was reborn; she was suddenly more popular than beer. Every girl wanted to copy her Flapper-esque style, and every man wanted to date her. Her writer-friend in New York, Dorothy Parker, once complained of her, “You can’t throw a brick in any direction without hitting a Helen Kane.” (Miss Parker could be quite a pistol.)

But then the poor dear had to sue her studio, Paramount, for the theft of her persona and signature phrase, which they copied for a comic-strip character they named “Betty Boop.” The lawsuit dragged on almost two years and, surprisingly, did not look to be going in her favor. Soon the Betty Boop character was more popular than Helen, herself. She had no love interest in her life and everything seemed to be heading south: career, wealth, the lawsuit, her failed second marriage. Helen grew very depressed. Of course, none of this ever made it into Anne’s novel, but it’s true, just the same. I got Helen to snap out of her depression with a pep talk and a fountain of champagne one wild New Year’s Eve, where Helen met husband number three--the love of her life. But for Anne it took a lot more time, a lot more champagne, and a great, big, giant pep talk--but not from me. It came from Glenn Beck, the cable television host.

Mr. Beck was performing a Christmas Special from a location called Wilmington, Ohio. It’s a town that was beating the poor-economy odds by everyone pulling together; their successes fueled their hope, and hope spurred everyone to give their all. Mr. Beck had made an impassioned challenge to folks watching his show to get up and do something, anything, to better their situations. He prodded his viewers to stop blaming others for their failures, to take some chances, and make some changes in their lives; he challenged folks to help themselves or help another. Well, my creator took up that champagne-induced challenge for her 2010 New Year’s Resolution, and just look how things turned out for her (big smiles, here).

The anniversary has rolled around again. It’s just minutes before midnight and I am all gooseflesh and shivers at the prospect of a brand new year filled with new opportunities. It has been my humble pleasure to tell you Anne’s story, and now her New Year’s Resolution for 2013: To read more, write more, and mentor someone this year. Maybe hers will inspire some of you folks to take a chance or make a change in your own lives, during this shiny New Year. Oh! It’s midnight; can we all drink a toast to that?

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