“Proud of yourself, are you?”
Cosmo didn’t need to see the face to recognize the voice or the venom. He should have jumped into the same limo that had gotten Don and Kathy far away from their adoring fans, but he’d been compelled to hang around. Since nobody knew his face, he could blend into the crowd and hear what they really thought about the spectacle that had unfolded before them, both The Singing Cavalier and the utter destruction of Lina Lamont which had followed.
The audience was universally in love with Kathy. Women, men, children, and small animals, since Cosmo had spent enough time in Hollywood to translate the yelps of both the Pekingese and chinchillas which so many of the Hollywood Princesses had begun to tote as accessories. As for Don, well, women of a certain age were still inclined to swoon, but the men’s voices carried an edge. Sure, he can dance and sing and act….but. That “but” was a killer. Don needed to watch his back and his front. That was Cosmo’s job and he didn’t intend to give it up just because Kathy Selden was in the picture.
As for Lina, her career was over. She might have a contract and lawyers, but R.F. would never give her another chance to humiliate herself or his studio again. She’d have to go back to whatever she was before she was Lina Lamont, and knowing Lina, that wasn’t going to be easy. Maybe she’d do a Peg Entwistle off the Hollywood sign. At least she’d get one last headline out of it. Either way, he wasn’t going to waste time feeling guilty about that witch. He sure didn’t need Zelda Zanders to stand there under a street light holding out her cigarette and trying to play the unfamiliar role of conscience by asking if he was proud of what had happened that night.
“Any reason I shouldn’t?” he asked, while taking out his lighter. He was still a gentleman, and besides he needed to find out if Lina and Zelda had anything planned which could hurt Don and Kathy. He didn’t think she had enough clout left to do it, but she was just vindictive enough to try.
“You didn’t have to do that to Lina.”
“Yeah, we did,” he said bluntly. “You know as well as I do. It’s all about survival in this town. It was Lina or Kathy.”
“You mean it was Don.”
Cosmo shrugged. His friendship with Don wasn’t exactly a secret, even if Cosmo’s feelings were so well-hidden he rarely admitted them to himself.
“A guy takes care of his partner.”
“His meal ticket,” she shot back, and Cosmo decided he’d had enough of being a gentleman.
“You’d know, wouldn’t you? Why aren’t you taking care of your good friend Lina right now?” He didn’t bother keeping the sneer out of his own voice. “You’re not going to do so well when you have to get in front of that microphone yourself, Miss Coney Island 1924.”
He suspected she would have slapped his face if she weren’t afraid of breaking a nail.
“Why aren’t you with Don celebrating your triumph? Oh, I know. Because he’s with Kathy. Lina’s not the only one who’s being tossed aside by the high and mighty Mr. Lockwood.”
“I’m the new head of Monumental Pictures’ music department!”
“Maybe that’ll make you feel better when you’re playing ‘Here Comes The Bride’ at Don and Kathy’s wedding, even if you’re still playing second fiddle.”
Zelda clearly knew a good parting line when she heard and picked that moment to snap her fingers, at which point her waiting Rolls almost magically purred to life, illuminating the rest of the street. She disappeared inside the car, leaving Cosmo alone with a feeling he didn’t like very much.
Cosmo was sure that Zelda was just fishing. She didn’t know anything, although she wouldn’t put it past Lina or Zelda to try and feed Dora Bailey some malarkey about him and Don. Good thing that Don was so head over heels for Kathy you could feel it across a sound stage. Yeah, definitely a good thing.
He lit a cigarette of his own and kept walking down the street, which was strangely empty, even though show had let out less than an hour ago. Maybe all the stars had gone back to some fabulous party, while the little people were heading to their humdrum lives in Garvanza and Sherman Oaks. At least he wasn’t going there.
He wasn’t going back to the playing sticks either, although he had to admit, those had been some good times. Just him and Don on the road together. Close to starving sometimes, but singing and dancing the whole way. Don had a joy about him then. To be honest, he had almost been a rube. Practically that goofy kid with the boater and the glasses, except without the glasses. He’d gotten away from Nowheresville and arrived in the big beautiful world of show-biz and he wanted to enjoy every bit of it. Cosmo actually marveled at Don’s ability to laugh at the jokes, which were usually weak to start out with, even after Don had heard the same routine five times a day for a week.
That was the Don he’d probably fallen in love with, although he still had a soft spot for the Hollywood version. Either way, it wasn’t something you talked about, not with a guy like Don, whose other favorite act during those days on the road had been the exotic dancers.
What was the name of that number they’d done in Mud Lick Kentucky? Or was it Gaysport, Ohio? Something that had made Don laugh the minute they saw the sign, which was a sure-fire way to get his spirits up. When they were shivering in a flop-house in Decatur, with all of one can of beans and a feeble hot plate between them, Cosmo had been able to get a glimpse of that soon-to-be-famous Don Lockwood smile, just by saying “Gaysport.”
Now he remembered. It was that Jolson song. He hummed a bit of it to himself and thought of Don doing his “goofy step”, which was actually some of the most complicated choreography, intended to look absolutely ridiculous.
He decided to head over to Don’s place. He could let himself in and raid the ice box while waiting for Don to tire Kathy out and come down looking for someone to talk to, the way he always had with the other girls, even the “exotic dancers.”
The street was empty, but he suspected that a cab would magically appear, or at least a cop who could come to arrest him and have the paddy wagon drop him off in Beverly Hills. That’s how things worked these days, didn’t they?
Maybe some singing would help. He threw down the cigarette and rolled up his sleeves, doing the steps he’d meticulously taught Don back in good old Gaysport. (Or was it Mud Lick?)
I'm sitting on top of the world
just rolling along
just rolling along