“Excited?” Marisa asks.
“Are you kidding? Conor Overton! I get to interview the man who played Captain Cosmos in the “Astral Traveler” series, was Raz Vadish in “The Pirates of Port Royal,” and played George Victory, the rootin’ tootin’ shootinist cowboy west of the Pecos!”
“What was his famous line as Captain Cosmos?”
“’ As long as I have a heart and soul, liberty will never perish!’”
“He was also a dreamy Heathcliff in the Wuthering Heights series.”
A van pulls into the driveway. Marissa checks her appearance in the mirror, reapplying her lipstick and running her fingers through her blonde hair like a rake. Tad Tennyson adjusts his old tie, wishing he’d taken the time to trim his bushy hair.
A balding man wearing round glasses and a spiffy suit gets out of the van. The couple practically runs to greet him.
Tad and Marissa breathlessly introduce themselves to Jarvis Hooper, Conor Overton’s manager.
“Where is he?” Marissa asks.
Jarvis throws open the van’s side door. A hulking, blonde-haired man with shoulder-length hair and a slight man wearing sunglasses grin at them uneasily.
A man strapped to a built-in bed snores loudly. His body is softer, his face is jowly, pale, and mottled, and there are flecks of grey in the temples of his dyed hair.
“That’s my Heathcliff!” Marissa exclaims.
“Jerome, Dr. Feely, this is Tad Tennyson, the writer, and his wife, Marissa. You want to wake him up, Doc? ”
The two men pull out the bed, propping it up next to the van.
Dr. Feely pops a capsule under Conor’s nose.
Conor snorts in mid-snore, waking up.
“Thank you, Dr. Feelgood, and good morning, everybody!” Conor shouts enthusiastically, passing out.
“The kit, Jerome,” Dr. Feely says.
Jerome retrieves a large satchel. Reaching inside, Dr. Feely produces a syringe, jamming it in Conor’s arm.
“What’s that?” Marissa asks.
“B-12,” Jarvis quickly answers.
Conor’s eyes flutter. He yawns, his rheumy eyes focusing on Marissa. “Well, things are looking up! Free me from this contraption, Jerome!”
Conor kisses Marissa’s hand.
“You were great as Heathcliff,” she fawns.
“Ah, yes. Withering Heights with that drug-addled pig, Margaret Bacon.”
Marissa’s eyes widen in amazement.
“Sorry to burst your bubble. Pills, booze, Piggy sops them up like a sponge. She’s so hammered she thinks we’re really married.”
“But you two work so well together.”
“So did Sam and Dave, and they didn’t speak for twenty years. Ready, Tad? I’m driving!”
Tad takes note that Jerome crosses himself before getting in the van.
“I told you I can send out for booze when we get to the studio,” Jarvis says as Conor halts the van at a liquor store.
“I know you, Hooper. You won’t do it, hoping I’ll forget. I need just a pint or three to carry me through the morning. Let’s go shopping, Tad!”
Conor nearly stumbles as he pours himself out of the van.
A veteran in a wheelchair sits near the entrance, his amputated legs covered by stars n’ stripes socks. His wheelchair has a pair of American flags and is decorated with Veteran of Foreign War stickers.
Conor tries to blow past him.
“Hey! Didn’t you play Captain Cosmos?”
“’ As long as I have a heart and soul, liberty will never perish!’ Yeah, those were great words.”
Reaching in his pocket, Conor pulls out a hundred-dollar bill. He pulls it away when the man reaches for it.
“Jump for it!”
Snatching the bill from the actor’s hand, Tad hands it to him as Conor laughs hysterically.
Conor bounds onto the set. “Is Miss Piggy still in her pen?”
Blaise Honeywell, the director, rolls his tired eyes. “Easy, Conor, her postpartum depression is running rampant today.”
“Here pig, pig, pig!”
“How about we start that interview while we wait for Ms. Bacon?” Tad asks.
“Later. I’m going to my trailer to entertain a few fans. One each should do it today, Jerome.”
“It’s nice that he’s going to talk to his fans,” Tad says.
Dr. Feely looks at him drop-jawed. “Talk. Yeah, right.”
Tad notices a bulletin board with numerous post-it notes attached to it leaning against one of the cameras.
“What’s that all about?’ Tad asks Honeywell.
“That’s Conor and Margaret’s version of email. They hardly speak, so they leave messages for each other.”
Tad notices most of Conor’s messages are comprised of vulgarities.
“I think I’ll talk to Ms. Bacon,” Tad says.
“Don’t mention her weight,” Honeywell cautions.
Tad finds Margaret sitting in front of a mirror in her trailer, crying.
The woman Conor once called “Elizabeth Taylor on steroids” is noticeably heavier but still stunning.
“Sorry to bother you, Ms. Bacon. I’m doing a feature on Conor Overton.”
“He’s a Hollywood legend.”
“You’ve been called one of Hollywood’s greatest couples.”
“I despise him.”
“You’d never know it. Your chemistry together is riveting.”
“That’s why it’s called acting. Kissing him is like wrestling an octopus. Do you know what that deviant did to me during “Pirates of Port Royal?” He pinched me every time I tried to deliver my lines, so I squealed. The director yelled at me, not him.”
“Maybe he was being playful.”
“Playful? David Fairfax was outacting him in “Bullets for Barstow.” So, he shot his gun off next to David’s head take after take. David has had to wear a hearing aid ever since.”
“What happened between you two?”
“Conor and I were making “Pirates of Port Royal” when my boyfriend, Dean, proposed. Dean and I wanted to celebrate, so he went to get some champagne. I called Conor to tell him the good news. He came to my apartment, acting like I’d betrayed him, threatening to kill me. Luckily, Dean came back. They fought, and Conor beat Dean up pretty badly. He picked Dean up by the neck, dragged him to the balcony, and was going to throw him over the side. I hit him on the head with my Oscar. It’s been profane post-it notes and Miss Piggy ever since.”
Margaret reaches for a bottle of pills on her vanity. Opening the bottle, she pops three pills.
“Don’t judge me until you’ve passed twins through your cervix,” Margaret says. “I NEED MY MEDICATION TO HELP ME LOSE WEIGHT!”
“You want to know what Overton’s like? He killed a girl. Spiked some teenager’s drink in his trailer. He paid Jerome a fortune to get rid of the body. Jerome was a D.J at the bar we used to frequent. Smiled all the time. Now, Jerome practically goes into convulsions when he hears music, and he never smiles anymore.”
“She might have died accidentally,” Tad says.
“Too hard to imagine Captain Cosmic spiking little girl’s drinks, isn’t it?”
A knock on the door draws their attention. “On the set please, Ms. Bacon,” a voice calls out.
Margaret grabs a jar on her vanity. Tad follows her to the set. Conor is standing by the post-it board, seething.
Honeywell intercedes. “That’s enough you two.”
“I can smell the booze on you from here,” Margaret says.
“I have to be blind drunk If I’m going to look at you, Piggy.”
Pointing his finger at Margaret, Conor curses at her until he’s breathless.
Margaret holds up the jar.
“See this? It’s a swear jar. You’re going to put twenty dollars in it every time you swear.”
Conor pulls out his wallet. “Here’s three hundred. Go fornicate yourself.”
Conor turns away.
“Conor, where are you going?” Honeywell asks.
“I’ve still got a redhead and a brunette to defile.”
Conor and Margaret stomp off in opposite directions.
Tad walks over to Jarvis. “How long have you been Conor’s manager?”
“Twenty-plus years. It’s cost me two marriages and an ulcer.”
“He’s not what I thought he’d be.”
“Me neither,” Jarvis replies. “He used to be a good man. Gave bonuses and gold watches to the cast and crew. Never did drugs. Now he’s got Dr. Feely on call twenty-four-seven.”
“How would you describe him now?”
“He’s like an Oscar, tarnished gold on the outside and hollow on the inside.”
“What happened?” Tad asks.
“He never should have left Corsica.”
“I didn’t know he was Corsican.”
“Are you going to tell me what that means?”
“The last time I told someone, he broke my jaw.”
Tad stays on the set long after the cast and crew have left for the day.
He feels optimistic when a redhead leaves Conor’s trailer.
The door opens and a shower of money hits her in the face.
Tad moves toward the trailer.
Jerome intercepts him. “Not yet. One more to go.”
“Margaret Bacon told me a story about you I find hard to believe.”
Jerome’s expression sags. “I thought if I helped him, he’d stop. He thinks he can do whatever sick act he wants because I’ll always be there to clean up the mess. He’s wrong.”
Jarvis and Jerome play cards while Dr. Feely naps.
Several hours later, a voluptuous brunette leaves the trailer.
“It’s a bad one, Jerome,” Jarvis says, noticing her torn clothes.
Reaching into his jacket pocket, Jarvis hands Jerome his checkbook. “Give her whatever she feels her dignity is worth.”
Turning to Tad, Jarvis asks, “Can you give Captain Cosmic a pass on this?”
“We all have demons, especially celebrities. I want him to explain himself,” Tad says.
As they watch Tad head toward Conor’s trailer Dr. Feely says, “He’s either a real fan or a real fool.”
Tad nearly trips over the empty liquor bottles littering the floor. Conor is laying on the bed, a cigarette in one hand, a bottle of Jack Daniels strategically placed on top of his naked body.
“I’ve got plenty of party accessories. What would you like?”
Grabbing the bottle, Conor takes a big swig.
Tad turns away. “First question. Can you please put something on?”
Tad hears Conor grunt as he struggles to get into his underwear and pants.
“Okay, I’m decent.”
“You got your start as an extra in ‘Brothers of the Sword.’ Then Benedict Archibald fell off his horse, ruptured his spleen, and crushed his pelvis. You took his place. Did you feel like it was destiny?”
“Sure. I rigged Baldy’s saddle so he’d fall.”
Shocked, Tad says, “He died the next day. No remorse?”
“That’s show biz.”
“Your monologue in ‘Lord Nelson’ is considered one of the greatest speeches in film history. It’s been said you wrote it between takes in ten minutes.”
Conor laughs. “Some underpaid pimple-faced hack living in his mother’s basement wrote it.”
“Your greatest accomplishment?”
“Popping Margaret Bacon before she got so porky she needed her own zip code.”
“Is there anything you regret?”
“How about my whole life?” Connor says, downing more Jack Daniels. “My dad was an alcoholic who beat my mom for fun. She said I was a mistake. When he dropped dead, my mom gave me up for adoption. I never wanted to be an actor. I wanted to just be Edgar Crumbly, the real me. Do you know what I liked to do? I liked to fish. But acting is easy money. I went from being a bouncer in a Brooklyn dive to playing English royalty. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t act, I had the looks. But I’m fifty-two now. I’m still playing the noble hero, but my looks are gone, so I’ll be gone soon too. It’s a bore anyway. At least I can spice up my life away from the camera.”
Tad’s frustration takes over. “So, the fights, the girls, the drugs, are because you’re bored? Here’s an idea, why not buy a fishing boat? Why not buy a whole fleet?”
“I had a boat once. I was going to go to South America. Then Jarvis showed the world a picture of me on my boat. The next day every money-mad swindler in Hollywood was on board. We never left the dock. When they finally left the boat a week later, I sank her.”
“Was there ever a time you were happy?”
“In Corsica. I did ‘The Pirate Prince’ there. One day, I went into a café and met Marta. She had dark hair, a sexy smile, and blue eyes you could lose yourself in. She was a gypsy, a free spirit, hitchhiking around the world. Best of all, she didn’t care who I was. To her, I was just some guy who liked to fish. We spent a month together. Then ‘Pirates of Port Royal’ came along. Then the sequel. Then two more lousy films. Before I realized it, four years had gone by.”
“If you really loved each other, it shouldn’t have made a difference.”
Conor snickers. “You’ve been watching too many of my movies, Taddy. I hired an investigator to find her, but I never saw her again. All I have of Marta is a few dogeared pictures and a turquoise necklace she bought for me.”
“There’s another Marta out there somewhere.”
“I’ve been going through women like a baby goes through diapers, and the results are always crappy.”
“Stop it, Conor, “ Jarvis scolds. “That’s the third time you’ve sent your food back. Why are you doing that?”
“Because I can. I’m a two-time Oscar nominee.”
“You might win one if you dedicate yourself more to acting than drinking,” Jarvis says.
“Just because you’re my manager, Jarvis, doesn’t mean you’re made of Teflon.”
Conor downs his drink. A waiter circles the table.
“I’ll take another, Jeeves,” Conor says. “Make it a double. And hurry up with my steak.”
Bulky but well-groomed, the middle-aged waiter takes a deep breath, composing himself.
Conor scans the room. A young couple at the next table whispers to each other. The woman tries to hold her husband back, but the starry-eyed, smiling man walks toward Conor’s table shouting, “As long as I have a heart and soul, liberty will never perish!”
Conor’s veiny eyes narrow. He draws his fist back, clocking the smiling fan in the jaw.
The man falls backward, crashing into his table.
The woman shrieks, “Captain Cosmos just killed my husband!”
The waiter pulls the groggy fan to his feet.
“I’m calling my lawyer!” the man says as his wife pats his swollen jaw.
“Get in line, Cosmo-geek.”
Jarvis springs into action. Pulling out his checkbook and repeatedly apologizing, he gives the couple a check for ten thousand dollars.
The couple stares in revulsion at Conor.
Grabbing an empty bottle of champagne, Conor flings it at the retreating couple.
Looking at Tad, Conor says, “Don’t forget to write that I have a world-class throwing arm.”
“…World-class…,” the waiter mumbles. “Try no class.”
Conor wings a glass at him. “Say it to my face, you talking doggie bag!”
The head waiter spirits the waiter away before he can charge the table.
The waiter soon returns with Conor’s sizzling steak.
Conor cuts into it. Jumping up, he grabs the waiter by his collar, shaming him. “It’s still too raw. I want it scorched like your brain cells. Got it!”
Staring Conor down, the waiter grabs both of Conor’s hands, squeezing them. Surprised by the waiter’s strength and resolve, Conor eases back into his chair.
“You’re all right, Jeeves. A real take-charge guy.”
“Name’s Malik. It means king.”
“I admire your strength.”
Turning to Marisa, Conor says, “How about you, Ms. Tennyson? How do you like your men?”
“What? Like Pulitzer? Your husband’s smart all right. Smart enough to know that if he doesn’t print what I tell him to, he’ll never work in this business again.”
“It’s the whiskey and the champagne talking,” Jarvis says.
“No, he’ll do it,” Tad replies. “I’ve seen you do more despicable things in one day than other people do in a lifetime, Conor. You whine because the only woman who ever loved Edgar Crumbly left him because he loved being Conor Overton more. You say you hate all the characters you’ve played; you insult and attack your fans, and then you expect us to say how wonderful you are. You’re afraid to love or be loved. Underneath it all, you’re still that horrible little monster your mother couldn’t even love.”
Conor springs from his seat, grabbing Tad by the throat. Miriam bangs her fists off Conor’s back as he tightens his grip.
Just as suddenly, Conor releases his grip, dropping to the floor.
Malik stands over him, holding the remaining piece of the plate he smashed over Conor’s head.
“Here’s your steak, sir!”
“I’m going to end you, Edgar Crumbly,” Tad gasps.
Conor slowly rises to his feet, staggering.
A statuesque woman in a business suit approaches the table.
“Well, here’s a fan who can quote me any time she likes.”
“Are you Conor Overton?”
“Yes, gorgeous, I am.”
Reaching into her jacket pocket, the woman hands him a letter. “You’ve been served.”
“Second one this week,” Jarvis mutters.
As Tad and Miriam leave, he turns to say. “Do us all a favor, Edgar, buy a fishing boat and go back to Corsica.”
Conor Overton died a month later from what was ruled an accidental overdose. Tad’s sanitized interview with Conor, his last, was syndicated throughout the world.
Tad didn’t believe Conor’s death was an accident. Conor had been found on his new boat with a turquoise necklace in his hand.
Tad and Marisa went to his funeral, which was attended by thousands of grown-up children who still idolized Captain Cosmos.
“Poor Heathcliff,” Marisa said. “His public life lasted twenty years, but his private life was only a month.”
Margaret Bacon was one of the last mourners to pay her respects, or in her case, her disrespect.
“I had to make sure he wasn’t faking,” she said.
As Tad and Marissa were leaving, a beautiful raven-haired woman wearing a turquoise necklace passed by them.
She placed a fishing pole on Conor’s grave.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Good story. We tend to be very forgiving of the bad behaviours of celebrities. Thanks for this.
You're right. Thanks!