Make Me Over
By Leslie Kelly
“I F YOU THINK I’m ever gonna work on the set of another reality TV show, you’re whackedin the head, old man.”
Jacey Turner stared at her father across his expansive desk in his highbrow Hollywood office,not believing he’d just asked her to take over as lead camera operator on his latest project.And definitely not believing why he was asking.
He was nearly broke. Burt Mueller, the king of TV in the 1970s, had backed a string of stinkersin more recent decades—everyone knew that. But she’d never thought he’d come to this. Losinghis edge, his power, his “in”-ness.
“I’m serious. I need you, babe.”
“Whacked,” she continued, as if he hadn’t spoken. “Or you’ve been popping some of thosehappy pills that got you through the sixties.”
Daddy dearest tsked as he gestured toward his recently Botoxed face, which looked as if itbelonged on a forty year old—not someone two decades older. “Do you think I’d spend thismuch money on trainers and plastic surgeons to go and poison myself with drugs?”
She cast a pointed look at the cigarette smoldering in the ashtray on his desk. Against policyin this no-smoking building, like every other building in L.A. these days. As if he cared.
Burt merely shrugged. “They’re not hurting me on the outside, which is more important to methan my lungs right now.”
God, how could a man say something so completely shallow, yet manage to make it sound sosincere? She couldn’t help chuckling. “Tell that to the wrinkles that are eventually gonnashow back up around your mouth from constantly having a cancer stick clamped between yourlips.”
“You berate me because you care.”
Yeah, she did. And he knew it. Leaning back in the chair, she put her boot-clad feet on hisdesk and crossed them, just to keep him guessing. She did not need the old man realizing she’ddo just about anything for him. “Okay, be honest, how bad could it be? I mean, the residualson Paw Come Git Your Dinner alone should keep you in Bruno Magli shoes until you’re ninety.”
“You’re thinking like a Hollywood insider of today. Not of the seventies,” he retorted,sounding weary. “Residuals? Ha. Ask me why stars of The Brady Bunch made so many bad reunionmovies, until I thought we might soon see Alice Does Dallas. Or why Gilligan’s gang had to berescued by the Harlem Globetrotters.”
Jacey, who recognized the shows by their eternal life on TV Land, merely waited.
“It’s so Gilligan doesn’t have to shine shoes at LAX and Cindy, Jan and Marcia don’t haveto work as Hooters girls. Everything was in the studio’s favor in those days.”
Okay, she’d heard that, but still found it hard to believe Burt could be so bad off. She waslooking at the man who’d created six of the top ten shows of 1970. Who’d first seized oncanned laughter to beef up audience response and sparked a revolution in sitcoms. Who’d earnedten Emmys, for piss sake!
“So you really think you can salvage a historic thirty-some-years career as a TV legend byjumping on the reality-show hysteria which hasn’t died its overdue death? What a dumb idea.”
He didn’t take offense. Her old man never took offense at anything, except being called a has-been. And he certainly didn’t get all fatherly on her. Why would he? Their relationshipwasn’t like that. He hadn’t even known she existed until she’d shown up on his doorstep atage seventeen with a ratty backpack and a bad attitude, informing him he was her dear old dad.
Some Hollywood types would’ve kicked her to the curb. Burt Mueller hadn’t. He’d taken herin, welcomed her, convinced her he’d never known of her existence, and given her a job.
Somehow, over the past six years, they’d become, well, if not exactly what you’d callfamily…at least friends. But there was only so much she’d do for friendship. And setting footon the set of another reality show wasn’t on the list. Not after the last one, Killing Time InA Small Town, where she’d worked as lead camera operator. Because getting fired hadn’t beenthe highlight of her frickin’ year.
Though honestly, she had to admit, the experience hadn’t been all bad. And the show had donereally well in ratings this fall.
She also had to give thanks because of what it had led to in her personal life. She, tough-as-nails Jacey Turner, had let down her guard and fallen in love.
Lord, she missed Digg. Missed him like mad. But coming here to California to answer herfather’s desperate call wasn’t such a bad thing. The past couple of months, when she and Digghad tried to make their unconventional romance work in the real world—his world of firestations and big Hispanic-New York families—had been tough. Particularly because she suspectedall of Digg’s friends and loved ones secretly looked at her as a sewer rat who’d glommed onto him for the million bucks he’d won on Killing Time. She couldn’t prove it, but she’d laymoney his mother made the sign of the cross behind her back every time Jacey entered her house.
She’d been hiding her unhappiness at that—and at not being able to land a job with any studioin New York—for weeks now.
“It’ll be a good break for you,” Burt said, moving in for the kill. “A classy mansion inNew England in the winter. Snow, skiing, hot chocolate.”
“Gag me. I’m not an Aspen bunny. Remember? I skied on a skateboard in the aqueducts of SouthCentral.”
He chuckled. “Then do it because you need the money, too.”