A twisted tale of Life, Politics, and what some might consider cruelty to animals ...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chapter 14

Go to work is exactly what we did over those next couple of days, and results were both as gratifying as they were immediate. The first thing that we needed for our gala event was a theme, and based on a number of discussions (most of which I was not a part of), the staff came up with: ‘Citizens Against Non-functional Negativity in Election Situations'. Everybody seemed to like it, and I thought that it was fine as far as it went until I heard the acronym that they had come up with for the first time. The acronym that they were using, CANNES (which they too pronounced ‘Con’), cracked me up the first time that I heard it, and every time afterward. I refused to share with the group why I thought it was so funny, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t tell anyone of that eerie parallel in my world, where celebrities gathered at a party much like we were putting together every year.

This party in our world was held in Cannes (pronounced ‘con’ for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet), France. Of course in our world, it was not a supposed to be a political event, as much as it was festival used to celebrate the movies of that year and in general make a big fuss about the industry that made them. The fact that behind the scenes, negotiations to promote and finance any number of upcoming projects for the future was going on was simply a dirty little secret that no one really talked about.

Personally, I think that the Cannes Film Festival has far more likely become a self-serving bit of promotion for an industry that has far too much of it already. There is probably a great deal more that should be said about the level shameless promotion and greedy self-interest that such events have become known for. There is also something that should be said about the appalling lengths to which some of these so-called celebrities are now going to in trying to advance some of their own misguided beliefs; but since I was stealing the idea, and could therefore be as guilty as they were, I don’t think that I will.


Paul and Melissa, along with Katie (and surprisingly Andy), managed to put together a list of the best and the brightest of the movie industry, along with the luminaries of the business and professional world that we would ask to attend. They put the word out that this would be the party to end all parties to the right people (shameless gossips all), and word spread quickly. Invitations were sent out in a timely fashion, and when the responses began to come in, it became immediately apparent that we would have more than enough of the crowd for the effect that we were looking for. There was little doubt that when all was said and done, we were to have all of the most famous and beautiful people in Macundo not actively supporting Christy in attendance at our gala affair. I didn’t stop to ask myself if this was because they were avid supporters of Phillip, or if it was just something that looked to be good for their careers or egos. I didn’t really care. (See, we’re back to the whole self-serving thing again.) The truth of the matter was that their attendance would draw the attention to this event that we wanted, and if those attending were using us, well we were using them as well.

As these beautiful people were all to be displayed in the best and brightest feathers for this gala event, I suggested that we place a long red carpet at the drop off spot for the cabs and carriages for them to display their finery for the media. (Yeah, I know. I stole that idea too. Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.) Additionally, this would allow us to set up an area for the media to interview these VIP’s as they entered away from the actual party, and set aside an area for people not attending the party to show up and see what the elite of society looked like, up close and personal. Surprisingly, this too had never been done here before; and everyone thought that it was an amazing idea. I accepted the praise for these suggestions humbly, not hinting at the fact that it was a well-accepted practice in my world. (Sometimes it pays a leader to look smarter than he or she actually is.)

As is also the case in such situations, the stars brought out the money people. Now this was not as necessary here as it was in our world, as the people of great wealth were not going to be asked to sponsor the candidate financially (that was covered by the government). It appeared however, that the well-to-do in this world were just as anxious to be seen in the company of the famous as they were in mine, and vice-versa. 


This symbiotic relationship always fascinated me. I always understood it from the actor’s standpoint. These were the people who put up the money so that an actor could do that in life which made it worthwhile. There was no art without money, and much like artists throughout history; they sought patrons or sponsors in order to be able to do the thing that they loved and could not live without. It was why the wealthy crowd participated that intrigued me.

We knew that we certainly couldn’t use the example that we used for the actors, for unlike the performers, the wealthy didn’t need to provide art. Nor could it be the reason that the wealthy supported art in ancient history. In those times, the art was actually often about the family of the wealthy, or at least was displayed at the homes of the wealthy. Such could not be said of the movie industry, where the financial aspects of producing a film are, by and large, anonymous.

Was it the simple boredom of wealth, so that any event of any import drew them like a moth is drawn to a flame? Was it some insecurity, or lack of confidence that drew them to places where they could be admired by the rest of society for being asked to attend such functions? Was it that being rich was not enough, and that they felt jealous of those that were famous? Was it something in fact that they didn’t even understand about themselves? I know that I never figured out any of the reasons in my world, so I guess that I shouldn’t be too surprised at my lack of success here. In the end, as I was with the actors, I was just grateful that they were here to draw attention to the event.

And boy did this event draw attention! With the potential guest list revealed, Katie and her team were able to bring enough of the top level media people in that first day to make our announcement the lead item in the following day’s newspapers. From that moment on, we only had to continue to the parcel the story out in crumbs to the feed media frenzy that ensued. Such an event had never been held in Macundo’s history, and the press was both mystified and fascinated by every aspect of it. 


Andy seemed to take to it as a fish to water. He turned out to be a master at handling a press campaign. He dribbled information out to the media outlets like it was water in the desert. He massaged the egos of actors and media reps like a concert pianist massages the keys of his instrument in a grand performance. He took on these responsibilities as if he had been born to them, and did so suspiciously well that I finally confronted him. He confessed that in his mis-spent youth, he had been a press agent for a major movie studio; and that is where he learned the talents that we had appreciated soon after he joined us, as well as the ones that we were enjoying now. With his obvious gifts, and knowing the kind of money that such people can make, I couldn’t resist asking him why he had left such an impressive career when he obviously had the talent for it. Swearing me to secrecy, he sheepishly confessed to an affair with one of his studio’s starlets that got him asked leave his rather lucrative position both prematurely and rather abruptly. The affair with the starlet had ended soon after and just as abruptly, and she had managed to go on to a wonderful career. Andy had no real regrets over the experience, was very happy for her, and to this day, they remained friends.

He now considered that whole period of his life to have happened to someone else, seldom thought of it, and never spoke of it. I made no attempt to ask for a name, as it was obvious from his manner that not revealing such information was a point of honor for him, and it probably wouldn’t have meant anything to me anyway. It was also equally obvious that in some ways, he was still in love with her after all of these years. Under the circumstances, there was nothing else to do but ask Andy to leave the position that he had in his friend’s printing company and join us full time at the newly created position of press secretary.

What was it with these people that I had surrounded myself with, and the failed relationships that they had? It would have been rather depressing if I stopped to think about it, and I hoped that it would start to change soon for some, if not all of us.


We were barraged with requests for exclusive stories, private interviews, and for additional press passes, and Andy and Katie did their best to accommodate each and every request. They were working better and more smoothly together now than when Andy was not working directly for us, and really seemed to enjoy each other’s company. I think it had something to do with two basically good, creative people feeding off of each other’s ideas, like the great songwriting teams that I had grown up with. We wanted to be as amenable as possible with the media in all of this without giving away anything of the format of the event, and our new team was doing a wonderful job of maintaining a subtle air of mystery around the whole event that drove both the public and the media crazy.

All of the media attention about our coming event had the additional benefit of keeping all of our other problems out of the newspapers (funny that no one had thought of this when the plan was hatched, including me). This is not to say that these events were not going much better than they had been, they were. Both Andy’s and Katie’s situations had been put on hold in one way or another for the time being. Andy could only sit and wait while the investigators, prosecutors, and insurance people reviewed all of the evidence that had been gathered in the ongoing investigation and hope for the best. Since there was nothing for him to do at this point but worry, I think that the additional responsibilities that we put on him were helping to keep him from gnawing off his own leg in frustration. (And the fact that he was able to earn an honorable living while waiting for the result undoubtedly helped his self-esteem.) Katie’s advocate, shrewd manipulator of the legal process that he was, had managed to get a recess on her situation for three weeks. Katie laughed when she had asked how it was done, with her advocate saying,

Reason and logic have little to do with the law and you ought to know better than to ask such stupid questions, or to expect that having been asked, any lawyer worth a damn would willingly part with the arcane secrets of his profession.”

The situation that Misha was going through with the auditors about our books was also being resolved during this period, surprisingly enough. A great deal of hard financial detective work on her part, peppered with just a hint of luck, had brought some part of the true situation to light. It came down to the simplest of culprits in the end, a fox in the hen house. It turned out that one of her staff was secretly in the paid employ of Randall, and had been hiding receipts that had been turned in to him. Oh, it was all made to look like a simple, honest mistake when the facts began to come to light; but Misha was anything but simple, and it was obvious to her that the ‘gentleman’ in question was anything but honest.


After assembling all of the facts, Misha eventually decided to have a quiet talk with him, and having been well and truly caught in the act, he promised to produce all of the receipts that had been ‘misplaced’, likewise agreeing to sign and stand behind a statement that Misha would make regarding how this situation had occurred in the first place. In return, Misha promised not to publicly release his part in the details in this little adventure, or to see it prosecuted at this time. Misha also got a signed statement from him that he had been in the paid employ of Randall during the entire period that he had worked for us during the campaign. We weren’t prepared to do anything with it at this point, but you never knew when a document like that might come in handy in the future.

As for how the event itself would be laid out, Lorelei had decided that the entire thing was going to be held outside. The weather was usually gorgeous this time of year, and with the size of the crowd that we expected, there would be no way to keep them together otherwise. Lorelei had picked out a field next to the manor that appeared to be perfect for such an occasion (and had probably been designed for such events by the original planners of the Manor House). She quickly took over every aspect of protocol, and began to supervise the decorating of area for our use. While this was to begin as an early evening event, there was no telling how long it would carry on (late, we hoped). It was therefore decided that the trees that were lightly scattered around the area should be hung with lights, so as to allow things to carry on as late as we cared to allow it to. Under these trees tables were to be placed, to allow our guests the occasional respite, as well as for conversation, eating, and drinking. After all, listening to political speeches can be hungry and thirsty work.

As for the choice of food and beverage, it was mostly pretty simple. All Phillip and I had to do was describe to the chef and the wine steward the nature of the group of people that were going to be attending and the media coverage that would be a natural consequence of it. Their egos did all of the rest of the work on the menu for us. Before we knew it, they had each called in friends from the area’s finest local eating establishments. No chef worth his cookware wanted to be left out of an opportunity to prepare their particular specialties for this crowd and the attendant media circus involved. We were soon overrun by the delivery of delicacies in both food and wine from around the country; and with them the people who would be required to prepare and serve it. Phillip and I looked in on these chefs from time to time, just to see what they might be coming up with, but even he was quickly shooed out of the preparation areas with a curse and/or the application of a large serving spoon on such occasions.


A prince may become a king and someday rule a country, but a chef rules a kitchen in a much more personal and absolute monarchy on this, or any other world I had seen. As for the wine, the steward of the Manor worked closely with the chefs for the pairing of flavors, and less closely with Phillip and me. While he was a trifle more tolerant of us than the chef was, especially when I showed some interest in the subject, he never the less made it readily apparent to us that both our opinions and presence were not required. (It was obvious that he considered us less than rank amateurs, and both Phillip and I took no end of delight in arguing with his selections just to see him puff up and stalk off. It didn’t help the situation, but it certainly did lighten the mood as far as we were concerned.)

Music, always an important part of such events, was going to be performed throughout the evening by a number of different groups. Again with the famous nature of the group attending, and the media coverage for this event, all of the local musicians vied for participation. Lorelei met with a number of them, and felt that she had come up with an acceptable blend of styles. Some of it sounded like it wouldn’t be to my tastes, though it was very popular in Macundo at the time. (There was nothing in this world that in any way resembled rap music, a situation for which I was eternally grateful.) In fact, I was encouraged by the fact that Lorelei had additionally had the foresight to cause a dance floor to be assembled in the center of that area. While I can make no claims to be a dancer (and the only partner that I wanted was nowhere to be found), it seemed only logical that dancing would be a part of such an evening; and I looked forward to watching, if not participating in it. The area where the bands would be set up was also provided with a portable podium, which could be used or not by the speakers, for the speeches that we planned to be giving throughout the evening (strategically occurring while the respective musicians were changing places and setting up).


The process seemed to be going along relatively well, but also seemed to demand all of our waking moments over the next few days, and most especially mine. This was my idea in the first place and was something completely new to all of them. While I couldn’t say that I was any kind of expert at it, it was something that I certainly had more exposure to than anyone else on our team (or this world for that matter). Things that would have been taken for granted in our world, or that would have been expected to be taken care of as a natural consequence of such an event were completely outside of the realm of experience of the people surrounding me. I was asked what seemed at the time to be the dumbest questions on the minutest detail, and it always seemed that I was being called into a discussion of things on which my expert opinion (best guess) was required. I think that each of us fell asleep exhausted by the end of each day. (I know that I did.) All other campaign output had been put on autopilot by the respective department heads with the local organizations, and they were doing a wonderful job of it, thank goodness.

When the day of the event finally came, and there was nothing more that any of us could do. I called the first full morning meeting for senior staff since the decision on the party had been made.

People, I want all of you to go home for the rest of the day,” I said. “Each and every one of you has done a wonderful job helping to put this event together, and it's going to be terrific. There is nothing more for any of us to fix, even if we wanted to. This afternoon and evening are going to be very important, and I need to know that each one of you is ready to get the job done when it counts. So go home, kiss your husband, wife, and/or kids, and get some rest. Everything will come out OK because it has to. When you come back this evening, I want to know that each of you is well rested, and is prepared to enjoy yourself while good things begin to happen for us.”

It wasn’t a particularly moving speech, but it got the job done. Chairs began sliding back and singly and in pairs, they began to leave the room. Phillip and Lorelei remained sitting, but caught the look in my eye and moved towards the door as well. I saw Andy and Katie still sitting, and shrugged my shoulders.


I’m not even going to try with the two of you,” I said, looking towards them with just the hint of smile on my face. “I know Katie, that you want to give each speech one last look through, though I have to tell you, they’re perfect. As for you Andy, you’ve done all that you can do, and the rest will either happen or it won’t. I won’t order either of you to rest, but I will tell you that you are both critical to the success of this evening. I hope that you both will take enough care of yourself today so that you don’t let Phillip down tonight.”

Guilt is a powerful motivator, as I have already mentioned, and after another couple of minutes, they both stood. The three of us hugged, and separated to try and find something resembling rest for a couple of hours. I knew that I wouldn’t sleep, but also knew that the best way for me to prepare for the evening was to lie down and try to.

This is a trick that I learned a long time ago, and it seems to work for a number of people that I know. I have found over the years that by lying down and trying to rest, that I can run an entire situation through my head, almost on auto pilot. I go over many, if not all, of the potential problems that might arise, and possible solutions for their correction. Even though my body is resting, my mind is running at ninety miles an hour in something much like a dream state. When it’s over, I usually feel refreshed in spite of my mental exercise. I felt as if I had in fact slept, and was much more confident in my ability to deal with the situation ahead. I can’t and won’t say that this kind of thing will work for everyone, but throw it out there any way. If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t work, there is no harm done (it’s not like I actually care anyway). 


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