Once upon a time there was a nanny in Hollywood…an excerpt from Vickie Lester’s work in progress, #amwriting #HollywoodFiction

Marilyn Monroe in Griffith Park, photo by Ed Clark, 1950
Marilyn Monroe in Griffith Park, photo by Ed Clark, 1950


Billie’s introduction to Andrew and Isabel’s parents took place that night in the kitchen while she was doctoring a can of baked beans with onions and ketchup, topping some iceberg lettuce with Seven Seas Italian, and grilling some hot dogs to feed her new charges. Billie didn’t know if it was the processed feast she was preparing for the kids, or just her face that caused Mrs. Taylor’s jaw to drop when she sighted her. (If she had spent the time to consider, she would have definitely said it was the presence of breasts on her torso that set Mrs. Taylor off.) On the other hand, Mr. Taylor was grinning like he’d just got the Governor’s reprieve from the electric chair. He flung out his arms as he approached Billie and crowed, “Billie! Billie’s a nice East Coast girl! Harvard, right?” Mrs. Taylor stared at Mr. Taylor. “My cousin said you went to Harvard! Billie Price from Harvard!” Billie nodded as he gave her a one armed hug around the shoulders. Apparently Mrs. Taylor had been led to believe Billie was a young gentleman from Harvard, a former camp counselor who was related by marriage to her husband. A suitable replacement for Candice, who, as it turns out had shagged her husband one afternoon while the kids were at school and she was on the lot.

At the time Billie was the only thing they had going, so instead of packing her off back to Boston, she was given a schedule and a cash float and let loose with Andrew and Isabel. The kids guided her to their favorite place, Coldwater Canyon Park, a triangle of green just above Sunset Boulevard, where they played with their friends and Billie met their friends’ summer companions, a group of young woman just like herself; all between eighteen and twenty-one, all college girls. They congregated while the children ran and screamed and pelted each other with dirt and foliage and played their own games, which tended to be verbal instead of physical. Their favorite was a variation on the current, “Who’d ya rather?” It involved calling to mind some prominent fossil and querying, “Would you sleep with X for a million dollars?” Followed by the admonition, “Oh. Oh. And, you have to be serious!” For example, Billie was asked, “Would you sleep with Ronald Reagan for one million dollars?” Recalling that the presidential candidate was in his seventies and older than her grandfather, she declined. “Okay! How about Ed McMahon?” was the next challenge.

“No way!” Billie shrieked, while Polly, an intense red head that was studying Law at USC took a drag on her cigarette and then dropped the butt beneath her heel and ground it out.

Polly squinted in the direction of Nell, her eight-year-old summer task, and said, “I would.”

“Ew,” the girls chorused around her.

“I sure as hell would,” Polly rejoined. “I’m up to eyes in school loans. Screw the million. I’d do it for ten thousand dollars and a Quaalude.” Polly made them all seem frivolous. Here was a girl who really did take the game seriously.

Darla, an Irish transplant studying at Cal Arts shook her head in disbelief and then let fly a string of expletives only a sweet souled Catholic girl could produce. “Fer feck’s sake! You’re talking rubbish. Why do you say things like that? Really, Polly, really!”

“What is it you don’t like, the drugs or the dollar amount?” Polly asked.

“Looks lads,” that was another language tick of Darla’s: guys translated to lads, “What I don’t fer feck all like is that you’re debasing yourself, devaluing yourself!” When Darla was feeling righteous she shook her dark brown hair and narrowed her green eyes to sharp slits.

“No, I’m not. This whole game is about what you would you do for money. It’s about assigning value. I’m just being real; I’d do it for a reduced rate and a pill to take the edge off,” asserted Polly.

Darla wouldn’t let it go. “Feck no, you wouldn’t.”

“Yeah, I would.”

Nell, a super-sonic dart of energy burst onto Polly’s field of vision and then headed straight into her kneecaps. Flinging her skinny arms around Polly’s legs she directed her plea to Polly’s crotch. “Can we go to Baskin-Robbins? Please?”

Polly held onto Nell as the child arched her spine back and beamed up at her face. Polly couldn’t help but smile. “Anybody else want to go to the Valley?”

“Yes. No. Wait,” voiced Jane Dryden, a girl from Pasadena whose highest aspiration was to work as an account executive at Leo Burnett in Chicago — an ad agency noted for their clever humor — after she finished her degree at Syracuse University, a preppy reject school smack dab in the middle of a hideous snow belt. Jane favored short hair, bright pink lipstick, and no one had ever seen her without either pearls or diamond studs in her earlobes. She was a multi-tasker. She tuned into the secret histories of their employers, corralled three hyper (verging on violent) boys, Ryan, Patrick, and Sean, and knew that on the weekends you were liable to get picked up by another woman at Peanuts on Sunset Boulevard and that for the best dancing it was the Crush Bar on Cahuenga in Hollywood. Another tidbit she provided was that her new friends were to never, ever, pay any attention to a certain well known actor at Chalet Gourmet where he was often seen haunting the aisles. An innocuous “hello” on his part and a question about quail versus squab could lead to a very pleasant, very prolonged evening sans clothes, after which they would certainly join the ranks of thousands of young ladies who never saw the star again.

Dancers by Erté
Dancers by Erté

© Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vickie Lester and Beguiling Hollywood with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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