Did I mention she’s also a damn good writer?
She’s also a damn good writer!
“Have you ever been to Musso & Frank’s?”
She shook her head. “It’s a restaurant, right?”
“Where have you been?”
“Mostly in Manhattan,” she responded.
“It’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. Unbelievable! It’s an institution! It’s where I first saw your father.” Now Anne was hooked and Cliff was warming up to tell a story, which he semaphored by flicking out his fingers like asterisks. “Musso’s. Built late teens. Two big rooms. One all red leather and dark wooden booths and the best grill in town with this crazy big copper hood where we, you and I, are going to sit and watch them fire up our steaks and eat mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.”
“Trust me, you’ll love it. The other room is just tables and a bar. A set of booths run the perimeter and the one in the corner—the one that looks out over the entire room—is the power spot. It’s where Eisner and Clint Eastwood and your father used to sit. When we were kids—me and my friends—we were all, you know, assistants. We worked in mailrooms, walked dogs, whatever, any jobs we could muster. But we all had this,” he growled, “thing going on where we wanted to BE, you get it?
“I get it.”
“Right. Players. So we would dress up in suits and ties once a month and pool our money, you know, because normally all we could afford was Denny’s, and we would reserve a table right in the middle of the room, right in the eye line of the power booth. We called ourselves The Cannibal Club, and we even had a motto: Entertainment or Death.”
Anne laughed. He leaned forward and tucked a hank of her hair behind her ear.
“Really. All we did was pretend we were important and drink so much we didn’t notice the waiter was padding the bill. Jesus, it took us two years to figure it out and get the rat-fucker fired. You like classical music?”
Interesting segue. “Yes, I do,” Anne replied.
“Check out the hands,” Cliff said, proudly displaying his. “Big bear paws just like Brahms. There’s a concert grand in the living room. Come on.”
Anne followed him happily into a room with a soaring ceiling and low- slung couches; they were a design statement, and even she, small as she was, found them dwarfish and slightly painful. Cliff played Beethoven impressively; Anne couldn’t name the piece but it was very dramatic, Germanic, the whole nine yards. When she unfolded herself from her seat and asked him why he wasn’t a pianist he said, “My assistant logs in at least a hundred calls a day for me. I’m too social; if I were up to performance level that would be a minimum of six hours of practice every waking day of my life, too much discipline, too much solitude.” Anne cocked her head up to listen more closely. She liked the sound of his voice.
He liked the serious, questioning, intelligence in her eyes, although it was a little unnerving. He wondered if those eyes were even bigger and more penetrating with her glasses off. Cliff, looking down into her upturned face, recognized a moral imperative forming in his frontal lobe that had to do with full disclosure, while something he wasn’t immediately aware of was brewing deep in his medial temporal lobes that resulted in a distinct snugness in his pants. “You can tell I’m off my game. When Chopin played, women would faint.”
“Like The Beatles?” Asked Anne.