Turning Blue Chapter Three: Uninvited Visitors (Pt. 1)

Turning Blue Book Cover

Chapter Three: Uninvited Visitors

The camera was rolling on a three-wall bedroom set in a corner of the cavernous sound stage. The set was lit with warm Tung sten lights, bright in relation to the rest of the space, which was so cluttered and gloomy that it was easy to trip over a wooden support beam for a flat or a piece of furniture or equipment carelessly placed. The first indication that the crew had that something was wrong was when someone suddenly switched on the overhead fluorescent lights in the middle of the scene.

“Hey!” Jack peered up from the viewfinder of the camera. “Who turned on the house lights?”

“What the hell?” Travis leapt out of the director’s chair. “Cut!” Tiffany and Colt, who had just begun the first of the two projected oral positions abruptly ceased their action, and disengaged from one another. Colt needed to maintain his edge, and Tiffany was not about to fornicate for free, if the camera was not turning. Crouching beside them, Tommy lowered his handheld light, wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his thick glove, and groaned.

“Oh, jeez.” Travis took it in. “Guess who?”

There were policemen, of every stripe and shape, swarming around them. There were uniformed LAPD patrolmen, with pistols drawn; there was a military-style SWAT team in flak jackets, with bulletproof armor and semi-automatic weapons; there were special agents in blue windbreakers that read FBI in yellow letters on the back; and there were clean-shaven, crew-cut detectives in suits and ties, with bulges under their outfits where they kept their holsters, who could only be the Vice Squad. Walkie-talkies crackled, handcuffs jangled. The policemen fanned out in formation through the building. They moved with martial precision, giving no warning to their approach. They blocked the exits, which had recently been certified for clear access by Officer Fleet of the Los Angeles Fire Department. They inspected the video and lighting equipment. They poured through the various standing sets–the jail cell, the bar, the girl’s shower room, the classroom–as if they were probing for evidence.

“Let me deal with it,” Beppo said grimly, “It’s me they want.” With a heavy step, Beppo walked towards the stage exit into the hands of the Feds, as Howard came breathlessly through the door after sprinting down the hallway.

“Travis…I couldn’t do anything….” apologized the production manager, who felt that it was his responsibility to halt the invasion, and that he was going to have to accept the blame for it, “They crashed in like a SWAT team.”

“They are a SWAT team, Howard,” Travis enlightened him. “We’re dangerous criminals.”

“What the hell do they want with us?” Jack demanded, “There’s no crime in the streets for them?”

Travis, who had a morbid fear of imprisonment, was not thrilled that they had visitors but he had a show to produce, and he was not going to let the police, earthquakes, or a plague of locusts prevent him. The show must go on was the creed. “Well, we’re down, of course, but we’re not out.” He gave instructions to Howard. “Makeup works, lighting works. See if you can call an early lunch.”

“You want to come and talk to them?” asked Howard, who did not want to talk to them himself.

Neither did Travis. “No. I’ve got nothing to do with it. I’m just a hired hand, same as you. Let Beppo handle it.”

Recognizing that their love scene was on hold, Colt and Tiffany clambered off the bed and wrapped towels around their bodies. “We’re going to get some clothes on, sir.” Colt walked barefoot across the cold floor of the stage. “I hate cops looking at my dick.”

“Me too,” said Tiffany, picking a path over the electric cables in her high-heels, “Sorry about this, Travis. Scene was going well too.”

“Thanks, honey.” Travis waved them on. “Go ahead.” Then, he realized that she was going to have to cross through a police barrier in a skimpy towel to get to the dressing room. “Howard, escort them back.”

As soon as the performers marched away in Howard’s charge, Travis snatched a broom from one of the production assistants, and with his head down, began to sweep up the stage, pretending to be a stagehand. Jack ambled off to the makeup room to double check that Maria knew to continue working, even though the camera had stopped rolling, and to see if there was any progress on the idea of an early lunch, or at least a sandwich. Tommy cooled the lights, and began to move some equipment over to the classroom, which was the next set that they planned to shoot. There were six chairs and tables, a blackboard upon which the ominous word DETENTION was writ ten in chalk letters, and a desk upon which the sex scene would take place. Tommy stared blankly at the set, scratching his head.

“So, boss,” he asked Travis, “You want us to keep lighting?”

“Jeez, Tommy, don’t talk to me like I’m in charge,” said Travis, sweeping the stage floor as furiously as an Olympic curling finalist on ice.

“Well, if you were in charge, I need to know the placement of the camera for the next set-up….” the electrician said in a low voice.

“Where it always goes,” Travis murmured, “Low angle in the corner.”
“Uh…which corner?”

“Pick one,” said Travis, still impersonating a janitor and refusing to accept directorial responsibilities.

His subterfuge was a dismal failure. He was instantly approached by a detective of medium build in a dapper suit with a yellow tie, which seemed to match his jaundiced complexion, and short black hair, shellacked into place with a sweet-smelling ointment, on an on ion-shaped head. To identify himself, he wore his detective’s shield on a heavy metal chain around his neck, like a rap musician with a dazzling bling medallion.

“You the director?” the detective asked.

“Well, it doesn’t look like anybody is directing anything,” Travis said, trying to be cagey.

The officer was not deterred. “You’re Travis Lazar, right?” “Right. That’s me.”

“Perez.” The man introduced himself, and handed Travis his card. “Vice.”

“Nice to meet you,” Travis said, getting past the handshake as quickly as possible. The business card said, Luis Perez, in small letters, and there was a telephone number, but nothing else printed on the card.

“I’ve been looking forward to finally meeting you,” Perez said, with a gleam in his black eyes.

“Enchanté,” Travis replied, tucking the business card into his pocket.

The conversation between them went no further, because Perez was interrupted by a very efficient FBI agent, from the Organized Crime Division, who needed a confidential word with him. They stepped through the exit back into the hallway, followed in a loose file by the rest of the cops who continued scrutinizing everything, even as they departed.

After a minute, Howard came back and gazed in bewilderment at Travis, who was still operating the broom.

“What are you doing with a broom in your hand?” Howard asked.

“Sweeping up.”

“They’re all gone. They just disappeared out the front. We’re totally above board. We pay taxes. We recycle. We wipe up after ourselves. They know that about us. What did they want?”

“Just to screw with Beppo.” Travis relinquished the broom, leaning it up against the wall of the jail set, which was now the cleanest cell floor in America.

“What–for old time’s sake, or what?”

“Something like that.”

Beppo returned, but he was wearing his coat, and there was an uncharacteristic quickness to his step. “We’re okay,” he assured them, “But I’m not supposed to be here. Technically.”

“You worked it out?” Travis checked.

“Just don’t tell anyone you saw me,” he said mysteriously, and without another word, he slipped off the premises through the mandatory push-bar fire exit in the rear wall, which had previously been inspected for code violations by Officer Fleet.

As the door closed behind him, Howard burst out, “Does Majestic Movies have bail money in the budget? In case the executive producer is captured during production?”

“Come on, Howard,” Travis tried to calm him, “Back to work. We’ve lost enough time with all the excitement. Bonfire’s out.” “That’s what you think,” argued Howard, because now there was a new problem to address, “Tiffany just informed me that she does not want to finish the scene with Colt.”

“We didn’t even cover the BJ…”

“Well, the FBI takes precedence over the BJ. That’s all you’re going to get from her. It will be a short scene.”

“What’s her latest problem?” sighed Travis, who had rather preferred sweeping up over producing.

“She just retired from the business,” Howard announced. “In the middle of my movie?”

“Yes. The cops scared the hell out of her.”

As rapidly as if the building were in flames, Tiffany was throwing her clothes unfolded into an open suitcase in the makeup room. She had changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and tied her hair back into a ponytail, although she still wore fake eyelashes and heavy makeup. Colt was in the make-up chair, barely wearing his towel, while Maria dabbed him with the faintest hint of powder. It was not typical for rugged male porn stars to use any make-up at all, in case a slur was cast on their professional masculinity, but, after the police action, Colt was so shaken that he felt he needed pampering. “I can’t believe that they can just walk in like that,” Maria consoled him.

“They’re just trying to get a cheap thrill,” complained Colt, “Hoping to see some naked babe.”

The ever-punctual Traci, who was not scheduled to appear until later in the day, was curled up on the couch in what looked like pajamas. “You know Travis and his costume epics…He did this one where the cops showed up on some street parking spot check thing….”

“Hoping to see some skin, you mean…” Colt chimed in. “Yeah,” Traci continued, “But Travis had all the girls in Victorian dresses with collars up to their chins, and the cops were so disappointed.”

“I was the lead in that movie,” Colt remembered, “I was Jack the Dripper.”

Muttering a string of curse words, Tiffany sat on top of her suitcase to force it shut, because her shoes and boots took up so much room. She was almost out the door with it and Coochie under one arm when Travis blocked her path.

“I’m sorry, Travis,” the star apologized, “I explained it all to Howard. I’m retiring.”

There was dead silence in the room after this pivotal announcement.

Travis spoke in a quiet and serious tone. “Maria. Traci. Colt. Excuse us please.”

Maria and Traci scuttled out of the make-up room in a hurry. They did not want to be around to witness the ensuing confrontation, although they expected to hear the choicest parts of the conflict from as far away as the green room.

Colt took a moment to reassure the embattled producer. “Just want you to know, I’m ready to do the scene, either way. If it’s Tiffany, great. If not, whoever you need me to fuck, I’m here for you, sir.”

“Thanks, Colt,” Travis acknowledged, “That’s good to know.” Colt left the room, thinking it best to shut the door behind him. Tiffany folded her arms, put down Coochie, and struck a pose, the effect of which was diminished, because her suitcase toppled onto the dog, who gave a little yelp, and she had to lift it up and put it on the sofa (the dog).

“I know you’re probably pissed,” the star said, ready for a fight.

“Not at you, Tiffany.” Travis showed no sign of confrontation. “I know you got spooked by the cops. So did I. We all did. It’s never a nice feeling.”

“It totally freaked me out, Travis. I can’t do this anymore.”

Travis did not make it a practice to try to coerce porn stars, which was not only unethical but always backfired, so he attempted reverse psychology instead. “Tiffany, you do whatever you like. It’s fine with me.”

“How can they just walk in like that?”

“How can you let them win?” Travis adopted a philosophical air, as he tried to play for time to give the star a chance to cool down. “The thing about what we do is, yeah, we’re out there all right. We’re on the edges, pushing the boundary of what people have the right to do and read and watch….”

Tiffany did not think of herself as a heroine of free speech. “We make great use of that right, Travis. Gangbangs, gonzo and garbage.”

“People love garbage,” protested the producer.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot. Nobody watches these movies.”

“People should have the right to watch any garbage they choose.”

“Especially when it’s about who has the biggest tits.” Tiffany crossed her arms over her chest.

“Don’t let them win, Tiff,” he said, with what passed as resignation, letting her think it was his last word on the subject. He reached for the door-handle, but he did not open the door.

“What about my rate?” inquired the star, evidently feeling sorry for him.

“What do you mean, your rate?” the producer echoed.

“Well, it’s like I already did the scene once.” She held up a single finger. “Now you expect me to do it again, I should get paid again.”

“Tiffany, it’s the same scene,” Travis explained, “We never finished it. The cops came in….”

“It’s not my fault that the cops came in. Now I have to fuck twice.”

“Come on, Tiffany,” Travis negotiated, “I’ll give you a ten percent bump.”

“No, Travis. Pay me my rate.” She folded her arms across her cleavage again. “Pay me my rate, or I don’t do the scene.”

When it came to extortion, rather than Tiffany, Travis would have preferred dealing with Beppo the Bear. “I don’t do business like this, Tiffany.”

“Hey, you said it, it’s business. I do this for money. Yes, I love sex, we all love sex, but I do this for the money. You’ll make money on this movie, so will Beppo, and you know why. My picture on the box cover.”

“So, meet me halfway, okay? I’ll keep the scene short.”

“Okay,” Tiffany agreed because she already got more than she expected, “And you don’t have to keep the scene short.”

They were not ready to go back to work because, against all expectations, Howard had succeeded in arranging an early lunch, which consisted of flame-broiled chicken affectionately referred to as El Porno Loco by the crew. Howard always preferred to eat alone at his desk in the production office, and he had just completed making himself an appetizing plate of white meat only, with mashed potatoes and hot gravy, beans and coleslaw, when Tommy made a desperate entrance.
The electrician was too overcome to effectively communicate his bulletin. “They’re back, you know, Howard…uh…you’ve got company.”

“What do you mean in English?”

“Yeah…they’re here,” Tommy said uncertainly.

Fortunately, Maria appeared, and explained herself more succinctly. “You’d better come outside, Howard…where’s Travis?”

“Dealing with Tiffany.” He put down his plate of chicken. “What about Beppo?” asked the makeup artist.

“Beppo took off. He’s not supposed to be here.”

“Executive producer on the lam…whoa…not a good sign….” The electrician, a frequent victim of the random thunderbolts of fortune, was highly superstitious. “There’s not so many of them…was an army last time…now it’s just a few.”

“Maybe there was a crime wave while every cop in LA was on porn duty,” Howard remarked.

See more from Stuart Canterbury‘s Turning Blue here

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