Turning Blue Chapter Four: Johnny Raw and the Girl from Ohio (Pt. 1)

Turning Blue Book Cover

Chapter Four: Johnny Raw and the Girl from Ohio

“He put the stick of licorice up his ass, Travis, like a tail, and ran up and down the hallway barking….”

“Listen,” Travis said confidentially, “As long as he puts things up his ass, and not up his nose, we’ll be okay.”

In the green room, Colt, at liberty on his own recognizance pending a court appearance, had just selected a stick of licorice from the table, when, hands in his pockets, Johnny Raw sauntered into the room.

He was wearing a pair of white pants that he might have slept in, if he had spent the night in a ditch, and a loose long-sleeve shirt all of one hue that was not quite purple, not quite pink, and not quite red. “How do you do?” he held out his hand boldly towards Colt, “I’m Johnny Raw….”

“You asshole, Phil…” Colt never liked him, and refused to give him the satisfaction of referring to him by his notorious pseudonym.

“I just want to introduce myself,” he said, in an aw-shucks way.

“We made eight movies together, you moron.”

“Yeah…now it all comes back to me…hmmm…hmmm….” he broke into humming a song, “Remember that scene where I’m driving the convertible…nobody knew it but I actually shit my pants on camera…so I’m driving along, flirting with the girl, doing my dialog, while I am physically sitting in a pile of my own excrement….” He paused in the middle of his own stream of consciousness reminiscence, “You going to eat that?”

“The licorice?”

“I wouldn’t,” he advised.

“Why not?”

Johnny gave a coy smirk. “I just wouldn’t, that’s all. If I were you.”

“You are so full of bullshit, Phil.” Colt put the stick in his mouth, sucking it up, the way children eat spaghetti.

“Don’t eat it, Colt!” Maria called out, a moment too late, “He had it up his ass.”

It was probably not the same stick of licorice that Johnny had defiled, but Colt gulped, and gagged, and knocked over a stack of paper cups in his desperation for a bottle of water. His tongue hanging out, he dashed right out of the room to gargle with mouthwash and to brush his teeth, and was not seen by anyone for the rest of the day.

“What haven’t you touched here, Johnny?” the makeup artist demanded, looking over the table of food.

“Haven’t touched you yet,” he flirted, and swept her into his arms dramatically, “Are you doing a scene?”

“No,” she said, patiently extricating herself, “I’m crew. Make-up. You’re doing your scene with Tiffany West.”

Tiffany drove through the gates into the parking lot, only twenty minutes later than her call time because she had to stop to pick up a latte on the way. She drove with the top down on the convertible on such a sunny morning, and even incognito, in sweats and without makeup, fans recognized her on the way to the sound stage. People waved and honked their horns whenever she pulled up at a light, which sent Coochie into a snarling fit. Her license plate said TFFNY X, but she was so famous that she did not need it for everybody to know who she was.

She circled the parking lot once, and found a legal spot right next to the building. She was not going to get another ticket, after donating her hard-earned money to the city of Los Angeles who injudiciously sided with the fire department the last time. Tiffany popped open the trunk of the car, so that the production assistant could come and help her with her suitcase, and made her entrance into the building.

“I’m ba-a-ack,” sang the star, walking through the double doors.

“Perfect timing, Tiffany,” Howard greeted her, although she was not exactly punctual.

“Is the guy here?” she asked.

“Sure.” Howard pushed Johnny towards her. “Let me introduce you. Tiffany, this is Johnny Raw.”

The actor stood sheepishly in front of her, his hands clasped in front of his waist, as she looked him up and down, and the way that Howard explained it, her mouth dropped like a sandbag and her face turned to steel.

Maria went to get Travis from the production office. “You’d better come, Travis,” said the makeup artist.

He was just dialing out to see if Beppo would be venturing onto the set, but the producer hung up the telephone without asking any questions. “All right.”

“Tiffany is going to walk.”

Howard tried his utmost to keep her busy in the makeup room while Maria was racing for help. He sent a production assistant to get Tiffany’s luggage from the car. He sent another production assistant to bring her a fresh coffee and some fruit and a bottle of fizzy water for her and a bowl of tap water for Coochie. He showed her Johnny’s AIDS test, which was up to date, because Johnny had picked it up from the clinic the day before. Howard pointed out the items line by line so she would understand, and explained how negative meant healthy, but Tiffany did not seem impressed.

“How come I’ve never met this guy before?” she demanded, talking as if Johnny were nothing more than a hat-stand, “How long has he been in the business?”

“He’s a great actor. He’s done hundreds of movies.” Howard looked at Johnny from the corner of his eye, hoping that he was a great enough actor and had done enough movies to know when to keep his mouth shut. Speechless, Johnny froze his lips into something like a whimsical smile, which only made him look macabre.

Travis strode into the makeup room, as if he were a gunfighter entering a saloon in a Western. “What’s the problem, honey?”

“Just look at him,” she grimaced, “I mean, he’s dirty… He smells… His clothes are full of creases….”

Johnny hung his head in shame, accepting that her rebuke was well deserved. His hair was unkempt. He had a three-day stubble on his face. There was a stale, sticky odor to him, like smoke clinging to fabric. He ran his hands up and down his uniquely-colored shirt, trying to smooth out the wrinkles.

“Let’s get him right into the shower, Howard,” Travis instructed. Howard muttered something in reference to his job description, plucked Johnny by the sleeve, and led him to the bathroom.

As soon as they were out of the room, Maria contributed her opinion. “Travis, his garments look like they haven’t been pressed this century.”

The producer did not consider the actor’s wardrobe to be a problem. “He’s not going to be wearing clothing in the scene.”

“I just met him,” Tiffany said, “And I already hate him. I’m not going to have sex with him.”

“All right, Tiffany.” Travis was not going to get into a battle he could not win. “We don’t try to make you do something that’s not comfortable. But my problem is that you’re already established in the movie, and you’ve already shot the box cover.”

Beppo, who was not really supposed to be there, had heard the rumors all the way through the parking lot, where he had been loitering, and all the way down the hallway, and he came into the makeup room to see for himself.

“You already have one scene with me and Colt,” Tiffany told them, “The guy is disgusting. I’m not doing it with him, and that’s final.”

In a desperate attempt to improve in her esteem, Johnny was taking a shower, lathering himself with more soap and shampoo and shaving cream than he had seen in a week, while Howard kept an eye on him. It was impossible to predict what kind of antics might result if he were allowed to roam around unsupervised.

“Be honest, Howard…” Johnny taunted him, caressing himself unabashedly, “You’re getting a kick out of this…come on, come on… admit it to uncle Johnny…This is your thing to watch a man in the shower….”

“I can’t hide anything from you, Johnny,” Howard replied caustically, “You got me right there. I’ve dreamed of this moment all my life.”

“Hey, Howard, you sure, you don’t want to wash little Junior for me…?” Johnny was a slippery mass of foam, and delighted in the film and bubbles forming in the crevices of his body, “How about a little globule of soap in the asshole…Don’t you just love that when the soap gets all squishy and gushy up your anus… Hey, personal hygiene, right?”

“Johnny, if you knew anything about personal hygiene, I wouldn’t have to be in here scrubbing you. Tiffany is right. You’re a pig.”

Johnny was crestfallen, and hung his head again. “I am? You know, what, Howard, you’re right. I’ve let myself down. I know I have….” His voice got a despondent sing-song tone. “It’s just…this girl…the girl who’s in my life, Gloria, you know…she’s got this kid…and…well…Gloria and me…we fight a little….” He was finished clowning around in the bathroom, and tilted his head back to let the hot water rinse him clean. “I wish we didn’t …we didn’t fight…because the truth is I love this girl, so much, and boy, Howard, I’ll tell you what, boy, do I love that little kid….”

Howard reached in and turned off the shower. He took a towel from the rack, and held it open for Johnny to step into it. He shook his head solemnly. “You shouldn’t put so much of that shit up your noses, Phil.”

The presence of Johnny Raw on the set caused a stir among the crew. Everyone had worked with him some time or another, and everyone had a Johnny Raw story. He was universally admired, and universally disliked. They were all talking about him when, with Beppo at his heels, Travis stepped onto the set to check that lighting was primed for the scene.

“How are we doing?” Travis asked Tommy.

“Just adding a double,” Tommy said from the top of the ladder, as he dropped a mesh scrim onto a light to soften the edge for the blonde performers who would glow radioactively on camera if the glare was too harsh, “Makes us ready.”

Jack said, “I was just saying that the scene will be between Johnny Raw and Tiffany West.”

His ablution duties with Johnny completed, Howard came through the door. “It’s not going to be Tiffany West.”

“What happened?” Travis asked.

It was definitive. “Tiffany West just drove off.”

They all poured out into the parking lot to make certain it was not a bluff, or to have a ringside view of the tantrum, were that to erupt, but sure enough, they were just in time to see her convertible screeching through the gates and down the street, as if she were being pursued by paparazzi.

“She just walked out, Travis,” Howard apologized, “There was nothing I could do. Ask Maria.”

“She said she wasn’t going to work with Johnny Raw unless hell freezes over, and took off,” Maria testified in his defense.

“She didn’t have to work with him,” Travis said resignedly, “We needed her to finish the picture.”

“We can probably cut around her,” Jack advised.

Beppo shook his head. “You’re still going to need the sex scene. We can’t put out a movie with only four scenes.”

Everyone considered who could be brought in at short notice to replace Tiffany.

“What about Traci?” proposed Maria.

Howard had thought of that. “She’s shooting on Catalina island today.”

“Summer Rainfall is in town,” Jack suggested.

“She is with the Duchess on Forbidden Desire.” Howard shook his head. “Her last day.”

“All right.” Travis took charge. “Howard, get on the phone to Billy Dallas. Line up a replacement. Jack, keep that set hot. I want to be able to go without any delay as soon as we’re back. We’re losing time now. Have the electricians start working on the next set. Maria, go on a break. I’m going to need you to operate like a paint gun when the next girl shows.”

“I don’t need a break, Travis,” protested Maria, who had not done anything except have breakfast.

“I have nothing else for you to do at the moment. Let me talk to Beppo alone.”

Travis and Beppo lingered outside, when the rest of the crew went back indoors. They needed to talk away from the crew, and they could keep an eye on the parking lot, in case Tiffany decided to return or there were any more surprise guests, and Beppo was much more comfortable outside than inside the building, since he was not supposed to set foot on an adult movie set for five years in terms of his parole.

“She didn’t want to work with Johnny Raw,” summarized Beppo.

“We’re fine.”

“You couldn’t blame her,” he said philosophically, “Look how he shows up.”

“You wanted to hire him, so did I,” Travis generously shared the blame.

“That’s how he is,” shrugged Beppo, who had known Johnny for years and understood the heartbreak that he was hiding behind his bravado. He had drowned his own talent and anguish in an assortment of intoxicants.

“It doesn’t matter. We’re still in good shape. You have Tiffany West on the box, and she is already in one short scene with Colt, plus the solo. The story can easily be written around her…I didn’t give her much dialog anyway.”

“She doesn’t act.” Beppo understood that even a star of Tiffany’s magnitude had limitations to her abilities.

“Plus you save money,” Travis said, starting to think about how to offset the mounting overtime expenses, “This new girl will cost less than Tiffany, and besides you get one more girl into the cast.”

Beppo still had a question on his mind. “But who?”

Kimberly, the pale, shy newcomer from Ohio, was sitting on the leather couch in Billy Dallas’ office, waiting for an opportunity to knock, when Howard called. She had been hoping for just such a chance. Her rent was due, at the month-to-month studio where she was staying, and a single role would take care of the payment in one fell swoop. She did not quite understand the prestige of getting cast in a Travis Lazar production, even though Billy Dallas tried to explain to her how important the producer was. She vaguely remembered meeting him in the casting office, but there had been so many producers and directors and promoters to meet. She had to do her quick strip and twirl for all of them. Some of them took photographs or videos. Everyone was nice, not counting when they were creepy. She had never heard of Johnny Raw, and there was not even a picture of him in Billy’s books, because he did not have an agent. All she knew
was that he was white, and he had his test, and Billy promised that he was not super big, so she agreed to do the scene.

“Okay.” Howard ran out to the parking lot to find Travis and Beppo. “I got us a girl. She’ll be here in twenty minutes.”

“Great.” Travis glanced at his wristwatch. “We’re back in business.”

“Who’s the girl?” Beppo wanted to know.

“Her name’s Kimberly. From Ohio. She’s new. I got her from Billy Dallas. He says she’s good. She’ll do the scene with Johnny Raw.”

“I know Kimberly.” Travis was uneasy. “I wish we could have got someone else.”

“Well, I already told her yes,” protested Howard, “She’s on her way over here.”

Travis tried to think of a way out of it. “Well, what happens if I don’t like her when she gets here?”

“The poor girl, Travis,” sympathized Howard.

“No.” Beppo did not want to start a new predicament, which might involve cancellation fees, and also conscious of the looming overtime costs, he was relieved that they had someone on the way.

“You can’t send her back.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” encouraged Howard, “She wants to work.”

“You told her it was Johnny Raw?” Travis checked.

“Yes,” said Howard, and before the producer asked, he reported,

“He’s okay. He’s in the green room. He took his shower.”

Johnny was pouring his heart out to Maria, who, forced onto a break, had nothing else to do but listen to his melancholy tale. They sat side by side on the couch in the green room under the overpowering redolence of Johnny’s fresh cologne. Maria was captivated. He gazed into her eyes with such a doleful expression, and there was a plaintive lilt to his voice, which made her want to stroke him.

He pressed his palms together, like a supplicant. “This girl I’m living with, Gloria, sometimes when we’re together I get so depressed….”

“I thought you said she made you happier than any other person you ever met…?”

“Well, yes, and that’s true…I also get depressed around her…For example, this business, if she ever found out….” He laughed hollowly, and shook his head, “I mean she knows, of course…she never mentions it…but, like if she knew that I was here today….”

“Where did you tell her that you were?” Maria interrupted.

“No, she doesn’t know…I mean, she knows I’m on a set…but she doesn’t know I’m in the movie….”

This was disturbing news to the make-up artist. “What does she think?”

“I told her I work at the stage…Like a stage manager…She would be upset if she found out that I was doing a scene…but, hell, you know, I really need the money….” Johnny stopped talking in mid-sentence, because Travis and Howard were in the doorway with Kimberly, and Beppo was hovering nervously behind them in the hallway.

Kimberly took in Johnny and the green room with wide eyes and a deep breath. Waiting for her reaction, Travis, Howard and Beppo were all too anxious to breathe.

Howard said cautiously, “Uh…Johnny, this is Kimberly….” He presented the aspiring starlet to Johnny, “Kimberly, this is Johnny Raw…This is who you’ll be doing your scene with….”

Without standing up off the sofa, Johnny dropped to one knee, caught her hand, and gallantly kissed it. Kimberly gave a little curtsey in response, and turned her head shyly. Travis and Howard exchanged a glance, encouraged by the success of the introduction.

“Okay?” Travis asked tensely.

“Is it okay?” echoed Howard, expecting the worst.

Kimberly did not see what the concern was. “Sure. He’s fine.”

They all breathed a sigh of relief.

See more from Stuart Canterbury‘s Turning Blue here

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