Back in the beginning of Genedom, before Madra, Violet and Trent were introduced, Mel Odom mentioned a possible man in Gene’s life. He was handsome and sophisticated of course, but wasn’t in the movie business. He owned a popular Hollywood nightclub called the Green Parrot.
The possibilities were very exciting, but the gentleman’s name, Axis Minion, was unfortunate, especially for a mythology set during World War II. Despite his name I was always intrigued by Mr. Minion and was inspired to write an account of what Gene’s first encounter with him might have been like....
“Solitary Evening” by Robin Harsh
Gene thanked the driver and said goodnight, apologizing again for keeping him so late. They were shooting a crowded and complicated party scene, she explained. She didn’t mention that this was her third 12-hour day in a row.
“Don’t worry about it, Miss Marshall. The studio keeps a few of us on the clock after the gates close for the day, ‘cause there’s almost always a production crew working late somewhere on the lot. Sittin’ in the motor pool playin’ poker and waitin’ for a call ain’t such a bad way to earn a buck!” Smiling, he waved goodbye and pulled away.
With a sigh Gene turned to take the path around the main building rather that go through the lobby. She was just too tired to be drawn into any of the conversations swirling through bar or dining room. It was chilly enough tonight that she was willing to bet the pool was deserted and she would be able to make straight for her little bungalow. She pulled her navy blue velveteen coat closer around her and was grateful for the caprice of fashion that had provided full under sleeves of chocolate brown.
Hurrying past the swimming pool--silent now and glowing from the new and very modern lights beneath the surface—Gene wondered for about the millionth time when she would ever have the time to get out and find a house or apartment of her own. As exciting and glamorous as it had been to find herself living at the Beverly Hills Hotel, after two months in Hollywood she was ready to move on. Her cottage was clean and certainly nice enough, but it was tiny even for only one person. And though most of the other inhabitants were actors or actresses living temporarily at the Hotel while they were either on their way up or out, it was also home to a colony of East Coast authors come to work as screenwriters. Any notion Gene may have had about quiet, thoughtful men and women forever hunched over their typewriters was proven wrong almost immediately—the entire group seemed to live in one noisy and never-ending cocktail party, usually centered around the beautiful pool. The rare quiet tonight had more to do with the uncomfortably cool December night than any cessation in the carousing. The party had only moved for the evening to the Mocombo or the Green Parrot, she was sure.
But for now the Hotel was home, and Gene was awfully glad to be there.
Once inside her own bungalow she paused only long enough to drop her purse, gloves and hat on the table by the door and kick her shoes off before going straight back to her bedroom. Coat patted smooth on a hanger, skirt draped over the back of the chair, blouse, stockings and lingerie in a heap on the seat—two minutes after walking in the door Gene was slipping gratefully into a negligée.
She laughed softly out of simple delight as the silk slid across her skin and settled into billowy folds around her. She’d discovered her secret vice since arriving in Hollywood; Gene was addicted to lovely peignoirs—the more delicate, elegant and impractical the better. She’d indulged in several in the past weeks, including one in pink satin trimmed with clouds of marabou. Impossible to cream her face or brush her teeth or even write a letter in, but her favorite nonetheless. Tonight she chose a slightly less fragile set of creamy ivory silk that flowed and swirled around her in a most satisfactory way.
Now for her second objective: Supper!
Stomach growling, Gene stood in the tiny kitchenette and studied the contents of her little refrigerator. The results weren’t encouraging. She signed, thinking of all she still had to learn--like when does a movie star do her marketing? She couldn't even make a decent sandwich with what she had on hand. Of course, meals weren't something she’d generally had to worry about the last several weeks. Breakfast was from the studio commissary and usually lunch as well unless the press department had her 'lunching' with a reporter or columnist.
For many nights (until this week) dinner had been at one of several restaurants with Mr. Von Sternberg, 'being seen' as he put it, though never for more that an a couple of hours. He would personally drive her back to her bungalow before continuing off on his own business, insisting she get a full night of sleep. But since beginning work on this particular scene there had been no time left in an evening for more than a sandwich or an apple before falling into bed.
She dropped a butcher-paper package of cold cuts, hard and curling at the edges, into the garbage pail. Some brown-at-the-edges lettuce followed it, and the last of a curdling quart of mild went down the sink. That left exactly half a pitcher of orange juice, a small hunk of cheddar cheese and a dab of butter. It was enough to make her almost homesick for New York, where there had been both a Chinese and Italian restaurant within walking distance of her apartment building.
Or one phone call to the all-night deli would bring a feast of corned beef on thick dark bread, giant spicy pickles, chopped liver and eggs...stomach gurgling, Gene grabbed the cheese and orange juice then turned to rummage for the box of crackers she thought she remembered in the cupboard.
"I bet Madra can find a snack when she wants one" Gene muttered darkly, opening one cabinet after another in vain. Then she chuckled. Probably La Lord wouldn't know how to find the kitchen in her own house, let alone the refrigerator. Some little maid would come running on command, with a tray full of delicate nibbles.
In the last cupboard she found the crackers--and a half-dozen bottles of champagne. "Not quite the thing for a bedtime snack," she grinned ruefully. They had been a gift from Axis Minion and had been delivered to her at the studio. Her smile was more thoughtful as she remembered meeting him that time at his club, The Green Parrot. Had it been only a couple of weeks ago?
There had been so many people, so many of the stars she'd studied and idolized over the years. It had been slightly unreal at first, being introduced to one person after another she’d known all her life only as 20-foot images on a movie screen. She felt deliciously sophisticated but slightly exposed in her evening dress – blue chiffon over nude crepe–the most daring of the several new gowns Von Sternberg had helped her select.
It had taken nearly a quarter of an hour just to get from the door of the Green Parrot to their table--it seemed that everyone in Hollywood was curious to meet Von Sternberg's much-heralded protégée. She was presented to producers and directors who before had just been names in the credits. She lost track of all the bit players, contract players, romantic leads, character actors and ingénues she spotted in the swirling mob on the dance floor. A dozen men kissed her hand, and just as she’d always suspected, Ronald Coleman did it most charmingly. In all, that short walk across the crowded club was the fulfillment of her dearest Hollywood fantasy. She arrived at their table breathless and a little light-headed; although a slight flush of her cheeks and a brighter-than-usual sparkle in her eyes were the only outward signs of her excitement.
They were finally seated and Von Sternberg ordered a small supper for each of them. Champagne arrived, compliments of the club's owner, Axis Minion. Gene, an inexperienced drinker, had no intention of taking a chance with champagne and quietly asked the waiter for ginger ale. The steady stream of visitors, or table-hoppers as Von Sternberg called them, never let up even after the food arrived. There must be a trick, she thought, to actually getting anything eaten at times like this, though she suspected the food was little more than an excuse, or a prop.
The band had just begun “Body and Soul” when a darkly handsome man appeared at their table, and Von Sternberg presented to her their host.
"A pleasure, Miss Marshall" Axis bent over her offered hand and almost, not quite, brushed his lips across the back. "I hope you're enjoying your evening."
“Tremendously, Mr. Minion. You have a marvelous club here. And you were very kind to send the champagne--thank you."
"Not necessary," he smiled. "My sole purpose for owning the Green Parrot is entertaining beautiful women. Your arrival makes tonight my greatest success."
Gene's laughed was delighted. "I see why The Green Parrot is so popular. Do you flatter all your guests so shamelessly?"
"I never flatter." He said quietly, all banter gone. Only then did Gene realize her hand was still in his. Her eyes dropped for just an instant to their fingers, and for a heartbeat the conversation lagged as she tried to think of a graceful way to reclaim her hand. His smile returned, this time with just a hint of mischief.
But Katie Marshall hadn't yet turned 12 the last time she lost her poise just because a handsome man teased her. Her chin lifted, only the slightest bit, though the challenge was clear.
This time it was Axis who laughed, but he released her hand and gestured to the waiter hovering nearby.
"Paul, Mr. Von Sternberg and Miss Marshall are guests of the club tonight, so make sure you give them your complete attention." He turned back to Gene. "I have to ask you to please excuse me now, it's time be the boss." Then he was gone, as suddenly as he'd arrived.
"So what did you thank of our host, my dear?" Von Sternberg asked. He looked oddly pleased by the encounter. Gene didn't answer immediately but took a sip from her glass, and carefully set it back in the exact center of the paper coaster, using the time to make certain the flush she seemed to have developed had faded.
"I'd say owning a nightclub is exactly the right profession for Mr. Minion."
But she hadn't meant her reply to sound quite so...tart.
* * * * *
The next morning Gene was back at work on the set. That afternoon a messenger arrived with the champagne and a note from Axis asking her to be his guest again on some quieter evening. Her thank-you note in return was gracious but noncommittal. She kept the champagne despite having no idea if or when she'd ever use it; she was afraid returning it would be unintentionally insulting.
Another indignant noise from her stomach brought her out of her reverie. She pulled the box of crackers out of the cupboard and firmly shut the door on the champagne. Humming “Body and Soul”, Gene gathered up her meager booty and prepared to make the best of it.
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