(The following story is true. But the names, dates, places, people, and events have been changed to protect the innocent.)
The banquet hall flickered in strobe-lit confusion as Madam X checked my pass.
As I waited, nouveau wealth in every lush and lavish form jostled by … an impressionistic wash of diamonds, veils, tailcoats and sprayed-on stretch fabric. These were The Beautiful People. The shooting stars. Today’s pin-ups, tomorrow’s nobodies. My assignment? Observe, analyse…. and if possible, get totally knocked-out and loaded.
Cleopatra Baskerville looked stunning, as always. Her face, a neo gothic masterpiece from the hand of greasepaint genius, Henri LeCroix, was especially compelling. Moreover, it was so heavily applied that when we danced cheek-to-cheek an exact likeness of it was printed on me, leaving me the usual hardened thug on one side, and the belle of the superbunnies on the other. But I was unaware of this, and when we parted I was none the wiser.
I was downing whiskies by the piranha tank when a steaming bimbo in a leopard suit zeroed in on me.
“Cleo darling,” she gushed. “Love the man’s suit! Why didn’t I think of it?”
“Pardon me, mam” I said, “but my name’s Wyant. Carl Wyant.”
She ran a disdainful eye over me. “You mean the Carl Wyant? Nah. He wouldn’t dare show his face around here.”
“I beg your pardon?”
She studied me a moment more. “Oh! I get it! Where do you get these ideas? And the voice and everything! You’re too much, Cleo.”
She handed me a tall pink drink. “Here,” she said, “drink now, fly later,” and she was gone.
Perplexed, I drained the brew, wondering if something really unspeakably weird was going on.
I need drugs, I decided, and was moving towards the nefarious-looking activity across the hall when Max Bullhead loomed up suddenly on the port side.
“Carl you old dog. What in blazes are you doing here?”
“Well, at the moment I’m trying to get to that table over there where people seem to be snorting some kind of whiteish stuff,” I said.
“Ye gads boy! I hope you don’t throw a gasper on us. It’d be a nuisance if you had a heart attack or something.”
“Tell me,” I said, ignoring his tasteless dig at my age, “do I look anything like Mademoiselle Baskerville?”
He glared keenly down. “You’re mad,” he said, thumping me cheerfully on the back, “absolutely mad,” and he merged back into the crowd, chuckling.
Great. I’m old. I’m mad. I look like Cleopatra. And I just drank a glass of pink hallucinogens. If this doesn’t mean something, nothing does.
Two vague forms came weaving out of the f lashing lights, smiling and saying ‘Carl’ and ‘Cleopatra’ with great gusto.
I lit a camel and focussed an apprehensive gaze upon the forthcoming beautiful people. It was getting too complex. At a loss for words I took the easy way out and let Cleoptara talk for me.
“Hey kids,” she said, “it’s like, euphoric. But Carl and I must go now. Lunch tomorrow at Chan’s? Fabulous! Think happy thoughts. Bye now!”
I was driven home in a limousine and was still awake two days later when the Sunday paper knocked a panel out of the front door. Wrestling it open a bold intro caught my eye.
“Fashion freaks are freaking out after slinky mega-bucks model, Cleopatra Baskerville, was seen leaving a six-figure bash in the company of low-rent gossip weasel, Carl Wyant.
“‘They seemed very, very close’, one witness claimed.”
I fell into the chair, stricken. Holy suffering mackerel. I had been on the scene of news and missed it; but worse, I’d gone home with M’selle B and can’t remember!
Woe. But maybe there’s mileage in it yet! Yes….yes, I must reach Cleo at once .