Sitting on a park bench by the Charles River in JFK Park, Jenny Hunsucker wiped tears off her cheeks with a pink handkerchief. Thinking Ben had dumped her for another girl, she looked up at her boyfriend and choked out, "Is it Tina? I noticed how she's all over you, lately."
Ben Artflick, fifteen, over 6 feet tall and muscular, stood in front of her. He looked around the park, fidgeting and acting very nervous. After lowering his eyes and zeroing in on a large red pimple on Jenny's nose, he flinched and looked away with a slight shutter. "No! It's sports: golf and baseball. Not much time for anything else."
Jenny blew her nose.
Ben glanced at her and quickly turned away, shading his eyes from the bright sun. "I gotta go. Damon's waiting." He took a few steps, stopped, looked over his shoulder and smiled. "Have fun in Arizona, Jenny. We'll talk when you get back."
Jenny nodded as she blew her nose. "See ya."
Ben felt guilty, shuffling down the walkway. The same grief he had after breaking up with Donna over her hairy armpits and Beth due to her big butt. But ditching Tina at first sighting of an appendix scar bothered him most since she wanted to have sex with him. That was his first chance to get terrifically physical.
Posters for the movies Witness and The Mosquito Coast hung on Damon Matthew's bedroom wall. Damon inserted a video into a VCR on a shelf below a TV and said, "You’re too superficial."
Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw appeared on a small television. Damon, standing, pushed the fast forward button on a remote control, about to prove Lynda Carter had acted topless.
"It was hideous," Ben said, lounging in a leather armchair in front of a pine desk at the opposite end of the room.
"You’re too shallow." Damon pushed pause. The image of Marjoe Gortner caressing Lynda’s breast appeared on the TV screen. He stepped back, grinning and admiring the view. "I told ya! Worth the price of an admission. She makes my tongue hard."
"Damn, Wonder Woman naked! Who next, Mary Poppins?" Ben ogled the figure. "I'd lick her nips."
Damon pointed at the TV. "You’d go Deep South on her and brag about it."
"Not even if she shaved. You know, my germophobia problem."
"You would if you could - fur or no fur."
"There’s a mother lode like her in Hollywood. No pimples. Fewer germs. I heard some use bidets that have a potent germ killing spray," Ben said, mulling over his future. "I think I'll be a professional actor. Imagine, even a guy uglier than you got paid to feel up the best of the best. Better than hitting a ball over the Green Monster." He reevaluated, shook his head "Nah! Almost!"
"Chicks love movie stars. Tities galore. Drama school nerds today, Hollywood stars tomorrow. From Humpty Dumpty to Bond, James Bond."
Ben stood up and moseyed over to a bureau. He examined his long pompadour hair style in the mirror attached to a dresser. "You played a decent Humpty Dumpty in that school play. J. B., nah, too short for Bond and the J. B. spy in Ludlum's novels. I could play them." Ben imitated Sean Connery. "In Japan, men come first, women come second. I might retire there."
"I like your John Wayne impression better." Damon ejected the VHS tape. "So, ya gonna take that part in the television movie?" He put the movie in a plastic case.
"Yeah, it's just a small role. My mom's friend is a casting director. I'll get my five minutes in Helfnerland as a bonus, sooner or later. Then, maybe, politics. Look at Reagan. I'm smarter, taller, and a better actor. You can be my Bonzo."
"People might talk."
"Ya mean like Father Joe?" asked Ben, strolling toward the desk.
"That hoax was started by big butt Beth. She had the hots for Father Joe. Called him Father Whattawaste 'cause of his good looks."
"Maybe due to his wasted knowledge. He knows who the bad girls are," said Ben, sitting on the desk.
"Confessions, dickhead. But no way will people think we're gay. "Ben examined Damon and reconsidered."Well, me, anyway. You, perhaps another Liberace. Damn, you look like the dude who sued him."
"He lost 'cause Liberace wasn't gay. It was all a show, as he called it. Without the show, ya had no business. The clothes attracted attention. That helped to sell seats. Liberace nailed women. Older women. He wrote a book about it: The Women I Loved."
"Liberace joked about liking tulips on his organ."
"Who doesn't? He said as an entertainer, you have to be surprising, find new things to make the audience stand up and take notice. That doesn't make him gay. But he might have a man or two in his closet."
"I don't care. It's his life. Let's go to the range and hit out a few balls."
A full moon reflected off the Charles River. Ben moped on a cement walkway running parallel to the waterway. He appeared extremely depressed. Damon, by his side, handed him a joint while commenting on Glenn Close's sagging breasts. They had just viewed them on the big screen at a local theater. Ben brought the reefer to his lips and inhaled. He held the smoke in while returning the loco weed back to Damon. The shorter and older boy took a drag and flipped the butt towards the river. "Suck on that my huckleberry friend," Damon said, watching the stub hit the water, landing on the moon's reflection. Damon sang, "You vision maker, I'm after the rainbow's end, floatin' 'round the bend."
Ben's eyes enlarged as he watched the stub float away. He slowly exhaled. "There were three hits left on that."
"Nay, maybe two if I had my forceps. Alex Forrest was hot until her nude side shot. That was a woody killer."
Ben stopped and pointed at a bench. "The last time I saw Jenny she was sitting there. I dumped her over a zit. What's wrong with me?" Ben shook his head. "I can't believe she jumped into the Grand Canyon."
"It's not your fault." Damon grinned. "It's not your fault. Wanna big hug?" He opened his arms and took a half step toward Ben.
Ben pushed him. "Get away from me, dickhead."
"Ya know I'm just kidding. Can I tag along Sunday? I wanna meet that chick who was in Hair. Nice rack. Didn't seem like a natural blonde, though, after she came out of the water."
"I'd like to find out. I could go for an older woman like her. Yeah, you can come."
"Maybe I'll go wit' ya on your next audition. If ya don't mind the competition."
"I'm a professional. You don't have a chance."
Returning from New York in 1988, Ben and Damon sat side-by-side on a train. Ben appeared confused. Slowly shaking his head, he stared at his pal.
Damon smiled. "It's all in the verbalization, big buddy. Listen and learn. Mom, do you want my green stuff? That's how it's done."
"Right! You can handle one line. When there's a major talkfest I'm the ace. Like in our school plays. Who does Mr. Speca turn to - the tall sophomore or the short senior geek?"
Things change. If there's a part for a big bully, you're in. If the role requires a loveable guy with blond hair and blue eyes, that will be me. Soon, more tits than we can handle."
"Speaking of boobs, Moonstone Beach is close to where you'll be shooting. I hear it's the best nude beach in the USA. A great place for a wrap party. Convince the cast, buddy."
"In October? Not too likely, but I'd love to see that tall girl, Julia, wearing only a smile."
More than thirty young boys stood around reading scripts. Ben and Damon were going over their lines when a tall shapely woman entered the large room. Her loud voice yelling his name made Damon jump. Ben displayed no reaction whatsoever when his name was shouted out. Ben coolly approached the woman while Damon followed close behind him, appearing quite nervous.
The gal led them into another room. Upon entering they noticed a camera secured to six-feet long tri-pod positioned in front of four older men, sitting on metal folding chairs. The casting director, Howard, an elderly man with grey hair, approached them. He handed Ben and Damon large cards and magic markers. Quickly, Ben became aware of Howard's lazy eye. To avoid the sight of eyes looking in two different directions, he stared into the old man's mouth. My what yellow teeth you have, grandpa, and that odor, much more than an old man smell, more like crap in the morning, he thought to himself as Howard gave instructions. When the boys were finished writing on the cards, Howard took back the markers and moved toward his chair. Ben squeezed his nose, indicating phew. Only one of the three men watching smiled. The other two were not amused.
Ben, holding a large white card with his name printed in black letters just below his chin, moved to a white X painted on the floor in front of the camera. Relaxed and confident, he grinned. "Ben Artflick, sixteen, six-feet-two-inches and growing."
Noticeably nervous, Damon tramped over to Ben and faced the camera. He held up his card. "Damon Matthews, eighteen, five-feet-eight and a half inches."
Ben chuckled. "Yeah, on your tippy tip toes," he murmured.
Damon shot him a dirty look.
"Relax, buddy. It's just an audition." Ben winked and showed Damon a beaming smile. "You're too tense. Loosen up!"
"Proceed when ready," said Howard.
Ben and Damon faced each other. Damon spoke. "There's nothing you can do about it. So butt out." Damon raised his voice, in anger. "I can take care of myself just fine. All right?".
Ben didn't respond immediately. He shook his head slowly before saying, "No!"
"What do you mean 'no'?" Damon yelled.
Ben grinned. "No!"
"Okay, boys. Thanks for coming in. We'll contact your agent if we need you to come in again."
Ben, angry, moved toward Howard. "That's it - no? It cost me forty dollars to take the train here from Boston to say 'no' twice."
"Quite frankly, Ben, you're too tall for any part in this movie. Mr. Williams doesn't want a student seven inches plus taller than he is. Sorry." He turned to Damon. "Damon, so far, it's between you and Ethan Hawke. I like your chances."
On the way to the train station, Damon asked, "Do ya know which one was Hawke?"
"Yeah, the kid who resembled Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Ben thought ever since The Graduate in '67 too many leading roles were going to short unattractive actors. He wished for the days of Lancaster, O'toole, Stewart, Wayne, Peck and Flynn.
Damon didn't get the part, and, to make matters worse, that movie was the only one shown where he worked the following summer. It played in a single screen theater located in Harvard Square. Damon, wearing a black bow tie, maroon vest, white shirt and a name tag, sat in the ticket booth selling tickets to it and saying welcome to Lowe's.
Ben worked inside, selling popcorn, candy and soda. At the end of the night, they cleaned up the entire theater, including the bathrooms. All for minimum wage and to be part of the movie business.
The following year, six months after Ben graduated from high school, they moved to Hollywood, California. New York was okay for finding work in television but they thought they had a better chance to make the big time on the West Coast.