“Hannah, that may all be true, but we’ve been working with George Lane for two decades. You do realize that; don’t you?” Andrew asked me, his hands forming a temple in the air.
“Oh course, I know that,” I snapped back, uncertain whether he had a larger point. “I worked there for a year. I’ve read all of George’s books. I know the history very well.”
“Good,” Andrew declared as though we’d reached a truce. He stood up, while simultaneously putting on his suit jacket. “Then you understand the relationship. George is one of our most trusted advisors. While you may have some very valid instincts, for now I have to side with him on this. Let’s see how all of this goes first. And then we’ll reopen the discussion at another time; agreed?”
“Well kinda,” I answered sheepishly, unsuccessfully trying to hide my defiance. “But I’m not suggesting a mutiny. I just think we have to give the agency valuable feedback. Creative people deserve honest feedback.”
Andrew cocked his head to the left, giving me a looked that made it perfectly clear he’d had just about enough of my ideas. “Would you feel comfortable giving someone like Picasso or Renoir your ‘feedback?” he asked me, making quotation marks in the air.
“Andrew don’t misunderstand me,” I piped up. “I’m not attacking George or his work. Personally, I like George. But if I hired Picasso to create an ad and what he created made no sense, I would feel an obligation to say something, even if it made me feel uncomfortable to speak up.”
“I respect that Hannah,” Andrew said as he bowed in my direction and began to spontaneously bless me three times with the sign of the cross, like a priest who’d just administered a communion wafer to one of his parishioners.
“But please, let’s give this some time. Tell them to run the Thrilling Grill ad as soon as possible. Let’s marinate your ideas. Please. Everything will look different in a day or two. I have to go up for lunch now. Namaste,” he said, while bowing again and walking out of his office.
Stunned, I followed him and collapsed on my chair wondering why I’d even bothered to talk to Andrew. Not only didn’t it matter that I’d prepared decent talking points, more importantly it didn’t matter that I was scared about presenting them. I truly doubted he’d listened to a word I said. I truly believed that nothing I had to say would ever penetrate his thoughts.
What a jerk! I thought to myself. Why the hell did he hire me? Am I supposed to just sit here and agree to whatever is suggested? Am I supposed to keep my mouth shut and pretend I have no ideas of my own? And what the hell was all of that blessing bullshit about? Who does he think he is the Pope? Namaste? What the fuck does Namaste mean?
As I continued stewing in my own disappointment, I began to realize that Andrew wasn’t nearly as attractive as I thought he was. For the first time, he struck me as passive and patronizing. But I wasn’t sure. Maybe I didn’t do a good job presenting my ideas. Maybe I made my thoughts sound like an indictment on the work of someone who’d been winning Cleo awards long before I was born. Maybe my ideas just sucked. Maybe Jack is right: maybe I’m just a fraud.
Lost in a pool of self-doubt, I didn’t hear the intercom, until it began buzz incessantly and so violently that it nearly shook the phone off my desk. I picked it up and answered with a thoroughly uninspired, monotone “yes?”
“Get up here right now,” Jack whispered in the phone. “Your friend is here and I want to introduce you someone. You’re dismissed! Achtung!”
Opening the compact mirror I kept tucked into my desk drawer, I examined my face. Not too bad, I thought to myself. Nothing a little lipstick and a wave of eyeliner can’t fix.
After lighting a match and briefly warming the tip of the black pencil, I quickly applied the pink lipstick and began to define my lash line when Constance popped her head into my cubicle.
“I used to wear a lot of make-up, too,” she explained. “But that was back when I was in Dallas. You wouldn’t believe what I looked like then. I wouldn’t even leave the dorm without three shadows: baby blue, powder pink and ivory. It was hysterical,” she laughed – about what I wasn’t sure.
“But social people don’t do that in Manhattan. Now I just wear gloss at work and I add a little mascara when I go to a benefit,” she explained with the grateful confidence of someone who knew she was finally on the right path after a life of crime.
“Oh my gosh,” she continued. “You wouldn’t believe what my hair looked like them. I used to crimp it and it was bright yellow, too,” she laughed again, this time creating a visual that I admit I did find somewhat funny.
“Now I’m a butter blond. It’s a subtler look, like an icy Grace Kelly blond or like Nina Griscom when she was younger. You know who Nina Griscom is; don’t you?” she challenged me, anticipating my response.
“Isn’t she the daughter or step daughter of that guy who was the US ambassador to France? Oh what’s his name? The investment banker? Oh yes, isn’t her father Felix Rohatyn?” I asked, fishing around my brain, free-associating, while wondering why her name sounded so familiar.
“Probably, I don’t know,” she continued. “What I do know is that over the years, she’s married very well and she looks spectacular. How old do you think she is?”
“I really don’t know,” I told her truthfully, while returning the compact to my desk drawer. “If I had to guess, I’d say 35,” I continued, knowing full well that she had to be considerably older.
“Ahhhh,” she gasped. “I think she has to be at least 40 or 50, but I’ll let you in on a little secret,” she whispered loudly. “Her last husband was a plastic surgeon. I betcha she had a little something done if you know what I mean,” she continued, raising her eyebrows suggestively as the buzzer of her intercom rang. “My mom just had a face lift. For right now, I just do Botox. It’s all about prevention. Prevention is the key.”
“Hiya Jack,” she purred into phone, as I began to head for the door. “No, she’s still here…I don’t know why…I’ll tell her you want to speak to her immediately.”
Just as I was about to leave the office, she scolded me, in the breathiest voice this side of Marilyn Monroe. “Hannah, you know I like you. But word to the wise: Jack does not like to be kept waiting. I think he has an errand for you. Run along upstairs. He sounds furious. And blot your lips. The social people upstairs will get he wrong idea if you wear overly dramatic make-up.”
Unsure if I should thank her for caring enough to warn me or if I should be offended, I smiled and headed for the elevator bank. Hitting the up button, I examined what I could see of my face in the reflection from the brushed aluminum door. Not only couldn’t I see the garish make up of a clown, I could barely see myself as anything but a ghostly pale blob of pink flesh with two brown, undefined eyes starring back insecurely.
Ducking into the bathroom upstairs, I stuck my face under the harsh fluorescent lighting to see my face in the mirror above the sink. By no stretch of anyone’s imagination did I appear to be a painted lady with ‘overly dramatic’ make-up. In fact I looked like a blank canvas that needed a team of cosmetologists to slather on pigment, an expression, lips, eyes – anything to distinguish one facial feature from another.
But I knew my fair skin couldn’t handle the burgundy lip liner and a shimmer of gold sparkles that worked for my Sicilian friend Lucile. Still I was positive I needed, at the very least, a stroke of pink across my cheeks to assure others that I had enough blood flowing through my body to create a pulse.
Just as I exited the bathroom, Jack screamed with delight, pointing at me, “Here she is: the diva!”
Filled with pride and grasping his suspenders on both sides, Jack puffed out his chest and smiled the toothiest grin I’d probably ever seen.
“Hannah, this is Efron. He runs Dom Pérignon with Kate Nicholson, a hot chihuahua if there ever was one. Come over here. I want to introduce you to her,” he instructed me, appearing to gently place his hand over my shoulder, while actually pushing me into the dining room.
Half willingly, half involuntarily I moved in the direction I was being shoved. And there I found myself in the center of a room filled with people whose names read like products in a department store, heavy hitter politicians on Meet the Press, and CNBC types, including Ralph Lauren, James Carville, Calvin Klein, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, Maria Bartiromo, Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Manolo Blahnik, Tory Burch and Rudy Giuliani.
Feeing extraordinarily shy – as only those who secretly think they are the center of the universe can – my eyes shifted from side to side, wondering where I was going and why I was being lead there. Putting my index finger to my lips, I tried to blot the pink color I’d just applied, which only made me feel more insecure. Ugh, I probably just smudged it, I thought to myself as Jack lead me back to Efron’s table where a smiling blond woman was seated.
“Hi, you must be Hannah,” she glistened as she welcomed me with enormous twinkling blue eyes and huge white teeth that looked like two rows of Chiclets. “I’m Kate. Have a seat. Efron and I want you to join us for a flute of bubbly,” she smiled with her eyes, raising her brow and pouring a bubbling glass of pink wine.
“Jack says you’re a genius. It’s great to finally meet you,” she continued, making me wonder who this woman was and what exactly inspired Jack to mention me to her.
“Cheers, Hannah. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Efron continued, clinking my glass and then Kate’s.
“Long story short,” Kate explained. “We want to throw a Halloween party with Jack. We know it’s a while away, but because we love the Equinox and any excuse to visit, we figured we should stop by to see how we can work together to throw a party New York will never forget.”
Smiling and taking another sip, with no idea whatsoever what I should say, all I could muster was a gushing question. “Wow, sounds like fun. What do you have in mind?”
“Well of course we defer to you and Jack,” Kate answered diplomatically. “But we have a decent budget and know that with our two brands, and the symbiotic relationship we share, there is no telling what kind of magic we can create. Think Truman Capote’s legendary Black & White Ball,” she explained with a raise of the eyebrow. “What do you think?”
“I can tell Hannah loves it,” Efron responded, shuffling closer to me in the banquette and putting his arm around my shoulders.
“Bup, bup, bup,” Jack called out nearly sprinting across the dining room floor. “What are we doing here? Excuse me, you big queer,” he scolded Efron. “You don’t want to get Andrew jealous do you?”
Without waiting for a reply, he nearly yanked me out of their booth and escorted me from the table into the hallway near the entrance. Confused by what was happening, I followed him.
“Escuse me, madame,” he whispered at me as though someone lurking in the shadows were listening. “You don’t seem to understand. We have to fix them. They have a lot of money. We have to stick it to them. Really let them have it. Do you understand me?”
“Yeah, of course,” I lied, having no idea whatsoever what he wanted me to do. “It’s obvious. They have LVMH money, right,” I continued with very little idea what I was talking about.
“Exactly,” he confirmed. “Do me a favor. Go downstairs. Get that big bottle of Champagne from behind my desk and come back upstairs. We have to fix them; okay?”
“Sure,” I agreed, completely confused by what the word “fix” meant or where the Champagne was.
When I returned to the office, I saw what looked like a toddler-sized bottle of pink Champagne. I tried to pull it off the shelf behind Jack’s desk, but I could barely budge it. As I climbed on top of his desk and tried to shimmy it down, all I could hear was the heavily-accented voice of a man who was cautioning me, “Woah, woah, woah, what are you doing?”
With one foot on the desk and the other on Jack’s chair, I turned around and found the puzzled look of a black man, trying to keep a straight face.
“Oh I was just…” I began feeling like an idiot, or worse: a thief.
“Don’t even bother finishing that sentence,” he interrupted me, rolling his eyes. “Where does Jack want you to bring that bottle?”
“I guess to the dining room,” I explained, climbing down to the floor. “He wasn’t’ really that clear about it.”
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” the man asked rhetorically, while extending his hand in a greeting. “My name is David. I’ll have someone bring it upstairs. Just do me a favor: don’t risk your life whenever Jack has a crazy idea. If you do, you’ll be dead before sunset,” he smiled.
“Pleasure to meet you David,” I said, shaking his hand, wondering who he was. David said nothing. He just responded with a half smile and a squint of the left eye that made me believe he was judging me harshly, but with the slightest glimmer of amusement.
“Hi David. Here’s your check,” a man interrupted, handing him an envelope. “Are you Hannah? I do not believe we’ve met. Luke Moore, pleasure to meet you. Here’s your check,” he greeted me, handing me a similar envelope.
“Nice to meet you, too, Luke. Thank you,” I responded, opening the envelope and seeing a check inside. “Wow, a big thank you,” I smiled.
“Yep, everybody loves me on Wednesdays. Isn’t that right David?” Luke asked with a strong Southern accent, continuing through the office and tossing envelopes on every desk in the room.
Still looking amused, David stared me down briefly and repeated what he’d said earlier, “Seriously, don’t risk your life whenever Jack has a crazy idea. I’ll get someone with a cart to bring the Champagne upstairs.”
The second David left the office I saw the blinking lights on my phone. Ugh! Voice mail, I thought. I listened to the first message and heard the distinct Judge Judy voice of Helen, who was clearly annoyed that I had yet to send my first report.
“Madame, I expect to hear from you immediately,” she scolded me. “If you want to work for me, send me your report immediately. If I don’t hear from you in the next hour, I’ll assume you do not. Do you understand me?”
Knowing I didn’t have a second to spare, I dug into my purse and pulled out the copy of my Dallas BBQ report I’d printed that morning to read in the subway. Too rushed, I tried to look it over, but the words blurred together. Hearing the intercom buzzer on my phone, I simply dialed the fax number I found on the bottom of Helen’s letterhead and raced for the elevator.
As the doors opened into the dining room, Helen answered the phone, “Washington Controls. How may I help you?”
“Hi Helen, it’s Hannah. I just faxed it to you,” I assured her.
“I can see that Hannah. It’s coming through now. I’ll read it by the end of the day, but let me tell you one thing: I expect to receive all reports via email, in Word documents. Do we understand each other?”
“Yes, of course,” I assured her. “I was just rushed. And I heard your message so I figured I’d send it right away so you knew it was done. I can email it later.”
“We’re all rushed, Hannah,” she barked. “Your problems are not my problems. Do we understand each other?
“Yes, I definitely understand,” I groveled, seeing Jack sprinting in my direction. “I definitely understand. Thank you very much. I’ll call you later.”
Thankfully I could hear Helen hang up on me just as Jack grabbed me around the waist. “Come on, the Champagne is here,” he told me. “We have to fix them.”
“Jack I’m really sorry. I really have to do something,” I apologized. “I have to cash my check. I have to pay someone back $100 before lunch ends,” I continued, filled with a world of shame.
“Who do you owe money to?” he asked me genuinely concerned. “Tony Soprano?”
“No, no, no,” I stammered. “A childhood friend. She’s visiting New York and she’s having lunch and I just have to pay her back immediately.”
“Huh! Simple,” he assured me. “Is she cute? If she’s cute, she can have lunch here. It’s very simple. It’s not very complicated at all.”
“No I think she’s downtown. She and her husband are in town to see a Ranger’s…” I tried to explain.
“Husband? Are you kidding me? Her husband expects me to pay for his lunch? Muh please!” he began to rage, disgusted. “You tell her husband to buy his own food. I’m busy. Now come over here. We have to fix these two,” he finished, still ushering me back to where Kate and Efron were seated.
“Just give me five minutes,” I nearly begged. “I just want to cash my check so I can pay her back the hundred dollars I borrowed yesterday.”
“Make it quick,” Jack ordered me, as I nearly tripped down the steps headed for bank across the street and called Lucille when I was sure I had her cash in hand.
“Hey boo-boo. What’s up?” she asked me as I nearly leapt into the receiver.
“I want to give your money back before you leave town. Where are you?” I asked, nearly obsessed with paying back my debt.
“Han-huh, don’t be hysterical,” she laughed. “Hayn-sum and I left town this morning. We decided to go to Providence for lobstuhs. Oh shit, I gotta go. Love yuh, babe. Gotta go. Nevah change.”
Feeling like I was about to break a sweat, I slowed my pace and peacefully returned to the dining room where I saw Jack waving me back to the table where he was now seated with Kate and Efron. I sat down and smiled, unsure what else to do.
“So do you think we can throw the party?” Jack asked me while delicately cutting and quickly scarfing down a stack of sliced tomatoes that was possibly larger than his head.
“Yes, I think it could be really fun. It could be a masquerade party with jack-o-lanterns and costumes and Venetian masks. We could even project on the walls scenes from classic black and white movies where people did dramatic dances with someone they knew but were trying to avoid,” I blurted out, nervously, regretting every word the second it escaped my mouth.
“Escuse me, whatsamaddah with you?” Jack scowled at me theatrically, overly emphasizing his Italian accent. “Costume? Jack Daniels? I don’t understand. People don’t want to drink whiskey,” he continued with complete confidence. “This is Champagne. Very, very sexy Champagne,” he softened, offering a suggestive raise of the eyebrow in Kate’s direction for emphasis.
“Jack, you’re so funny,” she purred back. “I think it’s a great idea. And Hannah, if you play with the DP logo for the invitation, I bet you could turn it into a bat.”
“Done!” Jack declared, removing his plate from the table and standing up. “I’ll be right back. I see our friends have finally arrived,” he explained with the single-minded focus of a German Sheppard who sensed his owner had returned from work.
“That was easy,” Kate assured me, refilling my flute with Champagne and clinking my glass. “To Halloween,” she toasted. As we continued to chit-chat about nothing in particular, Kate incessantly checked email on her Blackberry, while Efron mocked her for being “chained to that thing.”
Watching them playfully banter back and forth, I couldn’t tell if one was the other’s boss or if they were equals. Both were approximately the same age. Both were dressed impeccably. Both were extraordinarily charming, completely unstuffy and obviously very intelligent. And I could tell they really liked each other, which made me wonder if they were secretly dating, though I admit Efron did seem to be, what my roommate Franklin called, “a little too fancy” to have much of an interest in women.
“Okay Hannah, this is how it works,” Kate instructed, directing her full attention to me. “We can pay for everything, but we have to do that very carefully. Because you guys are such important partners for us, we do want you guys to make some money off of the party. So I was thinking we could charge $500 per person. How does that sound?”
“Truthfully? I asked her, not waiting for a response. “It sounds a little high to me. Our Bordeaux dinner is about $250 per person, but unless the vintages are spectacular with rave reviews from someone like Robert Parker, it isn’t an easy sell.”
“Don’t worry about the vintages at all. I’m going to crack open the vault, the entire library of rare, acclaimed vintages,” she winked at me. “Plus to make it extravagant we could saber a jeroboam of the white gold prestige cuvée. People will go crazy when they see that bottle. These are not the kind of Champagnes people can get at home. They’re very, very rare.”
“Well, I guess. I just don’t know,” I told her truthfully. “I’ve just never tried to sell such an expensive dinner before. I’m not sure how it would work.”
“We don’t have to worry about that part now,” she assured me. “We have months to work on this before we send out the invitations. But the thing is, we have to add a charitable element to the dinner. Otherwise we’ll be limited in what we can do for you. You know how obsessive the attorney general is with the state liquor laws.”
I had no idea what she was talking about but nodded in agreement, hoping she wouldn’t recognize that she’d been misinformed about who I was and what I was capable of accomplishing. Thankfully, just then Jack came swaggering across the dining room toward us and announcing, “here are three people I think you should meet.”
Blinking to clear my vision, assuming I was hallucinating, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I noticed just behind him were Bill and Hillary Clinton. “Mrs. Clinton, Mr. President, I’d like to introduce you to three of your greatest supporters: Kate Nicholson, Hannah McCall, and Efron Castro.”
We all nervously struggled to stand up. It was nearly impossible without tripping out of the booth, but we did manage to get on our feet and each of us shook the hand the President was extending in our direction, as he gently grasped our elbow with his opposite hand.
“Don’t let us interrupt your lunch. Hillary and I just wanted to stop by and say hello,” the President apologized, as Mrs. Clinton shook our hands with a vise-like grip that I am almost positive realigned the bones in my fingers.
“It’s an honor to meet you both,” I offered, trying to sound like I had any idea what to say.
“The pleasure is all ours,” the President replied, sounding like he really meant it. “We’ll leave you to your lunch. We have to go say hi to our old friend Jim now. Thanks very much for your hospitality,” he finished, smiling and putting his arm around Mrs. Clinton’s back as he escorted her to the back of the back of the dining room.
“Pretty good, huh?” Jack beamed joyously as the Clintons stopped at another table. “That is a real man,” he gushed like a star struck teenaged girl.
“Jack!” Kate smiled flirtatiously. “How did you ever get them to come over here?” she batted her eyelashes, clearly impressed with him.
“I told them you’re all rich and that you were thinking about donating to the campaign!” he boasted with a mischievous laugh that made it hard for me to figure out if he enjoyed tricking the Clintons or if he just wanted to show off his fleeting influence over them.
Category: Strange but True
About the Author (Author Profile)
I am a New York City publicist who specializes in promoting luxury products and experiences and occasionally moonlight as a journalist.
Relatively new to the world of blogging, I have watched and enjoyed Bravo’s Housewives shows since the first season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I created this blog over the 4th of July holiday of 2011 because I enjoy writing and love to figure out how to blend images and words to create something that is both visually compelling and interesting to read.