A catnap and change of clothes later, I was downstairs swanning around among Patricia’s guests. Unlike her tennis party, these were genuine movers and shakers, people Patricia had assiduously collected as much for the reflected glamour as for what they could contribute to an evening. There were stars and writers (of books, not scripts), philanthropists, starlets, extra men, and a handful of notorious names that added a frisson of excitement I would quickly recognize as a hallmark of Patricia’s gatherings. Because no one knew what to expect at one of her parties, everyone was eager to attend.
Warned by my experience the previous night, I alternated between champagne and seltzer. I threw everything I had into the party, smiling, laughing, chattering, lighting cigarettes and fetching full glasses. By the time dinner was served and we were all laughingly finding our places, I had charmed half the party.
I was seated next to a Southern brunette and a fetchingly silvered older man who exuded gravitas. As the former debutante drawled her way through conversation with the man on her right, I turned to the man on my left.
“We didn’t have a chance to meet earlier,” I said. “I’m Peter Van Lawrence.” He deigned to glance at me.
“You’ve proved remarkably resilient,” he said. “I understand you’ve been in Los Angeles for less than a month?”
“That’s right,” I said, forcing myself to remain at the same conversational pitch even as I feared what was to come.
“And in that span of time you’ve ingratiated yourself into Patricia’s homelife and the office of Allan Short. That’s mighty fast work for someone so young.”
“Perhaps you’re unaware, but being pleasant has its advantages,” I said too sharply. He smiled down at his plate, neatly unfolding his napkin and smoothing it on his lap.
“Yes, I’ve also heard how pleasant you can be,” he said. “From a mutual… well, I wouldn’t call him a friend. Not of yours, certainly.” Continue reading