Several Excerpts from "Dreams Don't Die" By Melanie Saunders
|NOT in chronological order.
July 1995 "Live From The Womb!"
Comedienne Carole Burnett once compared childbirth to trying to pass an 8 pound bowling ball. That's about right. Natural childbirth, eh? Great concept. I can now say without exaggeration that I have faced death (or at least pain that certainly felt as though it would have typically ended in death, if not a beautiful child) and lived to gripe about it.
So much for truth in advertising. The media has deceived us for years. Consider those sit-com mothers, such as Lucy Ricardo, who appeared prim and pressed after she delivered, rather than shell-shocked and spent? Where was the screaming, the clawing at the sheets, the near fatal groin wounds Ricky may very well have sustained had he been a real world husband? Was Lucy superhuman? No wonder there was a baby boom, when women everywhere were led to believe having a baby was no more difficult than dropping down to the corner market for a carton of milk and a dozen eggs?
So there I was, in all of my naked abundance-hips shaking, brow sweating, and chest heaving-poised in a variety of unflattering poses, rolling about in unrestrained agony. Modesty had no place in that tiny white room. Had the medical powers that be paraded in the press for a live from-the-womb report and photo shoot I wouldn't have cared.
"Get it out!", I groaned, ripping at the seams. "Must get it out!"
"Would you like something?" the nurse asked. And for ten seconds of pain-induced insanity I begged for it all: The shots, the pills, the patches. Dope me up, woman! Fly me like a kite! But before she could provide any such relief, it was over. One good, teeth-gnashing push and...he was out. My weary eyes focused upon this tiny trembling miracle, placed in my arms. He cooed, his green eyes already open and as bright as the Irish countryside. He was beautiful. Wrinkled, blue, bloodied but beautiful.
"Welcome to the world little one", I whispered, kissing him. "Sorry to break it to you, but I'm your mother. Don't worry. I'll take good care of you." And I pray I have and always will do. I love my son, and can not imagine life without him. I would endure the pain of childbirth ten times over if the alternative would be the absence of this bright, beautiful, incomparably sweet child in the world.
September, 2000 "Found"
"What's this?" I wondered, clicking to open an e-mail from a 'Brenda Cook'.
"Holy Shit!", I gasped, reading through it. "Holy shit."
"What?" Michael asked, dumping his paint and brushes into my top dresser drawer. "What is it?"
"I didn't have to find him", I murmured. "He...found me!"
"Who?" my lover pressed, glancing over my shoulder. Michael's jaw dropped. "Holy shit!"
I grew up being told I was born to a musical celebrity but I no more believed it than I would have believed I was heir to a foreign throne. I thought it merely a pretty little fantasy-a little white lie-intended to cover, or soften a rather ugly truth. However unlikely his actual existence I did search for my birth father, based upon the limited information I had to go on. I succeeded in uncovering more than 5,000 James Cooks nation wide. Few had ever worked in music professionally and of those I contacted, including the one formerly of the Bob Hope TV show-none ever confirmed having lost a biological daughter through adoption in New York, in 1971. Tired, discouraged, and busied with other things, like my son-I gave up. This afternoon the unknown was both unearthed and no more. He lived. He breathed. He was indeed a musician, famous in his day.
According to this woman claiming to be one of several long lost sisters, my birth father was in fact none other than the late great country music entertainer Jimmy "J.D." Cook-best known for his work with Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Little Jimmy Dickens and Minnie Pearl, among others. Before his 1991 death the Georgia-born half Seminole Native American also founded a Texas Radio station and fathered fourteen children! Of these 14-of which 10 survive-I am the very youngest-the only one known to have been born to a woman other than his wife-and the admittedly startled subject of a song that bears my name. The family has been searching for me for years. Brenda admits they began to wonder whether I-like my birth father-would prove a legend all but lost through the passage of time.
"I can't believe it was true", I dazed. "I'm JD Cook's biological daughter?" I said it over and over, in disbelief. According to Brenda, I was the result of a relationship he had with a teenage girl he'd met during his travels in New York, with whom he'd fallen madly in love. Dorothea Bramer-Dottie to him-was a mere 19, while he was approaching 50. They moved in together after Dottie became pregnant and he and his wife divorced. Brenda described her father exactly as the adoption agency had described mine-approx 5'10" tall, a dark skinned man of medium build with Light brown hair, and green eyes... She confirmed other details but what sold me was the phone number found scribbled in an old address book found after his death-it was my birth mother's number when she lived in Queens with her parents. I'd discovered it myself when searching through old city records several years ago. It was strong evidence. That they had been searching for me for at least as long blew my mind. That he'd never intended on losing custody of me and actually fought for two years (which explains the delay in my adoption finalization) for me left me further awestruck.
"JD always spoke with great pride about his many children", Brenda went on to say. "He always included you. Would you be surprised to hear he actually wrote and dedicated a song to you years ago, hoping one day you'd hear it and know-know that he never forgot you...and that you were loved..." I couldn't speak. I just sat there and wept-a life time of questions, a lifetime of answers... overwhelming me at once. For all the love and care my adoptive parents gave me growing up they couldn't completely heal the hurt and fill the void in my heart. No matter how much an adoptee may be wanted and loved by his or her parents, she often feels abandoned or discarded by her family of origin. It weighs upon a person. And in my case, I feared that-so plagued with illnesses-I soon became a burden to my adoptive parents, an embarrassment, a continued disappointment... However incorrect this perception of myself and my parent's feelings might have been, I felt like a misplaced puzzle piece. Try as I did, I couldn't quite fit in. My quest to find my birth parents wasn't about not loving my Mom and Dad or not wanting them to be my parents, for I certainly love them and words alone could never convey the full extent of my gratitude for a lifetime of care and guidance. My search for their natural counterparts was about finding and completing myself. I was the greatest mystery that eluded me...
"It's a shame we weren't able to find you while he was still alive." It was all so unbelievable. ...And it seems to have all suddenly fallen into my lap. "Will you call me?", Brenda closed. "We have so much we want to share with you!"
Tuesday, September 12, 2000
J.D.'s surviving 9-which range in age up to 60-must be quite confident that I am the 10th, because they are now scrambling to provide me with copies of rare photos and even rarer masters he recorded with Hank Williams Sr.-which are quite valuable today. They've even offered me a share of his ashes. My eldest brother-Jim Jr.-has his shoes, one sister his albums, yet another few are nine years later still legally debating who is most deserving of his other remaining memorabilia. I am the one with the least proof of my identity, the least entitled to any possible inheritance.
"Do you think...you're entitled to any of his...money?" Michael hesitantly dared to wonder aloud.
"I'm not interested in his money-if he had any", I informed him. "But I wouldn't mind having a photograph and a copy of some of his music to listen to." Friends suggest that having a 'famous' birth father could help to further my own music career, and that I should use his name for all it's worth.
"I may be his long lost biological daughter", I explained to them. "But I never knew him. My Dad is the dear man sitting out there in the living room." It is he and my mother who loved me when I had no one, who took me in and raised me as their own, who introduced me to Christ, and to music. It is they who cared for me when I was ill and even through the darkest days of my teenage discontent they were there. No one has done more for me, and for Christian. It is their continued love and support that make me who and what I am. That said, I must confess I feel a strange sense of joy and relief to at last have reunited-at least by phone-with both sides of my biological family, and am excited about getting to know them. And okay-I can admit it-I get a kick out of knowing I am the natural child of a once well known musician. Rumor has it this pal of Elvis Presley was by most accounts himself a reputed playboy, a drunk and-master of guitar, fiddle, harmonica and voice-a most extraordinary talent....
My origin, my identity are no longer a mystery. I wasn't forged from clay. I didn't drop out of the sky. I was born to living, breathing human beings. I am genuine; I am whole.
Sept, 2000 "Legacy"
My cousin Dawn is completely freaked out.
"Jimmy Cook was your birth father?!", she shrieked. "They were talking about him on some TV documentary the other night!"
Ian called to congratulate me.
"It's fantastic but, FOURTEEN kids?!", he exclaimed. "When did he find the time to record music?"
Word of my discovery is apparently spreading.
Although I more resemble my birth mother, People tell me I look quite a bit like J.D. as well. Seems I have the Cook nose and Indian cheekbones. Now they don't set me apart but rather connect me, to scads of siblings I very much resemble.
I am not yet sure I am ready to go public with all of this, but it seems to have legs of its own. My brothers and sisters are determined to book us on a talk show. The Daily Oklahoman wants to run an article. My sister Patti is already planning the mother of all family reunions down in Georgia. Some suggest I should try to get a booking at the Opry, for a "tribute" performance. I wonder whether I am worthy of such a legacy. As much as I've wanted to be "someone" I never imagined it would be by accident of birth. I don't know how to respond. I'm happy and proud to be a Saunders. We're a good, strong, hardworking family. I'm not about to change my name to Cook. But then, "J.D." is inherently part of who I am.
I worry that my parents feel both overlooked and exposed at the moment. I would imagine neither is particularly comfortable.
November, 2001 "TWO Baseball Teams."
"Are you sitting down?", I opened, on the phone with my blood sister Brenda. "I think you'd better." In my recent research into my birth father's life and career I uncovered another two younger sisters somewhere in or near Little Rock, Arkansas-Twins born in approx. 1980. They would now be about 21.
"Oh my-", Brenda gasped, stunned but only for a moment. "Actually", she quickly reconsidered, "That shouldn't surprise me." J.D. was as well known for being a ladies man, both handsome and active into his 60's. He had his first child in his mid-teens and his last in his mid-60's.
Imagine sixteen children-including sets of twins and triplets-ranging in age between 20 and 60. That's more than the Brady's, the Jackson's, the Parton's, The Dion's and the Osmond's. I think ol' Jimmy "JD" Cook has even the prolific Anthony Quinn beat. So much for ever feeling alone in the world. We'll have to rent out a convention center for the family reunion.
My sister Teri-who, at 40 has had 8 boys and 1 girl (including twins) while on birth control-warns me that in terms of a genetic pool, we are extremely fertile and prone to multiples.
"Yikes!", yipped Michael, hesitating to touch me. After hearing this He's reluctant to even look at me with love his eyes.
"Oh, what's a kid or two or twelve", I razzed, dragging him across the bedroom by the belt loops.
"We're in trouble alright!", he laughed, pushed onto the bed. (And he never thought I'd get over my fear of intimacy.) Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. I've Cook blood in these here veins.
March, 2002 "The Man Behind The Music"
My siblings are interested in penning perhaps Jimmy Cook's first authorized biography. I've been asked to take on the bulk of the task, since-as I am reminded-I am the writer in the family.
"We have quite a story to tell", Teri assured me. They have. While my knowledge of my natural father growing up was limited to "Undisclosed American Musical Celebrity"-as was scribbled on official documents--they can personally recollect his glory days performing with the best old time country music had to offer. They remember him in the studio with Hank Williams Sr, posing for press photos with Minnie Pearl, laughing with Little Jimmy Dickens and passing time with cohorts Hank Snow, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Perhaps most memorable are the days they recall him performing onstage with his life-long close friend Roy Acuff-for whom my brother "James Roy" was named- and he and their mother Wanda having drinks and discussions with old pal Elvis Presley himself, late into the sultry southern night.
"I remember the first time I met him [Elvis] as a child", Teri dazed, recalling the man she calls 'the most gorgeous sight' she's ever seen. He'd gently taken her into his lap and she refused to get down, holding on with all of her heart. "He was so kind to all of us kids. We absolutely loved him."
"Wow", I mused. My life would have been very diferent, had JD raised me. I would perhaps have known Elvis and had a leg up in the music business but I would probably be even less stable emotionally.
"Be glad he didn't raise you", Patti told me. According to my sisters, life with J.D. was wrought with drama-but not all of it was desirable. This glimmering star had a dark side unseen by the public which only the immediate family knows about. They claim he wasn't only a womanizing drunkard but a violent, abusive father who was capable of a great many evils-if what a few of my sisters contend is to be believed. The former reporter in me senses a story, a scoop-a scandal, but I'm not sure I want to touch it. These are things I am not sure I want to know about the man who fathered me. Things I'd rather leave buried with him.
I was blessed with the world's greatest adoptive parents. We were not without our disputes while I was growing and I admit I wondered if we would ever get past the pain and have any kind of meaningful relationship but today I am proud to say we as a family have grown through therapy, love and the Grace of God-in wondrous ways. I am so proud of them, and the example they have and continue to set for me and my own son. Mom and I have always gotten along well. She is a diamond of a woman-strong, sweet, spunky and without a lick of fear-and I wish I were more like her. We're quick to point out our differences but I think in some ways I am very much like my father. He is headstrong, straightforward and speaks his mind. He is honest and hardworking. And though it can be difficult (for me at least) to penetrate his emotional armor and get close to him, he can be tremendously loving-as he was with me as a small child and as he is now with my own son. He is a fantastic grandfather. I don't think he ever knew just how much I have always loved and respected him. I don't think he ever realized how desperately being loved by him meant to me. Though I surely chased my birth father's ghost in my quest to better know myself, this precious man who raised me was the only Daddy I ever knew. He is my rock. He has never failed me.
Later in March, 2002
By most accounts from the siblings I have now spoken to, James Donald Cook's life was one of both triumph and tragedy. Handsome, talented, charming and comedic, he is rumored to have been irresistible to women (He had his first child while still in his mid-teens.) and great fun when with the guys. He was cocky, ambitious, driven by a dream he would sadly, only partially realize. His own hopes of true superstardom were thwarted by the alcoholism which ultimately killed him. I'm told his own dreams were dashed when he was refused for a permanent place on the Grande Ole Opry (due to his excessive drinking). He was destroyed, the failure pushing him only further over the edge. It isn't difficult to understand. I have too strived in music and so far fallen short of my full potential. I know the frustration of coming so close to making it all the way there that you can touch it, taste it, feel it in your hands and then only to have it knocked from your grasp by problems in your personal life. I am sad for him. But there is still hope for me. I have to get my act together.
My eldest sister Jean sent me a now faded black and white photo of J.D. from the mid-fourties, when he was in his early 20's. He was on Miami's South beach, amid palm trees-bare-chested and leaning back against a shiny new car. He smiled skyward, hair blowing in the ocean breeze, bronzed skin glistening in the sun. He was stunning, to say the least.
"I'm having impure thoughts about your birth father", my friend Kara admitted. "He was the Indian James Dean." Indeed.
"I should so be better looking", I laughed. I couldn't help but stare at the photo for some time. He was so young, so healthy then, so happy.... I wondered what he was like in those days. Confident and carefree.... He started out to conquor all the world. And he very well might have, if it weren't for the bottle. I root for the starry-eyed young man in the sand. I feel for the old man who never surrendered the dream. It survives in me.
January 1991 "Date Me If You Dare"
Although it aught to work the other way around, the older I get (I just turned twenty), the earlier my curfew falls. While she hasn't said it outright, my mother seems absolutely terrified of the possibility that I may be having sex, and is doing everything she possibly can to prevent me from being alone with anyone capable of "deflowering" me. I have been recited the rules.
1.) I must not be alone with a man in my room (or the kitchen, or living room or porch or anywhere in North America) with the door closed.
2.) I must not have a man in the house when my parents aren't at home. As if they would know. (They haven't caught me yet!)
3.) I must not date anyone who hasn't first been introduced to (and cross-examined by) my father. This step usually eliminates 99% of potential suitors. The other 1% generally consists of either the very brave, or the non-English-speaking set who think my Dad is merely offering them cake. Nod and smile, there you go hot stuff.
4.) I must not make any public show of affection, i.e. kissing or holding hands. (What if he suddenly passes out on the pavement? Can I give him mouth to mouth?)
5.) I must return home before my mother goes to bed, or else she'll be up all night worrying. Don't worry. Be happy. I have a life at last.
6.) If possible, I must remain a virgin until I am over 35 and married or my groin bursts out into flames, whichever takes the longest.
Artie is a brave, brave man.
EXCERPT #6 October, 1990 "Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This"
I must admit the perks of working in this business are incredible. For example, Debbie and I spent Saturday night hanging out backstage with Atlantic Recording Artist "Joey Kidd" backstage following his second show of the evening. Although he and George Lamond were there performing as "Loose Touch" that same weekend I first debuted as an artist at "Danielle's" back in June of last year I was so swept up in the chaos surrounding me that if he took any kind of liking to me then I didn't realize it. Standing before him now I couldn't imagine either possibility. Dark and slender with a smooth, sexy voice, he is beautiful to behold. And with all of his youthful success this Puerto Rican vocalist & dancer best known for his hits "Everything I own", and "Counting The Days" is remarkably down to earth.
"I appreciate you coming", Joey opened, kindly. Houdini couldn't have constructed a means of preventing it. "Come in, make yourself comfortable." Debbie nudged me to speak. I guess I was nervous, and she wasn't helping. She blurted out something about my wanting to bear his children.
"Debbie!" I gasped, embarrassed. I love the girl. It's a shame I'm going to have to kill her.
"Wow", Joey uttered, his face reddening to a shade matching my own. I scanned the room for something or someone to hide behind.
"I'm gonna go somewhere, shrivel up and die now."
"No-", he softly protested. "Don't leave. I want to talk to you."
"You do?" I smiled, pleased. And so I spared her life.
I asked Joey about his professional beginnings, and what it is like being on the road.
"Sometimes I perform on both coasts in a single weekend", he told me-tired but not one to complain. There's so much more going on behind the scenes then people realize...For all the benefits of a life in the music business there are dues to be paid-long hours of recording, rehearsals, and much travel, which means extended time away from family and friends.
"It must be very demanding ", I suspected.
"-But very EXCITING!", Terry-Joey's personal manager-piped in. Of my own creative efforts, Joey is encouraging.
"Don't ever give up, don't stop believing... He took and held my hand in his and for a brief moment I lost myself in his deep brown eyes. "You've got the potential-", he smiled, "if it's in your heart...." I wondered if we were still talking about music. He stared with unwavering intent, kissing the back of my hand. He is completely engaging-a paradox of uncommon innocence and unyielding sexuality. It was all I could do to breathe.
We moved downstairs to a secluded spot near the bar where-surrounded by his bodyguard and a verifiable army of security personnel-we stood leaning on each other and laughing. Joey is a passionate person-about his career, about life, about those he cares for. He goes straight for the heart and he had mine on a string. "Can I buy you a drink?" he offered, gently.
"Thank you-", I responded, whispering. "But I'd better not. Alcohol does bad things to me. BAD." He laughed, amused. "DON'T ASK." Joey was intoxicating enough. I needed no remedy to enhance the mood, no drink to escape. I couldn't be happier or more at ease than I was by his side.
"You're awfully sweet." I said. You're awfully sweet I thought--and cute and talented and I can't believe I'm hanging out with you and I would have bronzed the glass and if you keep grinning at me like that I'll never sleep tonight-. The only thing that shocked an observant and frustrated Debbie (withheld from his private corner) more than my chutzpa in approaching the man and his willingness to talk to me was the brief bout of affection we shared.
"So are you", he returned, leaning in. "You know, I've never dated another singer before..." Taking tenderly my flushed face in his hands, he kissed me. I sailed right off the deep end, stumbling as I swatted away the stars.
"I can die happy now!", I joked with Terry, who laughed. We had a great time, Joey and I, inseparable for the evening.
With a parting hug, Joey gave me his manager's number-the only means of contacting him while on the road.
"It was nice to meet you", he closed.
"It was nicer to meet you", I responded. He is classy, he is cool, he is everything you imagine Joey Kid to be and I am grateful for his friendship.
"I can't believe you kissed Joey Kid", Debbie muttered, on the way out.
"Neither can I", I admitted, still tingling. "I am never brushing my teeth again!"
"Then you'll never get kissed again!", she reminded me. Now, that would SUCK.
As luck would have it, "Everything I own" was playing on the radio when we climbed into the cab for the ride home. I melted into the seat with a sigh.
"Would you give everything you own to be with him?" Debbie asked. I threw my purse at her, followed by my coat and shoes.
"Take it", I said. "Take it all!"
"Hey!", she halted me. "Keep the clothes!" I can't wait to see him again. While there's no guarantee I ever will, you can't fault a girl for dreaming.
I would indeed hear from him again, although work kept him out of town much of the time. I was thankful for knowing him. It was good to both be young (19), our heads full of dreams, our hearts full of hope. We each found in each-other a trusted confidant, a cheerleader, and just as often, a temptation. What I remember most about Joey is his tenderness. He's never been afraid to feel deeply, to cry, to express himself in words or music. When he offered his heart, it was completely. He was genuine in a sometimes plastic profession and that was rare in any circle. I felt as though I could share anything with him.
So down to earth, I don't think he ever could quite comprehend the phenomenon which was "Joey Kid". History would record that mere months later he was rushed and knocked literally to the ground by a mob of young women at a record store signing in New York.
"It was overwhelming!", he admitted. "I can't believe all that was for me! I am really blessed to have such supportive fans." Joey would go on to greater success, as a member of both "Trilogy" and "C&C Music Factory", with whom he toured the world in 1995. I wouldn't fully understand the depth of his feelings for me until years later, when we were reunited by George Lamond during my brief separation from my husband. I mentioned in a 2004 EDITZGONEWILD magazine interview that perhaps the greatest benefit I ever enjoyed for my work in music was the enduring friendships I have made. And Joey remains one of my closest.
1991 "Whipped Cream Is Always In Fashion."
Somewhere in America, pigs are flapping around the barnyard.
My life has always been wrought with strange and unusual occurrences but my hooking up with my current beau downright defies the laws of nature. For legal reasons (which will become apparent later in this book) I can not outright mention his name. His true nomaker is both exotic and recognizable, but I will refer to him as "Adrian Valdez". I can tell you he's a 21 year old actor/model of Thai and Puerto Rican descent who works for the world's finest designers and has appeared in both television ads and in movies you've heard of. He's a black belt, a kick boxer and-resembling both Richard Grieco and Brandon Lee-may next February be Playgirl's centerfold, if he accepts the offer his agent forwarded to him.
"How would you feel about the whole world seeing your naked ass?" I wondered, reading through the proposal with him. And a nice naked ass it is.
"I'm flattered they want me but something like this could haunt me", he hesitated. "I'm trying to be taken seriously as an actor".
"Playgirl Magazine wants YOU?", his father teased, during a visit to Adrian's Long Island apartment. "Wahahahahahahaha!"
"Thanks for the support!", Adrian laughed. His Dad threw his arm over his shoulder and smiled proudly.
"They do know you get your good looks from me, don't they?"
Adrian and I met in a Long Island bar of all places; several months back and after returning from a calendar shoot in Hawaii he called to ask if I'd like to get together. I was sure he'd confused me with some Hollywood starlet but he seemed determined on landing mediocre me. So, now he and I are together as often as his schedule allows.
This evening Debbie and I were watching a cable program when during a fashion news segment they aired a clip of Adrian, strutting down a foreign runway sporting an ensemble most people couldn't afford to rent, much less buy. I'd always thought it was a pointless, elitist profession in that regard, but while watching Adrian in all of his beauty glide the cakewalk with almost ghostlike ease-I discovered its purpose.
"I'm horny", I murmured, frustrated in his absence. It occurred to me that no one really cares about the clothes. Put him in sackcloth. A leapordskin loincloth. Ribbons. Whipped cream. They could sell me anything providing it's on him.
"I can't believe that's your f-cking boyfriend!", Debbie complained, shaking her head beside me. "Weren't you voted most likely to die a virgin in school?" I couldn't help but grin at the irony. She pushed me off the couch. "Bitch".
No one is more surprised by Adrian's attention than I am. He left ten minutes of sweet and silly messages on my answering machine last night.
"I don't want you to forget me!", he laughed, reaching me at last.
"That'll never happen", I assured him. Mass media won't allow it. "Get back soon! I miss you!"
My life of late...is unreal. (If I'm dreaming, throw my alarm clock out the window!)
Saturday, April 4, 1992 "I've taken my lumps in life...."
Adrian and I spent the evening in his apartment, where I once again admired the colorful mural that covers one wall, the collection of martial art weaponry that hangs upon other and the big round novelty bed we pounced upon together, laughing when I bounced back up and onto the floor.
"Where did you go?" he exclaimed, peering over the edge.
"All I can say is Thank God for carpeting", I groaned. "Did you pay extra for the super-springy mattress?" And so he reached out and lifted me up beside him.
"We have to get cracking on music", he alerted me, snuggling up. "Mr. Hanley suggested we might fly out to California and coordinate things for the soundtrack from there. I have to meet the other actors and begin rehearsals."
"I don't think I can go right now", I murmured.
"You've got to take advantage of this opportunity", he urged. "Things like this don't come along every day."
"I agree-", I sighed. "But.... I'm due for surgery."
"Surgery?" he responded. "For WHAT?" I took a deep breath.
"My breasts....", I said. "Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary?"
"What, like a third one around back?"
"No-", I replied, suppressing the urge to snigger. "Like lumps".
"Only the two lovely ones in front", he smiled. "What are you getting at? What's wrong?" I sat up and considered how to tell my boyfriend I may soon be without my two lovely lumps in front on account of two less lovely others within.
"While you were away I found out I have breast tumors.", I carefully explained. "They think they may be malignant."
"Oh my God", he shrieked, facing me. "Cancer?"
"I don't know", I admitted. "It's a possibility." I won't know for sure either way until the tumors are removed and biopsied.
"So I can't go anywhere right now".
"I never felt anything", he remarked. "Show me.... show me where they are...." And so I did, as he hesitated to touch me with more than a fingertip. "Are you in any pain?"
"Only when I fall off the bed", I said.
"I am so sorry to hear about this", he whispered, kissing me softly upon the lips. "But I've got to tell you, Mel....The timing SUCKS."
"When IS a good time for tumors?" I responded.
"What are you going to do?"
"I know what I'm NOT going to do", I assured him. "I'm not going to give up. I've worked too hard for too long to go out like that."
ADORING IAN CRAWFORD....
1993 "Carpet Burns"
"You are WEIRD" I told Ian, who was arched above me on the floor, purring like a cat. "And coming from ME that ain't good."
"I'm trying to seduce you."
"That so?" I responded.
"Is it working?"
I grabbed his forearms, pushed him over onto his back and sat down, pretending to file my nails.
I couldn't tell whether his expression conveyed disbelief or determination but I was easily returned to my prior position, my hands pinned to the carpet. "Okay, so you've conquered me."
"If I had a flag I'd stick it in your ass", he joked. I roared until he lowered himself and silenced me with a kiss. "I love you."
"You WHAT?" I smiled, surprised by this sudden confession.
"You heard me", he flushed, adding in whispers, "You know how I feel."
Ian and I can flirt till the cows come home but when it comes to verbally expressing our true feelings it requires all the courage we can muster.
Ian is a difficult man to ignore- uncommonly handsome, unbelievably warm and witty. Perhaps it is in his genes. Grand-nephew of legendary silent screen star Rudolph Valentino, he grew up around and influenced by the greatest of old Hollywood stars, including the incomparable Greta Garbo. She especially took to a young Ian, believing he to possess that same Valentino star quality and natural onscreen charisma. Even while she shunned most in her later years she still sent for a then teenage Ian, taking the time to guide and encourage him, over dinner. He absolutely adored her and when she passed in April of 1990 (soon followed by the passing of his best friend -singer and back-up dancer Michael Hammond to cancer), he was thrown into a period of deep despair. Therapy helped him through this rough period. But the love and loss of such precious people have left a mark forever upon his heart.
Though he sometimes records under the name "Valentino Productions", Crawford is his preferred stage name. He is proud of the legacy but he would rather be recognized for his own accomplishments. (That said, he admits looking like uncle Rudy certainly hasn't hurt neither his career nor his love life.) This former model is breaking a whole new generation of hearts.
"I didn't stand a chance, did I?" I asked, weakened with want and gazing into his bright brown eyes. "If you could bottle it, you'd make a fortune."
"If I asked you to have my baby, would you?" he asked, out of nowhere.
"Don't say things like that!", I scolded, adding under my breath in whispers. "Gad, yes."
"I knew you would say that!", he laughed. I'd give him anything, everything. Just to be near him. Just to love him is a gift for which I will be eternally grateful. "
Ian differs from his romantic relative in one most obvious way: He's anything but silent. (It's no wonder he's such a powerful singer. His vocal chords are constantly in use.)
"Ian!", I whined, laughing as he rambled on beside me, propped up watching TV. "Give it a rest!"
"There's only one way to shut me up", he clued me in.
"Yes, but is it legal?", I questioned, smirking. He once again pushed me passionately onto the carpet and planted one on me. Wanton and weakened, I strained to breathe. Go on, oh modern day Valentino-Toss me upon your camel! Steal me away and lie me down upon distant sands! Take me my sweet and-
"Now, as I was saying...." Eh. A girl can hope. .
1993 "Fitness Or Fat Junkies?"
Ian grabbed his duffle bag and out we headed, destined for the gym.
"Off with the clothes!", Ian exclaimed, unlocking his car door. "I mean, off with the pounds!"
"Will you ever stop thinking about sex?"
"Sure", he smiled. "When I'm DEAD. I'll spend all of eternity not thinking about sex. And you know, that's a lot longer than say, the 80 or 90 years I may live." His mischievous brown eyes shifted towards me.
"Keep dreaming", I laughed. I could only imagine what he was thinking, the little gears in his brain cranking away, and an imaginary whiff of smoke slipping out of each ear. (He did promise me a workout.)
While some of what we each do professionally does seem to come admittedly easy to us, staying in shape is a continued struggle. We play tennis, do aerobics, tone with weights, bask in tanning beds, undergo facial, hair and (in my case) nail treatments, and down a pharmacy's stock of supplements. All in the name of beauty. I'm ashamed of just how high maintenance I've become. Hell, I even bleach my teeth.
Thankfully, the effects of my efforts have not gone unnoticed--at least by Ian, who I spied watching me from the doorway of one of the rooms. I was sweating through a drill of new dance steps before the wall mirror. Stronger, healthier, more confident, I feel more alive than I ever have.
"Those kids you said teased you in school wouldn't believe their eyes if they saw you today", he applauded. "You've really come into your own." Eh, I'm still an awkward klutz. I just look better falling down. Ian strolled in and hugged me. "I'm proud of you." He--more than anyone else in my life perhaps--believes in me.
HI. MY NAME IS MELODY AND I AM A CHOCOHALIC.
Admitting the problem is supposed to be the hardest part. Not so. Ian and I have been watching our diets, and struggle with moments of weakness. This afternoon while shopping, I had to rescue him from a threatening peach pie.
"It's taunting me, Mel!", he panicked, pressed against the glass case. I pulled him out of the store. In turn, he saved me from death by chocolate.
"A-HA!", he squealed, catching me in the act of raiding the fridge. "Is that a COOKIE?"
"Mnno!", I sputtered, exhaling crumbs. Okay, so maybe it was time for an intervention.
"Hand it over!", Ian demanded. I swallowed. He tried in vain to wrestle the box out of my grubby little mitts. "You're stronger than the cookies! You don't need them!" I was a junkie jonesing for a fix.
"Mnno!", I stubbornly protested, mashing the last two into my mouth. "I cam mit amytime I mant!"
"Baaad!", Ian scolded. "Bad Melody!"
"Oooo", I mumbled, somewhat aroused. "BABY".
"No more for you!". With the empty box he took and pitched my glass of chocolate milk. He found an empty pudding cup and wrapper in the trash. "No wonder you're strung out like a pair of Russian acrobats!"
"Party pooper", I grumbled, deterred but not defeated. I produced a handful of hidden caramels, to which Ian surrendered with a sigh.
"Only one?" So there we were, two lost souls with grins full of gunk.
"The Parking Lot" 1993
Woo hoo! Ever have one of those days when things go so impossibly right you think you must still be dreaming? Rare and wonderful they are. Ian had to pinch me twice. I have somehow landed the female lead in a network made for television movie under development, as a bikini-clad beach baby in a modern day teen scene! It's working title is "The Parking Lot" because that beachside lot is the center of activity on this Miami dune. Rosie O'Donnell will be costarring (as a witty hot dog vender, I'm told) and I can't wait to work with her! She so cracks me up.
"You'll be the shows sex appeal", producer-director Richard M. Dixon informed me. He is himself a fine actor, famous for his work with Woody Allen and other films in which he expertly impersonated former President Nixon.
"If you say so", I laughed, flattered. I'm not going to argue with anyone who thinks so highly of me.
"Is he a drinker?" Ian teased, of his judgment in choosing me-but was quick to retract the comment. He pulled me into his arms. "It looks as if you've finally got your big break!" I am trying not to get my hopes up before the project's actually sold, but it's hard not to go a little crazy with the news. Ian threw up his Mets baseball cap. "Mel's making it! You're making it!"
--------ONE MONTH LATER--------
They're busy setting up filming locations for "The Parking Lot" both in New York and Florida's south beach. They've gone as far as to be already planning specific camera shots.
"The camera will pan you from legs to lips as you walk across the beach", Mr. Dixon directed. "You'll pause to run your fingers through your hair." I must admit I find it difficult to put myself in this scene as it's written. I can imagine myself ambling across a beach, but then I would trip over someone's oversized bottle of sun screen and topple a sand castle. I can imagine running my fingers through my hair. And getting them stuck, stumbling and again, landing on someone's sand castle. Cool, calm and sublimely sexual is going to require some acting chops. Chops I know I have but seldom have this chance to use. Oh I am stoked! "In the opening scene the camera will follow as you walk over to greet your onscreen lover (a few young hollywood actors are being considered) and climb into his white convertible...." Now, I have a pick of my own for my costar.
"Hey, Can we get Tom Cruise?" I teased, to the hysterical disbelief of listening professionals. "I'm kidding! I'm kidding!" Can you blame me for trying?
"Honey, I wish we could get him", Mr. Dixon agreed with a smile. You, me and Rosie.
--------TWO MONTHS LATER--------
I fear the Parking Lot has been parked indefinitely. They were selecting locations but could not go into full production and begin filming due to a lack of adequate financial funding.
I am beyond disappointed. I am depressed. Although I am primarily considered a singer/songwriter I have always had acting aspirations. Of all the entertainment fields one can go into, it is been for me the most difficult to get into professionally. I was in plays--both in school and for Long Island's "Creative Ministries". There was that cheesy little flick I did in my freshman year of high school. Someone stole the unedited reels over spring break-like a babe nabbed right out of its stroller. A wash. Then there was that film with Adrian I was supposed to co-score and possibly appear in, considered for a supporting role. He blew it and with him he shot the rest of our hopes to H-E-double hockey stick. I attended the open auditions for "Born On The Fourth Of July". Ian and I recently read for parts in another major motion picture for a large well known company. Auditions can be brutal, especially at that level. (While we were both turned down, My good (and ex-freshman-year boyfriend) friend, blonde, blue-eyed actor Jeremy Klimer made call backs and our other friend Anthony-a dashing and down to earth Ford model, further landed a supporting role.) And now this.... This was BIG. This would have changed my life, rocketing me from local yokel to household name.
Ian offers his shoulder for crying, his hand for holding and his heart for hanging on.
"If anyone can do it it's you, Mel", he sweetly encouraged. "So few people actually make it because they simply give up. You don't know the meaning of the word 'quit'. Your persistence paid off with me, didn't it?" I shrugged. "-And it might even pay off again a little later tonight-" He paused to wiggle his eyebrows at me and I burst into laughter.
"Gad, I love you", I sighed, hugging him hard.
"If you fight for your dreams the way you fought for me, Hollywood isn't going to know what hit it."
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