struggling singer gets first crack at network TV show--with strings attached--how
does a guy convince her that her big break did not come from Santa Claus,
but from snake-in-the-grass?
"The Trendex Trap"
by John Turner
Vol. 12, No. 9-141, 1963
ANGRILY, THE GIRL SAT DOWN on
the edge of the bed. Keller--from the living room--could see her reflection
in the mirror. He stared at her half-dressed profile, absently watching
light from the window play over her soft shoulders and the tangle of rich
brown hair. Her voice snapped at him through the crack in the door. "Hell.
I don't think you'll ever understand this business." Keller answered, "Maybe
the trouble is I understand too well." He heard her sigh.
"You have all the assurance," she said, "of the
"Come down to earth," Keller said quietly. "I don't
have to be in something to know how it works. And I'm not talking about
television itself. I'm talking about you going out with Hughes tomorrow
night." He watched her pause with one nylon halfway up her leg. She saw
it had a run and impatiently jerked it off.
"For the dozenth time," she said, "it doesn't mean
anything. It is publicity. I'm going to do the Teddy Hughes show."
Going out with him is nothing but a routine way
of getting pre-show publicity. "I'm the one who benefits from it." Keller
threw up his hands. "Look," he said, "he's notorious. This is one of the
fringe benefits of being Teddy Hughes and having your own show. He finds
girl singers, or dancers, or sword swallowers, for all the difference it
makes, and then signs them for a one-shot on his show. This isn't charity,
Donna. Young girl gets break from Teddy. Young girl is properly grateful.
Make that improperly grateful."
Donna's voice was flat. "He takes me out, we get
our names in the columns. It does the show good, it does me good. He explained
it to me himself."
Keller sighed. He saw Donna stand and fasten her
stockings, then reach for her slip. She saw his face in her mirror, tightened
her lips, and slammed the door shut.
Shrugging, Keller roamed the apartment, studying
the pale paint on the walls that barely covered ancient cracks in the plaster.
She looked at the secondhand furniture, the improvised decorations.
Donna Sayers. Half-a-hit record. A few so-what club
bookings. Even fewer TV spots on the afternoon small shows. Now a shot
at the Teddy Hughes show.
Tell Donna Sayers that Teddy Hughes isn't Santa
Keller drew a breath. "Donna, what do you think
would happen if you told him you couldn't make that date tomorrow night?
If you dodged the date bit altogether?"
Her door opened and she peeked out. "What?"
"Think you'd still be doing his show?"
"Of course," she said. "He wouldn't cancel me out
of the show because of...
"Lets find out," Keller cut in. "Let's test it,
Donna. Are you sure enough to test it?"
She bit off the word. "Yes. You're damn right I
"Swell. Let's test it today. Are you ready for the
"Almost." She disappeared behind the door for a
moment, then entered the living room and turned her back to Keller. Automatically,
she zipped up her dress. "Fine," she said over her shoulder. "We'll just
Keller picked up her coat. She looked at him. "How
much of me," she asked, "did you manage to see?"
"Nut much," he said. But he recalled watching her
move about the bedroom, watching the long legs swing out, watching the
hips roll softly, watching how gracefully she slipped into her bra and
It would be worth the trouble to keep her out of
the reach of the likes of Teddy Hughes.
The Hughes show rehearsed in a tall ceiling, one-time
warehouse on New York's West Side. The big, splashy variety show
needed every bit of space. In a given week, the feature act might be half
the Ice Capades company or two scenes from a Broadway musical. Only the
Ed Sullivan show matched the scope of the weekly spectaculars Hughes puts
Keller saw him almost immediately when they walked
into the cavernous hall.
He stood under a flood of lights in the center of
activity, three massive color cameras clustered around him, a mike dangling
over his head, stretching from a boom.
He was short, with a noticeably thickening middle
He wore a tight gray sweatshirt over the bulge, doing nothing to hide it.
Wardrobe would have to worry about that when the red light of the camera
came on. Hughes had red hair, bright enough to seem dyed. It was long and
carefully combed. His face was small, sharp-featured, dominated by fast-moving
eyes and a stringy mustache.
His voice echoed in the hall. "Get that goddam mike
off my head!" One arm was raised, his head was thrown back, and Keller
thought he looked like a politician winding up a hell-raising campaign
Hughes was roaring on. "That mike shows up in one
more shot and somebody's ass is in a permanent sling!"
Donna walked straight toward him and Keller trailed
her slightly. He knew she was still annoyed. Her heels hammered on the
floor and she walked like someone in an angry hurry.
They reached the fringe of the circle of activity
around Hughes. He paused for a moment in the barrage of instructions to
the crew and Donna raised her voice to him.
"Mr. Hughes? Teddy? Can I see you?" Hughes squinted,
then shielded his eyes against the sidelights placed on the floor just
off-camera. He leaned forward to see who was calling, then recognized Donna.
"Hiya," he said, moving his full mouth into a smile.
"We'll be set for your number in about five minutes--ah, oh...
Keller said, "Donna Sayers."
Hughes glanced at Keller. "Sure. What, don't I know
her name?" He let the smile grow a little.
"I wasn't sure," Keller said.
Hughes moved closer to him. "Who you, pal?"
"Pal of Donna's," Keller told him.
And then she spoke, waiting until Hughes was exactly
in front of her.
"About tomorrow night, Teddy. I don't think I can
make it. Our date, I mean."
Hughes smiled. "Oh, sure you can, honey."
Donna's lips pressed together. "I'm afraid not."
The clatter of the rehearsal hall filled the silence
Hughes' eyes were steady on Donna's face. "Sure
you can," he said again. "It's all set."
Keller saw Donna force a smile. It looked tight
and nervous and maybe frightened. "Well, it can't be that important."
Hughes' voice was cooling. "I had it all planned."
"Well, I'm sorry," Donna said, working on the smile.
Hughes blinked once, twice. His voice was impatient.
"Look, honey, can we make a short story out of this? Tomorrow night, okay?"
Donna said nothing.
"I said it was all planned. Just like it's all planned
for you to dance on my show. I mean, we don't go around changing plans
at the last...
Donna said, slowly, "I'm a singer, Teddy."
He was flustered only a moment. "What'd I say, dancer?
Sure, singer. I know." There was a short silence, and then Hughes voice
snapped into irritation. "Look, f'crissakes, let's get with it. There's
a lot to be done." He turned his head and waved his hand at the assembled
cameras, lights, personnel. "Are you ready for the rehearsal?"
Quietly, Donna said, "The rehearsal's not the problem."
His eyes riveted her. "Baby, it's the only problem
I've got. If there are other problems, they're all your problems."
"Teddy," Donna began.
"I mean, you're makin' problems, honey."
"I'm not making any "You sure as hell are," Hughes
"C'mere, I'll show you."
He reached out and grabbed Donna's hand, then turned
back to the rehearsal area. He pushed his way through a knot of three technicians,
each one wearing a headset that tied them in with the control room.
"Turn that camera around here," Hughes ordered and
the triple turrets of the color camera swung toward him soundlessly. He
led Donna to the camera and placed her feet on an "X" mark chalked onto
the bare floor of the rehearsal hall.
"Line up a shot on her," Hughes snapped over his
shoulder. "And move that monitor over here where she can see it. Stand
right there," he said to Donna.
She stood, mouth partly open, eyes blinking in the
glare of the massive spots pouring light down on her.
Hughes stepped back, out of the circle of light,
still talking. "All right, pal, change the lens on that goddam thing. I
want a medium close shot. Get her from the knobs up. Don't leave anything
out. Come on," he called to the two men pushing the studio monitor into
place, "get that thing over here. Put it where she can see it. Hurry up."
Keller craned his neck to see the monitor. A picture
of Donna swam up on the big color screen of the monitor. The fidelity of
the colors was perfect. There was her rich, dark hair, there the soft,
white skin, there the brown of her eyes, the red of her mouth.
"All right," Hughes said, "that's fine. Hold that
shot." He walkeD out in front of the silent, steady color camera and spoke
to Donna. "Minute ago, I told you that you were makin' problems, honey,
Donna nodded her head, still blinking in the blinding
"Now you see that monitor there. A little make-up,
a costume, that's the general idea of how you look on this show this week.
That's how you look all over the country. Now sing."
Donna was perplexed. "What?"
"I said sing, Baby. You know how, sing!"
Nervously, Donna opened her mouth. The voice came
out in a mingle of fear and uncertainty as her words echoed lightly in
the gigantic Hall, sounding hollow without the accompaniment of an orchestra.
"You got the idea?" Hughes said. Donna faltered,
stopped. Hughes fluttered his hand at her. "Keep singing, honey, don't
stop. But keep listening to me..."
Donna picked up the tune again. Hughes leered at
her, not paying attention, to the sound of her voice, but rather where
the voice came from. "Remember I told you I had it all planned? Had everything
all planned? But now you're talking about making changes on me, aren't
you? And that makes problems. Keep watching your self on that monitor."
He turned his back to the color camera. "Now I'm
gonna show you the problems you make if things get changed around. That's
you, on the monitor there, that's you on my show. But if we start having
changes, here's what happens. Here's my problem."
Hughes raised his right hand. Deliberately, he placed
his palm over the lens of the camera. On the monitor, where--a moment before--Donna's
image had been, there was sudden darkness. Donna stopped singing.
"And that's my problems," Hughes said. "All of a
sudden there's nothing there. And I have to find something else to fill
up that nothing for the show. See what I mean?"
Donna swung her eyes slowly back to him, then to
the monitor, then to him. She saw how he was mentally undressing her. So
was half the production crew. It wasn't her voice at all that interested
"Now, honey," Hughes said, "would you us step aside?
I've got this work to do.'' Woodenly, Donna walked out of the circle of
light, over to where Keller was standing. She looked up at him. "I thought
you were wrong," she said, "I really did."
"I'm sorry," Keller said. "It's like that sometimes,
Donna. But not all the time."
She turned around and walked toward the square metal-plated
door through which they'd entered the hall. Keller followed her.
"Listen," he said to her when they were outside,
''tomorrow night we'll go out and do things up, small-scale, okay? Dinner,
show, that bit?"
Donna sounded tired. "Give me a ring later. Call
me. I'm going home now."
Keller wanted to go with her, but knew better "I'll
give you a ring," he said and pressed her arm.
Keller shook his head, wanting to do something knowing
nothing to do. Later, perhaps, when the humiliation was behind her, when
the disappointment was gone, maybe then he could .
Donna had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.
And then she turned and her shoulders straightened. She began to walk back
towards him, and now her legs swung out and she walked with purpose, briskly.
Keller looked into her face as she neared him. Her
mouth was a tight line.
And suddenly he understood. She was about to march
back in there and start chewing out Teddy Hughes!
He had to smile. And, of course, he had to stop
her. She'd only make a fool of herself Hughes would laugh in her face.
Now she was in front of him. "Don't try to, stop
me," she said.
Keller couldn't help laughing at the determination
in her voice. "Come on, honey. What for? You'll be better off throwing
dishes at the wall at home. Let it go. It was a cheap education. Forget
She looked at him steadily, unsmiling.
"Don," he said, "what can you do--brain him with
the mike boom? Come on. Honey, I know how you feel, but--well, let it go
for now. Listen, I was thinking, tomorrow night, we can go on over..."
"No," she cut in, "not tomorrow night. I'm busy
"I told you about it,'' she said evenly. "There's
this date with Teddy Hughes, remember? I cant talk now, darling. I'm already
late for rehearsal. Call me in a couple of days?"
And she brushed past Keller, tugged on the door
to the rehearsal hall and disappeared into the light inside.