By eleven the next morning, Gladys had a message on her phone from a dishy voice that loads of girls would have gladly suffered a Transylvanian bite of death for. Darren Woolf was inviting her to Rubies, a club in Mayfair where all the celebrities and the posh socialites with titles like, “The Honourable” hang out. Some of the people on the dance floor are in line for the Throne.
“I would be a fool to turn him down,” she thought, “but I vow to myself that I’ll be careful. I will be up front about not wanting to take it any further. Even if he hates me for it, it doesn’t matter. I’ve not lost anything.”
She decided that a date with a film star did call for something a bit special to wear. For once, she did a sensible thing and asked Sara to come shopping with her. Sara suggested a purple dress but the shop assistant said that for a posh date, you can’t go wrong with a little black number. Gladys wavered. She overruled her friend and went with the shop assistant’s advice. It was a good decision. Suddenly she looked something she had never seemed before: sophisticated.
Gladys had discovered something surprising. The prospect of a posh dinner with somebody who is world-famous for being dishy is actually more nerve wracking than performing in front of a huge crowd. She was quieter than usual as they took the bus home. “Don’t worry. All you have to do is sit and look pretty,” said Sara.
“I can’t help being serious,” said Gladys. “It’s my personality.”
“You can’t be Miss Sensible for the rest of your life,” said Sara.
“Yes, I can,” said Gladys.
It wasn’t often that Dad complimented Gladys on her looks, but as she came down the stairs on the evening of her first ever date he said, “Wow! Where are you going honey?”
“Out to dinner with Darren Wolf,” replied Gladys coolly.
“Is he a friend from school, love?” Asked Dad, who knew nothing about any film made more recently than about 1977.
“Yes,” said Gladys. “He’s just a kid from school.”
The Rubies Club did not exactly advertise itself. Its entrance was just an ordinary door leading onto a pavement in Mayfair. It did not have to tout for custom however. Anybody who was worthy of the name of “socialite” knew where it was.
A very smart and good-looking man stood outside the door. His Italian suit fitted perfectly around his powerful shoulders. He could have been a sportsman perhaps, or even an up and coming actor. Then she noticed his hands. Surely, nobody but a bouncer would wear leather gloves.
“Good evening,” he said, as he opened the door for her. No questions asked. She stepped into a little entrance hall. There was nothing impressive about it, apart from a girl who sat behind a desk.
“Good evening,” she said. Her teeth were as perfect as her pearls. She was beautiful, but she looked like the sort of girl who is afraid to smile in case she gets a wrinkle.
“Darren Wolf has booked a table for two, I’m Gladys Jones.”
The girl’s glacial blue eyes dipped momentarily to the laptop on her desk.
“He’s waiting at the bar for you,” she said.
“Yes,” thought Gladys as she went in.
She walked through the club, trying not to stumble on her high heels, looking for Darren, and hoping that she did not seem to be celebrity spotting. “Oooh,” thought Gladys, “She’s famous, I’d better not look. Oh no! He’s even more famous, though I can’t place his name; he’s so old that Dad would know it.”
Then Darren stood up. “Gladys, you look stunning,” he said.
“Thank you,” she replied. Nobody had ever said anything like that to her. Did he really mean it? Did he know that if she wasn’t actually a schoolgirl, she probably should still be one?
He had an ice bucket with a bottle of chilled white wine leaning in it, but she said that she didn’t drink and asked for water. She nearly said, “tap water” but didn’t. The barman asked her, “Still or sparkling Madam?”
“Still,” she said.
“You know, there’s something I probably ought to tell you,” Gladys admitted, dipping her eyelids down shyly, and then looking up at him and appealing for sympathy. “I’m only sixteen and this is my first date. Oh no, I didn’t mean it quite like that. What I meant was; I’ve never been out with anyone. I mean, rather I didn’t mean to say that this is a date, but rather that it isn’t, if you understand.”
Darren did look a little surprised for just a moment. “Your first date?” He said. “Well I didn’t quite realise. We had better make it special then. How about champagne?”
“I’ll just stick with the water.”
“I’ll just stick with conversation. I wanted to say how much I like your music, and discuss if I can help your career.”
“In any case,” added Gladys who had been reading the celebrity blogs, “You’ve got a girlfriend.”
“Well not anymore, actually, but more to the point, have you still got that terrible agent?”
Gladys felt comfortable talking about business. She told him that she had been locked into a yearlong contract. She laughed and said that all she had got out of it thus far was a tattoo that she didn’t want.
“I noticed that,” he said, glancing at her shoulder. “It’s cute.”
He suggested that she simply write to the owner of her management company and ask to be released from her contact. He might well let her go. In any case, he would realise that she was unhappy and he might try harder. Gladys was enough of a businesswoman to see that Darren was talking good sense.
“And when you get out of your contract, whether it’s now, or a year from now, I’ll introduce you to my agency. They manage musicians as well as actors and they have offices all over the world. I can’t promise anything, but I am sure they will at least see you. Can’t do any harm, hey?”
“Thank you so much,” said Gladys, “It’s really kind of you.”
“It’s nothing,” said Darren. “I’ve seen you perform. I really believe in you. I know you’re going to go far. You’re all the more amazing because you’re just sixteen.”
Gladys ate scallops, followed by rack of lamb, and tiramisu. They went into the disco and did a little dancing to 1980s music – Gladys remembered what the music execs had said about the 1980s not coming back anytime soon, and wondered if they really knew what they were talking about.
The dance floor was still going strong when Darren called a car – not any old taxi, but a limo with a driver in a peaked hat. He escorted her all the way to Teddington, even though the driver could have dropped him off at his flat on the way.
The next morning there were eight messages on her phone. One from Darren thanking her for being such beautiful and charming company – and seven from her friends asking all about it.
“He was a perfect gentleman,” Gladys texted back to Sara.
“Oh, boring!” Came the reply, and then, “Go on, tell us what really happened.”
Gladys really wasn’t hiding anything. She had found someone genuine who really wanted to help her.
“None of my friends would believe it,” thought Gladys, “but I believe it. I think good things are going to happen now.”
Jay-Jay texted her at lunchtime and said, “Hey Gladdy, you’re famous.”
“What do you mean?” Gladys replied.
“Seen the Daily Post online? Your pics in the sidebar with all the celebs.”
What had she done to deserve inclusion in the ‘Sidebar of Shame’ where the online newspaper dumped all the celebrity tittle-tattle that made it so popular?
To her amazement, and some horror, it was true. She could hardly believe her eyes – not one, but three pictures of her, coming out of Rubies holding onto Darren’s arm, walking across the pavement, and then getting into the back of the Limo. At one point Darren was holding her hand… but it had not been like that. He was just helping her.
“How did they snap those?” She thought. At the time, she had hardly noticed the photographers – she assumed they were interested in Darren, not her, because, well, she wasn’t famous yet. She took a deep breath and scanned the article.
Who is that young chick on Darren’s arm?
(“Chick! What a cheek!” Thought Gladys. She had somehow managed to forget that her family’s fame rested on a band called the chiX).
Darren Wolf was spotted stepping out with sixteen-year-old Gladys Jones, the younger sister of girl band, the chiX, which broke up last year. Gladys, who was too young to join her song-sisters in their heyday, has now quit school to pursue her own musical career.
A friend of Darren Wolf told the Post, “There’s nothing romantic between them, they’re just close friends. Darren wants to see if he can help Gladys professionally. He really respects her as an artist. I think he likes her a lot, but she is a tad on the young side for him.”
Other diners at Mayfair’s Rubies club reported that the Bitten star seemed smitten by his pretty, young companion as they were dancing up close later on.
The news that Darren’s old flame super-model Michelle De La Mare is seeing boxing champ Hussein Akwal has set tongues wagging about who will be the vampire actor’s next victim of love. Watch this hot couple for further developments.
Gladys’ first bite of fame actually quite annoyed her. “It’s all wrong,” she thought. “I’m not seeing Darren; I just went out with him once. Besides, I don’t want to be known as Darren’s girlfriend, I want to be me, just me in my own right; an artist, not a chick. In any case,” she wondered, “how did they know my name?”
She realised there were two possibilities: either the club had tipped off the press, or Darren had told them. Why would he drop her in it? She dialled his number.
“Hi Darren,” she said, “It’s me, Gladys. Have you seen the Daily Post?”
“Yes, I’m just looking at it now. Nice pics of you,” he said. “You have two great advantages. You are young and you don’t drink. You looked fresh at 2am. Even the top models look pretty iffy when they come stumbling out of Rubies.”
“Was it really 2am?” She asked, horrified that she had been out so late.
“Something like that,” he said. “But don’t worry – it makes it perfectly clear there is nothing going on between us. I insisted on that.”
“You mean you spoke to them?” Asked Gladys, quite taken aback.
“Not me, but my agent did. He is very much interested in you by the way. His colleague in the music department is keen to get you on their books. They thought a little publicity wouldn’t do you any harm.”
“But nobody asked me,” protested Gladys.
“The press don’t ask permission,” said Darren. “It’s a free country. Sometimes they write things you do not like. Sometimes they get it a bit wrong, but if you are going to make it in the world of entertainment, you have to cut a few compromises. If a journalist calls, get back to them right away, or get your PR to get back to them, because journos are always on tight deadlines. Be polite to these people. Give them what they need, but on your terms. If you do not help them, they will write something anyway, and they might twist the knife. These are the rules you have to learn. Take it from me. When you are newsworthy, your career starts to become a whole lot easier. People call you. Things start to happen.”
“But what if they write too much about you?” Asked Gladys. “Shouldn’t you keep the press at arm’s length?”
“Hey Gladdy, when you’re Beyoncé, you can worry about that. Right now, you need to get your name known.”
Gladys began to see it is a big advantage if people know your name. When she had walked into the record company, they had been so patronising. They thought she was a sixteen-year-old nobody. It wasn’t her music they were interested in. What did some smooth geezer in a suit care about her art? It was her value as a commodity. They valued her price as next to zero. They wanted someone they could package up and sell to the public. If the public had seen your picture, and thought you were the girlfriend of the star in a vampire movie… well you had done half the work for them – your price tag had gone up a few notches. It wasn’t so hard to imagine your name on the bottom of a recording contract.
People did start to get in touch with her. The first was Laura – that evening she received a rare message from her starlet sister who resided in California.
“Hey Glad, just drooling over the pics of that vampire boy you’re stepping out with. Lucky little sister me thinks.”
Gladys replied, “He’s a nice guy, but I’m not stepping out with him, and I’m not planning to. He wants to help me with my career.”
Then Laura messaged, “Still same old Miss Sensible-Pants. Well get your bum on a flight over here and meet my record label. They want to snap you up before anyone else grabs you.”
“Wow,” thought Gladys. “What a change! Just one silly article in the papers, and suddenly my sister wants to help me. Well Carpe Diem!” She wrote it down absent-mindedly on her notepad. If she had stayed on at school, she would have taken Latin as one of her A-levels. It meant, “reap the day,” or, “seize the moment.”
Oh! How was she going to afford a flight to California? She had spent almost all her savings on recordings. How was she going to seize the moment without any money? The situation was such a … she nearly said a bad word aloud, but she was too nice to do that, even in the solitude of her own room. Instead, she picked up her teddy bear by the ear and threw him across against the wall. He was sixteen years old, like Gladys, and a bit too doddery for rough play.
She couldn’t sleep that night. She had a sort of waking dream. She was thinking of a flight taking off for LA, and could see a passenger seat occupied by a ghost girl. She couldn’t fasten the seat belt around her tummy, because it wasn’t substantial. She couldn’t even taste the rubbery airline chicken. Then she was looking out of the window. She could see the palm trees on the beach, the cool dudes surfing the waves. She imagined the sleek offices of the music company – and there she was – not actually her, but the ghost of the girl who might have been a star. Her first break and she couldn’t take it. She knew how changeable and unreliable Laura was. If she didn’t get on a flight right away, her sister would forget all about what she had said. Next week could be too late. How was she going to beg, steal or borrow the price of an airline ticket? She might have to ask her management company, but they had been so rubbish at managing her, she did not want to get into their debt. Oh fiddle sticks!
You never know what is around the corner though. Sometimes the planets do all line up and pay you favours, because the next day she received some more good news. Do you remember her dustbin song? She had actually forgotten all about it.
“Thank you for caring
Thank you for sharing,
Your rubbish with me.”
It was hardly her most profound composition, but she had sent it into a competition run by the local council.
The prize for the winning entry, which would be used to thank people who kept London tidy by dropping their litter in a bin, was £2000. Guess what? Gladdy won it! It now meant that she was on her way to California to do business with the entertainment industry.