Starlette Nova landed in The City to promote—herself. Appeared on Television and Radio talk shows; nearly every newspaper and magazine in The City was privileged with an interview (questions limited to her stunning performance as “The Missing Girl”) and (no costumes or serious poses: five minutes of scripted ‘real time’) opportunity to photograph the starlet, Starlette.
She summoned Plantman to tend the dozens and dozens of bouquets and potted plants—gifts from admiring young actors, actresses and hopeful screenwriters, directors, producers — in her luxurious hotel suite. Normally Plantman didn’t do non-Topiary Techniques Proprietary Green Ware, much less flowers, severed from the root like gangrenous limbs, but this was Starlette Nova, stretched sleek on the couch eating salad dabbed with fat-free dressing.
Victor, The Topiary Techniques City Manager, had assured her that her plants — regardless of licensing and ownership — would be treated royally during her visit to The City. Hence, Plantman plied his trade in her private suite.
“Everybody knows me.” said The Starlet.
“You know me. You’ve seen me. If not in movies, talk shows, interviews, the Network, somewhere. Now they will know me as The Missing Girl. I was made for this role. I’m realer than The Missing Girl herself, whoever she is. Was. What have you. I have you. I have everyone.
“I’m me, but more than me, more than just you, that is, a mere person. The subject at hand: plain old folks. There’s nothing wrong with them, they shouldn’t be hurt or imprisoned or anything. They’re just not me.
“You see me. I don’t see you. Not you, Plantman, watering flowers, but ‘you’ in the general sense. You, the audience. I don’t see you and probably never will. Unless you know somebody. Somebody important. Or very, very interesting. Famous. Connected. Someone of value. Consider five point whatever billion people in the world. Too many histories, you can’t keep track. Well yes, the corporations and governments with their databases. But the data in the databases is just words and numbers. I mean, what does it say about a person? What can it say, other than he or she lives in such a such a thatched hut in the village of Yahoo-yahoo where there’s a television, but no running water and he/she, the subject of our conversation, learned to read a bit of his/her language, whatever it may be, but doesn’t have to because there’s no books or newspapers or jobs or anything, really, just that one communal television. So that’s all it says about this person in the world wide database. Perhaps there’s more information on some folks than others, but not
“But me, they write about me every day. It’s an entire industry, writing about the doings, the comings, the goings, the hither and yon of me. It’s all lies and propaganda, but it’s out there, my name embedded in print. And my image — well that’s all the words are there for. Provide filler for my photographs. They look more significant surrounded by words than on an empty page, don’t you think?”
Plantman, not recognizing the rhetorical nature of the question, foolishly began to answer: “Well, I —”
Starlette, after a stern but somewhat forgiving glance, continued:
“You can look me up and read about my life. Or the official version of my life. The official version. There’s the official version, and the bootleg versions. ‘Unauthorized’ interviews when I was younger, stupider, high on dope. Unauthorized by my agent and managers and lawyers and god knows who else is on the payroll to keep the pay rolling. Maybe some truth in that old stuff. It’s about me, after all. Who better to talk about me than myself?
“But it’s not about me. Because way down deep where the real me lives, deep in my brain, I don’t think anybody’s heard of Starlette Nova. In fact, the last place on earth where the name Starlette Nova is meaningless might very well be my own sub-unconscious mind.
“But there are things to examine, to look into, such as: who is Starlette?
“That is, who is me? Who am I? It’s important to examine yourself. I don’t mean the obvious things, the pendulous things, the tits and testicles you probe with your fingertips for lumps. I mean the bottomless things. The inside things, the stuff that even if you find it — and very few do — you won’t even know it’s there, I mean know for a fact. You’ll have to take it on faith and faith is the only way you’ll keep it. Because it’s a construct, a thing of imagination, a personal design. The design of your person. Conceptual. Mercurial. Abstract. You wouldn’t get garbage for it at an auction. Yet it’s what gives you your value. Without it you’d have nothing.
“Starlette Nova has value. Tremendous value. But it, whatever ‘it’ is, created Starlette Nova. Does Starlette Nova have ‘it?’ I don’t mean talent, wit, drive, tits and ass, ‘what it takes.’ How many tiresome wanna-girl neophytes have asked me that question. ‘Do I have it?’ ‘Do I have what it takes?’ Well if you don’t know the difference between ‘it’ and ‘what it takes’ you probably have neither. That always shuts them down. That always…well, it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more kind.
“Kind. If I had an ounce of kindness in me I wouldn’t be a goddess, or this technical facsimile everywhere at the same time flickering immortal universal me. Takes some kind of cruelty. To be mean as life. Mean and resilient to survive. More than just survive. Dominate. Prosper. Resound.
“We’re talking now about our immortal soul. Specifically, Starlette’s immortal soul. I never believed in that stuff until I saw myself on screen. Revelation. Here I was. But also there I was. This was an interview broadcast to The Nation. Taped in advance. I was rising. Rising. Never take me down. Anyway: interview. Taped in advance. When it aired I took a car around The City and had the driver stop wherever a TV was playing that now famous late night interview with Starlette Nova that was everywhere except the temples and cathedrals and I must not have looked like me that night, or maybe I looked so much like me that it was impossible that I was me, that I could be there, live, in my kerchief and raincoat, my cigarette and sunglasses and man-killer perfume.
“I was in restaurants, bars, pool halls, dance clubs. One hour interview. We had to haul ass. But we made it to at least five places, and there I was in every one of them, everywhere, in every mind, the subject and object, alpha and omega, thought and emotion, holy cathode ghost and goddess.
“I was young then, that is, younger than the young I am now. My power was like that of a pop star or politician and my fame greater. I reached a wider audience. No one gives a fuck about a politician until after he’s elected, after it’s all over and he’s won and he’s the one you have to suffer. Old people don’t pay attention to pop stars, nor do the middle-aged. But I had them all in the bosom of my bosom! The old, the middle-aged, the young, even the very young (don’t think those little peckers don’t get hard just cause their balls are bald!).
“The people must see me. They have no choice. They can pay to see me in movies and magazines, or they can look me up on the Network or wait for the rare interview on television.”
Plantman finished his work. She extended her perfect hand.
“Thank you, Plantman.”
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” said Plantman, real cowboy-like.
“We’ve had the most interesting discussion, don’t you think?”
“Scintillating,” he said.
Her secretary, who had been sitting silently in a swivel chair the whole time, filing her nails and reading a mystery, rose, book-marked the novel with her nail file, and showed Plantman the door.