Another brief chapter, the last in this second part of the story. Cardamom tea, anyone?
Part II: The Broken Road
Hollywood, California 7 July 1977
“Take Beverly, it’ll be faster this time of day,” Ted said to his driver. Kat’s OB’s office had just called; her contractions were getting closer so it was time for him to dash to the hospital. Cedars-Sinai wasn’t even four miles away but in noonday traffic on a Thursday it could easily take a half hour – or more – and Ted was already nervous, even before he made it to the Paramount limo. His palms were sweating and his stomach was twisted up in hard little knots, every one of them on fire. “Could you turn up the air, Henry?”
Henry Carmichael smiled and nodded as he turned the Lincoln onto Melrose. He could do this drive in his sleep, and probably had more than once over the last twenty-seven years, but even so he had to take care – if only because Ted Sorensen already had a brutal reputation around the studio. You didn’t cross him, you didn’t make him angry, and you sure didn’t contradict anything he said – not if you wanted to keep your job. Funny, too, because the kid was still just that: a kid. He’d just graduated from the film school at ‘SC but already the word around the back lots was that this kid was some kind of wunderkind, brilliant – but ruthless – and let’s not mention he’d married the boss’s daughter last month. And now here he was, in a city full of power players the kid was already swimming at the top of the food chain. Better still, the kid was shaking up the old, established pecking order; firing people left and right, pissing-off has-been actors who’d been at Paramount for decades, getting rid of the deadwood while clearing the way ahead for fresh talent.
Henry already liked Ted, even felt loyal to him. He liked driving him around the city, just like he’d enjoyed driving the Old Man around. Still, the fact of the matter was simple enough: Henry was still working for Sam Gold. He was still filing written reports on everything the kid said and did while being driven around town. Henry’s ultimate loyalty was, after all, reserved for The Boss. And it’d been earned, too. Sam Gold was a Mensch…with a capital M, the best of the best.
Henry took Melrose to Fairfax to Beverly and made it to the hospital in less than ten minutes, impressing even Ted, but even before he could get around and open the kid’s door, Ted was out and sprinting for the entry.
The Old Man had done pretty much the same thing when Katharine came into the world, but that’s what Henry liked about working for the studio. LA was constantly reinventing itself, spreading out into the valleys that branched out like vines from Hollywood, the real beating heart of the city, yet the studios were already bastions of tradition. Whole ecosystems had grown up and flourished around each of the major studios, but Paramount was the grandfather of them all – and in a way Hollywood was Hollywood because of Paramount. And not just Hollywood…Beverly Hills, too. Then BelAir and Brentwood, and even the far-flung Palisades, everything because of Paramount. And along with the other studios, out of the orange groves and lemon trees – out of all that nothingness – new traditions sprang up – almost overnight. Traditions that developed into networks as intricately powerful as anything ever seen in ancient Rome, all in the span of a single lifetime. The world had never seen anything quite like it, and everyone everywhere was still trying to comes to terms with what exactly Hollywood really meant.
Yet one thing was certain. Hollywood was power. Sheer, unadulterated power.
And it looked like a ruthless kid was moving in to take over.
Debra Sorensen came into the world at seven minutes past seven in the evening, and from that moment on she became the center of Theodore Sorensen’s waking existence. In a way, she became his salvation.
And from the beginning of her time here, there was something strange about the little girl.
She never cried. When people came to see her in the hospital the baby would look at her visitors and an unexpected calm would come for them. When Katharine first held her daughter she felt a peace fall over her that she had never experienced before.
Ted held her and at once grew terrified, almost rigid with fear, yet the longer he held her the more irresistible her gaze became – and the more at ease he became.
When Sam Gold held her close the little girl reached up and touched the side of his face and he cried for hours after, while Debra’s nurses all said they’d never seen anything like these actions and reactions before. Strangers heard stories about the new little baby girl and would go to the window in the maternity ward and seek out her eyes, and everyone reported feeling the same kind of never-before-experienced calm, and after one psychiatrist heard about the phenomenon she went to see for herself; perhaps this physician described Debra’s effect on people best when she related that something like an existential peace came to her when she looked at the little girl, and into her eyes.
Debra had brown hair and gentle brown eyes, and her skin was a little more olive than white – though the bridge of her nose was intensely freckled – something no one could account for. Her birth weight was seven pounds – seven ounces, a simple fact no one seemed to find in the least extraordinary.
Father, mother, and daughter went home to their new house at the end of Collingwood Place, a boxy monstrosity designed by an architect with a thing for huge glass rectangles and dull black steel. There were three swimming pools in the back yard, and not a single blade of grass in sight. The house was clinging to the side of a canyon and appeared ready to fly away at a moments notice. The view from the tiered back patios was stupendous, and on smog-free days the little girl could see from Catalina Island to the Malibu Hills from her bedroom. She lived the first seven years of her life in this little glass and steel airey, perched up there on the side of the canyon – ready to fly away at a moments notice.
In a way, Ted Sorensen came of age up there, too.
He disposed of his little green BMW after his return from Berlin, in pointed discussions vowing to never again purchase anything with even the slightest hint of German origin. He began to study the Holocaust, he made charitable donations to homes in Israel that cared for orphaned children, Jewish children recovered from Soviet Russia, helpless children with their own harrowing tales to tell. If down and out actors found their way to him looking for work he listened to their stories, but some actors received more attention than others.
He went to first one country club then another – only to be told that Jews need not apply – for membership or for a job, not even as a janitor. The same was true all around Southern California, from yacht clubs to hunting preserves. When he learned that there were only a few politicians who listened to the concerns of their Jewish constituents he began to wonder where the difference between German Hate and American Hate resided. He soon decided that the only way to take care of the problem was to beat the Haters at their own game.
He saw in Sam Gold echoes of his father’s paranoia; both had spent their lives looking over their shoulders, looking for Hate in all their passing shadows. They never looked ahead, they never confronted their fears head-on. They ran, they avoided. More than anything else they lived in fear of drawing attention to their jewishness – and Ted Sorensen was done with that. He wasn’t buying into that way of life. Not for him. Not for Katharine. And most especially not for his daughter.
So he joined a country club that was derisively known as ‘that place that takes Jews,’ and he bought his way onto the board of directors. He got investors, some with really big money, to come in and within a few years the dowdy old place became the jewel of Southern California country clubs and everyone was welcome to join. Everyone. With the money to make the cut. The other country clubs began to languish as their anti-semitism hit the full light of day in newspapers that Sorensen invested in. Other anti-semitic organizations on the West Side met a similar fate until, one by one, these groups either disappeared – or moved to Orange County with all the other John Birchers.
He began to put the studio’s money behind space operas, then more big budget revivals of sixties television series and that put him over the top. By the early eighties and with Sam’s endorsement he took over as president and chairman of the board and now there was nothing in the world that could stop what came next.
Katharine never went to medical school. That life was never meant to be.
Sam moved to Israel, to one of his so-called compounds, though he kept the house on Alpine, for a while, anyway.
Then one night, when Debra was just six years old, Katharine found a lump in her left breast.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.