Variety editor Bart’s first foray into self-identified fiction is a cycle of stories featuring the residents and hangers-on at Hollywood’s fashionable Starlight Terrace.
“This is Hollywood . . . everything’s a little on the bogus side,” says Zsa Zsa Gabor–inspired realtor Evan Vaine, née Vajna, inventor and promoter of Starlight Terrace. And indeed nothing could be more bogus than the screenwriting talents of Sidney Garman, the former golden child who’s fronting for a surprising collaborator, or the Botox-inhibited facial expressions of Denise Turley, whose 52-year-old face has lost more than its lines in her latest desperate bid for a role. Todd Plover, coming out to the production company he serves as co-president, is greeted by sympathy as shallow as it is widespread; Tom Patch, the heartthrob who’s trying to bury his dread approach to the big Four-O by flirting with still another flight attendant, is ludicrously insincere; a son of Middle America gets a trendy ethnic makeover only to be rejected as “too ethnic”; and every drink scalawag agent Justin Braun shares with his ex-partner only sinks him deeper into trouble. Occasionally, Bart touches deeper chords, as with the conflicted censor determined to take an indiscreet shot out of an indie film that moved her or the two adopted teens who share more than a sex life and a congenital medical problem. For the most part, though, he hugs the surface so resolutely that the stories’ main hook is their teasing intimation of real-world models from Kevin Costner to Lew Wasserman. Only “Hard Bargain,” in which a producer’s theft of a down-and-out film doctor’s lover conceals a twist dangerous to all hands, stands on its own as a successful story.
Proof that truth must indeed be stranger than fiction, since tales like these, for all their brisk, sad veneer, couldn’t stand on their own for a minute without the tabloid promise of real-life prototypes.