Friday, 15 June 2012

Novel Thoughts: The Making of Miss B

Our B could be Brighton, it could be Bexhill-on-Sea, Or it could be Bognor Regis or it could be Bournemouth. We’ll just call it B, a jewel of a resort on the south coast of England. And its beauty queen is Miss B. And this is her story, or rather, the story of the making of Miss B.
A long time ago, before I was born, it all started by the ornamental swimming pool, where gals in modest one-piece post-war swimsuits and multiple hairstyles inspired by Veronica Lake, Rosalind Russell and a young Elizabeth Taylor shyly gathered to have their beauty graded by chaps in blazers and white ducks with moustaches and matronly spinsters from the local school of deportment. This was the time of popular end-of-the-pier jokes about beauty contestants and their embonpoint. Then came the sixties with the advent of the bikini, and the hot foreign bodies, from Brigitte Bardot, to Elke Sommer, to Britt Eklund. But it was the Bardot blonde, the sulky, cigarette-smoking girl of the Midi who changed the look and feel of these contests forever.
Before too long, however, the feminists came on the scene, at about the same time as me, to burn their bras if not their bikini tops and the beauty world seemed passé and very much part of the male dominance of society, where a woman was judged solely on her looks, even if the look of these looks changed not only with the dictates of fashion but also with social conventions. By the end of the century the beauty business was in decline with television marginalising the competitions and the competitors still an easy target for ridicule with their protestations for world peace.
But then the world of celebrity and reality shows changed all that in the new millennium. Suddenly every girl wanted to be a beauty and even the most provincial of contests was oversubscribed with hopefuls, coiffed apurpose, batting false eyelashes and sporting talons of animal length and aesthetic artistry.
I remember my first day as editor of the Guardian, B’s local newspaper. I was called in to the publisher’s office to witness him sending off the incumbent Miss B. Already four months pregnant. She had come to the town for her tertiary education at the revamped poly, now dubbed laughingly a university, in media studies. It appeared she had decided to keep the baby but had yet to inform her parents. Kirk, the middle-aged publisher, wrung his hands and lamented her position. So she was packed back off up north.
When she had left he pointedly remarked to me that he did not want another outsider crowned as Miss B, nor did he expect my management of the competion to be as flawed as that of my predecessor. Certainly there was no way I would be able to get any of the contestants pregnant! I think he was relieved at that. It was a start. Little had I known this would be part of my job desciption. Managing a beauty pageant.
‘Miss B is not just about a pretty face. The search is on to find a young lady with that special spark to represent our town in the national competition later in the summer, and, who knows, if she wins that she would go on to compete in Miss Galaxy.’
This was the dream, then. The reality was rather different. The town had never won the national competition, only getting as close one year as third runner-up, a giant of a girl, model potential if she could have lost some weight, who declared in her semi-final stage speech, that she was only doing the competition to give her a leg up in the music business. You can imagine how that went down with the judges. These days she was seen from time to time fronting a distinctly amateur band playing some of the seedier pubs on a Friday night in the bad part of town.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Football First (the pre-game show) ~ New York Stories 3

They say that American football is a metaphor for US foreign policy. It’s the only contact sport where you can hit everyone and anyone even when they don’t have the ball.  All in the objective of protecting or annihilating the quarterback, a presidential figure who calls the plays from huddle to huddle. Of course, it’s convenient to forget about that mayhem on ice I prefer, of which the peace-loving Canadians and the vodka-soused Russians are traditionally the most accomplished practitioners. 
I, however, had an altogether different mind-set about the pigskin parties so much a feature of the American fall. Columbia University, not recognised as an Ivy League sports powerhouse such as The Crimson Tide, The Bulldogs or indeed the Big Red C in upstate New York, I eschewed for my first glimpse face to face of the game at the professional level when my godfather, who had seen Joe Willie lead the New York Jets to Superbowl triumph, told me he would organise a trip for me to the Meadowlands, their out of state home shared with the New York Giants in New Jersey. Confused? I was. I had hoped to go to Shea Stadium where the Jets had played when the Beatles performed there too. Besides, I would then be able to boast “Samantha does Shea” just like Debbie did Dallas in a famous film of yore. Nevertheless, easily impressed by a man who would openly admit to watching a Joe Willie perform in public I leapt at the opportunity.
On the appointed Sunday, a brisk, fresh, sunny, autumnal day, a limousine drew up outside my ob/gyn’s house in Riverdale and whisked me away to cross the Hudson River. Inside, cocooned in the comfort of his custom Cadillac, was a well-groomed man of average height in a well-tailored suit, well-polished shoes and well–knotted tie. He introduced himself as Teddy and told me he had represented my godfather for many years.
Now I, of course, had a teddy when I was little but it hardly crossed my mind that I would think about having one then. My rather short, green (I had done my research), A-line skirt rode up high on my thighs as I sat next to him in the back of the Caddy and I saw out of the corner of my eye that Teddy did not miss a trick. Well he was a lawyer after all. He closed the screen between his driver and our pleasurable tête-à-tête and offered me a glass of champagne.
He quickly plumbed the shallows of my ignorance of the sporting spectacle in which we were about to participate. I countered with a bold interrogation of his antecedents. His family were certainly of establishment New England stock. They had a summer house on Cape Cod which he casually invited me to visit. He had gone to Yale as an undergraduate and later to law school at Harvard. I don’t know why but the thought of Mary Jo Kopechne crossed my mind and I squeezed my ass tighter into the opulent leather seat as we crossed the Hudson. A reflex action I suppose. Somehow I felt safe as long as Teddy had his tie on. In any case the driver managed the car professionally smoothly, I ne’er spilled a drop of my champagne, when we took the George Washington Bridge. And with the Martha Washington supporting from below, like a good Tory squirearchy wife should, there was not much chance of us ending up in the drink.
I began to feel rather hot in the confines of the heated limousine and moved to pull my figure-hugging, black, cashmere sweater over my head. In so doing I snapped the thread that held my string of South Sea island natural pearls, a gift from my ob/gyn. They scattered on the floor and not waiting for any move from Teddy I swooped down to gather them up, dropping them one by one into my darling black Chanel purse.
Teddy seemed to be genuinely sympathetic to my plight although I found his amusement at the relative position of my head to his knees disconcerting. As  I leaned forward trying to pick a pearl from a join in the lush carpet he seized the moment, another legal trait, exploiting the opportunity. He commanded me to adopt the position. This certainly confused me. It was way too soon for any of that.
Obeying his instructions I crouched down facing the front of the car, one hand clutching my purse, acting as the pigskin, set in a transverse position on the sward. He explained he was demonstrating the snap, the action that commenced every scrimmage, the holding position and the holding stance of the line. From behind me his voice calmly issued clear guidance on how I should kneel on one knee.
Now I had every reason to be alarmed as the word snap in my limited experience always preceded the word garter and I hoped that my suspenders supporting my fine denier, semi-nude, black stockings would be sufficiently elastic to resist any of the stretching that I was being put through. He continued to explain the role of the centre, the position I was playing, asking me to bob up as he delicately lifted my skirt and almost reverently inserted his hands between my spread legs. This was no grope, you understand, only the gentlest of contact with the bare skin above my stocking from the back of his hand as on the third “hut” of the count he asked me to hike the purse back to him. After a couple of attempts in slow motion we did it at full speed and I thought I was getting the hang of it. He showed me how the position was designed to be stable by seizing my ass and pressing it down and swaying me from side to side.
All this exertion and excitement made me thirsty so I resumed my seat and asked for another glass of champagne. While Teddy poured I examined my legs, seeing a ladder in one of my stockings. This would never do. I murmured something about roughing the snapper. It seemed appropriate. In my preparation for the day I had read about penalties for roughing the kicker and roughing the quarterback. Teddy admitted that there was in fact a rarely used penalty to protect the centre as well, but that it was used against the opposition not one’s own QB. I gave him my best sardonic look as, always the practical one, I dived into my purse and retrieved a spare stocking, neatly removed the damaged article and secured the replacement.
Ever the gentleman Teddy reached over to pick up the discarded stocking and slid it into his pocket. I so liked a neat and tidy man at the time. I suppose I still do. As we approached the stadium I finished my champagne, put on my cashmere sweater, shook my hair into place and applied a quick covering of lip gloss with the aid of my compact. Teddy looked on seemingly very pleased with himself. My exposure to American football had begun in earnest.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Up on the Roof (New York Stories 2)

   The best place to be in Manhattan, just as the song says, is up on the roof. Unless of course one lives in the Chrysler building, in which case you need Clark Kent’s number. I had my first experience of it at a party I was taken to by my ob/gyn’s son.
   Michael felt he owed it me because I had been so nice to his girlfriend Phyllis. He was a freshman wrestler. I know lots of girls have met fresh men with an eagerness to wrestle, but this was the real thing, Olympic sport, heavy work in an overheated gym to get the weight down, lots of ripped muscle and the unmistakeable odour of locker room liniment. I would have quite liked it myself but I have a preponderance to nosebleeds when my face hits the rubber (I’ll explain that sometime). 
   I accompanied Phyllis to visit Michael in hospital. She was in her senior year at Riverdale High. They were very much an Archie and Veronica couple if you know the cartoon. Michael was having his nose fixed. It wasn’t a cosmetic job, simply that the medics had to scrape away a lot of gristle from way up in his nostrils from a couple of previous breaks he’d had in the ring at high school. Lovely! Apparently the scar tissue was impeding his breathing.
   When we saw him she collapsed in tears. He looked like he’d been through ten rounds with Mike Tyson.  There was massive bruising, anything from purple to green to orange, from ear to ear, both eyes nearly shut and what we could see was bloodshot. The nose was wrapped for protection. It seemed the medics couldn’t re-break his nose to begin the op. So they had to keep banging away at him with a large rubber hammer.
   Michael was in an agony of pain, which his meds were doing little to alleviate, trying to put a brave face on it. His girlfriend didn’t stick around but retreated to the corridor. She could not even look at him! I chatted with him for some minutes, trying to cheer him up, but then he thought it best if I could spend the time with his girlfriend.
   The party, by way of a thank you, was at his shrink’s place in Greenwich Village, a dark and mysterious townhouse with the Rolling Stones playing on the sound system. Well at least it wasn’t The Kinks. In the smoke-filled gloom it was difficult at first to differentiate between the patients, the practitioner psychiatrists, the academics and ordinary peeps like me. The academics and the practitioners clung to each other in a peer group in the centre of the room seated around a long wooden coffee table strewn with bottles of red wine, overflowing ashtrays and an assortment of dildos, with the host’s large armchair presiding over one end. The patients and assorted hangers-on, glasses in hand, were relegated to stand up groupings around the periphery. But not me!  
After the introductions our host plied me with a stiff vodka and orange and insisted I sit by his side on the arm of his chair to share the experience. Occasionally his arm nonchalantly brushed against my thigh as he leaned forwards to concentrate on the arguments about gestalt therapy and electro-shock treatment. The practitioners spoke quietly, with authority, into their beards, while the be-spectacled academics pontificated more loudly as if they were showing off. It was a warm September night and I had chosen a tiny fuchsia tunic dress which I wore over a barely-there pair of shorts and flip-flops. My skin had benefitted from a few weekends of exposure in the Hamptons. I am sure the contact was as accidental as it was irregular.    
   I did enjoy the chat we had about onanism. I hadn’t realised men could be so profligate. I guess I was such a tidy, tidy type at the time. These days I don’t care where the sticky stuff goes as long as it doesn’t get lodged in my jacksie. A girl can’t be too careful! But at this party I was clearly an object of delight for the assembled guests and Michael beamed at me encouragingly from the far end of the room where he had engaged another recent arrival. I concluded that Biblical references had set the solace of masturbation back for centuries. And how, of course, the Puritan strain had held back from releasing the pleasure principle. It seemed the psychiatrists and academics were hell-bent on a massive cultural correction, not so much beating their breasts in enthusiasm as beating the, er, ecclesiastical member. I wondered out loud where that left women, so to speak. They were interested to know if I had experimented, and I assured them, trying my best not to blush, that I was with them in spirit if not fully hands on as it were. This seemed to amuse them and diverted their attention to hormone imbalance. Perched on the cushioned arm of the chair, with my legs demurely crossed and my host’s hand surreptitiously exploring the upper contours of my arse, I felt all too balanced myself, with little effort, and began to be bored with the assembly.
   My rescue was brought about by Michael and his friend, who it turned out was the flamboyant son of the British Ambassador to the UN, yet another patient.  He was tall, well built and garrulous, his hair flipped back in a matinee idol fold, which kept insisting that he run his hand playfully through it to keep it in position. He re-filled my glass and with barely a look at our host, pulled me up by the hand. A murmur of disappointment went through the assembly but he held up his other hand clutching a pack of Cool cigarettes, to insist on their complicit silence. He followed Michael, not letting go of me, to a door cut into a set of bookshelves and we were led to a narrow set of stairs which took us up to the roof. I was pleased to get away, to hear Mick Jagger a little less loud.
   The roof space was tiny between the tiles and we sat, the three of us, cosily close together, aware of the proximity of each other’s flesh, the darkness beyond, the still warm late summer night, and the sound of the city that never sleeps. There was not only the background white noise, the gentle on-going roar of distant traffic, but also the occasional spike of decibels with a trash can knocked over in a nearby alley, the odd uproar from a neighbourhood restaurant, and the insistent wail of police sirens. 
   The matinee idol offered me a cigarette which I refused and he laughed, suggesting I might want to smoke something a little more exotic. He nodded to Michael who waved a plastic bag in one hand and revealed a bottle of vodka in his other. They were well provisioned. From a cubbyhole he produced plastic cups and poured us neat vodkas while the son of the British Ambassador rolled a joint and expounded on the virtues of Jamaican weed. Ganga! His father’s previous posting had been Kingston where his son had been initiated into the twin pleasures of Bob Marley and the local cash crop. Here in New York it was easy for him to infiltrate the Jamaican locals via their UN delegation to procure some of their best homeland product.
   They insisted I try it and, after a couple of refusals, I thought what the hell and took a drag. Unlike Bill Clinton I inhaled and coughed so hard I spilt my vodka, an alcoholic onanism that Michael could not resist commenting on. The matinee idol patted me on the back while the wrestler refilled my cup. But between them they would not let go of the theme. After a second roll-up they both dropped their pants and, unaided by me, commenced jacking off over the parapet into the New York night sky, continuing a ludicrous character assassination of the party guests. Oh, yes, up on the roof, was where it all happened. Slurping my vodka I got to witness a healthy pair of cocks doing what came all too naturally, with the night music of New York City beamed up to us from beneath and Jagger’s murmurings insinuating from below.