بخش 26

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بخش 26

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  • زمان مطالعه 15 دقیقه
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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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They watched the picture for another fifteen minutes. He leaned away from her so their bodies did not touch.

Finally she said in a low harsh whisper, “Don’t be such a snotty punk, you liked it. You were as big as a house.”

Nino sipped his drink and said in his natural off-hand manner, “That’s the way it always is. You should see it when I get excited.”

She laughed a little and kept quiet for the rest of the picture. Finally it was over and the lights went on. Nino took a look around. He could see there had been a ball here in the darkness though oddly enough he hadn’t heard a thing. But some of the dames had that hard, shiny, bright-eyed look of women who had just been worked over real good. They sauntered out of the projection room. Deanna Dunn left him immediately to go over and talk to an older man Nino recognized as a famous featured player, only now, seeing the guy in person, he realized that he was a fag. He sipped his drink thoughtfully.

Johnny Fontane came up beside him and said, “Hi, old buddy, having a good time?”

Nino grinned. “I don’t know. It’s different. Now when I go back to the old neighborhood I can say Deanna Dunn had me.”

Johnny laughed. “She can be better than that if she invites you home with her. Did she?”

Nino shook his head. “I got too interested in the movie,” he said. But this time Johnny didn’t laugh.

“Get serious, kid,” he said.” A dame like that can do you a lot of good. And you used to, boff anything. Man, sometimes I still get nightmares when I remember those ugly broads you used to bang.”

Nino waved his glass drunkenly and said very loud, “Yeah, they were ugly but they were women.” Deanna Dunn, in the corner, turned her head to look at them. Nino waved his glass at her in greeting.

Johnny Fontane sighed. “OK, you’re just a guinea peasant.”

“And I ain’t gonna change,” Nino said with his charmingly drunken smile.

Johnny understood him perfectly. He knew Nino was not as drunk as he pretended. He knew that Nino was only pretending so that he could say things which he felt were too rude to say to his new Hollywood padrone when sober. He put his arm around Nino’s neck and said affectionately, “You wise guy bum, you know you got an ironclad contract for a year and you can say and do anything you want and I can’t fire you.” “You can’t fire me?” Nino said with drunken cunning.

“No,” Johnny said.

“Then fu@k you,” Nino said.

For a moment Johnny was surprised into anger. He saw the careless grin on Nino’s face. But in the past few years he must have gotten smarter, or his own descent from stardom had made him more sensitive. In that moment he understood Nino, why his boyhood singing partner had never become successful, why he was trying to destroy any chance of success now. That Nino was reacting away from all the prices of success, that in some way he felt insulted by everything that was being done for him.

Johnny took Nino by the arm and led him out of the house. Nino could barely walk now. Johnny was talking to him soothingly. “OK, kid, you just sing for me, I wanta make dough on you. I won’t try to run your life. You do whatever you wanta do. OK, paisan? All you gotta do is sing for me and earn me money now that I can’t sing anymore. You got that, old buddy?” Nino straightened up. “I’ll sing for you, Johnny,” he said, his voice slurring so that he could barely be understood. “I’m a better singer than you now. I was always a better singer than you, you know that?”

Johnny stood there thinking; so that was it. He knew that when his voice was healthy Nino simply wasn’t in the same league with him, never had been in those years they had sung together as kids. He saw Nino was waiting for an answer, weaving drunkenly in the California moonlight. “fu@k you,” he said gently, and they both laughed together like the old days when they had both been equally young.

When Johnny Fontane got word about the shooting of Don Corleone he not only worried about his Godfather, but also wondered whether the financing for his movie was still alive. He had wanted to go to New York to pay his respects to his Godfather in the hospital but he had been told not to get any bad publicity, that was the last thing Don Corleone would want. So he waited. A week later a messenger came from Tom Hagen. The financing was still on but for only one picture at a time.

Meanwhile Johnny let Nino go his own way in Hollywood and California, and Nino was doing all right with the young starlets. Sometimes Johnny called him up for a night out together but never leaned on him. When they talked about the Don getting shot, Nino said to Johnny, “You know, once I asked the Don for a job in his organization and he wouldn’t give it to me. I was tired of driving a truck and I wanted to make a lot of dough. You know what he told me? He says every man has only one destiny and that my destiny was to be an artist. Meaning that I couldn’t be a racket guy.” Johnny thought that one over. The Godfather must be just about the smartest guy in the world. He’d known immediately that Nino could never make a racket guy, would only get himself in trouble or get killed. Get killed with just one of his wisecracks. But how did the Don know that he would be an artist? Because, goddamn it, he figured that someday I’d help Nino. And how did he, figure that? Because he would drop the word to me and I would try to show my gratitude. Of course he never asked me to do it. He just let me know it would make him happy if I did it. Johnny Fontane sighed. Now the Godfather was hurt, in trouble, and he could kiss the Academy Award good-bye with Woltz working against him and no help on his side. Only the Don had the personal contacts that could apply pressure and the Corleone Family had other things to think about. Johnny had offered to help, Hagen had given him a curt no.

Johnny was busy getting his own picture going. The author of the book he had starred in had finished his new novel and came west on Johnny’s invitation, to talk it over without agents or studios getting into the act. The second book was perfect for what Johnny wanted. He wouldn’t have to sing, it had a good gutsy story with plenty of dames and s@x and it had a part that Johnny instantly recognized as tailor-made for Nino. The character talked like Nino, acted like him, even looked like him. It was uncanny. All Nino would have to do would be to get up on the screen and be himself.

Johnny worked fast. He found that he knew a lot more about production than he thought he did, but he hired an executive producer, a man who knew his stuff but had trouble finding work because of the blacklist. Johnny didn’t take advantage but gave the man a fair contract. “I expect you to save me more dough this way,” he told the man frankly.

So he was surprised when the executive producer came to him and told him the union rep had to be taken care of to the tune of fifty thousand dollars. There were a lot 0[ problems dealing with overtime and hiring and the fifty thousand dollars would be well spent. Johnny debated whether the executive producer was hustling him and then said, “Send the union guy to me.” The union guy was Billy Goff. Johnny said to him, “I thought the union stuff was fixed by my friends. I was told not to worry about it. At all.”

Goff said, “Who told you that?”

Johnny said, “You know goddamn well who told me. I won’t say his name but if he tells me something that’s it.”

Goff said, “Things have changed. Your friend is in trouble and his word don’t go this far west anymore.”

Johnny shrugged. “See me in a couple of days. OK?”

Goff smiled. “Sure, Johnny,” he said. “But calling in New York ain’t going to help you.”

But calling New York did help. Johnny spoke to Hagen at his office. Hagen told him bluntly not to pay. “Your Godfather will be sore as hell if you pay that bastard a dime,” he told Johnny. “It will make the Don lose respect and right now he can’t afford that.” “Can I talk to the Don?” Johnny asked. “Will you talk to him? I gotta get the picture rolling.”

“Nobody can talk to the Don right now,” Hagen said. “He’s too sick. I’ll talk to Sonny about fixing things up. But I’ll make the decision on this. Don’t pay that smart bastard a dime. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

Annoyed, Johnny hung up. Union trouble could add a fortune to making the film and screw up the works generally. For a moment he debated slipping Goff the fifty grand on the quiet. After all, the Don telling him something and Hagen telling him something and giving him orders were two different things. But he decided to wait for a few days.

By waiting he saved fifty thousand dollars. Two nights later, Goff was found shot to death in his home in Glendale. There was no more talk of union trouble. Johnny was a little shaken by the killing. It was the first time the long arm of the Don had struck such a lethal blow so close to him.

As the weeks went by and he became busier and busier with getting the script ready, casting the movie and working out production details, Johnny Fontane forgot about his voice, his not being able to sing. Yet when the Academy Award nominations came out and he found himself one of the candidates, he was depressed because he was not asked to sing one of the songs nominated for the Oscar at the ceremony that would be televised nationally. But he shrugged it off and kept working. He had no hope of winning the Academy Award now that his Godfather was no longer able to put pressure on, but getting the nomination had some value.

The record he and Nino had cut, the one of Italian songs, was selling much better than anything he had cut lately, but he knew that it was Nino’s success more than his. He resigned himself to never being able to again sing professionally.

Once a week he had dinner with Ginny and the kids. No matter how hectic things got he never skipped that duty. But he didn’t sleep with Ginny. Meanwhile his second wife had finagled a Mexican divorce and so he was a bachelor again. Oddly enough he was not that frantic to bang starlets who would have been easy meat. He was too snobbish really. He was hurt that none of the young stars, the actresses who were still on top, ever gave him a tumble. But it was good to work hard. Most nights he would go home alone, put his old records on the player, have a drink and hum along with them for a few bars. He had been good, damn good. He hadn’t realized how good he was. Even aside from the special voice, which could have happened to anybody, he was good. He had been a real artist and never knew it, and never knew how much he loved it. He’d ruined his voice with booze and tobacco and broads just when he really knew what it was all about.

Sometimes Nino came over for a drink and listened with him and Johnny would say to him scornfully, “You guinea bastard, you never sang like that in your life.” And Nino would give him that curiously charming smile and shake his head and say, “No, and I never will,” in a sympathetic voice, as if he knew what Johnny was thinking.

Finally, a week before shooting the new picture, the Academy Award night rolled around. Johnny invited Nino to come along but Nino refused. Johnny said, “Buddy, I never asked you a favor, right? Do me a favor tonight and come with me. You’re the only guy who’ll really feel sorry for me if I don’t win.” For one moment Nino looked startled. Then he said, “Sure, old buddy, I can make it.” He paused for a moment and said, “If you don’t win, forget it. Just get as drunk as you can get and I’ll take care of you. Hell, I won’t even drink myself tonight. How about that for being a buddy?” “Man,” Johnny Fontane said, “that’s some buddy.”

The Academy Award night came and Nino kept his promise. He came to Johnny’s house dead sober and they left for the presentation theater together. Nino wondered why Johnny hadn’t invited any of his girls or his ex-wives to the Award dinner. Especially Ginny. Didn’t he think Ginny would root for him? Nino wished he could have just one drink, it looked like a long bad night.

Nino Valenti found the whole Academy Award affair a bore until the winner of the best male actor was announced. When he heard the words “Johnny Fontane,” he found himself jumping into the air and applauding. Johnny reached out a hand for him to shake and Nino shook it. He knew his buddy needed human contact with someone he trusted and Nino felt an enormous sadness that Johnny didn’t have anyone better than himself to touch in his moment of glory.

What followed was an absolute nightmare. Jack Woltz’s picture had swept all the major awards and so the studio’s party was swamped with newspaper people and all the on-the-make hustlers, male and female. Nino kept his promise to remain sober, and he tried to watch over Johnny. But the women of the party kept pulling Johnny Fontane into bedrooms for a little chat and Johnny kept getting drunker and drunker.

Meanwhile the woman who had won the award for the best actress was suffering the same fate but loving it more and handling it better. Nino turned her down, the only man at the party to do so.

Finally somebody had a great idea. The public mating of the two winners, everybody else at the party to be spectators in the stands. The actress was stripped down and the other women started to undress Johnny Fontane. It was then that Nino, the only sober person there, grabbed the half-clothed Johnny and slung him over his shoulder and fought his way out of the house and to their car. As he drove Johnny home, Nino thought that if that was success, he didn’t want it.

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