Max was telling me about the meeting he had many years ago with the famous French movie star Lilou who was then retired from the screen and living in a New York penthouse. She wanted Max to cater since Presentation Is Everything was THE new catering company. Many prominent people were sure to be invited, Max’s entrée into a world of potential customers.
I had the flu, unable to attend Max’s meeting with Lilou but Max filled me in.
When Max came home from the meeting he walked into the bedroom where I was propped on pillows. I was excited about Max catering to a big movie star I’d seen many times on the screen. I loved her. I asked eagerly, ‘What is she like? Tell me everything!’
He sat at the foot of the bed, not too close to the invalid and described her apartment. ‘She’s yesteryear’s glamour queen, still attractive, good bone structure but frankly,’ he made a circle with a finger next to his temple, ‘a little kookoo.’
‘Oh, no!’ I said, a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. ‘Can you work with her?’
He shrugged. ‘Think Gloria Swanson and ‘Sunset Boulevard’, me as William Holden, the impoverished writer.’
My eyes widened. ‘Did she make a pass?’
‘She tried,’ Max said, twiddling his moustache. ‘But I think I navigated the white water rapids without hurting her feelings.’
‘Clever Max! What now?’
He scratched his chin. ‘I want to know more about her before I start designing. There’s a good biography about her. Think I’ll run down to the bookstore and brush up on her life. No time to loose. The party’s soon.’
I fell back on my pillows and had a sneezing fit. As I dozed off on a cloud of liquid flu medicine, I heard Max say as he tucked the covers around me. ‘Get well soon. I need my manager back.’ That’s me.
Max bought the book and read it in one sitting.
I dragged myself to the living room where he had sat all night, the book on his lap. Dawn peeked through the blinds and I collapsed on the sofa. Pulling a quilt around me, I said, ‘What did you glean?’
He snapped the book shut. ‘Famous people’s lives are a surprise. You make assumptions about them without even really knowing them. I remember Lilou’s movies from the late show when I was a kid. I liked the one where she disguised herself as a man and joined the French Foreign Legion.’
I said, ‘Legion’s Venus’ 1947.’She weathered the Sahara desert and looked great in culottes while sneaking messages from the Allies to the French resistance. And no one realized she was a woman until she was later decorated for valor by the French government.’
‘Not far from the truth,’ Max said.
‘How so?’ I asked. I was wide-awake, flu or no flu.
‘According to this well researched biography by a respected author, she was a real life heroine.’
He shook his head ‘That nutty old woman, when she was young and a huge star, she supported the French resistance by smuggling money to help the cause. Not only that, she sent countless care packages she herself paid for and wrapped to French orphans.’
Max opened the book to a photograph. It showed Charles de Gaulle pinning the Legion of Honor on Lilou.
‘Quite a lady!’ I said, raising myself on an elbow. ‘A person beyond the movie star we know.’
He nodded. ‘It made me see her in a whole different light. Instead of a sex crazed septuagenarian, she is a woman to be honored and admired.’
‘What will you do for her party?’
‘A swan filled with caviar between its wings is too ordinary. It has to be something unique and a total surprise for her. Ideas are swirling in my head.’
‘It sounds like you want to help her make the world, as she says, happy, happy, happy!’
‘I do. Great old gal! Right now, my dear,’ he stood, ‘I must create!’ He left for his studio.
‘Carry on, Max!’ I felt Lilou’s party would be extraordinary.