Could David Bowie’s “Blue Jean” be about emerging designer/wardrobe assistant Sookie in L.A. in 1984? What will Eric’s role be? Promo for the second I Write the Songs contest. AH. Rated: T – Romance/Drama – Chapters: 1 – Words: 11,519 – Published: 4-23-12
A/N: This was written as a promo fic for the second (2012) I Write the Songs contest. I am very excited and honored to be a judge in the contest, but didn’t want to miss out on the fun of writing a story based on a song. Thank you to Northwoman for hosting this contest, and to Thyra10, my wonderful beta who is also a talented writer and dear friend.
Charlaine Harris owns the fictional characters in this story. David Bowie wrote (and I assume still owns) “Blue Jean.” I’d recommend watching the video as a companion to this story.
Lafayette called and woke me up from a deep sleep.
“Wake up, ho!” he said before I’d even said hello.
“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked.
“Can you work tomorrow?”
I sat up quickly, suddenly wide awake. “Of course!”
I knew he was working on a big David Bowie project—a short film directed by Julien Temple. I’d wanted to get into doing wardrobe for music videos like Lafayette did, but my tiny blossoming career had been interrupted by an almost year-long return to Bon Temps. But now I was back with a vengeance and ready to work.
“I’ll fill you in on the details later, but consider yourself booked for tomorrow.”
“Thank you!” I said and meant it. “You’re the best.”
“Don’t thank me,” he said. “The producer requested you.”
“Really?” I didn’t know any producers personally and had only worked for a few. “Do I know him?” It was highly unlikely.
“It’s the same production company that did that Apple Computer video last year,” he explained.
I groaned internally, remembering my one embarrassing day from that job. And, of course, Eric. I suppressed my sigh.
Lafayette went on, “They always request you, but yo ass has been back at the swamp in Bon Temp. Welcome back to Hollywood, girlfriend.”
I was happy to be back. “Is it just for one day?” I asked, hoping he’d say no.
“Yeah, we’re doing a nightclub scene and will have a passel of extras.”
“Oh, okay.” They’d only need another wardrobe assistant because of the extras, but still, one day was better than no days.
“This scene will be cut into the music video,” he explained. “Bowie’s performing on a stage and we’ll have 50 background as well as a few principals.”
“What’s the song?” I was a big Bowie fan, of course.
I smiled, thinking of the coincidence. Blue Jean was the name of my company. I thought it must be a sign, or kismet, or something like that. I thanked Lafayette again and we said our goodbyes before I bounded out of bed, suddenly in the best mood of my life.
I showered, singing loudly and off-key the heartbreaking conversation between ground control and Major Tom. When I dressed, I pulled on my latest creation—Levi’s patched with old drapery fabric from the 40s (straight from Gran’s attic back home and a few thrift stores here in L.A.).
I sat at my desk—the one Lafayette had saved for me along with my other bedroom furniture after I’d made my hasty departure when Gran had had her stroke. I took out my little rubber stamp that said “Blue Jean” beside a tiny cartoon drawing of my face with my hair held up in a pair of chopsticks. I cut up a dozen or so squares from the manila folders I’d scored while dumpster diving behind an office building up on Sunset and stamped my little self-carved logo on each one. I punched a hole in the corner of each square and tied them all to my little accessories. I’d let Sam write the prices on them.
Today, I was delivering a bunch of pins and clips, all made from safety pins and salvaged bits of junk store jewelry. I noted that I was almost out of the clips needed for the pieces that cinched the backs of men’s jackets or baggy vintage dresses. I’d have to make a sweep of the thrift stores for more old suspenders soon.
I drove down to Melrose and was lucky to find a spot close to Merlotte’s. I walked into the store and Sam looked up from reading the paper with a broad grin.
“Hey, Blue Jean,” he said sweetly. He was the only person that actually called me that and I loved it. Even though his store was as trendy and chic as any on the street, he was a down-to-earth very regular guy—cute enough to date, actually, but I just thought of him as a friend.
“Hey, Sam,” I replied and held up my little bag of goodies for him.
He put the newspaper away as I spread my wares out onto the counter.
“These look great,” he said, picking up a few of the pieces and inspecting them closely. “I need more pins like this one,” he added and held up one of my favorites. “You know, men buy these more than women.”
The pin he held was a large safety pin with jewelry findings and clasps all dangling in a row from the un-openable side. I’d found that after I’d emptied all my necklaces and bracelets of their beads onto my pieces, I had all these clasps and little jump rings left over—some shiny, some dull, some nicely patina’d, and when I strung them together, it made for an interesting pin—much more masculine that most of my pieces.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll work on that.” I mentally added more junk jewelry to my shopping list. Maybe I’d get lucky this weekend at the yard sales.
Sam counted out the pins and clips and wrote me a nice check.
I took it from him, saying, “Thanks, Sam. I should have some more jeans for you next week.”
“You can always give me those, you know,” he said with a grin as he pointed to my pants.
We had a little laugh before I said, “Maybe next week.”
It was last year—right before I left for Louisiana, when I’d first walked into Merlotte’s and Sam had offered me $100 for the jeans I was wearing. I thought he was kidding until he pulled a plain pair of used Levi’s in my size from a rack and handed them to me so I could change.
I’d patched that first pair with upholstery fabric swatches. When Gran had reupholstered our sofa back home, the fabric store in Shreveport had given her a bunch of little pieces of fabric in different colors and prints so she could decide at home which one she liked. I loved all the rich colors and patterns and my favorite pair of jeans were literally starting to fall apart—at the knees and the butt mostly. Not wanting to throw away anything that could be re-used, I took all those fabric swatches and patched my jeans with them. The result had been still my favorite pair of jeans and ones I’d gotten compliments on wherever I wore them.
Sam had bought them right off my body, and he continued to sell similar ones as fast as I could supply him with more. It was the start of Blue Jean and what had kept me going during the dark months back home before Gran finally passed away. It gave me a way to pass the time and a meager income as I shipped boxes of my wares back to Los Angeles for Sam to sell.
“That reminds me,” Sam went on. “One of my regulars came in last week and bought another pin and you’ll never guess who he was with.”
I loved playing “spotting the stars” with Sam. Every week he’d tell me about all the famous faces who’d shopped in his store. “Who?” I asked.
My eyes went wide. Sam must have thought I was just impressed, but I was also equally shocked at the coincidence.
“You’re kidding?” I asked. “This is so weird, Sam, but I’m working on his music video tomorrow. What are the odds?”
“That’s so cool, Sookie. Congratulations! Wow, you can’t get any cooler than David Bowie.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Well, his friend is a big fan of yours. He comes in pretty frequently. Actually, he bought the first pair of your jeans you sold to me.”
“Really? That’s nice.” They’d been my favorites for a long time and a part of me always kind of regretted selling them.
“He always asks what new stuff I have of yours. You should think about making more things for men. Maybe some t-shirts like those paint-splattered ones you did for women, but without the beading.”
“Yeah, good idea,” I said. “I’ll fiddle around with that—see what I can come up with.”
We said our good-byes and I headed out the door. I checked my meter and decided to take a little walk down to the bank since it was such a beautiful day. I passed Fairfax High School and crossed Fairfax to the bank. I deposited my check into the ATM, recalling that teaching bank customers how to use it had been one of my first jobs in L.A. The temp agency I’d signed up with had sent me and I’d made a whopping $150 demonstrating my fake deposits for two days.
I waited at the light to cross back towards my car and glanced up Fairfax to see the building that housed the production company I’d be working for tomorrow. I couldn’t help but think back to the day I’d worked there before—the day I’d since dubbed “Eric day.” It was hard to forget. But the subsequent icky phone call gave me a little punch in the stomach whenever I thought of it.
The light changed and I decided to keep walking along Melrose to enjoy the sunshine and to reminisce about an experience I still had mixed feelings about. That whole period in my life had been a false start—a brief beginning to what I’d hoped would be my new life in L.A., but turned out to be a quick crash before I’d had to go home to a nightmare with Gran as she suffered until the end.
That morning had started much like today—with a phone call from Lafayette.
“How fast can you get down here?” he had asked.
“Fast!” I answered. We had both hoped he could get me on as an assistant for the Apple Computer industrial film he was working on. “Oh shoot!” I added when I remembered my car had died the day before. “My car!”
“Rasul’s probably still asleep in my room. Wake his ass up and tell him to get you here pronto. It’s 1015 N. Fairfax. Just below Santa Monica on the west side of the street—a big white building set back off the street. You can’t miss it.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m on my way!”
I pulled on my favorite jeans (the original patched ones) and a black t-shirt, twirling my hair up on top of my head and securing it with my gold glitter-covered chop sticks. I hopped into my socks and boots on my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth, yelling down the hall for Rasul to wake up and help me.
He was Lafayette’s hunky West Hollywood deputy boyfriend—one of the ones who rode all over the neighborhood on his official sheriff’s bike and consequently, had the best legs I’d ever seen. Of course, later, his moving in had secured my place in Lafayette’s apartment. He’d paid the rent that I couldn’t while I was back home taking care of Gran. I was sorry he and Lafayette had broken up before I’d moved back, but grateful Lafayette hadn’t needed to replace me (and my stuff) with another roommate, making it impossible for me to move back in.
As I came out of the bathroom, I ran into a sleepy Rasul in the hallway.
“Oh good—you’re up! I need a ride to Fairfax and Santa Monica. Lafayette got me on today as a wardrobe assistant.”
“Shit, I don’t have my car,” he said and I stopped in my tracks.
My mind raced with ideas of how I could get to work. I could walk, but it would take a good twenty minutes. “Shoot!” I said, mostly to myself. “They’re waiting. I’ll just run.”
Rasul grabbed my arm before I turned away and said, “Wait! Take the bike. It’ll be quicker.”
“Really?” I asked. “Can’t I get in trouble?” It was an official sheriff’s bicycle, after all.
He rolled his eyes and said, “It’ll be fine. It’s not that far. I’ll pick it up later.”
“You’re a lifesaver!” I gasped as I gave him a peck on the cheek and ran into the living room to get the bike.
I didn’t want to take any chances that the bike could be stolen, so I took it into the building with me and parked it against the wall in the room Lafayette had me set up in. It was a large conference room, but the table had been pushed to the side to accommodate the two big rolling racks full of clothes.
Lafayette had already started on the fittings for the extras, but needed me to take over so he could work on the principals. He showed me the two offices that were being used for dressing rooms.
“These are the producers’ offices, but they’re in production meetings all day, so the rooms are for us,” he explained.
I had a list of extras and their sizes and I was to pull clothes for them to try on as they came in. They would all be in our wardrobe because the clothes would be tattered and dirtied later to make the extras look like zombies, and of course, we couldn’t ruin their personal clothes.
Lafayette showed me which people on the list had already been fitted and where to hang their wardrobe choices and how to mark them. Once the selections had been made, each extra would be polaroided, and then they’d change back into their clothes and leave.
“Here are the ones lined up for the rest of the day,” Lafayette explained as he showed me the list. “A few probably won’t show, but don’t worry about that. We booked a few extras just in case.”
I knew how little these jobs paid for the extras, especially the fittings, and if they’d gotten a better gig for the day, they’d be a no show for us. I certainly understood as I’d probably be paid even less, being the wardrobe assistant’s assistant. I was about as low on the totem pole of employees as they were. But still, I was grateful for the opportunity. I’d only been in town for a couple of months and had very little experience, but was eager to learn and grateful for Lafayette’s help as he was a “back home” friend who’d already lived here for a few years.
The day went smoothly as I went through my list of extras. I didn’t stop for lunch, but the receptionist brought me a sandwich and a coke while I kept working.
Later in the afternoon, I noticed a terribly handsome extra standing in the doorway. He was hard to miss. He was very tall and blond with crystal blue eyes. He had on black jeans and a black wife-beater t-shirt that showed his arms and shoulders to perfection. I wondered why he didn’t sit in one of the chairs and wait like everyone else, but didn’t say anything.
He just stood for what seemed like a long time with his arms folded in front of him, leaning in the door frame watching me. As I called each name on my list, I wondered what his name was as he just kept standing there while others came and went. Whenever I’d glance over at him, he’d just smile at me and my stomach did a little flip at how gorgeous his smile was. Perfect white teeth. Clear blue eyes. Nice.
I was down to the last few people waiting in chairs, and had a few more on my list, but remembered that some were probably no shows. Just as I called the last woman and she stood to come with me to get her wardrobe, Rasul came into the room. Tall and handsome had to step aside to make room as Rasul was a pretty big guy as well, and impressive in his uniform, shorts and all.
“Hey, Sookie,” Rasul said as he came to me. “I’m here for the bike. Did you have any trouble getting here?”
“No, and thank you again,” I replied as he walked over to retrieve the bike and wheel it out.
“I’ll see you later,” I called to him as he left.
Blondie resumed his posture in the doorway and his smile grew wider. I tried to ignore him, but he was just so stunning, it was hard.
Finally, the last extra I’d fitted left and I checked him off my list as I hung his wardrobe on the rack, but the smiling guy remained.
I looked down my list. There were four women and two men still on it with no check marks beside them. The first man’s name was Eric Kookenberry. Seriously?
I looked over at the hunk in the doorway and said, “Eric?”
He looked surprised and stood away from the door frame, stepping towards me with a “Yes?”
Wow. His name was Eric Kookenberry? It didn’t really fit, but at least the mystery was solved as to who he was.
I checked his sizes and went to the rack to pull some clothes for him to try on. As I pulled them though, they didn’t look right—the pants were definitely too short for such a tall man.
I eyed his legs as I asked, “Are your sizes up to date with casting? They don’t seem right to me.”
As my eyes came up to his face again, he was wearing an even bigger grin and seemed very amused with me. I was tired after my non-stop day and didn’t see what was so funny. He just shrugged in response.
“Well, try these on anyway and I’ll pull some others that I think might work better.”
I handed him the clothes and gestured to the office that had doubled as my men’s fitting room all day.
He took them from me and said, “What’s your name?”
“Oh. Sookie,” I answered. I hadn’t expected that, but would be lying if I said I wasn’t flattered.
“Hi, Sookie,” he said in a voice dripping with sex. “I love your jeans.” His eyes traveled down my body and I swallowed hard before squeaking out a “Thanks.”
He took the clothes from me and walked into the fitting room, closing the door behind him. I took a deep breath and reminded myself I was here to work and not ogle the talent.
I straightened up the room before going out to the receptionist to ask about my time card. I knew my day—my only day on this—was nearing an end and I wanted to make sure I’d be paid.
I filled out my time card and went back to wait for Eric to emerge in his too-short pants, but he didn’t come out. I started to wonder what was keeping him and decided to go and check on him.
I knocked gently on the door and heard a “Come in,” before I opened the door.
I was shocked to find him seated at the producer’s desk reading something, still in his street clothes and I asked, “What are you doing?” He could get us both into some sort of trouble snooping around, and handsome or not, I wasn’t about to get scolded because of his impetuous behavior.
He stood and came around the desk, giving me that unnerving smile again. Gosh, his eyes were awfully blue. He stood in front of me, a little too close, and I found it suddenly hard to breathe normally.
“You’re going to get us into trouble,” I started.
“Really?” he asked. “That sounds like fun.”
My mouth fell open. This guy was trouble.
He reached up to my head and pulled out first one and then the other chopstick and I felt my hair unwind and spill down over my shoulders. I was completely shocked and still speechless. He set the chopsticks on the desk beside me and ran his fingers through my hair.
“Glitter,” he said as his eyes followed his hands.
“What?” I asked stupidly, suddenly aware that his large hands were on me and it felt delicious.
He pulled my hair in front of my shoulders and rested them just above my breasts. “You have glitter in your hair now,” he said.
“Oh,” was all I seemed to manage.
Then he turned me around so my back was to him and ran his hands through the back of my hair as well. I was too stunned to say a word and felt like I was in some sort of trance—a sex trance. This ridiculously handsome man—a total stranger-was manhandling me and I was letting him.
“Where did you get these jeans?” he asked and I felt him take a small step back, presumably so he could get a better view of my butt—or I guess, the jeans covering my butt.
“I made them,” I said obediently, still hyper aware of his hands in my hair.
“This is my aunt’s sofa,” he said and I thought my brain must have turned to mush because he wasn’t making sense to me—that is, until I felt his finger touching the fabric in a particularly tender spot very low on my behind.
That snapped me out of my reverie and I turned around quickly and instinctively stepped back. He just leaned down a little and touched my upper thigh saying, “Here too. This is the same one.” Ah yes, upholstery fabric.
I took yet another step back and felt the wall behind me. If he touched me again, I’d have nowhere to go except to run out of the room. I opted to get us back on track—to why we were supposed to be here in the first place. I summoned up my business voice and said, “You haven’t tried on your wardrobe,” but it came out kind of weak and wobbly.
He looked into my eyes and I caught a definite twinkle in them as he unbuttoned the top button of his jeans and asked with feigned innocence, “Oh, did you want me to try those on now?”
“No!” I said a little too quickly and loudly.
He grinned as he buttoned his pants back and I let out a breath of relief.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just giving you a hard time. Your face is beet red—did you know that?”
I shook my head but could imagine it was true. My face felt hot.
“It’s the color of the wall that you’re plastered up against.”
I glanced away to notice that the walls in the room were indeed bright red.
“Are you trying to disappear? So I can’t see you?”
I shook my head again, not sure I could find my voice to give him an answer even if I had one.
“Good,” he said, inching closer to me. “Because I like looking at you.”
As he drew even closer, it occurred to me that he was going to kiss me, and I was powerless to do anything about it. I wanted him to kiss me. It was a completely surreal moment. He was a total stranger, but the heat of his body, the scent of his breath so near to me was making my knees turn to jelly.
He stopped his approach about two inches from my face and whispered, “Will you marry me?”
“I can’t,” I answered without addressing the absurdity of the question.
He was just as serious as I was when he asked, “And why not?”
“Because then my name would be Sookie Kookenberry.”
His brow creased for an instant and one side of his mouth curled into a tiny smile as he said, “God, you’re adorable.”
And then his lips touched mine.
I felt my breath come out in a tremble and he inhaled sharply as he pressed his mouth into mine. I knew it was all kinds of wrong—wrong and crazy, but as my arms went up and around his neck, I simply didn’t care.
His hands pressed firmly into my back and I dropped a hand to touch his bare bicep and opened my mouth in alarm and pleasure at how hard it was and yet how smooth his skin felt. He was perfect.
The tip of his tongue gently touched mine and I responded by opening wider and pulling him closer to me. My hand on his back went up into his hair and he moaned softly into my mouth as I grabbed a fistful.
My hands seemed to want to touch him everywhere and yet his stayed on my back like a gentleman’s. But there was nothing gentlemanly about the way his mouth claimed mine.
And his body was pressing me into the wall. It felt like he couldn’t get close enough to me and like he couldn’t resist me even though he knew it was wrong, and that brief thought sent a wave of lust through me so hard, I wanted to drop to the floor and let him cover my entire body with his.
But I didn’t. I stopped the kiss and pulled his head back by the hair I was clutching for dear life. Our eyes met for a searing instant and I could see that he wanted me as much as I wanted him and we both smiled at the wonder of how we had just connected.
I let go of his bicep and let my hand feel across his chest before I pushed him away gently. Selfish of me, I know, to cop a last feel before ending it, but I was feeling pretty selfish at that moment. I was enjoying my encounter with this beautiful crazy man who seemed to feel like it was just fine to show me he wanted to have his way with me in a most inappropriate place and time.
When I pushed, he stepped back and released me. I started to walk past him, my focus on the door. I wanted nothing more than to go back and rip his clothes off, but forced myself to keep walking away.
“Wait,” he said behind me, but I looked back and said a strong “No—stay here,” before leaving the office and closing the door behind me.
I needed a minute alone to compose myself and to come down from my high. Unfortunately, Lafayette was in front of me, sorting through the wardrobe rack that held all the clothes we’d selected for the extras.
He glanced up and said, “Oh, there you is,” in his affected accent. “I think we’re done here.”
I went to the table and straightened the stacks of polaroids that didn’t need to be straightened and tried to keep it together and forget about the sex god behind the closed door just behind me.
“Oh, actually, there’s one more guy,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. “He’s trying on his wardrobe,” I lied. He’s trying to seduce me, or maybe by that point I was trying to seduce him.
Lafayette just brushed past me and went into the room I’d just left. I looked around for something else to do, but there wasn’t anything so I just fidgeted for a moment until Lafayette came out with the clothes Eric was supposed to be trying on.
He closed the door behind him and I looked at him quizzically.
“He’s not in there,” he said with a shrug.
He hung the clothes back onto the rack along with the choices we wouldn’t be using and I stared at the closed door, wondering what had happened to my dream guy. For a brief instant, I thought maybe I was losing my mind and I had hallucinated the whole thing. How could he not be in there?
“Thanks for today, Sookie,” Lafayette said with sincerity. “Want to go grab some dinner?”
I couldn’t imagine trying to make small talk through dinner and certainly didn’t want to blurt out that I’d been making out with one of the extras in the producer’s office—although I knew Lafayette would absolutely love it. But I really just wanted to be alone with my thoughts for awhile and so I just said, “I think I’ll pass, but thanks. In fact, I think I’ll walk home. I need to make a couple of stops.”
He looked at me and cocked his head. “You okay?”
“Oh yeah. I’m great. The whole day has been great.” (If you only knew!) “I just need to run a couple of errands. I’ll see you at home later, okay?”
“Sure, Sook,” he said.
I tried my best to act normal until I was able to get outside and soon found myself running home, feeling great, and unable to suppress my smile.
What an amazing day that had been.
I loved thinking about it over and over. Here it was almost a year later, and I still loved it. I could still picture him perfectly and remember the feel of his skin in my hands, the taste of his lips and his tongue, the heat of his breath in my mouth.
I stopped when I realized I’d walked completely up and down Melrose and found myself back at my car. My parking meter had expired, but miraculously, I didn’t have a ticket.
I got in and drove home to finish my day. I wanted to get some laundry done and clean the apartment as a thank you to Lafayette. After all, thanks to him, I’d be working again tomorrow, and with any luck, I’d be catching a peek at David Bowie as a bonus.
That night before I climbed into bed, I did something I hadn’t done since I’d been back in town. I took out my phone book and looked up Eric Kookenberry. I wondered if he still lived here. I found the name and sighed deeply, somehow comforted by the thought that he was still somewhere out there in the same city as I was, and I wondered what he was doing right that minute.
I knew I wouldn’t call him again as I thought of the one time that I had and that made me frown and made the icky feelings return.
The day after the kiss, I was still flying high, thinking about our secret encounter. I wondered if Eric was working on the shoot with Lafayette. I tried to picture him stumbling around the set acting like a zombie in pants that were too short and it made me laugh.
On a whim, and knowing I’d most likely get his machine anyway, I found his number in the phone book and boldly dialed it.
I was surprised when he answered and felt my face flush, picturing him somewhere in his home wearing his black tank top, those perfect muscles displayed … well … perfectly.
“Eric?” I asked, trying not to sound nervous.
“Hi! It’s Sookie.”
“Sookie Stackhouse. From the fitting yesterday?” Surely he hadn’t forgotten me, but I reminded myself that maybe he’d forgotten my name.
“Oh right. Listen, I’m really sorry about that.”
My stomach dropped. “Sorry?”
“Yes, about the fitting. I don’t normally do that and I’m really sorry.”
“Oh.” I wanted to hang up. And move away. And live under a rock.
“Yeah, I hope you’ll give me another chance sometime.”
I felt a little relieved. Maybe it would be okay. Maybe he just regretted the setting and timing of the kiss. Maybe he wanted another chance? “Oh, okay. Sure. Would you like my number?” Maybe he just wanted to start over—do things a little more traditionally. Call me and ask me out. My palms started to itch thinking about it—a real date with Eric.
“Uh … no thanks. You have mine. Just give me a call when you can use me again.”
Use him? Did he mean as an extra? Suddenly, I felt very foolish and all the glee I’d been feeling for the past twenty-four hours sank quickly into heartache.
“Right. Well, we’ll let you know. I mean, if we can use you again.”
“Great. Thanks for calling.”
We both said bye at the same time and I hung up and stared at my phone for a long minute, wondering what in the world was wrong with Eric Kookenberry, and more importantly, what was wrong with me thinking I could kiss a stranger and have it turn into something romantic. Suddenly I was just embarrassed about kissing Eric and wished it had never happened.
~ O ~ O ~ O ~ O ~
The alarm woke me at 4:30. I sat up and turned on my lamp and turned off my alarm, ready to start my very long day. I’d showered before bed so I wouldn’t have to this morning.
I dressed quickly and quietly even though I knew Lafayette was probably up as well. I wore one of Gran’s house dresses from the 40s. It was my favorite—a lavender floral rayon that buttoned from the waist up with short sleeves. I clipped one of my creations onto the back, pulling the loose fabric tighter to accentuate my waistline. This one had silver beads on the rows of safety pins. I opted for no other jewelry and left my hair down. I pulled on my socks and combat boots and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.
Lafayette was waiting for me in the living room with puffy eyes but fully dressed. I grabbed my leather motorcycle jacket and black fanny pack and we headed out the door.
Lafayette drove us in sleepy silence over the hill to Burbank. He gave his name at the back gate of Burbank Studios and we drove onto the lot to one of the parking areas. He’d been working on the shoot for a couple of days already, so he knew where he was going.
After we’d parked, I just followed him to our sound stage, stopping at the catering truck to order our breakfast and pick up a coffee.
Lafayette unlocked the wardrobe trailer and turned on the lights. I stashed my fanny pack into one of the big drawers, flipped on the steamer and went back to the caterer to wait for our food.
Most of the crew had already arrived even though our call time was a little before theirs. I said good mornings to a few of them, but I didn’t see any familiar faces. I watched the extras going into the sound stage carrying their garment bags full of clothes, all of them dressed in cocktail attire—a striking contrast to the casual shorts and t-shirts of the crew.
When I returned to the trailer with our plates, Sophie-Anne was inside with Lafayette. I said good morning to our boss—the designer of the film. I’d met her before. She told us to eat as she checked her watch. I offered to go get her breakfast as well, but she waved me off and went to get it herself.
Lafayette and I ate quickly and quietly standing at the work station at the back of the trailer so we’d have somewhere to set our coffees.
A production assistant brought us our three walkie talkies and bid us good morning, asking if we needed anything, but we didn’t yet.
As soon as we finished eating, I gathered our trash and dropped it into the can outside our trailer. Then I went back in, ready to work.
We pulled the dry cleaning plastic off of the clothes that had been cleaned overnight and dropped off by some poor P.A. that had had even less sleep than we had. We distributed the clothes back to their racks along the sides of the trailer while Lafayette pulled out the call sheet for the day and started going over the shot list with me.
Sophie-Anne opened the door and said, “It’s show time,” before we’d finished.
I retrieved my fanny pack and put it on, clipping my walkie talkie to it as we headed over to the sound stage. We found the rolling racks by extras holding and the extras started to line up for us so we could approve their wardrobe.
I hung back while Sophie-Anne and Lafayette went through the line. Each extra showed his or her selections hanging in their garment bags on the racks and Sophie-Anne made the choice whether they could wear the clothes they’d worn to work or needed to change. Lafayette directed those that had to change to the little changing trailers set up in the alley outside the sound stage, affectionately called lunch boxes.
As the extras returned from changing, I approached them, fixing their collars or straightening ties since they had no mirrors. As soon as they were presentable, they passed before Sophie-Anne again for final approval.
About halfway through, Sophie-Anne checked her watch and sent Lafayette back to the trailer to get the principals set up. I stayed with Sophie-Anne to finish the extras.
The whole process took over an hour, and when we were through, the second A.D. lined up all of the extras and called for the director to come to holding. We stood and waited for another 15 minutes or so until finally two men arrived and the extras straightened up their line, their attention on the director and first A.D.
I had never seen Julien Temple before, but knew of him, of course. I could tell which one he was just by the way he held himself, and of course, because he was the one without an earpiece and walkie talkie.
He and Sophie-Anne stood with heads together, mumbling and gesturing towards the extras while they stood for inspection.
When he seemed through, he smiled and thanked the line of people in front of him and then he and the first A.D. walked away.
Sophie-Anne approached the line and pulled out a handful of the women and told everyone else they could relax. The group went about repacking their bags and settling into their folding chairs in the corner of the stage that was designated for them. A few walked off, presumably to find the bathrooms or craft service.
Sophie-Anne revisited the wardrobe bags of the women she’d pulled out and sent a couple to change again. Once they were dressed and approved again, she and I led the other few back to the trailer.
Lafayette was ready for them at the trailer, pulling out dresses for them to try. After several rounds of changing, some steaming, and accessorizing, we finally had all the extras dressed. The second A.D. took the last group away for director approval just as everyone was called to set for the first shot.
The set-up for the morning only included David Bowie, the principal woman and a handful of extras. It was decided that I’d stay in the trailer to work while Lafayette and Sophie-Anne were on set.
Lafayette showed me what needed to be done and then he and Sophie-Anne took off. I removed my jacket as the morning had warmed up and set my walkie-talkie up on the work station so I could hear what was going on. Then I went to work.
There was steaming and some mending to be done and the principals for the afternoon shot needed their rooms set up before they came in. There was also a photo double for David Bowie coming in after lunch and I had to get his suit prepped.
I settled in to work alone and listened closely to the walkie all morning, relieved as always when I heard the first loud bell that signaled that shooting had begun.
The huge barn doors to the sound stage had been closed, so I couldn’t hear anything from the trailer. I just listened to the chatter from the first A.D. on my walkie and the sporadic single bell at the top of every shot followed by the double bell that indicated a take was finished.
It was quiet in the trailer and even though I was tired from my early wake-up, I was content to get my menial but important tasks done.
After a few hours, a P.A. came in and told me I needed to go and eat lunch. I clipped my walkie to my fanny pack belt and went out to the caterer. They were still shooting inside the sound stage and so I ate alone at one of the tables set up for lunch. There were a couple of transpo guys eating a few tables away—presumably the drivers for the director and David Bowie—and a P.A. wolfing down a plate of food standing by the salad bar.
I finished my food and went back to the trailer to work some more.
As soon as I heard, “That’s lunch, half hour,” on the walkie, I left the trailer. The barn doors opened and crew members spilled out heading towards the caterer. I found Lafayette in extras holding and helped him get all the extras to put shirts or jackets over their clothes so there wouldn’t be any spots or spills to clean up after lunch.
Lafayette handed me a broken earring that belonged to an extra and we had a brief conversation about what to expect after lunch.
“Are you doing okay?” he asked and I smiled and nodded.
“Great!” I replied.
He started to walk away and turned back around as if he’d forgotten something. “Oh, guess what—the producer is wearing one of your pins.”
“Really?” I was pleasantly surprised.
He blew me a kiss and headed for the food.
I returned to the trailer and got to work repairing the earring. Within a few minutes, a P.A. brought me the freshly arrived photo double and I got him dressed and ready for his scene.
By the time Sophie-Anne and Lafayette returned from lunch, all my morning tasks had been completed. We went over the work for the rest of the day and Sophie-Anne left with David Bowie’s wardrobe for the afternoon shot. He was changing personas, becoming a character called Screamin’ Lord Byron for the shot after lunch of his stage performance. I was excited that all the extras were needed for the shot, which meant I’d be needed on set as well and so I’d get to see him perform. I was a fan, after all.
I heard, “We’re back, we’re back,” on the walkie, indicating the end of the lunch break. I picked up a handful of evening bags and wraps, and Lafayette and I headed over to extras holding.
I spotted the girl with one earring and returned her other one all fixed up. Lafayette and I made sure everyone was ready as the women switched from their comfy shoes into their pretty high heels and shrugged off their coats and jackets, leaving them on their folding chairs.
We sorted out who would get a handbag or little wrap and I carefully hung what was left over on a hanger to be standing by closer to set.
When the second A.D. came to get all the extras, we followed them across the stage and watched as he placed them around the performance platform and runway set up for Screamin’ Lord Byron and his band. A few set dressers were arranging the musical instruments on stage between a couple of statues and grips were scurrying about, tweaking the lights while they kept an eye on David Bowie’s stand-in center stage.
The extras who’d worked that morning returned to their places around the table at the foot of the runway. David Bowie’s photo double was seated at the table beside an empty chair that I assumed would soon hold our principal actress.
I stayed focused on the background. I retrieved my lint roller from my waist pouch and started milling among the extras, making sure all shoulders were free of stray hairs or lint. A couple of neckties required double stick tape to keep them smoothly in place. And I snipped a few errant threads.
A young pretty choreographer also walked through the crowd, reminding some of the extras about the dance moves they’d apparently rehearsed the day before.
Lafayette left to help Sophie-Anne with the band and Screamin’ Lord Byron while I continued to scan the extras, noting that the barn doors were closing.
The first A.D. jumped up on stage to explain the shot to the extras, most of whom hadn’t been in the first set-up. The first shot after lunch would include everyone and then as the day progressed, we’d get closer to the stage and shoot coverage of the principals and the crowd.
He gave a little safety meeting about the boom and moving camera and asked that everyone be mindful of their heads as the camera came down.
A P.A. brought in the principal actress and seated her at her table. I checked her wardrobe since I was the only one of us on set, and she looked perfect.
One by one, the band members arrived and found their places on stage while Lafayette fussed with their clothes, and hair and makeup continued to touch them up. Julien Temple jumped up on stage to speak to the band while the crew continued to work all around them.
The first alerted us that the camera would start to rehearse and so I stepped away while the boom was raised and lowered over and over until the camera crew was satisfied with their moves.
The director finished with the band and jumped down to take his seat in the empty director’s chair in front of the monitor set up beside the set. He started talking to the script supervisor seated beside him and I returned my focus back to my job watching the extras.
I noticed most of the extras had turned to look at the director and I turned myself to see that David Bowie was now standing beside him. He was wearing a sort of genie outfit, complete with turban, and had very stylized makeup with painted on false shadows on his face.
I didn’t want to stare, so I returned my gaze to the extras, most of whom were also trying to be cool and not look at the superstar in the room.
After a few moments, the stand-in on stage got down and Screamin’ Lord Byron took his place. He waved out at the crowd and said, “How’s everyone doing?”
The extras all smiled and shouted up at him that they were good and great, and he reached down and shook a few of their hands before he stood and addressed the director.
“We ready to shoot?” he asked.
Julien replied, “Would you like a few rehearsals?”
The crew who’d been working began to settle quietly around the stage as we all prepared for the camera to roll. Everyone was standing by now, ready to shoot.
“No, let’s shoot the rehearsal. I’m ready. Are you all ready?” he asked out to the extras and they cheered and clapped their affirmation.
I reached back and turned off my walkie as did many other crew members and we all watched the stage as the first A.D. said, “Okay, we’re on a bell.”
Immediately, the loud long single bell rang out and the first said, “Let’s settle. And roll camera.”
“Rolling,” the camera operator shouted out and then there was a “Sound speed,” from the sound cart.
A camera assistant jumped into the set just at the base of the stage and aimed his slate at the camera with a loud “Mark,” clicking the pieces together with a “clap” sound. Then he hurried out of frame and to the side of the set.
“Background action!” the first shouted and every extra was looking up at the stage. “Camera.” The camera began to move above us on the boom. “And play back.”
There were four little electronic “boops” followed by a few beats of the song and then David Bowie’s voice rang out, “Blue Jean.”
The crowd was suddenly dancing and the camera was moving down towards the stage.
The singing continued as David Bowie mouthed his words. “I just met a girl named Blue Jean. Blue Jean. She got a camouflaged face and no money.”
I started swaying to the music as well. It was great. The whole room came alive.
David Bowie started walking down the runway as he sang, “Remember, they always let you down when you need ’em. Oh, Blue Jean-is heaven any sweeter than Blue Jean.”
He started to walk back away from the crowd and turned over his shoulder to sing, “She got a police bike. She got a turned up nose.”
It was at that point that every hair on my body stood up and a shiver went down my spine.
The song went on, but my mind had stopped processing the words. He was singing about me—about the day I’d met Eric. But that was impossible.
The room continued to dance, the camera moved up and down, towards the stage and then away, and David Bowie continued to sing about me. It was the strangest moment of my life. Well, okay, one of them. Was I imagining this? Did it just seem he was singing about me and that was some kind of gift of his—to personalize his performance so everyone thought it was directed at him or her?
I looked around the room and no one else seemed to be alarmed. They were all enjoying the music and watching the performance. Even in the darker recesses of the sound stage, I could see crew members moving to the beat of the song, but there were no indications that anything was odd about the lyrics to anyone except me.
When the music stopped, the first called out, “Cut!” and the double bell rang. “And reset,” he added before walking over to the director to confer.
Everyone was pleased, apparently, and I just stood there dumbfounded as to how on earth David Bowie had written a song about a day I hadn’t told a soul about.
The next take came quickly and then the day started to fly by as take after take drew on. There were a few additions to the performance—a trick with an unraveling turban and some confetti streams shooting from David’s hands. The extras danced and mimicked David’s moves onstage. David himself shot footage from stage with a hand-held camera.
And with every take, I listened to those words and was amazed every time. What other woman rode a “police bike?” I’d taken Rasul’s to work that day. And the camouflaged face? I heard Eric’s words in my mind as he told me my face was as red as the walls and asked if I was trying to hide from him. Could that be a coincidence? And no, of course, my name wasn’t Blue Jean, but that was the name of my company. I thought back and realized I hadn’t even started my company until shortly after that day, so that part really didn’t make sense. None of it did, actually.
After a few hours of shooting, the first called out a 10 minute break. The barn doors opened and I stepped outside to go to the restroom. I came out of the stall to wash my hands when I saw a beautiful woman fixing her makeup standing at one of the sinks. I’d noticed her before. She was quite stunning and well put together and I wondered if she might be a producer or a part of David Bowie’s entourage. Her blonde hair was twisted into an up-do and she had on a black suit—a short jacket with broad shoulder pads and full trousers with chic black flats.
I gave her a quick smile and stepped up to the sink beside her.
She kept powdering her face as she said, “So, how does it feel to have a song written about you by David Bowie?”
I wondered if I’d heard her correctly and looked around to make sure she was talking to me. There were other women in the bathroom, everyone needing a break after the long afternoon.
“You’re Sookie, right?” she asked.
“Blue Jean?” she asked.
I must have looked puzzled. She unbuttoned her jacket and opened it to reveal one of my beaded t-shirts beneath her suit. There was no mistaking it.
“I’m Pam,” she said as she started to apply her lipstick.
“Nice to meet you,” I answered but couldn’t shake her hand because mine were both under the faucet.
“I’m Eric’s partner.”
Eric’s partner. I let that sink in for a second and just said, “Eric.” Eric Kookenberry?
“You know, Eric Northman.”
My mind drew a blank.
“As in Northman and Company,” she added.
The production company I was working for.
I just repeated stupidly, “Eric Northman.”
She winked and said, “Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me,” before smacking her lips into the mirror and walking out the door.
I stared at myself in the mirror as all the little pieces fell into place. Eric wasn’t Eric Kookenberry at all, but Eric Northman, the owner of the production company. I’d kissed my boss. And that meant I’d also been bossing him around—telling him to change clothes like a misbehaving extra. No wonder he’d seemed so amused by me. I quickly replayed the scene again in my mind and then thought of the phone conversation with the clueless and very real Eric Kookenberry that next day and soon found myself laughing into the mirror.
I finished drying my hands and headed back to the stage, suddenly wanting to tell someone about my silly mix up, but then I realized no one else knew about what had happened. Except, of course, Pam the producer and Eric. Oh, and David Bowie. I put my hand over my mouth and shook my head. This was becoming the second most bizarre day of my life.
We all reassembled back on the sound stage and settled down quickly, ready to shoot some more. I checked all my extras before finding my spot beside the rolling rack and then stood and did a serious scan of the room. How could I have missed seeing Eric all day? This was his production company, after all. He should be here. I caught Pam’s eye and she gave me a quick smile and a nod. I gave her a little wave and felt a flush of embarrassment. Surely she realized who I was searching for.
The barn door closed and we started shooting again, moving the camera into different positions for different angles of the scene. The day was getting long, but everyone was used to the hours and kept going with the same full energy with each take.
During one take, I was suddenly aware that I was being watched and my heart gave a little jump. I turned my head and felt like someone knocked the breath out of me when my eyes met his. Eric. Finally, Eric.
He was standing beside Pam behind the director and script supervisor, and he was smiling at me. When I caught his eye, his smile broadened and I felt my own grow just as big.
He pointed to his lapel and I dropped my gaze down to see the little pin on his black blazer. It was one of mine. I looked back to his face and nodded in understanding.
Then he cocked his head towards David Bowie up on the stage and raised his eyebrows in question as if to ask, “What do you think?”
I kind of laughed and nodded again and then we just stood there grinning at each other for a long moment until I heard the word “cut” and I directed my focus back to the set.
I didn’t look back at Eric after that but felt him there pulling me like a magnet. I had so many feelings running through me—excitement at seeing him again, puzzlement as to how our encounter had wound up in a song, and hope that now that I knew he wasn’t the unfriendly extra I’d spoken to on the phone that day, maybe … well … maybe I wasn’t sure what I hoped for. But I was happy to see him. That was certain.
Finally, we were finished shooting all the shots that required David Bowie and the first thanked him as he stepped down of the stage. The cast and crew all applauded him and we waved and smiled as he walked away from set and over to the director.
The crew started to set up the next shot—a close-up of one of the band members, and I watched Lafayette step up onto the stage to check the wardrobe.
There was a little huddle around the monitor in front of the director’s chair as the higher-ups watched some of the replayed takes with David Bowie. I watched Eric, of course, finally able to really look at him while his attention was on something else. He looked so incredibly handsome with his hair pulled back and dressed in all black. I was touched that he was wearing my pin.
After they all seemed to finish watching the monitor—and were pleased with the footage from their expressions, I watched Eric lean in and say something into David’s ear. David’s eyebrows went up and he looked around until his eyes fell on me. He smiled and gave a little raise of his chin at me and then waved.
I glanced behind me for an instant to make sure he wasn’t waving at someone else, and when I looked back, he was laughing.
I smiled and gave a little wave back. Yeah, I guess I’m Blue Jean.
Then he shook the director’s hand and he and Eric turned and headed for the door in the corner of the stage, Sophie-Anne falling in right behind them.
I took a deep breath and went back to watching the set. My poor extras were starting to fade. I, however, had a fresh shot of adrenaline and felt just fine.
After we shot the close-ups of the band members, we set up the final shots of the extras. Even though the hour was late and they’d been on their feet dancing practically non-stop for hours, they still gave it their all every time the camera rolled.
When the first finally called, “That’s a wrap! Thank you, everyone,” I checked the time on one of the extra’s watches and noted that I was heading into my sixteenth hour.
I collected my handbags and wraps from the women extras and told the ones wearing our wardrobe I’d meet them back at the trailer.
Lafayette and Sophie-Anne were probably still recovering the principals’ wardrobe, so I checked out the extras by myself. As the women returned the dresses on hangers, I handed them their vouchers so they could check out with the second A.D. to get paid.
I started a dry cleaning bag and began straightening the trailer, turning off the steamer and hanging up my wraps and handbags.
Lafayette came in with an armload of clothes from the principals and I helped him sort things into the dry cleaning bags and hang what didn’t need cleaning.
When we were almost done, he pulled our time cards from one of the drawers and told me to clock myself out 15 minutes from now and he did the same.
I felt the trailer shake from the footsteps of what was most likely Sophie-Anne coming to say goodnight. I bent to pick up the dry cleaning and said, “I’ll take these to production so we won’t have to wait.”
I heard the door open and close and Lafayette said, “I’ll take ’em. Give me your time card.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ve got it.” But when I turned around I saw that Sophie-Anne wasn’t in the trailer, but instead a drop dead gorgeous Eric Northman was standing there smiling down at me holding a plastic bag. I just said, “Oh.”
Lafayette took the dry cleaning bags from me as well as my time card and said, “I need to talk to production about something anyway,” which I suspected wasn’t true.
He brushed past Eric and left, and suddenly, I was all alone with Eric.
His smile grew as he said, “Hi.”
I said a brilliant “Hi,” in return.
“It’s great to see you again.”
“You too.” More brilliance.
“So, you’re back.” It wasn’t a question.
“I was really sorry to hear about your grandmother.”
“But I’m glad you’re back.”
“Thanks.” I seemed to have lost the ability to speak intelligently.
“So, I hope you don’t mind that I told a friend about you,” he said with a tease in his voice.
“Nope.” We both grinned.
“Did you like the song?”
“Oh my gosh, yes. I loved it.”
He nodded and said, “Good.”
We both kind of took a deep breath and looked around for an awkward moment before he seemed to realize he had the bag in his hand and said, “Oh, these are for you.”
He handed me the bag and I looked inside to find a pair of patched jeans—the first pair I’d ever made—the ones I’d been wearing when I met him.
I just said, “Oh my goodness,” realizing in that moment that Eric must have bought them from Sam, and then he’d obviously also bought one of my pins. And Pam had one of my t-shirts. That’s how he knew I was “Blue Jean.” He’d recognized the jeans I’d worn the day we met and put two and two together. Very clever.
“I just hated the thought of someone else wearing them when I knew how good they looked on you.”
I looked up at him, truly touched.
He added, “Perfect, actually.”
I blushed and said a quiet, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. But I’m keeping the gold chopsticks.”
I laughed a little and nodded and there was another little moment of silence before he said, “So,” and I wondered if this was it and he was leaving. I didn’t want him to leave.
He continued, “I know the normal order of things is to go out to dinner, kiss and then have a rock star write a song about you, but I thought I’d try something different.”
I tried to suppress my grin, but failed.
“But maybe we could have dinner now?” he asked. “I mean if you’re not seeing anyone. I forgot to ask.”
“No to dinner or no, you’re not seeing anyone?”
“Oh. No, I’m not seeing anyone and yes to dinner.”
He bit his bottom lip and smiled, looking more adorable than I could possibly stand.
“Well, we have a few more shoot days and then about a week of post. Are you coming back?”
“No. I was just booked for today.”
“Oh, okay. In that case, can I call you? Maybe we can get together this weekend?”
“Sure,” I said and hoped he didn’t catch the tremble of elation in my voice. “Let me give you my number.”
I started to look around for a pen and something to write on when he said, “I’ve got it.”
“Oh, right.” Call sheet.
The trailer rocked briefly and the door opened. Sophie-Anne came in and said, “Oh hi, Eric. Were you looking for me?”
He turned and said, “No, I was just leaving. Thanks for a great day.”
“You’re welcome,” she said.
He said a good night to us both and left just as Lafayette was returning.
We all three got our personal belongings and left the trailer, locking it behind us, and walked in silence towards the parking lot.
As soon as Sophie-Anne got into her car after saying good night, Lafayette smiled at me and said, “You know he’s got the hots for you, right?”
We kept walking as I said, “Yeah? You think?”
He laughed and replied, “Oh yeah, pretty bad too. I told you he always asks for you, and I saw the way he was just looking at you. The boy’s got it bad,”
I smiled, thinking he didn’t seem like a boy to me, but like a man. And I loved the fact that yes, he did seem like he liked me.
We got into Lafayette’s car and he started the engine, saying, “Thanks for today, Sookie. You did a great job. I hope you had some fun.”
He drove us towards the gate and I said, “You know, I did. It was actually a great day. Thank you, Lafayette.”
I was exhausted, but so happy with the way the day had unfolded. It had been a wild day and a busy day, and a day full of surprises. And with any luck, I’d have some more just like it very soon.
A/N: I just wanted to say that this story is a fabrication. There really was a short film called “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” and subsequent music video cut from it for the song, “Blue Jean” by David Bowie, and it was directed by Julien Temple. It won a Grammy in 1985, but I know nothing about its actual production, cast, or crew other than who the director and star performer were. Oh, and it was actually shot in London.
There really was a production company located at 1015 N. Fairfax in West Hollywood at that time, but it was definitely not called Northman and Company. And there was an actual Burbank Studios in Burbank at that time (it’s now Warner Brothers), but my placing the production of this video there is fiction.
There also actually were (and still are) West Hollywood Sheriff’s patrol officers on bicycles and yes, they do have amazing legs, but I’m pretty sure they don’t loan out their patrol bikes to citizens in need of transportation.
As to why David Bowie wrote “Blue Jean,” he’s quoted as saying, “‘Blue Jean’ is a piece of sexist rock ‘n roll. [laughs] It’s about picking up birds. It’s not very cerebral, that piece.”
I highly recommend both the short film and video if you haven’t seen them before. They are classic 80s rock and roll genius, but that’s just my humble opinion.