Born to an unstable mother whose death leaves him in the clutches of a sexual predator, sixteen-year old Danny escapes from a commune in the northern Arizona desert and makes his way to Los Angeles. In short time, the spectacularly handsome teen lands a modeling contract with a small West Hollywood talent agency. Cunning and charismatic, his climb to celebrity status is meteoric. But as true A-list stardom comes within his reach, Danny is jailed for a grievous crime that neither society, nor Hollywood, can forgive. His crash and burn, and shocking re-invention, ignite a catastrophic chain of events as a crazed stranger from his past unleashes a plot to destroy him.
Targeted Age Group:: 18-68
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
We wanted to make lots of money and travel the world doing book signings! (LOL but partially true!) We were inspired to write this book because we live in a society that tends to value qualities like physical appearance, wealth, fame, and social status and we wanted to tell a story that proves how, ultimately, these things are largely unimportant to true personal happiness. We also wanted to tell a story that put flawed and humorous characters into a situation that would underscore the strength and character of the human spirit.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Two of the main characters were developed for contrast. Danny, the main character, is endowed with attributes that inspire adulation and envy; he is spectacularly handsome, clever, charismatic, and immensely talented. Darryl, conversely, was raised in poverty and born without characteristics that typically foretell success, however is imparted with a wholesome soul and a generous spirit. While Danny is flawed and damaged and seeks satisfaction from fame, riches, and other external sources, Darryl marches to the beat of his own drummer finds his peace from within.
The Chaplin Academy of Dramatic Arts was jokingly referred to, by the ubiquitous starving actors and actresses of LA, as the Charlie Chaplin School for Actin’. The “Academy” was located on the third floor of a walk-up building on a side street that was two blocks off Hollywood Boulevard. A rickety air conditioner failed to keep out the heat, and soot covered windows failed to let in the sun. Danny climbed the creaky wooden stairs, ignoring the graffiti on the walls, and took a seat in one of the cheap metal folding chairs that surrounded a tiny stage. He was five minutes early for his first scene study class. He surveyed the gritty room with a mixture of excitement and woe. He was thrilled at being part of an acting class in in the epicenter of Hollywood and to be partaking in an experience that was brand new for him. He was disappointed, however, about the fact that Chaplin was rated as one of the worst acting schools — this in a city where such institutions were abundant. But Danny had been granted hasty admission thanks to his new agent, Phyllis Moyt, who had also paid for the classes here. After a few minutes he sardonically observed that he was likely the most ambitious student in the entire academy, for he was the only one to arrive on time for class.
He folded his 6’2” frame into a front row seat, pulled a packet of pop tarts from his backpack, ripped one open and scarfed it down. It had been a busy week since his arrival in LA. He’d spent the first day here trying to find a bank with an available safe deposit box into which he could stuff all of his cash. Then he’d found a pawnshop on Vine. He hocked all of his expensive stolen jewelry except for the Rolex watch, which was stowed in the bottom of his duffle bag back in his room. He was now staying at the Banana Bugalow, a hip and funky youth hostel in the center of Hollywood where a private room with a kitchen cost less than $95 per night, compliments of his new agent. Phyllis Moyt had also paid for his headshots, which were taken by a prominent photographer at a large, bustling downtown studio two days ago. He had been surrounded by a bevy of assistants who primped and fawned all over him while the photographer fed him endless compliments. It was the kind of attention he could easily get accustomed to. It was not the controlling exploitation he’d gotten from Malchus or the clingy, smothering ministrations of Darlene. It was star treatment and he basked in it.
Tomorrow he was booked for a paid photo shoot, so his agent’s investment was already starting to pay off nicely. With each day he was moving further from the thoughts, fears and guilt that had plagued him since leaving Arizona.
The classroom started filling with other students. Most were in their twenties and early thirties, but one man was in his sixties and a few looked young enough to be in high school. A pretty Emma Stone type flounced into the seat beside him and fixed him with a flirtatious smile. A buff California surfer dude sat to his opposite side, checked him out appraisingly, and said, “Hey, dude.”
Having grown up entirely among adults, Danny was unused to being surrounded by people of his own age. Aside from Malchus, the residents of the farm tended to give him wide berth and kept the conversations more practical, and less personal, in nature. It was taking time to for Danny to get comfortable among his peers, who were the exact opposite.
Danny returned the attention of each with a polite smile and fixed his eyes on the stage. An older woman, looking like a sixties throwback direct from Laurel Canyon, had climbed onto the platform and now stood staring at the small crowd with a peaceful, almost beatific expression. She wore a loose fitting, flowing, gauzy white dress and was devoid of jewelry. Her brown hair, peppered with gray, was pulled back in a ponytail. Clear and piercing blue eyes stood out from an otherwise unremarkable face. The acting teacher’s name was Amanda Beasley.
However tenuous, she was a connection to the world of Hollywood and to the ways of show business. She had Danny’s rapt attention.
“Okay everyone.” Hers was a commanding presence. “Turn off your cell phones.” She surveyed the class, her eyes connecting with each student. Her glance caught for a moment longer when she noticed Danny.
“I’d like for all of you to join me on the stage,” she told them.
The students all climbed to the small stage. There was silence such that you could hear a pin drop as they awaited Amanda Beasley’s next directive.
“We must train our bodies so that we are in charge of them, not the opposite. Movement is the most important and basic element of acting. In that moment in front of the audience, or in front of the camera, you must be fully within that character, not just in your mind, but in your body and it’s language and motion.”
The teacher paused and walked among the students, whose attention was engrossed. “You have just learned that you have been betrayed by a trusted ally. I want you to sync your mind with your body. Zero dialogue.”
With this, Amanda Beasley folded her arms across her chest and stepped backwards to the very rear of the stage. She said nothing further.
While the rest of the class clenched their fists, crossed their arms, and stormed about the stage angrily with tightened jaws, Danny stood still and his shoulders slumped. He had experienced the ultimate betrayal.
A happy little boy.
Running through the house.
Hoping for his birthday present.
The door shuts. Locks.
The man he trusts like a father demands his silence.
Tears stream down his face as he huddles into a tight ball.
Trying to protect himself.
No way out.
Amanda was staring at Danny with a strange expression. “Experience your feelings. Let your emotions control your physical expression,” she softly directed.
Danny stood on the stage as thoughts of his mother’s failure to protect him, Malchus’ abuse, and his own betrayal of good, decent people left him feeling overwrought, overcome, and very, very alone. He was not aware of another person in his universe. Tears streaked his face.
“Okay everyone,” Amanda interrupted. She was addressing the crowd but stared directly at Danny. “Now, as I count down from ten, let’s release these emotions. Allow peace to flow into your bodies.”
Danny stood. Amanda watched intently as a calm demeanor came over him and he returned to his seat.
“Alright,” she said once the stage was clear and the students had all returned to their seats. “Before we break, lets do some relaxation exercises that you might want to call upon before an audition. Amanda began slowly raising her arms and breathing deeply, and the class followed her lead. After five minutes of slowly inhaling and exhaling, and gentle movement of the limbs, trunk and neck, she permitted them to break.
“When we resume, I’m going to put you in pairs and assign each pair a short script. We will spend the rest of the afternoon doing cold readings.”
The class gasped in unison.
Amanda held up her hands. “I know the cold reading is a nightmare for most actors, but the sooner you get used to it, the better off you’ll all be.”
When the class began to disperse on their break Danny checked his cell phone. First, he looked up the definition of ‘cold reading’. It was, he learned, reading from a script without the benefit of rehearsal. No big deal. There was an email from Phyllis detailing an audition for a TV commercial on Monday!
He then went to the internet and performed his regular Google search, which this time revealed a new article whose headline read: “No Leads in Retirement Village Robbery.” He scanned the article. There was nothing there to alarm him. He had grown up totally off the grid; there were no records whatsoever of his existence, so he was untraceable by law enforcement. He felt safe; his crime would go unsolved.
He was interrupted by a gentle tap on his shoulder. He immediately powered down his cell phone and glanced up. It was Amanda Beasley. She was looking at him with an expression of approval.
“I don’t know where you came from,” she said simply. “But you’ve got what it takes, kid.”
With that she turned and headed toward a group of waiting students, her movements as fluid as a ballerina. When class resumed Danny found himself totally engrossed in the cold readings and he noticed, with great satisfaction, that Amanda Beasley continued to take highly admiring notice of him. Time passed like lightening, and when class was over Danny was invited by some of the other students to join them at the Shake Shack on Hollywood Boulevard.
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