“Sure, I remember last night–like it was yesterday.”
When you boil it all down, there’s only one major difference between the blokes who get branded ‘bad boys’, and the ones who call themselves ‘nice guys’: honesty.
Just, not in the way you think.
S-suppose for a moment that each man wants to get into your pants–a reasonable assumption. Us ‘bad boys’ don’t suffer fools, seeing straight through the tired ‘damsel in distress’ bullshit façade you’ve grown weary of presenting. We know how capable and formidable strong women are.
It’s up to you. Trot the nice guy along the well-worn ‘friendzone’ obstacle course, or try ‘taming’ the bad boy?
You know your answer already.
Women love drama. Even–especially–the drama they create for themselves. It’s in their DNA and explains why all the shows with a love triangle featuring bikini babe, scrawny surfer dude and tattooed burly bikie rate their arses off. It’s the reason women declare a bloke ‘perfect’, before setting out on a mission to change him–inside and out, complaining six months later to their friends, heaving between sobs, ‘he isn’t the man I fell in love with’.
At the end of it all, despite the drama, women crave honesty–which is why us bad boys get bonus points from women. By articulating what we want. Nothing shits a woman off more than a man who’s hiding something. Women don’t wait in ivory towers for some macho prick to swoop in through the window and ‘win’ their hearts. It’s the twenty-first century, where anyone can do whatever, or whoever, however and whenever the fuck they want. (Which applies to men, too.)
Understanding what a woman wants beyond that, is beyond me.
All I know is I’m a man with the world at his feet. And not because that’s how gravity and spheres work.
I’m a man, basking in the neon-pink bedroom of a girl who’s likewise never grown up. Feet poking out of the end of the double-bed sheets, waiting for the woman I charmed last night to come back from the kitchen. A man, surrounded by enough pastel pink throw cushions to create a pillow fort large enough to repulse invading Mongols. A man, who can recall every line of a two-hour, three-act, four-part play, but daydreams at that pivotal moment when he should be committing a name to memory.
The last time I called a woman ‘babe’ all night, she called me out, demanding I tell her her real name. It was our fifth date, after all. Awkward!
I was also not in a position to phone a friend, and not because of the fuzzy pink handcuffs securing me to the bedhead.
I’d better rewind a bit.
Here’s your set-up: Scene One.
My mate-slash-agent, Bill, owner and sole employee of ‘Bill Patalanis Actor and Model Academy’ gets a misplaced email about a new TV Show, Reputation Alone, and sees dollar signs. Corporate sponsors are all on-board, there’s social media hashtags and test shots, and they’re building anticipation for the near-live web simulcast. Best of all, since it’s shooting and airing with days or only hours’ delay, the generation-now audience is slavering over it. Open to revolutionary guerrilla filmmakers, every hipster in the inner-city simultaneously spat their mouthful of smashed avo and artisan coffee all over their twirly moustaches and down their Lowes on-special flannelettes and broke out the fisheye filters on their smart phones.
Forget the crew. Whoever fronts the show will be a household name and Gold Logie nominee–overseas Emmy, perhaps. The template upon which we will launch a thousand copycat international remakes.
One name pings into Bill’s head–the undisputed star of his stable.
Fortunately for me, S&ndy–we went out, maybe five times–is stuck in Noosa on a calendar assignment. Some lucky freelance photographer is shooting her rigid, from all angles and positions.
Scene Two. Neil Bidstrup, sniffing around Bill for some work, hears about his predicament and swashbuckles in like Flynn to help.
On second thought–not exactly in like Flynn. It came out, some time ago, that Errol hadn’t. Come out, that is. ‘In Like Flynn’ conjures an image of being plunged balls-deep, into shit of someone else’s making.
On third thought–Neil Bidstrup, This Is Your Life.
Scene Three. I land the gig without reading the fine print, and I’m stuck for the next two weeks, sponging a living off my reputation and the generosity of Sydneysiders, facing levels of mortgage stress at never-before-seen levels. It’s a social experiment, with ‘text-in’ lines, hashtags and phone numbers to make their performing seal–arf–balance a ball, sing, clap and dance on demand before getting shoved back into the drink. It’s like one of those muddy enduro-marathon obstacle courses with me as the sole competitor and where they haven’t yet decided on the voltage of the electrifying challenge at the end, and whether or not my bare nuts shall test the bare wires.
Bill glossed over much of the detail but insisted I would be perfect for the gig. I wasn’t sure how to take that.
Scene, and curtain.
Fuchsia curtains, at that. My bed mate-slash-captor had left nothing useful within reach, like keys, nametag or bedpan. And her flatmate had gone to her boyfriend’s for the weekend, meaning we could get as loud and kinky as she wanted. It also meant I couldn’t catch low-flying conversation snippets as they sailed through the apartment. What was wafting through, however, was the alluring fragrance of fresh blueberries, pancakes and Sassy Chloe. (The perfume, not the woman.) Like an impotent illustrator with creative block, I was drawing blanks.
Even if I could reach the bedside table, my phone wasn’t there to help jog my memory. The Reputation Alone signed-in-blood contract separated me from my phone, keys, wallet, newspapers, television and Internet access for the duration.
One-hundred-and-thirty thousand followers across numerous mediums had me in radio silence–or on constant white noise, depending on how they followed.
I normally try to match a face with a movie character, but this woman... nothing. Blankety-Blanks. Graham Kennedy? I didn’t think her name was Kennedy.
The pressure’s mounting already.
Suddenly, the bedroom door bursts open, nearly making me mess myself. (Where is that bedpan?) Breakfast is served on her naked back, with maple syrup pooling in that little hollow just above her bum. Knife, fork and linen napkin between her teeth. No small feat in keeping it steady–I was wondering how she’d arranged it in the first place–but it’s always good to start the day with a balanced meal.
Another hour passes.
The inevitable conversation and hangover is staved off with breakfast and remaining more-or-less horizontal. Eventually, both need addressing. A bottleful on the way in expands to a bucketful on exit, kamikaze-ing through cannon-fodder brain cells as it goes, with all the finesse of a malfunctioning flamethrower.
Cross my heart, I’ll never, ever drink that much again. And I really mean it this time.
The chick on the front desk welcomed me into last night’s party, with every intention of taking me home, but while she slumbered, I got another number. I’d met ‘Mona’ on my first lap inside the club. She recognised me, she said, from somewhere. Somewhere, eh?
The soup ad. It’s always the fucking soup ad.
And Mona? Like Cinderella, the shoe fitted.
Speaking of fitting, it’s notionally a ‘lock and key’ party. Women are invited free and given a padlock. Blokes pay two hundred a pop for a key and encouraged to slip it into the woman they fit. (Ooh-err, Missus. It’s getting more ‘Ugly Dave’ Gray by the second.)
Bidstrup One-night Etiquette Rule #18: Even if you’ve laid out the ground-rules, well in advance, ensure you have the morning’s conversation fully clothed, just on the outside chance everything goes the bad kind of tits-up.
Tits-up was me standing in Mona’s bath-shower combo. Stubble puddling on the hem of the pastel pink shower curtain, her hot-pink minge razor scraping a couple of days’ worth of hard living off my cheek and chin. With my other hand, I’m lathering my hairy crack with her cheap sponge, humming while I work.
My testosterone levels are pretty impressive. Back at school, I was the first of my mates to start shaving–and consequently first to stop. Orientation week with new teachers and Year Seven kids went well. My mate Arch snapped footage of them gawking at my Daniel Boone Wild Man look, and the subsequent David Boon moustache once the point had been made with a full beard.
‘My razor!’ she shrieked, pointing.
What was the issue? I’d let–even demanded–women use my razor before.
‘And Merlow’s two-hundred-dollar loofah? You’re wiping your arse with it! She’s going to kill me!’ It was as if she was offering specialist play-by-play commentary on my shower.
Mental note in case a similar scenario ever arises–wringing the sponge out, sniffing it, picking bits off and saying, ‘it still smells all right’ is probably the wrong response.
Next time, maybe just wring it.
Miss Marshall turns, dusting chalk from her fingers in a well-practiced manner.
‘Class, who knows the right answer?’
A spontaneous forest of swaying pink bamboo sprouts instantly from alternate navy-blue and white checked dresses, and mint-green shirt sleeves. Top leaves flutter in the breeze, while grunts and soft hoots emanate from the bamboo roots. Hidden by the woodland, a tiny mushroom blooms red, eyes scrunched closed, whispering a nervous mantra.
D-don’tpickme don’tpickme don’tpickme don’tpickme.
Despite the colouring, this mushroom isn’t poisonous. It’s just unappealing. Regularly plucked, sampled and spat back out.
Marshall’s Forest is nevertheless a dangerous place for the under-prepared. Some have noticed the mushroom’s quirks, and an ill wind sweeps through, swaying the branches afresh. Elbows dig into ribs and a rival whisper goes up.
The mushroom whimpers softly, closing his eyes still tighter.
“One of my less-marketable skills is identifying the type of wood used in a particular piece of furniture.”
I was a sight. Half a face of stubble (the left) which nicely balanced my one right eyebrow, a pounding skull, and ears reverberating from the door slam. Oak.
Only one car disturbed the quiet, so I headed the way it had, reasoning the occupant wanted out of suburbia. My stomach gurgled, that brain-gut connection that longed for the city, where people are civilised, and pretend not to notice one another. The next house, venetian blinds flapped behind sash windows. Modwood.
I swear the time still had three digits in it. I can’t remember the last Sunday I was up at this hour when I didn’t have to open the café.
Mona hadn’t shacked up with anyone for a while–I hadn’t been able to complete my shower, hair or deodorising routine, and I’d been in this pungent wardrobe for two, no, three days already. And all because I didn’t prepare and broke my eighteenth rule. On the upside, I swept all the clothes off the floor into my arms including a sexy souvenir pair of undies. They’ll make a welcome change from my own daks once the time comes. I can’t see it being an easy task, washing out my lone pair of boxers in someone else’s sink, leaving them to dry overnight in the bathroom and sleeping nude... not unless we get another Bürmüda from Accounts again, like the first night of the experiment.
Downside: In a room with more pink than the Barbie factory on ‘wear something pink to work’ day, guess what colour these knickers are?
Once out of sight of Mona’s unit block, I slowed my pace and re-evaluated the situation. I’m hopping (sockless) into a shoe and adjusting my misaligned shirt buttons, when this twenty-year-old sidles up to me.
Scrawny looking, academic type. Probably has his coffee- and avo-stained flanno in his mum’s washing basket. Glasses, thicker than the ones they’ve made me wear, and his beard would earn plenty of work as an extra on a TV series about bushrangers or the gold-rush.
‘Barry?’ (I remembered Barry the bushranger.)
‘Close, but no cigar. Brian,’ he corrected me, amiable. ‘Ready for your close-up, Mr Bidstrup?’
I apologised for the name confusion (Brian Bushranger, Brian Bushranger, B-brian Bushranger) and collected my thoughts and re-checked my buttons while he found an appropriate spot to film me. I’d learned yesterday Brian was a researcher, having pored through heaps of my old tapes and stuff, panning for gold. Explains the eighteen-fifties face-fuzz. The show needed to stay guerrilla, he explained, with as few people involved as possible. Which explained why a tape-library bloke–oh, and the second assistant editor, thank-you-very-much, popped up daily to offer advice. And to change tapes, batteries and film my ‘confessionals’.
‘Let’s get your vital details afresh,’ he began. ‘You were a little ranty yesterday and once you’d wandered off the point, I stopped filming.’
‘Where to start? G’day, I’m Neil. Six-two, or 1.88 metres. I should be Chinese for all my lucky 8s: 88 kegs, 8 per cent body fat, and though I’ll hit the buffet, I’ll stop at the gym on the way home to balance it out. Treadmill, weights-bench and bike. Bri, viewers at home, I’m the full Ten,’ I said, warmed up and giving a catwalk-wink and twirl for the camera.
‘I’m well-tended, tanned, toned, tuned and ought to be bloody tinned. Grab my portfolio from my agent Bill Patalanis when you get five–my eyes are as untamed and blue as the ocean wild, just as the storm arrives, it says.’
‘Nice memory.’ Brian interrupted my spiel. ‘Word for word, identical to what I remember you saying yesterday.’
‘I didn’t write it. Women like it.’ I shrugged, weakly. ‘I’m a chick magnet. Pity lots of them suffer an iron deficiency.’
‘But, ah, I forgot to hit ‘record’… again… until you were blathering on about your eyes, which I seem to remember each having their own matching brow, yesterday.’
‘Disagreement with the barber. Newsflash: it turns out, you get even more hair cut for nothing than you do for fifty bucks.’
‘I see. Well, wanna try it again? From the top, for the sake of continuity.’
I shrugged and repeated the pitch with somewhat less gusto than the first couple of times. This time, I added the anecdote about the barber’s girlfriend finding a stray hair on his collar and leaving him. Once we’d nailed the intro, Brian pressed on.
‘What’s the deal with your hair? You got it cut that way? Intentionally? Or did the barber massacre it like your eyebrow?’
‘Bed-head chic, according to my best mate Archie Jordan, thank-you-very-much–and anyone else who calls it that, can fuck off. I say wavy, 21st century style. Once I’ve completed my forty-minute regime, no two strands run parallel.’
‘They don’t now, and it looks as if you... didn’t quite finish your regime. Just sayin’.’ He ran a hand down his own whiskery cheek. ‘So you’re right to go then? For real?’
‘I’m always ready to go.’ I cocked an eyebrow.
‘How was last night?’ Brian prompted, apropos of nothing, camera still running, and he’d decided we’d do this as a walking interview.
We were in suburbia, walking streets I still didn’t recognise.
‘A gentleman never tells.’
‘Pfft! Well, it’s a good thing you’re no gentleman.’ I couldn’t tell if he was smiling or not through the whiskers and camera lens, the cheeky presumptuous bastard. ‘Come on, spill your guts.’
‘I’ll tell you a story about ladies and gentlemen–remind me about that one later–oh, and your bushranger look. We’ll talk Ned Kelly, too. But last night... let’s just say, I was very giving. Maybe three or four. This morning, too. Twice. And I even let her call me Phillip. Loudly and repeatedly.’
‘Is this your big break, Neil?’ He laughed and transitioned again, guiding me down a side-street where the gardens looked a better backdrop.
He could air any of this, in any order; I suspect that this wasn’t the line of questioning that a certain someone was after.
‘Nah!’ I scoffed, playing it cool. ‘You want dirt? I’ve had girlfriends with more issues than Cosmopolitan. Fresh ones would emerge every few weeks. But this isn’t about old coals. Remind me to tell you about comedic actors like me later.’
‘No pen,’ he said. ‘And let’s get something for ‘now’, shall we?’
‘You’re recording, aren’t you?’ I sighed. ‘Watch the tape back. Or remember one of the several things I’ve asked you to prompt me about.’
‘Fine.’ How had this genius figured out how to have the right end of the camera pointed at me? ‘My biggest break hasn’t actually come yet,’ I said. ‘But it’s been filmed; a major role. Finished, finalised, in the can but never screened.’
‘TV or movie?’
‘TV, of course. It’s where everyone starts out–and returns to. Full circle.’
‘What’s the show?’ He was walking backwards, avoiding anything that might trip him, though it nearly happened when I answered.
He whistled, suitably impressed. The locally-produced juggernaut soap opera had swept the English-speaking world–and beyond. Translated into a dozen different languages and spawned numerous local copycats in countries unwilling to pay royalties to secure the real thing.
‘In the words of Public Enemy: Don’t believe the hype,’ I continued, shaking my head at the memory. ‘They’re clueless idiots running that show. Talent in front of the camera–you know, her with the nice chesticles–that Locretia Thingamajiggy babe. You need good source material; a performance to work with, but there’s magic in the editing.’
Brian nodded–he wasn’t a tape jockey at heart. His ambitions reached beyond second assistant coffee get-er-er, and I was his in to the big leagues. I needed someone watching my back–Wild Bill Patalanis, my 12.5%-gouging talent agent, certainly only had my back when he was looking for a tender place to plunge the dagger.