Chapter 1 – Streets of Philadelphia
Saturday November 12th:
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Philadelphia Airport. Local time is 4PM and the temperature is 31 degrees with cloudy skies.”
‘31 degrees and cloud cover. Dreary’ Eric thought as he turned to Alcide and asked “Why did I decide to serve as the Producer as well as the Star on this film?
Alcide just laughed back “YOU didn’t decide your manager, Victor and your sister, Pam nagged you into agreeing. Sometimes I wonder if you decide anything about your life on your own.”
That statement was painfully close to the truth, but Eric knew Pam was just looking out for him. Well he was here now, in dreary, cloudy Philadelphia. “Alcide, if it’s 31 degrees outside, couldn’t there at least be snow on the ground?”
Alcide just chuckled at Eric’s grumpy mood. He would perk up after they landed and went out to dinner.
Eric had traveled from LA with his friend and co-producer Alcide Herveaux to prepare for their upcoming movie. Filming would be done in various locations in Center City Philadelphia and a farmhouse setting in the suburbs. This trip was to check out their required Philadelphia filming locations and find a shooting location in the suburbs. The contracts for city filming were easily completed from LA since the Mayor’s office in Philadelphia had a staff that dealt with negotiations. Eric and Alcide’s assistant, Bobby, had located Bon Temps Bed and Breakfast, complete with a barn and ample acreage that appeared to meet their needs. The pictures that Bobby had sent were promising and they were all meeting with the owner on Wednesday.
After finally getting their luggage and the rental car, Alcide and Eric headed into Center City Philadelphia for the night. Tomorrow they were touring the city and on Monday, they would meet with a representative from the Mayor’s office to confirm the filming locations and schedule. After their meeting, they would leave for the Morgantown, PA, the suburbs they needed to visit. Tonight they planned to enjoy the town. After speaking to the concierge, they decided on a bar within walking distance called Valhalla. Eric turned to Alcide and announced, “After completing the filming on Multiverse, I believe I’ve earned my time in Valhalla, Lord knows I battled with my co-stars during the filming.”
“Eric, you channeled the 1000 year old Viking Vampire in that film well enough to capture Odin’s attention, and you did it without twinkling!”
Eric and Alcide were both very good looking men. Eric was almost 6’5” with a broad chest; narrow hips shoulder length blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Alcide was a bit shorter but even broader with dark curly hair and green eyes. Eric’s fame provided a fan base that followed the two through town and supplied a throng of ladies vying for attention.
“Eric, can I buy you a drink?”
“Who is your friend, is he famous too?”
“Can I have my picture taken with you?”
Several hours and many polite dances later, Eric and Alcide walked back to the Marriott and crashed. Both enjoyed the friendly chatting and dancing with the ladies at a Valhalla, but kept it PG. As producers, they still needed to negotiate the best contracts for the film’s budget, and they couldn’t afford any Philadelphia Scandals.
The tour of city locations on Sunday and meetings on Monday went smoothly, but then Bobby was an efficient assistant. The Constitution Center, City Hall, Museum and Historic Wanamaker’s Building would all be part of the film. The Mayor’s office had been very accommodating with the scheduling of both day and nighttime filming. After the meetings, Eric and Alcide headed to the country for the next location checks. Alcide was driving and Eric asked, “Are we lost? I thought we were heading to a suburb of Philadelphia, not the fucking boonies.” Eric couldn’t believe that the drive was taking so long, and the further they drove, the less ‘civilized’ the landscape became.
Alcide confirmed the directions in the navigation system and reminded Eric that their goal was a country setting with farms, cows, and open spaces. He suggested Eric relax and enjoy the scenery.”
Eric growled, “Enjoying the scenery is one thing. Knowing we may be living here for several months while filming is what has me concerned. Pam will be here. We’ll have to negotiate special shopping trips to keep her tolerable! She’ll whine that it’s my fault since she is my stylist and she HAS to shop for me, but we both know SHE can’t do without new clothing every week. I wonder if the big mall we passed can send shoppers with carts of clothing out to the boonies for remote shopping trips. I’m going to call Bobby now to check on that.”
Alcide exited the turnpike and told Eric to call Bobby later, since they had arrived at the hotel. “No Eric, you don’t want to look.”
Eric did look as they pulled into the Holiday Inn. They had planned to stay here until their departure next week and Eric wasn’t sure he could. The orange colored hotel was behind a McDonalds and had an abandoned outlet mall (that had been called MOM’s?) attached to the back. He was ready to rethink the cost of building all the sets (complete with farms) from scratch to prevent the need to ever return here again. It got no better when they asked about restaurants and had to clarify and ask for one that was not called a diner. Eric and Alcide had no problem with eating at a diner, but they needed to find variety to keep the cast and crew happy for several months. Ronny, the ‘Concierge’ (early promoted teen from the front desk) directed them to: Ye Olde Heritage Inn (charming).
“What can I get you to drink?” asked an elderly waitress.
‘Alcohol,’ Eric thought ‘lots and lots of alcohol.’ “I’ll have a beer.”
Alcide agreed, “I’ll have a beer as well, and I’m ready to order”.
Alcide and Eric ate their dinner while confirming their goals for the trip:
- Evaluate the Bon Temps Bed and Breakfast as a filming location
- Determine if any work is required for the property to meet their needs
- Negotiate contracts with the owner on the required work and fees for use
- Find additional locations for some specific scenes and/or determine what sets will need to be built as supplement
- Determine food and entertainment options for the cast and crew
Alcide had more experience with coordinating location filming and suggested some friendly discussion with the locals so they headed towards the bar area. There, they found the local off duty Police Chief, John Stoltfus, and some other men playing pool. They were quickly welcomed into the conversation and eventually some games. Eric thought to himself, ‘OK, so there are some benefits to being in a small town.’ Alcide informed their new friends that they were looking for filming locations and entertainment options for a large cast and crew.
“So Chief Stoltfus,” Eric asked, “what do folks in Morgantown do for fun in the spring and summer?”
“Call me John, please; I still sometimes think Chief Stoltfus is my Dad. For fun, well, we have a weekly pool tournament on Thursday nights held right here at Ye Olde Heritage Inn. Friday nights, starting in May, we have the ice cream social at the Farm and Feed. The closest movie theatres are about 30 minutes away. I’m guessing some of your late 20’s or single folks will be looking for something like a nightclub, but they’ll need to travel to the City of Reading or downtown Philadelphia. Of course, once summer hits, you are now entering church fair and BBQ season, and just about every other week a local church hosts some type of community gathering. We do have one weekly event you won’t want to miss, and that is Tuesday dinner and open mic night at the Barn. It’s the barn on the property of Bon Temps Bed & Breakfast, but we just call it the Barn”.
“Well, John, you have given us a few things to think about. Open mic nights aren’t really my thing, but seeing that we want to explore the Barn as you call it for our movie, I guess we can check it out while enjoying dinner tomorrow night. “
“Great, see you there.”
On the drive back to the hotel, which really could have been a walk, Alcide turned and said out loud what Eric had already been thinking. “We have to come up with something, the cast and crew will die from boredom during the 4 months here.”
All Eric could do was sigh. He was only scheduled to be here for over a week and was already feeling the effects of boonie boredom as he was now calling it.
During the day on Tuesday Alcide and Eric drove around looking for various scene locations. The area did not lack for farms, cows or admittedly some beautiful views. Alcide was making a list of the potential filming sites since Chief Stoltfus said he would review it and help with introductions of any property owners. Eric had to admit that Alcide was right about talking to the local folk, and they certainly hit the jackpot making friends with the Chief of Police.
“Yeah, this will cut down on research time for Bobby. Let’s head to the Police Station to see if we can get any of the names right away.”
Eric agreed, and since he was driving he headed to the center of the ‘metropolis’ to find the Police Station. Chief Stoltfus was there and rattled off the names of every land owner on the list and offered to sit with Bobby and make introductory phone calls. Alcide and Eric could only stop and stare at each other like deer caught in headlights with matching looks of disbelief.
In the car, Alcide quipped, “I think we ARE in Kansas now, ‘cause we sure aren’t in LA. Nobody would give you the time of day let alone help with a project. I’ll call Bobby now to have him meet with the Chief.”
Once again, they went back at The Holiday Inn (who could miss the orange) and were greeted by Ronny, their concierge and overall ‘Oracle’ of Morgantown. “Mr. Northman and Mr. Herveaux, do you need anything before I head out for the evening?
“No Ronny, we will be at the Barn tonight, so no theatre tickets or reservations are required.”
Ronny was confused about theatre tickets, since the local High School play was still a few months away, but he did offer to drive Eric and Alcide since he was going to the Barn as well.
They declined and got ready to depart themselves.
Eric was reminding himself this was for work when Pam texted him:
P: Hi Eric. Hope the trip is going well. Where are headed tonight?
P: Fine Eric no need to be pissy I think this is a good opportunity for you. I’m just checking on how your trip is going
E: Fine, Hello Pamela, the trip is an adventure and I’m going to the Barn tonight
P: Don’t be a jerk.
E: I’m not being a jerk; I’m going to the Barn tonight.
P: No, really
E: Yes, really. The Barn has dinner and open mic night. Apparently the whole fucking town goes. I think we have to catch our fish in the stream and fillet it for cooking, the cow for milking is right there in the barn. Before you say anything about this – I’ll remind you that you and Victor insisted I both star in and produce this film
E: Are you there?
P: Sorry, was too busy wondering, as your stylist, what the hell you wear to the Barn for open mic night.
E: Hopefully jeans and vans are acceptable. I left my Carhartts at home.
P: What’s a Carhartt?
E: Look it up, I’ll get you some in the ‘Bib’ Style
As they approached the Barn, they looked at each other in question. The parking ‘lot’ (yard?) was packed. Seating was at large round tables, so you shared with other patrons if your group was smaller than 8 or 10. The space was set up with a buffet at one end and a small stage and dance area at the other. Eric and Alcide paid their cover charge, grabbed beers and settled on a table near the stage. Their table companions must have been at the buffet. Given the limited restaurant options in the area and the uninteresting menu they found for dinner last night, Eric didn’t hold much hope for the buffet. He and Alcide met their first table companions as they returned with loaded plates. Russell and Bart were a gay couple from the area. Russell was a lawyer and Bart a doctor. Soon they were joined by other guests at the table; Tray, a school teacher for the local elementary school and Amelia, his wife, a stay at home mom. They had all introduced each other when Amelia noticed their lack of plates and said to Eric and Alcide, “guys, I don’t know much about LA, but the food at the Barn is made from scratch with fresh ingredients as much as possible. You’re missing out if you don’t hit the buffet quickly for the best selections.”
Eric and Alcide did admit the food smelled good now that the folks at the table returned with full plates. When they approached the buffet, they were surprised by the selection, including; Grilled Eggplant Parmigianino, Chicken Marsala, Green Beans with Garlic, and assorted desserts. The meal wasn’t at all what they expected. A single plate wasn’t enough and they both found themselves going back up for more. Russell, Bart, Tray and Amelia were not shy with the “told you sos”. Things in Morgantown were finally starting to look up.
Then the music started.
Open mics are not always the best entertainment, especially if you aren’t local and can’t either encourage someone for trying or laugh your ass off at the appropriate time. The first folks onstage simply started with some music and they were eventually joined by a singer. Not bad so far. Then a group of four young girls approached the stage and made a request. The girls were going to dance as entertainment. Eric felt like he had died and gone to hell, sure that a squeaky violin recital would be next. The band started playing Fun’s Some Nights while the crowd started yelling for something called Sookie. The girls started an Irish Dance and were joined by what must have been Sookie. She had long blond hair that she pulled out of a messy bun while she ran to the stage, a curvy body, and breasts that bounced wonderfully while dancing with the girls. Eric was suddenly interested in the entertainment for the evening.
Once the dance was over, two of the girls came running to the table. Mena was Russell and Bart’s daughter and Grace belonged to Tray and Amelia. The girls were introduced to Eric (Mr. Northman) and Alcide (Mr. Herveaux) and they explained that the other girls were Sookie’s daughters. Everyone was telling the girls how much they enjoyed their dance when the guitar playing started. It was Sookie onstage now. Russell noticed that Eric stopped eating, he was no longer drinking and it appeared that he was ignoring something Alcide was saying. Sookie really had Eric’s attention. She performed three songs. Then as fast as she appeared, she was gone. Using the need for a beer as excuse, Eric took an extra long route around the room but he could not find Sookie. Russell saw this as well. He looked at Alcide who had also noticed and he raised his brows in question. Alcide just shrugged and thought, ‘this is interesting, Eric chasing after a woman is not typical; it’s always the other way around.’
Once back at the table, Eric joined the conversation Alcide was having with Russell, Bart and Tray about their business trip to Morgantown. He was informing them that they were scheduled to meet with the owner of Bon Temps B&B tomorrow to discuss using the property as a potential filming location.
Bart turned to Russell saying, “isn’t that…” only to be cut off by Russell who quickly said “Bart, let’s tell them about the grange party this weekend, maybe they would be interested in attending that as well.”
As quickly as he could, Eric replied, “We may need to be back in Philadelphia this weekend.” Eric felt he had just dodged a bullet. Before he arrived in Morgantown, he didn’t know what a grange was, but now he knew it was some type of farming meeting and the grange party did NOT sound fun.
Meanwhile Russell kicked his husband to keep him quiet. He knew about the meeting at Bon Temps since he was the lawyer for the B&B. He chose to keep these details to himself because he enjoyed open mic nights at the B&B too much to have work intrude on the night (at least that is what he told himself).
The Police Chief, Fire Chief (Volunteer company – did they still have volunteer fire companies?), and the local post master all joined their table to chat as well. Both Eric and Alcide had to admit they were enjoying their new local friends and the food (though Eric was still thinking the grange party would be taking that too far). Ironically, Eric wasn’t approached by crazed fans while at the Barn. ‘Maybe there is something to be said about a small town.’
Suddenly Russell exclaimed. “I need to find my dance partner” and got up to search (though Bart stayed seated). When some Latin music started from an iPod, the band took a break. Racing out again was Sookie, this time donning a pair of dance shoes and she and Russell proceeded to dance around the room. Bart explained to Eric’s and Alcide’s questioning faces, “I had no interest in dancing while Russell and Sookie both did, so they started taking lessons as friends.”
Eric moved closer to Bart. ‘He knew this Sookie?’ However she learned to dance and whomever she learned with didn’t matter – Eric was mesmerized by her dancing. He had to ask more. “They move wonderfully. How did Sookie’s husband feel about her taking lessons with your husband?”
Bart portrayed a sad smile, “at first Sam resisted, but he had no interest in dancing either, so how could he refuse. Look how happy she is. I think dancing has helped her move…”
Just then, Russell returned to the table cutting off Bart and announcing that Sookie was too busy for more than a few dances. Both Russell and Bart shook their heads exclaiming that she never seemed to take a break.
After a few more songs from the band, Russell and Bart took their leave with Mena, reminding her it was a school night. In their car Russell asked, “Did you see the way Eric looked at Sookie?”
“How could anyone miss that? When she left the stage, he wandered around the room like a lost puppy looking for her.”
Eric and Alcide were just walking to their car when Russell and Bart drove by on the way out. They giggled like school girls.
On Wednesday, Eric and Alcide worked on emails and other items before leaving for their 11AM appointment at Bon Temps B&B. They arrived and were surprised to see Russell getting out of his car.
“Good morning gentlemen.”
Alcide replied, “Good morning to you as well, though I’m a bit surprised to see you here.”
“I apologize; I know I should have mentioned I would be at the meeting today, since I’m the lawyer for the B&B. I really don’t like to mix business with pleasure, and my guess is you would have had several questions about the meeting last night.”
Neither man could refute that comment, since to them, this whole week WAS work even during the seemingly pleasurable parts.
Russell lead them all into the lounge only to hear arguing coming from down the hall.
The first voice was a female (Eric and Alcide assumed it was Susannah, the owner) “I have an appointment Bill, you’re going to need to leave and we’ll continue this discussion later.” Her voice was forceful but not yelling.
The male voice screamed back. “this is another example of what I mean. You should not hold meetings without me!”
“Bill, Russell is the lawyer for the B&B and he will be in attendance. You are a partner in our InnKeeper software business, not the B&B.”
“YOU KNOW YOUR HUSBAND WANTED ME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. THIS IS NOT HONORING HIS WISHES.”
Russell had stepped forward with an apologetic smile and proceeded down the hall, quietly informing Bill to stop yelling and depart.
After a few more hushed but angry exchanges, a very angry man stormed down the hall, nostrils flared and hands clenched as he said over his shoulder, “this is not right – I WILL be back.”
Russell came out and invited Eric and Alcide into the office.
Moving from behind the desk to greet them was Sookie.
‘Yes’, Eric thought, ’things in Morgantown are definitely looking up.’