She just couldn’t fall asleep. The past few days felt like a nightmare fairy tale—first the nasty business with the Merry-Go-Round drummer, Mange, then the damning tabloid headlines that followed a rather unflattering view of her body tossed over Zach Rohnan’s shoulder in the hallway of the downtown Denver hotel. Tomorrow would be her first day back on the air since it all happened and after Cheryl Potter’s phone call earlier that evening, Starr now knew she had a Denver Post article to look forward to as well. It kind of irritated her that the paper would contact the station’s PR coordinator before actually attempting to reach her directly, which they still had not done. And yet this article was supposed to run in the Monday morning edition.
“Look, honey, you had to expect this… If it wasn’t for your status here as a local celebrity, a story like this would never make it past the scandal sheets. But you are kind of a big deal in this town. Like it or not there is a name-brand recognition that comes on the station as a result of your show’s popularity. The best thing to do is get in front of this and in a week or two, it’ll all blow over,” Cheryl assured her from the other end of the line.
“Yeah, well, I caught the TMZ rebroadcast at 2 a.m. this morning. Not too entertaining when Harvey Levin and Charles are referring to me as ‘the number one party girl of the Denver airwaves!’” Starr replied hotly. And laying there in bed, trying to force her mind to relax and welcome the sleep her worn body so acutely needed, the broadcast played through her mind like a DVR recording.
“And the latest scandal for the bad-boy rockers of Merry-Go-Round is that Zachariah Rohnan, the lead singer for IED, the headlining band on the tour, has kicked Merry-Go-Round off the tour! And it seems to be because of this little starlet, Harvey. Tony, our cameraman has more on this breaking story…” At this point the cameras in the studios cut from the two TMZ hosts to a pudgy-looking overgrown teenager who continued with the rest of the details.
“Charles, you should have seen it! Well, duh, you can see what I captured on tape but that’s just Rohnan flinging the little hottie over his shoulder caveman style. The shot I really blew was the one of Rohnan nailing Mange with a slam-dunk fist, cheekbone-to-nose, that sent him whooshing to the floor. I was only able to get the spewing blood covering the downed artist’s tee shirt as the IED lead singer took off with the girl.” And here Harvey intercepted the hand-off.
“What’s really turned out to be interesting, Tony, is that the ‘hottie’ is none other than the number one party girl of the Denver airwaves, Starr Jennings, or Superstar as she’s known on the radio. The country at large may not know this young DJ, but to those in metropolitan Denver, she’s quite well known with billboards and bus posters all over the place.”
“She seems pretty wasted here, Harvey. And that’s kind of surprising since Zach Rohnan isn’t known for a scandalous love life. We’ve yet to see a story about him from any of the IED groupies,” Charles observed in a speculative tone. “Sources inside that after-party from the concert Friday night claim she was smoking some hand rolled cigarettes, if ya know what I mean. But hey, it Colorado so pot’s not really a big deal there.”
And that was about it for the gossip about her. Now tomorrow, on air, she would reap the fallout. Somehow she finally managed to drift off to sleep despite the dread that lay upon her like an elephant on her chest.
She nearly jumped a mile as she got out of her car at the station, because no sooner had she closed her door than a man approached her.
“Starr Jennings?” he asked abruptly.
“Ah, yes?” she replied hesitantly.
Slapping a piece of folded paper against her chest her told her, “You’ve just been served.”
“What the fu…?” she puzzled. But she didn’t hang around because like her house she’d left with some difficulty this afternoon, she began to see flash bulbs going off in the corner of her eyes as reporters yelled at her.
“Is it true you got Mange kicked out of Merry-Go-Round? That he’s suing you and Zach Rohnan for defamation of character?”
“How long have you and Rohnan been involved?”
“How long were you and Mange involved?”
She was thankful that security was enforcing the visitor code in the parking lot. They weren’t instructed to do so very often, usually only when a big artist was expected at the station. She’d never expected that such controversy would result from the incident over the weekend. But she was angry, too. Hurrying toward the building so she could fully read the summons that had been shoved at her in some relative privacy was her first priority. Ignoring the questions being shouted at her from behind the vertical wrought-iron bars of the entrance gates to the parking lot, she paused only once before entering.
“Groupie slut!” came from the crowd. She whipped her head around to scan where the source of that insult came from but only succeeded in giving the paparazzi a clear shot at her troubled countenance.
Any thought of privacy disappeared as Cheryl Potter came rushing up to her. “The PTB’s want to see you upstairs in the conference room.”
It never boded well when the Powers That Be were calling you before them. A military tribunal was often more pleasant.
“So it’s true?” Starr asked furiously. “That asshole is trying to sue me after he ruffied me? Unfuckingbelievable!” she spat as she hurried along to keep up with Cheryl’s brisk pace.
“That’s not even the best part,” she replied ominously.
“What the fuck? You can’t leave me hanging!”
“The little limey prick is suing the station as well.” But Starr had no time to answer as the two women came up to the conference room doors. Knocking quickly, Cheryl opened them and they were “welcomed” in.
Starr knew almost everyone there. The local sales manager, Brent Jackson, was there; the national sales manager, Whit Cumby, was there, and of course the GSM, Carey Reynolds and GM, Greta Jimenez were all present. These were people she was used to seeing pretty much every day. But there were three others, two women and a man, she did not recognize. Greta stood up and made the introductions.
“Starr, I would like you to meet our corporate FCC liaison, Tamara Worth and the Vice President of West Coast Operations for Carmel Communications, our corporate owner, Jebediah Stone. And this is Sharon Price, the head corporate council.”
Up to this point in her career at KSTR, she’d never been the subject of a corporate spin cycle but looking at the somber faces of those she was feeling very confronted by as she shook hands with the lot of them, she understood now why some whispered it was like a tribunal. It was quite intimidating.
“Ms. Jennings, Starr, please take a seat. And call me Jeb.”
An hour and a half later she was back in her car, driving anywhere but home, on paid “vacation” for at least two weeks. Not that the station was holding her responsible for the scandal. Oh, no. Not that at all! The corporate attorney was very clear as she explained that even if Starr came out with the GHB details, it would still boil down to a matter of she-said-he-said which she thought was total bullshit. After all, there were witnesses… well, sort of. Witnesses to the actually drugging of her cocktail? The lawyer had grilled. Not exactly, was her response. But witnesses to her consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana… Starr lifted her chin a bit mutinously but remained silent to the hard stares around the table.
“It was a fucking concert!” is what she wanted to say to the executive assholes.
The panel had been quick to assure her that she wasn’t being replaced after Jeb Stone “suggested” she take some time off.Still caught off-guard by all the decisions that were made about her without her say, she’d hadn’t time to absorb their assumptions that her top concern was as shallow as having her public status diminished. Whenever a media personality went on hiatus, took a sabbatical, went to rehab or whatever, there’s always a threat of being replaced permanently. She herself thought Jon Oliver was a great stand in for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show over the past summer. But both Carey and Greta told her that her show would go on rotation amongst several other station personalities so there would not even be speculation that she wouldn’t be back.
She was so caught up in her musings that she almost ran a red light and had to slam on the brakes. Her window was down and suddenly she heard a mocking voice yell out to her.
“Smoking a bit much or driving a bit soon?” came a smart-ass catcall. She shot a dirty look and the finger at the smirking teenagers in the car next to her.
“OMG it’s Superstar! Quick get a picture!” In less than a second, she found herself staring at a collection of hand-held rectangles.
Great! she thought. Wonder what tabloid that will end up in.
“Tweet it!” she heard one of the occupants of the car suggest.
Can this day get any worse?
She hadn’t even debated with herself whether or not to head home immediately, since there would doubtlessly be even more reporters and paparazzi camped out in her neighborhood. It was a nice, gated community but hardly had the security detail to impede determined media hounds. She’d left a message for her brother asking him to run by her place and grab some clothes for her which she’d planned to pick up that evening before heading out to her grandparents ranch. Yeah, she admitted to herself. To hide out. Especially after she’d been warned by Cheryl not to give any personal statements that she hadn’t scheduled for Starr.
“Just be grateful that, for now, the station is going to cover your legal costs–”
“’For now’?” Starr interjected in alarm. “I have no liability in this situation, Cheryl. Damn it, you know that. Under what circumstances would ‘for now’ become ‘you’re on your own, kid’?” she’d continued in a tight voice, anger and frustration clear in her voice. “Ya know, this really fucking sucks!”
“Sweetie, it’ll be okay. Really, take advantage of the paid time off. Let the advertisers simmer down. IED’s publicist hasn’t put out a statement yet, but it’s only a matter of time. I’m sure they’ll have to before the Vegas show in a few days. Just don’t do anything to add fuel to the fire,” she replied placatingly.
Like flip off a bunch of teenagers? she thought wryly as she glanced down when her phone vibrated against the plastic of her center console. Glancing up to make sure the light was still red, she brushed a thumb across the screen seeing a number she didn’t recognize.
“Heard ya got some free time. Wanna join me in Vegas?” the message read. Immediately, her heart sped up and she caught her breath as a half-smile crossed her face. Although for a brief moment she wondered how he knew, there was little doubt who the message came from and even less about what the implications of the invitation held.
Or meet up with Rohnan in Vegas?
Despite her “golden rule” about dating celebrities and maybe even as a rebellious response to Cheryl’s warning, she texted back rapidly, trying to beat the green light.
“Can be there by midnight.”
So here’s the latest revision of Chapter VII. And, yes, I used a version of my own designed book cover instead of the usual stars-popping graphic but I like this cover. Still working on the character images merge though. I have a new follower on Twitter though who I think would make a great “Zach,” a hot rocker named Kory Brown. We’ll see what he says. Check him out at http://www.reverbnation.com/korybrown. As always, love to hear from y’all.