Dusty Hoffman Isn’t Greek
I catch Tom in the No Name bar buying drinks for some woman. We have a scene. I’m not really jealous, but should be.
When Tom takes a walk-on part in a regional theater, he calls me long distance from backstage. “What do you think about getting un-hitched.”
I’m relieved. We’ve been married less than a year.
“It’s okay with me,” I say coolly. “What grounds?”
Tom does his manic laugh. “Incessant nagging and fussing is what I put on the paperwork,” he says.
When I hang up, I look around at Tom’s upright piano and the furniture we bought. What a waste. Shouldn’t I be upset? I call my best friend Michele and tell her that Tom’s in Arkansas getting a divorce. I expect her to make me feel bad. Nobody does that better than Michele.
“Oh good, an excuse for a party,” she says.
“Here,” Michele takes a halter-style silk jersey dress out of her massive closet, “you can wear this to the party.”
I remember that low cut green number looked classy on her model’s flat chested body. On me, the plunging bodice is going to overspill boobs, but I nod and try it on.
She’s throwing my divorce party at her 68th Street penthouse. Michele knows a stable of celebrities from the Ed Sullivan Show, where her ex-husband worked as the music coordinator. I ask if she’ll be inviting Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, or Robert Goulet.
She stiffens. “No,” I don’t want any of those Sullivan people here. They’re Robert’s friends, not mine. I invited people from our acting class. And that Greek we picked up last New Year’s Eve is coming.”
Aristedes. Gorgeous Stedes. My stomach does a collywoggle.
On party night Michele is stunning in a sheer gauzy dress over silk pantaloons. Poured into her green jersey, I look like a Christmas tree with cleavage.
The party is boisterous with actors talking shop and clinking glasses by the time Stedes shows up. He again politely divides his attentions between Michele and me. She coyly lures him to the kitchen to help with drinks.
I notice a dark-haired, short fellow staring at me from across the room. He’s not my type so I ignore him and continue my subtle shadowing of the Greek. I’m losing the battle, however, as Michele sticks to him like a band-aid.
Around 1 a.m., the jammed sprawling penthouse begins to thin out and I see the dark-haired stranger again. He’s about 5’7″ tall. His large nose and dark eyes remind me of one of the young Hassidics in the jewelry district. He beckons me over and I reluctantly approach.
“Is it okay if I play the piano?” His voice is nasal but not the New York accent I expected. Intelligent eyes dance with a bit of amusement and flick over my bosom.
“It’s not my house. But,” I glance at Michele with Stedes, “why not?” I lead him to the baby grand in the foyer. It hasn’t been used since her Ex left New York.
He sits and plays Gershwin. He’s pretty good. Some couples start to dance. I excuse myself but Stedes has disappeared with Michele, so I return with a fresh Scotch and offer him my drink.
“Thanks. What’s your name?”
“I’m Badge. You?”
“I’m Dusty Hoffman, a friend of Kenny Kerschival. Aren’t you in Kenny’s class?”
“So another actor?”
“Who do you study with?”
His mouth purses, trying to suppress a smile. “Well, currently, Lee Strasberg.”
Mine falls open. Actor’s Studio! This stocky little guy with the big nose and crooked smile is in the most prestigious acting school in the world?
“My soon to be ex-husband and I auditioned together for the Studio. Neither of us got in.”
“Try again. It’s tough but you can find a lot of work with that credit. You’re studying Method, right?”
“Yes, but thinking of switching to Uta Hagen.”
“Listen, do you want to get out of here and maybe talk in peace?”
I check the living room. No sign of Stedes or Michele.
“Sure, why not?” Dusty looks pleased.
On my sofa on Jane Street, we talk.
“What is your ultimate goal?” I ask.
“Oh, I’m going to be a star,” he says, and grins. “I’ve been doing this for ten years already, so I’ve paid my dues.”
Confidence is a powerful aphrodisiac. Smart. Sensitive. Funny and sweet too. He morphs into handsome.
When he leans in to kiss me, I am ready. We both start to breathe like long distance runners.
“I thought I’d never get you away from that Greek,” he says, voice husky.
“What Greek?” I lead him to the bedroom, thinking of Tom in Arkansas. Take that.
But soon I’m thinking of no-one but Dusty Hoffman.
Michele calls to report that Dustin’s got a steady girlfriend. She’s a spoiler, so I say nothing. I don’t even ask her about Stedes.
In the days that follow, Dusty invites me to do a private audition with him for a new comedy. At the theater we sit on folding chairs and read pages with the director. Suddenly, Dusty is on his feet, running around. I’m glued to my spot while he dances about me. He exits the stage, sprints behind the back wall and enters again, all the time reading his lines while the director and I double over laughing.
My acting teachers have always tried to free me up, to access all parts of my own instrument. I finally understand. Dusty’s a fireball of improv, a free spirit. All that I’m not.
That show is forgotten by fall when the trades proclaim that Dustin Hoffman is starring in the off-Broadway show “Eh?” It is his last gig before Mike Nichols grabs him for the movie, The Graduate.
He stops calling me long before that. I’m happy for him. I figure he likely has a future as a character actor.
The Greek disappears too. Michele and I never discuss either of them again.
Beverly A. Jackson is a writer, poet and painter living in Naples, FL. Her work can be seen in print and online in over 75 venues. She currently edits the SOS flash fiction of r.kv.r.y literary journal and is the former editor and publisher of Lit Pot Press and Ink Pot literary journal. Her 2015 suspense novel, Blue Lake, and her memoir, Loose Fish, are looking for representation. Her website is www.writerjackson.blogspot.com.
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