“Testing, one, two. This is Stuart Bossman, filmmaker extraordinaire on the streets of Hollywood.” Half of Stuart’s freckled face flashed across the screen of the camera hanging around his neck. He looked down in to the lens. Pleased, he flipped it over to see the viewfinder’s display screen. It filmed his feet as he walked. The action was live. He checked his watch. “Oh geez.” Picking up his pace, he adjusted the strap to let the equipment hang loosely from his neck. The lens faced forward in front of him, capturing the world from his torso. “Day one. It’s quarter to four. Now approaching the star of my documentary…” Stuart told his recording device. “Melinda Waters.”
Ahead, the whole Hollywood Strip came into view. On the streets were famous people’s handprints dried in cement, their names typed in glitzy, bronze lettering painted on red stars that covered the sidewalks. Giant, gold dragon statues raised their frozen heads in front of an old performance theatre. Their rock hard bodies towered over the street. Countless tourists and important celebrities had walked under those dragons’ watchful eyes. Crowds gathered to celebrate b-list celebrities and famous actors. They were recognized for acting in films and movies, for their memorable costumes and characters, for their lasting resonance with their audiences and for their ability to stay cool in the never-ending march of new things.
The crowds of tourists here ebbed and flowed as a river of people. Every accent and language mingled together while people posed with fingers shaped in peace signs or hearts, photographing their sightings of movie magic. There, in the numerous photo opportunities of special things lived and breathed a very special breed of people. The army of costumed copy-cats that came close but would never measure up to the real Hollywood – the Impersonators.
Here, where the real famous left their marks, the fake famous made their money. The streets were full of them. It was an unspoken agreement between tourists and showman. Everyone knew what they were getting; not quite the real thing, but a close reproduction. It was a not-so-secret wink between artist and audience to pretend they were interacting in a way that was next-to-impossible: a picture, a smile, even a date with the stars. There were supposed super heroes, copied cartoon characters, and toys brought to life. There were faux celebrities, fictitious somebodies, and prominent people from alternate times. The road was teeming with them; the nobodies dressed up as somebodies, cashing in on the notorieties of other people’s lives. Everyday was Halloween here. And dress up was big business.
The costumed characters gathered in the tourists’ reach. They showed-off and waved. Anything to lure visitors into their wingspans to pose for a picture for a haggled-on price.
Stuart checked his camera. Still running. Good to go. It was time to get what he came for.
He kept marching. Under the dragons, where the street was thick with fake moustaches and buttoned on capes, Melinda would never be found. She lived down the street, near the jewelry store and the cupcake bakery, beside the water fountain, almost a full block away. There she stood, day-by-day, with her other friends and characters; Jimmy Jopplin, Mighty Muse, Thwakman and a unidentifiable guy in a purple ball. (Stuart had no idea who he was supposed to be.) Her small group kept themselves separate from the mob. On first glance, standing so far from the busiest part of the celebrity sidewalk seemed foolish, but Stuart knew it was strategy. And today, he was going to film them. Stuart looked both ways and crossed the street half a block in front of them.
“Wanna take a picture?” Thwakman’s low voice asked. The character fell into step with the boy.
Stuart shook his head.
This Thwakman didn’t sound like the real Thwakman. He didn’t really look like him either, Stuart thought to himself. The real Thwakman, multi-movie deal Thwakman, star of his own comic book series and action figure line, had a red neoprene suit that hugged his muscles in all the right places. The real Thwakman was svelt like a swimmer with wide shoulders and a thin waist and hips, and all his power came from the forearms of his suit. Like a boxer working a speedball, the real Thwakman’s arms spun at unbelievable speeds, knocking out anyone in their way with a singular ‘Thwack!’ His arms were so impressive he didn’t even need a shield. Covered in teflon, the sleeves blocked both bullets and knives. His black hair was slicked smooth with a red mask around his ears. It hid his real identity as Mark Hart, an inner city highschool teacher with a heart for troubled kids. Rumour had it, the actor who played Thwakman had his arms insured for two million dollars. This version of Thwakman did not have such a policy. Sure, he had the red suit and the muscly body, but his arms weren’t worth a thing. Sad substitutes, for the real thing, Impersonator Thwakman’s pale red ‘T’ decals were cut out of rose-coloured fabric and hand-sewn on. He still flaunted his lower arms like a bird showing off for a mate, but if he speedballed too quickly, the fabric jiggled and jangled like the quiver of sagging skin, not the smooth, rhythmic motion of a mountain of muscle. Luckily, what he was lacking in strength, he made up for in enthusiasm. He knew he looked his Thwaky-best with his cape spread and hands jauntily on his hips. “You seem heroic, boy. Give this a try.” He invited Stuart to pose with him.
Stuart blushed, looking down. No thanks.
“A blue-blue-purple-pic man,” the Purple Blob chimed in.
“I want… what I mean is… can I…”
“Speak up, son.”
“Uh… Melinda?” Silently, Stuart cursed himself. He had planned to be brave, not sweaty armpit nervous. The camera hanging around his neck kept right on recording.
The purple blob and Thwackman sighed. No money for them.
Suddenly, Mighty Muse swooped in, Queen of the Rainforest. Muse’s shoulders were covered in large, flat leaves that gave her outfit the essence of an eighties power suit, all shoulder pads and sharp corners. Except, in this case, the suit-maker used flowers instead of fabric, and forgot to make the wardrobe any pants. This version of Mighty Muse was starting to show her age, but she could still wear the tiny outfit with ease.
“A man who knows what he wants,” she teased the boy. He was an easy mark. No parents? If he had money in his pockets she would get it from him. She swished around him. “Melinda’s right over there.” Mighty Muse gestured to the fountain.
Stuart, Thwackman and the Purple Blob all turned. Their timing was perfect.
As if on cue, the fountain sprung to life.
“Oh, you planned that,” the Purple Blob chuckled.
Mighty Muse grinned. “Whatever do you mean?”
Water burst high into the air, soaring in delicate patterns. The fountain was majestic. But Stuart already knew that. All the impersonators knew it. It was the reason Melinda lived here and not by the handprints and dragons like the rest of the fake-friends.
The water was her companion.
It elevated her performance.
It was a certain type of magic. That moment when the angle, the action and the lighting was perfect. Hollywood perfect. There was only one fountain. And there was only one Melinda Waters.
She stood waiting.
“It’s time,” she said, looking off into the middle distance. “Sea needs me.”
All the individual jets nose-dived to the pool floor and for a moment, Stuart might have thought the water works were over, but then the water leapt up once more. The spurts started to build. The fountain gushed up to the height of Melinda’s ankles then splashed up on par with her knees. Up and up the water level rose, propelled by a pressure deep below the pavement. As the river sprayed up, Melinda turned. She swirled. The blue fabric of her dress billowed and bubbled dangerously close to the water around her, but, Melinda knew exactly what she was doing. She was ready. Expecting. She placed her hands just below her hips as she spun, catching the wafting fabric. Suddenly, in climax, the water blasted up all around her. The skirt fluttered around her slender body, showcasing her small waist, her shapely thighs. Her swift hands pulled a draw string and the dress spun into a tail. Melinda collapsed onto a dry stone in the midst of the fountain; a beautiful mermaid.
Stuart stood transfixed. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. “Woah.”
“You say something?” Mighty leaned down into to Stuart’s face.
“No. Sorry.” Stuart blushed again.
The water pressure lowered. Melinda Waters head tilted back, her platinum long locks falling over her shoulders. Her pink lips cocked open into a welcoming smile, a small giggle lilted through her perfectly parted lips as she expertly flipped her tail.
She was magic.
She was music.
She was art.
She was Melinda freakin’ Waters.