Tune in Tonight: "Hollywood Wives, Part 2"
I know you just got the bill from the dry cleaner, and washed the sleaze out of your hair, but we still have two more parts of Hollywood Wives to enjoy. Let’s just jump right in, because there’s a lot to cover. Secrets will be revealed, promises will be broken, marriages will fall apart, white shoes will be worn.
First, a quick refresher on all the major players, and what they’ve done so far, one-third of the way into the plot:
Neil Gray (Anthony Hopkins): film director, about to start work on Final Reunion, sure to be the most brilliant movie ever made
Montana Gray (Stefanie Powers): Neil’s wife, the writer of Final Reunion, hasn’t done much yet
Gina Germaine (Suzanne Somers): movie star who wants to be taken seriously as an actress, sleeping with Neil and blackmailing him so that he gets her a screen test for Final Reunion
Ross Conti (Steve Forrest): aging superstar actor whose career is on the downswing, couldn’t keep his pants zipped if you offered him a million dollars and a tube of Crazy Glue, wants the starring role in Final Reunion
Elaine Conti (Candice Bergen): Ross’s wife, ferociously determined to keep up appearances and save Ross’s career at whatever cost
Marilee Gray (Joanna Cassidy): Neil’s ex-wife, Elaine’s alleged best friend, hasn’t done much yet
Karen Lancaster (Mary Crosby): Elaine’s friend, Ross’s mistress, hasn’t done much yet (except Ross, obv.)
George Lancaster (Robert Stack): beloved movie actor, Karen’s father, hasn’t done much yet
Sadie LaSalle (Angie Dickinson): most powerful agent in Hollywood, hasn’t done much yet
Oliver Easterne (Rod Steiger): the producer of Final Reunion, hasn’t done much yet
Buddy Hudson (Andrew Stevens): handsome but naïve (or perhaps naïve but handsome) struggling actor, former male prostitute, reads for a role in Final Reunion
Angel Hudson (Catherine Mary Stewart): Buddy’s wife, impossibly lovely and innocent, hasn’t done much yet except get pregnant
Deke Andrews (an uncredited actor who is definitely not Andrew Stevens): possibly the long-lost son of one of the other characters, murdered a couple people, on his way to Hollywood for a reunion. A final reunion, you might say.
As you can see, there’s a bit of an issue with the ratio of characters to plot happening here, but don’t worry, almost everyone is given at least slightly more to do in part two, with the possible exception of Robert Stack, who must have had it added to his contract that he would only film one (1) scene per part.
Part two opens with Buddy going to see interior designer/pimp Jason Swankle (Roddy McDowall) for a job. He insists that he only wants “straight work,” which you might think means he doesn’t want to have sex with men, even though that would significantly trim down a male prostitute’s customer base. But no, he doesn’t want to sleep with women either, which would trim down his customer base down to zero, because honestly, who’s going to pay someone just to go shopping with them? Not even the offer of a free beachside mansion (“your next door neighbor is Linda Ronstadt!”) is enough to dissuade Buddy from being anything but an extremely expensive dinner date, however, and Jason has to take a page from Gina Germaine’s playbook, threatening Buddy with telling Angel “about that time with Mrs. Hudson on her yacht” if he doesn’t comply.
But wait, isn’t Buddy’s last name Hudson? Indeed, it is. Then who’s Mrs. Hudson, and what happened on her yacht? Well, presumably we’ll find out eventually, and anyway, Buddy has bigger things to worry about right now. Angel, sweet and supportive in part one, now spends most of part two whining and sulking about how much time Buddy has to spend away from home. Though it’s clear that Angel doesn’t understand a lot of things, she especially doesn’t understand how the acting industry works, specifically such matters as “meetings” and “making connections.” Come to think of it, Buddy doesn’t seem to understand it either, as he continuously insists that all he needs is his big break in movies, “and then we can be together all we want,” because clearly the best thing about working in the entertainment industry is the 9 to 5, home on the weekends hours.
Meanwhile, back in the production office for Final Reunion, a movie that already feels like it’s been in development for six years, Neil, stammering and sweating like he’s just been caught shoplifting ladies’ lingerie, suggests Gina for a leading role. Montana reacts to that exactly as expected, laughing in disbelief and telling Neil “You have such a perverse sense of humor!” Oliver, who only cares about box office numbers, is all for it, but Montana refuses to let Gina do a screen test and storms out of the room. It’s worth noting here that, would this be real life—and God knows it’s not trying to be anywhere near that—Montana wouldn’t have any say in who gets cast unless she was directing or producing the movie herself, which would certainly make Neil’s life easier, and probably not drive him to start drinking again as he does here.
Speaking of Gina, Marilee brings her up as one in a long line of women just dying for the chance to blow Ross’s toupee off, in a weird, calculated campaign to make Elaine, for all appearances her only friend, squirm with insecurity. Elaine insists that Ross is immune to Gina’s charms, despite her reputation for being “the stunt double for a porn queen,” but it’s clear that the façade is slipping a little. When Marilee asks Elaine what she would do if she caught Ross with another woman, Elaine’s face turns to stone, and she hisses “I’d kill her.” In some more of that winking at the audience editing, the scene cuts immediately to Ross making out in a hot tub with a topless Karen. Yeah, these two personality-free duds are still going at it hot and heavy. Karen is really into Ross, even though they have even less chemistry than Neil and Gina, if such a thing is possible, and tries to sweet talk him into leaving Elaine for her. “Think of how much fun we would have if we were married,” she says, to which sly dog Ross replies, “Look how much fun we’re having when we’re not married.” But—uh oh!—there’s a gleefully grinning paparazzo crouched in the bushes mere feet away, snapping pictures of the two lovebirds in flagrante hot tubbo.
Buddy’s first assignment from Jason is to go on a “date” with two thirsty old broads from Texas who undress him with their eyes, then redress him and undress him again, only this time more slowly and sensually. He tries his darndest to encourage them to do anything but take him to bed, but, poor Buddy, he’s just irresistible to the ladies, like every other 100% charisma-free man in this miniseries. They take him back to their hotel for a three-way as lurid music plays on the soundtrack, suggesting that there’s nothing more horrifying than the idea of a man in his thirties having sex with a couple of well-kept, horny as fuck women in their fifties. Buddy, looking like he’s about to cry, vomit, or both at the same time, resists at the last minute and flees without the money, even though he and Angel, still pregnant, have nothing to live on except their hopes and dreams.
Ross and Elaine argue about the rising costs of the party Elaine wants to throw that somehow—she never really explains how—is going to save his career, and he mentions someone named Etta Godinsky, which causes Elaine to fly into a rage. Etta, she tells Marilee later, was a classmate of hers, who “lived in a slum outside of Detroit,” was fat, and had bad skin. Etta, desperate to be liked, was gang-raped as a teenager and got pregnant, later giving the baby up for adoption. The shot is that Elaine is Etta, after losing a bunch of weight, getting her skin cleared up, and pretending she’s not Jewish. The chaser is that she’s the first of inevitably several characters who could potentially be Deke’s mother.
Deke…? Oh right, the guy who’s killed a bunch of people. You don’t see much of him until nearly forty-five minutes into part two, when he gets on a bus for the last leg of his trip. The camera slowly, meaningfully closes in on the words LOS ANGELES, in case you didn’t notice Deke telling everyone he meets, and probably the errant fire hydrant or two, that he’s going “ta Hollywood.” There’s an amusing sameness to Deke’s encounters with people on the road—they ask where he’s going, he tells them Hollywood, they immediately make some sort of tsk tsk remark about how lots of people go to Hollywood but very few of them survive (because it’s normal to destroy a complete stranger’s hopes and dreams), and then Deke says “they’re nevah gonna forget me,” with a look on his face that suggests he’s daydreaming what it would be like to crush a bird to death with his bare hands. For someone who looks like he barely washes the blood off his hands between victims, he’s remarkably successful at getting people to give him a ride.
Meanwhile, yet more lurid music plays as someone approaches a bikini clad Angel on the beach. But it’s just Oliver, who, without even seeing if she can act, wants to cast her in Final Reunion, for the role Gina wants. That’s right, in a twist absolutely no one could see coming, as long as this is the very first movie they’ve ever seen, Angel, who’s not even interested in being an actor, gets an offer for a movie before Buddy, who’s been pounding the pavement (among other things) for years, can even get an appointment with an agent. Much to Oliver’s frustration, however, Montana isn’t interested in seeing her either, and when Neil explains her stubbornness as “wanting creative control,” Oliver explodes, shouting “I don’t want to hear about creative control! I’m fed up with creative control! There’s no such thing as creative control!” Although it’s supposed to be an example of Oliver’s craven dedication to profit over art, he does have a point. As mentioned above, when it comes to casting a film the screenwriter’s opinion is worth exactly two things: jack, and shit. If it was worth anything, we might not have ended up with such baffling decisions as Gary Oldman playing a little person in Tiptoes, or Scarlett Johannson playing a character named Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.
Oliver then tells Neil that (a) he’s on to him and his affair with Gina, but (b) it’s okay, because he’s sleeping with her too, as there’s only a half-dozen beautiful women in Hollywood, tops. Neil is so shocked that Gina, who is currently blackmailing him with a sex tape, has also been dishonest about her feelings for him that he crawls further into the bottle.
More from the “uh oh!” department: Elaine catches a snippet of Ross and Karen flirting with each other like they’re reading ad copy on an answering machine. Though for a minute it looks as though she’s going to chase down the pool boy with her car for some afternoon revenge fucking—and how great would that have been—instead she engages in a little more retail therapy, attempting to steal a necklace from Gucci. Everyone knows the first rule of shoplifting—never hit the same store more than once—but evidently Elaine must have missed that while planning the party of the year, and she’s snagged by store security. They’re not impressed with her angrily declaring that she’s married to “THE Ross Conti,” not to mention her inexplicable failure to carry ID, and her attempts to track Ross down are unsuccessful, because, of course, he’s shacking up with Karen.
Deke finally makes it to Hollyweird, and he’s barely off the bus before he meets a street creep played by cult actor Blackie Dammett, better known as Anthony Kiedis’s father. Though Deke is offended when the creep offers him drugs (he’s high on spree killing, thank you very much), he does accept his help in buying a gun, exactly like “the one Clint Eastwood used in Dirty Harry.” This thing’s about the size of a child’s forearm, and Deke can barely lift it, but when you’re planning on meeting family for the first time, you really want to impress them.
After Buddy reneges on his “ass, gas, or grass, nobody rides for free” deal with Jason, he and Angel are forced to move into a friend’s tiny, disgusting apartment, where it’s a party 24/7 and a female neighbor looks like she’d run over Angel’s head with a car if it meant having a shot with Buddy. Angel, tired of living in a hovel with a roommate who doesn’t know how to button his shirt, while Buddy stubbornly refuses to let her get a job because of some magical thinking about how it’ll decrease his chances of stardom, leaves. Without a penny to her name, she walks into Koko’s Hot Locks, a hair salon in need of a receptionist. It will not surprise you that Koko (James Haake) is a flamboyant middle-aged gay man, about to launch himself into orbit in a cloud of glitter and stereotype dust. But you know what? It’s okay, because Koko is the best character in the whole miniseries. They shouldn’t have waited until almost the third act to draw Koko as the secret weapon. If there was a book or TV series dedicated entirely to Koko called Hollywood Hairdressers, I would 100% watch it. Koko hires Angel on the spot, and even helps her find an apartment, so clearly leaving Buddy is the best decision she’s ever made.
George, who’s spoken about far more than he’s seen, calls Karen to tell her he’s planning to move from Palm Springs to Hollywood to be closer to her. Karen is very upset about this, for reasons which remain, more than halfway through the miniseries, unknown, but it doesn’t matter, because Karen is a terrible character who should never get what she wants. George’s wife, Pamela (Frances Bergen), who dresses like Queen Elizabeth II, waves it off as “youthful rebellion,” even though Karen is almost thirty. Speaking of Karen’s daddy issues, Ross, who’s wearing the same white dress shoes Chevy Chase got from Randy Quaid in National Lampoon’s Vacation, runs into the photographer who was taking pictures of him and Karen in the hot tub. Though he started as a private investigator working for George at one point, he decided to go into the blackmail business instead, because the one thing you’re really not understanding about Hollywood is that it’s full of greedy opportunists who would sell their grandmother’s walker for scrap metal money.
As if he doesn’t have enough on his mind, Ross also finds out about Elaine’s shoplifting habit. His high and mighty attempt at chastising her—“I’ve got a klepto for a wife and all you can think about is parties!”—falls flat when she tells him she knows about his infidelity. Ross’s shocked “why I never!” gasp when Elaine accuses him of having an affair with Karen is probably the best acting he’s ever done, but she’s not buying what he’s trying to sell.
Speaking of Ross, Sadie (remember her?) finally explains why she refuses to work with him, and it’s exactly what you think: she discovered him and made him into a star, they fell in love, and then he dumped her, as both an agent and a lover. “Another glamorous story in this town of dreams and leeches,” her assistant says, as if he’s coming up with taglines for the very movie we’re watching. Sadie vows revenge against Ross for…breaking up with her thirty years ago, I guess? Alright, I guess by Hollywood Wives standards that’s fairly normal.
Part two concludes with Elaine, dressed like a glamorous baked potato, telling Ross that even though their marriage has imploded, she’s going to go through with the party anyway. “Think of it as my coming out party, and your going away party,” she says, lit like a film noir villainess. She then says that after the party’s over she’s leaving him, though the music and lighting suggests that she’s really going to plunge an olive fork into his neck.
Will Ross’s balls be served along with the shrimp cocktail and cucumber sandwiches at the party of the year? Find out in part three of Hollywood Wives! Sweet Jesus, I’ve already written more than 5,000 words about this thing!!
Original airdate (part 2): February 18, 1985