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Pickle Juice

An excerpt from "Area 51," an essay from the new book Chicago Boomer, available now for paperback and Kindle!

I almost got fired the time I was asked to take an Old School Hollywood Diva to see a play on a Sunday evening after our matinee. On the way to the theater she spotted a McDonald’s and ordered me into their parking lot. It seems that she had not had fast food in about forty years and was suddenly obsessed with the idea of having a Quarter Pounder with cheese because she had seen a commercial about the burgers on television the night before.

Fearing that we would be late if we stopped and knowing that because of her celebrity they would hold the curtain until she got there, I tried to persuade her to go through the drive-thru and eat the Quarter Pounder on the way to the theater but because she wanted, “The full experience darling” she insisted on going inside and eating at one of their tables.

 We ended up parking next to a car full of children eating ice-cream cones and chicken nuggets and in we went but not before she stood there observing them like a visitor to a zoo.

Sweeping through the doors in her full-length mink coat and her radiant smile she couldn’t have been more conspicuous if she had somehow been able to attach an Oscar to her head. The reaction of the other customers was mixed: The older patrons stood gape-mouthed, recognizing her but not believing it was her. The younger adults latched onto her energy and knew this was someone famous but had no idea who she was and the teenagers that worked there thought she was a weird, homeless person accompanied by her long suffering social worker...me.

I had brought along my husband Greg as muscle just in case, I don’t know, someone tried to kidnap her or steal her two Rolex watches (one displaying LA time and one displaying Chicago time).  And being muscle, Greg ordered quite a bit of food, including a Big Mac which Miss Diva promptly confiscated as her own once she realized that the Quarter Pounder had pickles on it therefore making it inedible to her. I asked her why she just couldn’t take it the pickles off and she looked at me like I was crazy and informed me that until I could develop a little vacuum cleaner that could suck up all the pickle juice left on the burger, she would be requiring a different sandwich, thank you very much. When she started devouring Greg’s Big Mac I opened my mouth to explain that there were diced pickles in the Big Mac sauce but Greg grabbed my arm, pointed at his watch and shook his head no.

We got to the theater ten minutes late. They of course held the curtain and when the house lights went down we tried to sneak her into her seat but she stumbled and fell, ass up, over one of the already seated patrons. Not expecting this development, the stage manager called for the stage lights to come up and when they did the audience was treated to a woman sprawled upside down over the lap of a man in the center of the second row. After what seemed like an eternity, she righted herself, revealed her identity, smiled at the audience, accepted their applause, waved and daintily sat down but not before blowing kisses to everyone around her. Within ten minutes she fell asleep and started snoring. I kept jabbing her in the ribs to wake her up but when one jab produced a fart I thought that the gossip columnists would be better off writing about the snoring so I let her sleep.

We got her back to her hotel suite without event but the next afternoon I got a frantic phone call from Brad, our director/producer who happened to be at his suburban horse ranch far, far away from downtown Chicago.

 “What the fuck happened last night Josie?”

 “Nothing much. I took her to the theatre and she promptly fell asleep and snored her way through the entire production.”

Brad paused. “Why did she fall asleep Josie?”

 “She was tired?”

 “She was tired because you filled her ass with junk food didn’t you?”

 “She wanted to go to McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder but it had pickles so she ate Greg’s Big Mac...”

He cut me off, “These people are like fine thoroughbreds. You don’t feed them junk food...”

 “Relax Brad, your expense account is not ruined...the Big Mac only cost a dollar...”   

“Oh my God! You don’t feed these people food that costs a dollar! At 9:00 this morning she started farting uncontrollably and has asked that we move her to a different suite because she can’t stand her own stench. Ten minutes ago I got a call that she needs a doctor sent to her room to start IV fluids because she can’t stop shitting and puking. Josie, you get your ass over there right fucking now and fix this...”

 “Oh come on Brad. No one dies from eating a Big Mac. I am not driving all the way downtown to smell her shit on my only day off. This is why they pay you the big bucks Mr. Producer Man...”

Brad hung up on me.

I arrived at the theater the next day to see our Diva sitting in front of her big dressing room mirror with an IV still attached to the hand that was applying lipstick to her big fat pickled mouth. A nurse was sitting on the sofa, alternating her time with giving me dirty looks and checking the amount of fluid racing into our star’s body. Her hairdresser and make-up ladies were doing their job but to be honest, they looked petrified. 

Addressing my reflection in the mirror, Miss Big Mac looked up and said, “You know they wanted to fire you but I told them not to. I saved your job. You should be grateful. Let this be a lesson to you that people like me cannot eat the crap that people like you eat. You didn’t know any better so I forgive you.”

I stood there wondering what to say when I was saved by a knock on the door. Unbelievably she had flown a friend in from New York to stay with her until she recovered. The first thing she said to her friend was, “This is Josie. She was nearly arrested last night for allowing me to eat poisonous food.”

I shook her friend’s hand, “Fired. I was nearly fired last night...”

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