If there is any doubt that Meredith Taylor has lived a life one need only look at what remains of her beautiful face. “Merry, I’m not really the one to ask,” I reply, “I don’t do much with movies these days. You know that.”
“Bull-fucking shit,” she replies. “You total cunt. Everybody knows that you’ve been pitching for Jennifer Anniston. She won’t fuck you, you know. You’re too old for her. Too fucking old.”
I take a sip of champagne and pause for a moment. Preserved in celluloid are twenty-three movies that feature Meredith Taylor when her face and body were Hollywood’s most prized assets. In four of them she appears fleetingly, in the rest she dominates the screen with a perfect beauty that places her on the same trophy shelf as Marilyn, Liz Taylor, Angelina. Needless to say the creature that sits across from me – desperately imbibing a Marlboro, hair tied back to hide the bald patches, sunglasses concealing the wrecked eyes – has nothing in common with the Meredith Taylor of two decades ago. And – obviously – the only person on Planet Earth who is not aware of this fact happens to be Meredith herself.
“Whatsamatter?” she snarls. “Suddenly developed an attack of conscience? No… Probably not. You’re too much of a monster.”
Meredith is the reason for my visit to New Work… Well, one of the reasons. If I were as big a monster as she believes I would have dumped her years ago. But Meredith was my first American client and in many ways she is the reason that I am able to own homes in Kensington, New York, Florida and Milan. It was on her reputation that I built my own and with my slice of her enormous earnings I was able to build a fortune that is now many times in excess of whatever Meredith has managed to hang on to in her years of pitiful decline.
Naturally, a sizeable portion of those earning have been handed to a succession of fly-by-night surgeons. First it was the eyes, carved to pieces the morning after she first noticed laughter lines in the bathroom mirror. Then – it goes without saying – the breasts, which went up and up and up in size, amassing evil looking scars and suffering numerous nipple relocations that were all too often placed on public display, along with an infection that almost resulted in a mastectomy.
During the 1980s Meredith Taylor became the prototype tragi-victim movie star. The drugs, the drink, the breakups, the breakdowns, the designer suicide attempts and the self-induced physical disfigurement took her from the front page of Variety to the centre spread of the National Enquirer. In the process the work dried up and the bank account turned from black to red. And all this time there was only one person to blame.
“You fucker, it’s all your fault,” says Meredith. “It’s your fucking job to get me the movies. I’m Meredith Taylor, for Christ’s sake. What do I fucking pay you for!”
Meredith has not paid me a nickel in over eight years and even though nobody who knows me would accuse me of sentimentality, she has become my personal project, perhaps a way of assuaging guilt. The big roles may have gone forever but she’s right, her name still holds a certain caché; for this reason I’m still able to get her the odd bit part in a low level soap or sit-com. She stumbles through her words and is more curio than actress; even so she seems unaware that I have ever had any hand in securing her these roles.
“Ian,” she says and as always I find myself looking away as she speaks, “Give a gal a break – c’mon speak to some people for me, you can do this.”
A week ago Meredith tried to kill a man in a motel room in Nebraska. Even she cannot remember what she was doing there. Newspaper reports claim that she chased a black man in his twenties out into the motel forecourt with a shard of broken mirror in her hand. The man, who is obviously a dealer, refused to press charges.