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The Lina Lamont Show

Chapter Text

In spite of Don's worst fears, the read-through for their episode of The Lina Lamont Show earlier in the week had been civil. Lina clearly hadn't reviewed the guest stars for the week before she'd arrived, so there was a moment's awkwardness as everyone tried to figure out how to deal with Lina coming face to face with her former screen partner.

In the end, Lina had forced a smile and said through gritted teeth, "Donny. Kathy." And that was all.

The script itself was a fairly simple story; Lina's character (also named Lina) wanted to get into the big premiere of Hollywood Holiday to be discovered by a producer, but things kept going wrong. First, Lina's sidekick Patsy had gotten tickets to the wrong premiere, so Lina would have to sneak in. Then Lina tried to pretend she was an old school friend of Kathy's, but that didn't work either. Finally, Lina arranged to be photographed next to Don Lockwood on the red carpet so that she could be discovered when the picture appeared in the fan magazines...but when the magazine came out, all of Lina that made the cover was her elbow.

Everything had gone fine at the read-through, so Don's nerves were finally beginning to abate. Maybe this would be a normal broadcast after all.

***

Cosmo, Kathy, and Don huddled together backstage before the broadcast.

"Okay," Cosmo said. "I'll stay here in case you need reinforcements."

"Thanks, Cos," Don said. "Kathy and I have had good luck with you around." He was thinking of the way Cosmo's quick action at The Dancing Cavalier premiere had made it clear exactly which microphone was working and who was doing the singing.

"Well, it'd be luckier if R.F. were here too, but I couldn't convince him," Cosmo said, feigning dejection. "Break a leg, you two. Break a couple. Maybe some arms while you're at it."

"Come on, Don," Kathy said, taking Don's arm. "Let's go before we break every bone in our bodies."

"There's an idea!" Cosmo said, looking inspired.

Don laughed. "That's too much luck even for me. We'll see you later."

The studio was at full capacity; apparently everybody wanted tickets to The Lina Lamont Show. When everyone was seated and ready, Harry Wilson, Lina's announcer, took the stage.

"It's The Lina Lamont Show, brought to you by Kleenz Toothpaste!" Harry read from his script. "Starring Lina Lamont!" Lina stepped out from behind the curtain, beaming and waving to the audience, extending the applause as long as she could. She'd always been good at that. "Also featuring Patsy McNulty!" Patsy, a mischievous-looking woman, took the stage. Don noticed that she was careful not to draw applause longer or louder than Lina's had been. "Bill Charles!" Bill was the program's young tenor. Almost everybody had one on their radio programs since Rudy Vallee had become such a hit. Like Patsy, he took care not to milk the applause too long. "Irv Saxe and his Society Swingers!" The bandleader and band, who were already onstage, acknowledged the audience's applause. "And me, Harry Wilson. Our special guests tonight are Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden, soon to be seen in the new Monumental picture Hollywood Holiday!"

Don and Kathy smiled at each other before stepping out onstage. The applause increased in volume although Don and Kathy didn't act to encourage it.

"Yeah, yeah, clap all you want," Lina said dismissively, examining her fingernails. This got some audience laughter and quieted the applause.

"Friends," Harry said, beginning the sponsor's ad, "do you ever wake up with a feeling in your mouth? A feeling less than fresh? It's caused by fermentation in the mouth, and it can lead to bad breath and even tooth loss! But there is something you can do about it. Yes, there is something you can do. Start your morning with the powerful cleanser known as Kleenz Toothpaste! Yes, with Kleenz Toothpaste you'll remove that unpleasant feeling from your mouth, and everyone you meet will remark on your pleasant breath. That's Kleenz Toothpaste. Remember, folks--if it Kleenz with a z, it's a guarantee! Now on with our program. We begin in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden are there, admiring the view."

Don looked at his script. "Gee, Kathy, it sure is swell knowing that our new picture, Hollywood Holiday, will premiere here in just one week!"

"Yes, Don, and a week later, everyone in the country will be able to see it," Kathy read. "I'm so proud of all the songs and dances. And just think, your 'Through the Camera' ballet is something that's never been attempted on screen before. It's sensational!"

Don thought the publicists had laid it on a little thick in the promotional language they'd written for the script, but he always thought that. He thought he laid it on too thick when he was doing publicity too, but no one seemed to mind. "Now, Kathy, don't say too much. We are in public, after all. Someone might overhear, and we don't want to deprive anybody of the pleasure of seeing this picture for the first time!"

"Of course. You're right, Don," Kathy said. "What do you say to lunch at the Brown Derby?"

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Don said. They stepped back from their microphones.

The sound effects man rustled some paper to get the sound of rustling leaves, as if Lina had been hiding in the bushes and was now emerging. The audience laughed appreciatively.

"So Hollywood Holiday's premiering next week," Lina said thoughtfully.

Another sound of rustling, and Patsy made quiet spitting noises into the microphone as though she were getting leaves out of her mouth. The audience laughed more loudly. "That's what they said. Though I still don't understand why we had to hide in the bushes."

"Gee, ain't you dumb," Lina said. "If we want to be in pictures, Patsy, we gotta impress them with our class and our joy de verve."

"Is that like hors d'oeuvres?" Patsy asked.

Lina glared at Patsy. "Never mind what it's like. You and I are gonna get tickets to that premiere."

"By hiding in the--"

"ENOUGH ABOUT THE BUSHES!" Lina screeched. The audience loved it. Don was following along in the script, and Lina was letter-perfect. "I happen to know one of the local radio stations gives away tickets to premieres sometimes. You go down there and see if you can't get some."

There was anticipatory laughter from the audience; as one of the writers had explained to Don earlier in the week, Patsy always ruined some aspect of Lina's plans. Apparently the audience knew that too, and were waiting for something to go wrong.

Patsy mimed as though she were picking something up from the ground. "What's this?"

"Let me see that!" Lina said eagerly. The sound effects man rubbed his hands together to make the sound of Lina taking whatever-it-was from Patsy. "It's Kathy Selden's handkerchief. She musta dropped it."

"I'd rather have Don Lockwood's," Patsy said. The audience chuckled.

"No, you wouldn't. He's a fink," Lina said.

Kathy darted an alarmed glance at Don, who nodded to show he'd noticed Lina's improvised lines. If this was the way the broadcast was headed, the publicity department was gonna love this.

Thank goodness for Patsy, who was almost as quick a thinker as Cosmo. "Yeah, he makes me fink of a lot of fings."

Don gave Patsy an impressed look and a nod; she returned the nod.

"Yeah, yeah," Lina said in disgust.

"Oh, look, here comes Bill," Patsy said.

Bill, who wasn't supposed to appear until half a page later, jumped up in such a hurry that he nearly knocked his microphone down. "Hello, girls. Why are you covered in leaves?"

"It's the new fashion," Lina said, still sounding disgruntled but back on script.

"Is it? Gee, maybe I'd better get some." The sound man made some rustling noises, as though Bill were picking leaves to put on his own suit. "I was just going to the radio station. They're holding auditions for a new singer."

"What's the matter with their old one?" Lina asked.

"He left radio when he got into pictures," Bill said.

"Everybody gets into pictures but me," Lina said, sounding genuinely forlorn.

"You'll get in one day, Lina," Patsy said.

"Sure, Lina! You will," Bill said.

Lina forced a smile. "Sing me something, Bill?"

That was the orchestra's cue to begin Bill's song, and after the introduction, Bill began to sing. "I'll rely on you, dear/to change my heart from blue, dear/for oh, dear/I know, dear/your heart is always true..."

While Bill sang, the other microphones onstage were turned off, and Ida, the director, came onstage. "Lina, what's going on?"

"Nothing," Lina said.

"It's not like you to make up your own lines," Ida said.

"Yeah, well, it's not everyday your old fiance ends up face to face with your face," Lina said.

"I understand," Ida said with the patient air of a woman who had needed to say that more than once. "But stick to the script, okay?"

Lina sighed. "Yeah."

"Okay." Ida gave Don and Kathy a thumbs-up sign before heading back offstage.

Bill finished his song to appreciative applause.

"Gee, you sing good," Lina said. Then she perked up. "I have an idea! While you get the premiere tickets, Patsy, I'm gonna go to the Brown Derby and see who I can meet."

The sound effects man made sounds of clinking glasses to symbolize that the scene had changed to the restaurant.

"How's your lunch, Don?" Kathy said.

"Just fine, Kathy," Don said. "Gee, would you look at that?"

"What?" Kathy asked.

"A woman just came in covered in leaves," Don said. That got a good laugh from the audience.

"Oh!" Kathy said, sounding startled. "She's coming this way."

"Donny! Kathy!" Lina purred in her most unctuous tones. "How are you?"

"I'm sorry, miss, you have the advantage of us," Don said.

"Yeah," Lina said, diverging from the script again. "I guess I do." She turned to Bill. "Oh, Bill!"

Bill, who wasn't even supposed to be in this scene, gave Lina a questioning look.

"BILL!" Lina shouted. That got a good laugh from the audience, who still seemed to think this was part of the story.

Bill got up, fumbling with the microphone. "I...thought you told me to...wait outside."

"I changed my mind," Lina said. "Come meet these nice people. This is Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden. They're big stars."

"Well, I wouldn't say--" Don began.

"Oh, yes you would," Lina said, looking grim. "Bill. Sing something."

"But I just--"

"Sing it again!" Lina ordered.

Bill looked at Irv, who shrugged and gestured for the band to start playing again. Bill shook his head but began the song just as he had the first time. "I'll rely on you, dear..."

Lina glared at Kathy and Don. "What do you think I am, dumb or something? Well, I'll show you!"

"Lina, neither of us think--" Kathy began.

Ida came striding onto the stage. "Lina. What are you doing?"

Lina smiled coyly. "Bill's song was so good, I thought he should sing it again."

"Bill has to be at the radio station. If he's not there, Patsy doesn't get distracted and doesn't get the wrong tickets," Ida said.

"Maybe she shouldn't get the wrong tickets! Maybe I should get to go to the premiere," Lina said. "I've been to lots of premieres, you know."

"I know, Lina, but your character hasn't," Ida said. "Back to the script, please." She waited for Lina's confirmation.

"I know what you want," Lina said. "But maybe someone around here should think about what I want sometime!"

Don wondered what Ida would do, but Ida simply shook her head and walked offstage.

The audience applauded a bit more uncertainly after this version of the song.

"That was very nice," Don said, trying to salvage something.

"Lovely," Kathy said politely. "Have you ever thought about--"

"Harry!" Lina bellowed. "Don't you have something to say?"

Harry looked completely surprised to be called upon. "What do you mean?"

"Toothpaste," Lina said. "Tell everybody about toothpaste."

Harry flipped frantically through his script until he found the next sponsor's message. "Friends, let me tell you a story about Mary. You see, Mary neglected the health of her teeth..."

Cosmo took this opportunity to wander onstage. "Hi, gang. Having fun?"

"You!" Lina looked as though she'd like to throw something at Cosmo.

"Last time I looked," Cosmo said innocently.

Lina spoke through gritted teeth. "Why are you here?"

"It's not our fault, Lina," Don said. "The studio booked us."

"It's true," Kathy said. "We didn't know, and by the time we found out..."

"You shouldn't have come," Lina said.

"Pierre," Cosmo added, unable to resist the joke.

"SHUDDUP!" Lina snapped. "This is my show. You don't get to come in here and..."

Ida came stalking out onstage, looking as though she were making quite the effort to stay calm. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your microphone is on."

Almost as one, Lina, Don, and Kathy slowly looked out at the audience. The audience wasn't laughing; they were mostly quiet, but there were some murmurs of confusion and concern now. Cosmo looked at the audience, made a face, and got offstage faster than anyone could've asked him to. Don wished he and Kathy could follow.

Lina made a high-pitched sound of frustration.

"...remember," Harry finished, "If it Kleenz with a z, it's a guarantee."

"Irv," Don said into Lina's microphone, "play something, please?"

Irv nodded, leading his orchestra in something that was thankfully not "I'll Rely On You." Don hoped it was something long.

"Are the microphones off now?" Lina asked in a tiny voice.

"Yes, Lina, they're off now," Ida said, expression stony. "Would anyone care to tell me what's going on?"

Evidently Lina couldn't hold it in anymore. "They did this the last time!" she wailed. "They set me up and made me look bad in front of everybody! My career was ruined! I was a star! I was more of a star than either of you, and now I gotta pretend I'm some dope who wants to get into pictures and can't, and you two are famous people and I'm a nobody..." She burst into tears.

Don was chagrined to realize that he'd never thought about this from her perspective. The last time she'd seen him and Kathy had been the moment of her biggest professional embarrassment. True, she wanted revenge...but because she'd been worried about what they might do this time. He felt like a heel.

"Lina, you're not a nobody," Don said. "You're the biggest star in radio."

"Yeah, radio," Lina sniffled. "Who can see you on radio? Nobody!"

"But you come into people's homes," Kathy said. "People can listen to you where they're most comfortable. You're part of their everyday world."

"I am not everyday," Lina protested. "I'm classy, like Louis Ziv furniture."

Ida paused, temporarily thrown off-course. "Louis what?"

"Louis Ziv furniture. X-I-V. Ziv," Lina said.

Don ignored all potential jokes about Louis XIV furniture entirely. "Lina, no one came here to ruin you."

"But everything's ruined," Lina said.

Kathy noticed that Irv was drawing to the end of the music, and was glancing over his shoulder to see what was happening elsewhere on stage. She made a motion indicating that Irv should keep playing. Irv nodded. The song finished, the audience applauded, and Irv launched into another song.

"Not everything's ruined," Ida said. "If we do some last-minute rewrites, I think we can pull something usable out of this. Lina, if you have concerns about a guest on the program, I want you to talk to me first. Don't wait until the night of the broadcast. All right?"

"Yeah," Lina said.

"And if you ever do anything like this again, you'll have to find yourself another director," Ida said. "I mean it."

Lina looked almost regretful as she nodded.

Cosmo came roaring out onstage with a loose sheaf of papers. "The writers have been backstage trying to figure out how to fix this. They sent me back with what they had. I think it'll work."

Lina looked at Cosmo with some suspicion. "How do I know you didn't just write that yourself?"

"I don't type," Cosmo said. "Bad for the piano-playing. There's only one copy; you'll all have to share." He handed the copy to Lina, who held it with two fingers as though it might bite her.

"Lina," Ida said, voice firm.

"Yeah, yeah," Lina sighed, making a displeased face but holding the script more firmly. Ida left the stage.

"But first, I have to do a little musical intervention," Cosmo said, darting over to Irv and whispering something in his ear. Irv looked puzzled, but shrugged. When the current number came to a close and the audience had finished clapping, Irv began playing "I'll Rely on You" for the third time.

Bill looked less than thrilled, but he stood and began the song anyway. "I'll rely on you, dear..."

Cosmo raced back to Lina, Don, and Kathy as they huddled around the microphone, gesturing for Patsy to join them, which she did. "Okay. Everything's all set. You just have to follow the script."

"I hope you know what you're doing," Don said.

"So do I," Cosmo said, leaving the stage.

The audience applauded politely for the song; they were somewhat less fond of it the third time, which Don couldn't blame them for.

"I forget," Lina said. "Where was I? Did I have Patsy get the tickets or not?"

"Here they are," Patsy said. "Two tickets."

"For what?" Lina said.

"I couldn't remember," Patsy said. "So I just got two plain ones and figured you'd fill in the details."

The audience laughed--tentatively, but earnestly, Don noticed.

"Weren't Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden here?" Lina asked.

"Here we are!" Kathy said in a sing-song tone.

"Sure, Lina. Where do you want us?" Don asked.

"I don't get it," Lina said. "Where do I want you?"

"Hurry up and take these tickets, Lina. Bill's going to sing again!" Patsy said.

"NO!" Lina screeched, which got an enormous laugh from the audience.

Harp glissandos from the orchestra then.

"Lina," Patsy said. "Lina, wake up!"

"Wha?" Lina said, managing to sound vaguely sleepy. "What happened?"

"You were dreaming," Patsy said. "It looked like a nightmare."

"It was!" Lina said. "I dreamed I was a big radio star, and everything went all wrong. Kathy Selden and Don Lockwood were there, and Bill kept singing the same song over and over again, and there was too much music and not much me and it was awful."

"You on the radio?" Patsy said. "I can't imagine." That got a good laugh. "Say, did you hear that Kathy Selden and Don Lockwood are in a new picture--Hollywood Holiday? I found out where the premiere is, if you want to go."

"Oh, no," Lina said adamantly. "I've had enough of movie premieres for a while. I'll buy a ticket just like everyone else!"

As the orchestra struck up the theme song for Lina's program, the audience applauded. Lina looked almost ready to faint, but she put on a good show, smiling and bowing and waving until it was time to leave the stage.

"Well, we did it," Don said as they left the stage. "I wasn't sure we were going to."

Lina nodded but was silent.

Kathy took a tentative step toward her. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Lina said, with a faint smile. "Get outta here."

Don felt he ought to say something, and he wasn't sure he'd have another opportunity. "Lina...we meant it when we said we didn't want things to go wrong tonight. I don't know if this makes anything any better, but all those years ago at the premiere, I was only worried about getting the truth out. I didn't think about what it would do to you or your career. And for that, I'm sorry."

Lina nodded. "Thanks." She looked at Kathy. "I shouldn'ta tried to ruin you either. Though I guess if I had, you'd be doing the show."

Kathy smiled. "As Lina Lamont?"

Lina smiled almost in spite of herself. "Yeah, sure."

Kathy laughed. "See you later, Lina."

"Probably not," Lina said, with some humor. "I don't ever wanna do this again!"

Don and Kathy laughed and waved goodbye to Lina as Ida emerged to give Lina notes.

"Well, I don't know about you, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for my second appearance on The Lina Lamont Show," Don said.

"Look on the bright side," Kathy said. "If we did, it would have to go better than this."

Don laughed. "I love you."

"I love you too," Kathy said, leaning in to kiss Don.

Post-kiss, Don added, "And don't let it get around, but I think we owe Cosmo a new piano."

"I heard that!" Cosmo called from somewhere in the wings.

If Kathy was with Don and Cosmo was cracking wise, Don was pretty sure all was right in the world. Until the next radio broadcast, anyway.