Keith mulls over Samantha Smith, object of Lesli’s jealousy


One thing at a time, Keith reasoned, sipping his coffee, chewing the bagel, debating whether to change clothes or keep on what he’d passed out in. He’d deal with the prospect of Lesli getting jealous over his working with Samantha Smith if and when he ever got her back. Right now, he had work to do that certainly involved working with Samantha.

He decided to get out of yesterday’s clothes and grab a shower. Finishing off his morning-after, roiling-stomach queller, he put the cup in the sink and headed into the bathroom, sifting further through his memory.

“Call me Sammie.” He’d been at lunch with the kid feeling uneasy that, should he see Lesli that night and she asked after his day, he was not going to like her reaction to how he’d spent lunch. In fact, he’d felt a fearful twinge in his gut. But, he damned sure wasn’t going to lie. It was the first time he’d actually resented Lesli. “Or Sam. Or you can call me Samantha Something,” she’d added with a weak smile. “That’s what Mom would say when I got in Dutch.”

He recalled too when he, the kid, and Helen St. James had gathered at some rehearsal studio or other with Luis and a few of the guys. He’d just finished introducing everyone to her. Keith saw she was feeling more than a bit nervous and didn’t blame her one bit. She was all of, what, 20, 21? Getting her toes wet in the big time, backing a big shot like Helen in a band with a bunch of bona fide heavyweights.

Little had he known she’d get over that fast enough. In fact, way too soon for her own good.

Helen was, in a word, sitting pretty. Investors had come flying out of the woodwork to finance her project, including the outrageously expensive producer with an international name on whom she’d insisted. She was skeptical about using a rookie vocalist, but after counting some of the best in the business, she’d come to Keith looking for exactly the right talent.

So, when he suggested the kid, she’d balked at first. Then she’d listened to her demo and, right away, raised an interested eyebrow, kind of like Spock used to do on Star Trek. And the kid was in. Helen would put together a good, strong set list with Keith as her arranger cum musical director, and the outfit would make the rounds of hot clubs around town before heading into the studio.

When and only when Helen St. James felt good and ready.

Rehearsal had gone fine. Over several weeks, eventually a good couple months, the gigs had gone fine. So fine, Helen got held over at this club, did return engagements at that one, and, in general, set tongues to wagging in a serious stir.

Word swiftly spread about the TV star being a hell of a lot more than a fox with a hot frame: She could sing her hellified hips off. And did. It grew so fast it got loud; label scouts started showing up, snooping around, making noises about what a lucrative recording future Helen had, provided her career was handled correctly.

Of course, each scout just happened to have exactly the right connections to pull it all together — provided she committed to so and so many years with the company. Nothing doing. Helen had collected business cards with the haughty grace of a queen accepting tribute. Promptly tossing each one in a waste can.

After they finished the last gig, she’d blithely told her investors to cool their heels, sent the boys and Samantha Smith on their way, and took off for L.A. to shoot a guest spot on some hit HBO crime drama.

Stepping under the shower, Keith grinned. That was Helen for you, alright. The woman just don’t give a flyin’ figure-eight. Things’re done on her terms or not at all. Wonder how she and Lesli would’ve got on had they met, both a couple of iron-willed, hard-nosed sweethearts you couldn’t help but admire. Though God help you if you got on the bad side of either one, let alone both.


Next week: Keith declines a tempting invitation.

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