Книга The Godfather. Содержание - Book Three

So he was surprised when the executive producer came to him and told him the union rep had to be taken care of to the tune of fifty thousand dollars. There were a lot of problems dealing with overtime and hiring and the fifty thousand dollars would be well spent. Johnny debated whether the executive producer was hustling him and then said, “Send the union guy to me.”

The union guy was Billy Goff. Johnny said to him, “I thought the union stuff was fixed by my friends. I was told not to worry about it. At all.”

Goff said, “Who told you that?”

Johnny said, “You know goddamn well who told me. I won’t say his name but if he tells me something that’s it.”

Goff said, “Things have changed. Your friend is in trouble and his word don’t go this far west anymore.”

Johnny shrugged. “See me in a couple of days. OK?”

Goff smiled. “Sure, Johnny,” he said. “But calling in New York ain’t going to help you.”

But calling New York did help. Johnny spoke to Hagen at his office. Hagen told him bluntly not to pay. “Your Godfather will be sore as hell if you pay that bastard a dime,” he told Johnny. “It will make the Don lose respect and right now he can’t afford that.”

“Can I talk to the Don?” Johnny asked. “Will you talk to him? I gotta get the picture rolling.”

“Nobody can talk to the Don right now,” Hagen said. “He’s too sick. I’ll talk to Sonny about fixing things up. But I’ll make the decision on this. Don’t pay that smart bastard a dime. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

Annoyed, Johnny hung up. Union trouble could add a fortune to making the film and screw up the works generally. For a moment he debated slipping Goff the fifty grand on the quiet. After all, the Don telling him something and Hagen telling him something and giving him orders were two different things. But he decided to wait for a few days.

By waiting he saved fifty thousand dollars. Two nights later, Goff was found shot to death in his home in Glendale. There was no more talk of union trouble. Johnny was a little shaken by the killing. It was the first time the long arm of the Don had struck such a lethal blow so close to him.

As the weeks went by and he became busier and busier with getting the script ready, casting the movie and working out production details, Johnny Fontane forgot about his voice, his not being able to sing. Yet when the Academy Award nominations came out and he found himself one of the candidates, he was depressed because he was not asked to sing one of the songs nominated for the Oscar at the ceremony that would be televised nationally. But he shrugged it off and kept working. He had no hope of winning the Academy Award now that his Godfather was no longer able to put pressure on, but getting the nomination had some value.

The record he and Nino had cut, the one of Italian songs, was selling much better than anything he had cut lately, but he knew that it was Nino’s success more than his. He resigned himself to never being able to again sing professionally.

Once a week he had dinner with Ginny and the kids. No matter how hectic things got he never skipped that duty. But he didn’t sleep with Ginny. Meanwhile his second wife had finagled a Mexican divorce and so he was a bachelor again. Oddly enough he was not that frantic to bang starlets who would have been easy meat. He was too snobbish really. He was hurt that none of the young stars, the actresses who were still on top, ever gave him a tumble. But it was good to work hard. Most nights he would go home alone, put his old records on the player, have a drink and hum along with them for a few bars. He had been good, damn good. He hadn’t realized how good he was. Even aside from the special voice, which could have happened to anybody, he was good. He had been a real artist and never knew it, and never knew how much he loved it. He’d ruined his voice with booze and tobacco and broads just when he really knew what it was all about.

Sometimes Nino came over for a drink and listened with him and Johnny would say to him scornfully, “You guinea bastard, you never sang like that in your life.” And Nino would give him that curiously charming smile and shake his head and say, “No, and I never will,” in a sympathetic voice, as if he knew what Johnny was thinking.

Finally, a week before shooting the new picture, the Academy Award night rolled around. Johnny invited Nino to come along but Nino refused. Johnny said, “Buddy, I never asked you a favor, right? Do me a favor tonight and come with me. You’re the only guy who’ll really feel sorry for me if I don’t win.”

For one moment Nino looked startled. Then he said, “Sure, old buddy, I can make it.” He paused for a moment and said, “if you don’t win, forget it. Just get as drunk as you can get and I’ll take care of you. Hell, I won’t even drink myself tonight. How about that for being a buddy?”

“Man,” Johnny Fontane said, “that’s some buddy.”

The Academy Award night came and Nino kept his promise. He came to Johnny’s house dead sober and they left for the presentation theater together. Nino wondered why Johnny hadn’t invited any of his girls or his ex-wives to the Award dinner. Especially Ginny. Didn’t he think Ginny would root for him? Nino wished he could have just one drink, it looked like a long bad night.

Nino Valenti found the whole Academy Award affair a bore until the winner of the best male actor was announced. When he heard the words “Johnny Fontane,” he found himself jumping into the air and applauding. Johnny reached out a hand for him to shake and Nino shook it. He knew his buddy needed human contact with someone he trusted and Nino felt an enormous sadness that Johnny didn’t have anyone better than himself to touch in his moment of glory.

What followed was an absolute nightmare. Jack Woltz’s picture had swept all the major awards and so the studio’s party was swamped with newspaper people and all the on-the-make hustlers; male and female. Nino kept his promise to remain sober, and he tried to watch over Johnny. But the women of the party kept pulling Johnny Fontane into bedrooms for a little chat and Johnny kept getting drunker and drunker.

Meanwhile the woman who had won the award for the best actress was suffering the same fate but loving it more and handling it better. Nino turned her down, the only man at the party to do so.

Finally somebody had a great idea. The public mating of the two winners, everybody else at the party to be spectators in the stands. The actress was stripped down and the other women started to undress Johnny Fontane. It was then that Nino, the only sober person there, grabbed the half-clothed Johnny and slung him over his shoulder and fought his way out of the house and to their car. As he drove Johnny home, Nino thought that if that was success, he didn’t want it.

Book Three

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