Книга The Godfather. Страница 47
It was during that time that he knew he had to make a decision. He could become like a great many other men in Hollywood, successful producers, writers, directors, actors, who preyed on beautiful women with lustful hatred. He could use power and monetary favors grudgingly, always alert for treason, always believing that women would betray and desert him, adversaries to be bested. Or he could refuse to hate women and continue to believe in them.
He knew he could not afford not to love them, that something of his spirit would die if he did not continue to love women no matter how treacherous and unfaithful they were. It didn’t matter that the women he loved most in the world were secretly glad to see him crushed, humiliated, by a wayward fortune; it did not matter that in the most awful way, not sexually, they had been unfaithful to him. He had no choice. He had to accept them. And so he made love to all of them, gave them presents, hid the hurt their enjoyment of his misfortunes gave him. He forgave them knowing he was being paid back for having lived in the utmost freedom from women and in the fullest flush of their favor. But now he never felt guilty about being untrue to them. He never felt guilty about how he treated Ginny, insisting on remaining the sole father of his children, yet never even considering remarrying her, and letting her know that too. That was one thing he had salvaged out of his fall from the top. He had grown a thick skin about the hurts he gave women.
He was tired and ready for bed but one note of memory stuck with him: singing with Nino Valenti. And suddenly he knew what would please Don Corleone more than anything else. He picked up the phone and told the operator to get him New York. He called Sonny Corleone and asked him for Nino Valenti’s number. Then he called Nino. Nino sounded a little drunk as usual.
“Hey, Nino, how’d you like to come out here and work for me,” Johnny said. “I need a guy I can trust.”
Nino, kidding around, said, “Gee, I don’t know, Johnny, I got a good job on the truck, boffing housewives along my route, picking up a clear hundred-fifty every week. What you got to offer?”
“I can start you at five hundred and get you blind dates with movie stars, how’s that?” Johnny said. “And maybe I’ll let you sing at my parties.”
“Yeah, OK, let me think about it.” Nino said. “Let me talk it over with my lawyer and my accountant and my helper on the truck.”
“Hey, no kidding around, Nino,” Johnny said. “I need you out here. I want you to fly out tomorrow morning and sign a personal contract for five hundred a week for a year. Then if you steal one of my broads and I fire you, you pick up at least a year’s salary. OK?”
There was a long pause. Nino’s voice was sober. “Hey, Johnny, you kidding?”
Johnny said, “I’m serious, kid. Go to my agent’s office in New York. They’ll have your plane ticket and some cash. I’m gonna call them first thing in the morning. So you go up there in the afternoon. OK? Then I’ll have somebody meet you at the plane and bring you out to the house.”
Again there was a long pause and then Nino’s voice, very subdued, uncertain, said, “OK, Johnny.” He didn’t sound drunk anymore.
Johnny hung up the phone and got ready for bed. He felt better than any time since he had smashed that master record.
Johnny Fontane sat in the huge recording studio and figured costs on a yellow pad. Musicians were filing in, all of them friends he had known since he was a kid singer with the bands. The conductor, top man in the business of pop accompaniment and a man who had been kind to him when things went sour, was giving each musician bundles of music and verbal instructions. His name was Eddie Neils. He had taken on this recording as a favor to Johnny, though his schedule was crowded.
Nino Valenti was sitting at a piano fooling around nervously with the keys. He was also sipping from a huge glass of rye. Johnny didn’t mind that. He knew Nino sang just as well drunk as sober and what they were doing today wouldn’t require any real musicianship on Nino’s part.
Eddie Neils had made special arrangements of some old Italian and Sicilian songs; and a special job on the duel-duet song that Nino and Johnny had sung at Connie Corleone’s wedding. Johnny was making the record primarily because he knew that the Don loved such songs and it would be a perfect Christmas gift for him. He also had a hunch that the record would sell in the high numbers, not a million, of course. And he had figured out that helping Nino was how the Don wanted his payoff. Nino was, after all, another one of the Don’s godchildren.
Johnny put his clipboard and yellow pad on the folding chair beside him and got up to stand beside the piano. He said, “Hey, paisan,” and Nino glanced up and tried to smile. He looked a little sick. Johnny leaned over and rubbed his shoulder blades. “Relax, kid,” he said. “Do a good job today and I’ll fix you up with the best and most famous piece of ass in Hollywood.”
Nino took a gulp of whiskey. “Who’s that, Lassie?”
Johnny laughed. “No, Deanna Dunn. I guarantee the goods.”
Nino was impressed but couldn’t help saying with pseudo-hopefulness, “You can’t get me Lassie?”
The orchestra swung into the opening song of the medley. Johnny Fontane listened intently. Eddie Neils would play all the songs through in their special arrangements. Then would come the first take for the record. As Johnny listened he made mental notes on exactly how he would handle each phrase, how he would come into each song. He knew his voice wouldn’t last long, but Nino would be doing most of the singing, Johnny would be singing under him. Except of course in the duet-duel song. He would have to save himself for that.
He pulled Nino to his feet and they both stood by their microphones. Nino flubbed the opening, flubbed it again. His face was beginning to get red with embarrassment. Johnny kidded him, “Hey, you stalling for overtime?”
“I don’t feel natural without my mandolin,” Nino said.
Johnny thought that over for a moment. “Hold that glass of booze in your hand,” he said.
It seemed to do the trick. Nino kept drinking from the glass as he sang but he was doing fine. Johnny sang easily, not straining, his voice merely dancing around Nino’s main melody. There was no emotional satisfaction in this kind of singing but he was amazed at his own technical skill. Ten years of vocalizing had taught him something.
When they came to the duet-duel song that ended the record, Johnny let his voice go and when they finished his vocal cords ached. The musicians had been carried away by the last song, a rare thing for these calloused veterans. They hammered down their instruments and stamped their feet in approval as applause. The drummer gave them a ruffle of drums.
With stops and conferences they worked nearly four hours before they quit. Eddie Neils came over to Johnny and said quietly, “You sounded pretty good, kid. Maybe you’re ready to do a record. I have a new song that’s perfect for you.”
Johnny shook his head. “Come on, Eddie, don’t kid me. Besides, in a couple of hours I’ll be too hoarse to even talk. Do you think we’ll have to fix up much of the stuff we did today?”
Eddie said thoughtfully, “Nino will have to come into the studio tomorrow. He made some mistakes. But he’s much better than I thought he would be. As for your stuff, I’ll have the sound engineers fix anything I don’t like. OK?”
“OK,” Johnny said. “When can I hear the pressing?”
“Tomorrow night,” Eddie Neils said. “Your place?”
“Yeah,” Johnny said. “Thanks, Eddie. See you tomorrow.” He took Nino by the arm and walked out of the studio. They went to his house instead of Ginny’s.
By this time it was late afternoon. Nino was still more than half-drunk. Johnny told him to get under the shower and then take a snooze. They had to be at a big party at eleven that night.