“Have you got Ziggy there, too?” Mills asked.
“Glad you called,” Barrett answered, his voice taking on a chummy-yet-business-y tone. I mean, he always sounded like that, but it was like he turned it up a notch. “Zig’s here as well.”
“I’m in Hollywood,” Mills said, “or I’d drop by. So. You’ve got Venezuela and Colombia booked already?”
“You sure about that? I’m not so sure I want you going into some drug-infested battleground.”
Barrett raised his eyebrows. He had a chiseled chin and his hair combed back in a wave, giving him a kind of clean-cut politician-on-the-stump look. “Welllll, if you could get things moving along for North America I wouldn’t be so concerned with South.”
“You know it’s not that easy.”
“Isn’t it? I thought you said most of the lawsuits were frivolous.”
“They are. But Megastar corporate are risk-averse. They would rather sit on the asset than risk a lawsuit over it.”
Was the asset the album, I wondered, or Ziggy himself?
“Something’s got to give sometime, John,” Barrett said. “Did you ever consider maybe if BNC backed off first, everyone else might, too?”
Mills laughed. “Not likely. Not when Donald Marks is as crazy as a shithouse rat.”
Several of us had to work hard to keep from laughing at that, me despite myself.
“So I hear, so I hear,” Barrett said. “At any rate, assuming someday we get to North American release, did you have a chance to listen to those mixdowns we sent over?”
“I did. I’m going to take a couple of them to a radio network listening shindig.”
“‘Parade’ and ‘Into the Night.’ Not going to bother with that ‘Breaking Chains’ thing–I know they all love it but honestly that’s just radio people flipping out over something that feels subversive to them.”
Barrett failed to suppress his grin. “You think that’s what it is?”
“The charts are soft right now, none of the big releases of the year are coming until the fall, and stations are desperate for something that people will turn on the radio for instead of listening to on their Walkmans,” Mills said. “And the radio biz is still full of old hippies who love sticking it to The Man.” He chuckled in what I interpreted as an evil way, but you know I’m biased. “Tell me honestly. Did Daron Moondog have kittens when he heard it, or what?”
Ziggy’s eyes got very wide and he had to put his hands over his mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Barrett tried not to sound too too amused. “I didn’t ask.”
“I thought for sure you’d have another lawsuit on your hands when he heard you’d used his parts without his knowledge. That kid needs to get his priorities straight.”
“Gee, and here I thought you were going to be the one to have kittens when you heard it,” Barrett said, ribbing Mills.
Mills made a pshaw kind of sound. “I couldn’t give a fuck. He signed over his interest in the trademarks and band name so I got nothing to worry about. I’m guessing from the way things went at The Cat Club that you and he kissed and made up, eh, Ziggy?”
“You could say that,” Ziggy said, his voice light but his face was in a snarl.
“Anyway, I’d really like you to reconsider this South American tour,” Mills said. “Scorsese and Cameron both have projects in development that could get greenlighted any minute. Would love to attach Zig to them but can’t really do that if he’ll be out of the country.”
Barrett rolled his eyes. “It’s only two weeks. I call bullshit, John.”
“Yeah, well, I had to try. How much are they paying? Advance plus tour support? I know it can’t be that much.”
“Why, are you willing to outlay a little more to keep us at home?”
Mills laughed. “Ho ho, no. Don’t be surprised if you spend every peso you make on security, though.”
“Thanks for the advice, John. See you when you get back to the city.”
“You got it.”
Barrett picked up the handset and hung it up to end the call rather more forcefully than I expected. “He’s a ball-buster, isn’t he?”
“A real charmer,” the choreographer said.
“Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk album cover.” Barrett apparently didn’t feel Mills’s attempt to get us not to go to South America was worth talking about. He gestured to Linn, who dug into her portfolio for another sheaf of prints.
The meeting went on and I found myself zoning out, mostly replaying things Mills said in my mind. What the fuck priorities did he think I was supposed to have? And he obviously hadn’t heard the news yet that they were hiring me, or that I was joining WTA’s talent stable via Carynne. Barrett seemed content to let him find out later.
So was I. I rejoined reality feeling bolstered by the fact that, obviously, neither Barrett nor Ziggy were interested in kissing Mills’s ass. That was a very comforting thing to know. Linn had put up a bunch of prints of what I gathered were popular albums in various South American countries. It appeared they had a lot of male solo acts and the covers tended to have a pinup style photograph of the singer.
Ziggy was grimacing. “Boring,” he declared.
“Well, it wouldn’t be boring because it would be you,” Linn said matter-of-factly. ”
The skin prickled on the backs of my arms as I had a sudden deja vu. Was that in a dream I’d seen it? Or had I just imagined it one time? An album cover of Ziggy’s face, dappled with glitter and the whole background looking like stars. I could picture it clearly.
Ziggy put a warm hand onto the back of mine. “You look like you have something to say.”
“Um.” I blinked. “No. Just having a flashback to a…a dream I had.” I shook my head.
His purposefully raccoon-y eyes stared into mine. “What was it?”
The more I tried to evade saying anything the more he was going to dig. I could see that. There wasn’t really any reason to hide this, though, and certainly no reason to drive a wedge between us. “Couple of years ago I had this dream I was looking at a solo album of yours and it was like…a glamor shot of your face but you had sparkles in a stripe across your eyes, and down your shoulders, and the background kind of melded with you as if it was all stars and a galaxy and I’m really not describing it well.”
His mouth hung open slightly and his eyes were starting to brim with questions, but I guess they were questions for later because then he sat back in his chair and looked at The Aesthetician.
Who was flipping through her portfolio with fluttering fingers. “Aha, aha! Something like this?” She pulled out a sketch and put it on the coffee table in the middle of us. Barrett stood partway up to get a look over his desk.
Goose bumps crawled across my neck. “Yeah. Something like that.” The sketch was highly evocative, almost a portrait except that Ziggy’s eyes were even larger than in real life.
Ziggy was nodding. “I like it.”
Barrett nodded, too. “Certainly for Japan. How soon can we set up a photo shoot?”
“Tomorrow or the next day at the latest,” Linn said. “That gives us a strong basis for the opening number, stage visuals, and establishing makeup.”
“The opening number could be ‘Into the Night,'” Ziggy said. “A bit of a twist on the meaning. Into the stars, the night sky, space travel.”
Barrett rubbed his hands with glee. “Mills is definitely going to have kittens.”