A Thousand Others
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~
In September 1921, Mr. Fatty motored the three hundred miles—in his custom-made, $20,000 automobile—from his home in Hollywood, California, northward to San Francisco, for a much-needed hiatus from the arduous pursuit of making motion pictures. Mr. Fatty was, you see, the biggest star in Hollywood. People adored him. His pictures raked in prodigious amounts of cash.
If you ever saw Mr. Fatty act on the screen, you knew why he was so popular. He was funny. He was charismatic. He was charming. He was talented. He was Good with a capital G. He deserved the million dollars a year, tax-free, that he raked in. He deserved all the love, all the fame and popularity, that the world had to offer. He deserved it all, except, perhaps, the fate that awaited him in San Francisco.
On arriving in that picturesque, seaside city, Mr. Fatty checked himself and his entourage into his luxurious suite on the twelfth floor of the finest hotel. He refreshed himself with a bath and a brief nap. After taking some pills to pep himself up, he ate a steak sandwich and then began drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol.
The party guests began arriving before the sun went down. They were picture people, directors, producers, writers, and other actors; acquaintances, friends and friends of friends; flappers and party girls and party-girl flappers; would-be actresses, girls who would do anything with anybody to get their big break in motion pictures. Some were no more than fifteen, fresh off the farm. They took pills to crank themselves up, to make themselves happy, to make themselves lose whatever inhibitions they might still have.
And they were loud. They were raucous. They were crude. They were unleashed. They consumed bootleg hooch by the barrelful. They danced, some of them alone and some together. They removed part of their clothing and then all their clothing. They sang, they brayed like animals, they screamed, they whooped. They tore down the curtains and busted up the furniture. They coupled, on the couch, on the floor, in the bathroom, the kitchen, standing up, lying down, wherever they happened to be.
Any number of the unattached girls made a play for Mr. Fatty because they knew he was a major player in motion pictures. One kind word from him could get them in to see Hollywood’s top producers and directors. Making Mr. Fatty feel especially good, even for just a few minutes, might be the one little thing that could launch a motion picture career.
Some of the girls, of course, already had a few screen credits. They had played waitresses, maids, or “extras” in crowd scenes. They all hoped to be able to stand out from the others, to be noticed and get a chance to play the really substantial parts opposite the handsome, sleek-haired leading men who set their hearts aflutter.
May Beasley had appeared in twelve different motion pictures, but in most of them she didn’t get a screen credit because the part she played wasn’t big enough. She could play any kind of part—she could even sing and dance—but she thought of herself first and foremost as a comedic actress. She just hadn’t had the chance yet to prove to any influential person just how good she was. She could change all that if Mr. Fatty would just notice how pretty she was and how eager to make good.
Mr. Fatty noticed May, all right. He kept his eye on her as she moved like a cat around the room with a drink in her hand, flirting first with one man and then with another. Sometimes she danced her way from one person to the next, in time to the syncopated jazz music. He found her quite fetching. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her gyrating buttocks; he was sure she wasn’t wearing any underwear.
May also kept her eye on Mr. Fatty until he sat down on a French divan, where she went and sat beside him and put her arm around him, giving him a closeup view of her breasts. She whispered in his ear and nuzzled on his earlobe in the way she knew that drove men wild. He was so drunk and so high at that moment that he would have liked anything she did.
They kissed—a long, lingering kiss. He could have taken possession of her right there, but he was still a little conventional and didn’t like doing the things in public that he loved doing in private. He took her by the hand and led her into the bedroom, discreetly closing the door.
Mr. Fatty and May Beasley were in the bedroom for hours. The more playful of the party guests listened at the door, but heard nothing. They could only imagine the scene that was playing out, knowing as they did what a prodigious lover Mr. Fatty was.
The hour grew late and the party guests began to drift away. Mr. Fatty emerged from the bedroom, disheveled and sweating. The remaining guests cheered him, whistled and hooted. He smiled, wiped his brow, and bowed dramatically.
“You must have worn poor old May down to a nub,” someone said.
“She’s sleeping it off,” Mr. Fatty replied. “She’s feeling no pain.”
Mr. Fatty went downstairs for a bite to eat, telling everybody the party was over until next time. He hoped all his dear friends had a lovely time. He wanted everybody to have left by the time he came back upstairs to his suite because he needed to rest before driving back home. Au revoir, my dears! Until we meet again!
Late the next day, back home in Hollywood, Mr. Fatty received an urgent telephone call from his lawyer. Word was about that May Beasley was seriously injured from the treatment she received at the party in San Francisco. She had a ruptured bladder and was bleeding internally.
“What did you do to that poor girl?” the lawyer asked.
“Nothing that I haven’t done to a thousand others,” Mr. Fatty said.
“They’re saying you sexually assaulted her. If she dies, I’m afraid there’s going to be big trouble.”
“Should I go back up to San Francisco and see about her?”
“No, just go about your business. Go back to work at the studio. I’ll call you when I know more.”
Mr. Fatty went to work and for two days heard nothing. He was sure May Beasley was going to be all right. On the third day, he received another urgent call from his lawyer. May had developed peritonitis and was gravely ill.
“You weigh three hundred pounds,” the lawyer said. “May Beasley weighs a hundred and eight. People are saying you ravished her, crushed her.”
“I’m sure I didn’t do anything to her that hundreds of others haven’t done,” Mr. Fatty said. “She loved every minute of it.”
“She didn’t show any signs of being injured when you were with her?”
“None at all. She’s an actress. She’s just trying to get attention.”
“I hope that’s all it is.”
One week after the party, May Beasley died. The press ripped Mr. Fatty apart. They were calling him an animal, a cad, a monster, a ghoul, a fiend. Suddenly he was made to represent all the excesses of Hollywood and picture people: the heavy drinking and the use of narcotics and reefers; free love and out-of-wedlock birth; sexual perversion and the switching of the genders—feminine men and masculine women. In short, the casting aside of decency and the Christian values that made this country great.
To show his heart was in the right place, Mr. Fatty offered to pay all of May Beasley’s hospital and doctor bills. While his friends saw it as a magnanimous gesture, others saw it as tantamount to an admission of guilt.
He believed he should attend May Beasley’s funeral, but his lawyers and the studio bosses advised him to stay away. The last thing he needed, they said, was to show his face at her funeral and be inextricably linked to the tragedy of her death. He needed to begin thinking how he might extricate himself from the scandal and limit the damage done to his career and his public persona.
Mr. Fatty felt so sad about what happened to May Beasley, but the biggest blow of all came when his lawyer told him he was being charged with first-degree murder and must surrender himself to authorities in San Francisco.
He knew the world and he knew people. He had a few friends and admirers who would always believe in him, but the majority of people chose to believe he was a monster, a defiler and murderer of innocent young women. They were the ones, he knew, who would not rest until they had flailed all the flesh from his bones.
Copyright © 2021 by Allen Kopp