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Any Way the Wind Blows: A Novelby E. Lynn Harris
Yancey's Big Reign
When I walk into a room, other women either leave or gather into small groups. That's the kind of woman I am. So imagine my surprise when that stopped happening when I moved to the West Coast. I was used to the seas parting for me. But I guess LaLa Land hadn't been warned about me.
About a month ago, my record company gave a listening party at one of Hollywood's newest eateries, Reign, for my soon-to-be-released CD, I'm Not in Love. The party was swimming with members of Hollywood's black elite and their flunkies and was a West Coast version of a Ghetto Fabulous plush bash. It was a great event, but if I had to rank them, it was the second-best party where I was the guest of honor. The best party I ever attended was the day before I was supposed to get married. We had a spectacular party at Laura Belle, in New York City, and as delicious as that party was, my wedding day was an equal disaster. My groom-to-be dropped a full-tilt nuclear assault bomb on me: He decided the morning of our wedding that he would rather spend the rest of his life flip-flopping between the beds of both men and women instead of sleeping with just me.
But when I really think about it, Basil and I had more problems than a college entrance exam. He had a difficult childhood. I had a miserable one. He lied about his past. I embellished mine. He wanted children, while the only thing I desired with the letter C was a Career. And not just any career, mind you, a C-A-R-E-E-R that would rival that of any diva, living or dead.
My name is Yancey Harrington Braxton, now known to the recording world as "Yancey B," pop singer fabulosa. (Move over, Whitney. Step aside, Mariah. J-Lo, get outta my way.) I relocated to Los Angeles a day after being left at the altar, and it has turned out to be the best move I've ever madeóthat is, if you don't count not speaking to my former fiancé and my mother.
I arrived in LaLa Land with no agent or manager, no permanent residence and very little money. Thank God the real estate market in New York was so hot; I was able to get a much-needed equity loan against my East Side town house. The L.A. weather was so inviting when I arrived that it was hard to close myself off from the world, as I had intended. I went to Malibu, did lots of window shopping and started reading the trades looking for work. The only contact I had with New York was a call every other day from my good friend Windsor, who was staying in my house until the right offer to sell came along.
One night I found myself having dinner alone at the hotel's Polo Lounge restaurant. After finishing a chicken caesar salad, I went into the bar, had a drink and soon found myself singing and confiding in the piano player. Turns out Bobby Daye was not only a talented piano player, but a wonderful songwriter as well. After he finished his set, he took me to several other clubs while I told him my life story. When he dropped me off, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to write some songs for that voice." I thought it was the liquor talking, so I was shocked when he showed up a week later at my suite with five songs written just for me. Three weeks later, we were in a West Hollywood studio recording a demo. One month later, not only did I have a record deal with Motown Records, but an agent and manager as well. Who said dreams can't come true in Hollywood anymore?
Right now I'm living right in the middle of Beverly Hills, in a lovely two-bedroom guesthouse behind the mansion of my manager, Malik Jackson. Malik (a.k.a. Roosevelt) stopped counting birthdays some fifteen years ago but looks to be in his early fifties. I get to live rent-free; I just have to perform a few duties for Malik every once in a while. Trust me when I say I'm not talking about cooking and cleaning.
I've been so busy recording my CD that I've had very little time to concentrate on my movie career, but that will come soon enough. I do know that Hollywood is a lot like New York. A few divas (Angela, Nia, Lela, Ms. Jada and Vanessa L.) get all the work while the rest just pray the unemployment checks come on time.
I'm an actress and a damn good one. And if my word isn't enough, just ask anyone who was at my wedding. Even though Basil had drop-kicked me unmercilessly that morning, I'm a diva and the show must go on. So after all the guests arrived, I stood at the head of the table, poised like I was one of the last two beauties standing in the Miss America pageant, confident that my name would be called after they announced the first runner-up. I told the assembled guests and press that I had had a change of heart and had decided not to marry John Basil Henderson. Damn . . . if Julia Roberts could leave Kiefer Sutherland on their wedding day, then why couldn't I leave Basil? At least I showed up. I shared with a few of my guests the exciting news that I had been offered the lead role in a movie being filmed in Toronto based on the life of Lena Horne. I reported that I had beat out Vanessa L. Williams, Halle Berry and Sanaa Lathan. I asked them to keep my news on the QT since the producers hadn't told the other ladies I got the part. In front of the press, I acknowledged, softly, that Basil was heartbroken and had left the hotel in tears. I even bit my lips as my own tears appeared on cue. I encouraged them to keep Basil in their thoughts and wish me much success. And then I greeted my guests, each one of them, accepting their hugs and kisses for over an hour.
So after a year I think I'm ready to return to the scene of my greatest acting triumph ever. In conjunction with my debut CD, the record company has decided to film my first video in New York City as well and has set up media interviews with BET, VH-1 and MTV. We're releasing a house version of the first single a couple weeks before the single is dropped. The A&R manager thought it might make sense to do a couple of performances at some gay clubs in New York and Washington, D.C. He told me if the "kids," as he called them, loved the song, then it would be Billboard number one here I come.
I am a little nervous about returning to New York. But I knew I couldn't stay away forever. I can't wait to visit with Windsor, eat some of her cooking, and stroll through Shubert Alley. I plan to stop at the stage door of the theater where I first heard the sounds of thunderous standing ovations.
There are a few places I want to shop and some scores I need to settle. Damn . . . now I'm sounding like my mother, the been-done, broke-down diva Ava Parker Middlebrooks. There was a time when I would have said that with great pride. But every time I breathe the air and look at the sun, I shed layers of Ava. I know that one day very soon, I will finally be the marvelous, amazing, and incomparable Yancey I was placed on earth to be. And trust me, everyone will know my nameócoast to coast. The real reign of Yancey B is just beginning. To update a line from one of my favorite movies, All About Eve, Strap on your seat belts. And don't say you weren't warned. . . .
From the Hardcover edition.Copyright 2001 by E. Lynn Harris
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