At twenty-one, Katharina Minola had an Oscar, adoring critics and fans, and was on track to be the most successful black actress of all time. Bad luck, bad choices, and a reputation for being a world-class diva stripped her of everything. But her new role for Lucentio Pictures could be the comeback she's waited for.
Pietro Lucentio knows how much fire Katharina possesses. It's why he fell in love with her years agoand why he's agreed to his movie mogul brother Vincenzo's crazy scheme. By luring her into the Canadian wilderness and secretly filming her every word and gesture, they plan to recapture the Katharina of old and make her a star all over again. But reviving Katharina's career won't be enough for Pietro. She's the onethe only one who's ever been able to tame his heart. And it's time he returned the favor. . .
"Hilarious. . .Murray's dialog sparkles and the characters are witty and fun. Readers won't want to miss this." Booklist
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About the Author
J. J. Murray, a third generation teacher who has taught English for over twenty years, has lived all over the United States. J.J. Murray is the author of She's the One, The Real Thing and Something Real. Currently J.J. and his family reside in Roanoke, Virginia, the setting for many of his novels. Visit his website at JohnJeffreyMurray.com.
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she's the one
By J. J. Murray
KENSINGTON BOOKSCopyright © 2011 J. J. Murray
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVincenzo Lucentio, the CEO of Lucentio Pictures, stared in awe at the thick file his staff had compiled on actress Katharina Minola.
Geez, he thought. And I think this woman will be a match for my younger brother, Pietro? I must be crazy. This might never work.
Unless we have some nasty weather, the muddier and snowier the better, and just a little bit of luck.
He weighed the file in his hand, a good pound of newspaper and magazine clippings, glossy and grainy photographs. He even had a list of links to Web sites that still carried some of Katharina's infamous interviews and stories of her notorious exploits.
He sighed often as he read the cover sheet written by Penelope Bishop, his senior production assistant and executive secretary, the real power behind Lucentio Pictures since his grandfather's time. Vincenzo frowned here and there, but mainly he cringed at Penelope's acidic and far-too-accurate prose.
"A scold," "a fury," "a spitfire"—the press has had a field day with Katharina "Kate the Cursed" Minola (born Dena Hinson in Roanoke, Virginia), 36, a DIVA (Dismissive, Insensitive, Villainous, Audacious) fully immersed in her "divatude" since winning an Academy Award for best actress (My Honey Love, Lucentio Pictures) in her first major role when she was only 21. Katharina has yet to repeat what TIME called "a breakthrough performance for women of color," cranking out eighteen consecutive mediocre movies (three for Lucentio Pictures) and one so infamously bad (Miss Thang) that she won a Golden Raspberry Award (the dreaded "Razzie") for worst actress. Miss Thang currently ranks sixth on the ten worst movies ever made, behind Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Gigli, and Catwoman. Katharina did not show up to claim her Razzie. (Note: Oscar-winner Halle Berry did show up to claim her Razzie for Catwoman, saying, "I never in my life thought that I would be here, winning a Razzie. It's not like I ever aspired to be here, but thank you ... When I was a kid, my mother told me that if you could not be a good loser, then there's no way you could be a good winner." Berry also said, "First of all, I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in a piece of shit, God-awful movie.... It was just what my career needed.")
At least Halle Berry had the class to show up and make it work for her, Vincenzo thought. Berry did Their Eyes Were Watching God right after Catwoman to considerable acclaim, has never been out of work since then, as far as I know, and now she's doing some producing and enjoying her greatest role as a mother. If we can't laugh at ourselves and our mistakes, especially in this business, what good are we?
What followed was a list of Katharina's rumored, alleged, and factual divalike behavior since her success with My Honey Love:
During the only Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade she was asked to cohost, Katharina yelled at a musician for "playing way too close to my face" (New York Post). Only days after getting engaged to Ward Booker, an up-and-coming black actor, Katharina ran off to Paris with Booker's best friend, David Stanley, a bodybuilder, for "a restful holiday and shopping trip away from the stress of daily life" (People). Upon her return from Paris, Katharina watched "in utter horror" (Los Angeles Times) as Booker and Stanley had a fistfight at Spago, both men arrested for "fighting over little ol' me" (Us). Katharina has consistently made "worst dressed lists" for ten of the past fourteen years but says the compilers of those lists are "all incredibly, horribly wrong, beyond stupid, and very, very blind" (Vogue). Her favorite "worst" outfit is tiger-striped from head to toe including headband, sunglasses, blouse, pants, handbag, and stiletto-heeled shoes. During the filming of Miss Thang, Katharina refused to leave her deluxe motor home and trailer (complete with hot tub) until the script improved. "I spent a lot of time in my trailer with that awful picture" (Premiere). Three directors quit the production, two citing mental breakdowns. The director listed in the credits is "Alan Smithee"—that notorious and obvious nom de plume used by dissatisfied directors since 1969's Death of a Gunfighter starring Lena Horne and Richard Widmark. One of the directors retired from filmmaking entirely, now sells shoes at a local mall, and at last report, seems quite happy.
Katharina never should have left her trailer, Vincenzo thought. No one should have ever made that ghastly farce of a picture, which earned her that "Kate the Cursed" nickname, a nickname she just can't seem to shake.
Until four years ago, her entourage (which the media still calls her "porta-posse") included: * a makeup artist * a personal hairstylist * a wardrobe designer * a "dresser" ("I wouldn't dream of getting dressed and leaving without her"—Woman's Day) * an official photographer and videographer (recently fired) * her yoga instructor, Rajiv (recently deceased) * a masseur named Mikhail (recently deported) * a dog walker (hit by a car, still in rehab) for her Scottish terrier, Scottie * a director of photography for interviews (see below) * one or more gophers / assistants (see below) Katharina has fired numerous assistants for the following "infractions": * not bringing her daily Los Angeles Times, Variety, and New York Times to her before 8 AM * not putting a straw in her drink, "and it must be one of the crinkly kind" (Elle) * not cutting the crusts off her sandwiches (she prefers chunky chicken salad on plain white bread) * not bringing enough shoes or bringing the wrong shoes to a shoot * She fired her last assistant for baking a birthday cake for her thirty-sixth birthday. Her most recent assistant, Bianca Baptista, has been on the job for six weeks, four days longer than the average employment of Katharina's other assistants. Blessed with a peculiar sense of smell, Katharina claims to sense odors that seemingly do not exist. She wears only her own perfume (¡Katharina!, sold only at Kmart now). All but a handful of airlines have banned Katharina for life for cabin crew abuse. Here is the list of airlines that still tolerate her: Air Vanuatu, Croatia Airlines, Air Kazakhstan, Phuket Air, and Virgin Atlantic. After filming the romantic comedy Filet of Dish (a box office flop that earned a special Razzie for worst title ever), Katharina disparaged the city of Boston: "It smells like the ocean" (Boston Herald). She also took potshots at the people of the State of Massachusetts: "I'll bet ninety percent of these people cannot even spell their state's name" (New York Times). After a public outcry in Boston, Katharina issued an apology through her publicist (long since fired and rehired—twice), adding, "I hope the Yankees win the pennant." Boston won it all that year. At meet and greet sessions to autograph pictures of herself during the height of her fame, Katharina routinely asked that fans not hug, kiss, or look directly at her at any time.
On The Today Show five years ago, Katie Couric asked her, "So, do you see yourself as a mother in the future?" Katharina's reply: "Oh, I just adore children. I want to have a little girl just like me." Vincenzo shuddered. Just like she is now or the nice person she used to be? No matter what, that girl would be a beautiful child. She and Pietro could have a gorgeous daughter, and I would pray every day that she took after her father in the attitude department ... unless Katharina changes back to the wonderful woman I met fifteen years ago.
For extended hotel stays and shoots, Katharina demands all-black furniture, a vase full of long-stemmed red roses, a humidifier, 400-count cotton sheets, and blackout drapes on all windows. She once rented a suite at New York's Plaza Hotel (at $4,500 a night) but walked out on a two-week reservation because the staff forgot to make the bed with the 400-count sheets. Addicted to Prozac after the fallout from Miss Thang, Katharina has kicked the habit (without going into rehab) through regular exercise, meditation on the Bible, and yoga. "I don't know why more people don't use yoga and meditation to cleanse themselves.... It works, and I'm the proof" (Shape).
"Good for her," Vincenzo said aloud. That will be one fewer demon for us to deal with. He shook his head. We're going to have enough demons to deal with as it is.
Katharina permits no one on the set to have her "signature" blue-green eyes. During the filming of Shoots and Letters, a child actor and a dog lost their jobs because they had such eyes. A production assistant had to remove a doll with similar eyes from the background of one shot in When Mama's Mad, Everybody's Mad. "Call me superstitious" (HollywoodSleaze.com). (Note: This isn't superstition. This is the grossest form of vanity—Penelope.) Weeping when given her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame two years ago, Katharina gave her "best acting performance since My Honey Love" (Hollywood Insider). Only two photographers and one network showed up for the nonevent. The network promptly posted Katharina's three-minute sob session online, and it's been a running joke on YouTube ever since. Considering herself a singer after her memorable humming scene in My Honey Love, Katharina cut Lovin' My Honey, a CD that contained ten instantly forgettable love songs. Sony pressed 50,000 CDs; 813 sold. The remainder has been "selling" for $0.01 on eBay at two per year. And I'm one of the idiots who bought it, Vincenzo thought. My cat liked it. Katharina's a good hummer. Lyrics, however, gave her (and anyone listening) the blues.
Her self-styled director of photography (Sven, since fired) had so angered the technical staffs on Oprah, Ellen, and The Tyra Banks Show that producers for those shows no longer considered Katharina for guest spots. Since then, she manages the lighting herself on whatever talk show will have her, reportedly asking that there be no "shine" on her face and that the cameras capture her only from the waist up.
Why is she hiding her lower body? Vincenzo thought. She is in outstanding shape and has the nicest legs!
For her pre-Oscar party fifteen years ago, Katharina tried to get Vogue to foot the bill, but Vogue wouldn't ante up for her dress, makeup, fifty dozen roses, and, reportedly, $100,000 for champagne. A caterer from Glendale did the event at last notice. Several stars showed up for a few minutes and left soon after. She hasn't thrown a party since.
The wings were good, Vincenzo thought. Even the pigs in a blanket weren't half bad.
At the height of her "powers," Katharina could phone Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills and close it down just for herself and (at that time) a number of men reputed to be her bodyguards. According to an unidentified Il Pastaio worker, even though no other diners were in the restaurant, her bodyguards still surrounded her so the wait staff couldn't see her eat. "She said we couldn't speak to her or even look her in the eye," the worker posted on HollywoodGossip.com. "And then she had the nerve to order wonton soup! The bitch ordered Chinese food in an Italian restaurant! On top of that, she didn't even leave a tip! I'll bet she even expected her meal to be comped! It's the same with all these divas! They expect the world to lick their shit and ask for seconds!" In one of her most infamous acts five years ago, Katharina refused to walk the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre for the Academy Awards ceremony (on live television) until the carpet was completely empty. Though not nominated since My Honey Love, she stayed in her purple limousine for a half hour, delaying the arrivals of many other stars, several of whom were actually up for awards. Reed Richards, the eventual best director winner, had to go through a side entrance. She then ordered her limousine driver to "stay put until I finish this phone call and I'm inside the theater." (Note: Although I have not confirmed this, E! Online claims her "thirty-nine-minute sashay up the red carpet" is by far the all-time record. The delay allowed photographers to get cigarette breaks and pushed the entire ceremony back thirty minutes—Penelope.) The O'Gara Coach Company of Beverly Hills has taken Katharina to court over nonpayment of a gray-violet Bentley Azure convertible. According to court documents, Katharina placed her order, signed all the necessary papers at noon, and demanded that the Bentley appear in her driveway no later than 8 PM. O'Gara told her that one was available in San Francisco and would have to be shipped south to her. "She wanted no mileage at all on the odometer," O'Gara Coach Company owner Wilson O'Gara said. "She wanted zeroes all the way across." O'Gara was able to deliver the Bentley on time, but O'Gara says that Katharina balked when she saw a "1" on the odometer. O'Gara refused to take the car back, and the Bentley still sits in her driveway. The court case is ongoing, and "birds have reduced the convertible top to a chunky, ashen blob of goo" (Los Angeles Times). Katharina allegedly calls ahead to department stores and boutiques so that they can clear their stores before her arrival. (Note: She obviously prefers to shop alone and unmolested, another gross form of vanity—Penelope.) In her most recent interview, a quarter-page blurb (no picture) four years ago, Katharina said, "I guess I am allergic to marriage. I do not want any man to see how I really look in the morning" (Jet).
Vincenzo looked glumly at Katharina's financial information. After My Honey Love, she commanded five million for each of her next three Lucentio pictures, none of which rated more than three stars but did well at the box office. After that, she consistently demanded to be paid as much as "the white heifers in Hollywood" (Variety). She left Lucentio Pictures entirely after that when she was offered fifteen million for Miss Thang.
She made a total of ten million for her next thirteen pictures, hadn't worked in over four years, had fired, rehired, and fired her agent, and had to reduce her porta-posse from twelve to four. She retained her makeup artist, dresser, hairstylist, and one assistant, Bianca, who presumably took care of Scottie.
Excerpted from she's the one by J. J. Murray Copyright © 2011 by J. J. Murray. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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