“A sooty! A goddam sooty!”George fumed as soon as the dressing-room door was closed and he was alone with Kate and his PA.
“George, please. Hal is not. .. what you said. He is black.”
Kate braced herself for the inevitable onslaught of her husband’s ire.
“He’s a c***, for Christ’s sake! Becca! Why didn’t you tell me I was going to be grilled by a jungle-bunny?”
“Oh George, really!”
“I’m sorry, Mr King. I wasn’t told until the programme was already on the air. I was as shocked as you were that the plans were changed. Apparently the original interviewer, Belinda Sinclair —”
“That’s the tall tart with knockers like netballs, yeh?”
“She was taken rather ill during the transmission with some stomach bug and had to leave the set, so Hal Brand inherited her pieces, as it were.”
“Stomach bug? Morning sickness probably. She’s f****** the director, isn’t she?” George lit one of his favourite giant cigars and inhaled the bitter fumes.
“I really wouldn’t know.”
“Well, she’s screwed everyone else to get where she is now.”
Kate opened a window and looked at the dreary vista of car park, rubbish skips and bottle bank. So much for the glamour of showbiz.
“I’m very sorry, Mr King.”
Becca sounded genuinely contrite. Kate wondered not for the first time just how much she was really in his thrall and how much secret venom she felt for the way he treated her. It was impossible to tell; Becca played her cards so close to her chest they’d
have served as a novelty bra.
“Obviously I’ve demanded a written apology from the producer and the Head of Daytime Television for this change in agreed arrangements for the interview and some kind of compensatory appearance for you. For you both.”
Becca suddenly remembered Kate had been part of the deal.
“Oh, don’t worry about me. I don’t do many live chat shows any more.” Kate didn’t even try to keep the bitterness from her voice.
“It’s out-f******-rageous,”George chuntered,puffing away. “That brat was doing children’s continuity until about three weeks ago with his hand up some puppets arsehole. Sooty and Sooty probably. Jesus! I’d never have
agreed to do the spot with a c***.”
“George! Please, can we drop it?”Kate glared at him and then glanced towards Becca who was checking details on the lap-top computer that was the beating heart of George’s – and therefore also her own – life.
“She knows what I mean. It lowers the whole tone of the thing. Drags me down to his level. It makes it so….. sordid. So downmarket.”
“Well, we can only hope the fans of Mister Television don’t have quite such narrow minds as their hero.” Kate wafted the foul fug of smoke towards the window.
“Mr King, your next appointment today is a meeting with Derek Kettle and the research team for this week’s “George
King Now!”. There’ll also be someone from Famous Faces there to do a quick interview, they’re doing a profile. I have a list of the questions; we can go over them on the way. Later on there’s a voice-over for Citroën UK and a photo-call at St Mary’s Hospital. They’ve named a children’s ward after
you because of your fund-raising on their behalf.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve written your ad-libs. I suggest we make a move in the next.. four minutes.”
George was excavating deep inside a nostril with the nail of his index finger. “You’ve got notes for me on that fiasco just now, I take it?” He always needed her objective comments and criticisms to ensure the King image was up to scratch.
“One or two little suggestions. I actually thought it went very well. Considering.”
“Huh. No thanks to your incompetence.” He examined the booty under his nail and rubbed it to nothing between finger and thumb as if making a stage gesture about
money. Suddenly he rounded on Kate, jutting his ruddy face at her. “And what’s all this crap about “the old man”, eh? We do not refer to age, right?”
She looked at him as she would at a spoilt child.
“Right?” he barked.
“Whatever you say, George.”