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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Albertsville (From "The Inevitable Downhill Slope", by Jerry Ford and Jim Bigler)

Edward Albert sat in the darkened den, the glow from the television set the only light in the room. He sloshed a bit of iced Scotch onto his shirtfront as he mouthed the lines with the movie that played on the screen. Wiping absently at his shirt, he watched Anthony Quinn scrunch his face in agony. “Nico!” Quinn screamed. “Niiiiiiico!!!” Edward had played Quinn’s son, Nico, in The Greek Tycoon, in 1978, a pathetic effort whose only saving grace was the fact that Jaqueline Bisset didn’t wear a brassiere throughout most of the movie. Nico had just crashed his airplane into a mountain, giving Quinn the opportunity to gnaw on the scenery for a few minutes. His character now dead, Edward Albert lost interest in the movie.

“Fucking Anthony Quinn,” Albert muttered. “Goddamned Greek Tycoon—ruined my fucking career…” He rose unsteadily and staggered to the window. He tugged at the heavy drapes and sunlight streamed into the richly paneled room, still furnished as it was when he bought it, at firesale price, from Ray Milland’s widow in 1989. Albert had settled into a morose funk soon after moving into the house and despite his best intentions, had been unable to shake the gloom since.

Albert had made grand plans for the house, intending to renovate the electrical, which in some rooms still had light switches that had ceased to work around 1957. Albert had visions of elegant gardens and installing ponds and topiary that would help him maintain his serenity. Instead, he had fallen under the spell of the demon rum, often languishing for months without venturing into the open air. The big, drafty house still held the pungent odor of a half-century’s worth of Milland’s chain-smoking and many of the elegant imported rugs bore burns from the cigarettes and stains from countless spilt drinks and corkscrew mishaps. Still, Albert refused to open the windows, somehow finding comfort in the closeness of the air.

He had stopped taking visitors, even his father, who had attempted until his dying day to draw Edward from his self-imposed exile. “Get the hell out of here!” Edward would shout from an upstairs window, often accompanying the warning with the toss of his chamberpot, which was usually filled with one sort of late-night deposit or another. “Go back to Zsa-Zsa!” Edward would laugh, knowing how much it irked his father when he referred to his “Green Acres” co-star Eva Gabor by her sister’s name. Ever since he had walked in on his father frolicking with the Hungarian tramp in a coat closet, she had been somewhat of a sore spot between the two.

Albert took a moment to gaze out of the window at the shoddy grounds with the overgrown weeds and dying shade trees and thought about his long-abandoned plans for the place, the thoughts stirring his mind, if not his mood. He walked away from the window and refilled his Scotch, then walked over to the 16mm film projector that sat in the center of the room. Also a left-over from Mrs. Milland, Albert dusted the projector weekly and paid careful attention to keep the wheels and sprockets in good working order. He would hate to see a valuable relic such as this rust away from mishandling.

Albert spooled up a film and lowered the ancient movie screen with the electric switch on the wall by the wet bar. He looked at his watch. Almost noon, he thought. Edward smiled. It was almost time to watch The Thing With Two Heads.

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