The salad dressing was the only one Partain ever used: “9 parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, vinegar soaked salt, ground black pepper and more garlic than most people liked.” Write this down. Ross Thomas’ recipes are rare, legendary and authoritative. As are his stories, his characters, and his dialogue.
‘What did you do in the army for fun when you weren’t soldiering?
‘I read a lot.’
‘European history. When I got to World War I, I always stopped.’
‘Because I already knew how it would end in 1945.’
‘That was the end of World War II, not I.’
Not only authoritative but establishing authority, establishing themselves as authorities.
When he was soldiering, Edd (“Two-Dees”) was Infantry in Vietnam, then the States, then Germany, then Central America (“…not dangerous for an observer.”). After 19 years he beat up his superior officer and was discharged for the good of the service without a pension or PX privileges. The loss of PX privileges was annoying.
Now Two-Dees is staying in a condo on Wiltshire Boulevard, where he is observing the pretty daughter of Millicent Altford in between jobs and/or lovers. Ask any political geographer to map out D.C. in L.A, and he’ll draw you the route to the 86 volumes of Who’s Who in Millicent Altford’s study, in a luxury building named after a failed British prime minister.
The very femdom, very wily, not so old political rainmaker Millicent Altford is however hiding out in her own ‘significant money salon’ in the extravagantly elegant wing of the exclusive “Olympia” Hospital a few blocks east of Century City, for which she herself raised the seed money. Gourmet meals and a French menu every morning.
Partain entered Millicent Altford’s hospital room and found her sitting in an armchair, wearing a smoke-grey silk suit, herlong legs tucked back to the left and crossed at the ankles. On her feet were black suede pumps with two inch heels that matched her purse. Next to her feet was a worn black leather suitcase with silver fittings that looked both old and expensive.
Edd Twodees gets shot just before they’re scheduled to fly from LAX. Millicent buys him something temporary to wear at the airport; he takes off the nice blue suit with the bullet holes and says:
‘What I do with my shirt, tie and coat?’
‘I’ll take care of them.’
He handed them over and watched with dismay as she dropped all three into a nearby trash container.
‘That coat could have been re-woven,’ he said when she returned.
‘I told you; we’ll buy you new stuff in Washington. A nice top coat from Burberry’s, some suits and a couple of jackets and pants from Brooks Brothers or Niemann’s.’
‘You ever been inside a J.C. Penny’s?’
‘Not in 42 years,’ she said.
When she is not giving orders, putting together “soft money” and “bundling”, Millicent Altford gives congressmen lectures in the ancient history of campaign financing.
It was a typical campaign office for the times. One big room, lots of desks, typewriters, ringing phones, hot as hell, noisy… and then there was this 50 year old slob sitting behind one of the desks..and a red headed guy. I tell the slob my name and that I want to help out in the campaign and he tells me that they aren’t hiring…The red head of course is Joey Sizemore. He takes me outside where we catch a cab and head for the old Morrison Hotel that they tore down years ago. We ride up to the 11th floor and go into a big room that has two desks, two phones on each desk, a secretary called Norma who’s at least 60, and nothing else. Joey introduces me to Norma. Tells me that she used to be a senior long distance telephone operator with SouthWestern Bell, uses a key to open a desk drawer and hands me a typewritten list of names with addresses and phone numbers thats about an inch thick. It was the fat cat list. Every Democrat in the country who had an estimated net worth of $100,000 or more.. which would be around a million today… All I had to do was call each name and talk whoever answered into contributing a minimum of $1000 to the Stevenson campaign. Norma had this sexy contralto voice and placed each call person to person working east to west — all operator assisted then, no touch tone, no direct dialing.. ancient times. I asked Sizemore what to say. He said since I was in the ad business I’d think up something. There were almost 2000 names on that list and we called every damn one of ’em. A lot of ’em twice.
‘What was your batting average?’, the congressman asked.
‘.593′ That’s when I learned what makes people give money to politicians.
The congressman smiled: “is it a secret?’
She shook her head, “Fear. And Flattery.”
Still smiling, the congressman said: “What about hope for a better tomorrow?”
“Forget hope,” she said.