08 October 2015

Excerpt Thursday: THE FORGOTTEN FLAPPER, A Novel of Olive Thomas

This week, we're pleased to welcome author LAINI GILES with her latest release, THE FORGOTTEN FLAPPER, A Novel of Olive Thomas (book one of the Forgotten Actresses series). Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy in epub, mobi, or paperback of The Forgotten Flapper - this giveaway is open internationallyBe sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

A presence lurks in New York City’s New Amsterdam Theatre when the lights go down and the audience goes home. They say she’s the ghost of OLIVE THOMAS, one of the loveliest girls who ever lit up the Ziegfeld Follies and the silent screen. From her longtime home at the theater, Ollie’s ghost tells her story from her early life in Pittsburgh to her tragic death at twenty-five.

After winning a contest for “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York,” shopgirl Ollie modeled for the most famous artists in New York, and then went on to become the toast of Broadway. When Hollywood beckoned, Ollie signed first with Triangle Pictures, and then with MYRON SELZNICK’s new production company, becoming most well known for her work as a “baby vamp,” the precursor to the flappers of the 1920s.

After a stormy courtship, she married playboy JACK PICKFORD, MARY PICKFORD’s wastrel brother. Together they developed a reputation for drinking, club-going, wrecking cars, and fighting, along with giving each other expensive make-up gifts. Ollie's mysterious death in Paris’ Ritz Hotel in 1920 was one of Hollywood’s first scandals, ensuring that her legend lived on.

**An Excerpt from The Forgotten Flapper**
As I approached the New Amsterdam, I glanced up. The tall narrow building with the fancy front gloated above me, and the excitement pulsed in my ears. A curved arch flanked by columns greeted visitors, and an elaborate arcade below displayed the theater name surrounded by lights. A sign pro­claimed that the new Follies was opening in a week.
I pulled the door open and gasped at the lobby, all sculp­tures and murals and thick pile carpeting. A hulking man in a double-breasted suit and a homburg with a flashy red feather approached me.
“Can I help you, miss? The stage door’s on 41st Street.”
“I’m not a dancer. I’m here for Mr. Ziegfeld,” I said.
“Everyone’s here for him. What do you want with him, doll?” His toothpick wiggled as he spoke.
“A job. Help me out?”
“He don’t see nobody on Tuesdays.”
“Please? I made a special trip across town. I’ve got a letter from Mr. Harrison Fisher, recommending me.”
I reached in my bag for it, then waved it so he could see for himself.
“Harrison Fisher the artist? Ya don’t say.” He glanced at me like he might recognize me from one of my covers, scratched his head, and grabbed the letter. “Gimme a minute.”
“Don’t lose my letter!” I called after him. He retreated fur­ther into the building and I paced, waiting for him. The lav­ish lobby, filled with ornate moldings and curlicue sconces, surrounded me with warm light and the smells of freshly cut wood, paint, and canvas. Farther inside, a piano tinkled. Pret­ty girls in street clothes or lavish costumes stood and chatted; others hurried to and fro.
The big man ambled over to me again and gestured for me to follow him. He escorted me into an office, and behind a desk covered with papers sat Mr. Ziegfeld. He yelled into a gold-plated telephone he held in one hand. In the other, he clutched a stubby cigar. Another gold phone sat at the ready on his desk, and on a table in the center of the room sat a bronze bust of Ziegfeld himself.
His lush graying hair sprouted from a widow’s peak, and a large hawk-like nose perched over a neat mustache. His dark eyes were intimidating, and he stared at me like a wolf sizing up dinner, not missing a thing. He wore a deep violet jacket with a diamond stickpin in the lapel, and his cologne was as bold as he was.
“Gotta go, Eddie. I’ll call ya back,” he said, still watching me intently. His voice was deep and nasal. I thought at first he had a cold.
“Here’s the girl I told you about, Mr. Z,” the big man said. “What’d you say your name was, honey?”
“It’s Olive. Olive Thomas.”
“Thanks, Otto,” Mr. Ziegfeld said. Then to me he said, “Have a seat.” He stubbed the cigar out in an ashtray.
I eased down into the wooden chair before the desk, and Otto retreated after tipping his hat at me.
“So I see Harrison took a shine to you. We’ve already had auditions for the season, but I had a girl drop out, and I like the way you look. So this could be your lucky day. Where you from?”
“Charleroi, Pennsylvania, originally,” I said.
“That anywhere near Philly?”
“No, sir. Pittsburgh.”
“How tall are you?”
“I think about five foot three, five foot four inches.”
“Can you sing? Dance? Anything?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t had any training, if that’s what you mean.”
He rolled his eyes and turned back to his phone.
“But I love to dance, Mr. Ziegfeld. I dance every chance I get. I’ll do anything for this job. Anything!”
He narrowed his eyes and looked more closely at me for a moment. “Pull your skirt up.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said pull your skirt up. I need to see your legs. You don’t expect me to hire you without seeing the entire bill of goods, do you?” For a minute I’d thought he wanted something else, if you know what I mean. But at that moment, I frightened myself a little; I would have given it to him.
“Oh.” I raised my skirt a bit so he could see my calves.
“Higher. And stand up.”
“Mr. Ziegfeld, I. . . ”
“Do you want the job or not, Miss Thomas?”
I rose and planted myself next to the chair, then hiked the skirt the extra few inches.
“Now stand up straighter. And smile.”
I flashed my teeth for him and turned my head a bit, like I did for my artists.
“Very nice. I’m sure we can find a spot for you in the back,” he said, gesturing for me to sit down again, which I did. “You can be an extra, at least until I figure out what to do with you. We might be able to move you up, depending on how you work out. We’ll start you off at fifty dollars a week. How does that sound?”
I’d been leaning forward, and I almost fell off the chair. It sounded pretty good, if you want to know the truth. I needed a cigarette.
“What would I have to do?”
“Stand there and look pretty. You seem to be quite good at that already. I don’t think you need too many extra skills at this point. We’ll let you come in, study the routines, meet the cast, give you a shot, and if you’ve got potential, we’ll go from there.”
The smile on my face had to be as wide as the Dakotas.
“Show up here tomorrow afternoon about 1:00 p.m. for a costume fitting. Rehearsals are Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. sharp. Black stockings for practice. Got that?”
I nodded with enthusiasm, my throat tight.
“We’ll see you tomorrow, then. We’ll get you set with a cos­tume or two.”
“Yes sir.”
He turned his attention back to the phone, letting me know I was being dismissed, so I hurried down the hallway and out to the street. My hands shook so hard I could barely light my Chesterfield.
Fifty bucks a week! I couldn’t imagine that much money! I was only making three dollars a week at Klein’s, with a lit­tle extra from my modeling. I took the streetcar to the store and crossed the main lobby, where the other girls were busy selling cheap brooches and long ropes of fake pearls to bored customers. Then I made a beeline to the stockroom, breezing past The Archbishop, who gave me hell for missing work. I’d called in sick last week to do a Cosmopolitan cover for Mr. Fisher and a Saturday Evening Post for Mr. Stanlaws.
“Miss Thomas, your absences have become unacceptable. One illness I understand, but this has become a constant problem. We at Klein’s pride ourselves on our professional­ism, and I simply must insist that you . . .”
Grabbing a piece of paper and a fountain pen from the stockroom table, I wrote out a quick resignation and handed it to her. I hadn’t worked a single day for Mr. Ziegfeld, but af­ter my recent experiences posing and my triumph at the New Amsterdam, I could never return to that dreary basement. Her threats bounced off me as I turned and strutted out of the store, grinning like a fool all the way.  
Learn more about author Laini Giles

Blog/website: www.lainigiles.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/4gottenflapper
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LainiGiles
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7034038.Laini_Giles 
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Laini-Giles/e/B00D9STF4W/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1