Working for a weekend tabloid that specialises in sleaze is always embarrassing since the people who buy it often just do to read who has been punched below the belt that week. They don't believe what they read. If not, they want to watch other people's dirty laundry as it is exposed by cheque book journalists. But for the newspaper I was working for we did more than just that. We bugged telephone lines, intercepted private mail and clandestinely installed surveillance equipment in the bedrooms of our subjects. We joked that we were running our own print Cheaters. We did quite a job that could have made the chaps in the intelligence community green with envy. I was the star reporter and had enough dirt on my booklet to can bring down the government and a few parastatals.
So, it was nothing out of the ordinary when one Monday morning my news editor, who we called Mr. Sleaze called me to his big office. A fatso who ate hamburgers and pies with passion, chasing them down with double espresso or coke. He always had his bow-tie on, like the fiction sleazy journos on B-grade flicks. You could have sworn that he was Larry Flynt in the film The People vs Larry Flynt.
He briefed me about a man who was tipped to be appointed to the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. For some strange reason, my fatso superior wanted him brought down the same way Cape Town newspapers brought Tony Yengeni and David Malatsi to their knees. Obvioulsy I queried the motive, he assured me that there was enough shady activities about Steven Moloi to make Bill Clinton look like a naughty schoolboy.
Being a master of sleaze, I was paid to write sleaze, I made my life out of it and Moloi was not going to be an exception. I immediately felt my adrenalin surging. My burger-eating-bow-tied boss made it an assignment and sent me packing. Armed with my small pick and a shovel, I went full blast for the digging.
Days later I gathered from my well-placed anonymous source that two days before my briefing started like any other at Must-See Films, a company that specialised in producing thirty minute short films, mini-series and inserts for television networks worldwide. It was known for its reputation of delivering quality material that always had "popular" demanding a second glance. The man responsible for the creative success was Steven Moloi. He was a famous casting and creative director who at forty two, was already a legend in the industry. He had even supplied actors and extras for Hollywood productions shot on location in South Africa of the magnitude of Lawrance of Arabia. Seated at the high seat of celebritica, his one line philosophies about the industry were already mottos in the world of fame and glitz, "business before pleasure or no pleasure at all". They were mottos I figured because South Africans had a tendency of celebrating mediocrity. I once wrote that they would find it funny if Steven farted.
His one liners all worked for him in the first forty one years of his prolific life, as early in his forty second birthday someone must have just told him that life really started at forty two. Steven was suddenly losing control of his life in a way that threatened his career. He was very much unaware of it.
I was told that one Monday morning when he had a schedule to cast for three British film companies that were going to start filming in a month's time in Mpumalanga, he arrived in his office, took off his jacket and loosened his tie, then called for his assistant to send the first prospect in. She was extremely attractive. Steven had seen such beauty before but on that day it left him dumfounded. He reached out for his clipboard and a pen. The young woman greeted him, he signaled her to sit down on the chair infront of his desk.
"What's your name Miss?" he asked without openly looking at her.
"Lerato Khoza" she timidly echoed, grasping her blue folder.
"Do you have a portfolio?"
"Yes Sir" Lerato responded.
"Okay, put them on the desk" he paused and raised his head. "Report at studio fifty four at Rockey Street in Yeoville tomorrow at ten o'clock. You're dismissed". Lerato took to her feet and walked out. She was surprised. She came for auditions not to be summoned to another studio for them. She however walked out as another prospect was ushered in.
Arriving at studio 54 the following morning, Lerato was five minutes late. Steven was sitting on a chair infront of a small fake movie set, lights, props and all. She apologised profusely. "No time to waste, here is your rehearsal script" Steven sounded his urgency.
Within five minutes of silent rehearsals Lerato was ready to take to the stage. She was soon fumbling her lines with minimal acting and intoxicating amateurism. Steven whispered something in her ear, she smiled.
What was whispered in her ear led to her entering an apartment situated at Honey Street at about 18h00 that summer afternoon. The sun was still up there, approaching its hibernation. It was Steven's's haunt, far from his home and family in Highlands North between Orange Grove and Bramley. Over his home cooked dinner of fish and rice he advised Lerato on what casting directors looked for in a protege. Lerato listened attentively and often took notes which Steve discouraged, insisting that she must memorise everything in her head. After the main course he poured both of them red wine, played soft music and started yepping the torque power of his BMW M3 and collectible 1971 Porsche. Lerato was not really impressed, she was only happy that she took tips from the expert and knew how she'd handle her future auditions.
Then as she was about to take her last sip of the wine, he moved in on her and stroked her palm gently. She nicely pulled away from him, not wanting to offend him. He frowned. "Are you a virgin or something?". She blushed, reached out for the glass again but he grasped her wrist with mininal stamina.
"Why you asking me this?" she bravely asked. He narrowly smiled.
"So that I can know how to handle you" he briely paused. "Now tell me, are you a virgin?"
"So, why are you behaving like one, or is it the ever too familiar hard-to-get attitude?" he enquired, reached out to her and pulled her close. Second attempt, the twenty-one-year old obliged. He laid her on the couch and fucked her.
Thuli and Tembi shared a flat in Yeoville and had dreams of becoming film actors. Tembi was working as a florist in Rosebank but had talent and once starred in a string of high school dramas. She also held a degree in performing arts from Wits University. One day they read in a suburb newspaper that three American film crews were coming to South Africa to make movies which were co-financed by them and going to be shot in Cape Town, Mafikeng and Nebo in Limpopo. And true to the much hyped spirit of African Renaissance and local procurement they were only bringing along leading actors and their technical crew and would be employing local talents as supporting actors, extras, bit-parts and on location filming crews.
It was no wonder that as they were going through the story in The Star's Showbiz Tonight supplement their fixed line telephone rang. Thuli abruptly got to it and spoke, then she listened silently and intensely as the caller on the other end spoke. Then she put the handset down. Tembi was anxious, "Come on girlfriend, who was it? Boyfriend dumped you?"
"No, our agent, I still can't believe this. We have to audition for parts in one of the upcoming American productions. She secured us a booking. Tembi, all of a sudden I'm scared, the accent and all that" she was shaking.
"Forget it, no accent is needed, look here", she showed her the column in the newspaper, "the stories are South African folk tales. Your Gcina Mhlope type of fables. No need to worry. Now, when are the auditions?"
"The agent said she has booked us at Must-See films with this genius, Steven Moloi for Wednesday" Thuli said, loosening up. She held Tembi's hands and like they did whenever they were called for auditions, they screamed, "Hollywood, here we come".
On Wednesday Tembi was the first one to go in for auditions. When she walked out shook she told Thuli, "I think he likes me".
Minutes later Thuli auditioned as well and walked out unimpressed. They took a R30 cab home and spoke about what each would do with her first paycheque as an actor. Thuli was getting tired of her routine day job as a make-up artist for a television contracted beauty company. Even though she handled the make-up of tens of known superstars everyday, none of them ever remembered her name or felt the need to pimp her into acting. Tembi was settled with her florist job but was only doing it as a way-out and didn't really relish it.
Arriving at the flat Thuli asked Tembi what she meant when she said that the casting director liked her. Tembi said that he had asked her for a date the same evening.
"Now the question is, are you going?" Thuli asked, brewing coffee to drown the withdrawal feeling.
"Of course, look here, I've never acted on TV in my whole life except my high school stuff and performing arts piece of paper from what, VEATS. There are times that some of us have to sign contracts lying on our backs on leather seats, girlfriend" she joked.
"Sis Tembi, you need to be ashamed of yourself" Thuli echoed, handing her a cup of coffee and reminding her that there is something called AIDS.
At 17h25 Tembi was all dressed up to go, Thuli helped with her make-up. "Promise me you won't be sleeping with the bastard", Thuli muttered. Tembi smiled, a smile of sarcasm.
"S'true-god girlfriend, I won't. I'm not that cheap you know" she said, clutching her handbag. Soon a hooter came from down the street, she hugged Thuli tightly and left. Thuli stood looking down the balcony as Tembi took a ride in a BMW M3 and left.
Tembi had no plans of sleeping with Steveni, after all she was still an ambitious technical virgin from Kwazulu-Natal who had not yet had penetrative sex. The scenery at Steven's retreat was seductive and Greek salad looked like aphrodisiacs. After the wine was served, which she took in fish sips, Steven moved around the table and put his hands on her shoulders, gently massaging her. She twitched and removed them, he frowned.
"Are you a virgin?" he asked patching himself on the chair next to her.
"What is it to you if I'm a virgin?" she protested, remembering what Thuli warned about not sleeping with the bastard.
"So that I'll know what status you are, so that I can treat you accordingly" he fumbled, raising his glass to his wet lips.
"Yeah, I'm a virgin" she confessed, feeling proud of her preserved innocence.
"Aggh, so I got to be gentle with you. Why didn't you say that in the beginning" he smiled broadly, putting his glass next to hers.
"Because I didn't come here to sleep with you" she continued her protests.
"Nah, it's part of my surprise package, keep them guessing. That increases the fun and the pleasure. Whether you came here for sex or not makes no difference, the end result remains the same. When you walk out of here you won't be a virgin anymore, you'll be an actress that screwed its director to get a chance" Steven arrogantly said. Tembi looked at the clock on the wall, it was 19h21, she finished her drink.
"How do you plan to do it?" she asked disrespectfully.
"I don't know, the end will justify the means" he said, reaching for her top blouse button that was concealing her caramel cleavage.
At 20h05 she walked out with an assured role as an actress, but short of her treasured virginity. She felt dirty. Arriving at the flat she went straight for the bathroom. Thuli was mildly puzzled.
The following morning Steven had a mouth to mouth with his boss, who happened to pick it on newspapers that his employee has been nominated to the SABC board. He asked him about his most recent sexual exploits. Steven was not going to deny it, he knew his boss had a wind of his problem, but what the boss had not heard was that he slept with potential actresses. "I have a sex-crazed demon and it won't let go. I try hard to do good but I need them girls to help me, lead me not into temptation" he confessed, almost from his heart. His honesty could have made Dr Phil his next million dollars in couseling fees.
"But you seem to be finding your way there by yourself. How sure can you be that it's beyond your control?"
"It's something I inherited from my grandmother, it's a husband to Succubus I guess"
"But for you to make it to the board you need to clean up your act, some PR" his boss advised, sharing decaffeneited coffee and biscuits with him.
"Get the preacher to exorcise me" he screamed jokingly.
That same afternoon another aspiring actor was to be unlucky at the hands of Succubus' estranged husband. After she was told that a part in a soft-drink commercial was on condition that she paid the piper, she protested vigorously. "I'm not going to sleep with you"
"It's okay, get out of my office, maybe you'll sleep with some sleazy kwerekwere director somewhere for a part in an Nigerian blue movie called The Lagos Porn Star Part 18" he hit the top, standing against the locked door.
"What's your problem Mister Moloi?" the young woman asked.
"No, you are the one with a problem, because you are about to fail your first trials. Girl, you might be talented, a Wits graduate with a show-reel worthy of an Oscar, but you still are not special. They all started this way, all of them" he lied through his teeth.
"Really?" she was starting to believe him. He smiled.
"Believe me, I've seen it all. I also seem to like you, so do me a favour, don't let this one pass you by. It's good to have morals and all but you need to draw the line, they swallow and vomit ladies like you everyday in the Veld" he motivated his proposition.
"Okay" she resigned. He gently laid her on the couch and fucked her roughly for two minutes flat without even taking off his clothes but a penis exit through his zipper.
A month later the filming of the movie that Tembi had a supporting role started in the Cape's dry Namaqualand district. Lucky for her, Thuli's company was contracted to do make-up for the cast. The two aspiring actors found themselves hundreds of kilometres away from the glitz of Johannesburg and away from the fast criminal life of Yeoville. When they left Jo'burg Steven had resigned from his position of more than twenty years to be on stand-by to occupy a lucrative position as an SABC board member, something that, due to his contribution to the film industry and putting the country on the map was due to him.
One day, during a break from filming and after reading a newspaper story about Steven being tipped to chair the new board, the two ladies were sitting in Tembi's trailer, Thuli applying make-up on her. She let something off her chest. "Girlfriend, is there anything in your head that tells you that you might have been given this role because you gave Moloi a bonk?" the question came from her heart. After much silence, Tembi responded, "No, but at hindsight that is possible. But we are lovers now, not necessarily one-off bonking partners" she told the truth and a lie in one breath.
"But it started off with a bonk?" Thuli wanted the truth, she was still a make-up artist, but Tembi was no longer a florist but an actor with a role.
"And I hope it proceeds and ends that way, more like Romeo and Juliet" she took a trip into fantasyland.
"Ah, who knows" Thuli said, relaxing Tembi's hair. It didn't matter then, the only good thing was that one of them had made it and it was all there was to it. At last somebody would remember her name.
On the day that state president Thabo Mbeki announce the new board members, the girls sat glued to a 31 centimetre black and white TV screen on the a lodge at the location of the film. Steven Moloi's name was never announced. They were puzzled, for Pete's sake the man did much for South African TV and entertainment than most of the members of the board who were mostly just political party deployees. Why? They wondered.
Two days later, on a Sunday morning, before shooting began, the production best boy brought each cast and crew member copies of the morning newspapers. The headline on the first one was precise, "STEVEN MOLOI SNUBBED". The next newspaper, known for being sleazy was unkind, "SEX CRAZED DEMON FINALLY EXORCISED". Thuli and Tembi were disappointed but satisfied, and their feelings after reading the stories were undiluted, Steven needed exorcism. Real fast.
That afternoon, as the sun set over Namaqualand, Yeoville and South Africa it was on everyone's lips that another famous wannabe had been brought down as a not-so-innocent-Mr. Clean. I poured myself a glass of tequila and toasted to the beautiful sunset. "Another one bites the dust", I whispered to myself. My cellphone rang, it was Mister Sleaze, calling to congratulate me. I switched it off and watched as the sun went down.
Disclaimer: The names of people and companies in this short story are all fictitious except for public figures who are subject to public scrutiny . If they co-incidentally create an impression that they belong to your uncle, boyfriend, husband, brother, nephew or cousin, dismiss it as your wild imagination.