9

As the stage hands set up for Santana, a battalion of long white dresses fanned out across the ballroom offering more champagne, appetizers, and magazines. Ed took a huge barbecued prawn. Julie went for a water chestnut wrapped in bacon. Magazines flew off the trays. People took multiple copies. For the half-million Calderone was plowing into this shindig, it looked like he’d harvest his money’s worth in word-of-mouth alone.

Then the curtain opened and the stars of the show came out to mingle. Todd gave Dar a big hug and whispered something that made her smile. Calderone walked so tall, Ed thought he might have slipped lifts into his shoes. He had an arm around the waist of Valerie Kurtzen, who looked radiant.

Dar stepped toward them. “Ted, Val, do you know Tim Huang, Metro editor of the
Horn, and his wife, Kim Nakagawa, Channel 5?”

Handshakes all around.

“Wonderful party,” Kim said to Val. “As soon as I get home, I’m going to read your breast milk story.” Then she laid a hand atop her protruding belly. “I hope that eating organic helps.”

“It does,” Kurtzen assured her. “It does. When are you due?”

“Five weeks.”

“Hey,” Calderone said with a smile, “when is KPIX going to wise up and move you from mornings to the evening news? You’re their best anchor.”

Kim blushed and said mornings worked better for her family.

“And I’m so glad to see
you here,” Calderone said, clapping a meaty paw on Tim’s shoulder. “Where there’s an editor, there must be a reporter.”

“Actually,” Tim said, “more than one.”

“Dare we hope for good placement?” Dar asked.

“Check tomorrow’s paper,” Tim replied with an enigmatic smile.

He didn’t mention that the story was slated for Page One. They could wait.

“And look who’s here!” Ted said, aiming a thumb-and-forefinger pistol at Ed and firing. “If it isn’t Ed Rosenberg, my
old friend.”

They were anything but. It went back to the piece Ed had written for
Full Disclosure, the one that snagged a National Magazine Award. At the time, Ed knew Calderone wanted the article, wanted it badly. So Ed threatened to sell it to Penthouse unless Ted ponied up considerably more than he’d hoped to pay. In Ed’s view, he was simply reaching for what the market would bear. But Ted had lost his temper and slurred Ed’s religion. For years after, Ed had little use for Calderone. Now, more than ten years later, the scar had faded, but Ed still felt wary.

Ted turned to Val: “I’ve told you about Rosenberg. The history column in the
Horn.”

“Ah, yes.” In Kurtzen’s eyes, the light turned on. “I read it every week. I loved your last one, about the founding of Bank of America by—what’s-his-name?”

“Giannini. Amadeo Pietro Giannini.”

The paper’s surveys showed that Ed’s column was well read, but it felt good knowing that the newly crowned queen of the San Francisco media scene was a fan. Kurtzen was shorter in person than she seemed on stage, but her smile was warm and her eyes sparkled.

“Truth is always more interesting than mythology,” she said.

“Glad you liked it.”

The mythology of the BofA’s founding—watered and fertilized for a century by the bank’s PR department—was that in the aftermath of the 1906 disaster, humble little A. P. Giannini, the reincarnation of Pinocchio’s Geppetto, broke his piggy bank and lent his neighbors small sums to begin rebuilding. No lawyers, documents, or collateral. Just a handshake and confidence in San Francisco’s people and future. Overnight, Giannini’s leap of faith became the Bank of Italy and eventually Bank of America, one of the nation’s largest.

In fact, Giannini had founded the Bank of Italy two years before the Big One, making small loans to Italian friends whose mom-and-pop businesses held no allure for San Francisco’s major banks. He kept half the bank’s capital in a safe in North Beach and the rest at his family’s farm twenty miles south in San Mateo. When the fire swept through the city, it burned so hot that the metal doors of every bank safe expanded to the point that they jammed shut. It took a week for some to be drilled open. But using the money at his farm, Giannini began lending to established customers immediately, making him a small-town hero.

Ed cupped Julie’s elbow and coaxed her toward Kurtzen. “My wife, Julie.”

“She’s the
Foghorn’s PR director,” Dar added.

“I
love your dress,” Kurtzen said, appraising it from collar to hem, gently fingering the lace shawl. “Where on earth did you get it?”

Julie glowed. “I made it.”

“My God,” Kurtzen gushed. “Such talent. I can hardly sew a button. Hey, are you a member of the Northern California—oh God, Dar, help. The champagne just hit—”

“Northern California Women in Communications. And yes, Julie’s a member. She’s a past president.”

“Oh good,” Val said, touching Julie’s arm, “I’m speaking at the next dinner.”

“I know,” Julie said. “I’ll be there.”

“Maybe you can join Dar and me for a drink after.”

“I’d love to.”

A smiling Ira Grubman approached the group patting his chest as if to quiet heart palpitations. A moment later, a skinny young man wearing a suit much sharper than Grubman’s embraced him, kissed him on the lips, and handed him a flute of champagne, which the writer downed in two gulps.

“I was
so nervous,” Grubman wheezed. “How’d I do?”

Splendidly, everyone assured him.

Then Grubman placed both palms on his big belly. “I haven’t eaten
all day. Scott, would you be a dear?”

The young man scanned the room with the practiced gaze of a New Yorker skilled at hailing cabs. He caught the eye of a server in white carrying a tray of pastry shells with brown filling. She was petite but regal, with long wavy black hair. As she approached, Ed noticed a Star of David on a chain around her neck.

“What are these?” Scott inquired.

“Mushroom tarts,” the model purred with an accent, holding her tray out to the group.

“Great.” Scott grabbed several and handed them to Grubman, who inhaled them.

Then Ed noticed that the two Calderone clones he’d spotted earlier were hovering around Ted. He leaned into Dar’s ear. “Who are they?”

“Ted’s brothers, Jimmy and Bobby, aka Bobo. Jimmy’s older, lives here. Bobo’s younger and lives in LA, runs Ted’s video operation.”

“What video operation?”

Dar shot Ed a look. “What else? Porn.”

Ed raised an eyebrow.

“You didn’t know?” Dar seemed surprised. “Years ago Ted spun a porn company off of
Full D. PenProd—Penetrating Productions.

Ed didn’t know, but the news didn’t surprise him. The cultural Right had called Calderone a pornographer since Day One. It made sense that an R-rated skin magazine would have an X-rated division.

Another woman in white materialized bearing champagne. Ted’s older brother reached for a glass, but the woman next to him swatted his hand away, looking pained. “Jimmy, you
know you can’t have that.”

Jimmy shot her a disgusted look and reached for something else, the butt of the young woman serving the champagne. “Jimmy!” the server squealed with a laugh, making no effort to remove his hand. Apparently, the two of them were acquainted. Jimmy’s wife frowned and looked away.

“What about Jimmy?” Ed asked Dar. “What does he do?”

“Inherited the family trucking business. Helped bankroll Ted
way back when. The woman’s his wife, Christina. She was an early Full D centerfold, then worked for Ted for a few years. He introduced her to Jimmy. Ted introduces Jimmy to lots of models, if you know what I mean.”

The raven-haired model with the Jewish star rubbed up against Jimmy again. He managed another quick goose.

“Jimmy, please,” his wife pleaded wearily.

But the young woman didn’t seem to mind. She smiled at Jimmy and said something Ed heard but didn’t understand. Then one of the words made sense.
Chaver. He didn’t recall much Hebrew, but he recognized the word: friend. She must be Israeli. Only she and Jimmy looked like more than friends, much to Christina’s dismay. Then Jimmy wavered. Christina caught him and brother Bobo stepped up to help. They held him until he regained his balance, leaning heavily on his cane.

The lights dimmed and Ted was back on stage crowing that Santana was his all-time favorite band. The music sizzled. Everyone danced. Julie removed the shawl from her shoulders and tied it around her hips. It accented the sexy fluidity of her moves. Champagne coursed through Ed’s veins. The music burrowed into his soul. Several fine dancers whirled nearby, but none held a candle to Julie. He loved the way she moved—especially when they were doing the horizontal tango.