Ira’s story is shocking. LA’s most eligible bachelor and successful businessman in Hollywood’s glamorous motion picture industry, has everything he wants– then he meets Martha.
Across the Atlantic, Alex tells his uncannily similar story as he finds himself totally unmasked by the woman he loves – Cathy.
A drama of tangled relationships unravels…
Both Ira and Alex are united by a common bond of experience – both caught up in intricate webs of sex, lies and deceit,both women wearing the mask of pretence concealing their true identities and past.
Engaging, frank, sensitive, and even heart-breaking, the Maskmaker’s tale is compulsive reading.
An unexpectedly interesting and absorbing first novel. Very much enjoyed by a wide cross section of friends, who all bought the book. Mixture of mystery, romance, betrayal, poignancy and some good sex! Would recommend to all.
I could not put this book down for a second because this new Author Michael Nimier is Brilliant at story telling.I won’t give anything away, but you must get this fine book for Christmas and beyond!
Your friends and family I am sure would love to get their hands on this book!
This book should be made into a movie and I think it will be in the near future!
A Thrilling book and a overall Brilliant Read!
Very interesting read……love it
The first time I met Martha I knew there was something different about her. She forced me to pay attention to every word she uttered. Not so much the content of what she said but to the way she spoke and gestured with her hands. Her body language was Italian through and through. She was not a beauty in the Hollywood actress mould. To start with she was not blonde (the trade mark of real beauty in those days), but a petite 5ft 6ins brunette who occasionally wore reading glasses. She talked softly and almost sotto voce you could hardly comprehend what she was saying. All the time she was making her presentation to me I do not think I grasped anything she said. To tell you the truth I was overwhelmed with a strange desire to take her in my arms, rip off that sleeveless little dress she was wearing and fuck her there and then. Strange, you might think coming from someone who made it a point of never sleeping with any girl on a first date, and remember we are talking about pre-Aids times.
The presentation lasted three hours. At 5pm I suggested to Martha that as there were many more ideas I wished to input, how about if we continued the conversation at Dante‘s bar next door to our office building on 3rd Street. She said that she would have to make a couple of phone calls and that she would meet me at Dante‘s in fifteen minutes. ̳Can you order me a glass of Chardonnay please,‘ she requested as we parted.
Martha and I spent close to two more hours at Dante‘s. She consumed the entire bottle of Chardonnay but was as lucid and as unaffected by the alcohol (especially on an empty stomach) as she was when she first walked into my office at 2pm. She was also bemused by the fact that I did not drink alcohol. She asked me the reason and I had to explain to her everything about my upbringing, which at the time was the last thing I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about her. I wanted to know everything about her, but she, having sensed my eagerness, adroitly steered the conversation back to the job in hand. She was in command from the first minute and unbeknown to me she was calling the shots. Women are strange, aren‘t they? If you do not show interest in them they hound you like crazy. If on the other hand they feel that you are interested they play cool and let you do the chasing.
My offer of a steak at Lawrey‘s in the nearby La Cienega was politely turned down with the lame excuse that she had made arrangements to meet her girlfriend. Before leaving she enquired if her views on promoting the company matched mine and whether I was fully satisfied with the presentation. I was more than satisfied, I thought to myself, with the presentation of that delightful butt of hers and that gorgeous curvy little figure and looked forward to the day when I could feast on it. Talk about chemistry! Every hormone in my body was in a state of constant rag. ̳Excellent presentation, Martha, I have no doubt that you are going to make a great impact on the company,‘ I said, ̳I am sure we are going to work very well together.‘ If only I knew then what prophetic words these were. I initialled her copy of the Memorandum of Agreement and having made arrangements to meet on a bi-monthly basis we parted, à la Français, with a gentle peck on the cheek.
Two more long weeks to wait before I see her again! I could not get her out of my mind for one minute. At the same time I knew that if I acted in desperation I would lose the upper hand completely. I am sure she must have felt my vibes all the time we were together. I could not understand though what exactly it was that attracted me to her in such a manner – I, a man of the world. I, LA‘s most eligible bachelor, whose little black book had the addresses and phone numbers of the best looking girls in town, and who had dated Nancy Sinatra, Mary Steinborne, Gabriella Koster, to mention but a few, was behaving like a love-struck teenager pining after an Account Executive I hardly knew and who would be working for me!
There is no logic to attraction, they say, and I decided to leave it at that. No more probing, analysing or trying to make sense of everything. So I decided to suppress my longing and not call her until we met in a fortnight‘s time. After all a fortnight is not such a long time, it‘s only two weeks I consoled myself! Anyway, it is probably not such a good idea to mix business and pleasure – surely everyone knows that!
As soon as I got home that evening, I think it was about 9.30pm, I picked up the phone and dialled her number. ̳Hi, this is Martha, please leave me a message after the tone and I‘ll get back to you ASAP, thanks for calling.‘ That should have been my cue to put the phone down there and then; she would never have known it was me. ̳Hi, Martha, this is Ira,‘ I said, trying to sound as business-like as possible. ̳I am just calling to say, how pleased I was to meet you today and I am really looking forward to our next meeting in a couple of weeks. You‘ve done a great job with the presentation, thanks again and see you soon.‘
I could not be sure whether she was in or out that evening. One thing I have learnt about Martha since, she very rarely picks up the phone, preferring to vet her callers first and then talks to whoever she chooses to. For all I know she might very well have been in but decided to make me sweat a little; it is not out of character for her to do that.
I heard nothing from Martha until the day before we were supposed to meet. Her secretary called my office to confirm our meeting and asked if I could keep the entire afternoon free, as she wanted to show me various prints, slides and a promotional video she had prepared. We met on a Monday afternoon. After exchanging the usual niceties she set out to show me the different components of her campaign and I must tell you she did a great job. Her focus on promoting the weaker aspects of the business impressed me enormously, particularly her suggestion to set out a permanent public exhibition of all our company‘s products, a sort of private art gallery. The American Motion Picture Artefacts Gallery, as it became known, was an instant success and thanks to Martha our products became a household name throughout California.
Martha was not just a pretty face, you see. After an exhaustive afternoon we ̳adjourned‘ to Dante‘s for some well- earned rest & recreation, with the intention of returning to the office as soon as possible to carry on working. Not if I can help it, I thought to myself! After a few drinks I managed to talk her into going to a restaurant to ̳carry on the discussion in a more relaxed and less formal environment‘. We walked to the local Sushi bar on La Cienega where we remained for what was left of the afternoon and the entire evening.
At first we talked business; I could not help it, as she steered the conversation in that direction. If she felt my great attraction to her, and I am sure she did, she did not show it. She tried to act in a strictly business manner which put me in a somewhat awkward position and left the onus of making any move entirely on me. I wished she had responded to any of my numerous flirtatious remarks or given me some encouragement of any kind.
̳You know, Martha,‘ I said to her once, trying to be as charming and as gallant as possible, ̳you have the most exquisite choice in clothes, that is such a beautiful outfit.‘
̳Oh do you really think so,‘ she replied, without hesitation, ̳Thank you very much.‘ And that was the extent of it. How on earth was I going to let her know how I really felt about her, short of spelling it out and risking embarrassing her or compromising our business relationship? And what if she was involved with somebody else, for all I know she could have been happily married with a couple of kids! I needed some answers before I made a complete fool of myself.
Inspiration came totally out of the blue, my 33rd birthday in a few days‘ time. The perfect occasion to invite her to a party! And she accepted without hesitation. Please be free to bring a friend or anyone you like,‘ I said probingly, while at the same time trying to appear as innocently detached as I possibly could in the circumstances.
̳I‘ll come by myself,‘ she replied. ̳Or I might bring my girlfriend, Jackie, if that‘s alright with you.‘
̳No boyfriends? No husbands then?‘
̳Oh no, no I am far too busy for that,‘ she said to my utter relief. She also told me that for the last two years she had been sharing her apartment at 310N, Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills with her girlfriend, Jackie, whom she had known since their days at Art School in Encino.
As was their custom, every year my parents offered their home for my birthday party. My mother, with the help of her two Latino maids who had been with the family for longer than I care to remember, loved turning the basement of their home into a veritable night club with a beautiful buffet spread which she organized with outside caterers, a full sound and light system and whatever other detail it took to make a memorable evening. Every member of the family usually attended, including the young ones who were allowed to stay until the cutting of the birthday cake and the singing of ̳Happy Birthday,‘ usually by about 11pm. In addition to family and friends many of our staff were also invited. Disco dancing would then go on until the early hours after which I, my brother Aaron, a few friends and whoever had any energy left to join us would end up at Madame Bertorelli, Santa Monica‘s hottest club in those days. Martha thought the idea of having the party at my parents‘ home was rather ̳quaint‘.
̳You are obviously very close to your family,‘ she said. ̳That is really nice in this day and age.‘
For the party, Martha wore a yellow skin-tight dress with a very low-cut cleavage which revealed the most heavenly pair of breasts, not too big but not too small either, just the size I love. The dress barely reached half way to her legs showing off a perfect little figure. The yellow was a brilliant choice of colour against a soft olive-brown skin. In place of her usual reading glasses she wore a pair of contact lenses thus inviting the world to see what beautiful large sparkling eyes she had. All in all she looked sensational.
I introduced Martha to everyone. Aaron thought she was great.
̳This is Martha, Mom,‘ I said introducing her to my mother, ̳Remember I talked to you about Martha the other day? She is the lady who‘s handling the company‘s promotion campaign, so you‘d better be nice to her, the future of our company is in her hands.‘ I left them to get acquainted while I went off to mingle with the other guests. The party went extremely well and I blew out the candles at about 11.30. We danced until about 1am when many of the guests started taking their leave.
At about the same time my parents decided to retire. I asked my mother what she thought of Martha. I always asked her opinion of the different girlfriends I went out with. As a good Yiddish mother she would give me her unabashed opinion and a full psychological and emotional appraisal of the girl in question, I was expecting her to be complimentary of Martha.
̳She is an interesting lady, obviously very bright,‘ she replied. I was far too absorbed with Martha and looking forward to having her all to myself at Madame Bertorelli‘s, away from the prying eyes of the family to take any notice of what my mother did or didn‘t mean.
By the time we got to the club and there were only half a dozen of us left by then, things were in full swing. Madame Bertorelli‘s was what you might call an old-fashioned classy establishment, frequented mostly by couples who wanted to spend intimate times together without having their eardrums punctured by loud pop music. Unlike most discotheques of today, at Madame Bertorelli‘s you had to reserve a table, or at least have a table available for you if you happened to arrive on the spur of the moment. Otherwise there was no way you would be admitted, and that is why the place was never too crowded.
Call me an old-fashioned sentimental fool if you wish, but I remember to this day the song they were playing when Martha and I had our first dance away from the gaze of everybody. It was Fred Bongusto‘s Italian hit of the sixties: quando tu sei qui con me, questa stanza non ha piu pareti ma alberi: when you are here alone with me, this room has no longer walls but is surrounded by beautiful green trees (you‘ve probably never heard of the singer and neither had I until then). As a matter of fact I asked the DJ to make me a note of his name and of the song, which I purchased the next day.
It was sheer joy having Martha all to myself in this cosy place. I tried to be a little circumspect and not to spill my heart out to her on this our first time together. After all, this wasn‘t even a date in the exact sense of the word, Martha, like many others, just happened to have accepted my invitation to come to my birthday party. I decided to delay ̳coming on to her‘ so to speak until our first official date. I could not however resist showering her with a barrage of compliments which she took entirely in her stride. ̳Oh thanks. Oh really! Oh no, I am not! That‘s nice. Come on, Ira, you don‘t mean that!‘ was all I remember her saying that evening. At one point I said to her, or to be more precise whispered in her ear, ̳You know, Martha, I really enjoy being with you, I would love to get to know you a little better, on a one-to-one basis that is. Any chance I could take you out to dinner next week? There is this new French restaurant in Beverly Hills, everyone is raving about it…‘
Martha did not answer immediately. After a little pause she whispered seductively, ̳Are you asking me for a date, Ira?‘
̳Oh yes definitely,‘ I replied without hesitation.
̳Do you think it‘s such a good idea to go out with someone you are doing business with; don‘t they say not to mix business with pleasure?‘
̳I don‘t know who they are,‘ I replied. ̳But I am willing to ignore them if you are.‘
After another lengthy pause, she asked as if to change the subject,
Tell me about this new restaurant in Beverly Hills, where is it and how did you hear about it?‘
̳In Little Santa Monica Boulevard,‘ I answered hesitatingly, considering that the new restaurant was the very last thing I wished to talk about at the time. ̳One of my clients is making a movie called, Planet of the Apes I believe, and his artistic director came to see me with the view to supplying them with the masks.‘
We danced quietly for a while. The temptation to kiss her was so strong that I had to struggle real hard to control myself. Why did I behave like that with her? Why, you might ask, did I put her on a pedestal like I had never done with anyone else before? What was it about this woman that fired my imagination in this way?
̳Well,‘ I enquired, ̳are we going out on our first date then?‘ making sure to emphasize the words first date. To my delight Martha held me tighter and gave me our first real passionate kiss. That obviously was her reply and I felt like a teenager again on his very first date.
̳And what would you like me to wear?‘ she asked a little while later.
̳As little as possible,‘ was my spontaneous reply, but not wanting to appear too forward or discourteous I quickly added, ̳from what I see you have excellent taste in clothes, whatever you wear, I know you will look fantastic.‘