Blood and Guts in Charm School

This is our fourth installment of Tabloid Fiction, in which an author chooses from the trashiest, most lurid, or just bizarre stories of the moment and writes a short story inspired by same.

Hazlitt regular contributor Lynn Crosbie is a Toronto writer and Ph.D, who teaches at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Gallery of Art. She...

||Lola Landekic

Illustration by Lola Landekic

“Lindsay Lohan: I Need Professional Help” (The Hollywood Gossip, 16 Dec 2012

Long before I played Antigone on Broadway, when men rended their garments and, in their sea of crying, women placed their immaculate white gloves; before the gold statuettes mustered at my name, calving gold foals; before I was deemed the most “luminous of the asterism” by a Vanity Fair writer who would commit suicide with a pair of my sheer stockings, I went to Sparkles Charm School, on south 15th Street in Las Vegas.


I met him in Bungalow 3 of the Chateau Marmont. He scared my friends, but Wladziu (charm instructor, concert pianist and coke dealer), “Lee” to his chauffeur, had the best llello: iridescent and smooth as silk. 11llello is old-school slang for cocaine.

He wore bandages around his entire face, dressed in an ermine trench coat and slacks; and wore a red-feathered chaplet.

“Belushi died up in this shit,” he observed, the night he waved off my money and staked out his place in the center of the burn-scarred white leather sofa.

“No coke, Pepsi,” he would say, and laugh. If one of my friends joined him, he would stop immediately, scaring them more.

But he loved me. “Sit on my lap Misty,” he would croon, and from this bony perch I listened to him warble “My Funny Valentine,” as one of his sequined gloves caressed my nude, shivering thigh.


Not long after Liz & Dick aired; after another arrest and violent incident, he came for me. He filled his attaché case with a square of white cotton, chloroform, rope, a knife, a red textured notebook and a leather-bound copy of Mondo Monologue.

I was half-dressed for a screening, and squirrely. I ran into his arms and he twirled me around, then led me down Marmont Lane, where a black Lincoln Town car idled.

“I hope this will not be necessary,” he said, springing open the case.

“Just give me the books,” I said, scowling.


“I’m going to teach you to act like a lady,” he says. “How to act period.”

He says this gently, but the pink-chick-feathered shank he is holding to my face is so sharp the sheets are notched with my freckles.

“Criss-cross,” he says. “I need money to refurbish the Lady,” which is what he calls the conjoined bungalows, or mansion.

“And I need muscle. Fascia, nerves, blood, skin—”

“So the deal is, I say, “that I get to be famous and you?”

“I shall be the beautiful Toshiyuki Hosokawa, as he appeared in Eros Plus Massacre,” and you will not merely be famous, you will repent.

I am kept in the Cowboy Room: for the next 24 hours I watch, projected on the walls and ceiling, drunk drivers kill men and women and children.

I watch their bodies fold into cranes and flowers as “Sailing” plays brokenly through speakers embedded in the denim legs and lariat of the night-table.

Their mouths form the word “No,” then “Please,” or “Please, God.” before their lives bleed out.


I finally break, and, crying, I write on the square of paper he slides through the door: Half-slip, bra and heels:/ It is time for guts and God!/Skyline, bumps of stars. He grunts and slides back The Duchess of Malfi which I read by the fuzzy neon of the old Vegas strip until I am ready to perform for him.


And it is in the Rose Room that I first make him clutch his chest with anguish; it is by the fire we build with paper and sticks in the Moroccan Room where he stands and applauds until his bindings loosen, revealing blue-white bone.


“I’m not a welcher on bargains. Drink it all. All. All!”

I recite Hannah’s words and hand Wladziu a hot cup of tea, while balancing three copies of Shogun on my head and curtsying.

He pulls out the pearl-handled revolver and we start the drill that began the night he had me fold a white gag into a swan, dip its beak into chloroform and inhale.

He aims the gun at my feet and barks out topics I may be asked to discuss at “high society affairs.”

“The Cote D’Azur! Hezbollah! Chateau Mouton-Rothschild! Bizet, Blake, Becquerel!”

I ballon around the gunfire and extemporize short, thoughtful remarks; I set a table for ten as he torches the centerpiece. I remove blood-stains from my tea-gowns while needle-pointing the Piss Christ and play the Elgar concerto on a bottle-mouth strung with catgut while supervising the decoration of the Victorian Romance Room.

I study and write, in white gloves and a pink pillbox hat: at night there are the images and the sounds; there is a film of my face changing; of it bloating into a nightmare to the sound of butchered pigs screaming.


He massages me morning and night with coconut butter, combs my red hair, then coaxes it into shining waves.

I eat raw food and drink ice water, swim in the pool he fills with a bucket, and every night, we light candles in the living room and after I recite for him, he plays his favorite songs on a Pianosaurus.

He tells me how the Lady looked before foreclosure, and one night we are so cold and lonely, we call each other Sam, and have fast, shuddering sex in the Safari Room.

“Honey, what is better than orchids on a piano?”, he asks dreamily, as we rest in the fallen mosquito netting

“Two lips on your organ,” I say, and let him handcuff me to my cot.


I am in the middle of Electra’s soliloquy and I stumble on the words “the sorrows of her father’s house.”

“You’ll never be ready,” he snaps. He is getting weaker every day, and has taken to wearing sweats and an Expos cap.

“Fire-crotch,” he hisses, and I stumble blindly to the marble bathtub, curl inside of its immensity and cry.

“I saw the poster!” I yell at him. “You are blowing bubbles right here, and laughing and it says ‘No one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself!”

His bandages look ashen; he stands stock-still, then climbs in beside me, and holds me.

He captures each tear in a bud vase and apologizes.

“Miss Lohan,” he says. “I would be honored to present you to the world.”

And he does.


From the wings of the Lyceum, where I have arrived after a flurry of arrangements for new management—the management that paid Wladziu a significant sum of money for his “tutelage” and silence—I see him shyly holding hands with a slender young man who looks like a handsome Scott Thorsen.

I see my family and friends and column after column of pulsing red lights, rising from their hearts.

And in the front row, my own sweetheart. A dashing Tasmanian archer who appeared at my window the night we finished revamping the Lady, in a peaked, feathered cap and olive-green suit.

Who kissed me and said, “You love me!” as the moon bellowed “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” and Liberace raced his jeweled hands across the keys of a baby grand.

I enter to apprehension that rages into applause, and so quickly! into massive waves of love.

By the time I begin my final speech, I am holding the audience in my hand like a small, drenched bird.

I am wearing a white toga and bare feet: two children kneel beside me, lapping milk from clay pitchers.

“Now I am going down,” I recite.

Someone who was there described my words as a battery of arrows; another called them a great cat’s claws.

My mouth fills with water that spills out as blood trickles from my nose.

“Because I have been so ill and so lonely,” I continue. “I could not stop; I would never stop.”

“Thank you,” I say, as I fall to my knees and the drowning men swim towards me and the drowning women drown.

“We’re losing her,” someone says, as my dreams—in love and playing “Over the Rainbow” on the gigantic keys of the swimming pool piano!—sink, waving little white kerchiefs.

“We lost her,” someone cries as my heart ejaculates a straight red line.

Their grief is my final thought, a thought in a pressed gray suit and black veil, its ankles crossed neatly. A thought that twists into a feeling, joy, before it passes.

A feeling not mindful of “LiLo’s Sad, Final Days!”, of boxes of lingerie, scarves, perfume, brushes, makeup and paperbacks including Mr. Showmanship and a Moroccan-bound notebook filled with chicken-scratch poems and plans.

My story is short. It surges then passes quickly, among some concerned, then laconic, talk of waste and compulsion, lies and beauty, failure and forgetting.

Hazlitt regular contributor Lynn Crosbie is a Toronto writer and Ph.D, who teaches at the University of Toronto and the Ontario Gallery of Art. She writes for a number of sources including the agency Young and Rubicam. Her latest book is Life is About Losing Everything.