Fanny Eagleton was created by the simple chemical reaction of silicon and oestrogen under a bright light. In a puff of Chanel no. 5 she appears in the sepia glaze of
behind her Ray Ban prescriptions. Like her middle-to-menopause-aged divorcée
after three glasses of red and a bath bomb target audience, we follow her up
the concrete catwalk. Mike holds the boom over his shoulder like he’s gone
fishin’. Marty’s head is down, hoping desperately that no-one recognises him
from his university days. I’ve got the camera trained on Fanny’s straining
But up ahead the top-heavy totem pole of flesh has stopped. Like shadows we pull up behind her.
“Marty!” she says. “Can we get a shot of me giving money to that bum?”
She points a $150 fingernail at a hobo wrapped in charity bin off-cuts and slanting a cardboard sign across his lap. The whole show relies on keeping Fanny happy and she’s already asking Mike if he has change for a fifty. Marty approaches the hobo gingerly.
“Hi,” he says, offering a hand. “Martin Sherwood.”
“Do you want me to sign a petition for something, Martin?” asks the bum.
“No,” says Marty politely. “I am the director of The Fanny Show.” Marty knows better than to pause after that statement. “We were hoping that we could film Fanny giving you a… donation.”
“What sort of show is this?” asks the bum.
“It’s a reality show.”
“What, so you film this broad going about her life?”
“See, this is why I don’t bother owning a TV.”
Marty watches the bum’s brain moving through the gaunt outline of his forehead, asking himself why out of all the hopeless dropkicks in this city too lazy to hold up a Big Issue, did we stopped at him? Does he look the most harmless deadshit on
Street? Or the most pathetic? Maybe he’s the most
photogenic? His parents did tell him he looked like a young Mickey Rourke.
“Alright,” he says. “I’ll do it for $200.”
“What?” stammers Marty. “Listen mate, we’re giving you publicity here. You’re going to be that homeless man off the TV. Fans of the show will be lining up to give you money.”
“That’s why I want you to give me the $200 off camera and her to give me a dollar on camera. No, two dollars.”
This shrewd bastard has too much business sense. No wonder he’s at the Paris End of Collins Street. Thommo at the office will shit himself if he hears that his Monday night stocking filler blew two hundred bucks on a bum.
“Hold on,” says Marty. “I’ll talk to Fanny.”
Fanny is rubbing lipstick on lipstick while Jock holds a mirror.
“Listen Fanny,” says Marty. “I think it is wrong to exploit this poor man on television. The audience won’t believe you are doing it from the goodness of your heart if there are cameras trained on you.”
“But…” says Fanny. “But Jock just lent me ten dollars.”
“If you want to give him the ten dollars,” says Marty, “then you are doing a wonderful thing. But I just don’t think we should film it.”
With a flick of her eyelashes, Fanny begins dropping Lois Vuitton bags across the pavement.
“What are you doing?” asks Marty.
“I’m looking for my phone,” says Fanny, “so I can call the network and tell them what you’re doing.” The scattered bundle of bags is blocking pedestrians and a few people who have recognised Fanny’s breasts from television have gathered around to watch.
“Fanny, don’t make a scene,” says Marty weakly.
“I am the fucking scene!” says Fanny. She locates her phone and furiously mashes the screen in an attempt to unlock it. After several painstaking seconds she turns to her small crowd of women built from sausage meat.
“Do you all want to see me give money to this bum?” she cries.
Spasms of noise blurt from the crowd. Marty turns to me.
“Alright,” he says. “Roll film.”
Fanny approaches the bum. She has taken off the Ray Ban’s so the bum can see the eyes that wooed fame and fortune.
“Hello,” says Fanny. “I’m Fanny Eagleton.”
“I know who you are,” says the bum.
Fanny smiles, clearly flattered by the breadth of her notoriety.
“And what’s your name?” she asks.
The bum holds his cardboard sign below his face and stares long into the camera lens as if maybe he can see the audience on the other side.
“Martin Sherwood,” he says.
Fanny glances at Marty.
“Really?” she says.
“Yep,” says the bum. “After I flunked film school I got a job filming star-struck celebrities going shopping. When it was noticed that I was a total fraud at life, nobody hired me again. So I ended up in the street.”
Fanny’s newly lipstuck mouth hangs open in shock.
“I was going to give you ten dollars,” she stammers. “But now I’m not going to give you anything!”
Then she turns and walks back to the camera. She takes Marty’s hand and pulls him away down the street.
“Don’t listen to him, Marty,” she says. If he’s going to make a living sucking pity out of people then he has to learn some respect.”
“Stop!” says my editor. I click pause on the furious expression eclipsing Fanny’s $400 eyelashes. “We can’t use any of this.”
“Why not?” I ask him. “It’s the perfect scene. It’s almost too good to be true.”
“Firstly, it makes Fanny out to be the hero. It breaks with her character as a one-dimensional bimbo. Secondly, it draws attention to the Fanny Show for exploiting Fanny as a one-dimensional bimbo. Thirdly, Fanny would never be seen with a bum and even if she was, this bum has neither the charisma nor sex appeal to pull off prime time. Would you like me to go on?”
“No. I think you’ve made your point.”
“Look kid,” he says with a hand on my shoulder. “Marty is your boss, and it’s pretty heartless to make him look like an idiot on primetime television. Delete the footage.”
But my editor is a spineless chain smoker who never aspired to anything higher than The Fanny Show. When he is gone I slip the tape into my pocket.