CLICK HERE to read first part of excerpt from Episode 7: Turkey Trouble
The ringing hotel room phone wakened me from the depths of shame, signaling my car was downstairs to take me to the airport. It was already time to fetch my client. How would I keep all this from Tyra?
Still sluggish from what I assumed was a drug slipped into my drink, I rushed through the lobby the best I could. The night clerk was just ending his duty and smiled. I looked away nervously. The Swatch-guide looked me up and down and winked.
“You enjoy too much Turkish Delight last night?”
“In a manner of speaking,” I managed.
With my attention focused on pursuing manly desserts, I had assumed everything was lined-up for Tyra’s arrival. I reasoned that since I had gotten the hang of a U.S media tour, Europe wasn’t going to be any different. Meet Tyra at the airport. Get her to rehearsal. Make a few appearances. Say “no” to a lot of people. Boom we’re done.
“Don’t worry about a thing. The airport has all been taken care of. Private VIP treatment for Ms. Banks!” the guide confidently proclaimed.
I should have checked all the details, but I was too busy picking up tricks in the park.
At the airport, the VIP team whisked me to the jet way where Tyra was disembarking. We would escort her through a special immigration and customs area, and she’d be on her way. I was on edge, everything made me nervous. Everywhere I looked I imagined a swarthy Turkish fellow trying to steal something from me. Even the airport signs were a jumbled mess of Turkish hieroglyphics to me. That way to the toilet or duty-free?
I stood on the jet way sweating as her overnight flight pulled up to the gate. The plane door opened. Tyra stepped off in her traveling outfit—track pants, hair pulled back, no make-up, glasses—looking like her “before” picture. I smiled and inched forward—and out of no where, dozens of paparazzi photographers came running down the corridor, descending on us, flashes going off, screaming in Turkish.
“What’s going on?” Tyra yelled.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I screwed up.”
We dodged a torrent of flashbulbs.
What the fuck?! How did these jokers get past security? Where is our security? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. We were deer caught in headlights. Tyra covered her head with a sweatshirt. We pushed past the photographers. They chased us as we ran through the airport. Was this the Turkish VIP treatment? Our Swatch guide grabbed us and rushed us to one side.
“Miss Tyra with me in car to the hotel. You stay and collect bags and Miss Tyra’s passport.”
“I’m not leaving my passport,” Tyra said.
“No other option. Miss Tyra go with me this way now.”
He motioned towards a passageway. Tyra shrugged, and before she ducked into a back door, she looked at me with a steely stare.
“I trust you to fix this.”
Problem was, I didn’t trust myself. Hours earlier, my confidence had been punched out of me.
A few minutes later, I stood staring at the baggage carousel as it spun around and around endlessly with no luggage in sight. The arrival hall was the size of Grand Central Station and filled with chaos. Shouting, stampeding, grabbing, eating, spitting. Now snapping. The paparazzi menacingly surrounded me, shooting me gathering Tyra’s trunks. A guy arrived with Tyra’s passport and hustled me to a waiting car that sped back to the buttoned up Swissotel. We passed the blackened Bosphorus strait on the way and I considered jumping out to avoid the dressing down from Tyra. While stuck in traffic, the driver unwrapped a box of candy and turned to me and winked.
Not now, I thought.
Outside Tyra’s room, I nervously tapped on her door. In her robe, Tyra peeked out.
“Hi! I just ordered lunch, and I want to hear all about your time in Istanbul and what you’ve been doing since book tour!”
She gave me a big, tender, meaningful hug. I leaned into her, exhaled all my tension and broke into sobs. She walked me to the couch.
“I hope you’re not crying about that airport mess. Girl, next time you just need to carry a big wad of cash and pay everyone off!”
“Now you tell me. I needed that advice last night.”
Over lunch, I launched into the whole sordid story of the previous evening with Aslan and my lost love Hakan. Tyra soaked up every detail like she as my best girlfriend, never scolding me, and again demonstrated her talk show advice skills.
“Well, put the past behind you. Focus on your potential love! Hakan sounds hot. Maybe we’ll run into him. Never know, stranger things have happened.”
She embraced me tenderly, and then clapped her hands excitedly.
“I want to buy a rug. Did you buy a rug? When can I buy a rug?”
“I’m not sure we have time. Our schedule is pretty packed, and you’re due at rehearsal.”
The main event of the Tyra Turkish Swatch Skin Extravaganza was a modern interpretive dance show in the ballroom of the Swissotel attended by the crème de la crème of Turkish society—including the Prime Minister. Tyra’s job was to come out in a skin-tight leotard and prance around the fog-blanketed stage touching curled up dancers who were also dressed in skin-tight leotards. Tyra’s “touch” was supposed to bring to life the dancers.
Instead, it brought on the giggles in Tyra and me. She eventually sent me away from rehearsal so she could get through it. The show was hokier than a Busby Berkley musical, but Tyra was a consummate professional and not only delivered her touches flawlessly, she gamely stayed and chatted with all the dignitaries in the room even though schmoozing was not part of her contract.
The next morning, the paparazzi followed us all over town—from mall appearance to mall appearance. The combination of two Turkish loves—Swatch and Tyra—had sent the town into overload. As we pulled away from the hotel, our guide turned to us laughing, and handed over one of the daily tabloids with my picture next to the baggage carousel.
“You are famous, Mr. Jon Paul.”
“You look terrible. That lighting is awful. What does the headline say?” Tyra asked.
The guide knitted his brow and pursed his lips, struggling for the right words.
“Translate directly it say Tyra Boy Toy. But much funnier in Turkish!”
Tyra and I laughed so hard we cried.
“I just hope your Hakan doesn’t see this,” Tyra whispered.
Turkish mall appearances were as predictable as their American counterparts with the same amount of weirdoes proposing to Tyra. With fans lined up at the Swatch store in a mall to get their watchcase signed, Tyra passed me another box of Turkish Delight given to her by a stranger.
“I don’t understand why you won’t take me rug shopping,” she complained.
“We can’t just stop in any old rug store. There’s an entire army of paparazzi trailing us if you haven’t noticed. Rug shopping is not like looking for shoes. You have to put some thought into it.”
I took my own decision to buy a rug very seriously. On my junior publicist salary, I made next to no money, and had scraped together all the cash I had, and only then ended up with a little wool rug that cost about $300—an utter fortune for me.
“Next, please. Sir, Tyra is not signing calendars today, only watches,” I announced, as if that made any sense in English or Turkish.
“How big is yours?” Tyra asked suggestively.
“I bought a small rug. They wrapped it tightly in brown paper for me to carry back on the plane.”
“Well, I need one the size of my living room!”
Tyra signed her name with a big heart and passed it back to the lady who had purchased all seven varieties of Skin watches.
“Aren’t you going to Africa right after this for a photo shoot? Good luck schlepping around that big of a rug,” I replied.
After our last Swatch appearance, Tyra spied a rug store nearby and bamboozled me into letting her go inside. Any rug buying experience in Turkey is a theatrical production—they lay out many carpets in an effort to gauge your taste in colors and tolerance for price. But because it was Tyra, the shopkeepers put on an extravaganza, dragging out hundreds of the largest carpets I had ever seen—bigger than the entire Alphabet City set. I kept suggesting smaller rugs, reminding Tyra she needed to carry it with her, and the store kept rolling out larger ones—to Tyra’s nodding approval. After much hemming and hawing, she settled on one that I believe cost my entire year’s salary.
“Don’t you think that one’s gorgeous?” Tyra asked.
“It’s gigantic,” I said.
“Would you do me a little favor?”
“No way. Not a chance. I know where this is going.”
“Might you carry that little rug back to New York for me? Please? I’ll be your best friend for life,” she pleaded.
“I’ll think about it.”
What a push over. I had caved. My job was to be a master manipulator—pulling the puppet strings of the media. But a supermodel had out maneuvered me. I didn’t want to disappoint Tyra; after all, girlfriend had said all the right things about my Turkish love delight gone wrong. I ordered an extra mini-van just to get Tyra’s chosen rug back to our hotel.
After a full day of paparazzi avoidance, Swatch launching, and rug shopping, we pulled up at the hotel exhausted. Tyra and I tumbled into the lobby, and a tall fellow rose from the couches, clutching a bouquet, displaying four Swatches on his wrist. He began walking towards us with a determined stride and a big grin like he was crazy in love. Our security detail blocked his path, but I smiled and shooed them away.
“Tyra, I’d like you to meet Hakan.”
His long arms enveloped me in a bear hug.
“These for you, Tyra,” Hakan said.
He handed her the flowers. Tyra patted me on the back.
“Well, well, well. You got it going on, Mister JP. I want to hear all about it later.”
Hakan and I rushed to my room where his presence turned the scene of a crime into one of passion. He explained in his halted English that he had waited all day long. He remembered I was with Tyra, and had read in the tabloids where she was staying. He only knew my first name, so the hotel would not allow him to call my room or leave me a message—rightfully suspicious after my last visitor. So Hakan had waited patiently all day long in the hope of seeing me again.
We made electrifying love—the anticipation of it overwhelming both of us at times. He then escorted me to an elaborate dinner in a romantic restaurant where the twinkling lights reflecting in the Bosphorus sparkled in his eyes. I could hardly eat because I wanted to stare at him and run my hands through his hair. We relied on smiles and furtive touches because our ability to communicate through language was limited.
Back at my hotel room, crammed into one of the two tiny twin beds in the room, we stayed awake and held each other all night, not wanting to acknowledge what we both knew—that this was it, really, we would never see each other again. We didn’t know much about each other, but we knew enough to understand we lived in worlds separated by seas of difference.
The next morning, I crossed an ocean making my way home, but never forgot his tenderness, his sweetness and dogged determination to find me. When I arrived back in New York, Angela helped me drag into our apartment my traveling companion—Tyra’s enormous carpet.
“How did you afford such a big rug?” she asked.
“Please, this is Tyra’s. Thank god customs took my corporate Amex, or you would have had to come get me out of debtor’s prison.”
“How much did you have to pay?”
“Just shy of six thousand dollars.”
I handed over the receipt, and one of the eleven boxes of Turkish Delight I had picked up on the trip.
Before I went to bed that first night back, I rolled out my little rug that looked like a fabric swatch compared to Tyra’s behemoth. Winnie sniffed it, and then promptly peed on it. It was good to be home.
A month later, Tyra called me in the middle of the night asking me to deliver her rug to The Regency Hotel where she was staying. Her magic carpet had cluttered the Alphabet City set for weeks now, and I was happy to clear it out. Tyra and I had a good ride together, but as it turned out, we would never see each other again. While being Tyra’s Boy Toy certainly had its advantages, I was starting to tire of all the hand holding and babysitting it took to be a celebrity publicist. Did the glamorous travel, funny stories and celebrity encounters compensate for my lack enthusiasm for the job? Nothing would test my resolve more than my next trip to the Rosie O’Donnell Show.
Next on Alphabet City:
Trouble explodes when Jon Paul disappoints Vanessa Williams. “Your job is to make her look the best she can possibly be.”