The Quest For Vanilla
I start to protest, but Accounting’s cunning use of more marketing-speak has won the room. “Then it’s settled,” Finances says. “Babe-A-Licious it is.”
6 steps in. “Fine,” she says, and shoots a warning glance at me. With a struggle, I let it go. A difficult struggle. “Let’s move on to my second proposal.”
Accounting glances slyly and triumphantly in my direction. I bite my tongue.
“The soundtrack,” 6 says, “has obviously been written for the style and pace of the movie, and in that sense it works very well. But it bothers me that there are no actual songs. Nothing we can release as an album. It would add to the strength of the project if we had some pop songs to generate radio airplay and release as a soundtrack.”
“An excellent suggestion,” Logistics says immediately, ever ready to endorse. “The same thought had occurred to me.” I glance at him suspiciously.
“Which bands would we use?” Credit wonders aloud. “That Bob Dylan has some good tunes...”
“Well,” 6 says cautiously, “we do need to use music that our target market like. Even if that’s not the type of music we may personally prefer.”
“Oh, I know,” Accounting says suddenly. “My daughter’s playing this all the time. Drives me crazy. What is it again?” We all wait while Accounting screws up her forehead and stares at the ceiling. “Ice-cream? No, Vanilla Ice-cream?”
“Vanilla Ice?” I ask, hardly able to believe it.
“Yes!” Accounting says. “That’s it. Vanilla Ice.” She nods emphatically. “He’s very big.”
My mouth works uselessly. I have to swallow several retorts, all of which will get me ejected from the room, before I come up with one diplomatic enough to use. “I think you’ll find,” I say, “that Vanilla Ice, although he may have once enjoyed a short-lived popularity, is no longer in the charts.”
“He’s cult,” Accounting says hesitantly. “Is that it?”
6 says sadly, “I don’t think he could even be considered cult. He was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
“What’s that?” Logistics demands. “Some kind of rock band?”
“It’s a movie,” 6 says.
“Previous movie experience?” Finances says, surprised. “That’s a plus.”
“I’m sure I hear his music everywhere,” Accounting says resolutely. “It’s... rappy.”
“I think you must be mistaken,” I say.
“I don’t think I am,” Accounting says, starting to rile up.
“Let me assure you,” I say, “no self-respecting Coke consumer listens to Vanilla Ice any more.”
“My daughter listens to it,” Accounting fires back. “Are you saying—”
“I’m sure your daughter has impeccable musical taste,” 6 says soothingly.
“You know, I think my son listens to him, too,” Personnel offers hesitantly. “Is he in that band, Pearl Jam?”
“Yes, I think so,” Accounting says, doing her screwed-up face thing again.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I say angrily. “He most definitely was not, and irrespective of what your various sons and daughters might think, Vanilla Ice has absolutely no wash today.”
There is a short, surprised silence. Then Accounting says slyly, “My daughter is in the middle of our target demographic, Mr. Scat. She is our market. Are you saying that you know better than our customers?”
I blink. To defend her ludicrous suggestion, Accounting has thrown up an insurmountable argument.
“Well, if our customers say that Vanilla Ice is, uh, cool,“ Finances says, “then we should stick with that. Agreed, Mr. Scat?”
I am speechless.
“Ms. 6?” Finances says.
Beside me, I feel 6 struggle for an answer. Until this moment, I never realized just how hard it is to argue with idiots.
“Excellent,” Finances says. “So we’re decided. Let’s move on. What was your third suggestion, Ms. 6?”
6 stares at him.
Finances clears his throat. “Ms. 6?”
“Nothing,” 6 says. There is a desperate glint in her eye. “No, nothing at all.”
“Oh, boy,” I say. “Oh boy. Oh boy.”
6 stares at me from across her desk. Or rather, our desk, except that somehow only 6 seems to be sitting on the right side of it. “This is going to be difficult.”
“Oh?” Stupid sarcasm rises in my throat. “You think so? You know, I thought maybe things were going along just fine. I mean, sure, our film now stars Tom Cruise, Winona Ryder and Babe-A-Licious, but hey, maybe no-one will notice. Maybe they’ll be so entranced by the pumping Vanilla Ice soundtrack, they won’t even—”
“Scat, shut up,” 6 says tiredly.
scat makes an impression
I step out into a blast of desert sun, which makes it momentarily difficult to get a bead on Gwyeth. Then I spot her leaning against the hangar a bit further down, and wander in her her direction without trying to make it look too obvious. When I sneak a look, she’s staring out at the desert, oblivious to my presence.
I dial Xavier Harding, which is the agency with the plum job of managing Vanilla Ice, and do a little desert-staring myself while I listen to it ring. Gwyneth notices me and squints in my direction, and I give her a smooth little eyebrow-raise as Xavier picks up. I can’t speak for Gwyneth, but I’m fairly impressed with me.
“Hello, this is Scat from Coca-Cola,” I say. “I’d like to speak to the agent who looks after Vanilla Ice, please.”
“Right, let me just look that up for you,” the receptionist says, so I’m guessing that Vanilla hasn’t pulled a whole lot of calls lately. “That would be Marcus. I’ll put you through.”
“Thank you.” I sneak a glance at Gwyneth and see that she’s
regarding me with frank interest. “Hi,” I say.
“Hi,” she says. “You’re from Coke?”
“Marcus speaking,” says my phone, rudely interrupting.
“Marcus, hi,” I say, trying to shoot an apologetic glance at Gwyneth. “This is Scat from Coke. I want to talk to you about using some Vanilla Ice music for a film.”
“Oh, sure. Well, I wouldn’t worry about the royalties for a training video. Most people just rip the music off and no-one knows about it. It’s not worth our time to track it.”
“This isn’t a training video,” I tell Marcus. “It’s a feature film.”
“Hello?” I say.
“Did you say you were from Coca-Cola?” Marcus says.
“Yes. We’re making a movie.” It occurs to me that maybe I shouldn’t be spreading this around, but I guess it’s too late for that now.
“And you want to use Vanilla Ice on the soundtrack?”
“Look, it’s not my decision,” I tell him. With Gwyneth sizing me up, I want to stress this point. “Frankly, I think Vanilla Ice is a one-hit wonder way past his use-by date. But a few of the less socially aware up the corporate tree want him.”
“Excuse me,” Marcus says, actually sounding a little offended, “but Vanilla Ice is no one-hit wonder. He’s making a comeback.”
“A comeback?” I say scathingly, because a smirk has crept onto Gwyneth’s face. “Where? Sweden?”
“Hey,” Marcus says.
“Look, Marcus, let’s face it: Vanilla Ice hasn’t exactly been churning out the hits lately. Has he generated any revenue at all in the last year?” I know how these agencies work: a client who isn’t bringing in the dollars slips down the priority list very quickly. “Let’s get serious. Your client needs work. For our own demented reasons, we need him. It’s easy money. Let’s get this done.”
“Scat, I don’t like your tone at all,” Marcus says, and to my surprise he sounds genuinely angry. “Maybe for you it’s all dollars and cents, but at Xavier Harding we actually give a shit about the people involved. Does that surprise you?”
“Uh,” I say. “Actually—”
“Your proposal doesn’t sound like it’s going to do my client any favors,” Marcus tells me. “So you can shove it.”
I gape. “Hey, Marcus, wait.” I am suddenly sure that Marcus’ surname is either Xavier or Harding. “Look, I’m sorry, I got started on the wrong—”
“When Vanilla Ice has the new number one single,” Marcus says, “you have a think about this, okay?”
“Marcus—” I start, but he kills the call. I stare at the phone. “Shit. Shit.”
There’s a shuffling in the sand and I look up. Gwyneth is regarding me with an amazed expression.
“Uh, hi,” I say.
Gwyneth just stares. “You can’t even get Vanilla Ice?”