Battersea Life Episode 6: "Smoke And Mirrors"


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Jun 24, 2008
Episode 6
Smoke and Mirrors

It had been a year since the Shop Starz debacle which had resulted in My Buy TV’s audacious plot to infiltrate the channel’s competition to find a new presenting star. Their “mole” Dave Crowe had not only reached to final stages but had won the contest and delivered his “Come and join us at My Buy” appeal live on air. As the share price plummeted, the channel went into a tail spin of the like never seen since SHOP! went off the air. Mr Big went missing and was later found washed up on the banks of the Thames close to the power station. Death by misadventure was recorded but no-one really knew how he had got there.

The new bosses decided it was best to stick with the things that had made the channel what it was, and to ditch the new fangled ideas that Mr Big had been proposing. Familiar brands with familiar presenters and guests. No weirdos, no controversy and most of all no scandal. Well… that was the plan.

Tara McAdam was on air presenting her Aurora Nights range of luxury bedding. It was autumn and the height of flannel season. The mesmerising repetition of the tried and tested phrases “warm and toasty” “you deserve a good night‘s sleep” “the bedroom is your haven” “soooo soft and warm” continued to hook in the viewers who appeared to have an insatiable appetite for this range. Tara’s hours had increased and a second guest had been employed as a back up, such was the demand for more and more product and more and more hours on air. Tara should have been the happiest woman on the channel, and she would have been… had it not been for the one dark secret that she was terrified would be revealed.

After finishing her presentation with Peper Van Der Valk, (who had inexplicably changed her name from Pepper Gorman recently) Tara headed for her dressing room. She had always insisted on her own room ever since joining the channel, a medical condition required her to self-administer a very personal procedure at odd hours of the day and night which would be unthinkable in shared accommodation. No-one on the production team had the nerve to enquire further, such is the politically correct age that we live in. Her request was granted and she had the room to herself. Now Tara entered and switched on the light, closed the door behind her, turned the key in the lock and leaned on the door heavily. She was exhausted, the strain was beginning to take its toll. She had been doing this for 6 years now and had never thought for one moment that it could have gone beyond a few appearances. If only she had known what she was getting herself into.
She sat at her dressing table and removed her false eyelashes, took a large tub of Virginia Pearle Spit and Polish cleansing cream and scooped out a generous blob, smearing it over her face and neck. Leaving the scented goo to dissolve the heavy make up she was required to wear, she began to unpin her wig….. The transformation was about to begin.

Coincidentally, Peper’s next hour was with Virginia Pearle herself. Pearle’s range of Actively Herbal skincare was the biggest selling beauty brand on the channel. Her appeal was that of the earth mother. All natural ingredients, no outlandish promises, sensible, no nonsense nice smelling stuff that women went mad for. The Spit and Polish alone had sold literally millions in various guises and was the major success story of the channel. Now the channel’s American counterpart was beckoning and Virginia Pearle was in greater demand than ever.
Peper Van Der Valk went through the motions, allowing Virginia to run through her spiel. Anyone who had seen the Actively Herbal presentations more than a couple of times would have realised that they were like watching a recording which was on a permanent loop. Pearle always appeared in soft focus, looking incredibly beautiful and fresh faced for a woman in her forties. The long hair in soft ringlets, a blush of pale pink on her cheeks and lips, the ample bosom encased in floaty tie-dye fabrics in pinks and purples. The whole effect was one of soft wholesomeness. In reality, and seen only by people on set, the story was somewhat different. Without the honey lights and soft focus lenses Pearle’s features were strangely off-kilter, the hair oddly textured and the bosom as little too high for a women her age. Peper perused this whilst making the appropriate presenter noises and reading off the item numbers and prices. What WAS it with Virginia Pearle? If an attempt was made to engage her in conversation in the breaks it was met with polite yes and no answers, and an immediate return to discussion about the product. Even mentioning her children would result in a stock set of answers “yes theyre adorable, even the youngest is using the moisturiser now and she’s only 6 months old.. Its never too early”. She gave nothing away whatsoever and after the presentation always left immediately to be whisked away in an anonymous looking car with blacked out windows. Today was no exception. After a successful show she graciously thanked Peper and the director and left in a flurry of ringlets, tie dye and a whiff of Anais Anais.

Presenter Clarisse Dutton was skipping through the dressing room area behind the studios humming the theme tune to Telly Tubbies when Tara McAdam’s dressing room door opened and Gordon slipped out closing the door behind him. “Oh hello Gordon! How are you? I haven’t seen you here for a while. I’ve been having another baby!” she simpered.
“Hello Miss Dutton, I’m very well indeed, just collecting some things for Tara. She forgot them when she left earlier. Congratulations on your new arrival, how many is that now?”.
“Erm, I think its… erm….” Dutton did a quick count up on her fingers. “I think its twelve now.. I could be wrong though. Theyre all totally adorable though. Honestly I ADORE them!”
“I’m sure Miss Dutton” said Gordon politely.
Gordon McAdam was Tara’s brother, a handsome ex air force captain in his early fifties, clean shaven with receding hair and an upright, military stance. He often ran errands for Tara, almost like a personal assistant although Tara would of course never suggest this was the case. All of the presenters had bumped into Gordon at some point or another, he was often around and had almost become part of the furniture in the same way as Tara. His manners were impeccable and somewhat formal as what his appearance.
“And how is my darling Tara? Is she well?” Asked Clarisse.
“As well as can be expected Miss Dutton, rather tired as I am sure you can appreciate. Although hiring Amy to back her up, especially on ASV days, has been a great help. We‘re very grateful to the channel for that”.

“Golly I bet you are Gordon, she’s such a delight - I ADORE working with her honestly! Ooh Gordon I just remembered, was that your BMW I just saw being hooked up to a tow away truck? it was parked on a double yellow outside?”
Gordon was already running up the stairs and heading for the exit shouting behind him “thank you Miss Dutton, the car park was full and as I was only visiting briefly I thought I’d be safe… perhaps you could have mentioned…”
And he was gone.
Clarisse put her finger to her chin thoughtfully “Ooh maybe I should have mentioned earlier…..oh well never mind. Oooh! Look at that!”
Tara’s dressing room still had the key in the lock.

Virginia Pearl arrived back at the hotel that was used when Actively Herbal was being shown on the channel. Her normal base on the Isle of Man was a little inconvenient when regular stints at the studio were required. A penthouse suite was hired at the hotel where Virginia and her entourage were regular and valued guests. As she came out of the lift on the top floor the smell of cigarettes was already pervading the corridor. Thank god there were no more rooms up here, it would be sure to cause complaints. The hotel must have to go to a lot of trouble to fumigate the suite after they had left, however Pearle Inc paid handsomely.
She tapped lightly on the door and entered the smoke filled room.
In the corner, a wizened old woman sat working feverishly at a computer, her face illuminated by the screen. An ash tray overflowing with cigarette butts was on the desk beside her, along with a half full bottle of Jack Daniels whisky and a glass. She had the appearance of a sixty or seventy year old, although in reality she was only fifty. A lifetime of tobacco, drink and deep tanning had aged her well beyond her years. To everyone at the hotel, and most people on the outside world this was Virginia Pearle’s faithful personal assistant Liz. In reality, this was the real Virginia Pearle.

“How did it go Wendy?” she rasped.
“Went well Miss Pearle. Four sell outs an’ one gone Limited”. The modulated voice heard on air had gone and Wendy was speaking in a strong eastend accent.
“Only four? You had a two hour slot! what went wrong?? Who was presenting?”
“It was Peper, I thought we done well.. Everyone seemed hap…….”
“Never mind that, I’M not happy! You’re going to have to buck up your ideas. Marsha is running you into the ground on sales now. And even Jo is catching up and she’s only being doing it three months” Virginia reached for the bottle and refilled her glass.
“That’s not fair Miss Pearle, Jo used to be a model on the channel, she already knew all about your stuff, the creams an’ the lotions. She demonstrated ’em all the time. She knew the scripts too!. I started from scratch!”
“Maybe so but youre too sloppy Wendy. See? you’ve already slipped out of character and gone back to your old accent at the first hint of stress. What happens if you do that live on air? I didn’t spend all that money on surgery for you to blow my cover by speaking like Barbara Windsor. Now, the next slot isn’t until 2300 and Jo is doing that so you’re finished for the day. Get changed, go to your room and study, and send in Jo for her pre-briefing”.
Wendy headed for a door which led to a suite of bedrooms and disappeared. Moments later, another “Virginia Pearle” appeared, this time ex model Jo. She looked exactly the same as the girl who had just left. She sat across from Virginia at the desk.
“I’m ready for my pre-brief Miss Pearle” she said.

Virginia Pearle had hit on the idea 10 years before when developing her range of cosmetics for the TV home shopping market. She knew it was going to be big and she knew that the most successful brands were fronted on TV by the people who’s name was on the bottle. However a life time of abusing her skin made it impossible. She looked like a California raisin after fortnight in Benidrom. Ithe idea of going on screen herself was a complete non starter. That’s when she came up with the idea of hiring a girl to appear in her name. After a lengthy casting process Janine was found. She was an actress who fitted the bill perfectly, the right look and sound, able to remember lines, familiar with the cameras from her bit-part career on TV, she was perfect. After intensive training on the product she made her first appearance on the channel selling Spit and Polish and it was a runaway success. The brand developed and grew and it was going so well until Janine got pregnant. It was a massive inconvenience for Virginia. However she worked around the baby’s arrival and things got back on course… and then Janine disappeared. In fact she had emigrated to Australia with her family and decided not to mention it to Pearle Inc. as she was clearly in breach of her contract. She knew that Virginia would not be able to pursue her for fear of being exposed. Virginia knew it too… the whole thing would have come out in the press and she would be branded a liar and a cheat… not a good “look” for a shopping TV brand. She wrote off Janine and came up with a new plan. And this one was foolproof.

Since then a total of eight girls had become “Virginia Pearle”, and six of them were currently in service. All of them had been given cosmetic surgery to make them look like Janine and whilst recovering would be put through rigorous training on how to act, speak, what to say and how to dress in order to continue fooling the viewing public. At the end of their contract, more surgery would give them whatever new look they desired, as long as it wasn’t that of Virginia Pearle any more. The surgeons knife, along with a rider that said that she always had to appear with camera filters and soft lighting meant that she was never discovered, although staff at the channel often thought that Virginia looked “odd” in some way. She was known as “The Stepford Wife” by bosses at the channel after the film where women were cloned and appeared to their husbands as the perfect housewife. No-one could have known how close to the truth they were and the real Virginia could never have believed how successful it was. It opened up a whole new range of opportunities, one girl could be in America, while another did photo shoots or promotional videos for the channel. With Virginia masterminding the whole operation from her computer, and by planning carefully how and when the girls were seen no-one had ever questioned the apparent workload that “Virginia Pearle” was able to take on. She was omnipresent, a Wonder Woman. An inspiration… wife, mother, mogul.
However there was one thing that Virginia hadn’t accounted for. Her latest recruit, ex model Jo had left the channel in “difficult” circumstances. She had soon got work with a rival channel who had also found her challenging to work with. Then she had disappeared back to obscurity… or that’s what the viewing public thought. In fact she was becoming “Virginia Pearle”. and now that Jo had become Virginia, she wanted revenge…..

Clarisse looked at the door, and the key, and back toward the exit where Gordon had disappeared. She tiptoed back along the corridor to see if she could see him… but he had gone. Back at the door of Tara’s room she put her hand on the knob and then stopped. She knew she shouldn’t be doing this, that it was a hideous invasion of Tara’s privacy. Tara was a friend, a colleague. But my oh my! Clarisse was curious as to why it was necessary for Tara to have her own room. Except for Queenie, even the most senior presenters didn’t get that, despite numerous tantrums and negotiations over the years no one had ever managed to secure one and yet Tara, a mere guest, had. Why?
She turned the knob and the door opened. Looking back along the corridor one last time she slipped inside and closed the door.
It was dark, and it reeked of Spit and Polish. She fumbled for the light switch and flicked it. A dim table lamp flickered on, it had a lace shawl flung over it to soften the glow even further. It was incredibly difficult to see and it took a while for Clarisse’s eyes to adjust. But as they did, and as she took in the contents of Tara’s room, they grew wider and wider.
A large dressing table with a professional make up mirror, surrounded by lightbulbs dominated the room. An over stuffed wardrobe with open doors was in one corner, and a full length mirror in another. A dressmakers dummy was to one side. The room was tidy but crammed full. On the dressing table were three “heads” each with a different style of wig. Clarisse knew that Tara changed her hair a lot but assumed she used hair extensions.. She looked more closely at the items on the dressing table, professional Steiner stage make up was in abundance along with false eyelashes and the paraphernalia that goes with applying a wig properly, pins and glue etc. Lots of cosmetics and the ubiquitous Spit and Polish There was also a plastic case containing what appeared to be a bridge of false teeth, the upper set only, which was clearly Tara‘s familiar but disembodied smile. She moved to the wardrobe and realised that the clothes were split into two halves. Tara’s signature tops, skirts and dresses on the left and men’s trousers, sweaters and jackets, seemingly Gordon’s stuff on the right. As she moved away from the wardrobe she noticed that the dressmakers dummy she had seen in the dim light earlier had something hanging over it. As she approached, her hand raised involuntarily to her mouth and she stifled a squeal. It was a body suit, a torso padded and shaped in the form of a woman with breasts and hips and a dozed or so stays up the front with which to fasten it securely in place.

Clarisse gazed around her for a moment. In the pink marshmallow filled cavity of her head she tried hard to make sense of what she had seen. So Tara wore a lot of make up and a wig, not a problem really - lots of people did that. And she was worried that she was too skinny, silly girl ought to have a boob and bum job, lots of people did that too! Clarisse turned to admire her own round bottom in Tara’s mirror which diverted her for a few seconds…She screwed up her face and thought hard, but why the teeth? And why are all Gordon’s clothes in her wardrobe? It was all too puzzling and her head was starting to ache with the effort of working it out. She decided to leave everything just as it was and get out of Tara’s room pronto. As she slipped out carefully checking for people in the corridor first, she decided that next time she saw Tara and Gordon together she would ask some very very clever questions to try and solve the puzzle. They’d be so clever that Tara and Gordon would never even realise she was playing detective! What fun! Then Clarisse realised….. She had never actually seen Tara and Gordon together. Hmmm, oh well never mind it cant be that important. She headed for the studio humming the Telly Tubbies theme. Within a nanosecond the entire episode was forgotten.
She also forgot to lock Tara’s room and to remove the key…

To Be Continued
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Another bliddy brilliant one:35::35::35: PLEASE don't leave us waiting tooooo long for the next part.
Fantastic, bet it's the chuckle of the night at Marco Polo house !!!!!!!!
Fantastic! Made my day.

Now I'm off to do the 'Spit and Polish' it will forever be called that in this house now!
LMAO Spit and Polish :SUE: Sooooo irreverant....I love it!! :roll: It really can't be called anything else now. :D Another gem Matt, well worth the wait. :clap: :hail: :pPC:
Brilliant writing, yet again.

Twas the Spit and Polish that got me most too. Why have I never thought of that before? That's the new name for it now here too.

Ali x
Truly fab episode, BurlZ........I can see every bit appearing as a soap opera in my head as I read it... Thank you!!
Thank you for continuing the saga...I'm looking forward to the next gripping installment already. Your so talented, Burly Bear
Thanks for this episode BB. I have been poorly and must have missed a couple of eps, can anyone post a link to the previous two eps please?


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