Please give a hearty welcome to N. N. Light’s Book Heaven the leading character from Vanda’s Juliana series, Alice Huffman, also known as Al. She’s arrived via our handy time travel machine from the 1940s. She agreed to sit down for a candid interview. Take it away, Al:
Hi. My name is Alice Huffman, but my friends call me Al. I came to New York City in 1941 from the potato fields of Long Island. That was right after I graduated from high school. I came here with my best friend, Aggie. We grew up on the same block in Huntington, Long Island. Our beaux had come to New York the year before and got jobs. We were all planning to make it big on the Broadway stage, exce[t for Danny who wanted to be a write. I came closest to being on Broadway. I’m the only one that I know of that’s still in show biz. Aggie I think married her beau, Danny, but we lost touch so I don’t know for sure. You see, this is kinda hard to talk about, but back then I fell in love with a girl. I’m still in love with the same one, but that’s a whole other story. I always used to be able to tell Aggie everything, but I was scared to tell about this. I held it in as long as I could, but in 1944 we were cleaning the house. Dickie had been wounded in the war, so he was in Washington at Walter Reed Hospital and Aggie was traveling back and forth. That’s why she couldn’t keep up her career. Well, one day in the middle of cleaning I told Aggie about me being in love with this nightclub singer. And I really was. I still am, but we still have trouble getting together. When Aggie heard me say the word she got afraid of me like I was going to do something creepy to her. But, gee, we’d known each other since we were little kids. I never woulda done anythin’ like that. She kicked me outta our bedroom. And finally, Dickie had some Navy friends come over and help her move out. The Navy guys said mean things to me. My own beau, Danny, I caught with Max, a friend of ours. He was so ashamed he joined the army. So, I don’t know what happened to any of them but my author, Vanda says I might find out about them someday. I hope she puts then in one of the later books.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I guess my perfect happiness would be living with Juliana in her townhouse and nobody making fun of us or say mean things or threatening to put us in a hospital or in jail or wanting to kill us.
What is your greatest fear?
I’m not a kid anymore. I managed Juliana’s career and made her into a big success and I also have worked with Max helping him run his two nightclubs. In the 1950s (in Book 3) I took Juliana to Paris to expand her career. We met this guy when we were taking the ship over, the USS United States. He was a producer and he approached me as Juliana’s manager and wanted to book Juliana for his Broadway show. It’s a long story, but because of a bad experience Juliana never wanted to go on a Broadway stage ever again. She was content to sing in nightclubs. But this producer said she had to sing in his show or he would tell the papers about our relationship. That was the scariest thing, I think, I ever went through. My greatest fear is everyone knowing about our relationship. That would mean neither one of us could work. I was raised during the depression and not having enough work, well… I saw what my father went through. I couldn’t do that again. That fear goes right along with people flapping their jaws about Jule and me so we gotta split up.
On what occasion do you lie?
Ya know I really hate lying. I like to think of myself as an honest person, but—in my line of work I often have to deal with some real unscrupulous types, like mob guys. But I guess the biggest lie I ever told was to Juliana’s husband. He didn’t know about his wife and me for a long time. Years. I even got to be friendly with Richard. In a strange sorta way I got friendly with him. We’d always be waiting together for Juliana while she was finishing up a show at the Copa or someplace like that and Richard and me got real close. We shared things about our feelings and about our past. I hated lying to him. But I couldn’t tell him the truth. The worst part was he really loved her too. Finally, he found out about us and I lost both of them, but Juliana and I try to find ways to get together. He hates me and well, who can blame him.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That’s an easy question. I got Juliana the lead in an opera on Broadway. That was when they were doing operas on Broadway—in the mid fifties. Juliana is a trained opera singer and her mother always wanted her to sing opera instead of playing nightclubs, but Juliana didn’t have the confidence. But when this one opera came up… I’m the one who found out about it because I knew the people who were doing. They let me have the libretto so she could look it over. I ran all the way from their office to Child’s where I was meeting her. Juliana loved it and I got some obstacles out of her way so she could do it. She sang it and it was a brilliant hit.
What is your most treasured possession?
The only answer to that has to be the unsigned program from the first time I met Juliana backstage. I was this starstruck kid and I first saw her in a nightclub that Max took us to, but I didn’t meet her then. I met her a few weeks later. Max brought me to the club. He was supposed to introduce me to her, but then he ran away before he could. I stood in line after the show and met her. I was holding my program staring at her and she said, “Would you like me to sign that?” And I said, “Oh, yes, would you.”And I held it out for her. She said. “No.” My heart sunk down to my feet. Then she said. “I have a feeling we’re going to know each other for a long time. I’ll sign that when we know each other better. Then it’ll mean something.” So, I hung on to the program and moved it wherever I went. Eventually I became her manager and after opening night, the first time at the first Copa gig I got her, I stood in line with that very program waiting for her to sign it. When it was my turn, the place was empty. She had me wait till last so we could be alone. She’d sent Richard out to talk to reporters. She stood there staring at the program, but nothing came to her. Finally, after a long time she said, “I can’t write anything on this.Can I kiss you instead?” She locked the door and kissed me full on the lips and I just melted in her arms. The program never got signed. You see by the time I asked her at her again we were in love and saying something meaningful in a program was impossible. So, I keep it in Saran Wrap in the drawer next to my bed. Sometimes, I take it out and look at it.
Title: Paris, Adrift (Juliana series, Book 3)
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction
Publisher: Sans Merci Press
Finalist for the LesFic Bard Award; Chanticleer Reviews First Place Category Blue Ribbon Winner
She wanted a safe harbor for their love. But rough waters could destroy any hope of starting over…
Paris-bound, 1955. Alice "Al" Huffman can't wait to reach the City of Light. As soon as their ship arrives, Juliana's singing career will get the spotlight it deserves and the two women will finally bring their relationship out of the shadows. Or so Al thinks. Before the SS United States hits land, a stranger approaches Al with a Broadway contract for Juliana. But the offer comes with a threat that can't be ignored. And unless Al can find a way out, Juliana's comeback could come crashing down before it even begins… As she hides the awful truth from Juliana, Al searches for an answer before another obstacle destroys their last chance for happiness…
Background: Excerpt from Paris, Adrift Book 3 Juliana Series. It can be read as standalone.
It’s 1955. Juliana, a glamorous nightclub singer and Alice (Al) Huffman, Juliana’s manager, and lover, are on a ship headed for Paris to revitalize Juliana’s career. Al meets Dan Schuyler in the ship’s cocktail lounge.
“Miss Huffman,” Mr. Schuyler called from a corner table, standing.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Schuyler.”
“I’m eager to hear your response to the script, Miss Huffman. The writers are waiting with bated breath to hear that Miss Juliana will sing their songs.”
“Then I’m indeed sad to have to disappoint them.”
“She said no?”
“I’m afraid so. It’s a beautiful script and I know you’ll find someone else
“There is no one else, Miss Huffman. Go back and make her.”
“Mr. Schuyler, no one ‘makes’ Juliana do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
“You can. She must do this. There is an investor who insists—”
“I can’t tell you, but you have to convince her. My career depends on it.”
“There is no bigger fan of Juliana than myself, Mr. Schuyler, but even I
know that there must be someone else who can…”
“There isn’t. You have to change her mind.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“It was written for her.”
“Why would you commission a script before you knew if she would be
“I didn’t. The gentleman who paid the writers did. Our
major investor is in love with her. He will accept no one else. I told him I
could get her for him. There must be something you and I can—”
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have said that before you asked Juliana. Now, if
you’ll excuse me, Mr. Schuyler.”
I started to rise from my seat when he said, “No!” and placed a firm hand
around my wrist.
“Mr. Schuyler, please, let go of me.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, still holding on. “Sit down, Miss Huffman. I’m not
finished with you.”
“Excuse me? Do I need to call for help?”
He leaned close to me and whispered, “I know.”
“You know what?”
“You know what I know.”
“You’re sounding needlessly mysterious, Mr. Schuyler.” I tried to pull my wrist from his grasp but couldn’t.
“I know what you two are.”
“What are you talking about?” My heart banged against my chest. I stood
straighter, attempting to appear composed.
“Sit and I’ll tell you what I know.”
I sat down, and he released my wrist.
“I told you I’ve studied you. I don’t need to say out loud what I know
about you two, do I?”
“What is this about?”
“I had hoped never to have to say this to you, but it’s simple. I have an
opportunity to revive my career if I put up this musical with Juliana. I have a secret investor who will only support this project with her in it. If she doesn’t sign these papers . . .” He reached into his inside pocket and took out a fat envelope and pushed it across the table toward me. “I will publicly declare what I know about you two. Think of the headlines. The newspapers would love it.”
“You’re talking blackmail, Mr. Schuyler.”
“Well, I suppose you could go to the authoritie