• Jessika Brust

Amy Williams, Network Television Producer

Updated: Mar 14


I've been cheated by you since I don't know when...

Another voyage, another new set of passengers, another opening formal night performance of our ABBA show. We could hear the crowd already hooting and hollering, and we'd only just assumed the stage.

So I made up my mind it must come to an end...

Those opening lines found us in our starting poses, staring off into the distance like a frozen cross section of a 1970's disco.

Look at me now, will I ever learn...

The ladies in the cast now unfroze, per the choreography, and slowly turned to face the cheering hordes. And there, sitting in the front row surrounded by excited ABBA fans who could barely be confined to their seats, was a hot ol' busted up mess.

I glanced sideways at my co-female vocalists when I was sure they'd spotted her too. We raised our eyebrows amusedly at each other, while never losing our music theatre smiles.

A woman, no older than her mid-50's, sat in a swivel chair just six feet from the stage, slumped over in a cream colored gown, slouching away from her date, who sat in his own swivel chair as far away from her as he could manage. She had one stiletto off with her ankle rolled to the side, her knees were wide apart, and her bottle-blonde hair wilted in strings by her ears. Her mascara was running down the cracks of her wrinkles, which were unusually well defined for someone under the age of 100. She looked like she'd been attacked by a fire hose, then hung out in the Sahara to dry.

One more look and I can hear a bell ring...

And with that lyric, our male vocalists got to unfreeze from their disco poses and join the choreography.

"ONE more look and I forget everything!" sang out our bass, with a startled inflection upon seeing the disaster in the front row. His voice had almost cracked.

The audience was so into the show! But we were so distracted -- her entire being was a complete mess, but we could not stop staring at her cleavage. I'm not sure why no one ever told her that gown wasn't working out. The neckline plunged to a low 'V', but had a sheer protective mesh that went up to her collar bone. Her breasts were too large to fit under the straps, and poured out like cottage cheese, pressing into the mesh, looking like the derrière of a morbidly obese person sitting on the glass of a xerox machine. It was truly obscene, and impossible not to look at.

She sat in misery throughout the show, while we performers exchanged grimaces, and the crowd obliviously partied on, ordering cocktail after cocktail. Our ABBA tribute was a huge hit, but we were not feeling so successful since we'd spent the show staring at a crazy woman frowning above her chest-ass. It was bewildering.

We changed out of our sweaty costumes and staggered to the back of the auditorium, where our post-show snack was delivered by our favorite night butler, Tadeo.

Before Tadeo took over the position, we were brought bland melon and sour pineapple for our post-show meal, or occasionally a platter of cheese sandwiches. (We had requested repeatedly to include food that had no dairy because of my allergy -- read about that here -- but to no avail.) Taddi noticed the food prepared for us usually sucked, and that we'd leave most of it untouched, so he asked us what we wanted.

"Some protein?" we suggested.

"Other fruit besides the leftover melon from the crew mess?" someone piped up.

And he did, always delivering it with a smile. He never made us feel guilty for having an extra meal written into our benefit grid, like a few butlers before him. He was always cheerful and gracious, and it made him happy to make us happy.

We never understood it, because ship butlers have a hard life. They work insane hours and got paid a fraction of what we made, and their work required them to appear to be in a good mood, to be immaculately dressed in a tuxedo, to accommodate the strangest requests, and to always go above and beyond.

Always tip your ship butlers well, you can't imagine how exhausting their life is.

Tadeo deserved all the tips in the world. When he delivered the food, he stayed to cheer us up if we were down. When we passed him in the corridor, he greeted us like we were friends. He was a gem.

On this particular evening, we were laughing about the disaster in our front row. Tadeo listened and joined in the gossip, before we dispersed to go to bed, and Taddi resumed his post.

The cast met to rehearse the opera show several days later, and Sierra arrived with the heebie-geebies.

"Amy Williams!" she shrieked.

"What'd she do now?" our bass singer Brennan asked.

"Wait, who's Amy Williams?" I asked.

"Remember that hot-ass mess from the ABBA show?" Brennan filled me in.

"Ohhh..."

"She keeps touching me!" Sierra cried.

"She what?" Brennan laughed.

"She's obsessed with my skin!"

"Not again."

"What happened?" I asked.

"She slinked up to me during the Captain's Welcome Aboard Party," began Sierra with a dramatic interpretation. "And started stroking my arm sayin' like, 'You have the best skin! So dark, so rich! You should do a spokesperson gig.' Then she shoves her card in my hand and whispers, 'Call me when you're back on land, I live in L.A.' According to her card she's a producer for some national TV station or something...?"

"Where was that man she was with?" I asked.

"Nowhere near her," Brennan said.

"She came up to me again at Coffee Chat, caressing my arms again...she's so nasty! But it looks like she hits on anyone that moves..." Sierra shuttered. "You know what I heard in the office, though?"

"What?"

"I heard that guy she's traveling with, she met online. And they decided to take a cruise together -- this is the first time they met. They met on this cruise in person for their first date!!"

The cast erupted in gasps and laughter.

"Apparently she looks different from her profile picture..." Sierra concluded.

We were seated in the officer's mess for dinner on a night that we had no show. Conversation lagged comfortably, until the manager of the jewelry boutique on board sat down, looking flustered.

"Did you ever get the last necklace back?" a shore concierge whispered to her with a knowing grin and wide eyes.

"No..." was the amused answer.

"Poor guy, he gets charged for something after all," the concierge chuckled.

"All that commission I thought I was getting..." the manager sighed.

"You made a good sale?" I inquired.

"Yes...too good to be true," she started wistfully. "That crazy lady that everyone hates? She came into the shop and purchased everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING, except one ring she said she didn't like. Over a million dollars she spent! And she charged it to her room, which is covered by that poor man's credit card."

"What--"

"Will wonders never cease?" were the comments muttered around the table.

"When he was notified of the charge -- because apparently there have been many strange charges made to that room -- he was furious and demanded she return all of it. She refused, so when he reported it to me, I had to get security to go into their cabin and retrieve it -- because otherwise, it's a case of theft. They found all of it but one piece, so I have to charge him for that..." she shook her head.

"We have made preparations for him to disembark in port tomorrow," the financial officer chimed in.

"No kidding!"

"Guess Amy Williams didn't turn out to be the dreamboat he was expecting..."

Our tenor Rob and I hosted a table of guests in the formal dining room on another evening when there was no show to perform. Since we went through the trouble of getting into dress code attire for informal night, we decided to walk around after our meal and be social.

Rob's former roommate and our dear friend Horatio worked at the Reception Desk, and was a favorite of ours to visit. Around 10pm, things at reception were generally slow, so we could stop for a chat.

"So how's things?" I casually leaned my elbow on his counter.

"Absolutely crazy!" he exclaimed. "That Ms. Williams -- we don't get any quiet. It's been phone call after phone call, either from her or about her, all voyage long."

"Yeah?"

"Her boyfriend disembarking, the theft investigation, guests complaining about her being drunk, or loud, or too fresh, the bizarre demands she has...I am so ready for that bitch to leave..." Horatio finished under his breath.

For this gentle soul to say something unkind about someone else, it truly took a lot. We shook our heads in sympathy. We quietly commiserated, careful to make sure no guests were in earshot.

Tadeo, our beloved night butler, rounded the corner abruptly and almost collided with us.

"I'm sorry, I need to file a report," he addressed Horatio.

"What happened?"

"I was delivering a room service order to Cabin 947 --"

"To Amy Williams?" Horatio interrupted, rolling his eyes.

"Yes," Tadeo gulped, ringing his hands. "So I brought the food, and she was barely dressed when she let me in. She asked me to zip up her dress for her, but I did not feel comfortable. There was no one else to witness and I didn't want to touch her! Then she got mad at me! She came right up to me, begging -- demanding -- and I kept saying, 'Let me call the room steward, she can do it, I cannot' and she told me not to, said I had to do it. So I backed out of the suite and came straight down here. I just felt so uncomfortable --"

The reception phone rang. All four of our heads jerked towards it.

"Excuse me..." winced Horatio. Then in an immediately cheerful voice: "Reception desk, this is Horatio. How can I help --" Silence.

He pursed his lips and gave us a significant look. Taddi swayed nervously from side to side.

"Yes...yes... Well tell me, ma'am, and I'll document everything."

Tadeo drained of color. Horatio's shoulders tensed and his brow furrowed. Rob and I listened, holding our breath. Horatio grabbed a pencil and scribbled notes furiously. When he hung up, he looked like he was at a funeral.

"She has accused you of rape," he said incredulously to Tadeo, completely stunned. "I cannot believe this --"

"WHAT?" Rob and I exploded in unison.

Our dear Taddi looked about to collapse.

"I know it's bullshit --" Horatio began.

"He would never!" I cried.

"--but I have to document it anyway. I will also document what you reported, and be sure to note the time you reported the incident was earlier than hers... I don't know what else to do. She's a liar!" Horatio escalated.

"Taddi, this has to sort itself out..." my mind raced and I had no idea what to say.

"Sorry guys, I need to get to work, people will be coming immediately and I can't look distracted," Horatio said.

"Let us know if you need anything," Rob offered.

"Right. Taddi, keep us posted. I know you're telling the truth," I said.

We vacated the area, and looked back at Taddi in his butler's coat tails, standing bravely, yet so vulnerable.

The cast performed our tribute to Motown the next night. There was a palpable tension throughout the crew, and we simply were not feeling in the mood for a show, though we rallied anyway. I hadn't heard any factual updates on Taddi's situation, only rumors flying through the ship.

We changed out of our costumes and awaited our post-show snack. It arrived 10 minutes late, and when we saw it wasn't delivered by Taddi, our hearts sank.

A platter of stale fruit was dropped off by a new night butler, who was very somber.

"What happened to Taddi?" I asked.

We all looked to him, pleading silently for news.

"He's been locked in a cabin in solitary confinement for the rest of the voyage," he said, appearing surprised and somewhat touched at our concern.

The cast let out a collective, mournful groan.

"That's three days!" I wailed.

"Yes. Lawyers for the fleet and for Amy Williams have been contacted, and will be meeting in port when she disembarks in Vancouver. HR took Tadeo's statement, now it's up to Captain and the lawyers, I guess."

The whole crew was up in arms after that. Our crew may have been a very dysfunctional family, but we were a family nonetheless. If you threatened one of us, you had all of us to answer to -- and we made up half the population of that ship.

Tadeo was from the Philippines, a very impoverished third world country with a low economic standard of living. But by working at sea, even on a meager butler's salary, most Filipinos were able to not only buy a house for their families, but another for their extended relatives too. And Filipinos are known to have large, close-knit families. One butler's income could lift an entire family, of 20 to maybe 50 people, out of abject poverty. In accusing him of a crime, Amy Williams threatened his entire career. If Tadeo were found guilty, he couldn't work at sea anymore, and the well-being of his whole family would be ripped out from under them. All because some eccentric wealthy white-privilege L.A. woman felt like acting a little crazy on a cruise when no one bought into the network television producer persona she tried to create for herself, while meeting a stranger from online dating.

"Did you hear? Not even her husband believed her claim of assault!" the shore concierge mentioned in the officer's mess at dinner. "The whole thing is a sick joke!"

"That man was her husband? The one who disembarked early?" I was so confused.

"No, no, he was some guy she was cheating on her husband with, that she met online," he informed me. "Evidently that guy wasn't too thrilled to find out she was still married either. We didn't find out until we started investigating her accusations!"

"I don't know why she wasn't kicked off the ship when that man left," the financial officer added. "He closed his account and took his credit card with him. And she had no card or even a bank account to list under her room number, and legally you cannot be aboard this vessel without some kind of financial backing. Her husband adamantly refused to provide one too, once we discovered he was still in the picture."

"We should've kicked her off after the jewelry theft investigation," our navigation officer chimed in. "Captian's on some very thin ice, because he'll lose his crew if Amy Williams wins this case. But her case keeps getting weaker and weaker -- every day her story changes. We all know she's lying."

The whole mess nodded.

"Captain's making sure Taddi's being well taken care of though," said the Head of Housekeeping. "He's in solitary confinement as a legal precaution, but also he's afraid guests might attack Taddi if they see him around, in case anyone believes the rumors Ms. Williams spreads. So by locking him up, he's keeping him, and the whole company, safe. And he's making sure Tadeo's eating well, and looks the other way when the other butlers bring him extra snacks, or stick around for a visit."

"I don't think even the guests believe Ms. Williams," added another receptionist. "The entire ship hates her. The number of complaints we got of her touching people..."

"I even had to make sure that only women cabin stewards attend to her for the rest of the voyage. That means those ladies have to take on the role of butler for Ms. Williams as well. But none of my staff are complaining, if it helps Tadeo and protects the other men too," the Head of Housekeeping said. "I feel awful to ask extra work of them, because Ms. Williams was already demanding to begin with."

When alone with my thoughts, I tried to think of something to do to help my friend, despite feeling completely powerless. I reeled with anger at Amy Williams for crying wolf on a rape, as I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. Low-life women like her are the reason it's next to impossible for women like me to be taken seriously when we come forward with our trauma and accusations. If she won this case without the cruise line putting up a good fight, I could no longer work for this company for moral reasons. But quitting wouldn't help Taddi or his family. Could I write an exposé? Post something on social media that could go viral to raise money for his family? My head spun for those last three days. All that could be done was to see what settlement the lawyers would reach.

Disembarkation came for Amy Williams. She was wished a resounding "good riddance" from guests and crew alike. Embarkation for the next voyage happened later that same day, and as we sailed away, joyfully free of her drama, I became anxious. I hadn't heard any news of the meeting of attorneys.

"What happened?" I whispered to the financial officer in the mess hall over dinner.

"Oh! The meeting was cancelled! She called her lawyers and told them not to come," he smiled.

"WHAT!?!"

"Yes, she dropped all charges. It seems she was advised that her story didn't hold much water," his smile grew wider.

"So Tadeo? Is his record clear?"

"Yup! No charges, no consequences! Captain did so well by him!" he beamed.

"That's wonderful!!"

"He hasn't been required to take on duties yet either, they just let him out. I think he'll go on vacation early to recover from the stress, but that's all up to Tadeo."

"This is the best outcome we could've hoped for!"

Tadeo did choose to go home early to his family. He also decided to get a job with a freight company so he no longer had to deal with passengers at sea. I did get to bump into him before he left, and I gave him a huge congratulatory farewell hug. He still checks in with me from time to time, and says he is doing well.

#MamaMia #ABBA #shiplife #crewlife #hotmess #cleavage #jewelrytheft #butler #Filipino #Philippines #rape #sexualassault #cryingwolf #networktelevisionproducer #sexualharassment #onlinedating #mentalillness #disco #falseaccusations

jess@jessikabrust.com

www.reverbnation.com/jessikabrust

 

 

 

 

© 2015 by Jessika Brust

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