A performer looks at her face in the mirror while prepping for a show. She has the face of a rising star. Her songs will make the audience at Reilly’s Ace of Clubs forget themselves. Perhaps she’ll even make them forget there are celebrities in their midst who frequent this elite nightspot. All eyes will be on only one face—but will it be her face?
Suddenly, she sees the reflection of a tattered, masked face behind her in the mirror. She gasps in shock; he doesn’t belong in here, she says! The figure, who covers his mouth with a bandana and conceals his greasy brown hair with a dirty fedora hat, silences her. As he reaches for the starlet’s vase, igniting the flowers it contains upon contact, he poses a question to the singer: since she seeks to make her mark on the city, has she considered the mark it might make on her? Imagine the touch of its corruption on her face and flesh, the intruder says. Imagine the touch of its corruption on her soul! He implores her to save herself, and leave not only the club, but the entire city. He orders her never to return. “The decision is yours,” he says, “but vengeance is Tatterdemalion’s!”
Outside, the evening passes without song. There are no new stars over Hollywood. But this, however, is Hollywood, and here, the faces change, and the dream goes on. Inside Reilly’s Ace of Clubs, a replacement singer approaches the booking manager. When he asks her name, she hesitantly gives it as Dolores Rudolph. The booker, Rick Conti, candidly tells her to drop the Rudolph routine; he knows who she is. She’s the Dazzler, he says. He’s seen her picture all over the newspapers—she’s one of them mutants! Dazzler confirms this, but adds that she is a singer as well—but, as usual, assumes that doesn’t matter. She prepares to leave.
As she goes, however, Rick reminds her that no one told her to leave. He’s never met a mutant before, he says while nudging her chin; if they’re all as pretty as her, he can’t wait to meet more! “Okay,” she says. “My name’s Alison Blaire… not baby!” Undeterred, Rick tells her that he bets a lot of people would pay top dollar to see a real live mutant. Annoyed, Alison reminds him that she is a singer. If he wants a sideshow, he can call Barnum and Bailey. She thanks him for his team and heads for the exit. Again, Rick stops her, this time by putting his hand on her shoulder. If she wants to work with the normals, he says, she needs to learn to take a little kidding.
Dazzler asks if he’s interested in her singing at all. Rick tells her plainly that their last singer abruptly boarded a train to Tulsa the day prior, without explanation. It’s the second time that month it’s happened, he says. The tried-and-true talent is booked up, which means it’s her shot, if she wants it. She can even call herself Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer if she wants, so long as she dazzlers him—because this is just the break she needs!
After their meeting, Rick introduces her to his pianist, Julia, and says he’s testing her singing skills. When he gives Alison the option of picking a song to sing, she asks Julia to play “Let’s Dance”. Irked, Julia informs her that they run a nightclub, not a disco; they prefer mood in their music. After telling Julia to give her a break, Rick asks Alison if she knows any forties numbers. She asks if “I’ll Be Seeing You” is okay. “A torch song,” Rick replies. “Great, break my heart.” He should live so long, Alison thinks to herself before beginning.
Once she gets the cue from Julia, she busts out the tune. She only makes it through the first two stanzas before Rick jumps up and shouts for her to stop. That bad, she asks? Surprised, Rick asks if she’s kidding; she’s great! His troubles are over! Her troubles are over! She’s going to be a star—and he’s going to be the one who discovered her! Him and half a million others, Alison sighs as she endures Rick Conti’s hug.
“What a swell party this is!” Julia says sarcastically. She gets up from her seat and leaves. She’ll see them at showtime, she says—if there is a showtime for a change. After Julia’s departure, Alison asks if she said something to offend her; she was so hostile. She also has the feeling she’s seen Julia before somewhere. Rick tells her to forget Julia; she’s washed up in the biz. He only lets her work there because he’s a nice guy, he says. Changing subjects, he hands Alison a stack of cash and tells her to do something nice for herself, like buy a new, slinky gown for the show. Dumbfounded, Alison refuses the money; she can’t take it until she’s earned it, she says. It’s her policy. She can at least let him give her a ride home, Mr. Conti adds. After telling him a friend is picking her up, Dazzler thanks him and leaves. She ignores his protests as she leaves, which include him begging to let him prove he’s a nice guy. He even implores her to call him Rick.
Some guys never give up, Alison sighs as she exits. On the way out of the theater, an old movie poster featuring a performer named Julia Walker catches her eye. After observing that the poster looks like it has been there for years, Alison does a double-take at the woman on the advertisement. It’s Julia, the pianist, and she remembers now where she’s seen her—the movies! So that’s what happened to her, she thinks as her ride arrives.
She gets in the blue convertible with her friend Janet. When Janet asks how it went, Dazzler enthusiastically reports that she got the job! She starts that night with a flurry of faves from the forties and fifties! “Oh. Classical music,” Janet observes.
Alison asks Janet if she happens to remember Julia Walker. Janet doesn’t at first, but then recalls her and Michael Wyatt making quite the dance duo in a dozen or so movies. Her mom found them superior to Rogers and Astaire, she muses. She doesn’t suppose Julia dances in the club? No, Alison says, explaining that she’s actually the accompanist. No kidding, Janet comments; she’ll have to tell her mother. It’s funny how some people turn out; she was a big star once! “Yeah…funny,” Dazzler replies. Janet tells her not to sweat it; that won’t happen to her. Her troubles are almost over anyway! That’s exactly what Mr. Conti said, Dazzler replies. She can’t help but wonder if it’s true.
As she says this, their car passes over a manhole in the street. They stop at a red light. Immediately behind them, the manhole cover opens, and a man—Tatterdemalion—emerges from the sewer, with a determined look on his sinister face. Before the car passes, he reaches out and touches both rears tires with his fingers, causing the rubber to hiss and melt.
Inside, the girls continue their conversation. Janet calls Alison a worry-wart; she got the job and that’s what’s important! She moans about the length of the red light before it finally turns green. Good thing, she quips; if the light had been any longer, the city may have charged them for parking. They depart once again. Behind them, Tatterdemalion follows on foot.
Changing subjects, Janet now asks her passenger if Mr. Conti is cute. Ali barely has time to groan in disgust before the two rear tires blow out and send the convertible careening onto the sidewalk and into some bushes. The vehicle comes to a stop. Dazzler immediately turns to Janet, who is holding her head, and asks if she’s all right. Just a little shaken up, Janet answers. Thank heavens for shrubbery, she adds, aware of how weird it sounds to say. She asks Alison if she is okay, as she was the one in the so-called death seat.
The two women emerge from the crashed vehicle and inspect the damage. They note that there is not a scratch on the vehicle. It looks like the two tires blew, Ali observes. Janet can barely believe it; they were practically brand new! She’ll kill her mechanic, she shouts. To solve the problem, she decides to run to a pay phone and call AAA. She asks Alison if she will stay behind and watch the car. Sure, Alison says; she will be there when Janet returns.
Unbeknownst to Alison, the grimy Tatterdemalion emerges from the bushes behind her and stealthily approaches. “You are overconfident, woman!” he shouts as he pulls his hat over Alison’s face. Before she even has the chance to scream, she inhales the chloroform soaked into his hat and falls unconscious. As surely as the chemical renders her unconscious, he boasts, she will learn the lessons of corruption in Tatterdemalion’s domain!
For a time, Alison sees no light in her crowded mind, as dim daylight fades to pungent and desolate night. Then, she awakens. The smell hits her first. It smells like a sewer in here, she begins to say, before realizing she is actually in a sewer. Worse, before her stands the scarecrow-looking villain known as Tatterdemalion. This is his third and last warning, he declares! If she seeks to make her mark on this city, does she not worry what mark it might make on her? Repeating the same diatribe he gave the last singer he attacked, he asks Alison to imagine the touch of corruption on her face and her soul. As he says this, he takes a swipe at her, igniting the cloth on her left arm. That hurts, she shrieks! Ignoring her cries as she chokes the flame, Tatterdemalion implores her to save herself, and flee not just the vile Ace of Clubs, but the entire city! The decision is hers, he says.
Bewildered, Alison asks what it matters to Tatterdemalion that she sings at Reilly’s Ace of Clubs. She insists he answer. Tatterdemalion interprets this as the answer to his ultimatum; she has made her choice, he says, and therefore, vengeance must be his. He tells her he knows her kind. Her kind humiliates its betters. It crushes the spirits of the worthy. He sees so much wrong, he says—but he will make it right!
Dazzler springs to her feet and runs. Not over her dead body, she says in response to Tatterdemalion’s threat—and she was getting the feeling that is what he intended. Confused by her response, Tatterdemalion comments that she is feistier than she was on his last two visits; her fear has given her spirit! However, she has nowhere to run, he says. These sewers, and her life, belong to Tatterdemalion! He lobs a lead pipe at her as she tries to escape.
Dazzler, dodging the projectile weapon, begins piecing together some of the mystery. Her captor must be the one who scared away the other singers from the club. He can’t distinguish between them, however; he thinks they’re all the same girl! Grabbing the lead pipe, Dazzler tells Tatterdemalion that she’s not who he thinks she is. She beats the pipe on the concrete ground, producing a loud clanging noise as she says this. It powers her light-transduction power. Turning toward Tatterdemalion, and assuming he might need some convincing, she fires two light beams at him and asks if the other girls were super-powered mutants who could absorb sound and emit it as dazzling, radiant light. Her counter-attack blinds him, causing Tatterdemalion to grab his eyes and cry out in pain. She tricked him, he screams!
As she darts through the sewers, Dazzler hears Tatterdemalion screaming after her. She’ll pay for her transgressions, his cries echo. Dazzler hears them getting closer; he’s already on her heels, she says to herself! If only she could absorb more sound in the sewers. However, the only ambient noises are muddy echoes—not nearly enough to charge her attacks. She infers, though, that Tatterdemalion may wait until her light fades to attack again. That gives her a couple of minutes at best.
She continues to flee. The more she runs, the more she convinces herself she may have actually escaped the creepy stalker. Her flare must have really rattled him, she says. She speaks a second too soon: emerging before her in the showers is the ominous figure of Tatterdemalion. “What a swell party this is, eh?” he asks. He reaches out at her menacingly, but Alison once more slips his grip and sprints into another corridor. He mocks her feeble attempt at escaping; after all, these are his sewers, and he knows their twisting passages well! Wherever she goes, he’ll be waiting!
In her fear, Dazzler neglects to watch her footing, trips over a pipe laying over the ground and lands chest-first in a dirty puddle. Her clumsiness angers her; she’s playing right into Tatterdemalion’s hands. When she looks up, however, she receives a glimmer of hope—literally light at the end of the tunnel. It’s got to be an exit, she says! She runes toward it. Just as she nears the source, a man drops into her frame of vision, hanging from a ladder. What’s she doing down there, he asks? He comments that she looks like she’s got the devil on her tail! “Not the devil—just that guy!” Alison replies, pointing toward the shrouded figure of Tatterdemalion in the distance. The man, a construction worker, doesn’t understand what she means; he sees no figure in the distance. She’s getting spooked by shadows, he says. He tells her he can’t wait to hear her story. As he scopes out her figure, however, he decides maybe he can wait.
Ignoring his sleazy advances, Alison ascends the ladder and emerges from a manhole in the middle of a street. Two nearby men immediately begin to sexually harass her. Ignoring them, Alison runs back to Janet’s crashed car, where she finds her friend waiting with a tow truck. Janet asks where she’s been—and what that awful smell is. Shrugging, Alison tells her she had an unfortunate encounter with a bum. This answer surprises Janet, but she decides to hear the story later, after they get seated in the truck. It might leave them there, after all, and Alison has a show to do that night!
Meanwhile, while watching this reunion from the bushes, Tatterdemalion comments that he has a show to undo that night! He laughs maniacally.
Two hours later, on Rodeo Drive, Dazzler does some shopping for the night’s show. First the sewers, and then Beverly Hills, she thinks to herself while wearing her new purchase. This has been a real rags-to-riches afternoon. The silver lamé dress she purchased isn’t exactly what she wanted to wear for her debut, but it will have to suffice. Now, if she can just get through the performance without Tatterdemalion showing up…
No sooner than she completes that thought and steps outside does she spot Julia, the accompanist, window-shopping on Rodeo Drive. She asks Julia what she’s doing there. “Why shouldn’t I be here, Ms. Rudolph?” Julia asks. “Aren’t I good enough to shop at the same stores as the likes of you?” Immediately after hurling this insult, Julia corrects herself and apologies. “That was uncalled for,” she says. “Sometimes when I see young women…so talented, so full of future…” Trailing off, she admits to Alison she was very rude that afternoon and would like to make amends. She invites her to get a cup of coffee with her.
Shortly thereafter, at a coffee shop, Alison and Julia find their seats. As she sits down, Alison extends an apology to Julia in response; she was so excited during her audition that she totally failed to recognize who Julia was. Julia tells her there’s no reason for her to apologize—unless she spends a lot of late nights with the TV. “You don’t understand, Julia,” Alison replies. “I used to watch the films you made with Michael Wyatt all the time when I was a child. You can’t imagine how a seven-year-old reacts to the singing and dancing...and…and glamour…”
Julia laughs heartily. Please, she says to Alison! She’s letting her age slip. The truth is, however, that she was no Cyd Charisse, and Michael was no Gene Kelly. She loved him anyway, though; those were the days. Alison asks why they ever broke up. Bemused, Julia asks if she didn’t read all about it in “Confidential”. After apologizing for once again dating herself, Julia says it was because of Michael. They were fine doing little movies, she says, but he wasn’t interested in just a little success. He wanted it all—fast. But he kept getting turned down for the top roles. It didn’t take long for him to sour on Hollywood, she says as she sips her cappuccino.
Continuing, Julia states that Michael claimed he’d had friends who would set him up with a Vegas casino. Julia, meanwhile, had decided to continue on as an actress. And that, she says, was the end of that. Unfortunately, the movie produces wanted toe Wyatt-Walker team, not half of it. Although she managed to play some bit parts for a while, Julia’s acting prospects soon withered to nothing. Wouldn’t Michael take her back, Dazzler asks? Julia says he never got the chance: when she went looking for him, he had vanished from Vegas. She never saw him again.
Julia ends her cautionary tale by advising ‘Dolores’ to watch out. This town, she says, can chew a person up and spit her out before she sees it coming. Admonishing herself, Julia blames her own rotten pride for costing her Michael, her career and her happiness.
“Ah, what a swell party this is!” Julia says, standing up to leave. “I didn’t mean to bring you down.” She says it’s time to get ready for the show. After Alison offers to pay the check, she tells Julia that she’s available if she ever needs to talk. Thanks, Julia says, adding that she may take her up on it sometime. As Julia leaves, Alison’s heart goes out to her. She’s been through so much, she thinks. Sometimes Alison fears she may end up just like her. However, she suddenly insists she won’t; she knows the odds and they’re not going to stop her! Nothing will stop her—not even Tatterdemalion!
Night falls on Hollywood—a night much like any other. For some at Reilly’s Ace of Clubs, the night is fragrant with hope. For others, it is rotten with doubt and desperation. At the club, while Alison Blaire serenades the audience with her rendition of “We’ll Meet Again”, no one seems to notice the stench of hate—and of fear—until it is on them.
Suddenly, Tatterdemalion crashes through the wall and descends on the audience. A terrified bartender begins uttering a familiar expletive beginning with the word “holy”. Tatterdemalion, however, reminds the cretin there is nothing holy in him—or in him or his filthy money or liquor! As he ignites an object in the patron’s hand, he tells him he has purchased his baubles with the shattered dreams of his betters. Next, Tatterdemalion turns his attention to a nearby woman wearing an expensive fur coat. He sets it alight with a touch of his hand. The woman begins to scream. Tatterdemalion, his menace unchecked, tells the club that, for their slights, for the humiliation they’ve inflicted, and for the innocents they’ve trammeled, there shall be a reckoning! He catapults into a nearby table, splitting in two.
“A trashcan Karl Marx. Great!” an angry bouncer says. “Why can’t these things happen on my day off?” He and a peer arise to fight the intruder. They can make it easy for him, the say—or they can make it rough. Tatterdemalion accepts their challenge with glee. He tells the bully boys to make it rough, by all means! He declares they shall soon defer to their better. With a well-timed spin, he twirls the ends of his weighted scarf across both of their faces, knocking them unconscious.
With the obstacles out of his way, Tatterdemalion returns to the matter at hand—the destruction of the woman who dared defy him! He leaps to the stage. Julia Walker, thinking he is coming for her, begs for mercy. The stage manager takes the opportunity to remind Tatterdemalion he is not allowed on stage, and tells him to get off. Enraged, Tatterdemalion turns to him, shoots him an icy glare, and asks if he dares command him. The frightened stage manager concedes and says he can make an exception, just this once.
Turning now to Dazzler, Tatterdemalion reminds her she is out of both tricks and champions. He gave her fair warning, he adds; thrice he warned her of the corruption of this place, and thrice she chose to embrace it! Now, corruption embraces her!
A voice from behind him begs him to stop. Tatterdemalion turns to find Julia Walker begging him not to hurt anyone. Just tell them what he wants, she cries. However, as she gets a good look at his eyes—the only part of his face unconcealed—something stirs in her, and she shrieks. “You…speak to me…of mercy?” he asks with a genuine look of confusion in his eyes. “You want this tart to go unpunished?”
Suddenly, he turns and runs off the stage, screaming as he flees that it wasn’t supposed to be like this! Dazzler is confused as anyone by this turn of events. After her attacker departs, she takes a moment to assess Julia’s condition. Julia seems shaken, but otherwise okay. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not everyone runs into these costumed creeps on a regular basis, she muses. But since I do—and it’s me he’s after—I’d better make sure this Tatterdemalion doesn’t get another shot at me! With that, she follows her assailant into the alleyway behind the club and chases after him. She wonders what she will do when she catches him, however, as she does not have much energy accumulated. Thankfully, she hears the blaring noise of a rock band playing in the club across the street. She never thought she’d say this, but thank heavens for Romeo Void!
Now charged, she turns toward the fleeing Tatterdemalion and fires a beam of high-powered light at him. Isn’t this a swell enough party for him, she asks? He wanted her—now he’s got her! Her attack succeeds in hitting—and enraging—Tatterdemalion. He turns toward Alison and, after telling her he would have let her live, proceeds to charge in her direction. As he readies his assault, however, he realizes her blast obliterated the weighted ends of his scarf—his primary means of attack. With his balance askew, he fails to connect with his target, and Alison jumps safely to the side.
Dazzler, still wearing her slinky silver dress, recovers after parrying his attack and tells him fair’s fair—he ruined her day, after all. She threatens to blast him again if he moves, only to realize that the rock music has stopped, thus depriving her of a second attack, as she has already exhausted her energy. “Your power deserts you?” he asks. “Allow me, then, to remedy your troubles with a single burning touch!” The leering Tatterdemalion prepares to incinerate his defenseless target. Suddenly, the rock music across the street begins again, empowering Dazzler. She blasts him across the alleyway and into a pile of trash. She’s got to practice reserving energy, she tells herself. This guy almost beat her! Regardless, Alison realizes there is something she now must do.
Later, Julia Walker is sitting before her vanity mirror when she hears a knock at the door. It’s Alison. Julia tells her to come in; the door is unlocked. To Julia’s surprise, however, Alison enters not alone, but with Tatterdemalion slung over her arm. She commands her to get that vile creature out of her apartment! Dazzler will take him to the police if that’s what Julia wants, she says. But first, she has a question. That phrase Julia uses—‘what a swell party this is’—where did it come from? It’s from an old Crosby movie called High Society, Julia answers. She and Michael used to say it all the time as an in-joke. Why, she asks? Dazzler tells her that she wondered why Tatterdemalion only attacked singers at that particular nightclub. When he used Julia’s same catchphrase in the sewer, and when he ran from her onstage, she found her answer. Unmasking Tatterdemalion, she tells Julia to meet her attacker.
The unmasked Tatterdemalion—revealed to be a balding, middle-aged man whose looks have faded—protests; she mustn’t see him like this, he says! Julia, shocked, recognizes his face—as Michael Wyatt’s! For a moment in the club, she thought she recognized him, she says—but she didn’t want it to be true! Why is he doing this? she asks.
Michael, falling to his knees, begs Julia not to be angry. He was only trying to help. He couldn’t bear to see them treat her like that—making her grovel for pennies at the piano. She should have been the star, he says—not this corrupt child. He begs for forgiveness. Julia tells him it’s all right.
She asks Dazzler—whom she still refers to as Dolores—if she plans on calling the police. Dazzler asks if that would even be necessary. They’ve both suffered enough, she says—and they both need something to live for. Maybe it’s not much, but how about living for each other? With that, she leaves the estranged partners to reunite. Julia ask Michael to get up; they’re going to get him clean, then everything will be all right.
As she walks home, Alison Blaire thinks not of the stars that rise over Hollywood, nor the stars that will be, but of those dark and lonely places in-between, where stars once were and are no more. That is not how she sees herself. As sleep drives the thoughts away, her place is in the light—and when she wakes, the future seems as free and warm as the early morning sun.
Janet says good morning to her in the kitchen of their apartment—if she can call three o’clock in the afternoon morning. How’d her night go, she asks? Did she knock them dead? Alison tells her she almost ended up dead herself! If it’s not the mutant-haters, there’s always someone else out there to get her, she says. Why can’t things be easier for her? Janet tells her to stop being ridiculous. Everyone has problems—in fact, Janet was frightened when she found out Ali was a mutant, she admits. However, when she pressed herself for one good reason why she should write off a mutant as a friend, she came up dry! She’s trying to make things easier for Alison, she says. “I like you, Ali.”
Dazzler thanks her for the sentiment. Life’s just been extra-rough lately, she says—and life used to be such a swell party.