My agent threw a holiday party. He told me there would be ‘performances.’ I wasn’t sure what that meant.
The party was held in a stately house in the Hollywood Hills. There was a balcony overlooking the city lights and a manicured lawn. I don’t think the house was his.
No alcohol was served. Too many of his clients were substance abusers. Nearly everyone on the balcony had a flask in their pocket.
I stood with friend and fellow writer, Randy, on the balcony when the agent called us into the house. The ‘performances’ were going to begin. Along with a handful of other clients, we didn’t move.
“You a—holes coming or what?” the agent barked.
Because ‘what’ seemed like the slightly less stimulating of those two options, we dumped some more Jameson’s into our glasses of warm coke and entered…
Maybe 50 people in the room. A man is playing the piano. “Linus and Lucy.”
Agent: We’re going to sing holiday songs. When I point to somebody, everybody else stops singing and that person sings alone.
Randy: I’m not doing it.
Agent: You’re f—ing doing it. Everybody’s doing it.
David: I don’t want to do it either.
Agent: Nobody wants to do it. That’s the point. We’re going to get in the holiday spirit. Quit acting like a bunch of p—ies.
The Agent gestures to the piano player, who begins to play ‘Let It Snow.’ An ironic song at a semi-sober party in LA (in more ways than one). Nonetheless, we sing:
“Oh the weather outside is frightful.
But the fire is so delightful.
And since we’ve no place to go…”
For the chorus the Agent points at Randy. We all knew it was coming. We stop singing.
Randy: I told you I’m not singing.
Agent: You have to.
Randy: I’m not.
Agent: That s— screenplay of yours is gonna sit on my desk forever.
Randy: Because I won’t sing? David will sing.
Randy points at me. Now I’m in a bind. If I sing, it will look like I’m giving in to the Agent’s bullying. If I don’t sing, who knows what might happen to my own screenplay? (The Agent’s threats are largely idle, but there you are.)
I point to the Character Actor next to me. (You might not recognize his face, but almost certainly would recognize his voice. He turned to writing when his acting career stalled.) Just then, the Actor is chewing a cheese canape. He can’t sing, but holds a finger up as a signal that he will do so after he swallows. The Agent is displeased.
Agent: F—- me with this group. Oughta drop every one of you. I’ll show you how it’s done.
The Agent charges up a winding staircase behind the piano player and disappears. Flasks emerge. The Character Actor blames himself. He’s explaining how he didn’t want to sing with food in his mouth. (He’s a very nice guy.)
And then from upstairs:
Agent: The f— is wrong with you? $15,000 on singing lessons and you won’t go down there!
The room below falls silent. We pretend not to listen, but we are listening. The piano player stops playing. Into the newfound silence:
Agent: They’re my f—ing clients, who cares? Get down- What? What? I don’t give a s— what you sing! Sure, f—ing ‘Moon River.’ Just get your a– down there
The Agent descends the winding staircase. A few moments later, his daughter follows. She is maybe 14 years old and in an awkward stage. Lanky, cow eyes, tear stains on her cheeks. She goes to the piano player and whispers. She wipes tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Moon river, wider than a mile.
I’m crossing you in style, some day.
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker.
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way…”
Though still emotional, she manages to get through the first chorus. She bows. As she rises, another tear falls. We applaud. She goes back up the staircase.
The Agent glares at his clients.
Agent: That’s how it’s f—ing done, you bunch of p—ies!