‘Let It Snow’ in LA (A Party with my LA Agent)

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…

The Party

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.

She begins:

“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!

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

hollywood_break

“You called me!” (A Conversation with my LA Agent)

My agent was short and well-connected.  He was bald, badly-dressed and had a Napoleonic complex larger than Toulouse.  He scared off a lot of writers.

“That’s s—,” being his favorite assessment of anyone’s work or ideas.

For some reason, I liked him.  For an altogether different reason he liked me – or rather my big- budget, action adventure script.  He once put his hand on my shoulder.  I believe it was affectionate.

He wore a baseball cap.  (They all did for a while.)  He scuttled a deal on one of my screenplays by trying to glum on as producer.  (They all did that for a while too.)

I used to put our conversations on speaker for anyone else present.  Just so they’d believe me when I told the stories.

In that spirit, I recreate below a phone conversation.  It’s as close to verbatim as I can get.  That is to say, I’m not making this up.  Why would I?  This truth being somewhat stranger, cruder and more clichéd than fiction.

The agent’s name has been redacted to protect the innocent, which would be me.  Also, the agent is extremely litigious.

The Phone Call

David:  Hi Agent, it’s David.  How are you?

Agent:  Know how many David’s I know?

David:  Hogan.  Your client?  The one whose screenplay you were all excited about.

Agent:  The f— you callin’ me for?

David:  You called me.

Agent:  No, I didn’t.

David:  On Friday, you did.

Agent:  It’s Monday.  Three f—ing days go by and you call me!

David:  I didn’t get your message until Friday night.  I thought if it was really important you’d call back, otherwise-

Agent:  -I wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important.

David:  Not to see how I’m doing?  I’m hurt.

Agent:  F— that.  Hold on…

Papers shuffling in background.  Mumbles.  A phone ringing in the distance.  Eventually…

Agent:  B—– wants to read your script.  He’s an a—hole, but can get a movie made.  Why didn’t you call me sooner?

David:  Why didn’t you remember?

Agent:  Weren’t you supposed to change the location?  You finish that yet?

(Note: The agent had requested that I change the location.  He thought it’d be easier to raise international financing if the screenplay was set in a large European city.) 

David:  I’ll have it by the end of the day.

Agent:  That’s why you’re my favorite client.  The rest are all s—, believe me.

David:  I bet you refer to me like that when I’m not on the phone.

Agent:  Not to your face.

David:  I’m rehurt.

Agent:  F— you.  When you’re done, send it directly to B—–@BigProdco.com.  Write that down.  Put my name and the title in the subject line so it’ll get through and ‘cc’ me.

David:  Isn’t it your job to send it?

Agent:  Won’t be here.  Send it … and stay in touch.

—————————————

END NOTES:

B—— the a–hole passed on the screenplay, which remains unsold.

The agent still hasn’t grown hair … or taller.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

hollywood_break

Sunday Morning Comin’ Down (in Greece)

On a Sunday morning in the large amphitheater of my Greek Island village, the male voices of the psaltis from three distinct churches could be heard concurrently.  In the Carnegie Hall-like acoustics of the village, their unamplified chants arrived at nearly the same tone and volume to the house, located high on the village curve.  The effect, however, made the timeless medieval melodies discordant and jarring.

But there were rewards for the patient xenos eavesdropping from above.  If you listened long enough, there came times when the trinity of chanted prayers harmonized unexpectedly and melded into something more sublime and beautiful than any single one of them could have been.

And I thought, there it is in a song: the history of this island, a place where fishermen, cooks, wives, builders and farmers lived together for 5,000 years, sometimes in competition, sometimes in harmony, but almost always in an unenforced and organic equality.  They ate and drank with each other, bought and sold from each other, and married each other.  Their lives were limited, perhaps, but contentedly circumscribed.**  But that was before the European Union and, later, Hollywood discovered the island, before the drachma became the Euro, before the new port and trawl nets and so many pale tourists with fat pockets.

There aren’t enough fish anymore; the few small fishing boats that remain are largely ornamental.  Successful tavernas swallow their less sophisticated rivals, bringing in food and even fish — fish! — from the outside.  Rooms that were once rented by local families have given way to hotels.  In short, the interdependence of the villagers is gone.  A few grow rich, while others, having lost their livelihoods, go to work for them.  It is what we in the restless West understand as the way of the world — almost without thinking about it.  And it is what many call progress — again, almost without thinking about it.

I’ve been coming every summer for over 20 years and have seen the changes in snapshots.  The hope is that one day the tide will, somehow, rise in the tide-less Aegean and lift all boats — but so far that isn’t the case.

So far, the changes have made the villagers like those discordant psaltis on Sunday mornings.  They compete with each other in way they didn’t have to previously, knowing that in the future there will be a few amplified winners and many more losers.  And the not-so-small miracle of the resounding harmony that was this island for 5,000 years will be lost forever.

————————————————–

** I suppose I could be accused here of romanticizing village life from a safe distance — but I take my lead from two novelists, Leo Tolstoy and Nikos Kazantzakis, who both concluded that the so-called simple villager lives a full life and knows all one ever needs  to know.

You can buy ‘THE LAST ISLAND’ here.

3church_break