He knew people. Had connections. A Brushes-With-Hollywood™ Tale by Mark Aldrich.
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There is a big difference between living a life story about which people say, “That ought to be a movie,” and possessing a life story about which those same people will pay real money to buy the book or sit in a theater to view that movie.
Many people are the stars in a movie that is only being made in their minds (an imaginary camera always accompanies me at the coffee shop), and many people have at least one real-life incident about which the go-to analogy is, “It was just like a movie.” Movies confer reality in our collective consciousness.
Some people get to make those movies, and there is where the relationship between movies and real life sometimes shake hands. If you landed the job of producer or casting director or even stagehand or intern on the crew of a Big Hollywood Anything, every nephew and brother-in-law that you may or may not have ever met might set about to audition via annoying moments for their rightful place beside you on the sound stage.
Two stories. I once worked in a bookstore with someone whose closest college friend worked as a personal assistant to a famous, Oscar-winning, director whose name sounds like “Don Howard.” It was a strong enough connection (a college friendship) that my co-worker actually attended the Oscars a couple of times and met some of those famous people that famous people want to meet. It was not a strong enough connection, however, to send movie ideas to this busy Hollywood director, or to land an audition with him or his people, no matter how many attempts I watched people make at our bookstore checkout counter.
My friend was a clerk in a college bookstore in New Paltz, New York, for crying out loud, not a casting director from Los Angeles slumming it in our sleepy college town. The somewhat important fact that she did not have “Don Howard” on speed dial at home did not matter when this tangentially close not very personal relationship became known every so often. Impromptu auditions would happen at the checkout line.
Now, I myself did not pretend-audition even though I have acted here and there, as I was too busy with my unimpressive attempts to impress the famous writers who would sometimes pass through our front door. (If there is a character who reminds you of me in a Stephen King novel, why then, that certainly must be me.)
And I have experienced this movie fantasy from the other side. This is my second story. A few years ago, a friend of mine and I were introduced to a film actor, a well-known one. My friend happens to have lived a life story about which everyone says, “That sounds like a movie.” When he heard some of my friend’s life story, the film actor himself said, “That sounds like a movie.”
“How soon can you come out to Los Angeles?” the actor actually asked us, out loud, with those very words. “How soon can you come out to L.A.? I will be there next week, shooting” (insert name of television show that was in production at that time) “and I’ll talk with” (insert name of famously famous actor with whom he was extremely extraordinarily best close friends with for all time) “before you come out here. Of course,” (insert name of famous famous actor whom he knew better than I know my family) “will want to play YOUR part,” he said to my friend with a chuckle, but added, “I will let him believe this, so our project will get fast-tracked.”
“Our project.” That one word, “our,” transformed the story from a real-life life to something better: a movie. That transition from our project to our-project-with-him-who-knew-people-who-would-get-these-things-done-with-us sounded just like a compliment. So much like a compliment.
And for a halfteenth of a second it looked like it was going to happen.
I was to be the writer, of course. Our actor friend, my friend with the adventurous life story, and I exchanged phone numbers and handshakes and hugs and my friend and I were tasked to work on the future award-winning screenplay about his life.
“I will be back here in New York the week after next and I will let you know how it went,” our friend told us. By “it,” I took him to mean the meeting at which he pitched our story—I mean, his and our story, and, really, and you must remember this, my friend’s story, not mine—to his famous friend. “Be ready to fly out at a moment’s notice.” I even started to look up airline ticket prices. “A moment’s notice-isss-issss-iss,” echoed in my cranium.
I was sure that I was going to be in Los Angeles for the first time ever in a matter of weeks. (Years later, I still haven’t been.) I wrote a preliminary screenplay treatment and emailed it to our important but now very close personal actor friend, whom I will refer to as Mister Hollywood. I thought he ought to have the treatment, even a slim outline that represented the story we had described to him over lunch. No reply came. I checked my spam filter on my email.
No matter. I knew I needed to continue the work with my friend so that we would be ready the moment we needed to be ready. I expanded it into a more complete film treatment over the next few days, probably a very unprofessional one, but does the look of a document matter when the story itself “sounds like it ought to be a Hollywood movie?” and its recipient is to be a famous actor who said it “ought to be a movie,” himself? Mister Hollywood was going to have someone handle the formatting, anyway, and he was also going to serve as our personal key to unlock the Golden Door.
No reply came to that work, either, not even in the spam filter, and the promised return from our friend “a week or so from now” came instead more than a year later. His television show had been picked up for a full season, so he had been legitimately busy in his own real-life life of making fantasies appear real inside a television camera.
When we saw him again, he did not mention our shared project. Our project. You know, that thing, our-project-with-him? A moment’s notice-iss-issss-iss?
I half-heartedly brought it up when he and I were alone, and he replied, “You’re a writer, right? That guy … oh, I remember that one.” He paused a moment to allow his memory to actually supply him with the memory he claimed to have.
“I remember that one. That’s a good story. It sounds just like a movie. If you get anyone’s attention in Hollywood, maybe I can help you find a place to stay.”
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Mark Aldrich is a journalist, award-winning humor columnist, and writer/performer with The Magnificent Glass Pelican audio theater improv group, now in its thirtieth season. His website is TheGadAboutTown.com.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.