Lost-Coast-01

Lost Coast
Part One

by Morgan Hobbs

Out-of-work Hollywood types travel to the middle of nowhere to make an adventure show. 2,332 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Mann.


We were desperate. Art. Bruce. Lance. Tony. Scott. The whole lot of us. Desperate for another break. Desperate to make another month’s rent, another phone bill, another car payment. Desperate to make something happen. Tired of waiting tables, waiting in open houses, waiting to get slaughtered at the next cattle call. We’d all had a break or two already – a national commercial, a recurring role on HBO or FX or AMC, a juicy part in a fourquel splatter-fest. Just enough to keep our hopes up, keep us out of real jobs and real money. Only the breaks hadn’t led to bigger breaks. We needed that big roller to take us over the top. And this was our wave machine.

“Can you believe this shit?” said Art, an aspiring film editor scraping by on local commercials and backyard bare-knuckle brawl videos. Believe it or not, they pay people to edit those things. He got four hundred bucks and an eight ball for the last gig, which launched the career of a 380 pound overalls-clad cyclops named Opie Mohammed.

I couldn’t believe the tab as I looked at it, dollar signs burning my eyes. Even out in the middle of nowhere like we were, in some Northern California town where the redwoods met the Pacific, it was possible to run up a four figure bar tab. Before I could react, another round had arrived — bottles of Budweiser and whiskey backs, although you could have them in any order you liked. I could already feel the hangover and I knew a couple of the others were half blind. Somebody had to pay for this. The credit cards were maxed. We didn’t have the budget for this bill. I hailed the waitress and ordered another round of whiskey.

As soon as I said it I got hit in the eye with the flash. “How come every time I order a whiskey, you take my picture?” I asked.

Scott slipped the phone back in his pocket. “Because in Argentina they say ‘whiskey’ instead of ‘cheese’. Picked it up on a shoot in Patagonia.”

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About The Author:
Morgan Hobbs
Morgan Hobbs was a reader for Alpine Pictures, 1492 Pictures and Harpo Film and story editor for Greentree Pictures. He provided production support for the indie film The Discontents. He has written for Mississippi Review and Pindeldyboz and co-founded Paris Belletric's Archer Prize for Screenwriting. He just finished the Hollywood novel I'm The Bomb.
Prison 02

Prison
Part Two

by Zak Shaikh

A writer has to get out of a movie job contract and off an exotic island. 1,918 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The next morning, Jenny Logan came to escort me to Jack’s place. She didn’t say a word about the job offer she’d made me to come from L.A. to this isolated island off Cambodia and write and possibly direct a film. But, as we stopped outside the steps of the beachside mansion belonging to the movie studio owner, a Luxembourg billionaire, I noticed cut marks on both Jenny’s wrists. They were obviously recent.

Jenny saw me looking at them. “I’m sorry if I’ve been weird, James. I think, when I get back to L.A., I’ll be my normal self again.”

She gave me a kiss on the lips, and then pulled back before I could turn it into something intimate.

Just then, a tropical rainstorm snapped into life and I rushed inside the palatial home. Jack was short, stocky and tanned but not even plentiful spa treatments could hide his fifty-something age. He smiled like a villain from a Bond movie and welcomed me inside. Of course, Jack’s bodyguard stood expressionless five feet behind us at all times.

“Thank you for this amazing opportunity, Mr. Hauser,” I said politely. I noted he didn’t offer me a drink, not even tap water. At least in Hollywood they offer you a bottle of Voss before they drain you of life.

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About The Author:
Zak Shaikh
Zak Shaikh has written pilots for Warner Bros and Fox and was a staff writer on the TBS comedy Sullivan & Son. Of Indian and Pakistani descent, he was one of the Honorees of the WGA’s Feature Access Project and scripted the film adaptation of Stephen Fry novel The Liar and BBC journalist John Simpson memoir Strange Places, Questionable People. He briefly woked for Goldman Sachs and is a partner at the media consultancy Attentional.
Prison 01

Prison
Part One

by Zak Shaikh

A writer gets a movie job offer on an exotic island and goes to check it out. 2,134 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


It was bang in the middle of another Writers Guild strike, and I woke up with a throbbing headache. I hadn’t drunk more than half a bottle of Trader Joe cheap red, and in those days that wasn’t enough for me to suffer a hangover. No, the pounding in my forehead was a form of dread at the thought of traipsing over to Sony Studios to join my comrades on the picket line yet again. I didn’t even know what we were fighting for exactly: just something to do with making money from the Internet. All I did know for certain was that I was broke, and my damn headache wouldn’t go away.

As I sipped a cup of coffee inside one of the few remaining rent-controlled apartments in Santa Monica, I felt entirely disillusioned. I couldn’t turn on the TV for any respite because, without the writers, the programming was filled with reality shows and repeats. Nor did I feel like going out for a walk, as the June gloom had set in since L.A. is never as sunny as people like to think. So, instead, I stared at my laptop screen trying to come up with an original story idea.

In theory, this quiet period would give Hollywood writers an opportunity to delve into our artistry and create something we cared about. But my screen remained blank for an hour. If I’m honest, it was a futile task; I hadn’t been able to write anything original since my first script that had snagged me representation. Everything else since then had been assignments.

I was trying very hard to remember what I cared about – maybe that was giving me the headache – when my phone rang. This hadn’t happened in a few weeks. I feared that a comrade was calling out of disgust with my inability to show up at the picket line. But the call was from my agent.

Had the strike suddenly ended? Or was she quitting the business to start up a yoga studio?

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About The Author:
Zak Shaikh
Zak Shaikh has written pilots for Warner Bros and Fox and was a staff writer on the TBS comedy Sullivan & Son. Of Indian and Pakistani descent, he was one of the Honorees of the WGA’s Feature Access Project and scripted the film adaptation of Stephen Fry novel The Liar and BBC journalist John Simpson memoir Strange Places, Questionable People. He briefly woked for Goldman Sachs and is a partner at the media consultancy Attentional.
The Actress And The Guru 02

The Actress And The Guru

by Eric Gethers

A mother leaves her young son to take a movie role and pays a huge price for her ambition. 3,044 words. Illustration by John Mann.


During Grace’s divorce hearing five years ago, her husband Ted described her as follows: "If Grace was late for an interview at the studios and our son George, who she loves more than anything in the world, had a heart attack, she’d wait till she got back from the interview to call 911."

As fate would have it, the judge had also been married to an actress when he was young. Ted got full custody. Things changed. A truck lost control and hit Ted’s car, broadside, at a stop sign. It took five hours for the jaws of life to pry him loose and he was confined to an assisted living facility ever since.

As a result, George moved in with Grace full time.

Since his upcoming birthday, his sixth, was their first together, Grace was determined to make it the best ever, assuring Ted he had nothing to worry about and she cared more about their son than any interview. She bought George a shiny red-and-white Schwinn, the same one Pee-wee Herman had in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, on sale in the Bloomingdale’s Christmas catalogue. Since George had never ridden a two wheeler before, Grace led him outside to a secure area, stood behind the bike and held onto the seat while he tried to pedal. White-faced with fear, the boy wobbled and fell but, after countless failed attempts, broke free. Picking up speed till he was little more than a blur, his smile increased proportionately to the realization of his achievement.

Eventually, he doubled back to where his mother was standing. Only Grace wasn’t smiling. She was inspecting her right hand, the one that held the bike, punctured by the metal spring that attached the seat to its frame. Having severed a small artery below the skin, she saw her blood spurt everywhere.

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About The Author:
Eric Gethers
Eric Gethers has written films and done extensive script doctoring for every major studio. He wrote his first novel, Whales Swim Naked, two years ago while living in France. He and his screenwriting partner Tony Eldridge (The Equalizer) are currently working on a film adaptation of David Fisher's award winning book Conversations With My Cat.
A Great Bad Year 3A

A Great Bad Year
Part Three

by Anne Goursaud

The director wraps her film by punishing and praising those who deserve it. 2,474 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Fed up with my lead actress Brittany, I decided to pay a visit to Rex Durand in his suite. The famous actor in my movie Lost Encounter, now shooting,  was not feeling well. His bodyguard was at his side. His dresser was also there. Everyone confided that Brittany was sleeping with the screenwriter. I had to wonder how much rehearsal had really been going on between them. Obviously, very little. For an actress already on shaky ground, would this affair be the final blow? I had to talk to the scripter. I was sworn to secrecy not to reveal my sources, as the lovers did not want me to know.

The following day another six hours were los because of Brittany. Once more, we did the best we could by shooting around her. I had had enough. At first, the screenwriter denied anything was going on. I told him I knew the truth and it was pointless to deny it. And if her work kept suffering, they ultimately were hurting the film. He promised to keep the situation under control. I was still naïve enough to believe that he would help the film by making sure Brittany was prepared.

On our schedule the following week was the fashion show and that was when the film’s producer Lawrence Perlman arrived. He was to be a first row extra. We had secured a very large space with plenty of room to build a stage and a walkway as well as the biggest Atlas crane to make the most of the expanse. Inspired by Chanel, I had asked for a series of multiple mirrors on the stage and liked the results. And my costume supervisor pulled off a miracle with the clothes and all the accoutrements and secrets of a great stylist. The difficulty had been to make the fashion believable and she had done so a thousand times over.

My personal challenge at this point was physical. I became sick on the very first day of the shoot. The pressure of it all, and the very cold weather, had gotten the best of me. By the third day, I was barely conscious. Between takes, I wrapped myself in blankets, doped myself with flu medicine, drank a lot of hot liquid and prayed that lighting would take a little longer before I had to spring back into action.

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About The Author:
Anne Goursaud
Anne Goursaud belongs to the Directors Guild, Editors Guild, and AMPAS. She has edited for Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Beresford, John Duigan and Janusz Karminski and films like The Outsiders, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ironweed, The Two Jakes and Idlewild. Her directing credits include Embrace Of The Vampire, Poison Ivy II, Love In Paris. Her two documentaries are Ultrasuede and A Classy Broad. She will direct Coronado, Betsy & Napoleon and Petite Americaine.
A great bad year 2

A Great Bad Year
Part Two

by Anne Goursaud

The film director now contends with off-screen drama from her lead actor and actress. 2,069 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Everybody was thrilled with the progress of pre-production of Lost Encounter. The picture had survived another day. Luckily, I made a great choice for a director of photography the second time around. Working with my chosen few on our still imaginary film had its laughs and daily rewards. And we ate well. We were in Paris after all.

It was February 12th, and the start of production was now two weeks away. I had begged for a later start but the rights to the story owned by the people who had made the original film were expiring. We had to go. It was a mad dash. My producer Lawrence Perlman asked me to meet with the American actress who said she loved the project and thought the world of me – in other words, the usual Hollywood crap.

Beyond exhausted, I agreed to meet her. “No strings attached,” I was assured. Later on, a story went around that our film’s leading man Rex Durand had seen a magazine with a photo of the American actress, pointed his finger and said: “That one. I want that one.”

When I met with Brittany in my hotel suite, she was physically impressive. Tall beautiful body, luscious red hair like Rita Hayworth’s, an uncomplicated but pretty face. She was oozing charm and promising to be the best collaborator I ever had. I could not think of one reason not to hire her. I gave her the part on the spot. At that point in time, if I had rejected Brittany, the film would have collapsed or I might have been fired. I did want to direct so I let this one slip by.

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About The Author:
Anne Goursaud
Anne Goursaud belongs to the Directors Guild, Editors Guild, and AMPAS. She has edited for Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Beresford, John Duigan and Janusz Karminski and films like The Outsiders, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ironweed, The Two Jakes and Idlewild. Her directing credits include Embrace Of The Vampire, Poison Ivy II, Love In Paris. Her two documentaries are Ultrasuede and A Classy Broad. She will direct Coronado, Betsy & Napoleon and Petite Americaine.
A Great Bad Year 1

A Great Bad Year
Part One

by Anne Goursaud

A film director in crisis must split time between her pre-production and her father. 2,492 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was a few days before Christmas and I was ensconced at the Hotel Raphael in Paris. Jack Kennedy, Katharine Hepburn and Marlon Brando had all stayed there. The Arc de Triomphe and the Trocadero were steps away. In my suite, elegant tapestries, wooden wall panels and period furniture surrounded me. I was back in my home country. By all accounts, I should have been thrilled but I was miserable.

My father was dying.

I had come to Paris in October for pre-production on the sequel to a celebrated and profitable erotic romantic drama which at that point was an orphan without a title. The project was at a standstill as we waited and waited for the starring actor from the original movie, Rex Durand, to sign his contract. In the meantime, he approved me as the director. Getting the job turned out to be the easiest part of making the movie.

The film was to be my third directorial assignment and to try me in ways I had never been tried before, as if all the negative forces in the universe had banded together and decided “Let’s see what she’s really made of.”

Among the complexities was the financing of the film which was partially coming from state-sponsored film funds in three European countries. Each country had requirements attached to the money. We would have to shoot in the trio of nations, and the cast and crews would have to be split between them as well. Having a European passport had been one of the reasons I had been chosen. And the other was my directing work and its sexy edge. For this was to be a very sexy film.

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About The Author:
Anne Goursaud
Anne Goursaud belongs to the Directors Guild, Editors Guild, and AMPAS. She has edited for Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Beresford, John Duigan and Janusz Karminski and films like The Outsiders, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ironweed, The Two Jakes and Idlewild. Her directing credits include Embrace Of The Vampire, Poison Ivy II, Love In Paris. Her two documentaries are Ultrasuede and A Classy Broad. She will direct Coronado, Betsy & Napoleon and Petite Americaine.
Necessary Monsters 05B

Necessary Monsters
Part Four

by Steven Axelrod

What’s a first-time producer to do when a world-famous actor is sexually harassing the women working on his film? 2,549 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John David Carlucci.


She came to Mike Garth’s hotel room at midnight.

It had been an arduous day of location work for the first-time movie producer at an off track betting parlor on Broadway and 94th Street. The film had been forced to abandon the last set-ups because the continuity person had quit unexpectedly and the world famous actor had once again barricaded himself inside his trailer. No one knew what had happened between them. One minute Emily Culhane was talking to Douglas Troy, then she threw away her notebook, thus scattering the vital pages that inventoried the physical details connecting every shot, and fled.

It was unusual behavior for Emily, a small and tidy and intensely well organized woman who usually was supernaturally calm. No one had ever seen her angry or heard her raised voice before this afternoon. On the most chaotic sets, over a 22-year career, she had always been the serene one with the mug of Earl Grey tea whose job was to keep each appallingly expensive film from drifting out to sea on the tides of inspiration and ego.

There was awkward confusion after Emily left. The AD and a couple of grips scrambled desperately to gather up the storm of pages while Mike tried to find her. He made a few calls, got the production’s permit extended for another day, ate alone at Sichuan Balcony, then took a cab back to the hotel. When he could barely keep his eyes open, he climbed into bed without even brushing his teeth and fell asleep instantly.

A few hours later, insistent knocking woke him from an anxiety-filled dream. The digital clock on the dresser showed 12:01 a.m. The bed sheets felt like a full body straitjacket. He thrashed his way free, stumbled to his feet and pulled on a pair of jeans. The banging on his door was relentless and loud enough to wake up guests in other rooms.

"Who is it?" he asked in a hoarse stage whisper that was supposed to communicate the need to be quiet.

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
Necessary Monsters 04A

Necessary Monsters
Part Three

by Steven Axelrod

A first-time producer is caught in the middle when a famous actor creates problems in the middle of filming. 2,443 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


It began with the coffee. Hollywood’s most famous movie star Douglas Troy would show up at the Unfinished Business production offices at odd times and always unexpectedly. He’d sit in on meetings with the production  or location manager, coiled and silent, as inconspicuous as a boa constrictor on a bed sheet. The first time he appeared, it interrupted a meeting about the costume designer’s preliminary sketches. The PA hadn’t known he was coming and didn’t have the right coffee on hand.

“This isn’t Starbucks’ Breakfast Blend,” he said to the young woman.

“It’s not? I didn’t – “

“No. It’s not. And it was brewed in some sort of drip coffeemaker.”

“Is that a problem? Because I can –“

“Yes, it’s a problem. My coffee has to be made with a Chemex. What’s your name?”

“Alice.”

“Do you have a last name, Alice?”

“Bendetson?”

“Was that a question?”

“No, no, it’s… I’m… my name is Alice Bendetson.”

“There’s skim milk in this coffee, Alice Bendetson. I take half and half. Not cream, not milk, and certainly not skim milk.” From his tone of voice, Troy could have said “dog piss.”

He had everyone’s attention now.
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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
Necessary Monsters 02B

Necessary Monsters
Part Two

by Steven Axelrod

A famous actor interrupts a studio meeting with a struggling scripter, first-time producer and inexperienced director. 2,871 words. Part One. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Most Hollywood executive offices are piled high with scripts, their titles magic-markered on the spines. But there were none in Bob Janse’s second floor office at the Wilhelm Brothers executive building. No framed movie posters from the studio’s movies. Not even a computer. The only phone was an old black rotary model, but the inconvenience of dialing didn’t matter to Janse. People called him. On the rare occasions when he returned a call – there were still five or six people more important than he was – his secretary handled the mechanics.

Shrewd and MBA-educated, he was given to vivid turns of phrase so that someone years ago had christened him “Sam Goldwyn with brains.” And however bitter and resentful they might be, the people he fired generally left with a quote or two to share with their next employers. No one wanted to be the target of Janse’s conversational ice-pick. But the group he had assembled in his office today was even more uneasy than usual. Because they were going to have to explain why they were proceeding with this misbegotten movie. Lenny Feinstein, Executive VP of Production, had brought the project to Dwight Goforth, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Production, who had just green-lighted a $125 million budget for a film written, produced and directed by unknowns.

They weren’t “hot off the film festival circuit” unknowns. They weren’t “music video and British TV ad” unknowns. They were just unknown.

The writer Jim Hotaling had scripted some episodic TV, the producer Mike Garth had worked for some Video on Demand outfit, and the director Bill Terhune who was the ringleader in this circus and hadn’t done anything except make friends with the world’s most famous and highest paid film star, Douglas Troy. The actor hated everyone so that was an accomplishment in and of itself. But perhaps not one sufficient to warrant a film budget for quite this many millions of dollars. The answer was simple and obvious: Troy wanted this director to make this film. That’s why Troy was at the meeting. Having Troy’s young actor sidekick Rick Haigley on the picture and in this confab wouldn’t hurt matters.

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
Necessary Monsters 01A

Necessary Monsters
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

A director with no studio deal enlists a struggling screenwriter, a first-time producer and a world famous actor to make a film. 2,717 words. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


For months after it happened, Hollywood speculated about what a first-time producer could have possibly said to the highest paid movie star that would cause him to stalk off the set in a rage and quit the film a day later, sinking it at a net loss of close to forty million dollars to the studio. The trades reported “artistic differences.” But the crew on location in Manhattan saw Mike Garth leaving actor Douglas Troy’s trailer with a split lip — and suspected that art had very little to do with it.

Garth was famous for a while, as a curiosity rather than a hero — the way a self-ordained lesbian priest might become famous for throwing a custard pie at the Pope. But he never told anyone what actually happened on that autumn afternoon, and Troy never spoke about it either. With the dramatic finale unexplained and unresolved, interest in the whole matter eventually faded.

But Mike thought about it often. Despite the consequences to his career and the industry consensus that he had been an irresponsible self-destructive prima donna, he found his behavior impossible to regret. He hated bullies. They had ruled his childhood in the form of big kids, teachers, and camp counselors. The memory of those despots could make him, at unexpected moments, fierce, even dangerous, though the results were often dire. Some bullies actually were as strong as they pretended to be. And Douglas Troy had turned out to be one of them.

It had begun with Bill Terhune; things always seemed to begin with Bill Terhune in those days. Mike was sitting on the tiny terrace of his Westwood apartment one October morning, having coffee with screenwriter Jim Hotaling, when the film director called. Mike picked up his burner flip phone on the second ring and pushed the button to open the connection.

“Hello?”

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
A mix Up

A Mix Up

by Leslie Epstein

During WWII, Hollywood entombs a studio mogul while burying a greater tragedy. 3,191 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The line of limousines, all with their lights on, stretched out forever. Here and there I could make out a sedan, a convertible, a coupe — even a bright yellow taxi or two. We turned right on Van Ness Avenue and continued south across Sunset, then Fernwood, then Fountain. One car ahead, just behind the gleaming new 1941 Packard hearse that carried studio owner Victor Granite’s remains, his widow Giselle rode in the Cadillac De Ville. His brother Manfred followed in a rented Lincoln. I, Peter Lorre, was in that vehicle, too: Moto in the motorcade but thankfully without anyone to buck my teeth and slick my hair and stain my skin the color of weakly brewed tea. I sat low in the seat, so as to avoid the gaze of the mounted policemen, who, as we rolled slowly by, touched their white gloves to their caps. Still, I couldn’t help seeing the crowds that lined the sidewalks. Anyone would have thought a Harlow had died, or a star like Valentino. But Victor?

He’d been responsible for a million feet of film; it had spun from his brain like thread from a spider. Yet that sad, sallow face had never appeared on so much as a single frame. Was that the reason he never took off that horrible hat? So as not to appear in even a still photograph? He used that broad brim the way a gangster, confronted by the press, used his overcoat or his hands.

The press had been waiting, just minutes before, when our cortege, then on Hollywood Boulevard, stopped in front of Grauman’s Chinese. Sid Grauman himself had opened the door of the De Ville. We stepped out, all in black. Off went the flashlamps, like milk splashed from a bucket. Newsreel cameramen shot their film. The crowd surged forward, against the line of police. One car back, I watched as the studio publicist Les Kahn came up to the widow. He held a cushion from the Granite prop department, plump and red, with yellow braid.

"I’ll be right back," Manfred told us, before he climbed out of our Lincoln. He hurried over to where Kahn was standing. "What the hell is going on?" Manfred yelled at the publicist.

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About The Author:
Leslie Epstein
Leslie Epstein comes from a family of screenwriters. His father Philip and uncle Julius wrote classics like Casablanca. He has published 11 novels including King Of The Jews and San Remo Drive. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Esquire, Atlantic Monthly, Playboy, Harpers, Yale Review. He received the Distinction in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and directed the Creative Writing Program at Boston University.
Orson Welles 2A

The Invasion
Part Two

by Robert W. Welkos

Nothing in showbiz ever goes as planned, especially when Orson Welles is involved. 2,833 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — October 25, 1938

Orson Welles’ baritone voice caused the half-empty gin bottles to vibrate against the mirrors in the St. Regis hotel bar where he was a regular. “Hey, Mike, a martini for Miss… What was your name, again, my lovely?“ he asked the beautiful redhead seated next to him.

“Dalrymple, silly,” she replied, pretending to slap his cheek.

“Miss Dalrymple Silly!” Orson repeated to the bartender. “And two olives, Mike… one for the lass and one for the scurvy rat nibbling on your shoelace.”

The reed-thin bartender in bow-tie and checkered vest looked offended. “We ain’t got no rats in here, bud. I know ‘cause I clean up every morning.” He plucked the menu out of Welles’ hand, “And no more double steak dinners and pistachio ice cream until you pay your bill.”

Welles smirked and returned his undivided attention to the swirl of ginger at his side. He stared at her fair features and emerald eyes. The redhead placed a finger on her chin. “I haven’t seen a Martian that I know of, hon… Although I have an uncle who is friends with some blind Venetians. I mean, he makes Venetian blinds.”

Welles titled his head back and roared with laughter. “Excellent! I knew you’d be fun! A gorgeous actress with wit. You don’t find too many of those prowling the theater district, my dear.” He lowered his voice. “Now, what do you imagine a Martian would look like?”

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About The Author:
Robert W. Welkos
Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the film industry for 15 years for the Los Angeles Times. Before that he was an assistant city editor for the paper's Metro section. He previously was an AP correspondent in Reno. This excerpt is from a second novel he’s writing. His first, The Blue Poppy, was published in 2012.
Orson Welles 2

The Invasion
Part One

by Robert W. Welkos

Would the American radio public believe Martians were attacking? Or Nazis? 2,086 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Berlin, Germany — March 1938

“Ladies and gentlemen… Am I on?… Ladies and gentlemen, this is Peter J. Simons of the Beaumont Global Radio Network. I am looking down Unter den Linden, a major east-west thoroughfare in Berlin. As far as the eye can see, there are German Waffen-SS — a paramilitary force under the command of Heinrich Himmler —marching in a parade. I can hear the trump-trump-trump of their boots as they goose-step in unison holding aloft flags with the familiar Nazi swastika. Crowds line the grand boulevard — men, women and even little children — all thrusting out their arms in a rigid “Heil Hitler” salute. There seems to be some sort of commotion up ahead. Nazi thugs are surrounding a man on the ground and they are slamming his head into the curb. It’s terrible, terrible… I’m being given orders by a Nazi official to leave the area. But I’m an American journalist! And now more violence is breaking out. A woman who came to the man’s defense, her face is covered with blood after she was beaten senseless… Now I know why the Nazis invading the Sudetenland has Americans on edge that they could be invaded, too.”

London — September 30, 1938

Dignified before the gathering of supporters at the airport to greet his return, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain stepped off the plane to cheers and stood in front of the microphone to talk about his meeting with German Chancellor Adoph Hitler. “I believe it is peace for our time.”

A few days later, in the House of Commons, British MP Winston Churchill rose to deliver his response to the Munich Agreement. “Do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

New York City — July 11, 1938

Orson Welles sat in the dimly-lit bar near the St. Regis Hotel holding an unlit cigar. The 23-year-old actor, director, writer, and producer was celebrating the premiere of the live radio dramas he created, each a weekly hour-long show presenting classic literary works performed by his celebrated Mercury Theatre repertory company.

Naturally, he wasn’t alone. A statuesque blonde, her cheeks freshly rouged, draped an arm around his slumping shoulders and stirred him.

“Tell me,” he asked her, “have you ever seen a Martian?”

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About The Author:
Robert W. Welkos
Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the film industry for 15 years for the Los Angeles Times. Before that he was an assistant city editor for the paper's Metro section. He previously was an AP correspondent in Reno. This excerpt is from a second novel he’s writing. His first, The Blue Poppy, was published in 2012.
Mae & Billy 2

Mae And Billy

by Matthew Licht

Billy Wilder wants an older and isolated Mae West to star in his next film. Or does he? 2,062 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


He was on a drive down the street where dreams die whole. The diminutive movie director steered his serious white car towards the stately Art Deco pile at 570 North Rossmore Avenue that had been named for black birds in trees. He didn’t need a map of the movie star homes. Rabenswald, he thought, as he looked for the doorbell. He’d been in Hollywood over twenty years but still couldn’t desist from mental translations. He wasn’t born into the German-speaking world by accident. Billy Wilder had never really left Berlin.

He was on his way up to Apartment 611 to see Mae West. She’d lived there for decades, resolutely in Hollywood — hanging on, hanging tough, out of the limelight, nebulously entrenched in the collective imagination. The easy life at a ranch or a beach or a mountain resort was unthinkable for the sex goddess. For Broadway Mae had been bound for Hollywood the instant she froze, hands on hips, at the center of a pitted nickelodeon stage near Times Square and demanded her spotlight. Shadowy stagehands did her bidding and swung their beams her way. Light was the semen and ovum of her showbiz. Stars are born from light. They burn and shine and can’t last forever. Actors who are really stars illuminate till they burn out. What’s left, on reflection, is ashes, smoke, in her case, a nostalgic perfume.

Billy knew a thing or two about stars, even though he never took any astronomy classes at any fancy-pants East Coast college. He knew sex, power, mystery. He was a writer, basically: a storyteller who made his creations reflect the world’s darkness under brilliant piercing light. His imagination cut through the shadows and fog of the erotic swamp.

So Billy rang her doorbell and lit a fuse.

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About The Author:
Matthew Licht
Matthew Licht spent nearly five years as a Hollywood writer. His story collections The Moose Show and Justine, Joe & The Zen Garbageman, were nominated for the Frank O'Connor Prize. His novel Lo Niglu is published as an ebook by Stanza 251. The Withering Fire is published as an ebook by Spider & Fish. Two books of his YA stories are coming out this year.
Guarding Gable 2NEW

Guarding Gable
Part Two

by Nat Segaloff

An MGM junior publicist continues his story of survival alongside Clark Gable during World War II. 3,033 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


William Clark Gable raised his right hand to mirror the recruiting officer as the newsreel cameras rolled:

“You, Clark Gable, a citizen of the United States, do hereby voluntarily agree to enlist as a soldier in the United States Army; that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that you will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over you, according to regulations, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the articles of war, so help you God.”

“I do.”

Gable was not the only star to enlist in the war against fascism, but he was the biggest, and he made it a point to start at the Private bottom. Hollywood would leave its honorable mark during World War II. James Stewart flew air raids and achieved the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force. Lee Marvin was a Private, First Class in the Marines. Charles Bronson was a tail gunner. Glenn Ford rose to the rank of Captain in the Navy. Charles Durning was a Ranger and emerged from the war as one of America’s most decorated heroes. Mel Brooks was a photographer at the Battle of the Bulge. Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, George Stevens, William Wyler, and other directors made combat films. And there were countless others from all ranks of the motion picture industry, not all of them stars, but all of them patriots. Actresses such as Bette Davis, Marsha Hunt, Marlene Dietrich, and Veronica Lake joined less famous movie women in the Hollywood Canteen which was open 24 hours a day to give servicemen a cup of coffee, a donut, a smile, and sometimes a dance with a screen legend.

But Gable’s enlistment was the Army’s best recruitment tool. He’d made application to be a gunner, and his next stop was Miami and basic training. That’s where I was to join him.

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About The Author:
Nat Segaloff
Nat Segaloff is a journalist, producer, author and critic whose memoir Screen Saver: Private Stories Of Public Hollywood is forthcoming from Bear Manor Media. He has been a teacher (Boston University, Boston College), publicist (Fox, UA, Columbia) and broadcaster (Group W, CBS, Storer) and writer of more than a dozen books.