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Recent Fossil Evidence

by Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca

A TV exec hears a comedy pitch from a couple of over-50 showrunners she’s never met. 5,110 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Calling in his last ancient chit, Warren had talked a former junior colleague into issuing a drive-on to get them through the front gate.  The rest would be up to him.

He piloted his old BMW convertible, its torn roof folded down out of view so as not to humiliate its occupants, toward the visitors’ lot. Fifty-eight and no longer an athlete –- he was even done with pick-up basketball, the risk of injury now far outweighing the pleasure he got from playing — Warren wore a sports jacket, faded jeans, and a bright new T-shirt with a hip (his son Clay had assured him) image of an audio cassette above the slight paunch that poked over the top of his seat belt.  After extensive experimentation with hair coloring he’d left the gray specks in his beard, which he’d carefully trimmed to look untrimmed.  Just this morning he’d noticed the beginnings of what he’d assumed were facial warts.  Warren, once a Golden Boy, had begun to believe he’d be an odd-looking old man.

Mitch, four years younger, nearly a foot shorter and more informally unshaven, with hair another former colleague had described as “bozine” after her favorite frizzy-haired TV clown, wore red Converse sneakers and a flowery Hawaiian shirt that most people who’d never known a joke writer would consider antithetical to his dignity. Under the shirt, on his left shoulder, the Charlie Chaplin tattoo he’d treated himself to upon moving to Hollywood decades earlier had aged to look less like Chaplin and more like Hitler.

Mitch glowered at the dashboard clock.  “We’re over an hour early,” Mitch said.  “I told you there’d be no traffic.”

If Warren had told his partner the real reason he’d picked him up at 9 AM for an 11 AM meeting less than half an hour away -– that there was no 11 AM meeting and they were in the midst of a con job that Warren had been meticulously planning for months in an effort to resuscitate their drowned careers -– Mitch’s pride and rage would never have permitted him to get into the car.  “I knew they’d make us park out where the slaves are picking cotton,” said Warren as he drove them farther and farther from their destination on the lot.  “And you have to get into costume.”

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Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca on twitter
About The Author:
Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca
Jay Abramowitz and Tom Musca have collaborated on and off since UCLA Film School and just finished a first novel Formerly Cool. This is an excerpt. Jay was a staff writer on Mr Belvedere and Full House and has written/produced a dozen sitcoms and comedy pilots for Warner Bros TV, CBS and ABC. Tom was the producer and co-writer of the feature film Stand And Deliver,winner of six Spirit Awards (Best Picture, Best Screenplay). His most recently produced screenplay is Tortilla Soup. @jay_abramowitz @tmusca
vanillaShake v3 hock

Vanilla Shake

by Antonia Bogdanovich

The daughter of a Hollywood VIP grows up too quickly after she meets his best friend. 5,517 words. Illustration by The Fates Crew.


I sat back on the soft white leather couch and watched Charlie meticulously roll a joint. The leather smelled clean and, looking around the apartment, I noticed that the decoration was sparse — only a standing lamp and small coffee table were used to fill out the rest of the room. He still looked good: sexy, handsome and alert. At that moment, he looked up and I could tell he was wondering what I was thinking. This time I had decided we both would get what was coming to us, what we had been waiting to happen for some time. I was 17 and had known Charlie almost half my life…

It all started at The House, which was sprawled out along a plot of land that seemed to go on forever. I could whistle on one side of the house and not a peep could be heard on the other. There were no wall-to-wall carpets – only thick Spanish tiles, which often cooled off my bare feet on hot summer days. Or, wearing socks, and carrying a big bowl of Sugar Corn Pops filled with milk, I could slide along the smooth floor confident that not a drip would fall to the ground. Outside, there was a heart-shaped pool and a hip little cabaña to go with it. The House seemed to have everything a grown person could ever want — but of course that was never enough.

I often wondered what it would feel like to be surrounded by adults who had enough. Did such people even exist? People who would be satisfied with a large creamy vanilla shake in a glass sweating pellets of condensation down its sides, a funky transistor radio, and a moderate sized apartment, just big enough to hang their hat and rest their sleepy head. I wanted to know these strangers, but for years when I was young they only existed as characters I could play with in my head, characters that wouldn’t be put off if I asked them for a sip of their shake or a crayon to color with — an adult who might even take the time to color with me — not just to gain favor from the man of the house, but simply because they wanted to.

There were always people at the House. As the voices grew louder, the place seemed to swell, as if at any moment it would reach its breaking point and suddenly pop like a balloon. Most just seemed to be using my father, buying time I guess, perhaps anticipating the day when they would have to get up off the couch and make it on their own, instead of just hanging out and leeching off Dad. There were production assistants, chiropractors, lawyers, playwrights, producers, and high-profile dentists. In my mind, they all somehow seemed to morph into one. Maybe they thought if they just stayed around long enough my father’s genius would rub off on them.

Now Pops, he got The House from making movies, lots of them.

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Antonia Bogdanovich on twitter
About The Author:
Antonia Bogdanovich
Antonia Bogdanovich is the daughter of Oscar Nominees Peter Bogdanovich and Polly Platt. She has been a journalist, theater director, fiction writer and screenwriter. The first feature film she co-wrote and directed, Phantom Halo, came out June 19 and was shown at Austin, Sarasota, Bentonville and NYC film festivals and has won 4 awards. This story will be a screenplay for her Station 8 Films. @tonia2000
damage_control_1250

Damage Control

by Peter Lefcourt

A Hollywood publicist rushes to the hospital when her long-time client makes another mess of his life. 3,125 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“He what?”

Kevin told her what.

“Jesus…”

“How soon can you get here?”

“It’s 3 AM.”

“There won’t be any traffic.”

“This can’t wait till the morning?”

“It is the morning…”

Kevin shifted a little phlegm around his throat and said, underplaying the line, “He may not make it.”

At 3:20 AM Hillary Boden had the fast lane of the 10 East pretty much to herself, roaring through the San Gabriel Valley on cruise control in the SUV, the wrong vehicle to be doing ninety in, like a broad-beamed sailboat tacking into a strong headwind. There was a pint of bleak 7-Eleven coffee in the cup holder, Bruce on  the CD. Bruce was better with a tequila buzz, but she’d take him with over-roasted coffee. If a CHIP radared her, she’d hand him her card with her license and registration, dredge up a cracked smile and explain why she was breaking the speed limit in an unwashed Range Rover (she just didn’t have the time), offer him a couple of head shots and a visit to the set  – provided, of course, that Lawrence pulled through.

Which, according to Kevin, was not altogether certain.

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Peter Lefcourt on twitter
About The Author:
Peter Lefcourt
Peter Lefcourt is an Emmy-winning writer and producer for TV and film including Cagney And Lacey, Showtime's Beggars & Choosers (creator and executive producer) and Desperate Housewives (co-executive producer). He has written eight novels: The Deal, The Dreyfus Affair, Di & I, Abbreviating Ernie, The Woody, The Manhattan Beach Project, An American Family, and his latest Purgatory Gardens. @merde999
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There’s No Side Of The Street Like My Side Of The Street

by Bill Scheft

A comedian who has made a career saying what Hollywood doesn’t want to hear tries to right his wrongs. 2,712 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I’m not sure how this works. This was someone else’s idea. Actually, a lot of people’s. My agent, my shrink, two old friends, two guys who know and two ex-wives. The only one who said not to do it was my new girlfriend, which is why she is my new girlfriend. I don’t have a computer. Well, I do, but it’s dial-up. I don’t have email anymore. I would have typed it on my computer, but my printer is busted. Or needs a new ink cartridge. So, I am dictating this into a tape recorder and giving it to one of my daughters, who said she would type it up and email it to some new website where, ideally, they would post it and then other places might pick it up and then everyone would eventually know everything and then… then what?

So, if you’re reading this now, it made it. Which is the difference between what this is and me. I never made it.

There’s a great joke. It’s not mine. I don’t know whose it is, but the fact I’m not saying it is mine is an incredible departure for me. Here’s the joke: Saint Peter at the Gates of Heaven. First guy comes up. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” Guy says, “I was a doctor. I made $500,000 a year, but I put in at least one day a week at the free clinic. I also went to Africa twice and performed medicine in destitute villages. My wife and I were married for 35 years, we had three beautiful children, and I had seven grandkids.” Saint Peter says, “Okay, you can go in.” Second guy comes up to the gate. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” Second guy says, “I was a lawyer. I grew up poor. Paid my way through law school, started with a big firm, made it to partner. I was earning at least $1 million a year, but three years ago, I left and started my own firm, which did exclusively pro-bono work. I was married 25 years. My wife couldn’t have children, so we adopted two girls, and they both just graduated from law school and are taking over my business.” Saint Peter says, “Okay, you can go in.” Third guy comes up to the gate. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” The guy says, “Not much. I never made more than $7,500 a year. I was married and divorced three times. I have five children, two that I’ve never seen. And I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.” And Saint Peter says, “What have I seen you in?”

I’m not dying, unless you heard something. I’m not sick. The fact that my health is as good as it is may be one of life’s great jokes. As great as the Saint Peter joke, probably not. As great as the bit I came up with in 1994 about the realtor showing John Wayne Gacy’s house (“The basement is 20×30 and sleeps 26…”)? Well, comedy is subjective. A lot of comics love that bit. I heard Robin Williams laugh one night in the back of the room when I did it at the Holy City Zoo. So, for all I know, he lifted it and it died with him.

If I sound bitter, that’s what you’re hearing. I am not bitter. I am just relentlessly realistic.

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Bill Scheft on twitter
About The Author:
Bill Scheft
Bill Scheft was a 16-time Emmy-nominated writer for David Letterman from 1991 until May 20, 2015. He spent 12 years touring as a stand-up comedian until he was hired as a monologue writer for Late Night With David Letterman on NBC. He has authored 4 novels: The Ringer, Time Won't Let Me (2006 Thurber Prize For American Humor finalist) , Everything Hurts, and and his latest Shrink Thyself. @billscheft
Studio Story even lighter and bolder

Studio Story

by Bertram Fields

A successful film studio is run with an iron fist. But is that the best strategy for its future? 2,711 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


The old man was packing his things in a cardboard box – doing it himself.  I just watched.

Jake Simon was going – really going.  Hard to believe.  After 15 years, 15 years, of one man rule by an angry, unpredictable son of a bitch.  You could certainly say that.  And you’d be right.  But, of course, it was more than that.  Much more.  Anyway, it was over now – over and done in half an hour.

I remember the day I got here.  How could I forget?  I’d never been to a studio before – any studio.  I’d just published my second novel to mild critical acclaim; and I suppose, to Jake, I was exotic, and I was “hot” – at least hot enough to hire as co-head of feature development.

Why do I remember that particular day?  That’s easy.  I was replacing a guy named Sid Blumberg, who was being demoted.  Sid had gone to Jake and complained that I was an overrated, Ivy League hack.  Not nice of him; but, hey, I get it, that’s the business.

Anyway, Jake calls me into his office with Sid still there.  Sid stands there looking uncomfortable while Jake repeats what he just said about me.  Kind of embarrassing.  Then, Jake turns to Sid and says, “I’ve hired this man because he has rare talent – talent we badly need.  Unlike you, this man’s an artist.”  Then, suddenly, he points at my feet and shouts, “Kiss his shoe!”

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About The Author:
Bertram Fields
Bert Fields is one of the top entertainment attorneys and his clients include performers, directors, writers, producers, studios and talent agencies. He is a prolific author having written two novels about an LA lawyer under a pseudonym, and books under his real name about Richard III, Shakespeare and most recently Destiny: A Novel Of Napoleon And Josephine. He co-owns Marmont Lane Books.
Diary Of A Mad Tv Executive

Diary Of A Mad Executive

by Cynthia Mort

He knew no one in television and quickly came to know everybody. Who will stop his rise? 5,069 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


THE EARLY YEARS

Weight was always an issue for me, when I was young. An Italian boy from Ohio, I was basically loved to fat by my mother. All the love she didn’t get from my father, she gave to me — in huge pans of lasagna, monster portions of risotto, and gigantic slabs of tiramisu. I ate it all; it was so worth it to see her smile as I cleaned my plate.

So, at 21, I was living at home, a short fat Mama’s boy, a community college graduate, and in my private moments, gay. One night, right after my father kissed me with a look of disgust that was hard to hide, I went downstairs — I was living in the basement, my star athlete brother getting the only other bedroom upstairs — and sat in the dark, thinking. I stayed down there for days, not that anyone noticed. Well, my mother would pass down food whenever she was depressed.

And to me there only seemed one place to go, one dream to live, one big, great fuck-you-to-everyone-who-ever-made-fun-of-me — Hollywood.

My first job in Hollywood was not the mailroom, it was as an assistant to the assistant of the assistant to the assistant of the assistant to the Executive Vice President of the major cable network. I could not believe when I walked through those basement doors for my interview.

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About The Author:
Cynthia Mort
Cynthia Mort is a film and TV writer, producer and director. She wrote for Roseanne and Will & Grace before creating, writing and executive producing Tell Me You Love Me for HBO. Mort co-authored the feature The Brave One and wrote and directed the indie Nina about legendary jazz singer Nina Simone. She most recently created and sold the one-hour show Shadow Morton to Starz and will direct two films she wrote.
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The Audition

by Caroline Ryder

A desperate director discovers an unlikely collaborator clued up on John Waters and Kubrick. 4,050 words. Illustration by John Mann.


It is 113 degrees in Downtown Los Angeles. El Salvadoran parking lot attendants stuff their pockets with cans of ice cold Coke Zero, enjoying the cool moisture on brown skin. I’m not there, of course; I’m a few miles northwest, chillaxing in the shade by my infinity pool. You can see the smog hovering above the city from my 1938 estate, a panoramic airborne sludge of green, orange and dirty white, a cap of toxic waste floating all the way from Downtown to Century City. I sniff — even up here in these Hollywood hills, the air has a faint whiff of bongwater, especially on hot days. I like it, it makes me feel relaxed. So I close my eyes, rest my hand on my crotch and imagine how my obituary will read.

“Remembering Desmond Furie, born on June 16, 19–, a super fucking cool independent film director, screenwriter, producer, set decorator, cinematographer, actor, who established himself with one teen exploitation movie in 1997, a genre-defining masterpiece of experimental storytelling called A Minor, and then he made another cool film that was equally amazing (we’ll insert the name later – Ed.). Every year since then he observed himself grow further and further removed from the youthful subject matter that had made his name until today, the first day of his sixth decade, when he languishes in loose-skinned decrepitude, exacerbated by years of drug experimentation. His favorite song was “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” by The Damned. His final words were…’It’s a trap!’ Did we mention he was cool?

The kids love my shit, always have, because it’s real. It speaks to them. My work is nasty like bongwater smog, I show them giving head, getting head, doing whippets, shooting up, doing the shit they actually dig.

Do you know what it feels like to peak on your first project? Do you, though?

Google Maps says it’s gonna take me 20 minutes to get to the intersection of Washington and Crenshaw, which is where Caviar lives.

Caviar is a rapper. Caviar’s my only hope.

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Caroline Ryder on twitter
About The Author:
Caroline Ryder
Caroline Ryder chronicles popular culture for the NY Times, LA Weekly and Dazed&Confused magazine, and interviews celebrities for many media. Her feature script Mimi And Ulrich was short-listed for the 2015 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and she is a recipient of USC's Frank Volpe Writing Scholarship. @carolineryder
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Maybe I’m A Salmon

by Ned Dymoke

Their studio has a new boss and two colleagues ponder what it means for their careers. 2,815 words. Illustration by John Mann.


"They picked the Pope?"

"Yeah."

"What do you mean they picked the Pope?"

"I’ll tell you."

"Tell me what?"

"How they picked the Pope," Lewis replied.

"Well," said Andy, "Go right ahead."

The Pope, of course, was the nickname for the studio‘s titular head. Clearly, though, there was something bothering Lewis about this new boss. And while it was true the new Pope’s hiring should matter to a couple of creative executives like Lewis and Andy, there was something altogether feral about the way Lewis had lurched into work this day looking like five pounds of shit in a four-pound bag.

Andy had decided that in order to prevent, or at the very least delay, Lewis’ apparent mental breakdown over the fact his pick for the Pope had lost out, they should take an extra long lunch as far away from the studio as possible. Andy had told his assistant not to answer the phone until they got back.

Lewis cleared his throat. Seemed it was the only clear thing about him that morning. He looked tired, more so than usual. They’d had only one meal together before now, and that had been three years ago, and Lewis had talked mostly about himself. The narcissism, Andy thought, was still intact.

Although today Lewis’ eyes had suggested to Andy they had to get out of the offices immediately and go to the 101 Coffee Shop on Franklin, just south of the 101 Freeway, because it was the last place anyone would go looking for them. Now Lewis was doing all the talking, again.

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About The Author:
Ned Dymoke
Ned Dymoke is a writer whose work has appeared in Playboy, Esquire, Condé Nast Traveler, and other media under the name Ned Hepburn. He has published two books, Brother Louie and Life's Rich Pattern, and is currently writing for TV and film.
Dying On A Bed Of Nails

Dying On A Bed Of Nails

by Nikki Finke

The men who run Mendelson Management wanted the women to just shut up and do their crappy jobs. That’s when the shit hit the fan. 4,267 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


A handful of women managers working at the same management firm controlled a growing group of hot young talent that Hollywood was just beginning to beg for. The women had signed these actors and actresses at the beginning of their careers and choreographed their every move up the ladder until huge salaries and successful features were just within their grasps. That was the Mendelson Management way: to nurture talent. Unfortunately, what was not the Mendelson way was to nurture women managers.

The transformation of these female millennials from salaried employees to star managers occurred so subtly that it escaped the notice of the firm’s middle-aged partners who instead kept their eyes more firmly affixed on the bottom line as well as on their own fat asses. The result was that Mendelson was the worst by far of the major management companies which indulged in that gambit which male-dominated Hollywood plays to subordinate women: institutionalized sexism.

Mendelson had never had a female partner. There had never even been a woman in its training program. Instead, almost every woman manager had started at the company as a secretary and risen in spite of the prevailing system. That created a kind of girl posse. Instead of the female frenemies common to Hollywood studios or networks or agencies, the Mendelson women were BFFs and truly liked one another. They even worked as a team, sharing and pairing on certain clients to the extent that it became hard for Hollywood to tell exactly whose client was whose. But as their clients became celebs, so, too, did these female managers.

At one time they’d had a “mother” figure. Whether teetering on stilletos to visit an action thriller director on a location only accessible by a rope ladder, or screaming down the hallways to someone eight offices away, she’d been a character to some, but also a mentor to the Mendelson women. She was not afraid to bitch-slap the Mendelson males on behalf of the females. Her corner of the headquarters even looked like a sorority house as, at the end of the day, she and her pledges would gather in her office, sprawl on the couches and chillax together.

The women had personality traits in common. They were relentless and obnoxious, to the point that Hollywood complained they were bitches on platform heels. But those same qualities also made them great managers. None of them had grown up with money or connections. Nor could they rely on their looks. They were mostly short and rather plain. Indeed their mentor once ordered the only near-beauty among them to cut her long wavy auburn hair. (“Because if you’re dealing with a man, he’s not going to know whether to fuck you or sign you as his manager. And if it’s a woman, she’s not going to want you near her husband or boyfriend. So cut your hair.”)

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About The Author:
Nikki Finke
Nikki Finke is Founder & CEO of Hollywood Dementia LLC and an authority on the entertainment industry. She is now writing showbiz short fiction for the first time. She is best known as Editor-in-Chief & Founder of Deadline Hollywood from March 2006 to December 2013. Before her 30-year Hollywood journalism career, Nikki reported on national, political and international news. @NikkiFinke