Category Archives: Financiers

Kaelin2

The Incalculable Hours
Part Two

by James Kaelan

The fustrated filmmaker goes on a TV talk show to save his movie. 2,295 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1969

It was nearly four o’clock when Tall parked in a loading zone at the CBS lot, and ran into Stage 17. From the lobby, Tall could hear The Dean Keller Show orchestra welcoming a guest, and the audience applauding. Above a set of double doors, a red “Live Show Recording” sign blinked.

“Mr. McCollum!” a woman said in a low, excited voice.

Tall turned to see Tandy Dale, the associate producer who’d handled him the day before, walking toward him with a clipboard against her chest. “When I heard the door open,” Tandy continued, “I thought a civilian was trying to sneak in.”

“Would it be possible to get backstage?” Tall asked. “My wife Diana lost a little enamel compact that belonged to her mother when we were here last night for my appearance, and it’s the only place we haven’t looked.”

“They cleaned this morning, and didn’t turn anything in. But I suppose it could’ve fallen in the couch cushion?”

Tall followed Tandy around the perimeter of the stage. As she unlocked a door marked “PRIVATE,” she looked back at Tall. “Would you like to know your audience scores from last night?”

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Kaelin1 NEW2

The Incalculable Hours
Part One

by James Kaelan

A rebel filmmaker struggles to deter professional and personal disaster. 2,334 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Hollywood – 1969

“You’re a fucking kamikaze pilot, Tall,” said Jack Benton from behind his teak desk. “And you just crashed into your own fucking ship!” He wore a chambray blouse and a necklace of mahogany beads, but on his wrist dangled a gold Rolex. And only two days earlier, Jay Sebring had flown back from Las Vegas just to give him a haircut.

“And you didn’t just kill yourself,” Benton continued, pounding the heel of his palm onto a year-old issue of a Black Panther newspaper he’d never read. “You killed me, you killed your wife, and you killed that little band of outlaws you have marooned out there in the desert with you. I’m sure they’ll pretend like it’s a blessing — since they think they’ve transcended the fucking material world like an order of fucking Tibetan monks. But let me tell you a little secret. If anyone had gotten famous from this stillborn movie of yours, they’d be buying Jaguars and houses in fucking Malibu.”

“I just earned you lines around the block!” yelled Tall, standing in the middle of the office, rocking from his toes to his heels with the violent energy of a wrestler on his starting line. He was short, but broad across the shoulders, so that with his arms crossed, his buckskin jacket stretched taut across his upper back. His old tan boots chirred as he pitched onto his toes, and his wavy blonde hair curled down his neck.

“How the hell do you figure that, Tall? From my experience, people go to movies to be entertained — not to feel like they’ve fallen off a roof.”

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Collaboration

Collaboration

by Tom Musca

An ambitious scripter rethinks his relationship with his writing partner when they can’t see eye to eye. 4,233 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


They had been sitting in this airless room for six hours and the empty spaces in the conversation were becoming unbearable, at least for Alex. The morning session had passed with the usual peaks and valleys but by now time had slowed like the last half hour of algebra class. Alex was enough of a pro that he tried not to let his boredom seep into his partner’s creative process, but for the last three or so months he’d been fighting a losing battle to disguise his disgust with their lack of progress. For a second he found comfort in a fantasy where he sprinted out the door screaming, “I’ve spent my whole life with people who don’t exist!”

But instead Alex corkscrewed his 62-year-old spine, realizing the too-comfortable chair he was anchored to neutralized his caffeine rush from an hour ago. His interior rant about fictional characters was, in screenwriter parlance, First Thought Theatre, a bad idea that built a bridge to a more workable one. He had to leave, but a tantrum would be counterproductive. His frustration needed to be dramatized with nuance. So Alex strode along the wall of framed movie posters to the office’s lone window and cranked it open, letting in a slight, cool breeze that carried signs of life from the street three stories below, hoping to lure Santiago’s thoughts to the outside world.

Santiago was sprawled on a convertible sofa that had yet to be used as a bed. He started to speak and then stopped, discarding his idea mid-sentence, further irritating Alex. As the only one in the room with an IMDb film credit, Alex’s primary job was to pitch ideas. Santiago’s was to evaluate their worth. This was teamwork, although there was an unacknowledged competition that occasionally resulted in Santiago’s bruised ego. Alex was the pliable one — the matador, not the bull. Alex was also the manipulative one since it was relatively easy for a writer with his acumen and experience to come up with suggestions with a minimum of effort. Occasionally, he even sat on a good idea till he felt Santiago was ready to hear and understand it. Once, at a dinner party, Alex sat across from a cardiologist who asked him where he got his ideas. “It wasn’t coming up with ideas that was difficult, it was eliminating the ones that got in the way.”

Even though he wasn’t born into wealth like his Dominican benefactor, Alex had worked hard to give himself the bearing of a New England preppy, and every woman he had ever dated thought he was two inches taller than he measured. Santiago, with his hunched posture and endless involuntary burping due to a lack of rigorous exercise, looked like a character actor in a sci-fi B movie who advised the handsome lead on the chances of survival if they took the shortcut through the meteor storm. Santiago was 90% blind in one eye and completely blind in the other since his Caribbean boating accident at age eight, one that cost his twin brother his life. So even though he knew what most things looked like, he had to visualize them from distant memory. This enabled him to add distortion to visual concepts that on rare occasions produced a happy screenwriting accident, lifting them out of the realm of the mundane. But most of time Santiago was just rampaging in Alex’s china shop of ideas.

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Mygalomorph mallas

Mygalomorph

by Steven Mallas

A wannabe filmmaker finds an unconventional way to get his horror script made. 3,216 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“You understand what I want you to do?”

“Yeah,” I said. It was easy to say it. Flowed off the tongue. I wasn’t even worried. What was that line from that Hannibal film, the one with the lambs? His pulse never got above a certain number, he was so relaxed? That’s how I felt. Relaxed.

“Great.”

“And you finance my film.”

“Absolutely.”

“And I get gross participation, backend, off-the-top. The works.”

“The works,” he agreed.

I didn’t smile. But I should have. You don’t smile, though, when you make a Breaking Bad deal like that. I don’t mean a deal with AMC; I mean, a deal that will put you on the other side. For good. I was about to become a Walter White. And I was only in my early 20s.

Got to start sometime in Hollywood.

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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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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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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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Silverbergs Ghost 03

Silverberg’s Ghost

by Howard Jay Klein

Who will succeed this ailing Big Media chairman/CEO? Only the board knows. 3,042 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Dennis Medwick was up at six, peering through the bedroom window of his Bel Air home, watching the gleaming black Tesla pull up the driveway and stop, idling to a barely audible purr. He heard stirring and saw his wife Sandra, habitually a late Saturday morning riser, already sitting up, propped on her elbows, sleep mask off.

"What’s with you?" he asked, glancing at his watch. "It’s midnight Sandra time."

She ignored his gibe. "Bert here yet?"

"Outside. I’d better get moving. You know, it’s gang warfare day."

"I’m still baffled by all this," she said, swinging her legs off the bed. "You’re the studio head. You made more money than any of the ten morons who came before you. You’re going to be CEO, chairman, macher-in- chief, Dennis. Period," she said, lacing her arms across her chest. "I’m confident that sanity will ultimately prevail — even in this looney town." After a reflective pause, she added, "Doesn’t it?"

"We’ll see," he laughed, padding across to the bathroom.

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jLe Jet Lag Part Four

Le Jet Lag
Part Four

by Peter Lefcourt

The Cannes Film Festival ends and with it the escapades of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Three. 3,614 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


The next morning, American film publicist Erika Marks sat down with Crimea star Hanna Lee Hedson in the luxurious Carlton Hotel on La Croisette and said, choosing her words carefully, “Do you want the film to win the Palme d’Or?”

“Why else would I have shown up in this fucking country?”

“We may have a little obstacle. The French like low-budget art films and this is a budget-busting Hollywood movie. We’d like you to do a news conference today. This will be the last one, I promise. But you’re a fifteen-minute appearance at the Palais away from winning the Cannes Film Festival. With that, you can do any picture you want.”

This thought penetrated deeply into the soft tissue of actress Hanna Lee Hedson’s ego, the place where she lived most of the time. What Erika didn’t tell Hanna was that her film career probably would never recover from all these Crimea press conferences demonstrating her lack of compassion for minority groups. Or that the actress definitely would lose a large chunk of her gross-profit participation revenue when the movie tanked at the box office.

But neither Erika nor her PR boss Larry Moulds cared. They were still focused on ensuring Crimea didn’t win the most prestigious festival award. Or any Cannes award, for that matter. “The Armenians could picket the event. It’d be great pub,” Larry said to Erika an hour later.

“We don’t want overkill. These people get very excited. They could do something really stupid,” Erika reminded him.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Some crazy could take a shot at her.”

“So? Could you buy that type of ink?”

In spite of all her years in the business, Erika never ceased to be amazed at what people would do to promote a movie. Kill off the star? Why not? The movie was in the can, and they had all the loops they needed. So who needed Hanna?

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Le Jet Lag Part Three

Le Jet Lag
Part Three

by Peter Lefcourt

The further Cannes Film Festival adventures of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Four. 3,024 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The Cannes Film Festival jury president, Matthieu Brioche, wasn’t used to getting turned down by women. And he certainly was not used to being left standing in a hotel hallway at two in the morning after an American publicist pushing a film in contention had given him her room number. That was not simply rejection — that was a disgrace. So when his phone rang and he heard the femme in question, Hollywood film publicist Erika Marks – slightly past her prime but enticing none the less, like a bottle of 1975 Chateau Margaux with a leaky cork — inviting him to breakfast, he told her that he had a screening to attend. Erika Marks was proving to be, if not devious, then clueless. He liked that piece of American slang. Though he thought the film with Alicia Silverstone was a turkey. He liked that word, too. He just wouldn’t eat one.

Erika Marks didn’t blame Matthieu Brioche for being pissed. She had given him every indication she was interested. And she hadn’t even been particularly subtle about it. But now that her express orders from her studio boss were to not sleep with the Frenchman, thank God she hadn’t made things worse by jury tampering. Instead, she was just guilty of cock teasing. A misdemeanor.

Outside her door, next to the complimentary copy of USA Today, someone had left that day’s Screen International. Grabbing it, she got back into bed with the trade paper, eager to read the expected hatchet job that film critic Harry Harrington had done on her studio’s picture Crimea. The piece turned out to be great press. It fostered a want-to-see in the reader, which was the name of the game. Her boss Larry Moulds back in Beverly Hills would go ballistic. God forbid, the review could even result in Crimea winning the Palme d’Or. Then they’d really be fucked since their marching orders within the last 24 hours were to kill the film’s Cannes chances.

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Bender in Cannes ART

Bender In Cannes

by Michael Elias

A screenwriter is frustrated at the Cannes Film Festival – until he stops caring. 3,160 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Bender arrived at the Cannes Film Festival well armed. He had his screenplay and an appointment with a Moroccan film financier who would also give him a place to stay. He was in good health and had plenty of money for food and drink. It was now in Bender’s hands to find a way to fuck it up.

His screenplay, which he liked to think of as homage to the French New Wave of Truffaut and Godard, was about Henry, a successful American commercial director in Paris. Henry’s wife, a beautiful model, leaves him. Disconsolate, Henry takes flute lessons in an attempt to get over her. He falls in love with his flute teacher while his wife falls back in love with him. Bender knew if he could get a bankable actor to play the lead, he could find other financiers. But it was a small film, he would be a first time director and actors were wary. Hence, the desirability of independent financing which Bender fucked up.

Where did this come from, Bender’s policy of walking out of waiting rooms? What was the purpose, what was the result? Pride? Was it because from his seat on the Ikea couch of the office suite Bender could see the Moroccan talking on the phone, and Bender knew he could see him and yet didn’t acknowledge his presence? Not a wave, not even a raised hand, no sorry, give me a minute. Bender was growing angrier with each current and past issue of Variety International, Paris-Match and World Cinema.

Was this any way to treat an artist? No. A screenwriter? Maybe. One who needed three million dollars to make a romantic comedy in Paris? Absolutely. Hence, Bender, a long-standing member in the church of passive aggression, said to himself, I will give this prick ten more minutes and then I will leave. Bender didn’t stop to consider that he wasn’t in a store where one could get five million Euros and, if he didn’t like the way he was being treated, he could go to another one. Was this repressed anger at his mother for her dizzy nature that left him stranded after school with forgotten promises and unwashed spoons? All this revealed in fist-clenching sessions on Dr. Gladstein’s leather couch in the converted garage in Westwood.

But the past that illuminates the present doesn’t change the past. Bender should have waited him out like a Russian peasant, cap twisted past recognition. Thank you, Patron, for seeing me. Of course I understand that you were on the phone with the emperors of Warner’s, the caliphs of CAA, the mullahs of the Morris office and the entertainment division of City National Bank. As you know, I am humbly asking permission to make a little film behind the hovel you so kindly let me inhabit. If your majesty would grant me five million rubles, I can do it. Of course you may have my firstborn, rights to my wife and my cow in gratitude. Oh, thank you, may I kiss your hands? It’s what his grandfather would have done. Why couldn’t he?

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Hedgehog ART

What The Hedgehog Knew

by Howard Jay Klein

A film financier asks something but expects nothing from the producers and screenwriter. 2,543 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Everyone there?” Mannie Jacobs bellowed, his super-lawyer’s telephone voice bouncing off the walls of the Periodic Pictures conference room.

“All here, Mannie. Me, Cal, Jim and Dex.”

“So Eric Greenhill came to see me. He’s a big hedge fund guy who wants to put $100 million into a single film with you.”

“A nut job with an agenda?” Cal asked.

“No. I checked him out. He runs a $15 billion fund. He’s 38, personally worth $2.5 billion, no scars or warts we could find. He lost a gorgeous young wife to breast cancer three years ago. Got two kids. A bit eccentric, but in another era you would call him a straight arrow.”

“Why us?” Cal Lerner, Periodic’s CEO, asked.

“He’s screened all your productions, both movies and TV series. He believes Periodic has integrity of intent. Why I’ll never know.”

“Sure he’s not a nutter, Mannie?” Dexter Foley cracked.

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Le Jet Lag Part Two v2

Le Jet Lag
Part Two

by Peter Lefcourt

Craziness continues for a publicist, journalist and producer attending the Cannes Film Festival. Part One. 4,208 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Larry Moulds, studio Vice President for Publicity and Marketing, had been there and done that. As a unit publicist, he had accompanied movies and worked his tail off, coming home exhausted, sick, and, worst of all, empty-handed. The Cannes Film Festival was an all-or-nothing deal. No matter how you spun it, if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser.

His boss, studio head Vivian Rakmunis, had threatened to send him but she hadn’t actually sent him. Yet. But if his publicist Erika Marks didn’t produce some buzz soon, his ass was on the plane. He picked up his office phone and dialed the Hotel Carlton. Larry realized that he’d be waking up Erika in the middle of the night in France. Fuck her. It was her job to be on call 24/7.

It took seven rings before Erika picked up the phone.

Oui?”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Larry? It’s…three-thirty in the morning.”

“Vivian isn’t seeing any ink on the picture. You don’t start producing, Vivian is going to send me over there. And you don’t want me there, do you? So what about jury tampering? You invite the Cannes jury president back for a shtupp?

“Larry, I’m not having sex with anyone on the jury. Can I go back to sleep?”

When he hung up, Erika was sitting up in bed, wide awake and furious. The digital bedside clock read 3:40 a.m. She had to be up at seven to flack the studio’s entry Crimea. If Larry arrived, she’d give him the keys to the car, kiss him on both cheeks, take a plane home, and sell real estate. Between the stress and the jet lag, she was not looking forward to the all-important interview with Paris Match for the film’s spoiled star, Hanna Lee Hedson.

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The Bomb

I’m The Bomb

by Morgan Hobbs

A showbiz journo goes Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole and ends up at a hellacious party. 3,477 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As I lay down, I remembered thinking that I would only close my eyes for a moment. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how intensely I stared, I couldn’t see my way through the thicket of branches and leaves to the clearing that surely waited beyond. I couldn’t even be sure how long I’d been out here crawling up the cliff face after leaving my hotel in Beverly Hills — five minutes? five hours? — wandering aimlessly through these dark woods frustrated, disoriented and suddenly very tired. I, the infamous entertainment journalist Frederick M. Barclay, was about to sit down with the even more infamous studio head Nero in his secluded Bel Air lair to discuss the state of the art. I’d been told that Tony Billings would arrange it. If only I could find him.

Then I found a face staring down at me.

“Jack,” he said, reaching down and taking my hand. “Jack Dante.”

“Of course I recognize you,” I said, as he pulled me to my feet. “You’re one of the greatest living British filmmakers.”

“Am I still alive? I question that,” he said. “I question it every day. More and more, I wander around this city like a ghost.”

“I’m Fred Barclay, the writer,” I said. “I was on my way to the Nero party. I must have gotten lost. How did you find me?”

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Dinner at the Bigelows FINAL

Dinner At The Bigelows

by Linda Boroff

A Hollywood cad tries to seduce an innocent teenaged girl only to get what he deserves. 2,824 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


At age sixteen, Tessa Markey learned once and for all that fate would not be thwarted. No matter how elaborate her avoidance strategy and cautious her moves, fate simply bided its time, and then it came for her.

Tessa’s father was a singer and actor who had once “turned Hollywood on its ear,” according to Tessa’s mother. But the bottle would not leave him be. His frequent absences had elongated, like a piece of chewing gum stretched, until the connection with his family became a tenuous strand. The year was 1966: Tessa and her mother now lived in a grimy white stucco apartment house in south Santa Monica that stood as a testament to the past decade’s casual building codes. The place even had a name, “The Spafford,” written with a flourish above the entrance in silver glitter gone gray and dour, like an aged starlet. Tessa thought of the suffering that resided behind every door in her neighborhood. The homes were flimsy, with cheap siding and fiberglass awnings bolted on cockeyed. The yards were patchy and sparse, littered with battered toys and obsolete engine parts. A fever seemed to emanate from the windows, from the very crevasses of the sidewalk. At night, shouting and screams pierced the dark along with sounds of shattering glass and occasional gunfire.

The Spafford fronted the deadly torrent of rush hour traffic on Olympic Boulevard, which every morning Tessa crossed at her peril to catch the city bus to school. The high school clerks knew of Mr. Markey’s fondness for pills and liquor. They also knew that, after her husband left, Mrs. Markey’s own nervous condition had worsened, limiting her to part-time work.

“Well, Mom’s in the bucket, too,” noted the junior class guidance counselor to the attendance clerk. “Either we find little Miss Markey an after-school job or she is going to end up on the wrong side of the tracks.”

So the high school placement officer sent Tessa Markey to babysit for the Bigelows’ two children. Hugh Bigelow was the vice president of finance for a large movie studio. (“I count the beans for the big boys,” he would explain.) He was a pear-shaped Texan with watery blue eyes and flaxen hair pasted across the reddish dome of his skull. His accent was redolent of sagebrush, dogies and lariats, which may have been why Ida Bigelow talked over him. Mrs. Bigelow was small and quick, with curly light brown hair that fell to her shoulders. She came from one of those states that were all jammed into the upper right side of the country and whose names had to be printed out in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Nod 1 - Carlucci

In The Land Of Nod

by Richard Natale

A famous actor and renown director find themselves in a terrifying scene together. 3,867 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Lew Baird removed his suit jacket and hung it in the closet, pleased to find actual wooden hangers, the kind that most hotels are afraid the guests will steal. He thought of removing his pants as well, just to keep them from wrinkling, but on the off chance that a maid popped in and found him in his BVDs, he decided against it. She’d probably sell the information or post it online and his Twitter account would explode with the pros and cons of his underwear choices.

Picking over the fruit and cheese basket, he decided to sample neither. The cheese would give him stink breath and the pineapple fiber might get lodged in his teeth. He had brought neither a toothbrush nor floss to the film junket. Of course, he could always ask some publicist to run out to a drugstore and get some. Seemed like an awful lot of trouble; not the act of dispatching someone to CVS, but rather the effort of having to summon a flack and convey his wishes.

Hang in there, just one more interview and the day will be over, he told himself as he eased into an armchair, shut his eyes and took a few of those deep relaxation breaths which Bo, his trainer, had taught him. If Lew could only think of a way to blow off that meeting tonight with Alice and her investor and ask Greta up for dinner. They could have Chinese or Italian and watch one of the Academy screeners gathering dust on the shelf of his home screening room. Then he remembered that his assistant had flown home for a family emergency. And since Lew didn’t travel with a posse, he had no one to pick up take-out from Mr. Chow or Spago. He couldn’t very well expect Greta to bring her own food; and he certainly didn’t want to be seen in public with her. The relationship was too new for that.

Before he could think on it further, he had fallen asleep. He was awoken by a meek looking woman. “Mr. Baird,” she said in a supplicant tone. “Sorry to disturb you, but we’re ready for your 4:15.”

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