Category Archives: Moguls

Oscar revenge

Revenge, Thy Name Is Oscar

by Nat Segaloff

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: A movie producer relentless at awards time is blindsided by rivals. 2,398 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Most independent producers who strike it big at least make an effort to distance themselves from their bottom-feeding beginnings. Not Herschel Wechsler. It wasn’t the expensive suits that hung on his doughy frame as though he’d slept in them. It didn’t matter that he sprayed spittle when he talked. Nobody even held his flyshit toupee against him. It was that he had the kind of face you just wanted to push into the front of a 1958 Buick.

Hollywood has known its share of ogres with good taste. Joseph E. Levine, Harvey Weinstein, Joel Silver, Scott Rudin, and Otto Preminger readily come to mind. Okay, maybe not Otto Preminger. But the others possessed that rare combination of passion, guts, showmanship, charisma, and intelligence that dignified them and their productions despite the controversy they sometimes courted.

Hershel Wechsler, however, was irredeemable. You didn’t even have to use his last name. Everybody just said “Herschel.” Sure, his pictures made money — and you’d think that would absolve him of the town’s enmity. Except he did it in the one way that Hollywood found unacceptable: at the expense of the motion picture industry’s dignity. As more than one of his competitors — they bristled if called his “colleagues” – remarked, Herschel always found a way to scrape underneath the bottom of the barrel.

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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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All in the Details 01

All In The Details

by Richard Natale

Major media maguls are control freaks not just about their business but also their life. 2,652 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


No matter how he crunched the numbers, Darby Morton saw little chance of making it to graduation with a roof over his head. He’d exhausted almost all of his maternal grandmother Nan’s allowance and what was left, to the penny, was committed to tuition and textbooks. Moving was not really an option though his Greenpoint apartment in Brooklyn was so small that, if he accidentally knocked over a bottle of mineral water, it might flood.  In all likelihood, he would be out on the street by mid-March, the dreaded Ides. And then there was cruel April.

He’d been planning to spend the weekend studying for Monday’s economics test when he was interrupted by a call from Janis Shokovich, who ran Hi Society, a cross between a temp agency and a P.R. firm which specialized in odd assignments – personal shoppers, apartment sitters, assistants – for the well-heeled. She prided herself on having on hand a stable of the city’s most “appealing” (air quotes not optional) young men and women easy on the eyes with an aura of good breeding. She was impressed that Darby came from old money. What he didn’t mention to her was that there was no new money since his parents had poured most of the old money down a shot glass.

Darby had first heard of Janis after some dubious flatterers suggested he pursue modeling. But he was dismissed by a top agency because his face was more a freehand pencil sketch than a completed drawing. But the agent who delivered this damning criticism slipped him Janis’ card. She was a petite poodle-frizzed blonde who ran her business out of a snug one-bedroom on the upper East Side. She bore almond eyes, the hallmark of one too many encounters with a scalpel and paring knife. Though unmistakably a native New Yorker, her speech frequently lapsed into pseudo-British phrases like “other side of the pond.”

The modeling agent had been right: Darby was Janis’ type. To date, the only assignment she had come up with was as a walker for an octogenarian dowager who was going to the Met to see La Forza del Destino. In addition to paying for the rental of his tux, the old woman had tipped him with a folded-over twenty as if he was a maître d’ and she wanted a table by the window. But that was six months ago. Now Janis was on the phone to him.

“Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you, dearie,” she said. The assignment sounded easy enough: checking a “major media mogul” into the Hesperia Grand Hotel. The nabob’s name was Jace Wagner and she said he was gay. “But not for publication. Which reminds me, you have to sign a confidentiality agreement.”

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Walt's Last Wishes revised

Walt’s Last Wishes

by Nat Segaloff

The pioneer of children’s entertainment gives the leaders of his legacy some adult advice. 1,075 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


When Walt Disney passed away on December 15, 1966, he left an artistic and commercial legacy that his successors are still mining. He also – according to persistent rumor – left behind a private film that was to be shown to his top executives exactly one year after he died. When the anniversary day arrived, they were led into “the sweat box,” the tiny airless room where animators used to screen their rough footage, and shown to assigned seats. The lights went down and Walt appeared on film. He spoke to each of them by name and told them exactly what they were to do for the next five years. When the film ended, the stunned men returned to their corner offices and the sole existing print they had just watched was destroyed — again, on Walt’s posthumous orders. Always known for meticulous, if not compulsive, planning, Walt had issued instructions for the completion of Walt Disney World in Florida, its expansion into European and Asian countries, and development details for WED Enterprises and RETLAW. He even cautioned against releasing the animated features too quickly on home video, a medium whose commercial debut was still nine years off but which his studio contracts had been predicting for decades.

It was therefore an extraordinary moment when the transcript for this film was discovered between the pages of story conference notes for The Jungle Book, the picture Walt had been developing when he died. We present it here for the first time as a tribute to the man who built an empire upon a mouse:

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JULES AZENBERG 05

Tyrannis Rex
Part Four

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s script is completed. But how will the studio mogul react to the brutally honest biopic? 2,802 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


After finishing Act Two, Dave went on a one-night bender, polishing off a fifth of Jack Daniels and falling into a deep sleep on his living room sofa. He awoke with a start in the middle of the night and ran to the typewriter. Through bleary eyes and a cracking headache, he began to type out the opening scene of Act Three: a close-up of a television set.

The Argot Pictures board keeps a safe distance from the blond wood TV cabinet, as if it were some alien life form. But studio mogul Jules Azenberg approaches the contraption and gently strokes it. With that one motion, he demonstrates to the members that he is not threatened by television and that he plans to tame the medium just as he did the movies.

Forced to divest itself of its theater chain following the 1948 Consent Decree, Argot is running a deficit for the first time since the early ‘1930s. There is the smell of blood in the boardroom and Jules must convince the members that he is still in control of the situation. The advent of television gives Jules a new sense of purpose after the prolonged depression he suffered in the wake of his sons’ WWII deaths.

Rather than retread radio stars for television, Jules strikes on an original idea. The next scene is set in a quiet isolated booth at The Brown Derby where Jules is lunching with Madeleine Devane, one of Argot’s biggest stars. Her contract is up for renewal and the aging actress is clearly nervous. They chat for a while as she waits for the boom to fall. In the middle of the meal, Jules lays his napkin on the table and lets out an extended sigh. The color drains from Madeleine’s face, fearing that she’s about to be fired.

“How would you like us to renew your contract for five more years?” he asks.

“Don’t tease me,” Madeleine responds tersely.

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JULES  AZENBERG 04

Tyrannis Rex
Part Three

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter’s challenge for Act Two is seamlessly threading the studio mogul’s public and private lives. 2,260 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

The second act of his screenplay, the Untitled Jules Azenberg Biopic – First Draft, gave Dave problems as second acts generally do. Determined to push ahead, he rose every morning at seven and, hangover or not, sat down at the typewriter with a pot of coffee and waited for his fingers to magically click into action. On a day when his hands just sat there stiffly poised on the keys and not a single coherent scene emerged, Dave took a break. He and his pal Joel Rodgers went out on the town for a movie, dinner and drinks at Trader Vic’s where Joel regaled him with the details of the latest showbiz scandal. Dave listened, but without much enthusiasm. Like most current gossip, it was graphic and tawdry and destroyed what little illusion was left about movie stars’ private lives. What was Hollywood without glamour? Without fantasy?

When the muse finally revisited Dave, she came equipped with a metaphor. Act Two opens with Jules at a gaming table tossing dice in a visual motif establishing the studio mogul as an inveterate gambler and a smart one at that. For Jules proves himself an expert crapshooter, knowing exactly how long to play, how high to raise the stakes, and when to walk away from the table.

By the early 1930s, his Argot Pictures is on a roll. Most of its B-movie competitors fall by the wayside, victims of the Depression. Argot slowly buys up all the rivals and establishes itself as a viable rival to the A-list studios like MGM and Warner Bros. Here, the script hones close to the real story by assigning Jules due credit. Given his brother Mort’s cautious nature, Argot might have survived the transition to sound but not the economic reversal of the times. It took more than business savvy to keep Argot afloat: it took Jules’ ingenuity and daring.

His risky gamble is to jump head-first into larger budget movies at a time when everyone else, including the established major studios, is cutting corners. And for that he needs an ally because Jules feels inferior to the task of convincing talent to sign with Argot rather than a more deep-pocketed institution like MGM. He needs someone with the polish and finesse to talk to theater types. So he enlists a celebrated and ceaselessly charming German-born director and appoints him vice president of production. It’s a curious choice and, at first, the board expresses concern that a creative type will run financially amuck.

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JULES AZENBERG 03

Tyrannis Rex
Part Two

by Richard Natale

The screenwriter of the studio mogul’s biopic works on Act One. 2,036 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

Weak, Dave, weak. Just like your ex-wife said. Or soft, as Jules used to say. Driving out the front gate was like stepping from inside a fun-house mirror. He felt a headache coming on, the kind he used to get when he worked at Hollywood mogul Jules Azenberg’s Argot Pictures – like a nail being hammered into old plaster, making a hole twice its size and sending dust flying everywhere. He never did work for anyone remotely like Jules after leaving the movie business. Television was a completely different animal. Writers like Dave were hired for a series episode for one reason only: to fill in the intervals between commercials. There was no pretense of making art, or quality entertainment. It was called programming for a reason. The beats were all laid out; writers merely inserted new words inbetween. No one expected Dave to pour his heart and soul into a teleplay the way he had with a movie script in the vague hope that a scintilla of what he’d written actually made it to the screen intact. It never did but it never stopped screenwriters from trying. Keeping that kind of delusion going took a great deal of energy. And Dave had paid for it with big plaster cracks.

The next night, over dinner, Dave and his friend Joel Rodgers discussed Azenberg’s offer to write a warts and all biopic of Jules’ life and career.

“You said yes, I hope,” Joel said.

Dave nodded, but couldn’t conceal his unease.

“Good. For once in your life, maybe you’ll be smart,” Joel chided him. “Take the money and run.”

“It’s not that simple, Joel. It’s just that I’ve never been a leech.”

“It’s a wonder you’ve survived,” Joel chortled. “In this town you need to be either a leech or a lemming. Or a rat. So tell your agent to squeeze that little fucker’s balls until he screams. Then, once you have your money, write whatever the hell you want. He gave you permission. Now call him on it.”

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Jules Azenberg 01

Tyrannis Rex
Part One

by Richard Natale

A screenwriter turned TV scripter gets a shocking assignment from his old studio boss. 2,996 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Hollywood – 1969

Dave Peterson was racing against a deadline. The F.B.I. teleplay was due in the morning and he planned to pull an all-nighter to finish it. Glancing up from his typewriter, he stared directly at a bottle of booze and sighed. Not tonight, buddy. But I’ll take a rain check. He was alone. Tiki, his Greek-born ex-wife, had run off with her boss, a fruit wholesaler from Woodland Hills. Didn’t even ask for alimony. Had even joked that, if he tried to divorce her for adultery, she would sue him for alienation of affection and name Jack Daniels and Smith Corona as correspondents.

He was jolted by the telephone. He checked his watch. No one called at this hour except for his buddy Joel Rodgers when he needed a loan or a ride for poker night, and that wasn’t until Friday.

“David. It’s Doreen, Jules Azenberg’s assistant.”

“Doreen?” he replied, surprised. No, not surprised. Flabbergasted.

“You must be thinking, ‘How long has it been?’” she said with a brittle chuckle.

“Yes,” he replied, trying to recover.

“You sound busy,” she continued.

“Actually, I was in the middle of…”

“So let me get right to it. Mr. Azenberg would like you to come in for a meeting tomorrow.”

“A meeting? Dave asked. “With me?”

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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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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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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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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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self_promotion

Self Promotion
Part Two

by Mark Fearing

A TV VP who jumped up the corporate ladder finds out that the HR head is on to him. 2,399 words. Part One. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


Pulling into the Conglom Worldwide Entertaindom garage the next morning, the newly self-promoted Vice President of Domestic Television Production, Original Programming and New Material noticed his freshly painted name on the wall. The first floor parking spot was carpeted on this level, which made it nicer than Bruce Walker’s living room.

He rode the elevator with Stacy, the head of HR on the fifth floor.

“Bruce, I see the parking spot was taken care of.”

“Yes, thanks so much for your help.”

“Well, that’s my job. To be there for the employees. It just amazes me that your promotion was issued so quickly,” Stacy pressed.

“I told you it went through a month ago. Took that long for it to get on the phone list.”

“No, I don’t think so,” Stacy disputed. “If it happened a month ago, I’d have received an Executive Assistant Jobs Posting, something that can only come from the Heaven floors. I have only one from last month and your assistant wasn’t on it.”

Bruce knew to never trust HR. They may say they are on your side, but they know who pays the bills for those holiday parties and open bars.

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Self Promotion nofade

Self Promotion
Part One

by Mark Fearing

Hollywood wannabes grow tired of climbing the corporate ladder. So this guy jumped. 2,601 words. Part Two. Story and illustration by Mark Fearing.


On another beautiful Los Angeles morning, Bruce Walker pulled into a parking space a little before 9:00 a.m. He parked on the Basement 9 floor which was actually eleven levels down but entertainment corporations have their own way of looking at numbers. As a halftime coordinator and part-time reader for Entertainer Entertainment, Bruce was lucky he even got to park in the headquarters.

Entertainer Entertainment created everything and anything that ended up on TV. A dozen years ago, the company was bought by Conglom Worldwide Entertaindom and now the “Conglom” building, as it was called, took up three blocks in every direction and was topped by a rooftop garden for the enjoyment of the almost unseen executives who worked on the 8th and 9th floors. This elite area was called Heaven.

Cathy sat at the front desk coolly answering, transferring and chatting, using a phone control pad that belonged on the space shuttle. Cathy had been up front for longer than Bruce had worked there. She was smart, efficient, good-humored and did her thankless work so well that she would never be promoted beyond it. So much for excelling at your job.

Most everyone ignored Cathy, but Bruce enjoyed spending a few minutes each morning receiving her rundown on everything happening in the building. “Three calls came in for Swain this morning from the Heaven floors,” Cathy confided, leaning over the front of the desk in mock dramatic fashion. “I think your favorite boss is having a tough time.”

“Maybe the six-hour lunches are finally catching up with him,” Bruce replied. “I don’t know why he doesn’t just use the restaurant on Robertson as his business address.”

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