462C5B72-B511-467D-9EDB-90C05755F7B3

Kinky

by Alan Swyer

A young executive learns too much information from this studio mogul. 2,243 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“I need you!” Walter Shepherd bellowed into the phone, causing Barry Nash to cringe.

First as an agent, then as a A5B3E0F0-C9C6-486D-B9BF-98B356EAA0EBproducer, and finally as a studio head, Walter Shepherd was a Hollywood legend whose behavior was considered off-the-wall, and whose thinking was deemed out-of-the-box, long before those terms became fashionable. It was Shepherd who showed the movie biz that hits should be separated into two totally distinct categories – those that boys, girls, or sometimes both, saw three, ten, or even twenty times; and those that attracted people who didn’t, as a rule, go to the movies. It was Shepherd who predicted first the rise, then the rapid fall, of the new 3-D technology.

For Nash, who was far from earning V.P. stripes of his own, the chance to work with such an icon as Shepherd seemed like a dream. After hitting a wall as an aspiring screenwriter, then toiling in obscurity as a freelance script reader, the opportunity to learn from a honcho was not just what his friends termed a new lease on life. It also gave Nash the wherewithal to marry his college girlfriend, with whom he quickly produced an adorable daughterplus a chance to see the way Hollywood really worked.

Serving as Shepherd’s factotum, Nash got to be present – and, once given the go-ahead, even voice an opinion – at upper level staff meetings, story conferences, and pitch sessions, as well as in what the trade papers called confabs with directors, producers, and stars. But he was often the recipient of the wrath of power players after voicing negatives that Shepherd wanted expressed by someone other than himself. Plus, on far too many occasions, he had to beard while the studio head was off cheating on his wife and/or mistress either with a new conquest or what he referred to as the “next in line.”

Even tougher were what Nash dubbed Shepherd’s notions. “I’ve got this crazy notion,” Nash would hear from time to time when summoned. Invariably that meant total immersion in something that could prove to be brilliant, a stretch, or completely cockamamie. When Shepherd was on, the result was surprisingly good. When Shepherd was at the top of his game, the result was close to astounding. But when Shepherd was off, Nash knew he was in for days, weeks, and arguably even months of what could be a total nightmare.

So it was with serious misgivings that Nash headed down the hall toward Shepherd’s office, hoping against hope that the conversation might prove to be about budgets, or casting, or even… yikes… bearding rather than another lengthy misguided quest.

“I’ve got this crazy notion. Ready?”

With a gulp that he tried his best to hide, Nash nodded.

“What do you think about a guy who becomes obsessed with a dominatrix?” Shepherd asked. Then, getting nothing but a shrug from Nash, he continued. “Kind of a Blue Angel thing, only kinkier. Sexier. Think Von Stroheim or Bunuel meets Adrien Lyne or the guy who made Blue Is The Warmest Color. Read me?”

“Nnot exactly.”

“Let’s say our hero’s a young reporter or a young cop on a murder case. A vanilla kind of guy who finds the S&M stuff weird, maybe even repulsive. Getting there?”

“Not really.”

“You will,” said Shepherd.

Nash stepped out into the hallway, then took a deep breath. Though speaking up might jeopardize his ascent within the studio hierarchy, maybe it was time, he thought, to express his real feelings. This one was nuts. Or else perhaps the moment had come to make good on his ever-increasing desire to depart the studio system and direct an indie.

Since Shepherd’s notions were considered “Top-Secret Classified,” never to be discussed with anyone else in the business, Nash would be stuck flying solo. Coming from rural Maine — where, despite rumors involving barnyard animals, there was no network for bondage, fetishes, or S&M — Nash was at a loss where even to begin. Searches on Craigslist led to scams, come-ons, and dead ends. So, too, did other websites, plus the freebie papers promising sex and so forth.

All the while Nash was immersed in this reading, he felt prudish and vanilla. Medical play? Scrotal piercings? Riding crops? Rectal scissors? He’d never contemplated having a thin glass rod inserted into his urethra. Or to be cross-dressed then chained to a wooden crucifix.
Surprisingly, when Nash for research was given a peek at what seemed to be a kind of S&M Disneyland, he had a childish urge to giggle.

He tried his best to stay out of Shepherd’s sight during this time. But that effort was thwarted when Shepherd called Nash in for an update.

“Not much to say.”

“Which means, I take it, not much has been done.”

“Not for lack of effort.”

“You must be doing it like a tourist.”

“As opposed to?”

“Diving in feet first! Or not exactly feet. Hope you haven’t just been letting your fingers do the walking.”

“It’s not like I’ve got somebody to open doors for me,” Nash protested.

“Says who? I’m going to email you names and numbers. Your job goddamnit is to start getting some experiences.”

What troubled Nash even more than actual involvement was what was known as TMI about Shepherd. Because, even with all his foibles and flaws, the boss remained special in Nash’s esteem. Which made the realization profoundly unsettling that a larger-than-life figure known for his firm control of Hollywood and especially of women liked to be ordered degraded by dominatrixes… or dominatrices… or whatever the plural might be.

And it made Nash even more uncomfortable to realize just how sheltered and naïve his own life – and outlook – had been.
Nash picked up, then put down, his office phone several times before finally dialing one of the numbers sent him by Shepherd.

“This is Violet,” said a husky recorded voice at the other end. “Yes, the one and only Vicious Violet. So if you’re under twenty-one, please do us both a favor and hang up now. But if you’re of age, kindly leave a number at the sound of the beep. And by all means have references ready when I get back to you.”

Hearing the beep, Nash forced himself to speak. “My name’s Barry,” he blurted, “and Walter Shepherd suggested I call.”

To Nash’s surprise, a non-recorded voice suddenly spoke. “How is the old devil?” Violet asked.

“Ornery as ever.”

“Then it’s time for him to be put in his place. But first, what can I do for you?”

“H-he seems to think it’d be i-interesting for me to see you.”

“Nervous, huh? So tell me what you have in mind.”

“Same as him?” Nash asked.

“Fine. Meanwhile tell naughty Walter that I’m ready for him, too.”

Nash parked in front of a nondescript tract home in a sweltering part of the San Fernando Valley best known for Little League and porn production. Taking deep breaths to gird himself, Nash tried his best to stride confidently toward the front door. There, he hesitated before finally ringing the bell. Nash watched the door open just enough for him to step in. But at the sight of a woman dressed in a skimpy, cleavage-emphasizing leather dominatrix outfit, plus calf-high boots, he lost it and burst into uncontrollable laughter. Holding a riding crop in her right hand, Violet glared until Nash regained some control.

“Not the most auspicious start,” she acknowledged. Taking his hand, Violet led her new client into a room with the toys and contraptions of her trade. Again, laughter overcame him.

“This is not doing wonders for my ego,” Violet said, shaking her head. “Maybe you should tell me why you’re here.”

Catching his breath, Nash came clean, offered to pay Violet’s fee and leave.

“I won’t say no to the money,” she responded. “But how about we sit and talk since I’m sure you’ve got questions?”

To Nash’s surprise, the session that ensued proved not merely to be informative, but also enjoyable. Violet, he learned, had a master’s degree in French literature, and a special interest in what she called the Bad Boy Poets – Villon, Rimbaud, and Verlaine. She was also a published author with a detective novel and short stories under her

real name, Amanda Nusbaum. Her day job came into existence when she found herself short of funds after an acrimonious breakup. More importantly, she explained to Nash in a manner infinitely more enlightening than anything on Wikipedia the whys and wherefores of her second profession.

Sex, she informed him, was far from the most important component, to the point where it often figured only marginally, and sometimes not at all. The key, as she saw it, was that many men in power felt unworthy – or even guilty — about the formidable control they wielded in their professional lives. That led them to a secret where they could allow themselves to be vulnerable. And humiliated. And punished, whether emotionally, physically, or both. It was a catharsis that many found far more satisfying than spending time with a shrink.

The following day, thanks to a call from Violet, Nash trekked over to Glendale for a session, this one with a diminutive dominatrix who went by Mistress Miyako. Nash experienced what she considered to be an introductory treatment. There was light bondage, tickling and teasing with feathers, plus clips place on the nipples – but no whipping or torture, no dog collar, nothing hardcore.

He found himself present in body, but not in spirit. A part of him was unwilling, or unable, to let go. That made the experience clinical.

For what he assumed would be his final foray, Nash trekked to Burbank for a session with Goddess Gina. The moment he set eyes on the statuesque redhead who greeted him, something inexplicable happened. He felt somehow at home.

Without any hesitation or urging, Nash found himself not merely acquiescing to the Goddess’s commands but surrendering his qualms. For the first time in his life, as Goddess Gina debased him – making him lick her boots, wear a dog collar, and crawl on all fours all the while inflicting ever-mounting pain by spanking him, slapping his genitals, even whipping him – Nash felt blissfully free.

From the moment he got home that evening, he enjoyed his time with his wife and daughter far more than usual. At the studio, too, Nash had a fresh perspective. Ordinary nuisances – calls not promptly returned, someone else’s car in his parking space, a lunch date arriving late – suddenly seemed trivial. Noting the changes, Shepherd gave his protege a more active role in the new project and named him the production exec in charge. For the first time, Nash would select the screenwriter. Then, as development advanced, he would bring on first a producer, then a director.

Yet, as days turned to weeks, Nash felt that something in his life that was missing. So he went back to see Goddess Gina which became, after a third visit, then a fourth, a habit, then ultimately an addiction to the point where soon Nash was living a double life. The pain each time became commensurate with his increased power at the studio.

All the while the project itself, which had acquired the title Kinky, had become hot in the eyes of Hollywood. Until, that is, it went through screenwriter after screenwriter, rewrite after rewrite. The British director jumped ship to take on another film. Then the hip producer, out of the blue, got a green light on a movie to be shot in Malta.

Suddenly Kinky went from “Oh, cool!” to “Oh, that!”

The next step, Nash knew, was likely to be turnaround, meaning that the project would be orphaned by its studio. But with a boldness unthinkable just months before, Nash strode into his mentor’s office and requested that the rights be transferred to him. “Because I want to make it myself. If necessary, with my own bucks."

“Wait a second,” grumbled Shepherd. “What’s the first rule of Hollywood? Never spend your own money.”

“It’s something I’ve got to do.”

“Maybe you ought to take a few days and think about it,” Shepherd then stated in a surprisingly fatherly way.
“I have,” Nash countered firmly. “It’s what I want, and what I need.”

In a Hollywood adaptation of such a tale, Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone would have starred in Nash’s film for a reduced fee. Then together they would have basked in the kudos that came their way. Instead, he cast Goddess Gina as the leading lady, then depleted his bank account. Spurned by exhibitors, the indie went straight to Amazon Prime with no fanfare whatsoever. Not surprisingly, Nash’s marriage fared no better. No longer able to afford his dominatrix addiction, Nash wrote a memoir that was published by a small independent press, then taught at a fledgling film school in Florida. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, he networks in hope of staging a Hollywood comeback.

 

About The Author:
Alan Swyer
Alan Swyer is a writer, director and producer for film, television and music. His work ranges from HBO’s much-honored Rebound (Don Cheadle, Forrest Whitaker) to The Buddy Holly Story. A prolific documentarian, his Beisbol won the Imagen Award and his Diabetes the Golden Mic Award. His most recent film is From Harlem To Hollywood about music legend Billy Vera screened at the Grammy Museum. He has produced an album of Ray Charles love songs, and published numerous short stories. His novel The Beard was recently published by Harvard Square Editions.

About Alan Swyer

Alan Swyer is a writer, director and producer for film, television and music. His work ranges from HBO’s much-honored Rebound (Don Cheadle, Forrest Whitaker) to The Buddy Holly Story. A prolific documentarian, his Beisbol won the Imagen Award and his Diabetes the Golden Mic Award. His most recent film is From Harlem To Hollywood about music legend Billy Vera screened at the Grammy Museum. He has produced an album of Ray Charles love songs, and published numerous short stories. His novel The Beard was recently published by Harvard Square Editions.

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