The movie marketer needs to know who misspelled the mega-producer’s name. 1,839 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
Normandy was frosty. "Do I have to worry about the deadline?" she snipped to Buzz.
"Have you ever?" he smiled and snagged the passing waitress. "Can you bring us some more wasabi? My friend likes it hot. Thanks."
They were sitting at Katsu-Ya near the Burbank border of Studio City. The restaurant was Normandy’s favorite because it was the hot cool spot for all the studio marketing and publicity elite.
"Normandy. I want you to go back to the office and tell your boss that this misspelled sample is a gift that may grow in value, like a misprinted stamp or a miscast coin. Think Sotheby’s. The Smithsonian. Film history. Fore Score. One of a kind."
She smiled at that. "Do I get one, too?"
"Absolutely not. I think I’ll send you to the Rihanna concert instead." Her eyebrows twitched and she began to soften. An extra ticket would give her a sweet advantage in the socially competitive marketing department at the studio.
Buzz knew when to eat some dirt and take a loss. The missing hard R was a mistake that he should have caught. He just couldn’t figure out how it happened. He had to keep his eye on the horizon. The studio was god. Even though its executives approved “Jerry Buckheimer.” Buzz had it in writing and could force the studio’s hand and skip the financial loss. But getting cancer would be smarter. Because the onus would fall squarely on Normandy’s shoulders.
That would be a tragedy. Normandy was the first one in her family to hold a management position. Not at a Walmart or a Mexican restaurant but at a major Hollywood studio. Normandy worked alongside the grads from Vassar and Harvard and USC. She was going places. No one in her family thought “Norma” – a maid’s name — would be so successful. She’d gone to city college for two years. She had ambition. She’d changed her name.
Buzz filled Normandy’s mug with tea and then his own. "Last night, I was on the website Birth.Movies.Death geeking out about the new Road Ranger. Have you seen any material cross your desk about it yet?"
Meanwhile, the Fore Score job had taken over Evergreen Embroidery and that was causing Cindy some production problems with her other clients and their exacting deadlines. Buzz hired an extra crew to help with the removal of the “Bad Jerry,” as the job had been nicknamed. Inside Happy Days Promotional MArketing, the salespeople, all gladiatorial competitors, were tickled pink by his misfortune, and Buzz laughed along. The ugly bottom line had not yet been determined, but old man Deiner was simmering red and blue.
Removing by hand the “Bad Jerry” embroidery from the caps was proving slow. Four out of ten caps had to be tossed. Buzz spent too much time and too much money finding and then buying every available cap in that style from around the country.
As the ship date neared, Cindy added two night shifts. Buzz was on the front lines: he sat on the noisy factory floor and plucked misspelled light blue threads from the caps. Forty-six embroidery machines kept a irregular earth-shaking heartbeat: chunga-chunga-chunga. Exhausted, Buzz kept the pace with a few trips to the bathroom and a lotta lotta coffee. A few spliffs kept the monotonous job interesting.
As the sun rose over the Lakewood industrial park, Buzz successfully pulled the embroidered misspelling from another dozen caps and tossed three failures into the trash. He watched Sammy, who was Cindy’s brother and Evergreen’s manager, park his Lexus and skip into the office. Buzz walked through Sammy’s open door.
"Hey, Buzz. You look cross-eyed," Sammy said.
Buzz laughed, "Long last two nights. A lotta caps. A lotta threads. My fingers are cramped." He wiggled his fingers and crossed his eyes. "Sammy, something has been bugging me. Do you remember the email artwork I sent you on the Fore Score job?"
"No, but I can look it up." Sammy started typing on his keypad.
"When you digitize artwork, you don’t change it, right?"
"I use what you give me to make the embroidery tape and tell the machines what to do. I don’t touch your masterpiece. No way, dude."
"OK," Buzz affirmed. But he still hadn’t been able to accept his costly mistake and it obsessed him.
Sammy’s INBOX filled the screen and he studied it. "On the 12th at 3:44, you sent me the art, and–"
Buzz pointed to the screen. "Look. ‘Bruckheimer.’ The big R. So what happened?”
Sammy didn’t like Buzz’s implication and returned to the INBOX. "I remember now. At 4:20 you sent another message that said: ‘My mistake. Bad spelling. New art.’ Look: ‘Buckheimer.’ Then I digitized it."
Buzz tried to make sense of what Sammy was looking at. "But I didn’t send that email. It says I did. That’s my name. That’s my account. But I didn’t send it."
"Maybe you were stoned," Sammy laughed then added apologetically, "I’m not a Hollywood guy. I don’t know know who these bubs are or how they spell their names. So I followed your instructions and finished it off.”
Buzz wasn’t sure what to think. So he massaged Sammy’s shoulder and said, "Thanks. I gotta go pull some more thread."
Back at the office, Buzz pulled up his email and clicked on SENT. He scrolled back through all his messages until he reached the 12th. At 3:44 PM, he sent Sammy the email with the correct "Bruckheimer" artwork. There was nothing sent at 4:20. In fact, there was nothing else sent until the next morning.
Buzz walked into the Art Department, "Jonathan. Can you pull up the Fore Score job?"
The young guy raised his hands, "Not my doin’." With a few swipes of his mouse and a couple of taps on the keyboard, The Secret Of Nimba vanished and the artwork of Fore Score appeared. Jonathan pointed. "See. ‘Jerry Brrr-uckheimer.’"
"That’s an R alright,” Buzz confirmed. “So did you ever do another version or something?"
"C’mon! I love Jerry Bruckheimer movies!"
Buzz sat back in his office chair and stared at the SENT emails on his computer, all of them in chronological order. Then he clicked TRASH. It was full. He scrolled back through the pile. Everything before the 13th had been deleted. Buzz wasn’t that neat and tidy. He stared at the screen, lost in the possibilities. Slowly, he sat up and closed his email. He opened a Finder window and typed “Making a Password” into the Search box. He followed the instructions and chose “Love&Trust.” He locked it down.
Now, no one could start it up except him.
Buzz was pissed but he couldn’t think of anyone at the company who would mess with him. Then again, everyone was a suspect. A decade ago, Happy Days Promotional Marketing was one of thirty or forty firms working for the studios. Today, one of six. All of the Happy Days reps had their own studio accounts, but who knew what his dear friends would do with a knife in their hands. Everyone was bleeding after a decade of Hell. Now, nervous film marketing and publicity budgets went for social media, no longer old school promo. The classic Press Mailer had became a dusty Smithsonian exhibit. It was so bad that Buzz had considered the unthinkable, like aiming promo at healthcare or computer companies.
Screw that. Buzz was a film guy.
He locked his office door behind him. A first. He looked into the office to the left and saw Jenny sitting primly at her computer and typing madly. Yup, she’d brain me with a brick for my studio account. Jenny looked up at Buzz and smiled. He was sneering absently so she stuck her tongue out at him. Further on, he could hear Brian, who worked the Universal account, laughing at a client’s joke. If Buzz were a betting man, he’d expect the new father of twins to be hiding a sharpened shiv in his pencil holder.
Buzz couldn’t sleep that night. It may have been the enchilada floating on a sea of vodka. More likely because he was livid and confounded by the perp and his purpose. That kind of Hollywood behavior belonged Above The Line. There’d been a time when Buzz wanted to make films. After two years as a PA, he wanted nothing to do with them. He hated the treachery and the neurosis of the Green Light class as well as the agents, the producers and the creators. Buzz felt an affinity for those Below The Liners who like himself got the job done with honor, integrity and a smile.
The next morning, Buzz made a three-point turn and parked his 2005 Tacoma truck in the lot. "Good morning, Stinky," he said to the receptionist as he entered the Happy Days lobby.
"And how is your day so far?" she asked.
"I don’t know yet. I’ll need another cup of coffee to decide. Is Katherine in yet?"
Buzz walked down the first floor hallway, passing Deiner’s office, to the space beyond where Katherine was reading something blue and bright on her screen. The Hitchcock blonde looked annoyed when Buzz said, "I know you’re busy." He guessed she was checking her eHarmony progress.
He sat down and smiled. He liked Katherine. They traded favors. They were both grateful that their relationship lacked any forced bonhomie. She pursed her lip and cocked her head at him.
Buzz threw his thumb at the wall behind him, indicating Deiner’s office, "Is there anything extracurricular going on there with anyone?"
Katherine sighed and said, "Buzz," which she let float in the breeze. Katherine then raised her right hand and, with her index finger and thumb, she held her nose and winced.
Buzz snorted, a snaggletooth honk, and the laugh came fast. But that was the moment he knew that Stinky had sabotaged his job. He had never seen it coming.
Buzz whispered, "Did you know that he wanted me to hire her as a sales assistant?" Katherine nodded. Buzz shook his head sadly, "Still does. That’s so Above The Line."
It was nearing the usual end of Buzz’s day. He walked through the lobby and headed out the front door when he stopped and stepped back toward the receptionist sitting at her desk. Stinky looked up. Buzz said, "You know, ‘Brrr-uckheimer’ has a hard R after the B."
Stinky was caught off guard. He continued.
"You’ll never be my assistant, OK? We work for Hollywood; we don’t act like Hollywood. I appreciate your millennial spirit, but it’s not going to happen."
Stinky stretched tall and she extended her ample chest. She SMILED and exhaled coquettishly. "We’ll see about that."
“You should know that in my bookcase, Jammed with an all my crazy samples, sits a stuffed tiger. It’s cute, but it’s also a video baby monitor. I zipped back to the 12th at 4 p.m. and you’re in living color."
Buzz was lying. Stinky smiled dumbly. Buzz shrugged. "Is Deiner still in his office?" Stinky nodded.