The Hollywood gumshoe McNulty is on the case again, this time asked to search for his wet dream. 2,296 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
She was as iconic a sex symbol as any film goddess who had ever scorched the silver screen. Even now, some forty years after her mysterious and tragic suicide, Misty Marlowe with her statuesque allure and curvaceous figure was seared indelibly into the male, and a fair number of female, memories as well.
That she should perish in the cold embrace of the Pacific was somehow as sadly fitting as it was ironic. Everyone knew the genesis of Misty’s stardom had been her gasp-inducing debut in the low-budget B movie Neptune’s Nymph. Cast as an uninhibited seductress, Misty emerged from the sea in a glorious slow-motion shot glistening in a barely-there bikini. One critic was so taken with her ample bosom that he was compelled to observe rather cheekily how “newcomer Misty Marlowe is perfectly cast as the titular leading lady.”
That single bikini image had become an instant poster sensation and fifty-five years later was still producing more erections than an ADD kid with a box of Legos. For the last few weeks, Misty’s iconic swimwear was making worldwide headlines once again, accompanied by a photo of Misty in her scanty nymph costume: “MOVIE BABE’S BIKINI STOLEN FROM AUCTION HOUSE!” “COPS CONDUCT TOP TO BOTTOM SEARCH FOR STAR’S STOLEN BIKINI!” “HUNT FOR SEX SYMBOL’S BIKINI PETER’S OUT!” “LAPD ADMITS NO PROGRESS IN BIKINI THEFT!”
“Tits,” McNulty mused as he eyed the famous photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. “The mother’s milk of Hollywood.”
“Good line,” said the writer, tapping it into his iPad mini. “I’ll definitely use that. I’m the Boswell to your Johnson.
“Stop saying that,” McNulty demanded. “It sounds like you’re writing about my dick.”
The screenwriter’s career is going gangbusters again. There’s just one last complication. 3,002 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
After three more weeks of intense procrastination, screenwriter Gavin Falconer jumped in his Mercedes and rocketed to his favorite Palm Springs haunt. He handed his iPhone, iPad, wallet and car keys to the concierge and told him to lock them up. He had the TV removed from his room. With the help of cigarettes, Kettle One, and vials of amphetamines, Gavin was able, without stopping, to crank out a draft in eleven straight days. He smelled foul and looked like shit, his hair and beard wild. He was half-blind from eye strain and could barely walk. But he managed to hit send by the deadline.
His agent Kurt McCann read the script and told Gavin he’d hit it out of the ballpark. Then Precious Chaing-Lee, the assistant to the producer Lana Meisel, called to set a notes meeting before the script went to studio executive Brent Burnham. Now Gavin was being escorted to Lana’s office where she was waiting along with Precious. Lana started the meeting with praise. Then she expressed concern that he’d failed to ramp up sufficient tension after the mid-point.
But mostly it was smooth sailing. Until Gavin suddenly said that he’d like to made a suggestion.
“Wait, a writer with a note?” Lana laughed uproariously. Within seconds, she’d tweeted what Gavin said, then held up her phone to show him the fast growing tally of ‘likes’ and retweets.
“Listen,” Gavin insisted. “I was just wondering whether to beef up the role of Monique.”
“Monique?” Lana said. “She’s in two scenes as eye-candy for the preteen boys who will want to jack off to her meme.”
The screenwriter is being watched and followed. Will a woman expose his crime or blackmail him? 2,546 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
In the dream, screenwriter Gavin Falconer struggled again with story analyst Dale Tomasis. They were in the dirt at the base of the deck. Dale threw Gavin to the ground, and then Gavin couldn’t move, as if he’d been paralyzed. He screamed and woke up, covered in sweat. He took a moment to catch his breath, then rose, naked, from the bed. He walked through his silent house. In the kitchen he downed a Xanax with a slug of Kettle One. He grabbed his laptop and headed outside. He took some deep breaths and gazed at lights twinkling up from below. It was dead silent in the hills, a good time to start writing.
He typed a slug line: EXT. DEEP SPACE – NIGHT.
He sat back and stared at the words and thought about his pitch of story analyst Dale’s idea. The first act covered so much ground, he wasn’t sure how to begin. He paced the length of the deck several times, then sat back down and began stabbing at the keys again.
“Lame!” he said out loud, deleting the opening paragraph.
He tried again. “Fuck!” he shouted, because these new words sucked, too. Then he remembered the flash drive from Dale’s desk. Gavin headed inside, found it and plugged it into his computer. Dale’s “Movie Ideas” came up on the screen. Gavin scanned through them but couldn’t find notes or even an outline. Jesus, Gavin thought, was that all this fucker had?
A screenwriter’s stolen pitch earns him a huge payday. Who can stop the film? 2,653 words. Part One. Part Three. Part Four. llustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
Usually screenwriter Gavin Falconer drove down the hill toward Sunset like a maniac, tempting fate, but this time he took the blind curves with care.
Moving a corpse was harder than he imagined. He’d debated calling for help. It was an accident, he’d swear. Instead, he moved to the deck, picked up the hammer and returned to the kitchen where he turned on the hot water and watched as blood and stray bits of hair and skin eddied down the drain.
Then he popped the trunk of the Mercedes and found a huge roll of plastic left over from a roof leak. He used it to carry the broken body, twisted and impaled. Gavin managed to roll Dale Tomasis onto the plastic, then sealed the package with duct tape.
An hour later Gavin was winding his way through the Angeles National Forest. He pulled to the side of a small service road and cut the engine. He looked over the edge of a steep ravine. He grabbed the plastic package and dragged it from the trunk. One strong push, and Dale’s body was gone into the abyss.
Back at home, Gavin could think of nothing but sliding into bed, But then he saw Dale’s Prius. “Fuck me!” Gavin hissed.
He had Dale’s keys, though. He drove the Prius to Dale’s apartment, where Gavon headed straight to the story analyst’s computer. Soon Gavin was scrolling through a folder Dale had marked “Movie Ideas.” He discarded several as poorly thought out. He copied one with merit onto a flash drive he fished from a drawer. He found the pitch idea he had stolen from Dale, copied this as well, and deleted all the film files. Then Gavin slipped out the door.
A screenwriter needs another hit movie. Will he scheme it or steal it? 3,890 words. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Ilustrations by John Donald Carlucci.
Up ahead, beneath twin palms swaying in a whispering hot breeze, Gavin Falconer could see a massive production — klieg lights crisscrossing the night sky, the blinking neon of the marquee, a line of gleaming black hybrids and town cars at the curb, and a Red Carpet sweeping into the theater.
Fuckers, Gavin thought as he got nearer. “Motherfuckers!” This he shouted out loud without even realizing it, until he noticed people ahead of him had turned to stare and were giving him wide berth, as if he was crazy. Well, he wasn’t crazy. He was a screenwriter, although some might equate the two. He was, however, in a foul state of mind, and when he realized his invitation didn’t include VIP parking, his mood grew even darker.
But he put on a big smile as he passed through security. He made his way up the Red Carpet and stepped into the lobby, a sea of sleek flesh in equally sleek outfits. He scanned the crowd for a familiar or friendly face. He found neither. He did spot Trish Danaher surrounded by an unwieldy entourage. He could go up and tell her he’d read her script and thought it was mediocre at best. But she already considered him a douche so he didn’t bother. He moved through the crowd toward the concession area. Kurt McCann was in front of him in line. Gavin recognized his agent by the sharp cut of his suit but said nothing, just stared and briefly imagining driving the pen in his pocket into Kurt’s skull. Then Kurt turned.
“Dude,” said Gavin, aiming to keep things light, “thought your assistant said you weren’t gonna show. You could’ve returned my call.”
Kurt aimed for light, too, even though his eyes were looking everywhere except at Gavin. “You know what? I changed my mind at the last minute. Got any pages for me? Because they’re getting antsy over at Netflix. You’re way past owing them a draft. I mean, like, breach-of-contract late.”
TV FICTION PACKAGE: A PhD researcher may have inadventently killed her pilot deal. 1,932 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
It was like watching Geraldo Rivera attempt the salsa in a Donald Trump wig on Dancing With The Stars. I, Dr. Janet Ling, could not tear my horrified eyes away from the Hollywood news story that might sink my nascent TV career:
LOS ANGELES — Just weeks before 2016’s May network upfront sessions in New York, a joint Caltech-UCLA study is sending shock waves through Hollywood by proving there is too much TV. The document draws a direct causal connection between the volume of TV series programming (the networks tallied 412 scripted series that aired last year) and brush fires, drought, deepening fault lines, traffic congestion, gluten sensitivity, identity theft, arguments with Siri, muffin top, ADHD, man buns, California roll, dog breed names ending in ‘doodle,’ bears in swimming pools and the viral growth of new gastropubs serving craft beers and small plates. “Who knows what will happen next?” said Caltech researcher Don Boswell. The scientific research bears out the ominous words of John Landgraf, president of FX Network, who sparked a heated debate at last summer’s Television Critics Association Press Tour by stating: “There is simply too much television.”
It’s not that I didn’t know. I’m one of the authors of the study. I’m an associate professor of neurobiology, a promising young researcher at UCLA’s renowned Brain Institute. But seeing our findngs on the front page of the Los Angeles Times still gave me the shivers. I sucked anxiously on my Big Gulp of Red Bull Sugarfree — although if anyone knows the carcinogenic effects of artificial sweeteners, I do. My cat, Higgs Boson, could sense my agitation as he cuddled in my lap.
Was I horrified because, as a responsible scientist, I now feared for the well being of our country? No, I was nervously nibbling Exotic Mango polish off my nails because, while working on the study, I had also been taking a UCLA Extension course in television writing. (Never take these how-to’s in hopes of meeting Mr. Right: all the dweebs who sign up still live with their parents. But I digress).
Did Hollywood’s coke frenzy ever go away or just go underground? First of two parts. 3,081 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
On the patio of Stazuzzi’s Trattoria on Sunset Boulevard, Bender dipped his bread into a bowl of pale yellow olive oil and realized his drug dealer’s complexion was the same color. Such was the effect of chemo. “I’m going to beat this,” Jimmy said. Three weeks later he was dead.
There was some question as to where the memorial would be held. Jimmy owned a small ranch in Ojai where he ran an antiques store that served as a money-laundering device for his cocaine business. His wife Annette had a house on Coldwater Drive behind the Beverly Hills Hotel. She was a four-star estate agent at Coldwell Banker and sold homes north of Sunset. Annette wouldn’t touch anything less than the high middle seven figures.
Annette hated Ojai, Jimmy’s dogs, his pet snakes, and the crap he called antiques so the memorial was held in her backyard facing the swimming pool. Besides, it was easier for his Los Angeles friends and former customers.
Most of the mourners had stopped using the drugs Jimmy sold and no longer needed him. Cocaine had been out of fashion for so long that Bender wondered how Mexican drug lords were making a living. In the eighties people wore dulled gold razor blades on chains around their necks and agents gave their clients six hundred dollar coke kits with onyx chopping boards and silver spoons for Christmas, all purchased from the Beverly Hills Head Shop on Brighton. Bender loved the paraphernalia: tightly rolled twenties for straws, narrow glass bottles with black caps, the joy of going through pockets of suits in a closet and discovering a forgotten paper bindle folded like origami with enough for a quick snort. He enjoyed the rituals of chopping, making lines, the final finger rub on the gums, the connection to sex (coke whore was not necessarily a term of disrespect) and the comradeship – all this he prized more than the drug itself. Cocaine was the perfect Hollywood drug. Like a Porsche, it demonstrated wealth and success. An ounce of marijuana, no matter how potent, couldn’t cost more than a hundred dollars, but a bowl of cocaine on a coffee table spelled thousands. Eventually there were too many stupid deaths, ruined careers, expensive rehabs and cocaine fueled over-budget films that tanked. Gyms, personal trainers, yoga, juice bars and the obsession for getting children into the right private school took over. It wasn’t cool to do coke anymore. Marijuana stayed socially acceptable and for a while Jimmy was the go-to-dealer until it became semi-legal in California under the concept of medicinal marijuana. Pot smokers got ID cards and bought their weed legally at dispensaries identified by neon green-cross signs.
The FBI and LAPD pursue the notorious Hollywood killer teaching a UCLA film class. 3,721words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.
Special Agent Phillip Kennis lifted the mini-bar bottle of orange juice and toasted his image in the mirror. He hadn’t taken a real drink in fourteen years and he had never been a breakfast drunk, anyway. But he wouldn’t have minded a touch of champagne in the Tropicana this morning. He finally had something to celebrate.
After close to half a million man hours including his own team and the state police and local cops in four cities in two states; after a closed door Congressional hearing, two review boards and a suspension over his methods and attitude; after a work-related divorce and eight months of eating Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese out of the microwave, he was finally going to arrest the Auteur.
The Auteur wasn’t some Rambo-like killing machine. He wasn’t even particularly fit. He was devious, not physically intimidating. Today, he was just an ordinary guy, standing in the pit of a lecture hall, teaching a course called Directing Actors — the tabloids would have a ball with that one. It was going down this morning, in a little more than an hour, when the film classes started at UCLA.
The paperwork was done – Phil wasn’t going to make that mistake again: no more cowboy stuff, no more improvisations. The judge had signed off on the raid just before midnight, and shaken Phil’s hand with a terse, “Go get him, son.” It was an uncharacteristic moment of warmth. Judge Howard Kyle was an unapologetic civil liberties fanatic who despised the Patriot Act and the men who took advantage of it. Phil had come up against him before. But this was different. Judge Kyle had seen the captured film — part of it at least.
“I walk out of regular movies all the time,” he said. “I walked out of Inglourious Basterds when they started beating people to death with baseball bats, and that was make-believe. I saw precisely as much of this one as the letter of the law required.”
So the Auteur had brought them together in a moment of bipartisan law enforcement and judicial solidarity, when nothing else had ever come close. That felt good. The Auteur had unwittingly created that irony, along with his high-end murder porn.