A sportswriter futilely pitching Hollywood finds the one story they want but can’t have. 2,522 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Jack Williams was a New York sportswriter for thirty years before Hollywood beckoned. Actually, it didn’t so much "beckon" as merely exist on the other side of the country and, upon his arrival, disappear like Brigadoon. Several of Jack’s articles had been optioned by Hollywood producers for significant sums of money — sums that went to his employer, Sports: The Magazine. Jack had been content with the small bonuses he received on each option. But it stood to reason that if so much money was being recklessly parceled out for projects that never reached fruition beyond the issuing of the check, as if the option itself were the endgame, then why not cut out the middleman?
So Jack fled both the magazine and the Brooklyn neighborhood that had been slowly and covertly gentrified out from under him and headed west. To mine the gold that leaked from the pockets of the well-tailored men and women who, when they deigned to receive an audience, desired only one thing:
"Tell me a story," as the young executive asked with the yearning of a child at bedtime but none of the joy or wonder.
"Excuse me?" Jack replied, not that there had been any mistaking the nature of the request, only momentary confusion that the question had no preamble — no introduction or greeting of "hello" or even eye contact as the man poked at the phone smarter than he was.
"You know, a story," he expanded with five additional syllables. "With a beginning, a middle and an end."
And so Jack did. All over town. Jack told them all stories. Of "Wild" Harry Greb, a boxer who embodied The Roaring Twenties more than Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, and Al Capone combined. Greb was a nightclub-hopping rough-and-tumble brawler with educated thumbs that filled his opponents’ eyes in a clinch, a middleweight forced to battle much bigger men because fighters in his own weight class wouldn’t get in the ring with him. That Greb fought the latter part of his career while blind in one eye, and died at the age of twenty-six during an operation to correct the damage, struck those who heard it as "unbelievable." Not in the best sense of a great story ("Incredible!") but in the worst sense of Hollywood filmmaking because ("Nobody’s going to believe that!").