On Halloween night, an agent considers a huge career move that will impact his wife and his clients. 2,808 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Dressed head to toe in Armani, Casey Glynn was thirty-four but still carried himself like a college frat-boy. He sat in his newly remodeled kitchen in Brentwood with his espresso, a bran muffin, and an open script on the table which was a $9,000 marble-topped Calcutta model.
He was skimming through the script quickly, skipping past large chunks of pages to find snippets of dialogue he could quote back to the writer before they met this morning. The agent was courting him as a client. True, Casey’s assistant had already emailed coverage. But the rep’s goal was to give the impression he’d read the script thoroughly himself.
“Any good?” his wife, Lori, asked from across the kitchen.
“Pretty lame, actually,” Casey said, shaking his head.
“What’s it about?”
Casey snickered before answering, “A kid who masturbates a lot.”
“Gross,” Lori said, scrunching up her face in disgust.
“So you’re not going to sign him?” Lori asked.
Casey tapped the script. “No, I definitely want this guy.”
“But I thought you said his script was–”
“His other stuff’s great and the studios love him. He’s literally king of the rom-coms right now,” Casey said, flipping the pages to the middle of the script. “This is his one personal film. It’s about his first love in Memphis and how she broke his heart… Blah, blah. I’m just reading it because it’s the only one he wants to talk about. He wants to direct it.” Casey rolled his eyes. “I’m gonna hook this whale today. Just you watch.”
“If anyone can make it happen, it’s my little super-agent,” Lori said, reverting to baby talk.
Casey looked up from the script at his wife, tickled that he’d gotten that reaction out of her. She was beautiful, younger, dressed in pink Lululemon gear. She stood in front of a wheatgrass juicer cutting clumps with scissors, the sun glinting off of her 4-carat diamond ring. Her body was well toned from a weekly regimen of yoga and Pilates and her hair was light brown with blonde highlights courtesy of a very expensive colorist.
Casey smiled, a slight acknowledgement that he’d heard her, then focused back on the script. He read the last line spoken by the main character, a 13-year-old boy: I never saw Lisa again after she moved away… but my Memphis memories would stay with me forever. Casey knew no one would make this screenplay or let its writer direct it.
Lori was about to say something, but Casey held up his hand to stop her. “One sec,” he said, glancing at the huge flatscreen TV mounted on the wall where FOX News Channel was hosting a panel discussing Donald Trump’s comments from his Access Hollywood outtakes.
Casey, a lifelong Republican, couldn’t stand Hillary Clinton and hoped Trump would surprise everyone on Election Day. But the agent was starting to have doubts. “I can’t believe Fox is jumping on the bandwagon with this crap. When they should be helping him,” Casey said, annoyed.
“But you have to admit what he said was really offensive–”
“Lori, he already apologized.”
“Only because he had to,” Lori offered weakly. She usually followed her husband’s lead when it came to politics, but this latest Trump thing, with his “I just grab their pussy” comment, had gotten under her skin.
“Don’t tell me you’d rather have that Crooked Hillary running our country?” Casey asked, picking up his cell. “There’s nothing worse than a liar.”
Then he remembered his client’s Halloween party that night. He pulled out the box of costumes and he and his wife tried them on. They fit perfectly. “Lori, promise me you’ll be ready to go when I get home.”
“Sweetie, I know. You’ve reminded me three times,” she said, sipping her wheatgrass. “I’ll be your ‘wittle Geisha’.” She pronounced the word like a two-year-old. “And you’ll be my big bad Samurai warrior.”
“Seriously, it’s gonna be a madhouse at Cheyne’s tonight.”
Cheyne Gold was Casey’s star screenwriting client, referred around Hollywood circles as “The Goose” — short for “The Golden Goose” because of all the money his scripts brought in. His last spec sale that Casey had brokered set off the heaviest bidding war seen in the last few years, finally picked up for just under five million. The Goose had money to burn and his annual Halloween parties were events and considered the toughest invitation this time of the year by many Hollywood A-listers.
“Wish you could drink with me tonight,” Casey said to Lori. “Not even one or two cocktails? How could that hurt?”
“I’m already three days into my cleanse, and I have my colonic on Monday. Until then, I’m only allowed to have juice. I’m doing this for you.”
“I never told you to starve yourself to death.”
“If you like my ass rock-hard, you should want me to stick with it.” Lori had become insecure about her physical appearance the more successful Casey was in the business.
He was playing with the sword. She walked over and wrapped her arms around him from behind. “I’ve never seen you so excited about a party. You’re like a little kid,” she said, nibbling his earlobe.
“Half the guys at the agency are trying to bring clients to this party. I’m talking Hollywood royalty, and Cheyne has turned them all away.” Casey opened Lori’s fingers gently in order to free himself from her grip.
A cell rang. Lori looked to the table and realized the ring wasn’t coming from Casey’s iPhone. Instead, he pulled a burner from his pants pocket. “What’s with the extra cell? Are you having an affair?” she joked.
"Yeah, that’s my new girlfriend calling." Casey studied the incoming number and put the phone on silent. “It’s my Bat phone,” he explained. “It’s for the other agency to call on when we need to talk.”
“Why aren’t you picking up?”
“I’m making them sweat a little to sweeten my deal.”
“Why do you need the second phone?”
“To avoid a lot of legal bullshit with GTA. If I jump ship, they could sue my ass if they found out I was taking meetings with potential clients when I was on their clock. Like, if I sign this rom-com guy today and go to Synergy next month, then GTA won’t know when it happened. I’m still under contract until November. My phone records have to be clean.”
Synergy, another high-powered Hollywood agency, was in the process of courting Casey to poach him away from Global Talent Assets. Casey was promising to bring all his writing clients, including The Goose, to Synergy, which was dangling a massive signing bonus, a much higher salary and, most importantly, the title of profit-sharing Partner that Casey’s current tenpercentery still had not given him. Casey knew in his bones that reaching this next level in his career would change everything in his father’s eyes. A right wing evangelical Christian and ultra-successful businessman, Dad had made it clear from the first day that he strongly disapproved of Casey’s decision to work in the entertainment industry. His father always had hoped Casey would follow him into the biggest chain of car washes across SoCal. But Casey hadn’t wanted that career.
Lori understood what his father’s respect meant to her husband; it was a delicate subject and one she always stayed away from, so she moved the subject back to the phone. “Would GTA really examine your calls?
“Hell yes! If I split, they’re going to look at every phone record, every computer log-in, every receipt, every everything to make sure I didn’t do business for this new agency while I was still under contract to them. I even had my assistant get his girlfriend to buy the burner in her name.”
Lori looked concerned. “God, you better hope that kid never talks.”
“Why do you think I’m taking him with me if I leave? He’s the worst assistant I’ve ever had, but he knows where all the bodies are buried.”
“It’s like you guys are in the CIA,” she said. “Have you talked to Cheyne about it? Will The Goose go with you?”
“He’ll go where I go. No ifs, ands or buttskis,” Casey said proudly.
“Honey, are you sure it’s a good idea to leave right now? You’re making a great living at GTA and they treat you pretty well over there.”
Casey hated how Lori always thought small and continually worried about money. She had grown up in the Valley with a father who could barely provide for her family. “Let me handle these things. You just keep your ass rock-hard and we’ll do fine,” he said, patting her on the behind. “Playing these two agencies against each other is the best thing I could do for us. You like living in this beautiful house, right?”
“You know I love it,” Lori said, slightly tensing up, as if she feared Casey might say they couldn’t live there anymore without the new job.
“Well, I’m trying to get us even more money. For even more good things.”
That’s when Lori remembered what the swimming pool contractor had told her: that the workers’ digging was going to take another two weeks because they’d hit some unexpected rocks in the yard. “Speaking of money,” she said, “the pool is getting out of control. We should stop everything until you get your job situation sorted out..”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got it handled,” reassured Casey. ”I’ll be walking out of work with about five hundred thou this week one way or the other.”
“You really think your bonus will be that much?”
“I made them so much money this year, it’s ridiculous. Four hundred and fifty is the worst-case scenario. But if it’s anything under that, I’ll be down the street at Synergy with all my clients burning GTA’s house down.”
“You’re such a badass,” Lori said with a grin.
“I’m their biggest rock star and they know it.”
“And I’m your biggest groupie,” she said, kissing him on the cheek.
Casey gave Lori a kiss on the lips. It was more than a peck, but less than a real smooch. And then he left for work.
On the outdoor patio of the Rose Café in Venice, Casey was in the middle of his meeting with the rom-com writer. Shutters was the agent’s usual Santa Monica spot for morning breakfasts, but Dod had insisted on somewhere only a two-minute bike ride from his home. So Casey had acquiesced to make the guy feel comfortable and send the message that the agent would always be sensitive to the needs of the client.
Casey sipped his cappuccino. Dod had yet to crack a smile. He was slumped over his plate, shoveling runny eggs into his mouth, unaware or unfazed that his scraggly beard was laced with gobs of yolk. The writer was fat, unshaven and wearing an unwashed Brown University sweatshirt beneath a beat-up army jacket. His tattered backpack lay on the ground at his feet. Casey thought the scripter looked like a member of the American Taliban. And what kind of name was Dod anyway? Muslim?
“I just don’t want to go to another agency where I have to bang my head against the wall to direct Memphis Memories,” Dod whined.
“It’s a no-brainer. You can do a lot more than write romantic comedies. I’m really surprised your current reps don’t get that.”
Before Casey could continue, the server arrived. She was beautiful, Asian, dressed in a white and black outfit that perfectly outlined her petite frame. Casey had ordered the extra cup of cappuccino just to get another look at her. She brought back memories of the wild sex he’d had with his first girlfriend, a Vietnamese knockout that he still fantasized about.
“Can I bring either of you anything else?” the waitress asked.
Dod shook his head and Casey smiled at her. “I think we’re good for now. Thank you,” he said, fighting the urge to watch her walk away and catch another glimpse of her ass. Which was perfect.
Next, Casey leaned in and looked into Dod’s eyes. “I shouldn’t even tell you this, because I’m going to sound like a wimp. But your script made me cry. When the girl moves away at the end, that was sad as hell. And that last line, ‘My Memphis memories would be with me forever,’ killed me. I think, with you directing, this project has Oscar potential.”
“I’m glad you liked it,” Dod said, not looking up from the table. He was sliding his toast around his plate, soaking up the last drops of yolk.
Casey’s cell sounded; the ring tone was Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” The agent took his time answering. He wanted to make sure Dod heard who was playing. Casey had done his homework. Dod was a die-hard Jimmy Hendrix fan. The agent had instructed his assistant to call during the meeting. “Sorry,” Casey said, turning off his phone. “I told you to hold my calls. I’m here with Dod and I can’t talk. What’s up?” Casey listened for a moment. “Tell Cheyne Gold I will call him once this meeting is over.”
Casey also wanted to remind Dod of the heavy-hitters whom the tenpercenter repped. Casey thought, this is why I’m so much smarter than the other agents in my business. Actually, he hated Hendrix.
“You have ‘Purple Haze’ as your ring tone?” Dod snickered. “Oh man, Jimi would turn over in his grave if he ever heard his music used like that.”
Casey was thrown. Usually the writers he courted ate up this crap. He met Dod’s eyes and thought, You fat arrogant bastard will never direct anything. But the agent said, “Back to Memphis Memories, it’s better for us if you are directing your own script. Then you’re a double threat.”
Dod pushed his chair back and studied Casey before saying, “I’m still taking meetings.” Then he got up ready to leave. Casey paid the check. The agent could see the screenwriter was still playing coy. Dod headed for the bike rack to get his 10-speed Trek. “I think it’s so cool you get around this way,” Casey lied. Get a fucking car already, he thought.
Dod pulled out his bike helmet. A red sticker on the front read: MAKE AMERICA GREAT. DUMP DONALD! FOR GOOD. Dod noticed Casey looking. “What an asshole this guy is, huh? Can’t wait till he gets beat.” Casey nodded but didn’t reply. He knew how politics could complicate client signings. Three months before the 2012 Presidential Election, he was at the tail end of a two-hour signing pitch to Cheyne Gold. The agent had thought he’d made a compelling case. Until the subject of politics came up. “I’m seriously considering you. Just please tell me you’re not going to vote for that one-percenter Romney?” Cheyne warned.
Casey had given what looked like a smile but was really a smirk. “Never. Totally on the same page.” The agent then realized he couldn’t pick up his Lexus at valet. Because he couldn’t risk Cheyne spotting the ROMNEY: Believe in America bumper sticker. Casey had assumed he was in the clear until Cheyne called the next day and invited him to join “the cause.” It was a Moveon.org function held at Cheyne’s Griffith Park mansion promoting every political agenda that Casey hated. To fit in with the lefties, Casey bought a Greenpeace sweatshirt and insisted Lori wash it a dozen times so it looked worn. He peeled off the “Romney” sticker from his car and headed for Cheyne’s home. Fifthy people in the living room were on the phones trying to convince likely voters to reelect President Obama. Every time Casey made a call, bile rose in his throat. He’d considered dialing fake numbers. But he was stationed next to Cheyne all night. Casey’s ruse worked. Cheyne signed with him the next day.
The ensuing four years for Casey were filled with Cheyne’s rallies to legalize gay marriage, protect a woman’s right to abortion, save the environment and endorse Obamacare. Whenever Casey tried to make an excuse not to attend a political event, Cheyne would refuse to return his calls for a week or two. Cheyne even blew a million-dollar rewrite job. He was sending Casey a clear message, and Casey got it loud and clear.
The agent wouldn’t make that mistake again. Not with Cheyne. And not with Dod. In the Rose Café parking lot, Casey stuck out his hand and said, “It was great meeting you. Hope to hear from you soon, bro.” Dod gave Casey’s hand a limp squeeze and pedaled away quickly. Casey knew the only good thing about the meeting had been the Asian waitress.
This is an updated excerpt from the novel American Pride released under the author's pseudonym Michael Ker in 2015 by Publisher By The Seas.
2 comments on “American Pride
So tone perfect for the Hollywood we know and love. I would love to read this novel but it’s so visual it should be a film.
Living in LA, I’ve been on and seen all sides of this deal. It’s hitting home just a little" too" much. Good work David. Looking forward to the next installment.