HALLOWEEN FICTION – Why is the agency business so filled with horrible people? 3,341 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Ever notice the way people describe their agents? “He’s a killer.” “She smells blood.” And so on. And when things go bad, the comments run in the opposite, albeit equally evocative, direction. “What’s happened to his killer instinct?” “She rolled over and played dead.” I suppose something in all this explained why, after I graduated from USC’s Peter Stark Program, I gravitated to a big agency. I had received my B.S. in marine biology at Stanford, studying the predation of Great White Sharks. So I was clearly drawn to apex hunters – whether they were in the ocean or at a business lunch.
When I began work in the mailroom at Supreme Talent Agency, I observed up close the partners whose ranks I hoped to join. And I thought my unique education might someday give me a competitive advantage.
Right. Like I was going to teach a shark to eat.
The afternoon of my first day, I met with Bryan Lassiter. Depending on the metrics applied, Lassiter was not only the most powerful agent at Supreme, but in Hollywood. And even if you disagreed with that assertion, it didn’t matter. Because all that counted was whether or not Lassiter believed it. And he most emphatically did.
He described to me how lucky I was to get the entry level job in the mailroom. “We’ll work you like a dog, pay you shit and the chances are you’ll be unemployed within four weeks.” Sounds like fun, I thought to myself. And I remembered that many species of sharks ate their young.
The whole time Lassiter spoke I couldn’t help but recall all the stories I had heard about him. He was renowned for behavior designed to shock and scare. When he went toe to toe with a Paramount Head of Production, he was reputed to have whipped out his cock and peed all over a papier mache Picasso sculpture. When the client won the best supporting actor award, the studio gave Lassiter the sculpture. And there it was, perched on his coffee table.
As I left Lassiter’s office, he introduced me to his assistant Brigitta Svedberg who was on the fast track to becoming an agent. She handled the rigors of Lassiter’s desk with calm determination. To the outside world, she was both tough and thoughtful. As Lassiter’s aide she was white hot in the fraternity of agents’ assistants. Lassiter, thinking a line from Mel Brooks made him look erudite, called her his “Teutonic Twat.” The rest of us called her perfect.
Everyone could recite the names of Lassiter’s last 10 assistants, eight of whom were already incredibly successful. They were the survivors. And the other assistants who weren’t successful? One was supposedly working as a prostitute in Nevada blowing truckers for $20 a pop. And another just disappeared which, given the notoriety surrounding the position of Lassiter’s assistant, was inexplicable. But it only took one fuck up to destroy everything to which you aspired.
On the Friday of our third week, Davis Schachter was called up to the penthouse. He was a 24-year-old schlub known throughout our two years at USC for spending more energy pulling up his pants than studying. He started in the mailroom the same day I did. I immediately tried to put as much distance between us as possible. Within two weeks his nicknames included “Beltless In Seattle,” “Davis And Butthead,” and “The Fat Fuck In The Mail Room.”
He came waddling down to the mailroom holding a manila envelope stamped “URGENT” and shouting, “It’s the proposal to Tim Cook! The Apple/Supreme deal!” I had to take my hat off to Davis, he did keep up with what was happening in Hollywood. If an executive farted at Musso & Frank’s, Davis knew about it. He trawled the trades and about a million blogs and personal sources. In what was the only compliment I think poor Davis ever received on the job, he pulled some obscure crew credit out of his fleshy ass just as Lassiter walked by. Lord Voldemort stopped and asked, “What the fuck are you, the Rainman of IMDB-Pro?” For two days after that, Davis was known as "Rainman."
So Davis had been told to personally drive this envelope, setting forth one of the biggest Hollywood deals of all time, over to the Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny, tell valet parking that he was with Supreme, and run the envelope up to Tim Cook’s suite. And if anyone else so much as touched it, the hotel would sink into the earth like Carrie’s house at the end of the worst prom night in history.
In addition to his own bacon, Davis was also carrying Brigitta’s since she had tasked him with this assignment. Brigitta had made arrangements with Cook’s assistant in Cupertino. She had alerted the hotel’s Head Valet, the Bell Captain, the Concierge and Manager of Security. Short of tying a string to the steering wheel of Davis’s car all the way up to Cook’s thumb, Brigitta had done everything possible.
Cook had to leave his hotel room for an internationally televised dog and pony show for Wall Street fund investors, where he would be announcing the synergistic agreement between Supreme and Apple. Of course, Lassiter would be in attendance.
“Hey, Dickhead, you better get going if you’re going to become part of business history,” I warned. Davis grabbed his keys and trotted toward the elevator, shirttail hanging out of his 46-inch waist pants. That was 3:46. At 4:17, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I saw it was Beltless.
“Yeah, what’s up?” I answered just loud enough, so those within earshot could appreciate who the brains of the operation was.
“I am standing at the corner of Clifton and Doheny. Smoke is pouring out of my car. Dude, you gotta get here NOW. Or I’m fucked.”
If there had been a hole in the ground, I would have jumped in it. "Clifton and Doheny? How the fuck did you only get that far in half an hour. The whole trip is only 12 blocks!”
Davis may have been crying, “I don’t know. I got a ticket for using my cell phone. It’s hotter than hell, and I kept my air conditioning on while the cop wrote me up. This goddamn fucking hunk of junk! You gotta help me out. Pick me up and get me to the hotel before 5:00.”
“OK, OK. Don’t panic. I’ll be right there. But first, I gotta tell Brigitta what happened.”
“No! Lassiter can’t know about this. He’ll fucking kill me. We’ve still got about 40 minutes to pull this off.”
Davis was right. Despite serious reservations about partnering with Davis on anything, I got to him in 14 minutes with driving that would have impressed Steve McQueen. Davis jumped in, and we headed straight to the Four Seasons. We pulled up to the front door, Davis jumped out, composed himself and took one step toward the bellman. And froze. My heart sank when he did the self pat down routine. “He’s fucking lost the envelope!” I muttered to myself.
I rolled down the window again and yelled, “Throw me your keys and WAIT HERE.”
I screeched out of the Four Seasons’ semi circular drive and tore back down Doheny. The envelope was lying on the passenger seat. I grabbed it. It was 4:49 when I got back to the hotel. And there was Davis with an LAPD officer. So I adjusted my thinking – and walked directly into the hotel lobby. I was going to pull this off without involving Davis.
“Hi, I’m Stewart Magnussen from Supreme. I have a document for Tim Cook, who is waiting for it in his suite in the Penthouse. I believe arrangements have been made.”
The hotel deskman made a call. “Take the elevator to Penthouse. You’re way late.”
I nodded and walked to the Elevator bank and punched “PH.” The doors closed, and the car rushed upwards. The penthouse was crawling with two dozen guys in dark suits. Three of them immediately surrounded me, and I presented the envelope to one of them and mumbled, “From Supreme. The document for Mr. Cook’s signature.”
Guy #1 took the envelope and gave me the stink eye. My guess was that Brigitta had been so thorough in her description of Davis – 5’10”, 240 pounds, big fat gut, shirt’s usually out – that when I got off that elevator they figured someone had intercepted Davis and replaced him with the scariest 145 pound 24-year-old the Mossad had on standby.
Guy #1 looked at his buddies for a beat. Then Guy #2 swiftly put me in a half nelson, put his fleshy hand over my mouth, and started hustling me toward a room, whose door was pushed open by Guy #3.
“… And you think that when they saw how thin you were, they realized that you weren’t Davis and they freaked out and subdued you?” surmised Officer Horan. He and the hotel staff realized that they had been a party to a pretty amazing fuck-up in which an employee from Hollywood’s most powerful agency was subdued while trying to conduct business with a VIP guest in the hotel. Visions of Harvey Levin and TMZ infamy started dancing in their heads.
I was offered water and medical care. If I had wanted cracked crab and sourdough bread flown in from San Francisco, they would have had it.
All I could think was that Lassiter would probably castrate Davis and, jeez, who knows what he’d do to me. And when he was done doing that, he’d be ready to REALLY start opening up a can of whoop-ass.
Officer Horan took a deep breath. “Look, I could explain to your boss what happened.”
“No, but thanks for the offer. If it’s okay, I gotta get back to work.”
The drive to the office was quiet. Davis’ car had been towed while we had waged our war at the Four Seasons, so he rode back to the agency with me. “If it’s OK with you, I’m just going to walk home,” Davis whimpered. “I’m history. I don’t need to be humiliated anymore.”
“I understand, Davis. But this fuck-up is so colossal that you and I may not be the only ones who get shit-canned. Maybe we should do the right thing and explain how we screwed up. Just remember this: years from now, when you’re at a Lakers game and introduce yourself to the guy sitting next to you, and he says, ‘Davis Schachter? I work at Supreme, and there’s a famous story about an asshole with that name who cost the agency a billion dollar deal.’ You’ll be able to look him in the eye and say, ‘That’s me. I’m that asshole.’ But you’ll realize that you were able to get on with life because you went up to Lassiter and told him the truth and acted like a man.”
Davis looked at me blankly. “Thanks for everything you did this afternoon, Stewart. I just want you to know I appreciate how hard you tried to save me. I’ll never forget that.” Davis was trying to man up.
The elevator opened on the top floor. As we passed the security guard, I wondered if he knew we were dead men walking. The place was a tomb. Which gave me a rush of hope that perhaps our punishment would be something wimpy like a voicemail via cell phone.
I walked directly to Brigitta’s desk. As long as I had worked at Supreme, she had never left earlier than 8:00 pm. I knew that when she asked us, “What the hell happened?” that she was compelled to ostracize us. As opposed to Lassiter who would follow with a profanity-laden riff.
As I approached, I immediately heard the sounds of men’s hushed voices and the moan of a woman coming from Lassiter’s open door. The woman’s moan didn’t conjure up sex. I was unable to make sense of what I was hearing. So, I walked to Lassiter’s door and, without even knocking, I entered. And a hush fell upon the room.
Except the moaning. That didn’t change at all.
Davis was beside me. He took in the horrible tableau before I did. He started hyperventilating. I looked dumbly at the faces of the most powerful agents in Hollywood. They were seated in the low slung sofas in Lassiter’s office suite. Standing behind each was their assistant. And there was Lassiter, set apart from the others.
All of the agents were covered in blood. Hands and faces. Not bright red movie blood, but the brownish dirty blood that oozed from Brigitta. She lay lifeless, save for pleading eyes and her last breaths of oxygen. She was spread out on Lassiter’s 4×6 Italian glass coffee table,. her blouse torn open, her bra still on, her skirt pulled down to her panties.
And her abdomen was ripped open.
I was now living the nightmare where you move at a speed reserved for a DePalma movie. Why was Brigitta splayed open like that? Why was she moaning? What accident could possibly have happened to leave her in this condition? I looked at Lassiter, and it all became clear.
Lassiter was the bloodiest of all and held a fist-sized piece of Brigitta’s flesh in his right hand. Blood dripped from his chin, staining his custom-tailored white shirt. With an incongruous pinky elegantly held out, he lifted the flesh to his mouth and carefully bit off a piece. It still had Brigitta’s pale skin attached. His teeth were gutting her.
After swallowing, he looked at Davis and me and said, “At last. The main course and dessert.” And looking at his sycophants, he pronounced, “Eat up. Eat up. There’s plenty to go around.”
The instinct to survive stirred in both Davis and me. But our responses couldn’t have been more different. I attempted to get my bearings. No one had moved to block our retreat. There were eight bad guys in the room – Lassiter, three agents and four assistants. I assumed that the security guard knew what was happening, so escape via the elevator was not an option. Davis, never renowned for his discretion, wanted some answers. “What the fuck are you people doing?”
“What does it look like we’re doing?" Lassiter explained, amused. "Brigitta here was given the simplest of jobs. To organize and coordinate your delivering a document for signature to an address in the same zip code as ours. Time was of the essence. You failed. Which meant she failed. So we ate her.”
I now knew our fate was sealed. Granted, I was a little slow on the uptake. Walk into a group of cannibals eating someone whose culpability for a fuck-up paled in comparison to your own. Hear someone say, “Ah, at last. The main course and dessert.” So shoot me.
“Further,” Lassiter said, getting right in Davis’s grill, “her failure cost the agency prestige, publicity and financial advantage. Punishment was appropriate. Letting her go was not an option. Finally, I knew she worked out every morning, so her fit body had a certain appeal that only connoisseurs of lean cuts like my assembled staff here can appreciate. So we held her down and ate her alive.”
Davis now stood in a puddle of his own pee as he listened to Lassiter continue. “If it makes you feel any better, she never blamed you, Davis. She just described to me what she had done to ensure that you would succeed. Like I was suddenly going to stuff her kidney back into her abdomen and tell her to amend her methodology next time.”
Lassiter was starting to ham it up. I could see his sycophants react to his oration. This was probably how Lassiter maintained discipline. I mean, you don’t just eat employees, especially someone like Brigitta, and not have everyone present understand that they were the next course should they ever breathe a word about what happened.
I was looking at nine (if you counted the security guy) people whose souls had been bartered for power, fame and whatever other ghoulish perks made up the Supreme “benefits package.” And I was having serious problems figuring out how the hell I was going to survive. Especially when Davis allowed Lassiter’s thugs to grab him by the arms and knees. They easily swung the Fat Fuck off the floor. Two agents swept Brigitta’s corpse off the glass table and with a final indignity kicked her under the table. A now struggling Davis replaced her.
As for me, they slammed me against the wall. I watched as one of Lassiter’s henchmen went in and ripped away at Davis’s abdomen. By the time Lassiter tore a patch of flesh about the size of a kitchen sponge from Davis’s abdomen, I didn’t know if “survival” was to be wished on anyone. By that point Davis had lapsed into some type of shock. His screams had given way to sobs. Davis was begging for an end. And with that end would come my turn.
Then I became aware of the voice of the security guard. “Mr. Lassiter, I need to speak with you. It’s urgent.”
Lassiter was in a stupor from the murderous frenzy, then blinked to clear his head. He grabbed a wet towel, thoroughly wiped his face, and left the office — but not before saying to his staff a convivial, “Don’t stop on my account.”
I was near enough to the door to hear parts of the conversation. “Cop named Horan.” “When?” “What took you?” “No one called.” “He can’t see us like this.” "He wants to know about Davis and Magnussen.”
I gathered that Officer Horan had dropped by. Maybe I now held all the cards. When Lassiter came back into the room, he knew it, tpp. The only move he could make without involving me was to add cop killer to his night’s activities. And even Lassiter’s balls weren’t that big.
But mine were.
I knew certain facts about Great Whites: the shark that controls the territory dominates the newcomer, the larger shark dominates the smaller, the female shark dominates the male, and so on. Hollywood had its certainties as well. Audacity, meanness, business advantage and, oh, a little talent were a royal flush in the entertainment industry.
I looked Lassiter in the eye and said, “Someone shut up Davis! And I mean permanently. I’ll go out to Officer Horan, tell him that you shit-canned the fat guy, and he started crying and left. Earlier you did the same to Brigitta who packed up her shit and took off without a word.”
Lassiter was on the same page but asked, “Why tell him about Brigitta?”
“At the hotel, I told him that she was in for some major punishment from you.”
“And what about you, Magnussen?” Lassiter said, not going down without a fight. “What happened to you?”
I flashed my best apex hunter smile, “Why, you bumped me up to full agent, that’s what. Partner, no less. You figured that I was the only person in the whole mess who kept his head.”
Lassiter pointed his blood-stained finger at me and started laughing, “Standing right there is why I love the mailroom, gentlemen. That’s where you find the real talent in this town.”
I got in the last word, “Shut the fuck up, Lassiter. I have to talk with Officer Horan and save all your sorry asses.” And I walked out.
And so that’s how I became a partner at Supreme. No one ever inquired about Davis. I guess his family disliked him as much as Lassiter did. Brigitta, on the other hand, was missed by everyone. Friends, family, police and bloggers, but eventually her disappearance faded into the ether. Later, I heard two mailroom pussies talking about a female Lassiter assistant who had been fired, cracked up and moved to New Orleans where she had become a meth addict.
I would have liked to set them straight. But if I started being nice to mailroom pussies, there’s no telling what could happen.