I’m meeting this strange voice on the phone at Jerry’s Deli in Westwood Village to discuss some secret screenwriting project that supposedly involves some A list star, he would tell me who it is, but then he would have to kill me. Actually, this whole thing has been strange enough that I’m afraid this guy is some sort of stalker who may kill me *before* I find out who the A lister is. That would suck, because I’m curious.
PART ONE - if you missed it.
My potential killer wanted me to come to his house in Brentwood, which is really the Brentwood Village District of the city of Los Angeles... because there is actually a city of Brentwood in California up near where I grew up. This caused a great deal of confusion to people who did not live in Los Angeles during the OJ Trail. Some out of town reporters ended up in the city of Brentwood by mistake wondering where the trial was, and there were all kinds of funny (well, to me - probably not to the people of Brentwood) repercussions from Los Angeles based newscasters covering the story *internationally* and referring to the murder location as “Brentwood” instead of “the Brentwood District of the city of Los Angeles”. When this guy wanted to meet me at his house in TBDotcoLA, my first idea was to meet at Mothers Bar... except that was long gone.
Mothers was a UCLA hangout in TBDotcoLA and I watched much of the first Gulf War from the bar there. I had some potential project at Showtime, which is Westwood, and some potential project at Corman’s, which was 2 blocks from Mothers, and I had MARGIN FOR TERROR at MGM which was in Santa Monica. For whatever reason, all of these meetings were afternoons, and let out at rush hour, and I did not want to get stuck in bumper-to-bumper on the 405. So I would go to Mothers and have burgers and fries and a beer and watch the war on their big screen TVs. But Mothers is gone, now... so I’d suggested Jerry’s in Westwood Village.
I hate Westwood Village. All of the big movie theaters are there, that’s where they do many of the fancy premieres. There are some nice restaurants. And it’s where UCLA is, so it is jam packed with cute college girls, many of them film students. But there is no place to park that doesn’t cost you a bundle. All of these reasons to go to Westwood Village, and when you get there you can’t find parking. I used to know a couple of streets on the east side of the village where you might be able to find parking, but they changed those to permit only. Wilshire Blvd across from the Avco Cinemas goes from traffic lane to parking at 7pm, and if you are lucky and quick you can be in front of a space at exactly 7pm and park... of course, there are a hundred cars circling the block waiting for 7pm. The parking lot for Jerry’s Deli has an attendant with his hand out - I think it cost me $5 to park there, but it might have been more. It’s not as bas as Century City, where I’ve had a bunch of meetings with producers that cost me close to $20 to park... and the producers did not validate. Great, I didn’t get the job *and* it cost me $20! But it was only around $5 in Westwood Village... and that was with validation. Los Angeles is all about cars, and that means there are people who have found a way to get rich off cars.
As I lock my car and go to the back entrance to Jerry’s, I realize I have left my pocket knife at home... the only weapon I have is the pen in my pocket. I just hope I won’t have to use it. Jerry’s is close to empty at 3pm and I climb the stairs to the second floor, which is completely empty... except for one table where one man sits with a tall glass of ice tea... and a waiter hovering at a station on the other side of the room.
I knew this was my stalker, because he was wearing an unusual hat. I’d never seen anything like it on a man before or since. I don’t think Elton John would have worn it - and he dresses funny sometimes. He also wore jewelry - I think there was a ring on each of his fingers, but I didn’t want to stare at his hands, who knew how a stalker would take that? If you know me or have seen me at some event, you may have noticed that I wear no jewelry at all - not even a wrist watch. I used to carry a pocket watch - in the same pocket as my cell phone. I realized my pocket was crowded and I couldn’t make calls from the pocket watch, so it’s now permanently in a drawer in my dresser. This guy would have *wanted* redundant jewelry.
“William C. Martell, I would recognize you anywhere. I have the photo from your website taped to my computer for inspiration. You are slightly early.”
He shakes my hand... and his hand is cold and damp. Maybe it’s from the ice tea glass. I take a seat, while he whips out some hand sanitizer and removes any traces of my flesh from him. This actually comforts me. While he’s doing that, I am secretly looking to see if he actually brought a matchbook and a pad and pen. Not on the table, it may be in his bag.
“I must admit that I have only recently become a fan of yours. I do wish I had known of you earlier, so I might have purchased a copy of your book at a reasonable rate. I’m afraid I paid over three hundred dollars on e-bay. Though it was well worth even that exorbitant price. I consumed it in one delicious gulp.”
“I’m glad you liked it.”
I always feel bad when people pay a lot of money for my book, even though I don’t get any of that money. There’s a place on Amazon Marketplace that currently is selling it for over $100, and it’s a book store that bought copies at wholesale (so I made $4 or something) and every time they sell a copy, another copy takes its place. Do they have a leftover *case* of my books they are selling one at a time for over a hundred bucks? But for some reason, I’m not feeling too sorry for this guy.
“I consumed it in one delicious gulp.”
Okay, now I’m back to being creeped out. “Now can you tell me about this proposition of yours with the A list movie star.”
“Good. Good. Right to the point, eh?”
That’s when the Waiter decides to come over, and my stalker instantly shuts up. Almost mid-word. It’s like hitting a pause button or something. His whole face freezes in place. He looks dopey.
“Good afternoon, I’m Laurence with a Z, and I’ll be your waitperson today. Can I get you started with a beverage, sir?”
(Oops - that should be ‘Laurenze’ I guess)
“Sure, I’ll have...”
I would normally order an ice tea, but that’s what stalker’s having.
“...a Coca Cola.”
“Would you like that with lemon or cherry?”
“Um, no. Just ice.”
“Are you ready to order?”
I haven’t even opened the menu. And I don’t know if stalker is paying or what... Do I *want* stalker to pay? What if that means we’re dating? I’m not Gay, and don’t want to give stalker the wrong impression. Heck, this is like a mine field - anything I do might be taken the wrong way and end up with me either in a relationship with a guy in a weird hat or in his basement freezer... or both!
I end up ordering half a sandwich, stalker ends up ordering half the menu. Have you seen the Jerry’s menu? This guy ordered a meal and a dozen sides and some soup and... I sure hope *I’m* not paying.
The good news is that Laurence-the-a-Z stopped hovering over the table, the bad news is that I am now alone on the second floor with stalker.
“This proposal of yours?”
“Yes, of course. I’m sure you are curious about each of the facets of I alluded to in out phone conversation. On a Saturday evening one month ago I was in a popular night club on Sunset Boulevard and after an hour of dancing felt the urge to urinate.”
Too much information... and this guy was clubbing?
“I partook of the facilities in the men’s lavatory, and noted that an A list star was using the urinal next to mine.”
“Can you tell me who or would you like me to start guessing?”
“I shall get to his identity –“
“Morey Amsterdam from the Dick Van Dyke Show?”
“No. No. I believe I said this was an A list celebrity.”
“I believe I said this was the men’s lavatory. If you must know at this juncture in the tale, it was --”
That’s when Laurence-with-a-Z returned with my Coca-Cola. Stalker did that human freeze frame thing again - his mouth hanging open mid-word and not moving at all. I’ll bet his tongue was frozen in place, but you know I wasn’t going to look into his mouth.
“Here’s your Coca-Cola, sir, no ice. Your food will be coming shortly.”
“Will there be anything else?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“And the gentleman?”
He broke the freeze frame, “No. No. I’m quite alright, thank you.”
We both waited for the waiter to stop waiting on us. Took a while for him to figure it out and go back across the room to his station.
“Okay, it wasn’t Morey Amsterdam.”
“Well, I had the very good fortune to be urinating next to Bradley Pitt, the movie star. I loved him in that Interview With A Vampire movie and he was marvelous in The Mexican.”
“Yes, of course. As I was standing beside him, draining my rather full bladder, I decided to pitch him an action tale. Something his production company might be interested in as a vehicle for his various screen talents.”
“How long was the pitch?”
“Oh, it was quite detailed.”
“Must have had a full bladder himself.”
Or maybe just been afraid to turn his back on this guy.
“I don’t know, but he did seem mesmerized by my tale...”
(Scared to death)
“...after he had completed the task at hand, as it were, he gave me his card and told me he was much interested in my screenplay and I should send it to his office posthaste.”
“Brad Pitt said ‘posthaste’?”
“Well, he may have said ‘expeditiuosly’, I don’t really remember his exact wording.”
“I don’t think he said either... but he wants to read your script, so what’s the problem? Congratulations. Send it over and see what happens.”
“Well, that is the problem. There was no screenplay. I did attempt to write it, which is why I obtained your fine book, but the process was more difficult than I had originally imagined and I was unable to complete the screenplay.”
“How far did you get?”
“To the midpoint, approximately 53 and a quarter pages.”
I wish he had been more precise.
“So, what do you want me to do?”
“If you were to finish the screenplay for me, I would pay you half of the money Bradley Pitt’s production company pays me.”
“So, um, what’s the name of Brad Pitt’s company?”
Stalker pulls out a business card and reads off it, “Plan B.”
Crap, that’s really Brad Pitt’s company!
That’s when Laurence-with-a-Z came with our food.
Part Three tomorrow.
TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Writing Indie Films - but not the kind where the hero wears a fedora and uses a whip.
Dinner: City Wok - tomato beef.
Bicycle: Yes! Some long rides every day of the 3 day weekend - went to some Starbucks way out in the West Valley.
Pages: And burning up the keyboard! Almost 8 pages Saturday, only 4 pages Sunday, and just shy of 5 pages Monday. Plan is to have this one finsihed at the end of the month and move on to the next one... which may actually be the new assignment by then. If that one isn't ready to go, yet, I'm diving in to this bad cop script and working on that until the assignment *is* ready. Oh, and I'm finishing up another article for Script Magazine soon after you read this.