[From CYGAWA Part II, Chapter 5]
If you haven’t got anything good to say about anyone, come sit
by me. – Alice Roosevelt Longworth
My thinking last summer (2003) when I stopped working on this book and while I was in the process of getting hit by a van was this: Having finished Part One, I’d take a getting-hit-by-a-van break and bang out my whoring draft of the In Search of Captain Zero screenplay, which I did, going into the tank while doing so. Meanwhile, I’d send out Part One of this, get a new literary (book) agent, since I had fired my old one for treachery during the editing phase of Zero.
The new agent would sell Can’t You Get Along With Anyone? as “a work in progress.” I’d come back to the writing all raring to go. I have two books in stores, both in their 4th paperback printing (Zero was still in hardback too), both making money. Both have “legs,” as the expression goes. I have movie deals. Hey, Sean Penn and John Cusack both want to play me. I’m being interviewed and profiled, doing my own promotion. I found the German house that bought the rights to Zero. Banditos has sold to nine foreign markets, the last being the Turks, of all people. I put that deal together too. Point being that agents should be clamoring to rep my sorry ass. In theory.
So I send Part One to my Hollywood attorney, Steven, figuring he’ll send
it to agents. Steven knows everyone, or can get to them via the doing lunch
grapevine. Steven reads Part One, tells me it’s not publishable. Since I’m
not famous, he says, no one will care about my life and times and problems
with people. Won’t send Part One to any agents.
Okay, only slightly depressing. Steven’s a fucking lawyer, what does he
know? That I didn’t see what was really going on is a perfect example of my
denial regarding stuff I should know better about. I merely figured Steven
had his head up his ass, not that there was anything duplicitous afoot.
But within days of this development I get a call from the producer who,
along with Sean Penn and the studio, optioned In Search of Captain Zero for
the movies. She’s threatening a lawsuit, talking about restraining orders.
Turns out that Steven told her about the book I was writing, this book,
what I wrote about her and about the other people involved in the deal. He
may have even sent her the manuscript.
Think about that.
No one who wants to make a movie out of my book is smart enough to get it
And, if you flip back and look, there’s plenty more where that came
Steven also spilled the beans to my ex-Hollywood movie-writing agent
(as opposed to my book agent), whom I fired for her behavior during the
Zero movie deal (as opposed to the book deal), and whose email response
to that is the title of this book. Among other details, he no doubt told her
where the title of this book came from.
Word quickly reaches me through multiple sources that I am persona
non grata in Hollywood. One agent, a major one who works in a big talent
agency, a guy who surfs and who read and loved Zero and hinted that he’d
like to represent me, will now not return my calls – a major disappointment,
since anyone in Hollywood who reads is unusual (let alone one who surfs),
and is to be sought after and treasured.
Meanwhile, the deal to write the screen adaptation of Cosmic Banditos
is mired, tied up in the contract stage, Steven says. Tied up in the contract
stage? Odds are that Cusack’s people, directly or indirectly through Steven
were informed of my writing about that deal as well, and are in the process
of backing out. In other words, they will not hire me after all, fearing that
I’ll expose their shortcomings.
I must repeat: This is my attorney who did this, a contractual associate
(for over 20 years) who legally and ethically should not do anything to
harm the interests of his client, me.
As if this isn’t enough, during the conversation wherein Steven informs
me that the book you are now reading is un-publishable, I ask him to get
“my” draft of the Zero screenplay to Sean Penn (the draft immediately
preceding the whoring draft wherein I went into the tank). As I say, Steven
knows everyone, or can get to them; he could no doubt get my draft to Sean
Before I press on, it gets weirder. I mean weirder if you’re not familiar
with how Hollywood works, how the people there think, if you can call it
Last spring (2003), three or so months before Steven got treacherous on
me and before I got hit by the multi-faceted van, I sent the producer my
second-to-last contractual draft of the screenplay. The one before I went
into the tank as a reaction to the notes from the studio. I like this draft a
lot – I like the way I reinvented my book.
The producer read the draft and called to say it’s brilliant. It’s so brilliant,
in fact, that before she called to say it’s brilliant she gave it to another writer
she works with and trusts to see if it’s as brilliant as she thinks it is. The
other writer read it and agreed that Yes, it’s as brilliant as she thinks it is.
According to the other writer, I’m “the real thing.”* Another line of hers I
can put quotes around because I remember the exact words: “You gave the
studio exactly what you said you would.”
Also: I’m her “little genius.”
She sent the studio the draft and expected to hear from them soon.
A note regarding geography, chronology, and state of mind. I had the
above conversation here in paradise at the end of the road at the bottom
of Central America, getting my sorry ass ready to go meet Lisa on the
Caribbean island where The Horror would soon take place. Down on the
beach with my cell phone in my ear, sitting on a piece of driftwood with
my dog Fang (short for Jack London’s White Fang, my favorite book from
childhood), who was just a puppy at the time, wandering around nearby.
Looking out at the pristine waters of El Golfo Dulce, The Sweet Gulf, perfect
waves rolling in. Although I was pleased as punch at hearing that my draft
is brilliant and that I’m the real thing and a genius who gave the studio
exactly what he said he would, I felt a subtle stirring in my gut listening to
the producer go on. In retrospect, I believe the stirring was a flutter of my
writer’s queasy gut. Or maybe I’m projecting this because I should have felt
a flutter. In any event, the queasy gut flutter, assuming I had it, was based
on the producer having to ask someone else for his opinion of the draft
before actually voicing her opinion to me. But still, my draft is brilliant and
I’m the real thing and her little genius who gave the studio exactly what he
said he would.
According to the producer, my agent whose email response to my later
firing her is the title of this book, and who also was the producer’s agent,**
agreed with the other writer regarding my draft’s brilliance and so forth. So
that’s two people’s opinions the producer had to hear before she voiced her
opinion to me. Hold on. The producer’s boyfriend also read my draft (and
agreed with the other two opinions). So that’s three opinions she needed
before voicing hers to me, not two. This was all a bad sign, even though the
three other people thought the draft was brilliant and so forth.
You may be wondering where the director is at this point, and what he
thought of the draft, its possible brilliance and so forth. Maybe you’re not
wondering that, on second thought. But I was. So I asked the producer. He
hasn’t read it yet, she said. This is another bad sign, since the director had
told me that the Zero project was number one on his list of priorities. But
letting the mounting bad signs go for the moment, I asked the producer
if Sean Penn had read the draft. I mean everybody else she knows had,
apparently, except the director. No, the producer said. He didn’t have a
copy. She’s going to let the studio send it to him.
Still another bad sign. A doozey of a bad sign, as it would turn out.
A matter of days later I was on the phone in a San José hotel room, finding
out that Lisa had been screwing her ex-boyfriend then lying about it. So,
all fucked up over this development, I went to the Caribbean island where
The Horror would soon take place (and where I started this narrative).
As mentioned in Part One, while there I got the email from the producer
saying that the studio executive read my draft – this email resulted in
my going into the tank. One reason I decided to go into the tank was the
producer saying in the email that my draft was “not the draft we were
expecting.” Important for our purposes is that she now included herself
in this assessment of my draft. My draft was no longer brilliant. I was no
longer the real thing and her little genius who gave the studio exactly what
he said he would.
My response to this email was terse. I didn’t bother reminding the
producer that she completely flip-flopped on her opinion of the draft based
on someone else’s opinion, or that in pure force of numbers it was either
four-to-one or three-to-two or three-to-one in favor of my draft still being
brilliant and me still being the real thing and a genius who gave the studio
exactly what he said he would. (The numbers depending on how you now
view her original opinion, whether you count that opinion, or her flip-flop
opinion, or cancel her opinions altogether due to lack of consistency – this
last one seems most reasonable, no?) I just wanted to know when Sean Penn
was going to read the draft. I wanted his opinion. By now the flutter of my
writer’s queasy gut, assuming I’d originally had it, had bloomed into my
full-blown writer’s queasy gut.
The producer emailed back saying that the decision had been made not
to give the draft to Sean Penn. The draft was “not ready” for him to read.
I emailed reminding her that in talking me into the original option deal
she’d assured me that Sean “gets involved early in the script stage.” Since
I already wrote two drafts of the screenplay and was now about to launch
myself into the third, we were way past any reasonable interpretation of
the concept “early in the script stage.”
I have her reply here in front of me as I write. Rather than quoting it, I’ll
sum it up. The email is words to the effect of “That’s different.”
Back to the conversation with Steven that occurred three months after
the above nonsense. After he tells me that the book you are now reading is
un-publishable and therefore he will not send it to any agents, Steven tells
me he will not try to get my draft to Sean Penn because, “Sean Penn is just
a stoned-out actor who doesn’t read anything.” I can frame Steven’s words
in quotes because I wrote them down, figuring they would come in handy
To sum up, in case you’re confused by all this convoluted Hollywood
shit: Aside from the Cusack/Cosmic Banditos deal likely going into the toilet
and the unlikelihood that Sean Penn will ever read my once-brilliant draft,
I’m persona non grata in Hollywood, plus in the publishing business, aside
from my similar status with a guy down here at the paradise known as Big
Turkeys, this nutcase Logan who figures to run me out of town.
And then there’s Lisa, the love of my life.
*If this sounds familiar, Jon Voight also labeled me thus. For some reason, this “real thing”
accolade is a favorite in Hollywood. Possibly they got it from that old Coca-Cola commercial
and it just stuck.
**If it sounds a little iffy, conflict of interest-wise, that my agent was also the producer’s agent:
My attorney Steven was also the producer’s attorney and the director’s attorney as well. Not
only that: Steven and my agent used to be a guy-gal couple. So in a sense there was some incest,
on top of the conflict of interest. In other words, I really should have seen Steven’s treachery
regarding his big mouth and this book coming.
PART 6 COMING SOON…