Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tales from the Old New Land - Tale 3: Microaggressions (rough)

Last year, a big producer, a local celebrity in his own right, came to talk to the USC film and theater students. Carmen would not repeat his name, but Steve had a decent idea of who it probably was and what studio he used to worked for. Everybody in LA would. And even if it wasn't whom he thought, there were a thousand less successful people in Hollywood just like him. Ethnic men too young to serve in World War II, and thus self-motivated as it would never occur to their older brothers to be. Some of them served in Korea, but the ones who served are the ones with the especially large chips on their shoulders. There were never enough troops in Korea to develop the unspoken bond of camaraderie their older brothers have instantly with any male peer they meet for the first time, and thus without their elder brothers' sense of sacrifice or necessity, without their sense of obligation to the common good, without their sense that the world will appreciate the contributions they make for others, without their memory of the dozen or two childhood acquaintances lost to graves around the world and without their sense that the lost are owed for the community contributions they'll never get to make.

From 1946 to 1963 they descended upon LA from the East in swarms; a lot of New Yorkers, but nearly as many from Boston, from Providence, from Worcester, from New Haven, from Hartford, from Newark, from Jersey City, from Hoboken, from Camden, from Philly, from Trenton, from Atlantic City, from Wilmington, from Baltimore. Whatever social class from which they originally hailed, being from an East Coast city gave them experience dealing with every background and social class; from the old society broads whose asses they had to lick to the colored doormen whose asses they got to kick. The experience that they all shared was that their parents sacrificed everything particularly for them. Whatever innate gifts in life their fathers had, the father worked seven days a week during their Great Depression childhoods to give his children everything the father ever wanted for himself, while their mothers, her innate gifts in life never even discovered, had literally no purpose in life except to work for her children. These parents had virtually no identities except as parents, and in no small part because of that, their children have no identity except their own. Cold men, hard men, forged with ethics from a harder time when survival depended upon selfishness and sin, but let loose upon time and place in which everything was warm and easy. 

Some children of Eastern Europeans descend on LA from the Midwest, but they're too nice to make it, and they either disillusionedly return to flyover country after three years or become sad underlings. Politicians, buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough, and the ones who make it descend upon the city of angels and slime with one goal: to become makhers in a city where there are no goyim to remind them what good taste is - even the Old Money here is Gold Money from the late 1800s. These are the men that define taste - not just for themselves and their friends, not just for Southern California, but for a Nation, for a World.

Thrillseekers, bookmakers, nature's gamblers, insider traders, every out is a potential in, the more down on your luck you are the better the comeback. Guys for whom sex is pretty good, but a very distant second to the thrill of adding one to their lists, of retabulating the total, recalling the impediments of getting there, recalling the small details of what made this one different from that one, of fighting the heroic struggles of the Forgotten Generation, the Silent Generation, the pre-Boomers, the Rat Pack Generation. In the 1940's, their older brothers liberated Eurasia, but for the next half-century, these guys made money, women, and America do things they shouldn't. Johns who always tell women that neither the John nor the lady's looks will be around forever. Joes prepared to make a deal because they're always prepared to ruin the deal. Fellas who will bond with you after five minutes like a best friend because at any moment they can become your worst enemy. Gents who've never lost at life because they never expect to lose, and even when they lose, they never admit it's a loss. Lads for whom fame was almost an impediment, the mobs of adoring crowds would slow them down from getting to the action as quickly as possible.

Hollywood is a place where everybody's looking for a job, and these are the only guys who can offer them. Hollywood is a place where nobody can afford a car, and these are the guys with the coolest cars in America. Hollywood is a place where nobody moves with their parents' blessing, and these guys have made entire lives on granting displaced displaced parental approval and criticism. They didn't want to be actors sucking up for approval, they wanted to be the ones sucked as they bestowed approval or took it away. If they let themselves become famous, it was only so they'd have more to bet. No thrill is ever enough, no action leads to satisfaction, only to the need for more thrills. Even as they age, the thrills have to keep going, because if they ever stopped and looked back on their lives, they would see a trail of black holes which their thriving, throbbing, always moving lives leave in their wake.

But these guys aren't thrillseekers like the thrillseekers from the heartland - they don't shoot big game or climb mountains or play football without a helmet. They're not men's men, because when a man's man comes from a family that hasn't made it yet in America, a man's man takes care of his family. These are ladies' men with the kind of dyed and slicked back hair with a spray tan that look perfect on young men of an ethnic extraction; men who look like boys until they're fifty, and radiate boyish enthusiasm for every idea a woman has and are full of the kind of encouragement and well-wishes no man's man ever gave them. Guys who think they can read women, because what anybody wants is pretty easy to read when you treat them less than human for a million years. 

You see, it was that golden dawn of the Sexual Revolution after World War II when the American military finally advocated something other than abstinence in their propaganda - "Don't forget - put it on before you put it in." The military dropped the condom campaign immediately after The War, but the 'damage' was done, and between 1955 and '65, 42% of young people admitted to wearing condoms - which means that the total was probably much higher, because how many unmarried young people wanted anybody to find out they were having sex? And for that matter, how many married Catholics wanted anyone at all to find out they were using birth control?

So for one brief and glorious moment on either side of 1960, all you had to do was make a woman feel like a person occasionally, and she would let you treat her like an animal. She would be so grateful that she'd bend over backwards for any request you made, or at least she would until she demands something realer than encouragement, but there's nothing real about a veibernik; a farfireh trained in how to speak by Humphrey Bogart, how to groom by Cary Grant, how to intimidate by Marlon Brando, how to show vulnerability by Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda, how to banter by Grant and Spencer Tracy, how to be a man by Clark Gable and Gary Cooper and John Wayne, how to be mysterious from Bogart and Cooper and Robert Mitchum, how to ooze decency by Fonda and Stewart and Gregory Peck; menschen who learned how to think of a lady from Hugh Hefner, how to treat a lady from Sean Connery, how to get a lady in the mood from Bill Cosby, how to raise a lady up from Louie B. Mayer and how to ruin her from Harry Cohn; how to leave a lady from Mickey Rooney, how to trade up to a better lady from Eddie Fischer, how to measure the acceptable difference of age from Charlie Chaplin and Errol Flynn and Woody Allen, how to hide their affairs from Rock Hudson and Liberace and Randolph Scott, and let loose on heartland shiksehs whose parents wouldn't let them see anything more dangerous than Walt Disney. Opnarehs who specialize in the conjuration, the conjugal, and the con in a town so unconnected with reality that they think they can get away with anything, because for their first half-century, they get away with everything; but these guys wake up on their fiftieth birthday to find find that a three-pack-a-day habit's turned their skin from olive to prune and the their voices from mahogany to gravel. Their powerful best friends in business and government and academia don't return their calls and refuse to lift the phone to get them out from the kind of trouble that back in the 60's was never trouble in an era when all the world's powerful people were together in a conspiracy to convince the rest of us that they deserved their eminence. After fifty, it's only a matter of time before they have to pay for some of what hundreds of thousands of women once paid with their happiness to do for them.

Sometimes they're producers, sometimes they're distributors, sometimes they're executives, sometimes they're press, sometimes they're agents, sometimes they're even photographers and realtors; sometimes they work in TV, or animation, sometimes they work on blockbusters, sometimes they work on little independent hits, sometimes they work on bombs and flops, but their job is always the same; to cut creative people down to size, to make the luftmenschen in creative understand that what they usually do is bad, utterly unconnected to reality, and will never be understood by the guy buying two tickets for him and his date in Wahoo, Nebraska; to make creative understand that they're not that good, not that smart, and all that stands between them and a flop is someone with a hundred times more seykhel than they'll ever have. They spend every day of their lives around creative people, but no matter how many children they create and however many babies they've paid women to abort, they will never be creative themselves. These pieces of filth have never created anything in their lives, and no amount of pussy will displace the hole in their spirits that grows with every hit for which they're responsible; and that is what makes them so devastatingly effective towards creative people. The only thing they've created is nightmares in the beds of people with the kinds of imaginations they can only dream of having; people of vision who've put their thoughts, their feelings, the very best of themselves into the center of the arena; all for the purpose of making other people's lives more meaningful, more satisfying, happier; and yet these bottom feeders are always there to tell them what they did wrong and suck the blood from them like leeches. The worst part about it is that more often than not, the parasites are right.

Nobody wants to see the excrement crapped out by these artiste types who expect the world to believe their shit doesn't stink. Most artists starve in their Harlem garrets to fart out product that nobody wants to see and would hate if they did, but the only reason to give tens of millions of dollars to a pampered pischer with a camera is so he can make a movie people want to watch. The job of these executive bloodsuckers is to make sure that artistes don't create multi-million dollar turds whose failures can put thousands of people out of work and endanger the safety and welfare of tens of thousands of families. Perhaps the very fact of this responsibility is awesome enough to justify the every reward, the every remuneration, the every enumeration. For what other reason than the importance of their responsibility would the world give them their pick of the world's flashiest houses, cars, suits, restaurants, and tits? 

And worst of all, as nature's braggados, their unfairest reward for the misery they cause is that occasionally, their gambling compulsion makes them bet everything and more on an idea from a young unknown who came up with something really, really, really good - not because they believed in the importance of quality, but just to feed the gambling itch that wonders if something good can be a hit; and to make it into a hit, they get to do what they do best - yell and scream and bully and indimidate and cajole and apologize and forgive and seduce and repeat ad infinitum every day until the picture's done, at which point they get to do it all over again; so rather than be remembered for the slime they are, posterity remembers them as the avuncular eminences spray-noir who believed in art and unknown talent during a golden age that was only golden because it was reckless. Entertainment makes money, but art costs money, and trying to make every work of art into something profitable is a gamble that is only won a few times in a generation. 

And yet, for roughly sixteen years in Hollywood, from 1967 to 1983, these addicts won against the house more times than anybody thought was possible: The Godfather, The Graduate, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, American Graffiti, Chinatown, Bonnie and Clyde, Godfather Part II, Rocky, Grease, Cabaret, Network, Easy Rider, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, All The President's Men, Patton, Fiddler on the Roof, The Deer Hunter, MASH, Harold and Maude, The Right Stuff, The Producers, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Manhattan, The Sting, Nashville, Midnight Cowboy, Blazing Saddles, Saturday Night Fever, Mean Streets, The French Connection, The King of Comedy, Sophie's Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer, The Last Picture Show, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Atlantic City, Last Tango in Paris, Badlands, The Big Chill, In the Heat of the Night, On Golden Pond, The Wild Bunch, Love Story, Cool Hand Luke, Funny Girl, Dog Day Afternoon, Five Easy Pieces, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, An Unmarried Woman, Days of Heaven, El Norte, The Goodbye Girl, Harry and Tonto, In Cold Blood, Little Big Man, Local Hero,  The Man Who Would Be King, McCabe & Mrs. Miller,  Melvin and Howard, Missing, Reds, Tender Mercies, Terms of Endearment.

Human sized movies about human beings, stories made by humans for humans, stories made by adults for adults about adults. Collaboration between people of opposite temperaments who can't stand each other and therefore tear each other's work to shreds in the name of collaboration. Don't let anybody fool you, collaboration is a shit sandwich, the success of which depends not at all on the strength of your brain but on the strength of your stomach. Nobody lusts for the power that comes with a career in making money in commerce or making alternate universes in the arts or the profane marriage between the two that is movies if they have a strong stomach for being contradicted. Everyone wants to be rich and famous for the greater validation, but wealth and fame are the greatest tools for invalidation the world has yet created. The more privilege we seek, the more entitlement we achieve, the more focus we become of other people's resentments. The greater the potential for love, the greater the potential for hate. 

Being human is a difficult task to bear at the best of times, so perhaps these volatile times that were the turbulent 1970's were an exceedingly human era, when all the dark urges of humanity came together to check each other as they always do in a great democracy - grinding their human waste and ours into the humane fertilizer that grew the most beautiful of all American gardens. A garden of humanity, enfertiled and cultivated by the tension between creative people and realistic people, people who give and people who take, people who dream and people who scheme, people who measure quality and people who measure quantity, people who take responsibility and people who push responsibility off, people who take credit and people happy to give a little credit away in exchange for gross percentage points, people who live forever and people happy to enjoy themselves on the way down. A garden made possible because people of vastly different perspectives and experiences and temperaments came together to add their particular facet of humanity to a full equation that could give movies a more complete picture of who we are... before the dark times... before the Empire... 

It's not that movie franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones were worse than the movies that came before them, it's just that making them meant that other kinds of movies would more seldom be made. The addicts realized that they didn't just have to bet the house against the house, they could mortgage the whole fucking neighborhood! Every movie championed by a studio would no longer speak to the adult or the human, or to the humane, or the organic, but to the kid, the pubescent, the teenager, the preservative, the animal in everybody who still wants to engorge himself on candy, on explosions, on masturbation, on blood. Even the adult stories have became more sensational and less human just to keep upEvery year, a director who wants to tell a human story finds it harder and harder to get it onto the screen; either make the compromises demanded by these coked up alteh cockers, or strike it out on your own with European or Broadway producers grateful to be connected with someone from Hollywood, but who can cough up a quarter the budget on a good day with worse actors and worse production teams.

And somehow, during this period when the movie theater became the multiplex, there was only a single name consistently affixed to the last credit of the blockbuster movies whose ethnic signature affixed a seal of quality. Sure, there were a few movies to hit the $100 million mark with a directorial credit of the Mosaic affixture. Movies like Superman I and II, Beverly Hills Cop, Star Trek IV, Ghostbusters, Three Men and a Baby, Good Morning Vietnam; all of them hit $100 million when a hundred million dollars was nearly impossible to hit, but no more than two of them had the same director. Between 1980 and 2000, if a Jewish producer wanted to make a megahit, he offered it to directors with names like Lucas, Scott, Zemeckis, Howard, Cameron, Columbus, Burton, Emmerich. These were not stories you could afford to take chances on to make them better, these were investments designed to be safest possible revenue generators, these were properties with car chases and terrorists with guns on a plane and computers hooked up to a bomb and a counting down clock. Every Jew knows that after you buy a property, the first thing you do is hire a goyisheh handiman. 

And so when a project comes along that's designed to be so beloved that it makes hundreds of millions - projects like Alien, or Back to the Future, or Terminator 2, or Forrest Gump, or Apollo 13, or Gladiator, or Cast Away, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas - you don't want another argumentative Jew screwing it up for you. Not Stanley Kubrick, not Woody Allen, not Mel Brooks, not Albert Brooks, not James L. Brooks, not Richard Brooks, not Bogdanovich, not Brest, Benjamin, not Coen, not Cronenberg, not Donen, not Donner, not Ephron, not Fleischer, not Friedkin, not Fuller, not Guest, not Heckerling, not Herskovitz, not Hiller, not Hyams, not Kasdan, not Kershner, not Landis, not Leder, not Levinson, not Lumet, not Mann, not May, not Mazursky, not Myers, not Nichols, not Oz, not Pakula, not Penn, not Polanski, not Pollack, not Rafelson, not Raimi, not Ramis, not Reitman, not Ritt, not Schlesinger, not Siegel, not Sonnenfeld, not Wilder, not Winkler, not Zinnemann, not Zwick, and certainly not the Zucker Brothers. 

It's not like these relative schlemazels lacked for work, it's not even like most of them lacked for occasional hits. But even the hits were kidnapped into some more agreeable director's hands for the inevitably inferior sequel. Whether it was fate or producers, something was always conspiring against them working their ways up to the A+ List. Richard Donner created the Superman movies and Lethal Weapon and even The Goonies, but every time he created a new franchise, producers took it from his hands - and always to the franchise's detriment. After Donner, even the directors of hits are confined to specified genre ghettos: Ivan Reitman made hit comedy after hit comedy in the 80's, but even if Ghostbusters had more effects than your average Steve McQueen picture, he's "just a comedy director," and was never allowed to make movies with the freedom that his son Jason now runs marathons with. Barry Sonnenfeld made all kinds of off-beat hits in the 90's, and he was so hilarious that Letterman would have him on just to chat when he wasn't promoting anything, but he was only the guy you hired for weird movies when you couldn't get Tim Burton. If a producer wanted a megahit that broke every record, then they wanted somebody who could speak the language of Flyover Country. The producer wanted a technician accustomed to following instructions to the letter without asking why. The producer wanted a cultural ambassador who could be profiled on The Today Show and Good Morning America and seem like somebody you cold have a beer with. 

And thus began the regime of the New New Hollywood. Behind the desk, the schmutziger schmucks are still running everything. Even Disney is now run by guys named Eisner and Ovitz! In front of the camera, there are more Jews than ever, and they're openly Jewish! But behind the camera, there is only one Spielberg. 

Spielberg was the presentation the New New Hollywood gave of what it was - growing up in an orthodox family that moved around every part of America and therefore knew America better than Amerikanehs did themselves. After he grows up, his religion is no longer Hashem, his religion is movies, with occasional dabbles in worshipping America outright. Even if he doesn't keep the customs of Judaism, he at least seems to conduct himself with Judeo-Christian values that could be appreciated even in the Bible Belt. He seems to try his best to be a family man in his spare time and his movies are much less comfortable in compromising adult situations than they are with machines, with children, with merchandise, with figures and tabulations. His movies are filled with a longing for unfulfillable American ideals. Ideals that were best preached in the Old Hollywood by directors who were either immigrants or the children of them - luminous footnotes to American History like Capra, Wyler, Cukor, Preminger, Minnelli, Kazan, and Kramer. Even John Ford wasn't from the Old West, he was from Maine! All these other Jews were trying to invent the formula of how to make art movies into something commercial, but Spielberg showed how to make commercialism into art! The now-aging gonifs have finally figured out the game. Why worry about whether something good can become crap when you can make crap into something good? 

With a respectable front, they can put more money than ever into cocaine and would-be starlets - whom blow prevents them from getting it up to fuck - and mansions bigger than anything their doctor and lawyer brothers and nephews ever bought back east; and Steven Spielberg made it all possible. Aristocrats at court can carry on their meaningless affairs whose problems they never have to answer for, so long as the Court Jew keeps bringing in the money. Spielberg was, in some senses still is, America's Court Jew, while all the other creative talents with a clipped dick begin to be bottled back up into the ghetto by their own Jewish brothers (these guys weren't just Khazers, they were Kapos!), In every major court in Old Europe, there was a Jew who found ways to keep the money raking so that the aristocrats could keep their party going for a few decades after everybody thought they'd mended their youthful ways and retreated to bourgeois domesticity. Eventually, all these courts crumbled to the ground and the Court Jews were murdered en masse along with the ghetto Jews, the only meaningful difference between America and Old Europe being that in this part of America, the aristocrats are Jewish, and no Jew stays an aristocrat for too long. 

Eventually, the sins of every one of these alteh parichehs catch up with them. You can't have an endless string of hits, and when every hit has to be bigger than the last, eventually, you're going to make a flop so spectacular that no amount of money brought in from hits you made can make up for what you just lost. These are men whom cancer may spare until their eighties, but by sixty, they're all dead in every way that counts to them. They're replaced by Spielberg clones - not just bland goyim behind the camera (and eventually bland Jews too like Abrams and Ratner and Singer who might as well be goyim), but bland Jews and bland goyim alike behind the desk, who may not have nearly as much integrity as they claim, but who can at least put a safe face on Hollywood. They don't like adult situations any more than Spielberg does, and they all share a preference for the Spielberg specialties of special effects, superheroes, sentimentality, salary, and the sophomoric. Maybe the movies never were an Art with a capital A, but they sure as hell aren't now, and they were a lot more exciting back then. Once upon a time, the movies were a roulette wheel, but today, they're a Walmart isle. 

Of course it is pointless to give too much detail of what follows, because it's so predictable; except to say that when the producer gave his speech, he was two months away from getting his comeuppance, and he knew it. The particular big-budget film that currently held his ass on the line was going to be a fiasco. Every film he ever made seemed like it would be a disaster while filming, but something in the transfer to celluloid and final cut turned them to gold; hit after hit, some of which he thought, and knew, were far less than good, a few were even abysmal, and yet all these feinschmeckers were either stupid enough to love them, or smart enough to pretend to love them to their friends, to their coworkers, to their family members, to their newspaper editors.

But even in an era when no one could do wrong, one is beset by the fear of its conclusion. In the last two years he saw a full half-a-dozen of friends and enemies (which were which?) wiped out by productions that five years ago would have been sprinkled with that magic movie dust that even made bad movies into great ones, perhaps especially bad movies - and he wondered when his time would come. There was an incurable virus coursing through the Hollywood air that made cinematic disasters turn out just as badly in final cut as they seemed in dailies. 

Such a moment in his life was how women like Carmen appealed to him and hundreds of other Hollywood insiders; yet another true Hollywood original to add to the pile of them that he alone would take credit for discovering and he alone would mentor, a beauty with distinctions and intelligence and particulars of charisma that no other Hollywood beauty ever yet resembled - but also precisely why the arc of what happens next is so painfully obvious; she was discovered at the precise moment when Hollywood craved generic, anonymous beauty from generic anonymous white bread Americans that could be manufactured in a Sara Lee assembly line, then sent off to Weight Watchers for packaging.

The Producer's speech was to the film and theater students, and the theme was some crap like believing in yourself and following your dreams. Carmen had just starred in a USC production of The Pajama Game - never would a character once played by Doris Day look more swarthy and freckled and ginger and buxom. Carmen had no intention of switching her major to theater, she wanted to be a concert pianist, but the theater department was courting her heavily to switch, and invited her for a third row seat to his lecture.

He absconded ASAP before any student had opportunity to speak to him in turn, but the night after he gave the talk, the Producer happened to be at The Cobra Inn in El Monte - a town way out in the San Gabriel Valley where Carmen sang jazz and country on the piano two or three nights a week. As she sang, as she played the piano, as she sang on the piano, she knew - as all altos do, that the power of her musical ability was paltry in its spell next to the how her form-hugging, low cut red dresses could burrow into the souls of the divorced men; the veterans, the farmers, the factory workers, drunk enough to tip her their kids' lunch money if she talked to them for ninety seconds and kept mace in her purse. 

The Producer came alone and took a seat at an empty front row table, no one accompanying him except for a faithful chauffeur who waited in the Mercedes limo outside with the air conditioning on and the Godfather of Soul playing on the radio. Within a week, she'd quit Cobra and he'd bought her an entire formal wardrobe. Within three weeks he'd bought her parents convertibles and given them a copy of his personal credit card during the week of their anniversary with instructions to go to any restaurants they wanted. She never saw him pick up any of the leather-bound books on the many shelves of his drawing room. The Producer assured her that he read for two hours every night before he joined her in bed, but rather than the reverent and relaxing silence that accompanies reading for many of us, she usually heard him shouting loudly as the TV broadcast the Lakers' or Dodgers' games at a booming volume. Even so, he seemed able to talk about books with endless fluency in his Upper West Side accent, which he tweaked to sound more Upper-East to give a patina of the class he worked like a horse to acquire. 

The Producer inevitably thought Carmen's love was Jazz, so there was jazz practically every night - from the lowest B-grade open jam at which he made her play piano to front row tickets to Miles and Dizzy and Ella and Frankie and Tony and Benny and Nina and Etta and Lena and Tojo and Herbie and Duke Jr. If it was a big show, he didn't even need a backstage pass to get through, the doormen and bouncers all called him by his name, and he'd then tip them in wads. They'd all talk on a backstage sofa while the ravenous musicians were served a lavish postshow meal, and he'd pull out a bottle of scotch from his jacket and light up a joint for them, or sometimes even cut a line with his utilitarian credit card. 

After the fifth time she told him that what she really loved was classical music, he started surprising her on weekends with box seats at Chandler to see Zubin conduct at the LA Phil, and they would inevitably meet up afterward with him and Nancy and whoever the soloist was that week: Horowitz, Pavarotti, Domingo, Barenboim, Stern, Perlman, Menuhin, Sills, Milstein, Ashkenazy, Argerich, de Larrocha; in the span of eighteen months, she got to meet them all. Whenever a pianist came to town, Carmen would ask them to come around the house after the Sunday 2PM matinee, and the pianist would claim to be delighted to hear her play or to play four-hand duets with her on the Bosendorfer piano which the Producer shipped overnight from Vienna for her when she she was moved in on the fifth day of their relationship. And yet, between four and six the next day, there was always a call. Barenboim had to get back to London to look after his ailing wife. Ashkenazy had to deal with trouble at the Soviet consulate. Argerich was under the weather from their drinking. de Larrocha had to practice her next week's program. Horowitz was too tired from last night's concert - that one hurt the most by far. 

And then there were the long weeknights with a couple of real celebrities who needed to unwind from their shoots, to play some tennis in the evening followed by drinks and coke before dinner, then cigars and weed after, booze all throughout, and god knows how many unlikely parings heading into a bedroom of the guest cottage in between. Every famous pairing of the age, every famous solo act, made their appearance, and by the end of the night, who knows how many of those celebrity pairings left on the arm of the better half with which they entered? 

Carmen and the Producer played host to a veritable museum of New Hollywood: Irish Nicholson and Toots Huston, Beatty and Keaton (guess who made a pass at Carmen... a great one of course...), Bobby Wagner and Tasha Wood (she wasn't nice to Carmen), Dusty Hoffman and Anne, Bogdanovich and Dorothy (who got very drunk and was pulled off the bar she was dancing on - whereupon she made an even bigger scene), Pacino and Kathleen Quinlan, Faye Dunaway (threw a plate), Bobby De Niro and Diahnne (Bobby of course said nothing all night), Michael Caine and Shakira, Carson and Joanna, McQueen and MacGraw (together before the divorce, separately after), Gore Vidal and Howard (how could anybody be so hilarious and so mean at the same time?), Dicky Burton and Suzy (Dicky showed up drunk and got more gloomy and obnoxious as the night went on), De Palma and Nancy, Spielberg and Amy, Paul and Joanne (what a nice couple!), Clint and Sondra, Friedkin and Jeanne Moreau (everybody left the room when they started fighting), Charlton and Lydia, Cary and Barbara (and Carmen could swear old Cary was making a pass at him), Larry Olivier and Joan, Kirk Douglas and Anne (though Kirk tried to get fresh with Carmen outside the lady's room), Woody and Stacey (for once she wasn't the youngest one there), Streep and Cazale when John was feeling up to it, Dougie Fairbanks and Mary, Francis Coppola and Eleanor (Francis yelled at him whole time), Scorsese and Isabella Rossellini (the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen in person), Sean Connery and Micheline (you don't even want to know...), Lenny Bernstein and MTT (arms all over each other, Lenny talked for three hours without a break, MTT tried to get a word in and failed, everybody else was half-asleep but Carmen was riveted), Cavett and Carrie, Orson and Oja (finished a spread alone that the Nicholsons, the Beattys and the Hoffmans couldn't eat half of), Jodie before she had to go to bed, Merv Griffin once showed up with a male escort, even Henry Miller hobbled through the back yard garden one day, even Ted Kennedy and Kissinger! 

Every week, the Producer bought Carmen a new book to read. Once every three months or so, his pilot would fly them to a weekend in the South of France, or the North of Italy, or Lake Lucerne, or the Island of Mykonos, or the Picos de Europa Mountains. The concierges and waiters even knew his name there!

But need we that you read the price at which said high life is procured? Need we state the details of utter imbalance that puts Carmen in the company of the world's cultural elite, but unable to say a word unless spoken to; play hostess to the world's most famous people every night, but held responsible by this declining Hollywood player for everything his servants do wrong and subject to endless berating for their mistakes in preparation and hers in conversation after the guests leave - and therefore to say little as well about the imbalance between a declining producer and the coddled Hollywood stars upon whom this producer's very sense of self is dependent? Need we enflesh how this Hollywood player had a Vertigo-like obsession with the details of Carmen's appearance - her hair, her dress, her eyes, her nails; the appointments every day with stylists, designers, tailors, plastic surgeons? Need we detail how the Producer emerged unannounced from some corner of USC to accuse her of talking to some USC film brat for too long? Need we detail the many private scenes that seem cribbed from a Golden Age Bette Davis melodrama? Need we elucidate the occasional death threat, the many blows to the stomach so as not to damage her face - in front of the servants no less, the many times she heard female voices in the background of phonecalls, the times he told her how much more beautiful and less snobby were the hundreds and hundreds of other women he had - before her of course.., the all too many times she was ignored when pleading with him to stop and do something else to her? Need we elaborate upon the many small and futile attempts Carmen made to take revenges upon her Producer that, in the parlance of our own era, could perhaps be called microaggressions, certainly not microagressions in their intent or ferocity, but microaggression in proportion to the degree of perpetration upon her, and incontrovertibly micro in their degree of effectiveness; aggressions that endowed her with satisfaction for only split-seconds before the anxiety and/or the terror returns to full force; the knife she once pulled on him, the heavy objects thrown, the screaming until she was horse, the loving stares at his gun collection, the worst imaginable pains she could inflict during sex - which, relief followed by endless aggravation and a little horror amidst the validation - he seemed to enjoy more than ever.

Who knows if Carmen was actually in love? Did it matter? The Producer was not so much something to be treasured or hated by Carmen as something that happened to her. All the good, all the bad, all that she learned or didn't, all the coke and cock was not of her doing. She was a passenger in a Mercedes that a drunk driver locks from the outside while getting loaded and then returns for the simple pleasure of banging up something beautiful.  

Instead of detailing all this, your ever reliable narrator will tell but one simple story of the night her Producer became a finished producer. It was dinner at the house with Janet and Marty Sheen (Ramon to friends), Nolte, a couple lawyers and their wives who brought 50 year old scotch and choice cut coke, Marcheline and Jon Voight, The Producer and Carmen, on an unseasonably frigid February night. Ramon was back from the set of Apocalypse Now, having wrapped up the shooting, or maybe he'd quit for something like the third time, or maybe it was while recouping from his on-set heart attack, and this was to be a welcome home dinner that spared no expense for a movie star who'd need a perfect comeback role after starring in a film that everybody in Hollywood knew would be a disaster. 

It was relatively early in the relationship, and in retrospect, the one time at which the Producer truly seemed pleased with Carmen's hosting abilities. Neither the cook nor the pastry chef did a single thing wrong, for which he held Carmen as responsible as he did when they didn't. The Galician wines bought to impress Ramon were perfect, conversation flowed freely, Carmen turned down Nolte's blatant passes at the table with magnificently self-effacing assurance, the then ex-Catholic and Marxist Voight promised to be on his best behavior with the extremely Catholic Ramon when it came to questions about the new anticommunist Pope, and mostly fulfilled his pledge. Little did anyone know how vehemently they would switch political sides in twenty years.

Around 11, the Producer got a call that he took in his office. He emerged and didn't say anything for the rest of the night except a cursory goodbye to Ramon and Janet when they left to get an early start on their flight tomorrow to Bermuda. From the glances that darted around the room, everybody knew something was wrong, but only Nolte, a man who looks for danger like a hammer for a nail, was brave or stupid enough to broach it. For Nolte's 'troubles' and 'concern', the Producer threw the entire fucking room out of his house. 

The Producer and Carmen sat on a sofa downstairs with a small hill of cocaine on the coffeetable. The Producer would not tell her what it was about, but changed the subject by complemented her hosting abilities profusely. After twenty minutes of using every roundabout way of trying to get it out of him, she shrugged her shoulders and went upstairs to find her Xanax for bed. 

It was somewhere in the area of five or ten minutes that the Producer came upstairs. With a subtly mischievous grin, he told Carmen that she was ready to know the secret of making good movies. Did she want to know?

Of course she did. And because she did, the Producer dangled her by her feet from their fourth floor bedroom window. 

Carmen did not remember exactly what he said, how could she remember something so incoherent while lying upside down? But for the remaining sixteen months of their relationship, for the fumbling along ever after of her life as we all do, she would try to piece it together. 

"The secret is danger. You gotta look for danger everywhere you go. You gotta love danger. You gotta be a goddess playing with danger. You gotta be a shiksa goddess of death playing with the sands of time and space. You gotta love death hate death eat death smell death be death be undeath be by death be beyond death because out in the infinite space where you're staring down and up and left and right in the shape without form shade without color paralyzed force gesture without motion those who have crossed to with direct eyes to death's other kingdom remember us if at all not as violent souls but as hollow men stuffed men cuz you can see the space in us between the space between the space clearly and shape it like the fucking clay of earth and space and plan time and space like fucking infinite vistas of the space within your mind and you listen to it and you listen to the listening but making allowance for their doubting too if you can wait and not be tired by the waiting or lied about so don't deal in lies cuz it's impossible to describe what is necessary to those who don't know what horror is cuz horror has a face and you must make a friend of horror cuz horror and terror are your friends cuz if they're not then they're enemies you fear. Yea though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death you will fear no evil because the space is with you. Cuz the space is the fuckin' boundless thing that squashes a man's ego. You gotta be struck down and become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. You gotta come from another world, be the rock, be the tin can, and open the door to the new world and be stupid enough to blow yourself off the face of the earth and And then each night you count the stars and each night you get the same number and when they don't come to be counted you count the holes they leave. This is your souls hour the free flight from the wordless night sleep death and the stars.and grant your loftiness the right to some degree of cloud and from the stars your judgement pluck and climbing heaven gazing on earth wandering companionless among the stars like the night of cloudless climes and and starry skies  You gotta never want to forget, like you was shot with the diamond bullet through your head, your perfect, genuine, complete, crystaline, pure head and yet methinks I have astronomy but not to tell of good or evil luck of plagues of dearths of seasons quality till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street and the ocean is hung up to dry and the seven stars go squawking like the geese about the sky. Cuz it's stronger than you, and I'm stronger than you, I'll strengthen you and help you with my righteous right hand. The strength, the strength, the strength, the strength to do it. It'll make lights in the heaven to divide the firmament to give light upon the earth v'limshawl bayom oo'vo'layloh oo'lehovdil beyn ha'or oo'veyn khoyshekh ve'ha'aretz hayesaw sohu va'vohu v'khoshekh awl-p'ney sawhom v'rooach elokim m'rakhephes awl-p'ney hawmahyim. Cuz you determine the numbers of stars and give all of them their names ve'oyseh eysh k'seel ve'kheemaw and be moral and utilize your instincts to kill without feeling the passion without feeling the judgement because it's judgement that defeats you. Be unrighteous because the righteous perish and no man lays it to heart and no one understands that the righteous perish to be taken away from evil. You're gonna go off the reservation of space and make your own reservation on the infinite space where they worship you as the goddess of death and be willing to you and kill me and kill the space cuz you make your own rules in the space and reach your breaking point from the space and go beyond it into the space and go too far and admit it and stretch out the fuckin' heavens like a curtain and make the fuckin' wind the messenger and the fuckin' fire the minister awsaw yare'ach l'moawdim hawmabit lawawretz v'tir'awd yiga bey'hawrim v'ye'eysawnoo and not be judged and disappear out into the space of the jungle with your people and feel comfortable with your people to feel comfortable with your people in the space cuz it's the judgement that defeats us with the lost violent souls out in the space where what would your people back home want if they ever learned just how far you've really gone cuz you broke from them and you broke from me and you broke from yourself and you're broke cuz you have no right to call me a murderer but you have a right to kill me and make wars unto the ends of the earth and break the bow and cut the spear and burn the chariots in fire with adoyshem es eeyov min ha'sawraw mee zeh makhshikh eytzaw v'milinn bli daw'as? When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Shall I say I have gone at dusk through narrow streets and watch the smoke that rises from the pipes of lonely men in shirt sleeves leaning out of windows?"

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