Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tales from the Old New Land - First 45% of Tale 3 (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 knew whom 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 chip on their shoulders. There were never enough in Korea to develop the unspoken bond of camaraderie their older brothers instantly have 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 on LA from the East in swarms; a lot of New Yorkers, but nearly as likely 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, their fathers worked seven days a week during their Great Depression childhoods to give their everything the father ever wanted for himself, while their mothers, whose innate gifts in life were never even discovered, literally had no purpose in life except to work for their children. Their parents had virtually no identities except as parents, and in no small part because of that, their children have no identity except their own.

Some children of Eastern Europeans descend on LA from the Midwest, but they're too nice to make it, and they go back home 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, fighting the heroic struggle of the Forgotten Generation, the Silent Generation, the pre-Boomers, the Rat Pack Generation: their older brothers liberated Eurasia, they 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 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, 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 you, 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 seduce 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 cultivate masculinity by Clark Gable and Gary Cooper and John Wayne, how to cultivate mystery from 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 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, how to hide their affairs from Rock Hudson and Liberace, 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. After 50, they find they often have to pay for 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 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 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 ever had. 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 manchild 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 something some 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 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 is over, 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. 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. A human era, when all the urges of humanity came together to grind their human waste into a fertilizer that grew the most beautiful of all American gardens. A humane garden, fertilized 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, people who live and people who die. 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, but to the kid, the pubescent, the teenager, the animal, in everybody, who still wants to engorge himself on candy, on explosions, on masturbation, on blood. Just to keep up, even the adult stories have became more sensational and less human. Every 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, 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 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 out 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 as a guest who 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. They wanted technicians used to following instructions to the letter without asking why. They wanted cultural ambassadors 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 to every part of America. After he grows up, his religion is no longer Hashem, his religion is movies, with occasional dabbles in worshipping America. Even if he doesn't keep the customs of Judaism, he at least seems to conduct himself with religious values that could even be appreciated in the Bible Belt. He seems to try his best to be a family man in his spare time, 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 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 the formula to make art movies into something commercial, but Spielberg made 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 the 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 the money in. 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 alter 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 goyim behind the camera, but Jews and 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 the 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. This particular big-budget film was going to be a fiasco. Every film he ever made seemed like it was going to be a disaster while it was made, but they always seemed to turn out fine in the end. Even so, he saw friends and enemies alike wiped out by productions that five years ago would have be cinematic magic. There was an incurable virus traveling through the Hollywood air that made cinematic disasters turn out just as badly in final cut as they seemed in the rough. Such a moment in his life was how women like Carmen appealed to him and hundreds of others, yet another true Hollywood original to add to the pile that he alone discovered 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.

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 ginger and buxom. Carmen had no intention of switching to theater, Carmen wanted to be a concert pianist, but the theater department was courting her heavily to switch majors, and invited her for a third row seat at 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 in small form-hugging red dresses to divorced veterans and farmers and factory workers drunk enough to tip her their kids' lunch money if you talked to them for ninety seconds and kept mace in your purse. The producer was alone, except for a faithful driver 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 a whole 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 generally accompanies reading, she usually heard him cheering loudly as the TV broadcast the Lakers' or Dodgers' games at a healthy 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 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, though he'd always tip the doorman in wads. They'd all talk on a backstage sofa while the ravenous artists were served the 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. 

And then there were the long weeknight with a couple of real celebrities who needed to unwind from their shoots: Irish Nicholson and Toots Houston, Beatty and Keaton, Bobby Wagner and Tasha Wood (she wasn't very nice), Dusty Hoffman and Anne, Bogdanovich and Dorothy (she got very drunk and made a scene when she was pulled off the bar she was dancing on), Pacino and Kathleen Quinlan, Faye Dunaway, Bobby De Niro and Diahnne (Bobby of course said nothing all night), Michael Caine and Shakira, McQueen and MacGraw (together before the divorce, separately after), Gore Vidal and Howard (how could anybody be so hilarious and mean at the same time?), Dicky Burton and Suzy (Dicky showed up drunk and got more obnoxious as the night went on), Paul and Joanne (what a nice couple!), Clint and Sondra, Charlton and Lydia, Cary and Barbara (and she could swear 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), Meryl and John when John was feeling up to it, Dougie Fairbanks and Mary, Francis Coppola and Eleanor (Francis yelled at him whole time), Marty and Isabella (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 (Lenny talked for three hours without a break, everybody else was half-asleep but I was riveted), Cavett and Carrie, Orson and Oja, Jodie before she had to go to bed, even Henry Miller hobbled through the back yard garden one day, even Kissinger! 

Every week, he 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 in their relationship that puts Carmen in the company of the world's cultural elite, but unable to say a word unless spoken to; play hostess with the world's most famous people, but be subject to endless beratings for what she said wrong after the guests left? 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 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 times she was ignored when she pleaded 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 aggression directed upon her, and incontrovertibly micro in their degree of effectiveness; aggressions that endowed her with satisfaction only for split-seconds before the anxiety and/or the terror returns in its 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, to endless aggravation and a little horror - he seemed to enjoy more than ever.

Instead of detailing all this, your ever reliable narrator will tell a simple story of the night her Producer became a finished producer. It was dinner at the house with Janet and Marty Sheen (Ramon to close 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 shooting, or maybe he'd quit for something like the third time, 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 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, Voight promised to be on his best behavior when it came to questions about the new anticommunist Pope, and mostly fulfilled his pledge. 

Around 11, the Producer got a call. He emerged and didn't say anything for the rest of the night...

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