Nothing succeeds like excess.
Outrageous real life Hollywood super producer Don Simpson wants to do something good with his life.
But all the hookers and drug dealers and movie stars just keep getting in the way. Simpson teamed with Jerry Bruckheimer to create the high concept blockbuster that changed the film business for ever. Now he wants to change himself.
“Boscutti’s Don Simpson” is a truly wild Hollywood novel. It’s based on an award-winning screenplay. A brilliant, freewheeling look at a life in free fall.
Will the notorious Simpson overcome his demons and finally make a film he is proud of?
‘Like Elvis, Don Simpson died in the bathroom for our sins.’ Lynda Obst
‘Don Simpson symbolized the kind of extravagant, excessive, larger-than-life figure who is drawn to Hollywood, one whose personal demons grow hand in hand with successes and personal fortunes.’ New York Times
‘The average Hollywood tycoon prefers to be discreet about such plunder. But Don Simpson was an animal, and the suave masters in silk suits were tickled that he was so naked, so acting out with it.’ The Independent
‘Simpson’s uneven temperament inspired fear in underlings and awe among some of the biggest names in Hollywood.’ Los Angeles Times
‘Boscutti’s hyper-real novel is a blistering fuel-injected no-holes-barred look at everything that went wrong with Hollywood.’ Patricia Walden
‘Part lurid celebrity potboiler, part industry insider and seldom less than engrossing.’ Dan Suraci
‘Blackly hilarious, beautifully written novel that blends fact into a new form of fiction.’ Mike Fabus
‘Enthralling, terrifying and grimly compelling portrait of a true Hollywood psychopath.’ Stephen McCoy
‘In a town of bastards, Don Simpson was the bastard king. An outrageous Hollywood super producer who didn’t know where to draw the line. Unless it was with cocaine. A man who loved drugs almost as much as he loved prostitutes. What drives a man like Simpson? I guess that’s what I wanted to find out.’ Stefano Boscutti
Based on an award-winning screenplay. Includes Bonus Author’s Note, Author’s Interview and Opening Pages of Stefano Boscutti’s Next Novel.
ISBN 9780980712520 / 54,000 words / 216 minutes of pure reading pleasure
Get your copy now because it’s too outrageous to ever be made into a film.
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“BOSCUTTI’S DON SIMPSON” (FREE EXCERPT)
PROLOGUE: COME ACROSS TO ME
Fade up live version of JIMI HENDRIX’S psychedelic ‘Are You Experienced?’ under flashes of “Dangerous Minds” movie poster with MICHELLE PFEIFFER in a thin black leather jacket, arms crossed, staring down the lens.
Guitar chords slip and slide in reverse as Hendrix calls to join him through space and time.
Flashes of “Bad Boys” movie poster with WILL SMITH and MARTIN LAWRENCE walking away from a black Porsche 964, wearing police-issue bulletproof vests, guns in hand, standing down a suspect.
Drums loop in reverse as Hendrix repeats the jangling chorus.
Flashes of “Top Gun” movie with TOM CRUISE wearing a leather bomber jacket, KELLY McGILLIS posed on his shoulder, stars and stripes behind them. Fighter jets tear the sky.
Hendrix pleads for an answer.
Flashes of “Beverly Hills Cop” movie poster with EDDIE MURPHY sitting wryly on the hood of a Mercedes red coupe, gun in hand, smirk on face.
Music rises and crashes through as Hendrix sings on.
Flashes of “Flashdance” movie poster with an almost pubescent JENNIFER BEALS, wearing a torn sweatshirt and red high heels, lost in the lens. Music comes crashing through.
Music begins to shimmer and fade. Hendrix’s voice fades away.
Fade to black.
CHAPTER 1: WHO AM I?
This is how it ends?
DON SIMPSON is slumped on the upstairs toilet, his bloated body wedged hard against the black marbled wall. He’s in a black silk robe, head down into his chest with both eyes closed.
Smudged reading glasses perch on the end of his nose. Greasy hair pulled back in a limp ponytail. He looks like an older, taller, bearded and overweight Tom Cruise.
A new hardcover book rests in his dead right hand. It’s opened on page 267. Nothing moves, not even the air.
On a fucking freeze-frame? Are you fucking kidding me?
First light of the day moves against his body. It’s a soft Los Angeles sunrise. It’s Friday, January 19, 1996. The notorious Hollywood producer turned fifty-two three months earlier. It was the worst birthday of his life.
The book slowly slides down out of his hand and falls onto the black tiled floor.
Thank Christ for that! You never open a movie on a freeze frame, right? Not even on a shot of a dead man.
Reading glasses slide off his nose, tumble down his body and land on the book. It’s a copy of the new OLIVER STONE biography. The title reads: ‘Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker.’ There’s a black and white photo of a worried Oliver Stone on the cover.
Corner of Stone’s lips animate into a sly smile.
Jesus, aren’t you supposed to see your life flash before your eyes when you die? Isn’t that the deal?
Glide out of the toilet towards the master bedroom.
Afraid of dying? Who? Me? Are you fucking kidding me? I was never afraid of dying, of getting old. I was afraid of getting fat.
Master bedroom of Simpson’s Bel-Air mansion is enormous.
Glide past a wall of floor-to-ceiling closets. Some are open. The first is closed, locked. This is the bedroom of a man with too much money. It’s dark. The heavy black king size bed is unmade, black silk sheets spill off. Lit by static hissing from a massive black Zenith television.
Oh fuck, can we defer the immediate cause of death? No? Really? A coroner?
Glide past the black nightstand one side of the bed. Piled high with discarded film scripts, empty Mills Pond peanut butter jar, empty Narcan ampules, empty bottle of 1991 Siduri Pinot Noir and a half-empty wine glass. All piled up like the Paramount logo. All that’s missing is the halo of stars. To one side is a black AT&T speakerphone and answering machine. The small green indicator light is not flashing. The drawer underneath is closed.
I’m not fucking stupid. I mean, I know what killed me.
Move towards the black nightstand on the other side of the bed. Two foils of tablets lie unopened.
Librium and Diazepam. They’re detoxification drugs. They stabilize your heart, they keep your blood pressure down and they ease you through withdrawal. Without them you can suffer a fucking stroke or a fucking heart attack or fucking both.
In front of the tablets is a small mound of crushed cocaine and an open single-blade Swiss Army Knife. Tip of the blade is edged with fine white powder. Top drawer is open.
The drugs didn’t kill me. So we don’t need an autopsy, right? We don’t want to start cutting?
Peer into the top drawer to reveal a black leather Bible embossed with gold lettering and gold cross, a shiny gold vibrator and a postcard of a wooden signpost with signs pointing to cities around the world. The postcard is stamped with the words ‘Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska’ in gold.
What are my chances of getting a woman coroner? On the youngish side? Good looking? Big tits? Smart? I got to have smart. Got to have somebody I can talk to.
A breath of air rustles the curtains. Crushed cocaine flits and flickers down into the drawer.
Who am I? Fuck, I’m Don Simpson. I’m an original. A true American original.
Close on postcard as cocaine flutters down like gentle snow.
That’s what Mankiewicz wanted to call “Citizen Kane” — “The American.” It’s a good title. Mankiewicz? Joseph Mankiewicz? Manks? He was the original writer. You know where he wrote the screenplay?
More cocaine flutters down the postcard.
CHAPTER 2: FUCKING ICE FOG
Snow blows over the real wooden signpost in the port town of Anchorage, over the signs pointing to cities all over the globe.
Wrote it up in three weeks while drying out in the Statewell sanatorium. Welles wanted to call the movie “John Q.” John Q? Are you fucking kidding me?
It was RKO studio chief George Schaefer who forced the title onto him. So what the fuck does a director know, right?
Under the word ‘Anchorage’ it reads ‘Air Crossroads of the World.’ It’s 1943 and it’s cold.
Schaefer came from Anchorage, Alaska. Captain James Cook discovered the place after he discovered Australia and before he was eaten alive by natives in Tonga or some fucking island in the middle of the Pacific.
Sounds of jet ripping through the sky.
About the only interesting thing that ever happened in Anchorage was Mount Spurr erupting for the first time in recorded history on the day I was born.
Anchorage. What a shithole. Cold, freezing fuckhole. Alaska was no better. Only fifty-five miles to Russia. Closer to Russia than the lower forty-eights.
In the middle of winter there’d be this fucking ice fog. You couldn’t even breathe. This dense winter fog of suspended ice particles would sort of sparkle all around you. So thick not even the sun could shine through.
Every winter everyone would go mad with cabin fever. That’s when Alaskans start bouncing off the walls. That’s when the Spenard Divorces would start. I now pronounce you Smith and Wesson.
Everyone had a gun. Only place in the world with more bears than people. Point three-five-sevens. Forty-four magnums. Twelve-gauge shotguns. Pump action. Think of it as insurance.
You don’t want to fuck with bears. Grizzly, black, polar. Grizzly weighs in at eight hundred pounds, nine feet tall. Fast as all fuck too. Or a brown bear. Fucker is fourteen hundred pounds, eleven feet tall. Tear your face off soon as look at you.
Sure I saw a lot of bears. Saw a white wolf once. I know how rare it is. No one else I knew had ever seen one. In the moonlight. By itself.
Sometimes you wouldn’t see the fucking sun for days. You’d see the sundog, the circle of light around it so you knew it must be there. But you couldn’t feel it.
Then the ice and snow would finally start to break up and melt away. You’d hear it shifting and cracking. Slosh everywhere for weeks so you knew winter was over. You knew the tourist season was next.
Man, all I ever wanted to do was leave that fucking place.
CHAPTER 3: AS LONG AS YOU BELIEVE
It’s 1948 and the Lake Spenard Baptist Church car park is full. PASTOR CULLEY’S damning voice rises from the plain, wooden building and rolls over the perfectly parked cars.
The cowardly, the unbelievers, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, in the everlasting flames of hell.
Light wind ripples the lake and takes Pastor Culley’s voice further.
You cannot save yourself. You are born in sin and you will die in sin and only Jesus Christ the Lord can save you. Pray this prayer, and mean it with all your heart.
717 jet shears a white vapor trail through the clear blue sky like a line of creamy, flaked cocaine.
Listen, the way you keep people in line is to scare the shit out of them and then tell them the only way they’re going to escape that fucking fear is to believe in whatever you’re preaching. I knew religion was full of shit. Even as a kid I knew.
We are all born evil, nasty, dirty people. Except if we hang on long enough in this life, God will give it all back to us in the next. What sort of deal is that? Who writes this shit?
The literal words of God? You’re kidding me, right? You can’t question the Bible, you can’t give notes? I don’t want to sound like a prick but have you read it?
Not exactly a great page-turner. And you can drive a freight train through the holes in the story, the contradictions, the factual errors.
If there is a God, why would he write a book? Why wouldn’t he make a movie? Seriously, you’re omnipotent and you write a fucking book. Who the fuck reads books? What are you? Retarded?
Look, I get it. The whole baptism and rebirth thing. Death, burial, resurrection. It’s a good story. I get it. I just didn’t need it shoved down my throat as a kid.
The whole give your life to Jesus? That was never going to fucking happen.
John, fourteen-two. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
A lot of those folks believed Jesus was coming back just for them. Believed with all their hearts that Jesus was coming back to this earth to literally take them back to heaven with him. Just them.
Guess that’s one way you don’t have to do much in this life. Because it’s all coming to you in the next as long as you believe. It fucks with your brain, that’s for sure.
It fucks with your sense of self. I went through so many changes as a kid, I didn’t know who I was. I remember being locked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, and repeating my own name over and over until it became gibberish.
I remember telling myself to stop this shit, because I felt I had the power to destroy myself. Wipe myself out. Cease to exist.
In church I’d stare up at the steel cross and will myself to disappear.
CHAPTER 4: WHAT SORT OF LIFE IS THAT?
A steel cross looms high inside the Anchorage Lake Spenard Baptist Church.
Don Simpson is five years old, kneeling in a tight-fitting jacket with his hands squished together and eyes shut tight. He’s a pudgy child. He’s crying scared.
Pastor Culley is down on one knee, with his worn Bible held high. He makes a prayer seem like eternal damnation.
Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and unless you save me I am lost forever. I come to you now, Lord, the best way I know, and ask you to save me. I receive you as my Savior. In Jesus Christ, Amen.
Asked to be saved? Fuck that, I’m not asking anyone for anything.
Repent? I was a kid, what was I supposed to repent for? What mortal sins had I committed?
You know why you were supposed to be saved? Because the end of the world was coming. It’s right there in the Bible, so it must be true.
The Second Coming will see God judge and divide between the saved and the lost. When the chosen fly to heaven and Jesus Christ is sent down to earth to rule for a thousand years or some shit.
Thessalonians four-fifteen. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
They call it the Rapture. I call it the great mind fuck.
Simpson is sobbing. His MOM kneels next to him. His DAD kneels next to her and glares at him. He tightens his right hand into a fist. She whispers down to him.
Donald, you know Lord Jesus don’t like little boys crying.
I know, I get it. They’re simple people. They’re scared. The more the world turns, the more they want to it turn it back. Back to a simpler way, a simpler life. Where they don’t have to think. Believe that Baptist shit and you really don’t have to think again. All the thinking is done for you.
A vengeful, hateful, spiteful God. Every woman a sinner, every child born in sin.
Nothing like pain and suffering to keep people down and under control, especially when you lie to them about how good it is for their souls.
But all that pain and suffering and trauma causes your soul to fragment and you fail to reach your full potential. Your beliefs hold you back.
My dad never had a cigarette or a drink his whole life. Had a huge temper, though. Kicked the shit out of me whenever he got angry.
I never saw him happy. What sort of life is that? That’s no life. An unhappy life is not a life. It’s a waste of fucking air. His mom whispers again.
If you stop crying I’ll get you that new sweater you want.
My mom was the smart one.
Or how about I take you to see the circus?
Simpson looks up at the steel cross and swallows his tears.
CHAPTER 5: DONALD, IT’S JUST A MOVIE
It’s 1952. Neon sizzles on a large vertical sign rising above the Anchorage Denali art deco movie theater marquee.
Don Simpson is nine years old, staring up at the sign and tipping a packet of crystalline Rock Candy into his mouth. His mom is clutching his hand, striding towards the open front glass doors. Simpson frantically looks around.
But this ain’t where the circus is?
His mom yanks him inside. Past one sheet posters and insert cards for CECIL B. DeMILLE’S “The Greatest Show On Earth.” Past lobby cards, window cards and stills of the Technicolor spectacle of life behind the scenes of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. DeMille’s voice narrating the opening of the movie reaches out from inside the auditorium.
We bring you the circus, pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from six to sixty, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of blaring and daring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars. But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed. A mechanized army on wheels, that rolls over any obstacle in its path, that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling. A place where disaster and tragedy stalk the big top, haunt the backyard, and ride the circus train. Where death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear. A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds. That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the big tops, and of the men and women who fight to make it “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
Simpson sits on the edge of his seat on the front row, gazing up at the giant screen with eyes and mouth wide open.
DeMille produced and directed and even did the narration. I always liked DeMille. A man’s man. Sam Goldwyn, Harry Cohn. Renegades, lone wolves. My kind of guys.
DeMille convinced Paramount to do some tests using VistaVision. It was a new process that ran 35mm film horizontally through the frame, exposing two standard frames to give you 70mm footage. Twice the resolution, twice the color. It was supposed to save the movie industry. Good in theory but it just gave him one technical headache after the other.
Tried it on some special effects but it was too much of a hassle. So he went back to standard 35mm film three-strip Technicolor, which had its own problems.
On the screen two shady men lurk in an open top coupe by the side of the rail tracks. It’s late at night and they’ve lit a fire in the center of the tracks to force the approaching circus train to a stop.
One of the special effects shots produced a green halo around Gloria Grahame and Betty Hutton in the Grand Parade scene. To reset and re-shoot would have cost a small fortune so DeMille cut in a shot of green floodlights turning on above them. Pretty smart. Pretty clean.
On the screen the two men cover their faces with bandanas and mount the red box office carriage and steal the takings at gunpoint. They flee in the car.
It did pretty well at the box office. Fuck, who doesn’t want to go to the circus. Picked up a best picture Oscar too. Everyone says it only won because so many members of the Academy were scared to vote for “High Noon.” Senator McCarthy, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Hollywood blacklist and all that shit.
On the screen the second half of the circus train powers through the night. One of the men turns the coupe around and races headlong towards the oncoming train, frantically waving and yelling to avoid disaster. But it’s too late and the train plows into the car and then into the stationary carriages, buckling one after the other after the other.
Oh yeah, Carl Foreman was robbed. Fred Zinnemann was robbed. Stanley Kramer was robbed. All robbed. Fuck them, they were probably all communists anyway.
On the screen is the aftermath of the greatest train wreck on earth, JAMES STEWART is out of his clown costume but still wearing his clown face. He nods down to CHARLTON HESTON — whose life he’s just saved — and moves to join the arriving crowd but is stopped by Henry Wilcoxon.
Simpson has never been more shocked in his short life.
On the screen Wilcoxon glumly shakes Stewart’s hand before slipping on the handcuffs and arresting him.
Simpson screams at the screen. His Mom shooshes him.
No, no, no, no, no, no.
I mean, shit, how could they arrest the clown? How could they arrest Jimmy Stewart for killing his wife?
Patrons inside the movie theater shift uncomfortably in their seats, annoyed at Simpson’s antics.
Mothers sniff, fathers light up cigarettes. Grandparents shake their heads. Children start grizzling.
Simpson becomes hysterical. Patrons begin to leave before the movie’s finished, peeved.
On the screen, BETTY HUTTON in trapeze costume sings out the theme song while swinging from a makeshift trapeze and leading thousands of townsfolk to an impromptu show. The sideshow barker’s voice rings out.
That’s all, ladies and gentlemen, that’s all. Come again to the greatest show on earth. Bring the children. Bring the old folks. You can shake the sawdust off your feet, but you can’t shake it outta your heart. Come again, folks. The Greatest Show on Earth. Come again.
As the theme song plays out, the star-studded Paramount Pictures logo fades up and away.
Heavy red velvet curtains close over the screen as house lights fade up to an empty movie theater save for the petulant Simpson and his mom.
Stop right this instant, Donald Simpson.
His mom stands to leave. Simpson crosses his arms together.
I ain’t going home till you change the ending.
Donald, it’s just a movie.
Not to me it ain’t.
Simpson kicks his heels against his seat and starts screaming.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. It was my little Rosebud moment. I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. If a movie could have this kind of effect on me, I wanted to do that. I wanted to be in the movies.
His mom drags him out of the seat.
“The Greatest Show on Earth” was the first movie Steven Spielberg ever saw. He was four years old. You know, his dad took him to the theater. Maybe if my dad had taken me it would have all worked out differently.
His mom drags the screaming boy out of the movie theater, out along the sidewalk.
CHAPTER 6: IN THE DARK YOU THINK OF ALL SORTS OF SHIT
His mom drags the screaming Simpson along the sidewalk outside their small two-bedroom timber house. She drags him up the path to the front door.
He tries to pull away as she drags him inside, down the hall towards an old timber closet. Simpson starts squirming. She tightens her grip and opens the closet door. He starts whimpering. It’s dark inside. Very dark.
I’m sorry, mommy. I’m sorry —
Simpson looks petrified as his mom pushes him into the darkness and slams the door shut.
Shit, I wasn’t sorry. I refused to go to school for two days.
Simpson is alone in the darkness.
My mom and dad never let me have a dog. So I had an imaginary one. I didn’t have imaginary friends. I had an imaginary husky. Vulu. Who would protect me. Keep me warm, watch over me.
We’d go into the wild. On arctic training missions. Vulu was my best friend.
Isaiah five-twenty. Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
In the dark you think of all sorts of shit.
CHAPTER 7: IT’S A GODSEND
It’s 1996. Glide from the first locked black closet doors in Simpson’s Bel-Air bedroom towards the television screen hissing static.
I wasn’t stupid. I knew the drinking had been getting out of hand. But you can’t just stop. I mean, I could if I wanted to, but it’s medically dangerous. You’ve got to ease yourself off. Sure Librium and Diazepam help with the anxiety, but Narcan is amazing. It’s a Godsend.
It’s not approved by the FDA for treatment of alcohol addiction. But it should be. It kills the craving to get drunk. Take out the ampule, load up the syringe, pop it under your skin and the taste evaporates. Just like that. You don’t even feel like a drink.
It’s a lifesaver. Man’s best friend when it comes to opiates too.
CHAPTER 8: WHERE DO I GET MY IDEAS FROM?
It’s 1956. Black and white television set in the corner of Simpson’s boyhood living room is switched off. Glass screen reflects Simpson, thirteen, lying on the floor eating Peter Pan Peanut Butter straight from the glass jar.
He rolls on his back, surrounded by ‘Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos’ comics. Starts swooshing a model jet fighter through the air.
His mom’s voice calls out from the kitchen.
It’s snowing outside.
I don’t want to play outside. Sleds are for babies.
He is still plump. His hair is neatly combed.
Simpson rolls over and swooshes the model jet fighter over a garish comic cover with a snarling SGT. FURY on the cover, unleashing his machine gun at TWO HITLERS in an underground bunker.
Sgt. Fury’s iron-jawed face with a lick of hair over the forehead and a cigar clenched between his teeth morphs into Simpson’s young face.
Machine gun fires to life as the scene animates with COMMANDOS bursting through doors, SS TROOPERS firing back and both Hitlers scurrying away like rats.
Simpson grins from ear to ear. He looks up at the television and screams out to his mom.
Why can’t I watch the damn TV?
He hears his mom’s voice from the kitchen.
Donald, don’t you dare use that word in this house.
Simpson mouths his mom’s words.
You know Lord Jesus hears every word you say.
Why the hell not?
His mom steps into the living room, both hands on her hips. She shakes her head at Simpson. He speaks before she can say a word.
It’s not even a swear word.
His mom steps back into the hall. Simpson stands up, hands by his side.
His mom steps to the closet, opens the door and stands to one side.
Where do I get my ideas from? It’s pretty simple. I lived and breathed TV and comic books when I was growing up. Hey, fuck you. I know what you’re thinking — no wonder his movies are the way they are. But I wouldn’t have them any other way.
Simpson steps into the hall, head down. Forlorn.
He stops at the closet, looks into the darkness. He closes his eyes and steps in. Swallowed by the shadows. Sounds of closet door slamming shut.
Who is more foolish? The child afraid of the dark, or the man afraid of the light?
I always wanted to have x-ray vision. You know, the power to see through things. The power to see what was behind a door. Friend or foe.
If you could have one super power, what would it be?
CHAPTER 9: IT’S MY INSURANCE POLICY
It’s 1996. Glide from the second open black closet doors in Simpson’s Bel-Air bedroom.
Two black Jenn-Air built-in bar refrigerators sit side by side. On top of one is a framed black and white 8×10 glossy of Simpson looking buff. It was taken when he was in his early 40s. It’s autographed.
Glide towards Simpson’s glossy. In the photograph he stands backlit, three-quarter pose, all smiles.
Narcan also reverses the effects of opiates like heroin, oxycontin, methadone, dilaudid, morphine, vicodin, percocet. You hit them a little too hard and Narcan will save your ass. It’ll reverse the effects of any overdose.
God’s gift is what it is. Pull you back from the edge every time. Shit, it’s pulled me back even after I’ve slipped off. You end up a little dizzy and weak. But at least you don’t end up dead.
Comes in 10ml and 20ml ampules with little orange labels. Always good to keep a steady supply on hand.
I always have a syringe nearby already loaded and ready to go.
It’s my insurance policy.
CHAPTER 10: MY COCK IN ONE HAND AND THE BIBLE IN THE OTHER
It’s 1960. Black and white headshot of Simpson, seventeen, in the Anchorage South High School Year Book. Underneath his name it reads Best Dressed Prize.
Move back to reveal his mom proudly holding the yearbook open on the page. She’s chatting with MRS. PRESTON in the Lake Spenard Baptist Church parking lot.
Mrs. Preston looks like a demure JAYNE MANSFIELD. Her lips are very red, very glossy.
Simpson stands next to them in a suit and tie. Hair neatly parted, holding a Bible and trying not to look at her lips. He’s slimmed a little but still a little pudgy. His mom leans back to look at him.
Can you imagine? Voted best dressed? My Donald?
Mom, don’t call me Donald. I ain’t a duck.
Well, I do believe you still waddle like one.
Mrs. Preston leans over to straighten his tie with a smile. So close he can smell her Joy perfume.
Well, I do believe you are one very handsome young duck.
Simpson blushes as he looks away, biting his bottom lip. All proud and embarrassed at the same time.
Walking around with my cock in one hand and the Bible in the other. It was a lot of fun. Go to church five times a week, get on your knees on a concrete floor and thank God for the fact he didn’t kill you that day.
But hey, there was always tomorrow.
CHAPTER 11: THAT’S WHEN I DECIDED TO GET LAID
A teenage Simpson is kneeling down at the altar of the Lake Spenard Baptist Church, shadowed by the large steel cross.
Pastor Culley is standing on the altar frowning down at him. Simpson touches his tie.
I have these thoughts, these feelings about Mrs. Preston.
Simpson blushes. Pastor Culley leans down on one knee, cocks an ear towards Simpson. His voice drops.
Pastor Culley bows his head. Simpson whispers in his ear.
Pastor Culley opens his eyes in horror. Simpson keeps whispering. Pastor Culley puts his hand up, motioning Simpson to stop. Simpson keeps whispering.
Our almighty God knows every one of your thoughts, Donald Simpson. Why would you provoke his everlasting wrath with such evil, wicked, sinful, lustful thoughts? With such unclean desires?
But I ain’t finished.
Renounce your lust — the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye. Do not give in to unbridled temptations, Donald Simpson.
Simpson straightens his tie. Pastor Culley tries to stare him down.
If you think about it beyond this moment, you will live in hell forever. And if you do anything about it, you will live in hell forever.
Simpson thinks twice.
Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t. That’s when I decided to get laid.
Pastor Culley drops to his other knee, clasps his hands together in rigid prayer. Simpson looks up at the steel cross.
Put yourself right before God.
Simpson gets up, pats the dust off his knees and turns away from Pastor Culley.
You cannot save yourself. You are born in sin and you will die in sin and only Jesus Christ the Lord can save you.
Simpson turns and walks away. Pastor Culley calls out to him.
Pray this prayer, Donald Simpson, and mean it with all your heart.
Pastor Culley’s voice fades away as Simpson walks out the door.
Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and unless you save me I am lost forever.
CHAPTER 12: YOU NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST HOOKER
Fade up Jimi Hendrix’s slinking ‘Red House’ as a teenage Simpson anxiously prowls up and down the sidewalk in front of a well-loved timber house in Chester Flats.
Night is falling and there’s a small electric lamp on in the bedroom window. The front door is open. The neat timber porch has no furniture.
The timber steps step down to a concrete path. Mountain ash grows low where the path meets the sidewalk.
Faint sounds of two cats fighting.
Simpson keeps glancing up at the bedroom window, rubbing his palms on his trousers and breathing deep. Whoever is inside drapes a red silk scarf over the lamp. The cold light becomes warm, inviting.
He spins around in mid-step and hurries towards the path. Two cats leap out of the shrubs, hissing and spitting and rolling and fighting. One black, one white.
Simpson tries to step over the spitting cats but lands on one by accident and tumbles over. It flees, screeching into the night.
Simpson picks himself up, brushes himself off and heads down the path.
I lost my virginity down at Chester Flats, at the black end of town. You never forget your first hooker.
Simpson doesn’t pause as he leaps the steps and bounds into the brothel.
Yeah, and I got to admit I ran a little wild after that, stealing cars and shit. Rebel without a cause? More like rebel without a fucking clue.
A lonely car drives past.
Never did figure out how to hot-wire a car. Could only ever steal cars with the keys still in the ignition.
CHAPTER 13: IT REALLY DID STRAIGHTEN ME OUT
Timber paneled station wagon is parked at the end of a dirt road in the Denali wildlife reserve. Lit by flashing red and blue lights of a parked Anchorage Police motorcycle.
In Anchorage, it meant stealing a lot of station wagons.
Next to the driver’s side door stands the teenage Simpson in white T-shirt and freshly pressed jeans. His hair artfully tousled, arms behind his back.
Burly MOTORCYCLE COP in black leathers and peaked leather cap handcuffs Simpson. He ratchets them tight. Simpson winces. Motorcycle Cop leans into Simpson’s back, pressing him against the car. Slides out his black baton.
Looks into the front seat. Spots a copy of J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher In The Rye.’
Yeah, I stole the book too. Wasn’t proud of that.
Motorcycle Cop takes a step back. Slaps the baton into his palm.
Turn around, son.
Simpson slowly turns around. Motorcycle Cop looks him up and down. Simpson looks down at the ground. Motorcycle Cop spits where Simpson is looking.
Son, I’m going to make this real simple.
Motorcycle Cop pushes baton down on Simpson’s shoulders, forcing him to his knees.
You’re going to do a little something for me. And when you’re done, you’re gonna drive outta here and you’re gonna turn left or you’re gonna turn right.
Reflect Simpson being forced to his knees in the glossy black patent leather bill of the Motorcycle Cop’s leather cap.
You’re either going to be the most fucked guy in San Quentin or you’re going to have a life you like.
All things considered, that really did straighten me out.
Sounds of zipper opening.
I went straight to San Francisco.
CHAPTER 14: IT’S NOT A CRIME
It’s 1996. Glide past the third closet in Simpson’s bedroom. Hanging off a hook is a black leather cap with glossy patent leather bill reflecting black thigh-high leather boots in various sizes, dog collars with metal studs, large and small strap-on dildos, handcuffs, gags, masks with zippers over the eyes and mouths, rubber skirts, nipple clamps, paddles, whips, belts and caps. Lots of caps, every size imaginable. Black leather caps with glossy patent leather bills.
So I like S&M sex. So what? I like paying for rough sex. Personal preference between consenting adults. It’s not a crime.
Glide out to first closet with the door locked.
Truth is I don’t like making love. I love fucking.
CHAPTER 15: ADULT CINEMAS WERE EVERYWHERE
Evening Standard newspaper headline reads Erotic Film Festival.
October 2, 1970. It was bound to happen. The First International Erotic Film Festival is slated for Dec 1-6 in San Francisco. From news releases issued by the sponsoring groups, this is a serious effort. Competition is open to all filmmakers, and all films — in 8mm, 16mm and 35mm film. Jurors include Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press and filmmaker Bruce Conner. According to one festival official, “We feel that through the festival we will encourage independent filmmakers to make sensually exciting films . . . it’s important to provide a setting where the whole range of human expression, including sexuality, can be realistically presented on the screen.” New releases from the festival do not attempt to define their concept of “erotic,” or to differentiate between erotic or pornographic. So, apparently anything goes.
After college I got a job in San Francisco doing press and publicity for the Jack Woodell Agency. Got to choose between the First International Erotic Film Festival and some Jesus Rock act.
Remember the Jesus Rock movement in the early seventies? How fucking lame was that?
Simpson is pacing up and down under the marquee of the rose pink Presidio Theater on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. Black plastic letters on the marquee spell out FIRST INTERNATIONAL EROTIC FILM FESTIVAL.
I loved the Presidio. All class.
He wears a fringed suede jacket, and hands out festival handbills. Black framed handbills with two golden torsos pressed against a purple background.
Two men dressed as Santa Claus roll past. One of them stops and takes a handbill. Simpson beams.
Man, there were a lot of movie houses in those days. Guild. Roxy. Imperial. Warfield. Coronet. Lumiere. Castro. Fillmore. Saint Francis. Admission was eighty-five cents before six. A buck after six.
Market Street? Remember the Market Street Cinema? Everyone said it was haunted. Swore they saw a silhouette of a woman in the back rooms long after everyone had gone.
Empire. Crest. Embassy. Crown. Lots of movie theaters.
Pussycat was a lot of fun. Adult cinemas were everywhere. Endless sexumentaries from Sweden. Never in sync.
Great drive-ins too. Terrace. Burlingame. Geneva. 49er.
White screens towering into the night, into the stars. Fucking amazing. Saw a Clint Eastwood triple feature twice at Marysville.
Did a lot of Warner Bros. work for the agency. Wasn’t too long before that’s all I was doing. It became my account and my job was to make Joe Hyams at Warners happy.
Must have worked because one day Joe told me to stop wasting my time in San Francisco and get my ass down to La-La Land.
Got me a studio publicity job on the lot at Warners.
I was going to Hollywood, man.
CHAPTER 16: WARNER BROS.
Shit, I had a real business card and everything.
It’s a year later and Simpson is rolling joints in the large mirrored concession stand in the beaux arts lobby of the cavernous Warners Downtown theater on Seventh and Hill Street in Los Angeles. It’s about million times grander than the Presidio.
Simpson is wearing pressed jeans and T-shirt. Narrow waisted, all chest. Tearing small squares off his Warner Bros. business card, rolling them between his thumb and forefinger, and filtering them into the tip of each joint.
He looks happy amongst the Milk Duds, Twizzlers and Reese’s Pieces. Muffled sounds of a movie drawing to a close behind the heavy auditorium doors. TWO WARNER BROS. EXECUTIVES in tight suits and tight smiles stand near the exit door.
First they put me on a promotion tour for “Billy Jack.” What the fuck was that film about?
“Easy Rider” made so much money that every studio wanted to be in the hippie business. “Billy Jack” went through three studios before Warners picked it up for release.
Warners had done a bunch of different ad campaigns. They were all shit. I came up with the best poster line.
Billy Jack Is: A bike riding, karate chopping, hip shooting, messenger of peace.
Tom Laughlin hated it. Tom Laughlin? He played Billy Jack. He also wrote and produced and directed it. Total filmmaker? Total asshole. Ended up suing Warners for thirty-four million dollars for improperly publicizing his movie.
Fuck him. What an ungrateful prick. Sure we ran it through B houses and drive-ins. That’s where the teenagers were. That’s where the young audience was.
That’s where the money was.
“Billy Jack” did great business. So I became the hot happening young guy at Warners. If you were under four hundred years old, you came to me. A lot of the old guys were just swept away by our generation. We didn’t want to watch their shitful musicals or whatever the fuck they were making.
Warners was so old school. All the producers had executive offices over from the drugstore. They also had rooms over the courtyard next door. These rooms had bathrooms, showers and Murphy beds. So they’d check out of their offices at lunch, walk across the street and get a grilled cheese sandwich to go, then walk upstairs and fuck some starlet who’d been waiting for forty-five minutes.
While they were banging starlets, I was running press screenings in town.
Loved the Warner Bros. Downtown Theater. Monster of a place. Everyone called it the Warren. Shit acoustics. But really, who cares.
Simpson strikes a match and lights up a joint. He glances over at the WB crest in burnished gold over the main auditorium door as it bursts open and film critics of every variety tumble into the lobby.
Through the doorway, closing credits of DONALD CAMMELL and NICOLAS ROEG’S “Performance” roll on the screen. JACK NITZSCHE’S dark theme music seeps out.
Film critics head to the concession stand, babbling amongst themselves. A man in black pants and a white shirt looks this way. Simpson starts handing out joints and candy.
You always got to have a good ending. The better the ending, the better the film.
Film Critics light up, smiling and laughing.
Can you believe Warners fired me for buying weed?
Simpson tells a film critic a joke.
Shit, I didn’t even put it in for expenses.
Film critic bursts out laughing.
I used to love weed. The transcendental experience. That’s what movies are. Movies are a drug. You keep coming back for more. You’re addicted.
I loved movies. I loved Hollywood. What choice did I have?
CHAPTER 17: IT WOULD HAVE SAVED A LOT OF PAIN
I decided to become a fucking movie star.
Fly down past the bright white letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign against Mount Lee at night.
Fuck Warners. Fuck making everyone else famous. Why couldn’t I be famous?
Acting? You have to be seriously fucked up to do it well. To spend more time being someone other than yourself? It’s not right.
It’s cool. But it’s not right.
All that rejection for what? For fame? Fucked up it is what it is.
Swoop behind the landmark sign to reveal the timber frames holding up each letter. To the base of the fifty-foot high letter H. A workman’s ladder is propped against it, leaning to the top. Move up the ladder.
Sitting around bitching about what a drag it is to be famous? Fuck that.
Move up the ladder to the top where the lights of Los Angeles give way below.
It leads to a lot of suicides. Peg Entwistle was twenty-four when she climbed to the top of the sign and leapt off. She was trying to be an actress.
Plunge to the rocky grass below.
Jumped to her death.
Crash into the rocks, looking back up at the HOLLYWOOD sign.
Thirty feet wide and fifty feet tall and originally lit by four thousand light bulbs. Bright lights and empty dreams. You want a metaphor? There’s your fucking metaphor.
Her body lay in the one hundred foot ravine below until it was found two days later.
Her mother died. Her father died. Pretty sad, really. Came out from New York. Pretty little face. Sweet blonde hair. Loved gardenia perfume. Fucked six ways from Sunday.
She left a suicide note in her handbag.
I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.
Ever see “Earthquake”? In Sensurround and shit? Remember the Hollywood letters shaking and toppling down Mount Lee? Everybody fleeing and dying? Story of my fucking life.
The whole acting thing? That wasn’t working for me. Nothing was working for me. I was out of work for three years.
Rise above the Hollywood sign. From the sky it snakes the hillside. Supine twists and turns.
What was I going to do? Kill myself?
CHAPTER 18: FUCKING DOUBLE OR NOTHING, RIGHT?
Overhead on the white edge of a tennis net dividing a clay court in Plummer Park in West Hollywood.
Simpson is thirty-two and pissing on the net. He’s wearing white tennis shoes, white tennis socks, white tennis shorts and the loudest Hawaiian shirt you have ever seen.
He’s puffing and sweating. He’s out of shape and carrying extra weight.
Other TENNIS PLAYERS are rolling their eyes.
I hustled money. I’m not proud of it. Pick-up tennis games for a hundred dollars a pop.
Simpson hasn’t shaved for a day or two. Hair on the longer side.
I fucking hate losing. What I lacked in skill I made up with desire. If you can’t be good, be fast.
Simpson zips up and sizes up the tennis players.
Fucking double or nothing, right?
Tennis Players shake their heads.
The only good thing that happened in three years was meeting Jerry.
CHAPTER 19: PEOPLE WEREN’T COMING FOR THE DIALOGUE
It’s 1973. It’s the premiere of “The Harder They Come” at the low rent Beverly Cinema on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. MIXED CROWD is lolling about under the marquee and inside the lobby on a late winter evening.
Reggae pulses in the background. The air is tinged with marijuana smoke and excitement. Don Simpson is on the edge of the crowd, biting his fingernails.
I’d gone to meet a girl. What was her name? Shelly, Shirley? Shit, can’t remember. Anyway, great set of tits. Complete no show.
STEVE TISCH walks up to Simpson with a young JERRY BRUCKHEIMER by his side and does the introductions.
I ended up meeting somebody else. Small guy, clean cut, kind of nervous and calm at the same time. Pretty wired for someone who didn’t like drugs too much.
Tisch spots a woman and leaves the two men alone. They look like the odd couple, Simpson all stocky and tanned, Bruckheimer skinny and pale. They start talking film.
Shit, he almost knew more about movies than I did.
“The Harder They Come” was a low budget movie written, produced and directed by Perry Henzell. Jamaica’s first feature film. Reggae star Jimmy Cliff plays a country boy who heads to Kingston, seeking fame and fortune as a singer. Sound familiar? Gets ripped off by a record producer, turns to a life of crime dealing marijuana and winds up a cop-killing folk hero, whose notoriety sends his record to the top of the Jamaican charts.
They don’t even call it marijuana in the film. Or dope. Or weed. They just call it the trade.
Chris Blackwell put up most of the money. Roger Corman bought the rights for, I don’t know, twenty cents. Movie ran a hundred-and-twenty minutes. Had about seventeen different endings. Needed subtitles because you couldn’t understand a fucking word.
Didn’t do much business until it was picked up for midnight shows in college towns. Then it took off. Ran seven years at the Orson Welles Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
People weren’t coming for the dialogue. They were coming to smoke ganja and listen to reggae. That movie gave the rest of America a taste for weed.
Chris Blackwell released the soundtrack on his own Island Records label. Four songs by Cliff, along with songs by Toots and The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and a few others.
Blackwell made a lot more money on the soundtrack than the movie. Jerry told me the movie was just a giant two-hour commercial for the soundtrack.
He’d know. He’d made a lot of commercials in Chicago and New York. He’d come to Hollywood to make movies. He was working on a few projects when I met him. He was also in the middle of a divorce with nowhere to live.
I was living in a big place in Laurel Canyon. Across the street from Spielberg. Someone moved out, Jerry moved in.
We got on pretty famously. We looked out for each other. He knew everything about film, and everything about menswear.
Lent me the jacket off his back one time when I had to play an assistant district attorney.
One hundred and twenty-stitch count, four working buttons on the sleeve, button-down flap on the left inside pocket.
Details? Jerry loved details. I was more the big picture guy.
CHAPTER 20: BLINK AND YOU’D MISS ME
DAVID CARRADINE is at the wheel of a red 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am tearing down a flat country road.
I wrote the script for “Cannonball” in a weekend.
Carradine wears a red bandana around his neck, open shirt and tight black gloves. He looks up and adjusts the rear view mirror above the windscreen, uneasy.
He’s playing an ex-con-turned-race car driver who signs up for an illegal coast-to-coast road race that starts at the Santa Monica Pier and ends in a garage in the lower west side of New York City.
BILL McKINNEY is behind the wheel of a dropped black 1968 Dodge Charger closing in on Carradine’s car. He’s drinking beer and laughing like a maniac.
Point was to break the speed limit at every turn without getting caught by the police. Based it on the real-life outlaw cross-country Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Threw in some psychos, some babes. Sylvester Stallone played a Mafia tough guy, so did Martin Scorsese. Todd McCarthy — yeah, the Todd McCarthy who became the film critic for ‘Variety’ – played a sniveling reporter.
Country singer GERRIT GRAHAM is looking nervous in the passenger seat of McKinney’s car, arms wrapped around his guitar. So is his mama in the backseat.
Wrote a part for myself as the assistant district attorney. Blink and you’d miss me. Shit, even if you didn’t blink you’d probably still miss me. Roger Corman played the district attorney.
Carradine looks in the rear view mirror, worried. He accelerates as his very good-looking parole officer VERONICA HAMEL looks over her shoulder at the fast approaching black car.
Roger Corman distributed it. Paul Bartel directed it. God knows who fucking paid for it. Tak Fujimoto shot it. Robert Towne helped with the script. Although he won’t admit it now.
Graham strums a chord as McKinney rams into the back of Carradine’s car. Carradine and Hamel lurch forward.
Blew up my first car. Man, that was fun. Straight off an overpass and baboom!! Faaaantastic.
McKinney accelerates harder and rams into Carradine’s car again. Graham and his mama try to brace themselves.
At the end of the film we crashed every car we could get our hands on at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. More twisted metal than a bombed-out steel mill. It was fucking great!
McKinney rams into Carradine’s car again. Carradine over steers. Hamel screams.
It was a perfect teen movie, perfect for drive-ins. All muscle car, all go go go. You got to love that Roger Corman. Never lost a fucking dime.
Carradine’s car slides off the road and spins and plows into the dirt embankment.
That sports jacket Jerry lent me? That became my lucky jacket. Wore it to a job interview at Paramount Pictures.
McKinney’s car speeds past, low to the road.
You’ll never guess what happened.
CHAPTER 21: YOU GOT TO LOVE HOLLYWOOD
I was hired.
The ornate arched wrought-iron gates of Paramount Pictures at the 5555 Melrose Avenue swing open.
Paramount. Fucking Paramount. Can you believe it?
Cream-colored twin columns twist up either side of the famed gates. The El Pueblo deco archway topped with terra cotta tiles. Paramount Pictures written in script.
Steve Tisch introduced me to the new vice president of production Richard Sylbert. Tisch always came through. Well groomed and well connected. There’s a lot to be said for personal grooming.
A security guard at the gates hangs up the phone.
Sylbert hired me as a development assistant. The first day I drove through those gates. Man, as the shadow passed over my car, it was like I was swiped into the most exclusive club in the world.
I was in heaven.
Paramount began as a three-way with Adolph Zukor, Jesse Lasky, W.W. Hodkinson. Two Jews and a Scottish accountant.
Zukor was an early investor in nickelodeons. Small, storefront theaters that played one-reelers continuously. Five cents got you in the door. Popular with the working class.
But Zukor wanted to move up in the world. Wanted something for the middle class who had more time and more money. Wanted to give them feature-length films with class. Signed up the leading theater actors of the day. Famous Players in Famous Plays. Figured the longer he could make the films, the more he could charge. By nineteen-thirteen he’d made five features and changed the business forever.
In the same year Lasky opened his Lasky Feature Play Company with money borrowed from his brother-in-law. His first employee was a cocksure stage director with no film experience, Cecil B. DeMille. Shot his first silent film in a horse barn in Hollywood.
A year later they were both releasing their films through Hodkinson’s Paramount distribution company. Hodkinson was a fucking genius. He was the first guy to roll out national distribution. Before him movies were sold on a state-by-state basis. Hodkinson changed all that.
He made the exhibitors front money for exclusive screening rights. He basically had the exhibitors fund the movies for which Paramount took a thirty-five percent fee. How clean is that.
Didn’t take long for Lasky and Zukor to join in and become Paramount Pictures.
Zukor believed in stars. He signed them, he made them. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper. With so many stars under contract Paramount could force block booking. Any exhibitor who wanted a particular star’s films had to buy a year’s worth of other Paramount product.
Guaranteed income and guaranteed to keep other films off the screens. Unload all the crap on the back of an A-pic. What a system. It gave Paramount a leading position in the nineteen-twenties and ‘thirties. Antitrust? Illegal? For sure. But it took the government twenty years to outlaw it.
Zukor was the man behind Paramount’s rise. Built a fucking huge theatrical chain of nearly two thousand theaters, ran two production studios, owned half of Columbia Broadcasting System. Columbia Broadcasting System? You probably know it better as CBS.
Lasky just picked up his checks. Died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills. Buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, right next door to Paramount studios.
DeMille shot pickups for “The Greatest Show on Earth” on the Paramount lot. For the aftermath of the train wreck he had scores of wild monkeys released to scamper around the roaming lions, tigers, and leopards. They freaked and fled, leaping the studio walls into the cemetery. Stomping all over the graves, throwing shit at tombstones.
You got to love Hollywood. Even when you’re dead they’re still throwing shit at you.
All those old movie stars’ dressing rooms and bungalows have been turned into production offices now.
Up past Avenue H you’ll find New York City wrapped up in a five-acre lot. Brooklyn. Wall Street. Greenwich Village. Washington Square. SoHo. Lower East Side. Upper East Side.
You’ve seen them so many times on television you can’t tell them from the real thing anymore.
Sometimes when you’re shooting back towards Washington Square you can still see the buildings named after Zukor, DeMille, Schulberg.
And who were the titans at Paramount when I arrived? The dwarf brigade — Diller, Eisner, Katzenberg.
CHAPTER 22: THE GAYEST STUDIO ON EARTH
It’s 1976. BARRY DILLER, forty, nods his head. He sits behind his large chairman’s desk in his Paramount office suite wearing a heavy dark suit, crisp rose shirt and soft gold tie.
He’s bald and looks like a younger, bullish Bruce Willis. He loves the sound of his own voice.
Everything we do ends up on television where the American public tunes in every night hoping to see —
Our stuff —
MICHAL EISNER cuts in. Diller looks him down.
Two people fucking —
Diller repeats the point.
Two people screwing —
JEFFREY KATZENBERG chips in.
Every night —
Eisner is thirty-four and looks like a straight executive in a flat gray suit. He’s trying to balance a stack of screenplays. The top one slides off and falls.
Simpson catches the falling script in mid-air. He’s thirty-three.
Shit, what did they know? They were just television guys. All they could do was interrupt each other.
Obviously we can’t have people fucking on television but let’s always keep it in mind, shall we.
Eisner wasn’t going to interrupt Diller again. Eisner was Park Avenue. He had manners. Grew up wearing a jacket and tie to family dinners. Started as a page at NBC and CBS, made his mark at ABC as senior vice president of programming and development. Took ABC from third place to first with shows like “Happy Days,” “Welcome Back Kotter,” “Starsky and Hutch.”
Diller made him president and CEO at Paramount Pictures. I always thought he was a little slow. Reminded me of a giant gummy bear.
Eisner looks at Katzenberg. Short, wiry and looking for a Diet Coke. Katzenberg is twenty-six and wears the same grey suit as Eisner. He’s Diller’s assistant.
Katzenberg was a pretty good guy. He was my assistant for a while. Everyone called him Squirt. Alec Baldwin called him the eighth dwarf — Greedy.
Tenacious little prick. I taught him everything he knows. Except how to do coke. Greedy? He was more like Sneezy. You know that scene in “Annie Hall” where Woody Allen sneezes at a party and blows all the blow off the table? That was Katzenberg. Couldn’t do coke to save himself. He was allergic to it. Do a line and then sneeze all over the table. Then his voice would go all high-pitched like a fucking chipmunk. It was kind of cute and stupid at the same time.
Television? Who gives a fuck? It’s just a toaster with pictures, right?
Simpson looks out the window and sees an army of cavalry and foot soldiers passing by like a terrible mob towards Stage 9.
It was a fucking fodder factory. Nobody knew what they were doing. I moved fast, I talked fast and I didn’t worry about the consequences. Within a year I was named vice president of creative affairs.
The cavalry spurs their horses and the infantry breaks into a dogtrot until they disappear behind half a Mississippi steamboat.
Paramount was the gayest studio on earth. We made “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease.” The whole disco thing. We made it straight. Made it play, made it pay.
Growing up I’d been taught that homosexuality was beyond evil. Southern Baptists? They don’t look too kindly on two men sucking each other’s dicks.
Me? Shit, what do I care? I love anal sex. Flip them over, fuck the shit out of them. Love it. Fucking love it.
And lesbians? Man, I fucking love lesbians.
I may be a lot of things, but a hypocrite ain’t one of them.
Plus this is Hollywood. It’s not about sex. It’s about money.
You don’t come to Hollywood to get married and raise a family. You come here to work. I’d hire a gay guy over a straight man any day. They may bitch behind my back but they get it done. They work hard. No kids. No distractions.
What? Are you homophobic or just stupid?
Gay men have been picking your movie stars since the dawn of time. And your fucking dramatic leads, and your comedy stars, and your romantic leads, and your detective series stars, and your music stars, and your zany neighbors on your favorite sitcoms, and your cats who sell you kitty litter during the commercial breaks.
Gay men have been telling you what to watch, read, wear, listen to and do all your life.
CHAPTER 23: ALL THAT BUFFED UP MAN-MEAT
Premier of “Rocky” at the plush Century Theater at 5115 Hollywood Boulevard.
Lobby is flooded with INDUSTRY GUESTS after the screening. Smattering of CELEBRITIES and PHOTOGRAPHERS.
Giant posters of a bruised and bloodied SYLVESTER STALLONE in a boxing ring hang from the ceiling. Gloved hand raised high. Sweat running down his clenched face, down his muscled chest and torso.
All that buffed up man-meat. The whole jock thing, half-naked men slapping each other on the ass. What the fuck’s that about?
Simpson meets Columbia TriStar chairman MARK CANTON for the first time. He reaches out and feels the lapel on his suit jacket, impressed. Asks him where he bought it.
Everyone accuses me of ripping off gay culture and repackaging it for straight audiences. Fashion, movies, disco, advertising — images and sounds. Got into an argument once with some screenwriter who told me I was appropriating homoerotic signifiers and motifs in my movies. Fuck off. Who do you think you are — Noam Fucking Chomsky?
It’s nothing but business. It’s the next thing. It’s what you do.
CHAPTER 24: THERE WILL BE NO MORE MAYBES
It’s 1978. Simpson sits at a big white desk in his big new office at Paramount, snowed under with screenplays.
He is working his way through the screenplays, reading the coverage notes attached to each one. He looks annoyed.
The center pile is the largest by far. Simpson tosses a screenplay on top.
A year after I started at Paramount I was promoted to vice president of production. I took Sylbert’s job. He hired me. I fired him. That’s how it works.
Production? What the fuck did I know about production? Whenever I’d get in over my head I’d call Jerry.
Jerry knew the nuts and bolts. He’d been making commercials for years. Fuck, Jerry even knew about lenses and shit. Who knows that crap? Knew the best foley studios in town. Fucking knew everything about everything. He even subscribed to ‘American Cinematographer.’ Okay, everyone subscribes to ‘American Cinematographer.’ But he actually read every issue.
Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile.
HARRY rushes in. He nervously adjusts his reading glasses. At fifty-three he has no fashion sense. He never will.
Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile. He keeps reading coverage notes and doesn’t look up.
You’re a fucking reader, right? You’re supposed to give me coverage on every script, right?
Harry gulps. Simpson tosses another screenplay on top of the center pile. He continues reading coverage notes without looking up.
But all you’re giving me is maybes. I can’t live on fucking maybes.
Simpson picks up a pen and a new screenplay with a blank reader’s coverage note attached. It’s the standard form with star-studded Paramount logo and three boxed choices that read Recommend, Maybe and Don’t Recommend.
Because I’m a kind man, because I’m a wise man, I’m going to make this really easy for you and really hard.
Simpson clicks the pen and furiously scrawls out the boxed choice that reads Maybe.
Simpson looks up at Harry and smiles. He throws the new screenplay at his head.
From here on you either Recommend or Don’t Recommend. There will be no more Maybes. I don’t have fucking time for fucking Maybes.
Diller? Diller didn’t give a shit about movies. Told everyone he came up with the Movie of the Week idea when he was at ABC. But that was only to package more commercial breaks to sell to advertisers.
He had his pets and his favorites. He loved to play with Beatty and Redford.
But he never got movies. He used to tell me he hated the movie business, thought it was disgusting. Which explains why he’s now running the Home Shopping Network, selling dresses.
Eisner? Eisner wouldn’t know a good picture if it fucked him in the ass. Katzenberg was never creative. He was a businessman. He was about commerce, and product, and shelf life, and crap like that.
All they ever talked about was audience share.
CHAPTER 25: WHAT THE FUCK DOES KINETIC MEAN?
It’s 1979. Simpson rushes down the hallway of Paramount’s executive offices, harried. Biting his nails.
Another year and I was made senior vice president of production.
Diller walks the opposite way and stops him in his tracks. He holds out a slip of paper like a parking ticket.
Simpson, I’m aware you don’t read memos but I do want you to read this one.
Can’t you just tell me, Barry?
Diller hands him the slip of paper.
It’s not true until it’s written down.
Simpson takes it. Diller continues on his way.
Simpson checks his watch. Then peers at the tiny print, clears his throat and reads the memo out loud.
It is so often assumed that Paramount likes to keep its pictures at a running time of one hundred minutes because we want to maximize turnover by having as many shows as possible in any given night. That’s simply not the case. It comes down to pleasing the audience. At one hundred minutes, people’s minds begin to wander. They start worrying about whether or not the dog has been fed. Whether or not they’re on their second hour of parking.
PARAMOUNT STAFF peer out of their office at Simpson who keeps reading the memo out loud.
They start worrying about everything except what’s in the movie. That’s why in today’s kinetic world, we feel it wise to keep our movies at one hundred minutes.
Simpson looks up at the staff.
Kinetic? What the fuck does kinetic mean?
And that’s how it was. Keep them short, keep them light. And keep them coming.
Used to be that when you had a flop the attitude was that’s too bad, but it’s still a good picture. Then it became that if you made a film that wasn’t a hit, you were under indictment. You were a fucking criminal.
Everyone started hedging their bets, reducing their exposure. The question was no longer how good a movie can we make, but how much can we lose.
We started splitting rights, started joint productions where we’d keep domestic rights and parcel off everything else. Which meant a lot more producers. And a lot more headaches for me.
We split distribution rights with Disney for “Popeye.” Shelley Duvall? I mean, who in their right mind would want to fuck Shelley Duvall?
Robert Evans was the lead producer. For a major pussy hound, you’d think he’d know better.
“Popeye” was shot on the island of Malta for tax credits. Built the whole town of Sweethaven in the middle of the fucking Mediterranean. Director Robert Altman wanted a real town, not just sets. What a pompous, pretentious asshole. We shipped in logs from Holland, wooden shingles from Canada. Built a real schoolhouse, general store, post office, church, tavern and the rest of it. Even built Harry Nilsson his own recording studio to score the soundtrack.
Evans was calling me every day complaining that the producers at Disney were giving him a hard time. In one scene Robin Williams jumps in the water and says shit. Some Disney producer starts reaming Evans out about how no Disney film has ever had the word shit in it and no Disney film will ever have the word shit in it.
Fuck me. For a hound that Evans could be a major fucking drama queen. Evans used to be the head of production at Paramount. Told everyone he saved the studio with “The Godfather” and “Chinatown.” And he never let me forget it. Got a sweetheart producer deal when Charlie Bluhdorn tossed out Yablans in favor of Diller.
There were a lot of drugs going around. Everybody was shipping stuff in. Weeks behind schedule. Evans flew out to the location. He called me at home at three in morning.
Don, I’m in Malta. I got a problem, I need your help.
Bob, can’t we talk about this tomorrow.
No, we can’t.
Because they lost my bags.
I wanted to remind him that I was vice president of production. I was not in charge of bags.
Bob, I’m really fucking sorry but —
You don’t understand. They lost my bags and —
And everything in them.
I didn’t even reply.
Don, I had things in them. Don, a lot of things, because I was helping Altman out, too. This is for the film.
This is not what I wanted to hear.
You got to get on the phone and call Henry.
Kissinger. Get hold of Mary Ellen at my office and she’ll give you his number in D.C.
The next day Evans got his luggage. But he wasn’t out of the loop yet. A month later he was indicted on fifteen felony counts for a coke buy he swore his brother made. Thirty-five pounds.
That’s a lot of coke. Good coke, too. That’s the thing about Evans. Always had good coke.
They used to ask does it work? Is it a good movie? But that started to sound stupid and old fashioned. Instead we all started asking what sort of demos are we going to get? Does it skew towards women? Is it going to work with kids?
Everything was test-screened. Everything was market researched.
It wasn’t about making a good movie. It was about getting asses in seats. That’s all that counted.
Don’t act so shocked. You lined up. You paid your money like everyone else.
CHAPTER 26: JAWS IN OUTER SPACE
Simpson sits at a bigger white desk in a bigger whiter office at Paramount. The walls are white, the furniture is white.
There are only three screenplays on his desk. His secretary, LAURA, 45, takes dictation. Simpson leans back in his plush chair, excited.
Okay, capital letters at the top of the page. Bold type.
Simpson parts his hands like curtains unveiling the screen in a movie theater. Announces the title.
Paramount Corporate Philosophy.
Simpson drops his hands down a notch.
Simpson doesn’t draw breath as his consciousness streams out.
The pursuit of making money is the only reason to make movies.
We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money. And in order to make money, we must always make entertaining movies. A powerful idea is the heart of any successful movie. The creative premise is what first attracts people to the product. A good idea is one that seems imaginative, original. Seems in some way new and unique.
The power of the biggest blockbusters is that they come from out of nowhere and break new ground. In many cases a compelling idea may not be strictly original. But it will seem different and exciting for its time. The most distinctive quality of a strong concept is that it does not seem familiar. The appropriate star or cast is important. As are the contributions of the movie’s writer and director. But they are all secondary to the concept.
The success of a movie is unlikely if the basic concept lacks a spark of uniqueness.
Laura’s hand almost shakes from trying to keep up.
Simpson draws a deep breath then points at Laura’s notebook.
And a sympathetic protagonist who goes through a transforming experience the audience can relate to.
In the seventies, the U.S. domestic market accounted for around eighty-five percent of the business. You had a hunch, you took a shot. You only ever had two or three million on the line. Virtually nothing in releasing costs because it was pay as you go. The theaters paid for the ads. You opened it in one or two theaters in each of the major cities, saw how it went. You nursed it along.
That all changed with blockbusters and nationwide releases. Everyone started chasing bigger and bigger box office. The economics started to drive film distribution towards two thousand prints, big-ass national media buys and launch costs of ten, twelve, fifteen million dollars.
You weren’t flying by the seat of your pants anymore. You were shitting your pants. Everyone was freaking out. The only thing that made sense was precedent and analogy. That’s what the eighties brought.
Everyone started asking what the model was. Not as in what model was in it or what model were you going to fuck. But as in what other successful movie was it modeled on.
“Jaws” in outer space. “Jaws” the sequel. “Jaws” on ice.
The money just fucked everything up.
There was no going back.
CHAPTER 27: AMERICAN GIGOLO
It’s 1980. Simpson is being fitted for a tuxedo at the new Giorgio Armani boutique at 436 Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.
We told everyone we offered Christopher Reeve a million dollars to do “American Gigolo.” That was bullshit.
TWO MATCHING SALES ASSISTANTS and a TAILOR are fussing around. Soft lighting.
That was just to get a bit of press. Nothing like having Superman play a super man. And we wanted to set a price for the lead role.
Travolta turned down the lead because he wanted final cut. Paul Schrader told him to go fuck himself. Never ever give final cut to your lead actor.
Simpson looks at the headless mannequins clad in matching Armani signature unstructured suits. Muted, hushed tones.
We offered the female lead to Meryl Streep but she told us she didn’t like the tone of the movie, turned us down. What a slut. I mean, what the fuck. It’s a movie about a male prostitute in love with himself.
A murder thriller where one of his clients falls in love with him. Story of my life.
It was Jerry who suggested Richard Gere. All slick and ready to fuck. The role made him.
The film was written and directed by Paul Schrader. Man, could that guy write a movie. Wrote “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Wrote and directed “Blue Collar” and “Hardcore.” Made “Mishima” about the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima. Shit, now there’s a film. I don’t even know what the fuck it was about but I couldn’t stop watching it.
Pretty sure he was fucking Pauline Kael. Drank like a motherfucker.
Raised in Michigan by deranged Calvinists and didn’t even see a movie until he was eighteen years old, poor prick. When he was a child his mother would stick pins in his hands if he disobeyed her. Tell him that hell was like that, only every second, and on every inch of your body.
My mom used to throw a bucket of ice water in my face whenever I was acting up. Worked a charm. But stabbing your son’s hands with pins — that’s extreme.
Schrader told me he took the final shot and final line of dialogue from “Pickpocket.” The nineteen-fifty-nine film by Robert Bresson. Great film.
Gere’s nude scene was the first full frontal in Hollywood. First time you saw a cock outside of an XXX theater. Great dialogue too.
Simpson’s voice begs as he acts like Richard Gere.
I’ll do fag tricks. I’ll do kink. I’ll do anything you want me to do.
It was my first film with Jerry Bruckheimer. Totally knew what he was doing. All those television commercials. Fast, fast, fast. Cut, cut, cut.
We’d been talking about doing a movie together forever. But with this it really clicked. I could trust him. He could trust me.
And this in a town where you can trust no one.
Remember Gere studying his artist’s palette of shirts, ties, jackets. Gere cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway in his black convertible, Blondie’s “Call Me” pumping on the soundtrack.
Movie moments. That’s what we called them.
Pure movie moments.
CHAPTER 28: YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE TO DO AT FOUR O’CLOCK, ED?
Biggest whitest desk in the biggest whitest office at Paramount. White walls with white linen easy chairs and couches. Gleams all the brighter because the desk is topped by a single sheet of thick white glass.
By nineteen eighty-one I was president of production. Nobody could fuck with me.
Framed business cards chronicling Simpson’s rise from the bottom to the top of the Paramount executive ranks line one wall. On the wall behind his desk are white shelves neatly stacked with Mead black marble notebooks.
Simpson’s new secretary, LAURA, 25, steps in. She looks like his older secretary’s daughter. She leads in a young reporter, ED GREENE.
Greene fidgets with his small beige wire-bound notebook.
Simpson emerges from the bathroom at the back of the office. All smiles.
You’re that new reporter from ‘The Los Angeles Times,’ right?
What time is it?
Greene checks his watch.
You know what I like to do at four o’clock, Ed?
Simpson clicks the outside line on his speakerphone, leans in.
Laura, be a darling and get me that screenwriter who pitched me this morning.
Simpson pours himself a glass of Stolichnaya Elit Vodka from a crystal decanter. Offers a glass to Greene, who politely refuses.
Simpson smiles and takes out a folded packet of cocaine. Empties the powder on the glass-topped desk. Takes out a single-blade Swiss Army Knife.
Simpson flicks open the knife and dices the coke.
Deftly slices it into six lines. Takes out a $100 bill and rolls it into a tight straw with one hand. Offers it to Greene, who again politely refuses.
Simpson smirks and snorts one, two, three, four, five, six lines. Takes a deep gulp of vodka.
Laura’s voice sparks through the speakerphone.
Mister Simpson, your screenwriter is on line seven.
Simpson snatches the handset off the cradle. Snarls his voice down the line.
You’re the stupidest son of a bitch in Hollywood, you asshole.
Simpson downs his vodka and grins at Greene.
You’re a talentless piece of shit. No one respects you. Everyone knows you’re a fucking idiot. You’re nothing but a stupid cocksucker.
Simpson is enjoying himself.
You’re an embarrassment to your parents. You’re an embarrassment to yourself.
Greene doesn’t know where to look. Simpson continues his tirade down the line.
You don’t get it, do you? You don’t belong here. Why do you even fucking bother? You’re just wasting everyone’s time. You’re wasting your time. The sooner we get rid of people like you, the better the business is going to be.
Simpson shakes his head.
You’ve got no idea for the first act. There’s no fucking second act. There’s no fucking third act. Which means there’s no fucking movie. There’s no idea. There’s no concept. There’s fucking nothing. You’re fucking nothing. You have no fucking future in this business.
Simpson slams down the handset. Smiles at Greene. Sniffs.
Wasn’t just screenwriters either. I’d let reporters have it too. You fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you. I’ll tear your fucking head off.
But I’d always make up for it the next day. Send a note of apology or a gift basket with a little present inside. Fucking journalists. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.
Greene is biting his bottom lip. Simpson sizes him up.
So, let’s talk about my slate of movies.
Greene flips open his wire-bound notebook, clicks his pen. Tries to look like he isn’t fazed. Coughs to clear his throat.
So, what stars have you lined up, Mister Simpson?
Stars? Are you talking astrological or meteorological? I’m a triple Scorpio, you know.
Movie stars? Who the fuck needs movie stars? You only need movie stars when you don’t have any ideas.
Simpson leans forward.
And I’ve got plenty of ideas.
Simpson thumbs the shelf of notebooks behind him.
See those? Do you know what they are?
Greene shakes his head.
My ideas books. Every one of them is filled with ideas for movies. Hundreds of ideas. Thousands of ideas for movies.
CHAPTER 29: WORK, WORK, WORK
It’s late and Simpson is in his Paramount office, writing quickly in a notebook.
Title — “Zone Of Silence.” Location — New Mexico. Premise — Brilliant but maverick scientist uncovers a government UFO conspiracy when he unearths a meteorite in the middle of the desert containing crystalline structures that far outdates the solar system. Where did it come from? Why?
He flips the page and keeps writing.
Plot — Pit scientist against an unbelieving scientific community and a secretive, covert military force that knows the truth. That’s great, that’s great.
That’s always been my rule. If I want to see it we make it.
He keeps writing.
And if I don’t want to see it we don’t make it. Simple, right?
Simpson pulls out a blank notebook, opens the cover, creases it with his palm and starts writing.
That’s me. Work, work, work.
Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.
CHAPTER 30: AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN
Faders across a custom-made 128 channel mixing desk rise and fall as if blown by the wind.
Everyone thought “An Officer and a Gentleman” was going to be a bomb. During the sound mix they were laying bets on how low the box office would be.
Jack Nitzsche sits behind the mixing desk at Gold Star Recording Studios as the faders slip and slid. The studios are at 6252 Santa Monica Boulevard near the corner of Vine Street in Hollywood.
Nitzsche is wearing sunglasses and leaning back, large headphones over his ears. The pair of multitrack reel-to-reel recorders by his side are rolling, dark brown tape waving through the heads.
Even the writer Douglas Day Stewart was badmouthing it before it was finished. He wanted to direct it. All writers want to direct. Fuck, just because they can string a few words together they think they can push a camera around, push an actor around.
WILL JENNINGS hunches over in the corner near a rack of audio equipment, writing and rewriting lyrics on a scrap of paper.
Director Taylor Hackford knew what he was doing. Convinced me to go with Richard Gere in the lead. Had to pay him more this time. Had to pay him points.
JENNIFER WARNES sips a cup of tea and lemon.
Offered the female lead to Kristy McNichol, Brooke Shields. Both turned us down. Went to Debra Winger in the end.
She negotiated her own contract before we gave her the final script. Then she freaked out when found out she had to do a nude scene. But since she hadn’t asked for a no-nudity clause, she had to do it. I mean, it didn’t help. She still wasn’t fuckable enough.
There was a lot of drama on the set. Robert Loggia kept complaining we were cutting his scenes. He played Gere’s dad. At the graduation ceremony when Gere says he’s going to get his first salute, he is referring to his father. We shot a scene where his father salutes him. It was paying off an earlier scene where his father said he’d never salute him. I burned the footage.
Nitzsche slides down the master fader, and slips off the headphones. JOE COCKER steps into the recording studio. Nitzsche points him to the vocal booth. Cocker steps through and heads to the microphones. Warnes follows him in.
Wish I could have burned that fucking song. Piece of shit. Wasn’t even my idea. I wanted the song cut from the movie. It wasn’t a good song. It wasn’t a hit. I don’t give a shit if it got to number one on the charts. I don’t give a shit if it won an Oscar. It’s still a shit song.
Nitzsche rewinds and plays the multitrack reel-to-reel recorders. Loops of the opening string arrangements for ‘Up Where We Belong’ lick the air.
CHAPTER 31: WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? JACK NICHOLSON?
Fade up Jimi Hendrix’s mesmerizing ‘You’ve Got Me Floating.’
It’s 1982. A party is in full swing on a moonless night at Simpson’s compound at 685 Stone Canyon Road in Bel-Air. Simpson has just turned thirty-nine.
Even when I was partying I was working.
A shrilling starlet is hurled into the pool. Splaaaash. Simpson lopes past, scrawling notes into one of his notebooks.
Revelers are downing alcohol, smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, and talking and laughing over each other. Only Simpson hears the scream of a young woman from the garage.
Sounds of party are muffled inside the garage.
An older DRUG DEALER spinning out on crystal meth is hitting a younger TIFFANY with a Callaway golf club. Other Callaway golf clubs are scattered across the cement floor. Empty Callaway golf club bag has been cast aside. Golf balls are rolling away.
Tiffany is twenty-four. Cowering on the floor, trying to protect her slim face. Matted blonde hair.
What the fuck are you doing with my golf clubs?
Drug Dealer whips around to see Simpson step into the garage.
Fucking bitch owes me money.
Simpson leans down to pick up a golf ball. He sees Tiffany is bleeding from a gash in her forehead.
Did you do that?
Drug Dealer moves to strike her again. Tiffany flinches.
She’s just a fucking whore, man.
Who the fuck are you? Jack Nicholson?
No, you fuck off! This is my fucking house!!
Drug Dealer swings back the golf club and is about to rush Simpson.
Drug Dealer blinks and Simpson hurls the golf ball into his eye. Drug Dealer stumbles back, dropping the golf club and clutching his bleeding eye.
Fuck! Fuck!! I’m fucking blind!!!
Drug Dealer scrambles out of the garage and down the driveway. Simpson crouches down to Tiffany who is crying. His voice is soft.
Hey, it’s okay. He’s gone.
Simpson looks at the gash on her forehead.
It’s not too deep, honey.
Simpson tears a page out of his notebook and presses it lightly against the wound. Tiffany flinches. Simpson presses a little harder.
Ssshhhh, sssshhhh. It’ll stop the bleeding.
CHAPTER 32: CLOSER TO GOD, I GUESS
White Porsche 911 tears into the parking lot outside the executive building at Paramount. Tires shriek as it turns on a dime and almost slams into the back of a parked stretch limousine.
It’s a big limousine. Cadillac and black. Inside a uniformed CHAUFFEUR sits calmly behind the steering wheel, window open. His cap is embroidered with a Gulf + Western logo.
Porsche grumbles, growls and spits. Horn blasts the air for a full ten seconds.
Staff comes to the windows to see what’s happening. Porsche driver’s door slowly opens and Simpson steps out. He calmly strides up to the limousine.
Chauffeur’s electric window closes. Simpson smiles as he looks over the limousine.
Will you look at this fucking boat? It looks like a fucking tuna boat.
Simpson looks around.
And I’m going to teach the tuna boat captain not to park in my fucking car space.
Simpson steps over to the rose garden and looks at the heavy cast-metal post bearing the Paramount logo that is stuck in the ground.
Jeffrey Katzenberg flies out of the front doors of the executive building, arms waving furiously.
Don, stop! Stop!!
Simpson yanks the cast-metal logo post out of the ground. Holds it up high above his head as the sun gleam off the stars, the spangled stars that ring the mountain.
The logo originally had twenty-four stars as a tribute to actors under contract. In 1974 the logo was simplified for television and the number of stars dropped to twenty-two.
Katzenberg screams at Simpson.
It’s Bluhdorn’s limo!!!
Simpson swings the cast-metal logo post hard into the windscreen, plowing the Paramount logo into the shattered glass.
Yes, Charlie Bluhdorn owned the studio. Got it in some debt for equity swap. Every called him the Mad Austrian of Wall Street. The guy was fucking crazy, certifiably insane.
Was like the worst Jew in Hollywood. Told everyone he met he wasn’t Jewish. Born liar.
Didn’t know the first thing about making a movie.
Bluhdorn was just a financier. Used to sit around the table screaming that he had made more money in sugar in the half hour since the meeting started than Paramount had made all year.
I never wanted to know where he got his money from, his financing from. He was a bad man. Had a sharp stick he’d just poke you with until you bled to death, unless you told him to fuck off. Clearly had a chemical imbalance.
Had no problem breaking the law. He was a criminal. He was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission every second week.
Prick owned the Miss Universe pageant. It was part of the deal when he bought Pacific Mills. The company had invented the pageant in nineteen fifty-two to sell its Catalina brand of swimsuits. It was Bluhdorn who moved it to the Dominican Republic.
Why? Because he owned half the island. Just kept buying sugar plantations until he owned all of them. Diller convinced him to built this massive resort down there called Casa de Campo. Probably to get him the fuck away from Los Angeles. Had some Paramount production designers go down there and build him a Mediterranean village on a cliff for fuck’s sake.
Had me down there once. These black slaves in white linen uniforms with gold braids serving him drinks, wanting to slit his throat.
He died of a heart attack on his private jet while flying back from his resort.
Closer to God, I guess.
CHAPTER 33: ONE BAD HEADLINE AFTER ANOTHER
SENIOR EXECUTIVES are sitting down for lunch in the executive dining room at Paramount. They’re all wearing suits and ties, except Simpson who’s in tight blue Levi’s and a white collarless shirt. He looks tired.
Executives are discussing the menu as soup is served. Hushed tones, very serious. They look and sound like funeral directors.
Simpson closes his eye and faints head first into his soup. Splasssh. Executives don’t skip a beat.
Man, what can I tell you? I was tired. I’d put twenty projects into development in about as many days.
One EXECUTIVE motions another EXECUTIVE to pass the salt.
I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I just worked and worked and worked.
Hollywood was under threat of strikes by both the writers’ and directors’ guilds. We needed enough movies to carry us through in case the strikes happened.
“White Dog” was one of seven productions we fast-tracked. Based on a novel by Romain Gary. It was about a racist dog trainer. Who the fuck makes a film about a racist dog trainer.
Eisner was pushing for it because of its social message that hate is learned. And that if hate is learned, it can be unlearned.
Everyone was pushing back. We had Curtis Hanson rework the script, downplay the racial elements. Word started to get out that we were softening the material. Someone leaked a memo to the press.
I thought we were going for Jaws with paws until we signed Fuller on to direct. Fuller? Samuel Fuller? Samuel ‘Fuck You’ Fuller?
Hard-drinking, hard-living, hard-fucking Samuel Fuller. “Pickup on South Street.” “The Naked Kiss.” “Shock Corridor.” The man was a fucking legend.
We only had forty-five days and seven million dollars. Who else could shoot that fast with so little money.
Fuller knew the novel and wanted to re-conceptualize the movie to have the conflict in the book occur within the dog rather than the people. Told ‘Variety’ that viewers would see a dog slowly go insane and then come back to sanity.
Even before filming began we started to have protestors outside the gates. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said it would spur racial violence. Black Anti-Defamation Coalition said it would spark race riots. No such thing as bad publicity?
The L.A. Times ran one story after the other calling it a racist production with racist themes and racist characters. Racist themes? Racist characters? What are you, a fucking idiot? Don’t you realize that in order to make an anti-racist movie you need to start with racist characters that transform by the end.
Pressure groups started threatening boycotts. One bad headline after another.
Then Gary blew his brains out after his wife committed suicide.
Who the fuck needs the bad publicity, the bad press.
I decided to shelve the movie. Fuller? He was so pissed off he moved to France and never directed another American film again.
CHAPTER 34: BETTER THAN A FUCKING HOLIDAY
Empty Muzak thins the air.
Simpson looks a little frazzled, a little unsteady as he makes his way through the admissions lobby of the Betty Ford Center at 39000 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage.
The lobby looks like a three-star hotel with soft yellow walls, flat carpet, uncomfortable seats and too many indoor plants.
To the left is the gift shop where you can buy a gold-rimmed Betty Ford ashtray for three dollars. To the right is the internal courtyard that doesn’t receive enough sunlight.
Simpson heads to the gray semi-circular admissions desk. He is wearing a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses with darker than usual lenses, carrying a black leather Louis Vuitton overnight bag.
ADMISSION NURSE looks up. Smiles warmly.
Welcome back, Mister Simpson.
Everyone says the Family Week program at Betty Ford is amazing. But the last people I want to see in rehab is my fucking family.
You’re supposed to have a roommate as part of the program. But you can have your doctor or psychiatrist write and recommend that sharing a room would impede treatment. You have to pay a little more but at least you don’t have to bunk down with some loser.
The rooms overlooking the pond are best. Just don’t go out there. The geese crap on everything.
The pool? No one ever uses the pool. The only person I’ve ever seen there is the pool guy dressed in white, scooping off the leaves.
No one plays games in the games room because all the pieces are missing. People grab the pieces and carry them around like a good luck charm. Carry around a Plinko chip or that little boot from the Monopoly game all day long.
The best place to hang out is in the Serenity Room. Best air-conditioning ever. You look out to a fern garden with a waterfall. You can see the mountains. Had some of my best ideas there.
The program? It’s built around the twelve steps, with a side order of family.
The location is great. Way out in Palm Springs. No phone calls or faxes. No couriers. All that desert air clears your mind.
Better than a fucking holiday. You’re cleaned up, back on the streets, ready for battle.
Ready for war.
CHAPTER 35: I’M A SENSITIVE GUY
Fade up Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ romantic ‘Up Where We Belong’ through the house speakers at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Simpson looks up at speakers and blanches. He looks unwell with his arm draped over a particularly well-endowed TERRI. The young woman is smiling hard.
God, I hated going to ShoWest. Meeting and greeting movie theater owners from all over the country who were only interested in coming to Vegas for fucking and gambling.
SHOWEST ATTENDEES spill out of the Jubilee Theatre onto the main casino floor lined with traditional arm pull slot machines. The machines chug and whirr and every so often expel a torrent of coins. Sounds of excited CASINO GUESTS whooping and laughing.
Vegas is one fucked up place. It’s like pussy paradise. I don’t think I ever met a woman who wasn’t a hooker in that town. It’s all that neon. All that phosphorous. Does something to a woman. Lights her up from the inside.
Simpson looks bilious as he takes in the crowd.
CORNELIUS T. HALL, 50, sidles up to him. He looks like a fat John Goodman with wavy hair and a Macallan Scotch on ice in his hand. He’s wearing a nauseous tie and staring at Terri’s cleavage.
Yes sir, I am the biggest theater owner in all the tri-state area.
Simpson swallows hard.
There ain’t none bigger.
Simpson tightens his lips. Hall laughs and swigs his scotch without taking his eyes off Terri’s cleavage.
Richard Gere tells me you’re the man who made him do the picture.
Simpson clamps his thumb and forefinger over his lips. Hall smiles wide.
Here’s to you.
Hall tips his glass and is about to down another swig of his scotch when Simpson heaves and throws up all over him.
Not my greatest moment. Probably the seafood. I’m not good with seafood. Too much mercury. I have a very delicate stomach.
I’m a sensitive guy.
CHAPTER 36: I’M THE LAST HONEST MAN IN HOLLYWOOD
Eisner sits calmly behind his mahogany desk in his office at Paramount, looking at the sunlight sliding across the polished surface. For the chief executive, there’s a remarkable lack of paper. Not even a pen, or pencil. But there are three phones.
Simpson looks at him with dismay and disbelief.
A morals charge? You’re firing me on a fucking morals charge? You’ve got some dickwads from the board fucking boys up the ass in the back of their limos in the fucking parking lot and you’re firing me on a fucking morals charge?
Eisner smiles to himself.
We’re not firing you, Don. We’re giving you a deal, a producer’s deal. It’s less corporate.
Simpson glares at him. Eisner shakes his head.
You’re not a corporate kind of guy, Don.
Eisner looks out the window.
You and Bruckheimer can team up and make movies without all the politics.
We’ll let you have an office on the lot. We’ll even throw in some staff if you like.
Simpson lowers his voice almost to a whisper.
Will you let me make “Zone Of Silence?”
Will you let me make “Zone Of Silence?”
Eisner has no idea what Simpson is talking about.
My UFO conspiracy movie.
Eisner looks blank. Simpson looks disappointed.
Don’t tell me you didn’t read the coverage.
This isn’t about me.
I thought the point of the deal is I get to make the movies I want.
Eisner smiles, opens a drawer, takes out a screenplay and places it in front of Simpson.
Since it’s Paramount’s money it’ll be the movies Paramount wants you to make.
Simpson looks at the screenplay. The title reads “Flashdance.” He pushes it back to Eisner.
It’s got a girl in it.
Simpson reluctantly picks it up and flips through the pages.
Fuck, it was awful. I’d already rejected it twice. Peter Guber had sat on it for God knows how many years. Fucked it right up. Guber’s a nice guy. That’s his downfall. Couldn’t keep it up with Sony. Signed on for that massive deal. And then fell apart.
Guber told everyone I was pissing on the script to make it my own. Fuck that. I wouldn’t piss on it if it was on fire. Pile of shit. Soap opera of sex, alcohol and stupidity. I only kept the title and the idea of the girl who becomes a dancer.
Even her name stunk. Raven? I changed it to Alex. I came up with a seventeen-page outline and hired some writers to work it up.
One of the early drafts had a gay man as her best friend. Director Adrian Lyne loved the angle. No one had ever shown a straight woman having a close friendship with a gay man. But it would never fly with the execs. So we cut it.
Simpson closes the cover and sighs.
Paramount gave Katzenberg my job. Blamed my leaving on the monumental fuck-up that was “Grease 2.” A movie I never ever wanted to make. Let alone fucking see.
Sure, Eisner pulled the trigger. But Diller loaded the fucking gun. He wanted me out of there because I didn’t suck his dick. You know, not literally. I’m talking metaphorically.
I’m talking corporate dick. I guess I wasn’t really cut out to be an executive. All the niceties, all the dinner parties, all the backstabbing. I just wanted to get on with the work.
Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt. To go from the inside to the outside.
I know what they say about me. That I’m a wild man. That I’m reckless. That I’m vulgar. That I’m loud. Well, fuck you Jack. It’s all true.
That I’m arrogant. That I’m insulting. That I’m a fucked up, selfish egomaniac.
Who gives a fuck.
You know what I am. I’m the last honest man in Hollywood, that’s what I am.
And that unsettles some people.
CHAPTER 37: JUST PICK OUT THE GIRL YOU’D MOST LIKE TO FUCK
It’s 1983. Simpson is running screen tests for the lead for “Flashdance” in a small screening room at Paramount.
He shepherds in a dozen JANITORS. They look a little bewildered as they take their seats in front of the small screen.
We never had any executives at our screen tests. We brought in janitors straight from the lot.
Jerry Bruckheimer is in the background, in the shadows. Stroking his light beard. Simpson hands out bottles of cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer to the Janitors.
Actors? Dime a dozen, man. They’re just chimpanzees dancing for pennies.
Janitors start drinking their beers, settling into their seats. Simpson nods to the PROJECTIONIST up in the projection booth. Film projector sparks and whirs to life.
When you’re casting for an actress you’re casting for fuckability. No question about it. You can do all the research you like. But it boils down to one thing.
Light dims. Simpson smiles at the Janitors.
Just pick out the girl you’d most like to fuck.
Janitors snicker amongst themselves. Even the Mexican Janitors understand.
Shafts of light slither into the room from the film projector. Simpson looks up at the screen.
They never picked Demi Moore.
CHAPTER 38: A NAKED MAN WITH NO BRAINS AND NO BALLS
Thunderous applause as the 56th Academy Awards draws to a close in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at 135 North Grand Avenue in Los Angeles.
I wanted the role of Alex in “Flashdance” to go to Melanie Griffith. She was nineteen and had a body so tight you could bounce quarters off it.
Host Johnny Carson in white bow tie and shirt and tuxedo is still delivering his closing lines as winners and nominees and guests start to stand and leave. It’s been another marathon.
We gave the role to Jennifer Beals. She tested best. Pretty sure she wasn’t wearing any panties when she first auditioned. I can tell.
The cavernous pavilion is a sea of men in tuxedos and women in every shade of evening gown. JENNIFER BEALS in slinky black satin leaves with her mother.
She sure was fuckable. But she couldn’t dance for shit. Had to get a body double for all the dancing scenes. You know when she leaps through the air in the audition scene. Had to pull a favor from a professional gymnast I knew.
VAL KILMER strides past with CHER in gold dripping off his arm.
We paid Beals scale. We had to keep the budget tight because Paramount kept hassling us over money. One thing Jerry knows how to do is screw a budget.
STEVEN SPIELBERG sours past. AMY IRVING clutches onto him dressed like a pioneer woman.
Brian De Palma was all set to direct and then two weeks into preproduction he drop us to do “Scarface.” That’s when we decided on Adrian Lyne. English, had done a ton of commercials, couldn’t understand a fucking word he said.
ROBERT DUVAL grins past holding his Oscar.
He wanted to push the gay man best friend angle. We said no. He wanted a backstory about Alex being molested as a child. We said no fucking way.
MEL GIBSON escorts SISSY SPACEK in a floral outfit.
Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas had to beat the script into submission. There were a lot of rewrites. We were still rewriting it as we were shooting it.
MERYL STREEP in a white dress that’s too tight looks for her husband.
Everyone thought “Flashdance” was going to be a total disaster. Everyone was saying Paramount had given me a piece of shit in the hopes it would fail and my career would be ruined. Man, they had so little faith in it they sold off twenty-five percent just days before it opened.
GLENN CLOSE looks like the black widow, hair back and empty smile.
Critics hated it. New Yorker called it a series of rock videos. Guardian called it a preposterous success. Fuck them.
JACK NICHOLSON wearing dark Ray-Bans and a smirk drops his Oscar statuette. ANJELICA HUSTON in tight velvet laughs and picks it up.
Audiences loved it. You know why? Because audiences loves a Cinderella story. Hookers, dancers, lesbians, doesn’t matter. Wrap it in a Cinderella story and everyone will line up to pay and watch.
We took four million dollars on the first weekend. Everyone thought it was over but the movie kept on growing until it played its way to ninety-three million dollars domestically.
Can you believe Paramount sold off twenty-five percent. Fucking idiots.
They even tried to kill it by releasing it on VHS while it was still in theaters. But just the opposite happened. It drove more business.
There was no stopping it. Man, it was a fucking gold mine.
“Flashdance” was nominated for Academy Awards for cinematography, editing and music. Up against “Terms of Endearment” which was up for everything. It was another Paramount picture Diller was pushing hard behind the scenes.
“Flashdance” won an Oscar for best music. Giorgio Moroder wrote the track, Irene Cara wrote the lyrics while driving to the recording studio to record the song. Fuck, who would have thought. Must have been all those old disco fags on the Academy.
The Oscars. They’re a fucking joke.
The Academy Awards were started by MGM’s Louis Mayer as a way to consolidate the power of the studios, and give away a trinket or two instead of paying stars more money. He created the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science. He ordered the members to vote only for MGM contract players. Keep it in the family.
The first Academy Awards took place in the Blossom Room of Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel in nineteen twenty-nine. There were candy replicas of the Oscar statuette on each table. So if you didn’t get one, you could still eat one.
Each Academy Award has been broadcast. First on radio, then television. They used to give the list of winners to newspapers beforehand. So everyone knew who was going to win.
It’s the greatest promotion scheme any industry has ever devised for itself. It’s nothing but a fuckfest.
George C. Scott refused his best actor Oscar in nineteen-seventy. Said the whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. Said he didn’t want any part of it.
Marlon Brando had someone else do the talking for him when he refused his best actor Oscar two years later. He sent Sacheen Littlefeather to read out a fifteen-page speech in protest of the mistreatment of Native Americans by the industry.
She wasn’t even a Native American. She was a fucking actress.
I mean, who gives a fuck. Except the press. They eat this shit up.
All this attention for an Oscar statuette. A naked man with no brains and no balls. Golden.
CHAPTER 39: NOW THERE’S A BUSINESS PLAN
It’s 1984. Don Simpson is standing in the polished Beverly Hills Porsche showroom at 8425 Wilshire Boulevard.
“Risky Business” was Steve Tisch’s first movie after he left Columbia and went out on his own. Had David Geffen pony up the money. It was Tom Cruise’s first lead role.
A salesman in an expensive suit and tie is showing Simpson the range of available colors in swatches of metal, explaining how the paint is baked on.
Making money from hookers. Now there’s a business plan.
Timothy Hutton was the first choice for the role of Joel, but the dickhead turned it down. Thought the role was too young.
Simpson crouches down next to a basalt black Porsche 928 coupe. Glides his hand over the metal, a man in love.
Tisch had his personal trainer work on Cruise to make him look more like a teenager. Had him working out seven days a week to lose ten pounds. Then put him on a diet of fatty foods to add a layer of baby fat. To give him that fresh-faced teenage look.
Cruise is a weird little fuck. Always tense, always on.
Someone told me he was walking around on set complaining to anyone who was listening how he wasn’t gay, how he was glad there were no gay people there, how he couldn’t eat gay ice cream. What the fuck is that about.
Couldn’t drive for shit either. Production went through half a dozen Porsche 928s. Had to dub the exhaust and engine sound from another model to really get it to rumble.
“Risky Business” was written and directed by Paul Brickman. It was his first feature and he had a completely different ending in. He had Cruise being denied admission to Princeton and he and the hooker with an ass of gold sitting on the roof of a building overlooking the city pondering his future and hers, and for once Lana lets her guard down.
The studio wasn’t so sure. They wanted a feel good ending. So both versions were shot and shown to a test audience in Anaheim.
You don’t need to watch the movie again to know which ending they voted for.
CHAPTER 40: IT STARTED GROWING FROM THERE
It’s Christmas on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Lights, flowers and fake snow shining under the California sun.
How many times have you seen “Beverly Hills Cop?” Come on, tell the truth.
Doors of the Tiffany boutique swing wide open and Simpson steps out onto the sidewalk. His secretary follows him out, armed with stylish shopping bags from half a dozen boutiques as well as Tiffany.
You know it was originally written for Sylvester Stallone. Two weeks before filming is to start, Stallone pulls out like a twenty dollar hooker. What a cunt. And not in a good way.
Doors of the Cartier boutique part open and Simpson strides out. His secretary hurries after him, laden with shopping bags from more boutiques including Cartier.
All that orange juice must have softened his brain. Stallone loved orange juice. Drank gallons of the stuff. Not just fresh orange juice, but freshly squeezed orange juice at every meeting. Demanded that fresh oranges be sliced and juiced in front of him.
Doors of the Harry Winston boutique open and Simpson hurries out onto the sidewalk. His secretary scuttles behind, shopping bags piled high with three from Harry Winston on top.
Sylvester Stallone. What fucking kind of name is that. Sylvester? It’s not even a man’s name. It’s a cat’s name.
We pulled in Eddie Murphy at the last minute. A new shooting script was literally pasted together from half dozen or so scripts. I stuck it together with my own Scotch tape.
You know when Police Chief Hubbard walks into his first scene carrying some rolled-up sheets of paper? It’s the fucking script, man.
Everyone claimed credit for the premise, for the whole idea of being an outsider in Beverly Hills.
Eisner says it happened to him. Katzenberg says it happened to him. Even Jerry says it happened to him. They all tell the story of being pulled over by some cop in Beverly Hills merely because they don’t look like they belong there.
Truth is it happened to me. But I ain’t a credit hog.
Remember the hotel scene with Axel?
Simpson’s voice mimics the fast-talking Eddie Murphy, rising louder and louder with each sentence.
Don’t you think I realize what’s going on here, miss? Who do you think I am, huh? Don’t you think I know that if I was some hotshot from out of town that pulled inside here and you guys made a reservation mistake, I’d be the first one to get a room and I’d be upstairs relaxing right now. But I’m not some hotshot from out of town, I’m a small reporter from ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine that’s in town to do an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson that’s gonna be picked up by every major magazine in the country. I was gonna call the article ‘Michael Jackson Is Sitting On Top of the World,’ but now I think I might as well just call it ‘Michael Jackson Can Sit On Top of the World Just As Long As He Doesn’t Sit in the Beverly Palm Hotel ‘Cause There’s No Niggers Allowed in There!’
Replace nigger with Alaskan and you get the idea.
I knew we had a hit when we screened it to the executives at Paramount.
Tell Victor that Ramon — the fella he met about a week ago? — tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex ten, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man.
That was one funny scene. Everyone at the studio screening cracked up. Except Diller. He didn’t smile one bit.
We opened on two thousand screens across America. Fuck if that didn’t give us some solid opening numbers. It started growing from there.
It became the highest grossing R rated film in America ever. Ever. You hear that? Fucking ever.
CHAPTER 41: THEY JUST KEPT ON COMING
It’s 1985. Shimmering light refracts off a small single-sided mirror topped with cocaine. Single-blade Swiss Army Knife is furiously dicing the fresh powder in time to the sounds of hammers hammering and saws sawing.
The mirror teeters on the handrail of the timber deck of Simpson’s Red Mountain residence. CARPENTERS are furiously extending the timber deck as Simpson, forty-two, is furiously cutting the powder with one hand and holding the mirror in place with the other.
Slices up three thick lines. Snaps the knife shut.
Rolls a note into a tight straw. Thrusts it up one nostril. Lifts his hand off the mirror to block his other nostril.
Leans down to snort the first line just as a power saw rips into one end of the hand rail, vibrating the timber and shivering the mirror over the edge.
Simpson watches the cocaine fall into the mountain of snow below.
Simpson’s expletive echoes down into the valley.
It was our first Aspen party and I wanted to get it right. It was like my coming out party.
Carpenters continue working more quietly. Simpson looks out at the alpine vista, taken aback by the imperial beauty.
In that moment of grace an idea comes to mind.
He takes out a folded packet of cocaine, opens the top of it, flicks open his knife, scoops some powder on the tip, holds it under his nose and snorts it straight up.
A smile crashes across his face, his eyes gleam.
Simpson standing in the same place on the enlarged timber deck as darkness falls and GUESTS mill about in a blur.
Simpson is the only one in focus. He looks incessantly happy. Behind him is the dramatic home with its soaring ceiling and walls of glass.
Jesus, I was so anxious I must have snorted a gram of coke before each person arrived. And man, did they arrive. They just kept on coming.
More GUESTS swirl about.
Inside the living room later that night Simpson is still the only one in focus as more GUESTS whirl about. Everything is draped in white muslin. Dozens of small white Christmas trees are decorated with tiny white lights.
All the VIPs came — Ted Turner, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, Goldie Hawn, Barbara Walters, Bob Kerry, Ivan Reitman, Paul Simon, Jim Cameron. Jane Fonda when she had decent tits.
Still later Simpson is still the only one in focus as GUESTS twirl past. A log fire roars in the colossal fireplace behind him.
More than two hundred guests.
We even had a bunch of Kennedy cousins who came to the door and demanded to be let in.
Past Simpson into the log fire raging in the fireplace.
I put the ski town on the map. I did that. I ruined Aspen. Just ruined it.
Match dissolve as flames die down as red and orange embers glimmer and glow.
CHAPTER 42: JERRY AND I WERE FUCKING HEROES
Red and orange lights flash to life atop a new range of electronic slot and video poker machines on the main floor of Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Sounds of coins tumbling and tumbling over dizzying sound effects.
It’s 1986. SHOWEST ATTENDEES spill out of the Jubilee Theatre. It’s so overlit that the middle of the night feels like high noon.
Everyone thought “Flashdance” was going to tank. They all thought it was the anchor around my neck that was going to take me down to the bottom of the fucking sea. And what did it do?
Simpson looks happy with his arm slung around PAMMI, 26. She is wearing an outrageous yellow jumpsuit that she’s almost leaping out of.
Ninety-five million domestic. Paramount’s second highest grossing movie for the year.
Sounds of coins being slipped into a slot machine.
And it was made for a fucking dime.
“Beverly Hills Cop.” Again we made it for next to nothing. Again everyone slammed it. But we slammed that fucker out of the fucking park. It took in an astronomical two-hundred-and-thirty-five million at the box office.
And it gave birth to a new genre.
Action-comedy. Guns and gags. It’s not every day you invent a new genre in Hollywood. It’s not every day you strike a gold mine.
Simpson looks out at the Attendees.
Jerry and I were fucking heroes. We were ShoWest’s Producers of the Year. Which made going kind of bearable. As did Pammi.
Attendees part like the Red Sea to reveal a blustering Cornelius T. Hall, 53, swathing through towards Simpson. He’s packed on a few more pounds since last time. And his tie is even more squeamish.
He doesn’t look at Pammi’s cleavage. He looks Simpson straight in the eye. Simpson flinches as he remembers the last time he met Hall. But Hall is all smiles.
You keep making that kind of box office, son, and you can throw up on me any time you like.
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