“You Know What I Like to Do at Four O’Clock, Ed?” (Story)
Meet Hollywood’s most inglorious bastard.
Legendary bad boy movie mogul Don Simpson has just been made the new head of production at Paramount Studios.
As he waits for a journalist to arrive for a customary interview, he reflects on his hectic life so far. A life that has seen him rise from Nowhereville, Alaska to the top of the Hollywood food chain.
“You Know What I Like to Do at Four O’Clock, Ed?” is a fast and furious Hollywood story. It’s a scene sliced straight out of Don Simpson’s life.
Can the ferocious Simpson win over the journalist from the L.A. 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
‘Uninhibited and altogether fascinating story of a man who created Hollywood in his image.’ Michael Anderson
‘Fast, messy, and outrageously fierce. It’s a true mythic blowout.’ Carla Pestalozzi
‘Glimpse into a life lived hard, fast and without apology.’ Jim Scarpe
Rated R / ISBN 9780980712506 / 6,000 words / 24 minutes of outrageous reading pleasure / Buy Amazon / Buy Barnes & Noble / Buy Smashwords
Prefer to read free online? Scroll on to read the whole story.
‘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.’ The New York Times
YOU KNOW WHAT I LIKE TO DO AT FOUR O’CLOCK, ED?
Copyright 2010 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved ISBN 9780980712506
Discover new stories, screenplays, novels and more by Stefano Boscutti at boscutti.com
It’s the biggest, whitest desk in the biggest, whitest office on the Paramount lot.
White walls with white linen easy chairs and couches. Everything gleams all the brighter because the desk is topped by a single sheet of thick white glass. DON SIMPSON, 38, sits behind the desk, alone. He leans forward and wipes a smudge off the cold glass with the edge of his thumb.
By nineteen eighty-one I was president of production. Nobody but nobody could fuck with me.
Framed business cards chronicling his 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 smile widens.
How did I get here? Man, if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. Look at me. I’m a complete fucking outsider. I don’t even belong here. Wasn’t born or bred in Beverly Hills. Wasn’t the son of anyone.
You know where I come from? Alaska. Yeah, that Alaska. Who the fuck comes from Alaska? Cold, freezing fuckhole. 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.
Only place in the world with more bears than people. 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.
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.
Simpson looks at his reflection in the white glass.
Dragged to church every second day. Mom and dad are Baptists, Southern Baptists. They go for all that fire and brimstone shit.
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 that 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?
Simpson turns to look over the notebooks stacked behind him.
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. 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.
Simpson turns back.
Nothing like pain and suffering to keep you down and under control. 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.
My mom, she was a little kinder. She used to lock me in an old timber closet in the hallway when I was bad. But she loved taking me to the movies. I loved it too.
I can still remember the first movie I saw. You never forget your first movie.
Simpson smiles as the memory floods in.
I was on the edge of my seat in the front row, gazing up at the screen, amazed. I’d found my calling.
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.
“The Greatest Show On Earth” 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.
But the ending? Man, how could they arrest the clown? How could they arrest Jimmy Stewart for killing his wife? I bawled my eyes out. I did. Right there in the theater, like a fucking little girl. I screamed and screamed and wouldn’t leave until they changed the ending.
It was my little Rosebud moment. I’d 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.
I lived and breathed movies 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 picks up a ‘Penthouse’ magazine and starts flicking through the pages.
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.
Pastor Culley kept telling me I was having impure thoughts. Man, I didn’t need him telling me what I already knew.
Simpson starts reading the review on high-end stereo equipment. (He doesn’t even see the article on understanding women.)
He told me to renounce my lust. Told me if I thought about it beyond that moment, I would live in hell forever. Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t. That’s when I decided to get laid.
I lost my virginity down at Chester Flats, at the black end of town. You never forget your first hooker. 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.
Never did figure out how to hot-wire a car. Could only ever steal cars with the keys still in the ignition. In Anchorage, that meant stealing a lot of station wagons. Got busted by a motorcycle cop once at the end of a dirt road in the Denali wildlife preserve.
Simpson tilts the magazine and unfolds the centerfold. Miss September is exactly his kind of woman. A striking blonde barely in her twenties. Naked, staring straight through the lens. 40-23-36.
Forced me to my knees and told me I had to do a little something for him. Said it would be real simple. Said when it was over I was going to drive out of there and either turn left or right. I was either going to be the most fucked man in San Quentin or I was going to have a life I like.
Simpson looks over a full-page advertisement for Dewar’s White Label scotch whisky.
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?
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. Shit, I had a real business card and everything.
First they put me on a promotion tour for “Billy Jack.” 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.
Can you believe Warners fired me for buying weed?
Simpson starts reading the ‘Penthouse’ letters.
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? I decided to become a fucking movie star. 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. All that rejection for what? For fame? Fucked up is what it is.
It leads to a lot of suicides. Peg Entwistle was twenty-four when she climbed to the top of the Hollywood sign and leapt off. She was trying to be an actress.
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.
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.
Simpson puts down the magazine.
The whole acting thing? That wasn’t working for me. Nothing was working for me. I was out of work for three years. What was I going to do? Kill myself? Fuck that!
I hustled money. I’m not proud of it. Pick-up tennis games for a hundred dollars a pop. I fucking hate losing. What I lacked in skill I made up with desire. If you can’t be good, be fast. Fucking double or nothing, right?
The only good thing that happened in three years was meeting Jerry.
It was nineteen seventy-three. I was at the premiere of “The Harder They Come” at the low rent Beverly Cinema on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood. 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.
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. Shit, he almost knew more about movies than I did.
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 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. I was the ideas guy.
Simpson opens a drawer and takes out a fresh notebook. Opens the cover and creases it flat with the palm of his hand. Picks up a pencil and starts to write.
I wrote the script for “Cannonball” in a weekend. 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.
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.
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.
Blew up my first car. Man, that was fun. Straight off an overpass and baboom!! Faaaantastic. 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!
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.
That sports jacket Jerry lent me? That became my lucky jacket. Wore it to a job interview at Paramount Pictures. You’ll never guess what happened.
I was hired. Paramount. Fucking Paramount. Can you believe it? First time I drove through those gilded gates I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Simpson stops writing. Closes the notebook and puts it with the others behind him.
Adolph Zukor founded the studio. He 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. Antitrust? Illegal? For sure. But it took the government twenty years to outlaw it.
Zukor 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.
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.
Simpson looks out the window and sees an army of cavalry and foot soldiers passing by like a terrible mob towards Stage 9.
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.
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.
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.
Paramount 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.
By then 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.
Simpson picks up a ‘Daily Variety’ magazine. Notices it’s yesterday’s copy and bins it.
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.
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.
Simpson spins around in his chair once, twice.
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 picks up the pencil and tries to balance it so it stands upright. It teeters and falls.
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.
Simpson tries to balance the pencil again. No luck.
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. 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.
Simpson opens a desk drawer and peers in.
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 because his luggage had been lost at customs. Too much coke. Made me call Kissinger. Yeah, Henry Kissinger.
Simpson smiles as he reaches into the drawer and pulls out his favorite single-blade Swiss Army Knife.
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.
Simpson starts prizing the blade open, snapping it shut.
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. The pursuit of making money became 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.
You want to know the secret to successful movies? You want to know the sixty-four million dollar answer?
All you need is a powerful idea. That’s what attracts people to the product. It doesn’t even have to be an original idea. It just has to seem in some way new and unique and exciting.
The most distinctive quality of a strong concept is that it doesn’t seem familiar. Sure the appropriate star or cast is important. Same goes for the writer and director. But they’re all secondary to the concept.
Simpson snaps open the blade, places the knife face down on the white glass and spins it like a roulette wheel.
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.
Simpson presses his finger down on the white cross logo and the knife freezes in time.
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. We told everyone we offered Christopher Reeve a million dollars to do “American Gigolo.” That was bullshit.
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.
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.
Simpson gets up and steps into the executive bathroom at the back of the office. Closes the door behind him.
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.
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.
Hushed sounds of toilet flushing behind the closed door.
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.
Simpson’s new secretary, LAURA, 25, steps into the office. 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. All smiles.
‘You’re that new reporter from ‘The Los Angeles Times,’ right?’ Greene nods.
‘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. Picks up his single-blade Swiss Army Knife.
‘Always be prepared.’
Simpson quickly 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.’
Simpson’s eyes shine.
‘Thousands of ideas for movies.’
Stefano Boscutti is a freelance creative director and award-winning writer based in Melbourne, Australia.
© Stefano Boscutti All Rights Reserved