HOLLYWOOD JOKE CURRENTLY MAKING THE ROUNDS: The producer of a low budget film is wooing a hot young director by touting the big names they've landed for the project.
"First of all," he tells him, "We've got Pitt in the lead."
The director is surprised, "You got Brad Pitt?"
"Well, no," the Producer responds, "we got Jeremy Pitt, he's a distant cousin who lives in Queens, but he's very up and coming. And besides, we've also got DiCaprio."
"You got Leonardo DiCaprio?" the director asks.
"No, we got Vinnie DiCaprio, but he's very talented and has lots of acting experience from years of dinner theater. But," he says enthusiastically, "we've got Carey and in a singing role."
"Mariah Carey?" he asks.
"No, Betty Carey." The Producer responds. "But she's sexy and has a great voice. AND we've got Blake."
"You got Robert Blake?" the director asks.
"Yeah," the producer replies glumly, "we got Robert Blake."
OUR PRODUCER BUDDY SAID, "So, you're gonna meet with Bobby Blake." He shook his head. "You poor schmucks."
"Hey," Chris said, "we're not looking to marry the asshole, we're just looking for a paycheck."
"You've worked with him a lot," I said. "We were hoping you could give us a couple of tips."
"Sure, sure, anything to help my boys," the producer said. "It's for that new Joe Dancer deal, right? Big Fucking Bucks, right?"
We said he was right on both counts.
Joe Dancer was a PI series starring Robert Blake. This was in the days when Blake's public image was more like the character you see on Baretta reruns, not the creepy accused wife-murderer dude you see featured in "Whatever Happened To XYZ" segments of Entertainment Tonight. NBC/Universal Studios had commissioned six two-hour TV movies so we were, indeed, talking "Big Fucking Bucks."
Our producer buddy - who shall remain unnamed for reasons that will soon become obvious - told us to "hang loose, a sec." We were standing in an auto detailing lot just off Victory in Burbank, where our friend was dropping off his car.
He waved a kid over, peeled a hundred off a thick wad, and stuffed it into the kid's shirt pocket, saying, "Take good care of my girl, okay?" The girl in question was a red XJ-S Convertible (Jaguar, if you have to ask) He returned the wad to his pocket and motioned for us to follow.
This was an area of Victory where narrow residential-type streets intersected the boulevard. The streets were lined with old Day Of The Locust era cottages, set around small, gardened court yards. But if you thought anyone actually lived in those cottages, you'd be mistaken. Most were production offices - some leased by Independents, both legit and porno - others owned or leased by the Studios to handle production overflows.
Our producer pal was heading for a corner cottage, with red bougainvillea vines crawling over the arched entranceway, and twining around the security bars guarding the front windows. It was really quite quaint. The door was painted white with a leaded glass sunburst window cut into it. Beneath, there was a brass knocker and a small brass plate inscribed with the moniker of someone I'll just call Freddy.
The producer worked the brass knocker, saying, "Freddy was best damned hair man in the business before he retired. Now he just takes care of a few friends so he can stretch the pension, know what I mean?" We were too young to give a damn about pensions, but we nodded wise agreement. "I drop by every Saturday before lunch," our friend added. "Get the Jag and my head detailed at the same time."
The door opened to reveal a spry little old man, wearing a barber's smock over pinstripe suit pants. He was so deeply wrinkled his face looked like one of those dried apple doll heads they sell in Ozark tourist shops. Even with the thick patch of black hair and bushy black eyebrows, I guessed he was pushing 80.
He flashed a gleaming set of dentures to show our friend how glad he was to see him, meanwhile shooting us a suspicious look.
The producer reassured him. "They're good boys, Freddy. Brought them along so they could pick your brains about a deal they're trying to land."
Freddy, relented, and favored us with the white denture treatment. Then he said, "Writer fellas, am I right?"
The producer laughed at our expressions of surprise, explaining, "Freddy's been in the business since before God got his DGA card, so watch your asses."
He escorted us into a little room just off the entryway. There were two stairs leading down into a space that had rich, old wooden paneling, like something out of a Gentleman's Club. The walls were decorated with antique movie posters from the days of Cagney and Bette Davis. There was a single barber chair, very old, but with polished chrome and well-cared-for leather. A small, marble-topped cabinet behind the chair held the tools of his trade, plus a couple of bottles of some nice single-malt and some glasses.
Our friend took up residence in the barber's chair, and Freddy tucked a barber's sheet around him. Then he poured a couple of glugs of Single Malt into a glass and handed it to the producer. He motioned for us to help ourselves, which we did.
After our friend had imbibed, and got himself settled, he told Freddy, "The boys are supposed to meet with Bobby Blake. You knew him, right?
Freddy stopped clipping long enough to make with something that was somewhere between a chuckle and a tubercular cough.
"Little Mickey Gubitosi?" He croaked. "Sure, I knew him."
"That's what Blake was called in the old Our Gang Comedies?" I guessed.
"Yeah, yeah, that was him," the barber rasped. "First it was Mickey Guitosi. Then it was Mickey Blake. And I don't know when the hell he got to be Bobby."
"What was he like?" Chris asked.
Another strangled chuckle. "Whiny little shit then, and a whiny little shit now." He shook his head as he worked his scissors. "He was always boo-hooing about this or that. Except when the director wanted him to boo-hoo for the picture. Then he couldn't turn on the waterworks for shit. Had to stick an onion under his schnoz for each take."
"Besides the Our Gang stuff, wasn't he in Treasure Of The Sierra Madre?" I asked.
Freddy thought a minute, Then nodded. "Yeah, he was the Mex kid that sold Bogie the winning lottery ticket. I dated the girl who had to make him look Mexican." Another fit of coughing, then, "She said he was an obnoxious little prick. Drove everybody nuts. Houston almost smacked him a couple of times. Only reason he held off is because Bogie got some real Mexican kids who used to hang out at the set to kick his ass."
He paused in his work, sighing deeply. "Bogie always said that the problem with a lot of people is that they never got their ass whipped. So, he probably thought he was doing the kid a favor. In Bobby's case, I guess it didn't take."
He stepped back from our buddy, looking the job over, then started snipping again. "You say you boys are going to meet with the little creep?"
We confirmed this fact.
"Okay, well, my best advice is to hook a chain to your wallets," he said. "He's a cheap son of a bitch and is always looking for a way to get something by you. Big bucks, or, nickel and dime shit, it's all the same to little Mickey Gubitosi.
"Thinks the world owes him because his folks fucked him out of his Our Gang money. And, I mean, I'd feel sorry for the little fucker... just like I feel sorry for most of the child stars. But, he was such a shit, you know?"
He snorted in distaste. "And dirty, my God, sometimes I think he didn't take a bath for days on end." He shrugged. "But, he's grown up, so he's probably got over that by now."
Our producer friend came in. "Not by a long shot," he said. "He's still a pig. Last time I worked with him, he had this jeans jacket he took a liking to. One morning he gets egg on the jacket from his breakfast." To demonstrate, he tapped the place where the breast pocket would be. "Right here, you know? And son of a gun, every day I see him he's still got that jacket on, with the yellow egg yolk sticking to it.
"I finally said, 'Jesus, Bobby, I know you've given up bathing for Lent, but do you have to wear clothes with garbage on it? Makes me sick just looking at it.'
"Well, he gets all pissed off at me and stomps around the trailer. Then, all of a sudden he tells me to go fuck myself and storms into the bathroom. Minute later, I hear the shower going. And it goes and goes and goes. Finally, it stops and Bobby comes stomping out, still in his clothes, which are dripping wet, cause he showered with them on. And he says, 'I hope you're fucking satisfied.'"
Our friend laughed at the memory. Then added, "At least the egg yolk was gone... And he didn't smell as bad for a couple of days."
Chris said, "If he's such an asshole, how come he's managed so many come backs?"
Our producer friend shrugged. "Bobby finally learned how to cry on cue."
We must have looked puzzled, because he added, "I'm sure you've seen him on Johnny Carson and all the other talk shows crying about how he was fucked over by his parents, right?"
Chris, who didn't watch TV, just shrugged. "So was every other Tom, Dick and Jackie Cooper. Who cares?"
Freddy paused as the producer leaned forward. "You forget, Bobby is an actor. And not that bad a one when he's behaving. And boy, does he milk it with the audience. Tells them how he was screwed over. Tells them that he was so traumatized that he turned to dope and booze, which really destroyed him.
"But, now he's seen the fucking light. Turned the god damned page. And he's ready, The Good God Willing, to face life like a man. " (For more on the art of the comeback see The Silver Bullet Sanction.)
The producer settled back so Freddy could resume his work. "Next thing you know, you see in the trades that Bobby's got a new project on offer. Movie, TV series, whatever."
"Which is where Joe Dancer came from," I said.
The producer nodded. "Me and Bobby and a couple of other guys were at Morton's when that deal came down." (Morton's Steak House was a favorite Hollywood lunch stop in the days when the populace of La-La Land still admitted they were carnivores.)
"Bobby was in his full fucking glory," the producer continued, "giving us all the business about how he knew what a bastard he'd been in the past. That he regretted all the misery he caused 'The Little People' who came to the set every day to make him look good, but had to put up with all of his shit. Said he was sorry, so sorry.
"'I can be a son of bitch, I admit it,' he told us. 'But, no more. I'm a changed man, boys. A changed man.... You'll see... God willing... and if I ever get a shot again.'"
Our buddy laughed in memory. "About then," he said, "the waiter comes over and says that Mr. Blake has an important telephone call. So, Bobby excuses himself, gets up and goes with the waiter to wherever the phone was.
"While he was gone, the other guys started saying, Wow, maybe he really has changed... Shit like that. Then Bobby comes back. Huge smile on his face. Rubbing his hands together. He tells us that was his agent on the phone. They'd just done the deal for Joe Dancer. And Bobby was working again.
"Then he sits down, big as you please, looks us all over with a huge shit-eating grin on his puss. And he announces - "'Boys, I've got that old Son Of A Bitch feeling comin' on.'"
Well, we just roared laughter. Sputtered the line again, and again - "Boys, I got that old Son Of A Bitch feelin' comin' on." But then, as the laughter died, we started realizing what we might be coming up against in the near future.
Freddy, bless him, caught our shift in mood.
He said, "Fellas, besides the money, the main thing you've gotta watch out for is to never let Bobby get his leg over you. He says 'Jump,' you don't say, 'How high?' You say, fuck off."
Chris grinned and said, "We can do that."
NEXT: BAD BOY BOBBY REDUX