"A long time ago, when I was just starting out (as a writer), I had the good fortune to meet the great Willa Cather. With all the audacity of youth, I asked her "If you could only give me one rule to follow, what would it be?" She paused, looked down for a moment and finally said, "Never wear brown shoes with a blue suit." From Michael O'Donohuge's "How To Write Good.
* * *
The kid - who looked like Mr. Spock, except he was really fat - said, "I've written, like, dozens of movies, man, and nobody will give me a break. It's like a total Hollywood conspiracy, you know? They make all these lousy science fiction movies that, like, righteously suck. And they totally ignore somebody who tries to give them something that really - you know - rocks as science fiction instead of the crap the Studios keep doing... if you'll pardon my French."
"Which part should we pardon?" Chris asked. "The crap part or the Studio part?"
I said, "He must mean the Studio part, Chris. Crap is a perfectly acceptable word."
The audience laughed and the kid who looked like Mr. Spock, except he was really fat, was pleased. He fingered the pointy tip of one ear, and said, "They keep telling me that I have to have an agent, man. So I tried to get an agent. I tried and tried, but they keep sending my scripts back. I don't think they even read them."
"They don't," I said. "There are certain abasement procedures you absolutely have to undergo before they finally reject you. First you have to send them a letter, begging them to read your script. You also better include return postage and a self-addressed envelope. If you skip the query letter part, they'll automatically ship the script back without reading it."
"Unless you didn't include return postage," Chris said, "in which case, they'll shitcan the script."
A girl in a Yowsa! Princess Lea Slave Girl bikini put hands on rounded hips and said, "Why do we have to have an agent anyway? Seems like an unnecessary middleman to me. Why not just go straight to the Studio?"
There were hot words of agreement from the crowd. Chris and I couldn't really blame them. Every writer questions the need for agents several times during his career. More so at the beginning and the end, than in the middle, when you are too busy hustling gigs to pay much attention to the guys who are snipping ten percent out of every paycheck.
The crowd in question would have looked bizarre anywhere else except at a World Science Fiction Convention - especially a science fiction convention set in New Orleans. This is the same convention where Chris and I, along with Kathryn and Karen, had become lost in the fog on the outskirts of The French Quarter and were rescued by an Inebriated Mime. (See Episode #54 - Chuck Connors Kisses The Ring.)
Most of the people in the audience were dressed as their favorite characters from dozens of science fiction movies and TV series, with Star Trek and Star Wars represented more heavily than most. But they all had at least one thing in common, which is why they'd gather to hear Words Of Wisdom From Bunch & Cole. They'd been terminally stricken with the I-Want-To-Be- In-Pictures bug, which can infect an otherwise perfectly rational person for years - if not a lifetime.
It's a relatively harmless affliction, unlike - say, a heroin or Texas Hold-Em habit. Unfortunately, the cure rate is well below the percentages achieved by substance support groups. (You never hear anyone go: "Hi, I'm Wally. And I'm a Hollywood Writer Wannabee." ... "Hi, Wally!"....)
The cause is simple. Unless they are from another planet, everyone has seen a movie and has watched television and considers Himself/Herself(Herself/Himself!)an expert.
Okay, even people from other planets probably aren't immune. No doubt they can get twenty million, five hundred and sixty-six thousand, and fifty two channels from their endlessly-streaming cable/satellite networks - and there is still nothing the hell on to watch. And their multiplexes were probably designed by somebody out of a Douglas Adams' novel, and plopped in The Mall At The End Of The Universe, and contain an infinite number of rooms with postage-stamp screens and sticky floors. (Don't forget your towels, kids.)
And those aliens probably thought the same thing you did when watching some typically awful production - What Crap! (Or, What Studio!) I can do better than that! The next step - to be avoided at all cost - is to then think: Hell, why don't I give it a try?
Because, Whoops! There you go down the Rabbit Hole to La-La-Land, where only two or three ink-stained wretches ever get the chance to have their keyboards lopped off by the Red Queen of all Showrunners. The rest wander around aimlessly, hoping to bump into the Executioner's Agent, or Michael Ovitz, whichever comes first.
I said, "Think of it as Hollywood's take on Adam and Eve. Without an agent, you don't even get to nibble the apple, much less talk to the snake."
"So, how did you guys get an agent?" somebody in the audience - tall, and furry, so he was probably a Wookie - asked.
Chris said, "We went straight to the Big Man at the Bottom - Satan. Old Scratch. Beelzebub. The Prince Of Fucking Darkness."
"In other words," I said, "we hired a lawyer."
Chris said, "The lawyer read our stuff and got us an agent, who read our stuff, and then got us a job." (See Episode #68 - How Rock Hudson (Sort Of) Helped Us Get An Agent)
"His name was Larry Grossman and he was truly a great agent," I said. "He helped us get our first break. (See Episode #3 - First Blood For Bunch & Cole) He was honest, which is really saying something for an Agent. He cared about us personally, not just as paychecks. He was looking to our future."
"What happened to him?" Somebody shouted. It was the Wookie's companion - R2D2, with fishnet stockings, containing a really nice pair of legs.
Chris said, "We fired his ass."
Silence from the crowd. As well there should have been.
I said, "It was a really stupid thing to do. A fuck-up of the first order. To this day, Chris and I take turns kicking each other's butts for being so incredibly - so royally - dimwitted."
Chris shrugged. "What can we say, except - the Devil made us do it."
Trying to explain the unexplainable, I said, "When you finally do get an agent... and you land your first gig... all those agents who wouldn't talk to you before, are suddenly dying to sign incredible geniuses like yourself."
"They come blowing in your ear," Chris said.
"Whispering sweet nothings over boozy lunches," I said. "Telling you how your present agent really doesn't understand you."
"Pretty soon, they turn your pretty little empty head," Chris said. "And you start believing all their shit." He shook his head in disgust, then added, "It's the Tinsel-Town version of The House Of The Rising Sun."
I said, "First agent we ran away with was a guy named Irv Schechter."
"Big talk, no action," Chris said.
"Then we went with a guy named Scott Penney for awhile," I said.
"Nice guy," Chris said. "But lazy and disorganized."
"After that we really hit the big time," I said. "William Fucking Morris."
"Not nice guys. "Energetically incompetent," Chris said. "Scared of their own shadows."
"Before we came here," I said, "we signed with a guy the jury's still out on, so I won't mention his name. But to give you an idea how long that's going to last - Chris calls him The Weasel."
Titters from the Audience.
"He's got a really fucking whiny voice," Chris said in his own defense.
"But he came highly recommended," I put in.
"He's got sharp little teeth and he's got a long skinny neck and he talks and talks and talks and he's already driving me crazy," Chris said.
"Why'd you hire him?" somebody shouted.
I sighed. "We had to," I said."Chris put a knife in his desk."
Dead silence - except for somebody saying - "Holy Shit."
"I couldn't help it," Chris said."He wouldn't shut the fuck up. And he was using all these Hollywood buzz words... You know, like - take a meeting; and boffo, as in big hit; and tentpole, as in movie sequels; and praisery - as in, the Agency had an in-house PR team; and dramedy, as in a comic drama, or a dramatic comedy. He had no goddamn shame and I had this perfectly good knife in my boot, so I... I..."
"I think you made him piss his pants," I said.
"I know, I know," Chris said mournfully.
"And now he's going all over town bragging to everybody that Chris Bunch stuck a knife in his desk," I said.
"I know, I know," Chris groaned.
"It's his new macho act," I said. "Probably the only one he's ever had. Gets to say, 'Hey, I'm so manly I have a knife scar in my desk from Bunch & Cole."
"I couldn't help it," Chris said.
"Last time we were in," I said, "the Weasel had the hole in his desk framed, that's how proud he is of it,"
"I swear I'll never do it again," Chris said.
I said, "For a minute there, I thought you were going for his heart."
Chris snorted. "An agent? Give me a break, Cole. What fucking heart?"
The audience roared.
NEXT: THE SHE-DEVIL WHO SCARED HELL OUT OF THE HIGHLANDER