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Friday, February 25, 2011


How Many Writers Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?

Answer: Ten.

One to change the light bulb.

Four to say that they'd already had the idea for changing a light bulb, but they didn't want to show anyone what they were doing until they'd polished their light-bulb-changing.

Two to point out that someone else had already changed a light bulb, so changing another one was unoriginal and thus not worthwhile.

Three to call light bulbs a new technology that was going to be catastrophic for traditional candlelight-driven writers.

And one to figure out that writers are lousy at math.

The Producer/Actor graced us with a smile not unlike a cat on the stalk. He said, "I fucking love this script. I'm gonna make it my next picture or my name isn't..." (I'd best not speak the name, Gentle Reader.) He gave us what I now realize was an appraising look, then delivered the four magic words every writer longs to hear: "Who's your agent, boys?"

Except, after our rookie fiasco with Harold (I think) Greene, it was a question we both longed and loathed to hear. (See How Many Agents Does It Take To Screw A Writer?) For the fact of the matter was that we had no answer.

Chris twisted his hair, which was his "tell." While I made with a stony poker-face - which was my "tell," I just didn't know it yet.

The Producer/Actor caught all this in a flash and before we could attempt a stumbling answer, he jumped. "Say, I know you boys are just getting into the game. No problem." He chuckled a deep, throaty chuckle. Unleashed his best Big Screen smile. "It hasn't been so long that I don't remember what it was like trying to land a decent agent."

We were young and dumb enough to breathe sighs of relief. "Thanks," I said. "We had an agent - sort of - for a while, but it didn't work out."

"Hey, you don't have to tell me," the Producer/Actor said. "I have enough spooky Agent stories to scare the panties off Elvira." Another chuckle. "And that wouldn't be such a bad thing, would it?"

We managed our own basso-profundo male-bonding laughs and allowed that it wouldn't.

He said, "Look, we're all gentlemen, here. I respect you boys as artists and I'd like to think you feel the same about my work."

Absolutely, we said.

"Why don't we work something out ourselves," he proposed. "We can come to an agreement on our own. Settle on a fair price. Lift on the whole fucking agent thing. (For film editors, "Lift" means take out.) Just a simple little deal in which everybody comes up winners."

We thought that might be a good idea.

Warming to the subject, he said, "Maybe, drop back at the house next weekend. We'll sit around the pool. Gnosh a little. Hoist a few. Talk about the script. And work out the deal."

"Sounds good," Chris said. I didn't disagree.

We shook and headed for the door. As we were leaving, he added, "It'll be a nice, relaxing little get-together. Just the four of us sitting around the pool."

We stopped and looked back, confused. Both of us did a swift calculation. There was me. And there was Chris. And there was the Producer/Actor. And that made...Geeze, I was no math major, but...

"The four of us?" I asked.

"Sure," the Producer/Actor said. "I'll have my attorney drop by to help us with the deal. Don't worry. I'll spring for his ridiculous fee."

We exited - more than a little numb.

Chris started the car, brow furrowed. He looked over at me, twisting his hair. "Did you hear that? Four of us? Including his fucking attorney?"

Stony-faced, I said, "Yeah, I heard."

We headed out of Bel Air, winding down through the canyons, past all the zillion dollar homes, then made our way back to Chris' house in Manhattan Beach, where the breeze was salty fresh, and the off-duty Stewardesses paraded along the Strand in bright little cover-ups worn over skimpy bikinis

But any Girl Gazing that went on that day was just an automatic Guy-Thing. There was no joy in it. In fact, silence reigned all the way from Bel Air to Manhattan Beach. Odd for Bunch & Cole, because we usually talked a mile-a-minute, slinging about a non-stop blizzard of ideas and observations. It had been so since high school, where we first met in our senior year. (See Fade In: Bunch & Cole)

This time, however, we were both running the meeting over in our minds and coming to similar conclusions.

"That attorney business," Chris said - flat, not a question.

"Yeah." Equally as flat.

He's planning to fuck us," Chris said.


"If we go there without somebody on our side," he said, "we deserve to get fucked."


"Do you think he's going to supply the KY jelly?"

"If he does," I said, "it'll probably have sand in it."

Chris nodded. Solemn. There was nothing funny about the situation.

"If we had the money," I said, "I'd say we'd best rustle up an attorney of our own."

Another long silence.

We were pulling onto his street to begin the search for parking (always a struggle in a beach town), when Chris finally said, "I just signed a contract with Peterson. (They published repair manuals for cars and motorcycles, among other things.) A chapter for each of their bike books on how to make your motorcycle go fast. Pays two grand a pop."

"Yeah, you mentioned that," I replied. "It's a helluva deal." (In those days, Chris was a successful free-lancer, writing for everything from motorcycle magazines to Look, to Popular Science, to Rolling Stone. While I worked for a typically shit-paying newspaper and was going through the bank-and-ball-busting throes of divorce.)

"If you can find us an entertainment type attorney, I'll spring got it," he said. "You can pay me back from the deal money."

"What if we don't get the deal?"

Chris shrugged. "Pay me back when we do get one. Okay?"

I thought a minute, then nodded. "Okay."

The next day I consulted with my assistant city editor, the late Stella Zadeh, who became a successful Hollywood agent herself some years later. Stella had previously been my court reporter and with our newspaper's Santa Monica dateline, she'd dealt with every sort of high profile case imaginable.. She immediately thought of someone she'd met during Steve McQueen's divorce fiasco; called the guy, who just so happened to be an attorney at Mictchell Silberberg & Knupp, the el-primo entertainment law firm to this very day.

This was a guy who probably charged a couple of grand an hour (expensive even today... Stratospheric in 1976) but he had just the fellow to help us who was on a lower rung of the firm, but still pretty pricy. I called the guy - whose name I unfortunately can't remember, because he did more than save our butts - and he said he'd handle the deal for an upfront retainer of $1,500.

Chris paid the man, we explained the problem, and he said never mind the meeting - that'd wipe out our deposit and then some - and that he'd call the Producer/Actor and work out a decent deal. Before that, however, he sent a messenger over to get a copy of the script - on his dime. Then read it - also on his dime.

"The sucker reads," Chris said. "It's fucking amazing, is what it is." (Later, we learned that for a Suit to actually read was not only amazing, but unheard of.)

The whole thing became even more incredible when the attorney handled the whole deal in less than an hour, got us ten grand for a one-year option, fifteen for a second. The Producer/Actor kicked - that's more than he wanted to spend to outright Buy the damned thing, never mind option it. But he paid up, and although he never did make the movie, he renewed for a second year and the movie has been in and out of option with various companies ever since.

Will it ever get made? "One of these days." Four not-so-magical words also in every writer's lexicon. (What's a Suit's four favorite words? "Check's in the mail.")

A little later, the attorney called back, asked if he could see more of our scripts - something we were happy to do. Then he asked us if we'd heard the new(ish) Eagles Album - Desperado. Boy, did we. Great album, based on the infamous Old West exploits of the Doolin and Daltin gang. Not only that, during Chris' brief career as "The world's worst Rock And Roll PR man" (his words) he'd been one of the guys who repped the band and got on wonderfully with them.

The attorney was delighted. "What would you think of writing a movie based on the album?" he asked.

Oh, ho, ho. Would we! Tell us more.

He did. Seemed that he was on the Mitchell Silberberg legal team that advised The Eagles. And the word had come down that they were anxious to do a film based on Desperado. If he could deliver, he'd look like a hero.

Well, we made him a hero - whipping out a thirty-page treatment in a couple of weeks. He loved it, punted it forward, and was told that The Eagles were delighted with the treatment as well. (No, it too was never made. And probably never will.) Then, the attorney did an astounding thing - he sent us all but $300 of the $1,500 retainer back. Said, that was all the time he needed on the movie option deal. Then he invited us to dinner.

Dinner was at the late - very much lamented - Le Sueur's Restaurant, in the Valley. The attorney brought his lovely wife. Chris was with whomever he was seeing at the time. And I was flying solo. Dinner was great. I had something stuffed with truffles. The wine was suitably elderly. And the dinner talk was stimulating, and so on.

But the highlight of the little party were the attorney's opening words. "Read your scripts. Very impressive. You boys are major talents, just waiting to be discovered."

We blushed and did the humble aw-shucks routine, but the thing is, we both very much believed this to be true.

"I was so impressed," the attorney continued, "that I took the liberty of sending them to an agent friend - suggesting that he might want to represent you. He called me today and thanked me for the introduction. I expect you'll be hearing from him in a day or two. His name is Larry Grossman."


Just plain - Wow!

Man, was our day made. Hell, our Whole Year was made.

Afterwards the conversation turned to things literary, and the attorney's wife proved to be a not only well-read, but Ivy League college well-read. Very stimulating conversation.

Then there were the usual Hollywood stories people in The Business tell. The attorney told an amusing tale. The wife told about her college roommate who was now a famous actress. And Chris told the one about Ray Charles - he was on the PR team that represented that great showman and musician.

Chris said, "I was doing one of those routine interviews PR companies do, in hopes we can plant something in the Press. Ray was a helluva nice guy and went out of his way to make me feel important - young punk that I was.

"Near the end, I asked him the usual J-School Final Question - 'What was your most embarrassing experience?'

"Ray didn't even have to think. He said, 'That would be my first concert tour to Seattle.' Ray laughed a little, remembering, then said, 'In those days, I'd never played to a Really White Audience, you know. And Seattle, they tell me, is Really White.

"'Anyway, I get the introduction, the crowd's applauding and then I come hustling out to my piano. I do my usual opener - standing up at the keyboard... I slam out a few chords, real loud and I shout, GIMME A YEAH!

"'And the audience comes back... Yessssssss! Just like that: Yesssssssssssssss!

"'Man, blind as I am, I knew that there was nothing but a sea of white faces out there. Yesssss!'"

We all laughed and then it was my turn. As it happened, a young actress I knew had just attended a boisterous Hollywood party.

I told my dinner companions: "She said that about an hour or so into the party the band struck up a big Flourish to get everyone's attention. Then, to everyone's surprise, they start playing 'Here Comes The Bride.'

"The actress said, 'Well, we all looked up on stage, where a spotlight was playing, and who should we see standing there - dressed in a full-out Bridegroom Tux - but Rock Hudson!'"

The attorney's wife broke in, cooing, "Oh, I just love Mr. Hudson. Such a handsome man. And he seems so... I don't know... charming." Then she frowned. "But you said they were playing the Wedding March? Was he getting married, or something? I didn't hear anything about that."

I said, "Well, here's what the lady said happened... She said Rock was standing there with a big smile, and then the Here Comes The Bride music gets louder and out sweeps this woman in full bridal regalia. White on white on white. Long train, carried by some young guys in Tuxes. And a very heavy white veil.

"'The Bride goes up to Rock, lifts the veil a little to give him a kiss, replaces it... puts an arm through his, then they both turn to face the audience.

"'And the bride pulls the veil aside and who should we see, but Jim Nabors! And he had that huge grin Jim Nabors has. And then he shouts, 'Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!'"

Everybody at the table laughed, but the laugh from the attorney's wife was half-hearted. She seemed disappointed. She said, "Do you mean that Rock Hudson is..."

"Gay?" Chris broke in. "Absolutely."

At the time Rock's sexuality was known only to some of the people in the industry. If it had been widely known in those barbaric days, his career as a leading man would have been over. And, I'm not too sure how well it would go over even now. There's a lot of lip service in the Industry to certain things, like treating human beings like human beings, but many times this is plain old-fashioned artifice.

Anyway, the attorney's wife was still puzzling over my little story. The check came, the bill was paid (the bill for our dinner was well-over what we had paid the attorney for his services) and we exited that most excellent restaurant.

Outside, a small crowd was gathered for the valets to fetch their cars and the attorney's wife was shaking her head and saying, "Well, I just had no idea. I mean, he was so wonderfully romantic in all those Doris Day movies. And now, there's McMillan And Wife, with Susan St. James. They look so... well, Natural together."

She paused, then said... "Are you sure he's... you know...."

Chris laughed, and said, "Everybody knew about Rock Hudson at the PR company where I worked. In fact, there was a story going around that he had some surgical work done to... well... let's just say... increase his size. And I don't mean his height."

The attorney's wife gasped, but it was with a touch of a giggle. "You mean he had his... you know..."

"Pee-pee enlarged?' Chris finished for her. "Yeah, that's what they were all saying. That Rock Hudson had some specialist, shall we say... enhance his manhood."

Just then a voice - a strangely, and, under the circumstances, scarily familiar voice - said, "Excuse us, please."

We turned, and who should we see but Rock Hudson! In the damned flesh!

He smiled at us, then strode out to a long limo that had just pulled up. He was flanked by two very young, very handsome, and very gay companions.

The attorney's wife looked at Rock climbing into the limo with his boyfriends. Then at Chris.

Chris said, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!"



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort.  However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out.  Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think. And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, February 18, 2011


How many agents does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A1: Sorry, we're not screwing in any new light bulbs anymore. But have you considered turning your light bulb into maybe... a candle?

A2: Oh yes, I screwed in your light bulb, but I haven't had a chance to turn it on yet. I'll get to it as soon as possible. It's just that we're already sitting under too much light.

A3: Loved your light bulb. Great light. Lots of illumination. Unfortunately, the agency's decided to remain in the dark indefinitely.


THE WEASEL'S WHINY VOICE was made whinier by the speaker phone. He said, "I'm really sorry guys - I just got the word that Knight Rider is all booked up. But, if there's a pickup you'll be the first-"

Chris cut in. "What the fuck do you mean, you just got the Word?"

I jumped in before Chris reached through the phone and ripped the Weasel's head off. As I've said before: information first, then head-ripping, that's my motto.

I said, "We got the tip three weeks ago. Which means they've been taking meetings from writers all this time. Why the hell are they just calling you back now?"

"Yeah, fucking now?" Chris said, making a weird sort of sense.

Silence. A strange reaction from the Weasel, an agent who talked a-mile-a-minute, sounding a lot like Alvin The Chipmunk, and with so many superlatives and industry buzz words thrown in that it almost made you understand what it's like for enemy troopies when American Puffships open up with their chain-guns. INCOMING!

"Hello," I said. "You with us?"

Finally, the Weasel squeaked, "Well, it's like this, guys, I've been really busy with this big project at the agency and I was forced to spend more face time than phone time on things, and then there were all those meetings I had to take and after that-."

"Aw, Jesus!" Chris cut in. "That was a sure deal. Money on the fucking hoof. The producers there fucking love us."

"Well, you never know for sure... " the Weasel said, "and they promised that if they got a pickup that you would be the very-"

But now it was my turn to cut in. "We'll get back to you," I said. And we got the hell off the phone.

We sat there stewing for a few minutes. The Weasel, whose name I will not reveal to protect the guilty, had just made at minimum a ten thousand dollar screw-up. Chris had dubbed him The Weasel and The Weasel he shall remain forever in my mind.
If you read Sten #3 - The Court Of A Thousand Suns - you'll see his actual name there, although with a Sci-Fi spelling. (E-BOOK. AUDIOBOOK.) The Wease is the sneaky, double-dealing, "wee bomber't," that Sten and Alex Kilgour pursue for half the book. In the end we tormented him without mercy, then brain burned the son of a bitch. Fuck with Bunch & Cole, will you?

Neither of us believed for a minute that the Weasel had forgotten anything, or had been too busy to make the call. We'd had the feeling before that he was taking some of our tips for hot writing gigs and calling on behalf of his other clients, instead of us. Made him look good on our backs, and bank accounts. It wasn't anything we could prove, but several producers - particularly our buddy Al Godfrey - had said that this was more than likely going on.

I went out to the kitchen, made up a couple of Cups Of Kindness, then returned. Chris was staring off in the distance, thinking. He absently nodded thanks, took a drink and I sat behind my keyboard and lowered the level of my own Scotch.

Finally, Chris said, "You know, the swallows have returned to Capistrano."

I said, "Yeah, read it in the paper this morning. They were a little late this year. And there were fewer of them. Paper speculated that their nests are being disturbed by urban sprawl."

"And another thing," Chris said, "I read a couple of days ago that the buzzards have come back to Hinckley, Ohio."

I said, "No surprise there. They show up in Hinckley about the same time the swallows hit Capistrano."

"You're not getting my point," Chris said, the light suddenly switching on in his eyeballs, and swiveling in his chair to face me.

"Apparently not," I replied. "What is your point, other than ornithological migratory patterns?"

Chris said, "I've long noticed that every year the swallows come back to Capistrano, the buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio, and Bunch & Cole fire their fucking agent."

I got it. "In other words, you think it's time to Rider-W The Weasel's ass."

Rider-W is a clause in the Screen Writer Guild's Agent-Client agreement that allows a writer to tear up his contract for too many reasons to cite in this short space. Besides, unless you are a writer desperate to escape your own agent bondage, it'll bore you to tears.

We had even perfected a form letter to invoke this clause:

To The Attention Of (Insert asshole agent's name)

As of this date (insert date) we are invoking the Rider W clause in the WGA agent-writers agreement, to terminate your services.

Allan Cole & Chris Bunch

And that, was fucking it. No hint at what Rider-W even meant. But as Chris said, "Let 'em get off their dead asses and look up the clause for themselves." We both knew that agents thought the Guild was an unnecessary hindrance to their real goal, which was to please the Boss Class as much as possible, and screw the client who was, after all, just a weird writer guy, most likely with a drinking problem. (Or, as Poet Dylan Thomas so aptly put it, "I'm a drinker with a writing problem.")

Of course, the agents always kicked. Whining phone calls that would shame even The Weasel. (Okay, I'm going too far there. The Weasel had no shame.) The whining would be followed by angry threats - if we fired them they'd still get the commissions from any work produced by the following people... And then they'd list everybody we had known since Jack Klugman was kind enough to give us our first break. (See Jack Klugman - The K.O. Kid) Naturally, this was bullshit. Mainly, we brought the Showrunners and other contacts to the Agency, not the other way around. Considering that Chris and I sold like two Furies, it was a big loss to the agency. In short, for a change they were royally screwed, not the client.

But, as my old partner also used to say, "Fuck 'em, if they can't take a joke."

And so, on that particular day, we got out our Rolodexes and started making a list of agencies we thought might make us a buck or three, and of producers and fellow writers to call to see what they thought of their own personal Ten Percenters.

Now, don't get me wrong. I've been honorably represented in Tinsel Town for nearly twenty years by Lew Wieztman, bossman of Preferred Artists. (The only Hollywood agent I've ever met who actually Reads.) And I've had the same literary agents - Russ Galen (U.S.) and Danny Baror (Foreign) since Chris and I first broke into the book business. (Literary agents almost always Read. The reason for this discrepancy is that most Hollywood agents went to some Bean Counting School, with a minor in son-of-a-bitchedness; while Literary agents were usually Liberal Arts majors, with minors - like Russ - in things like Russian literature. Lew, by the way, has the fascinating avocation of being an Internationally renowned amateur Barbershop Quartette performer.)

Anyway, before our fortuitous introduction to Lew many years into the game, Agent Madness ruled the day.

I began these MisAdventures with The Blond All Over Lady And The Lion, the tale of one of our early attempts to land an agent. It's a pretty amusing story, but if you read between the lines you'll maybe see just how desperate Chris and I were to find representation.

Everybody will tell you that you can't work without an agent, and no agent will take you, unless you have work experience. Well, Everybody is right. What they don't tell you, is that there are worse things than the above-mentioned Literary Catch-22. Because, once you've landed an agent, ten will get you twenty that he'll turn out to be exactly the wrong guy. And if you're not careful he'll sink your career before you get started. (I say "He" because most of the breed are of that sex. And don't think the "She" agents are any better. They are not.)

Before we got our break, I used to swing by Chris' house after work, where'd we would put in another five or six hours writing scripts, book proposals, and dialing for agents. (On Monday, my day off, we'd put in a full eight hours or more.)

One day, when I rode up on my motorcycle, Chris was out by the garage tightening the chain of his beautifully chopped Kawasaki Z - which had been blown out from 900 cc's to something that would do an honest 150 miles an hour, with quite a bit of goose left in the throttle. (Don't sneer. This was 1976 and a 150-mph motorcycle was damned good. Didn't stop worth shit, but it sure could go.)

He rose from his task, wiping grease from his hands, a big grin pasted on his face. "Shit fire, Cole and the save the matches," he said. "Think I got us an actual agent."

This was, indeed, momentous news. While I helped him put stuff away, he explained.

"Guy's name is Harold Greene." (I'm pretty sure that was the agent's name... it has been so long I'm not sure. But whatever his name, in his day he was well known. For most writers, landing him would be a big catch.) "We sent him some of our stuff a couple of weeks ago, remember?"

I certainly did. In those days, we believed (wrongly) that our scripts had to be presented with a trick cover, purchased at great expense from a Hollywood script copying company, who also made duplicates of the scripts for us. We thought it made us look more "professional." In point of fact, it just showed what Rubes we were. If the agents sent out the script to potential buyers, they discarded the cover, made many, many ink-smeared copies on a lousy Xerox machine and Bob's Your Uncle. (The one you avoided at family gatherings when you were a kid.)

Also, just the trip to the post office for the mailing had been a big deal. We saw that simple act as a possible breakthrough. You see, no legitimate agent will even consider talking to a Writer Wannabe, unless they've seen some material that impresses them. Remembering, of course, that in the first place, almost nobody will deign to even glance at a hit letter offering to send samples of your work. The polite ones will have their "girls" reply with a boiler-plate letter (e-mail, these days) explaining that the agency is not taking on "new talent at this time." The rude ones won't bother replying. Most of the ones that do get back to you, have a sneaky hand out to stick in your pocket. (First rule of professional writing: If anybody asks you for money, run, don't walk, to the nearest exit. The whole idea is that People Pay You, not the other way around. If they want your money for any reason whatsoever, they are thieves. There are no exceptions to this rule.)

But back to Harold (I think) Greene. Chris said, "He sounded like an okay guy on the phone. Kind of brusque, but after dealing with all these mealy mouths, it was refreshing."

"So, he liked our stuff?" I said.

Chris chuckled, and said, "Here's how old Harold put it. He said - Read your shit and it's not as bad as some of the crap that's crossed my desk."

I got my back up. "Well, fuck him," I said. "We worked our asses off on that shit. How dare he..." I stopped, realized what I was saying, then laughed.

"Let's get a drink," I said. "Tell me all about it."

In the house, a pair of Scotches standing guard in front of us, Chris filled me in. "The script that really caught his eyes was Wolves That Remain." This was an SF piece we'd done - an after-the-fall sort of thing with a pretty cool hero, a damned good McGuffin, a worthy villain, and lots of bang-bangs, you're fucking dead!

Chris added, "Old Harold said he had a producer who does - and I quote - bullshit like that - and might be interested."

"Does that mean he wants to sign us?" I asked, torn between hopefulness - we'd maybe finally landed an Actual Agent - and did I really want a guy who called our Shit, shit?"

Chris shrugged. "Said he'd rep us on this deal and if it worked out, he'd see if he wanted to stick with us."

Still wary, I said, "Did you tell him that we might be newbies, but we were By God WGA Member-newbies. And will not only demand, but are required to demand, Guild minimum on any deal?"

We'd qualified for membership in the Screenwriter's Guild (WGAW) through the sale of a movie about the Lost Dutchman mine. The movie was never made - but it still got our WGA ticket punched and offset the staggering cost of joining the Guild. Oh, yeah. Another thing you need to know. If you want to work as a writer in La-La-Land you not only have to have an agent, but be a member of the WGA. As you may gather, the roadblocks to success as a screenwriter are rather formidable. Our wise old producer buddy Al Godfrey used to say, "Success in This Town is ten percent talent and 90 percent Tenacity."

"I told him all that," Chris said. "And he said if we checked our WGA deal book there's a newbie clause. Producers get to pay you fifty percent of the minimum on the first two deals."

"We got full boat for the Dutchman," I said.

"I told him that too," Chris said. "The clause still holds. And since the guy who will probably buy Wolves is a low bucks producer, part of Old Harold's selling point will be that he'll get fifty percent off the going price."

I thought a minute. But, not more. A hundred percent of Zero Equals Zero. 'Nough said - or, more accurately - Nought Said. And the big plus was that it just might lead us one step closer to Every Writer's Dream.

You see how they've got you by the short and curlies before you even start, Gentle Reader? A writer (or artist of any kind) is looking to fulfill a dream. You want to make a living, to be sure. Pay the rent or mortgage. Put shoes on your kids' feet. Get your wife a second frock, and so on. The flip side of the coin is The Guys Who Do The Buying. They are only looking to fatten their bank accounts, never mind the Dreams Of Art, bee-ess. (In the old days, Buyers were called "Impresarios." They were still all money-grubbing bastards, but they were, at heart, Showmen.)

The guy we were to meet with was a low bucks producer/director by the name of Robert Hartford-Davis. He specialized in scary movies, Sci-Fi movies, car-chase movies, and Black Exploitation movies, which were all the rage then. (Guys, if you've never seen the Pam Grier in "Foxy Brown" and movies of that ilk, hit this minute. Then see why Tarantino loved Ms. Grier so much that he made her the star of his classic: Jackie Brown.)

Come the day of the meeting, we made our first trip to MGM. Okay, it was my second trip, Chris' first. I'd met with Logan's Run director Michael Anderson in a screening room at MGM when he was finalizing the scoring of the film. The meeting was due to chance, and Anderson's kindness. We'd been introduced at a party for the Surgical Tech Advisor for M.A.S.H. (the movie, not the TV series) and I'd convinced him to read one of our scripts. At the meeting he said he liked the script, and would see what he could do. In other words, don't hold your breath, kid. But he did it in a very nice way that was actually encouraging.


The surgical tech advisor I was speaking of, was one Dr. David Sachs, a famous heart transplant surgeon and professor at UCLA Medical School. (This was in the early transplant days, so the fame was even wider than today.) He had a brief appearance in the film as a surgical-masked face bent over a patient whose chest was being cracked by either Eliot Gould, or Donald Sutherland, I forget which.

Anyway, Dr. Sachs became so enamored with Hollywood he was convinced that he was only a few PR Shout Outs from becoming a leading-man-type Movie Star. (Eat your heart out, Clark Gable) He just about abandoned his practice, took leave from the university, and hired a PR man, a manager... the full boat. The party in Bel Air that I attended was as a newspaper man looking for material for my daily column.

Sachs' dream never got off the ground and he was later arrested on suspicion of supplying (for free) pharmaceutical-grade cocaine to Hollywood types he was trying to impress. Sort of the medical version of the casting couch, but with prison time attached.

Besides meeting the nice Mr. Anderson I got two gifts from that party. The initial column about the famous heart surgeon giving it all up for (self) promised Big Screen glory. And the follow-up column after the good doctor was made to do the Perp Walk. (That's how The Media works. We build you up, then take you down. We get the sales both ways.)


Hartford-Davis was a red-faced British rogue who looked more like a Fleet Street hack than a movie director. We quite liked him. He had a young man with male-model looks for a "personal assistant," and a younger, West Hollywood surfer dude type with blond streaks in his hair for a gofer. He also had a wealth of Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward jokes, and delighted us with them over several meetings.

The main thing, though was that Hartford-Davis was a "Theaters-And-Drive-Ins Near-You" pro from way back and was hellishly good at scanning a script, running a budget calculator in his mind, and spotting those popcorn-sales-killing soft spots in a scene all at the same time.

He sat at his desk and we stood on either side of him while he flipped through the pages, scratching out entire scenes, scribbling a few words of transition, making this quick suggestion and that, and in less than an hour he was handing us back the script, and telling us to go thou and write. In other words, we were officially hired.

Chris and I were suitably impressed and edified. We went thou and wrote, got more notes, did another draft, then another, and another until Hartford-Davis said we'd finally gotten it - if not right, close enough for Horseshoes, Hand Grenades and the Drive-In circuit. Writing many drafts of a script or a book is a drag, but it is a necessary part of the process, and besides, we got a crash course in Film Writing for free. Never mind it was a cheapie shoot'em-up. The same basic rules apply for a classy drama, or flatulent-ridden teenage comedy.

And thank the gods for that lesson, because it's the only thing we got out of it. You see, there was a wee problem with the money. Which was not revealed until Mr. Hartford-Davis fell over with a heart attack.

Oh, yeah.

He wasn't dead, just sidelined for a few years until The Ultimate Executive Producer eventually called him to that Great Movie Set In The Sky, where he is no doubt surrounded by handsome-young Angels and entertaining them with Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde jokes.

About the money problem: At the start, old Harold had told us that they'd come to an agreement about the price - half of whatever Guild minimum was in those days for a low bucks movie. Usually, you are paid a certain percentage down for the story, another percentage for the completed first draft screenplay, and a final percentage for the completion of a second draft and a polish.

For obvious reasons, in this case the story money was due the moment we gave Hartford-Davis our screenplay of Wolves That Remain. Then we'd written not just a first draft off that screenplay, but also a second draft and many, many drafts more and never mind the polish because we rewrote the sucker once or twice after that.

Meanwhile, we were on the phone a couple times a week with Old Harold asking about the payments. The calls usually went like this:

Chris: Did we ever get that check from Hartford-Davis?

Old Harold: Don't worry, boys. I got that shit covered.

Me: What about the contract? We haven't seen it yet.

Old Harold: Contract? Shit, that's no biggie. We settled on the price, that's the main thing. And, get this, I got you boys a nice fucking bonus when he shoots your piece of shit.

Chris: What do you mean, the contract's no biggie? We've been writing our asses off and haven't seen a dime. And no words on paper promising same.

Me: Did he even sign the contract yet?

Old Harold: Not his fault. I've gotta get my girl to whip up a Deal Letter.

Chris: Deal letter? What's that? Like a contract or something?

Old Harold: (sarcastic chuckle) Man, you guys are really fucking green. Don't worry about that shit. I've seen cases where whole movies were shot and delivered before a contract even showed up. We've got Bobby's (Hartford-Davis) fucking word. That's good enough for me.

Me: Yeah, but do you have his check? I'd feel a whole lot better if we were banking some of his Good Word.

Old Harold: (tired sigh) Okay, boys. I'll hustle things along. Now, you go make those fucking changes he asked for.

And, once again, Old Harold would brush us off.

Come the day when we see in Variety that Robert Hartford-Davis of "Black Gunn" and "Bloodsuckers" fame was recovering in Saint Joseph's Hospital (a Santa Monica hospital favored by Hollywood types) from a heart attack. And all of his projects had been put on "hiatus." A list of titles followed. And, guess what? Ours was not among them.

We sent flowers and a nice note to the hospital, (despite the problems we really did like the guy) then called Old Harold.

Old Harold: Ah, fucking fuck, boys. I heard about poor Bobby. A shame. A real fucking shame.

Me: We sent flowers.

Old Harold: Good idea. I'll get my girl to send around some posies too.

Chris: What about our fucking money, Harold?

Old Harold: (sighing) Yeah, yeah. I was gonna call you about that... Never did get that deal letter signed, you know?

Me: Did you even send it?

Old Harold: (sounding shocked - Shocked!) Jesus, Allan. What do you think I am? Been in this business for Twenty fucking years, for Christ's sake.

Me: Should I take that as a Yes?

Old Harold: Well, there were certain little contingencies that we hadn't gotten straight yet. And then we had to-

Chris: (Breaking in) Aw, fuck!

Me: Talk to you later, Harold.

Old Harold: Yeah, guys, let's do lunch soon and maybe we can talk about some of your other shit. Probably something in there - you never can tell.

We hung up. Never did lunch. Never spoke with Old Harold again.

And, once again, we were two writers Desperately Seeking An Agent.



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort.  However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out.  Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think. And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, February 11, 2011


"I am involved in a freedom ride protesting the loss of the minority rights belonging to the few remaining earthbound stars. All we demand is our right to twinkle.
.....Marilyn Monroe

"Where are the real stars? Today it`s four-barreled carburetor and that`s it."
...............Robert Mitchum

"Bogart's a helluva nice guy until around 11:30 every night. After that he thinks he's Bogart."
............David Chasen - Founder of Chasen's Restaurant, Circa 1950's.

* * *



"I've been fortunate enough to work with - and befriend - many of the stars of the past," Julie Adams said, crossing her long fine legs. "I'm doubly blessed to be able to count a few of them as dear, dear friends."

Julie was visiting us in our office at Code Red, a series helmed by Irwin (The Towering Toupee) Allen, which was so dismal that even Julie and her co-star, Lorne Greene, couldn't rescue it. (See Episode #36 - Julie Adams: The Lady Even Movie Monsters Fell For. For the full Hollywood Monte of Code Red, check out Episodes #28 through #37 of The MisAdventures Thus Far)

"Who was your favorite?" I asked.

Julie smiled, and said, "Oh, I couldn't choose any particular one. And there were so many stars in Hollywood those days. When I was at MGM the studio's motto was that 'There are more stars at MGM, than in all the heavens.' A publicist's concoction, for sure. But when you were walking around the lot seeing them all, it didn't seem like such an exaggeration."

She leaned forward, voice becoming conspiratorial. "I wouldn't want to diminish the talents or screen presence of the new generation," she said, "But stars were... well... actually Stars, in those days. There's really no comparison."

Warming to the topic, she said, "I like to count Shirley (MacLaine) among my friends - we met at MGM... she was doing a romantic comedy, I was doing a Western... and I remember this delicious story she liked to tell.

"You might not know this, but Shirley was an unofficial member of Frank's (Sinatra) Rat Pack. A lot of actresses like to claim membership these days. But there were really only a few - 'Broads,' as Frank might say - who were welcome members of the Pack.

"Lauren Bacall was the Rat Pack's 'Den Mother,' because the original chief rat packer was her husband, Bogie. (Humphrey Bogart)." Julie gave a little musical laugh. "And there was Judy Garland, of course. If for no other reason than she was Judy Garland.

"And, of course, there was Shirley. You can't imagine... She's lovely now, of course. Beautiful, talented, and oh, so sweet. But when she was young.... Well, she had this quality - she could stop a man's heart with a look. Or stir the mothering urge in a woman."

Chris laughed. "She stopped my teenage heart a helluva lot," he said. "She has this... quality... on the screen."

"Star quality," Julie agreed. "Which brings me back to my story - or, Shirley's story, really. She and some of the other rat packers were having lunch at the MGM commissary one day.

"Frank was there, of course...And Dean (Martin) and Sammy (Davis Jr.) and Peter (Lawford), naturally. She didn't mention Joey (Bishop), so I suppose he wasn't in attendance.

"Well Shirley said Frank was at his best. Cracking jokes, trading jibes with the others. She said he was so full of life that day, his eyes so blue they would break your heart. And you could see right then why so many people - especially women - adored him.

"But, then Frank spotted someone coming into the commissary and suddenly fell silent. Shirley and all the other looked, and in came Clark Gable!

She said he looked so handsome... so... so... Clark Gable that she had to catch her breath. He walked right by their table, turned slightly and flashed them that glorious Gable smile in greeting. And then he vanished among the tables.

"And Shirley said she heard Frank murmur in absolute awe: 'Now, there goes a Real Star!"

Julie chuckled that musical chuckle she had. And she repeated, "'There goes a Real Star....' "And from the mouth of one of the greatest."

* * *

I'll always remember that conversation, and the prickles running up my spine listening to how Frank Sinatra, a star himself, was overwhelmed by the likes of Gable, and, presumably others like him in those days now known as Hollywood's Golden Era.

And I think of it often when I hear people call this actor, or that actress, a Superstar. We seem to confer that status on anyone who is the latest box office and scandal sheet darling. In many cases, the person's sole talent is the ability to avoid falling over cables while posing before a Blue Screen. Not just a Star - but a By God Superstar. One word! Not two.

The Age Of Aquarius has instead become the Age Of Empty Superlatives.

So, what's a Real Star? I guess it's like the guy said about art - "I know it when I see it." (Or was he speaking about porn?) Here's a page from my own scrapbook of Star memories:

When I was about twenty or so, I took care of Jack Kelly's house (the other Maverick) for a few months while he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Donna, went through the throes of divorce (Donna Kelly's stage name was May Wynn. A former Copa Girl, Donna was also known for her small part as the only woman in the Caine Mutiny and as the (not-so) former girlfriend of Mafioso Boss Jack Entratter, who ran the Sands, in Las Vegas. (Entratter reportedly put a "hit" order out on Jack when he and Donna eloped. They fled to Hong Kong, where they cooled their heels while doing an awful movie - the aptly named "Hong Kong Affair.")

The Kellys had three poodles - a standard, Misty, a medium sized one, Sammy, and a tiny one, Mitzy that suffered epileptic fits, poor thing. One of my jobs was to exercise them a couple of times a day, being extra careful with Mitzy.

The Kelly's lived on Sunset Boulevard in a stretch where a lot of stars had homes - Jayne Mansfield's house was two doors up. Beyond her was Jim Backus. And next door to Mr. Magoo was none other than Walter Matthau.


I used to have friends over and we'd sit in the windowed breakfast nook that looked out on Sunset Boulevard, drinking frozen daiquiris and playing cards. When the Star Tour buses went by, pausing to show off the home of TV star Jack Kelly, we'd wave at the tourists and give them a thrill! ("Oh, look, Myrtle, that must be Jack Kelly and his chums!")


Mr. Matthau had dog-walking chores of his own and we'd pass each other now and again, strolling along the back gate of UCLA. (Sometimes you'd see Elvis Presley out on the field playing touch football with his entourage.) Anyway, Matthau would pass by, nod in greeting and say, "Hello, young fella," and continue on,

Years later Chris and I landed a Story Editor gig at MGM. (See The Movie Rock Mogul) One day we were standing in line at the commissary cash register, (the very same one in the Gable story) waiting to be seated, when in walked Walter Matthau.

He hesitated, looked out across the room, spotted the people he was meeting, and started toward them. But, then he noticed me. Paused for a minute. Frowned that patented Matthau-Beagle frown.

Then his eyes lit up and he said, "You're the kid with the poodles, right?"

I was so star struck all I could stammer was "Yessir, Mr. Matthau," and he gave me a smile and continued on - with that long, loping Matthau stride.

Damn. Now there was a Real Star.

But, that's not all, folks.

A few years drifted by. A young actress friend (Laurie Prange) landed the ingénue part in Sean O'Casey's Juno And The Paycock, starring none other than the original Odd-Couple - Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon.

It was at the LA Music Center downtown and our friend left four tickets at the box office for me and Chris, his true love, Karen, and my wife, Kathryn. During intermission, Laurie came to escort us backstage to meet Matthau and Lemon. (I hadn't told Laurie that Matthau and I had sort of met before.)

She led us to the dressing room, and the two of them were in there, door open, joking with each other and passing a bottle of Scotch back and forth. Half in and half out of costume, makeup smeared. Talking to beat the band to keep revved up.

Laurie introduced us and right away Matthau recognized me, poked Lemon, and said, "Hey, Jack, it's the Poodles Kid."

Then he explained how we used to walk our dogs together on Sunset, making it sound way more than it was, but making me feel like a king.

Then he said, "You doing okay, Kid?"

I said I was a writer now and he said "Good for you," and that was that. We tactfully withdrew, then went back out to enjoy the remainder of the play.

To echo Sinatra once more, "There goes a Real Star."



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort.  However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out.  Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think. And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, February 4, 2011


NOTE FROM ALLAN: I'm posting this MisAdventure rerun in dishonor of Carlos Lehder's birthday, Sept. 7, 1947. Last I heard he was still "entertaining" friends at a Federal Pen. 
"I consider myself just another member of the crew. But, the highest paid member of the crew."
.............Director William Friedkin

The DEA agent said, "So there I was in this motel in Haiti, a girl who was not my wife in the shower, suffering from the hangover from hell, when some son of a bitch starts hammering on the God damned door."

Chris said, "But you were armed, right? Even though the local cops were dirty, they let you keep your piece, yeah?"

The DEA agent nodded. He said, "I took it with me to answer door. First I peeked through the curtains. I figured it was probably the Perp I was after and a couple of his Cracker thugs come to say good morning."

I said, "Like maybe you'd blown your cover at the disco the night before? Even though you'd taken a whore home with you."

The DEA agent sighed. "Yeah, even after doing that." He stubbed out his cigarette and lit another. He said, "Some guys, when you're hunting them, get prickles up the back of their neck, even if they don't know for a fact that you're there."

Chris said, "In Snake Eater's School they taught us that the first rule of the ambush is to never stare at the enemy. Just quick looks until you are ready to shoot." He shrugged. "Critters - even human-type critters - can sense when you are looking at them with ill intent on your mind."

"Yeah, like that," the DEA agent said.

"So was it the bad guys?" I asked.

The DEA agent snorted. "Depends on your definition of bad. The guy at the door was the Port Au Prince police chief who'd given me the brush off before. Him, and a couple of Haitian plainclothes cops. Mirrored sun glasses. Mean looks. Like the Tonton Macoute from the days of Baby Doc Duvailer. Probably the same guys who tailed me when I was shadowing the Perp to his villa."

"Shit," Chris said.

"I was thinking the same thing," the DEA agent said.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"First, I put the gun away," the DEA agent said. "Then I opened the door."


The DEA man was an undercover agent, so must remain nameless. I can tell you that he was the cop most responsible for busting the biggest drug smuggler and mad dog killer of his day - one, Carlos Lehder. Along with Lehder, he put away a whole gang of American bad boys, led by a Florida Cracker with a pilot's license and a small fleet of planes. The two men had met in a Federal prison a few years before, and between them had pioneered the modern zillion dollar a minute drug smuggling/ narco-terrorist business.

Chris and I had been hired by none other than William Friedkin, the famed director, to write TARGET: CARLOS for a Showtime movie. We were in Jacksonville, Florida interviewing the DEA agent not long after a series of Federal Court trials that delivered guilty verdicts all around and prison sentences that knocked on the Dismal Door Of Forever Plus A Day.

In a nutshell, that's the story so far. For the exciting details, check out the two previous MisAdventures: (1) Bunch & Cole Meet Bill Friedkin And The DEA. (2) Dancing With A Naked Lady While Watched By Guys With Guns.

Mind you, a few devotees of these MisAdventures - possibly like yourself, Gentle Reader - have been (ahem) annoyed that in the telling of this tale I left them with not just one, but two cliff hangers in a row. But, I fear not everyone in these modern times is as gifted with long attention spans like yourself, my wise friend. So, by necessity, I must deliver these essays in short bites - like MacDonald's offers finger food-thingies for multi-tasking commuters and the small inhabitants of Soccer Mom Vans.


...The DEA agent said, "First I put the gun away. Then I opened the door. The police chief acted real friendly. Charming smile. Easy manner. I asked him to come in. He did, but to my relief he told the Tonton types to wait outside.

"I gave him the only chair and sat on the bed. We could hear the shower running and then it cut off. He gave me this man-to-man... you-sly-dog-you... look. But he wasn't there to talk about the girl, and she was savvy enough to stay in the bathroom.

"Then, out of the blue, he tells me that it had come to his attention that a certain fugitive from American justice was in their country and he had been told to kick the guy out of Haiti. It was like we had never talked before."

"Was he offering to help you arrest him?" I asked.

The DEA agent shook his head. "He wasn't going that far. But he was alerting me to the fact that the guy I had been sent here to find - along with his buddies - had been declared persona non grata in Haiti and once they cleared Haitian air space, they were all mine."

"Yeah, but the Cracker could easily hire a plane and take off for anywhere in the world," I pointed out. "Head for Columbia and the protection of Carlos Lehder."

"He certainly could," the DEA agent said. "And probably would any minute now, because the next thing the police chief told me was that he'd just come from the Perp's house and had told him the jig was up and he had to leave the country."

"In other words," Chris said, "he was giving the Son Of A Bitch a head start."

"Exactly," the DEA agent said. "I learned later that my bosses had pulled some strings and gotten State to warn the Haitians that certain aid they were expecting might be delayed if they didn't do something about my boy.

"On the other hand, my Perp had paid out plenty for protection, so the Chief probably felt he had some obligation, no matter how slight. And so he gave him a head start."

"You must have really busted ass to get to the airport on time," I said.

"And then, some," he said. "Got the chief out of there, gave the girl a nice tip - she knew something was up and that I wasn't an ordinary John and was terrified. I called the embassy and got them to hustle a plane big enough to carry all my prisoners."

Chris said, "Just you? You were going to confront all those guys by yourself? Shit, you didn't have enough cuffs, much less enough rounds in your piece."

"I was winging it," the DEA agent said. "Figured I'd get there then punt. But when I got to the airport - damn if it didn't look like I was too late. I saw the Perp and six or seven of his guys - and a couple of women - walking across the tarmac to this little passenger jet. Boy, was I out of time."

"What the fuck did you do?" Chris asked.

"First thought that came into my head was the tower," the DEA agent said. "I raced to the Control Tower, grabbed the guys there, showed them my badge and my gun and said to stop that plane or the whole fucking U.S. government was going to fall on their heads.

"For some reason, my bluff worked. When the Perp's pilot radioed for permission to take off, they stalled him. But, they also got on the phone to talk to their own bosses. So, I pushed somebody aside, grabbed his phone, called the embassy again, and said they'd better have a plane for me right this fucking minute or we were screwed.

"I figured the police chief would be on his way to stop me any second, so I rushed out onto the tarmac, ran up to the Perp's plane and hammered on the side until the door came open. Some stew was looking out at me, blinking and scared. I showed her my badge and my gun and said everybody on the plane was under arrest."

"Fuck me," Chris said.

"It sort of worked, because the Perp came out to argue with me, followed by his guys. For some reason, nobody was showing guns but me so they must have thought I had the whole U.S. Army backing my act.

"Then, while they're yelling at me, and I'm yelling back, up rolls a bus from the embassy. Door comes open and the guy behind the wheel... a uniformed embassy security man... shouts for everybody to get on board, the plane was waiting."

Chris and I were staring at the DEA agent in absolute awe.

"And they did?" I asked.

"Well, the Perp hesitated at first," the DEA agent said. "But then we both saw - way across the field - a whole line of big black cars coming our way. All with their light bars flashing. Well, I know it just has to be the police chief coming to stop me, but the Perp didn't know that.

"He looked at me, a little scared, and asked what was happening. I said, 'If you don't want to get thrown into a Haitian prison for the rest of your fucking life you'd better come with me.'

"And, damn, if he didn't. He practically ran to the bus, his people behind him, and they all piled inside. I came after them, then it was a race in the bus to where the embassy had the plane. All the cop cars coming behind us. They were faster, of course, but we had a lead.

"A lead that was almost gone when we got to the plane. It had a U.S. flag on the side and when the Perp saw it he said, 'It's American, thank God!'"

"Son of a bitch fooled himself," Chris said.

The DEA agent nodded. "Didn't take any effort for me to get them all off the bus and into the plane. Some more embassy security guys were there and they took over the business of disarming and taking people into custody."

"What about the police chief?" I asked. "What happened with him?"

The DEA agent gave one of his rare laughs. He said, "The Haitian cops pulled up beside the plane and the Chief got out. At first he looked furious. I thought he might order everybody to start shooting. But, then he calmed down. He got on the radio for instructions, while I stood there at the open door wondering what was going to happen next. Would they arrest me? Block the plane from leaving and free the fugitives?

"Instead, he hands the mike back to the driver, turns to me and gives me a little, half-assed salute, then climbs into the car and leads the cop convoy off the runway."

"Friedkin's gonna love this shit," Chris said, scribbling notes like crazy.

The DEA agent said, "But that's not the really weird part."

"It got weirder, still?" I said. I was already dumbfounded.

"Oh, boy, did it," the DEA agent said. "Okay, so we're all on the plane and the Perp and his friends are congratulating themselves for their narrow escape. It took everything I had not to laugh in their faces. Then everybody gets something to eat... talking like crazy... it's gets late, but they are too excited to sleep.. and I'm wondering when they are going to figure out what happened and try to stage a rebellion.

"Then all of a sudden the pilot announced that we had just crossed into U.S. airspace and the Perp and all his friends cheered and applauded like crazy.

"Then, out of the blue, the Perp starts singing, 'God Bless America,' and everybody joins in. Singing, with tears running down their faces - so happy to be back in The Land Of The Free."

"And then you threw their asses in jail for the rest of their fucking lives," Chris said.

The DEA agent grimaced. "Almost felt sorry for them." He raised a finger. "But, only almost."

"And they also gave you Carlos," I said.

The DEA agent grinned. "They couldn't fink fast enough," he said.


The DEA agent showed us around a big basement under the Jacksonville Federal Building, stuffed with evidence used in the trial of Carlos Lehder And Associates. Agents in shirts and ties and wearing shoulder holsters were moving through the evidence, cataloguing it for shipment to wherever it is they keep evidence against the Forever Damned.

Two walls were covered with pictures of beached speedboats, stacks of seized automatic weapons and pistols with silencers, Caribbean island villas, a variety of airplanes, including one seaplane, and mound after mound of cocaine in clear, football-sized plastic bags.

Chris eyed one of the cocaine photos and said, "Did you know that one of the Popes always kept a flask of wine laced with cocaine on his belt? The Pope was Louis Some-Roman-Numeral-Or-Other and the company that made the wine called it Vin Mariani. His Holiness got it free for advertisement purposes."

The DEA agent gave Chris a dirty look.

I said, "He can't help it. He just knows shit like that.

The DEA agent said, "Yeah, but he doesn't have to tell me."

I said, "He can't help that either. Show him an authority figure and he'll give the guy a Wedgie."

Figuring he'd gone far enough, Chris pointed at a picture of an AK-47 that literally glowed.

He said, "I know that's an AK, but what the hell did they do to it?"

The DEA agent snorted. "Had it God damned gold plated is what they did," he said. "That's how much money Carlos was wallowing in. Got his entire gun collection gold plated. Gave out gold-plated guns to his boys as a reward for good work."

I indicated a picture of the man I now knew to be Carlos Lehder. He was posing in a black SS-type uniform, with what looked like an old German Lugar holstered at his belt. Similarly dressed and booted men flanked him. On the wall behind them was a huge red Swastika.

"What the hell is that all about?" I asked.

The DEA agent said, "Maybe it was his daddy's fault. Lehder's old man was a German engineer, who escaped to Columbia after the war. Married a Columbian school teacher.

"Carlos admired the hell out of Hitler. Thought the Fourth Reich would be along any day now, and that his drug money would help arm a whole legion of Nazi soldiers. After that, it got kookier.

I raised an eyebrow. What could be kookier?

The DEA agent caught my look and said, "Carlos liked little boys - the younger the better. He'd play Nazi dress up when he was with them. Put them in little SS uniforms he had his tailor make up. On the other hand, he professed to hate homosexuals, and would torture and kill any of his men he thought might be Trolo limp-wrists."

"That fuck head is one seriously disturbed dude," Chris said.

Then I spotted another strange thing. Some of the evidence included expensive furniture and goods seized from Carlos's island hideout in the Caribbean. Laid against the concrete block wall of the cellar was a big slab of wood. It looked like a piece of a ripped out wall, pocked with suspicious-looking holes.

"Are those bullet holes?" I asked.

"Yeah, that was from the big shootout when we raided the Cay where Carlos was holed up," the DEA agent said. "I told Billy (Friedkin) all about it."

"Mind telling us, too?" I asked. I mean, shit, we were writing this thing, not Billy. "First off, which Cay are we talking about? I mean, was it one of the cays off Antigua, or Trinidad, or something?'

The DEA agent shook his head. "I can't say," he told me. "All I can tell you is that it was a little Cay off a Caribbean island-nation that can't be named. We had to get permission from the Prime Minister to stage the raid."

He looked disgusted. "The asshole and his entire cabinet and police force are being paid off by the drug cartels. We had to do some serious arm-twisting to get permission for the raid. Part of the deal was that the details, including the location, had to remain secret."

The DEA agent paused, thinking it through. He looked at the other agents moving through the cellar, clearly trying to Big Ear our conversation. Finally, he said, "Why don't we adjourn for lunch? I'll fill you in over a few beers."

We were on the second beer when he said, "Okay, here's what happened. The Americans we busted had clued us in on Carlos's favorite midway station. It was that little nameless Cay I mentioned. Dope would come in from Columbia, mainly by plane, but also by boat, and it would be held there until my American Perp and his guys flew in to do their thing. Sacks of cash for sacks of dope, and so on.

"There were over a dozen villas on the Cay, some small businesses, shops, a nightclub, that sort of thing. But Carlos drove all the other residents out. Scared shit out of them, then bought their places for ten cents on the dollar. So, he basically had the whole Cay for himself and his crew - along with their girlfriends and people to wait on them and do the scut work.

"As far as the merchants and the nightclub people were concerned, their ship had come in with Carlos at the wheel. Money flowed from him like water and they were wallowing in the stuff.

"Eventually, me and my partner made two trips to that Cay. He grinned at the memory, saying, "It was real Navy SEAL shit. Dark of night. Rowing in from something the Navy, or the Coasties had dug up for us just offshore. Blackened faces... stealthy weapons... the whole enchilada.

"We cased the island, spotted the planes, landing areas and the villas Carlos and his boys were using. The other places were all boarded up and empty. At night, it was one scary-looking island.

"Then comes the big night for the big raid. Word was that Carlos Lehder, himself, was in residence. We had to get further permission from the Prime Minister for the raid, which bothered the hell out of us, but what could we do? The Brass said we had to, so we had to.

"So, there were like twelve of us. I take one group... my partner the other. We close in on the main villa.. the one we were pretty sure Carlos was at. And damn, the whole place was lit up as if there was some kind of big party. But there was no music... just guys shouting orders and revving engines.

"Then all of a sudden vehicles bust out of the villa and are heading away. And people start shooting. I don't know how it started - I just know it wasn't us shooting first. Then everything goes crazy. Shouting and shooting and vehicles crashing across the dunes.

"Me and my guys got to the main house. We were taking fire like crazy. Then all of a sudden the shooting inside the villa stopped and a couple of Latinos were shouting in Spanish that they were surrendering.

"Well, we go in fast. Secure the prisoners. Give the house a fast search, but no Carlos. And I am really pissed, but I'm hoping like hell that my partner and his team managed to bag him. They'd gone charging over the dunes after the vehicles, which were heading for the landing field.

"He told me later there was an exchange of gunfire at the field, but the firefight was pretty short. Everybody was too busy trying to scramble on planes. The seaplane tried to take off, but they stopped it. But, son of a bitch, if a couple of the other planes didn't manage to get away."

"So, Carlos was gone," I said.

The DEA agent sighed. "Carlos was gone," he confirmed. "Obviously, somebody in the government had tipped him off about the raid."

Chris called for another round and we all lit up fresh smokes. In the silence, my partner and I scribbled more notes.

Finally, I asked, "What then?"

"What else?" the DEA agent said. "I followed him to Medellin."

We were agog. Chris said, "By yourself?"

"Yeah, by myself," the DEA agent said. "My bosses didn't want any of us to go. The way they saw it, we were hitting on all eight cylinders. We had arrested all those American smugglers. Sure, Carlos escaped in the raid, but we'd done him serious harm. Nobody on our side was hurt. But several of his people were dead or wounded.

"Plus, we seized a huge haul of cocaine. And money... shit there was so much money. Stacks, and stacks of bills - all big bills. Filled up a whole damned room. We even seized two money machines they used to count it. High speed machines - the kind the major banks use."

I said, "I saw them in the basement. Man, to think you've got so much money that you need not one, but two special high speed machines to count it."

Chris said, "The Brass wanted to declare victory."

"Exactly," the DEA agent said. "But I'd already spent six damned years on the case. And I was all fired up and there was no way I was going to stop."

"So, your bosses relented?" I asked.

The DEA agent snorted. "Not on your life. But I had vacation time coming, so I took it. Then I bought myself a round trip ticket to Columbia, packed a bag and headed for Medellin on my own dime."

He told us that he made like an ordinary tourist, staying at a mid-priced hotel. He couldn't bring his gun without alerting the authorities - guys he had reason not to trust - so the week he spent there was a very nervous week.

"I had a contact," he said. "A guy we sort of trusted, who provided us with information now and again."

"Sort of trusted?" Chris said.

The DEA agent shrugged. "He was a paid informant," he said.

I said, "My dad always said that you could never trust a spy who did it solely for money. The best information came from patriots who were pissed off at the way their country was being run."

"That's right, your dad was Agency," the DEA agent said. He thought a second, then added, "Your dad was right. At first the guy came on like my best friend. He was taking me here and there, showing me the places where the Cartel did their business, or had their pleasure.

"He even drove me out into the country, where Carlos kept house. I dressed like a local and the two of us wandered around the little town there. He showed me the police station, which was pretty fancy for such an unimportant place.

"But he said Carlos built it for the cops. And that he used to come by regularly, like once a month, or more. And the local people would line up outside the station and be escorted in, one-by-one, to meet El Patron. Carlos would personally settle arguments, and pass out gifts of money and so forth, acting like one of those kings in the Days Of Old."

"Then the contact found out your were there on your own?" I guessed.

The DEA agent said, "Something like that. The main thing he realized was that I didn't have any money for him. He was working gratis. And this was a guy who made his living playing both sides.

"Then, one night, he set up a meet at a bar, but when I got there he didn't show. "Instead, I saw some nasty-looking guys there who were acting way too curious about me. So, I got the hell out. Next day, I took a plane home."

"So, the trip was a waste of time," I said.

"Not really," the DEA agent said. "Word got out that I had been in Medellin. Well, not me, exactly. But somebody from the DEA. And it shook up the Cartel bosses that we had no fear about sending people right into Carlos's front yard.

"Also, the raid on the Cay cost Carlos big. All that dope, all that money, all those guns, all those planes and boats - gone! And before that, we had cut off one of his main conduits to the States. The American Cracker and his gang. That made Carlos look weak to the bosses. And there were already some younger guys wanting to take his place."

He shrugged, then said, "Next time we asked, the government suddenly agreed that Carlos Lehder was one bad son of a bitch. And that he had not only broken a lot of Columbian laws, but he'd done even worse things to their buddies, the good old USA.

"Then they arrested him. Put him in chains. Ordered his ass extradited. So, we stuffed him in a plane and flew him to Tampa for processing, then Jacksonville to face trial."

"And that was the end of Carlos Lehder," Chris said.

The DEA agent leaned back in his chair, a wide smile on his face. "Yeah, he was done."

Chris and I finished scrawling notes, then I asked, "Now, that it's all over... I mean, you spent years on this case... and suddenly it's over. Doesn't that make you feel weird? You have to admit that Carlos Lehder and the others became an obsession. So, how do you motivate yourself out of bed these days?"

The DEA agent looked weary. He said, "To my surprise, it bothered me a lot for a time," he said. "But I have a new wife, and she keeps me settled down."

Then he brightened. He said, "Besides, I've got myself a new goal. A new target."

"Anything you can tell us about?" I asked.

"Only this," he said. "When I'm done here I'm flying to Aspen."

Chris said, "Those poor fuckers in Aspen."


Chris and I wrote up a thirty-page outline of Target: Carlos. Friedkin liked it, but had a few suggested changes to make, then put us into script.

One of the changes he wanted involved telephones. He said he hated scenes where characters exchanged information on the phone. He preferred to see them on camera - face-to-face. We had a few scenes like that - after all, Crime is mainly planned and carried out by phone. In those days, real life bad guys always kept bags of coins at hand to use in a nice safe, unbugable pay phone. Anyway, if Billy didn't want phones, we'd take out the phones. No problem. And I sort of got his point.

I wonder, however, if I asked him about it now what he'd say. With everyone carrying at least one cell phone it would look unnatural if nobody used them. These days, one of the things a writer has to figure out is how to set up the plot so that the Good Guy can't get to their cell phone when the shit hits the fan. He mislays it. Or, remarks that the battery is getting weak and either he's misplaced the car charger, or there is no car. If not, the audience wonders, why don't they just use their cell? Call 911? Turn out the cavalry?

Then came the day when we finished the first draft. Gave it a fast polish and messengered the script over to Friedkin's office.

A little over a week passed. The phone rang. Chris grabbed, heard the secretary say Mr. Friedkin was on the line, and punched the speaker button so we could both listen and talk.

Billy came on. "Boys," he said. "I'm back to where we started. I got some good news and some bad news."

Chris and I looked at each other. Oh, maaannn!!!

Chris said, "Last time we asked for the bad news first. How about this time, the good news?"

Friedkin said, "The good news is that I read Target: Carlos and loved it. One of the best first drafts I've ever read."

We breathed a sigh of relief.

"That's high praise coming from you, Billy," I said. "Thanks."

But now we knew the other shoe just had to fucking drop.

"What's the bad news?" I asked.

Billy sighed. "The bad news," he said, "is that the deal with Showtime is kaput. No movie."

"What the fuck?" Chris said. "We thought you had a deal already in place."

"I did," Billy said. "But you know, that deal always galled me. I thought they made me give up too much. So I had my agent to renegotiate the terms. They eventually agreed to give me the full control I wanted. But not the money. My agent played real hardball with them. Really pushed."

"And they didn't blink," I said, feeling the floor fall away.

"No, I guess they didn't," Friedkin said. "But don't worry, boys. You'll still get the rest of the money. The full boat."

"That's good," Chris said. But his heart wasn't in it. Writers aren't in the game for the money. All we want is enough to live on - and write.

We exchanged a few more comments, mostly bullshit. Great working with you, blah, blah. We'll do it again, and so on and so fucking forth.

We hung up.

I put my head on the desk and said, "Shit, shit, shit."

"And fall back in it," Chris said.



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort.  However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out.  Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think. And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.