Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wm. Floggin' Buckley - The End

[The conclusion of the one-man show about my brief, very unpleasant tenure at Larry Flynt Publications, which I have performed in San Francisco, London, and Madison, Wisconsin.]

When word got around the next morning that Rupert had phoned in his resignation, people wept with joy and danced with one another. But not for long, because here came Astor, looking aghast. Get to work, all of you. We have magazines to publish.

"Yeah, right, Asswipe. Crack that whip."
[Astor:] "You're fired!"

"Oh, blow it out your ass, Astor," a guy from the art department suggested.
Since when do you have the authority to fire anybody?"

Astor looked as though he might burst into tears, but Lu-Ella's secretary came to his rescue. "Since about 20 minutes ago, when, by order of Mrs. Palmer, Mr. Prescott became editor in chief, Hammond Palmer Publications." Five minutes after it had begun, happiness's brief reign on the 39th floor was over.

Astor quickly flexed his new muscles, firing Consuelo M. Gonzalez, the maid from the Century Plaza Hotel Rupert had hired because she was a Latina and a woman. We just don't feel she was performing up to expectations. Her replacement was Marlene from the art department. That afternoon, anyone who happened to walk by his office could plainly see the two of them in conference, Marlene on her knees under his desk.

Enough really was enough. I handed in my own notice. And received an unexpected visit at the art hovel on Sunday night from a pair of big guys who could have been bouncers at a Beverly Hills discotheque; they had the chest hair and gold chains and minty breath and apparently not-fully-developed cerebrums for the job. I began telling them how there was nothing at all between me and Mrs. Recker.

"Mrs. Recker, Mrs. Shmecker. We wanted to chat about your alleged plans to leave Hammond Palmer Publications in the lurch as regards the October issue of Cuntry. That would be ill advised, Les. Unfortunate things happen to the kneecaps of key editors who leave HPP when they're ready, and not when HPP is ready."

For all the work I got done on Monday morning, my own cerebrum might as well have been only partially developed. Not that it was my fault that Monday morning was when somebody decided to take our two-woman talent department hostage and barricade himself with them in their little office. Eventually, the guy slid a note under the door. It identified him as David Sokoloff, MD, ear, nose, and throat specialist and father of 15-year-old Lisa Sokoloff, identified as Lusinda, with an s, in the Angel Dust Sex pictorial.

My baby's life is ruined, and now I'm going to ruin some of yours. Beginning at exactly 10 AM, I will kill one of my hostages every hour on the hour until my demands are met.

By my calculations, he was going to run out of hostages before lunch, but this was no time to be droll. His demands were four: He wanted the September issue of Cuntry-with-no-o recalled from the nation's newsstands. He wanted Hammond Palmer, because a monster like that didn't deserve to live. He wanted the remarkably proportioned young African American model with whom his daughter had been depicted cavorting, and he wanted a helicopter piloted by the father of teenage daughters to escape in.

Astor materialized. Gnawing one of his exquisite fingernails, he wondered aloud if the good doctor might settle for just the colored guy and helicopter. Then he took quick and decisive action. Apparently realizing this could get him on TV, he ordered secretaries to get on the phone to all the local channels.

A TV news team arrived, and then another, and the Los Angeles Police Department, led by a Lieutenant Perez. While Astor asked the news team's on-air reporter if she thought he needed more makeup, Lieutenant Perez demanded through the door to hear the hostages. All Dr. Sokoloff said was, "14 minutes, 30 seconds".

According to my wristwatch, our talent co-ordinators had only seven minutes left to live when Rupert suddenly materialized, having apparently unresigned. He was told what was going on.

[Rupert} "Not on the morning of the day we have to put the October issue to bed, he doesn't!" He marched to the door of the barricaded office and bellowed Listen, pally, you can kill everybody in Century friggin' City and you're still not getting Hammond or the model or the helicopter. Now get out of there now!"

Rupert was a hard person to say no to, and Dr. Sokoloff didn't. Once the good doctor's wrists were handcuffed behind his back, Astor was overcome by righteous indignation, and made a big show of needing to be restrained from punching him.

An hour later, I was back in Rupert's office, being screamed at again about the rewritten "Doomsday" piece. "Diarrhea? Rivers of bloody diarrhea? What exactly are you trying to do here? This is dog vomit! [Tears up piece.] Oh, wait a minute. I see what your game is. I see very clearly what your game is, you bastard!"

I'd put nearly everything I owned into storage after breaking up with my girlfriend some months before. All I had at the art hovel were my clothes and a cheap Korean electric guitar that wouldn't stay in tune. But I had a credit card in my wallet and a new Renault in the parking lot across Olympic Boulevard. So I didn't go back to my office this time. I went down 39 flights of stairs to the ground floor, sprinted across Olympic Boulevard to the parking lot. I jumped in my new Renault and drove to San Francisco with only one stop, in a little town called Next Services 35 Miles. My car was young and frisky, and so was I, and we made it in five and a half hours, I without dislocated kneecaps. By and by, I bought another guitar, also Korean. But it stayed in tune a lot more reliably than its predecessor.

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