Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wm. Floggin Buckley - Part 4

[Part 4 of the script 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.]

I was installed in an oppressively beige office with what the lady from Human Resources assured me was a commanding view when it was nice. It wasn't nice. All you could see was phlegm-colored haze. Don Hogarth came in with a pile of manuscripts. I was to have two nonfiction and one fiction picked out to submit to Rupert by end-of-day.

I'd just begun reading when a woman with very long dark hair, a widow's peak, huge hips, and lipstick on her teeth came in and closed the door behind her."So how have you been enjoying your first day here at HPP? Oh, there is a lot of nice people here, isn't there? But not enough cute men, if you want my opinion.

"You know what I heard? I heard that you're wearing just the tightest little old pair of trousers today. Would you stand up so I can see? No, I ain't kidding. You know who I am? Lu-Ella's big sister Sylvie is all. 'Who's Lu-Ella?' Lu-Ella Palmer, as in Mrs. Hammond Palmer. Your boss. OK, go ahead and do your old reading, but just remember, if there's anything at all Sylvie can do to make you more comfortable, all you have to do is ask."

Rupert wasn't pleased with my selection of non-fiction. I'd left out a dreadfully written thing about the greenhouse effect called "Doomsday". I warily explained that I'd found it less interesting than my own choices, and poorly written to boot. "You don't think it's interesting that the planet's going to be incinerated by 1988? Well, I happen to think it's bloody fascinating. And if it's well written, well, it's your bloody job to do something about it, innit?"

On our way back to our corner of the floor, I asked Don Hogarth if Rupert were always so acerbic. He didn't know what I meant. You know. Mean. Mocking. Sarcastic. "To be honest, I can't remember a more pleasant meeting with Rupert. I think he likes you."

Elvin McIlhenny from Missouri was waiting for me in my office when I came back from lunch on Monday, hoping to gossip. It turned out Thomas Washington, HPP's sole black employee, had resigned. "I guess he couldn't face another week of ol' Darth Vader Watson calling him Uncle Tom. Or maybe it was that he ain't seen his secretary since they hired that Astor Prescott. Lord knows what Bathroom Companion needed with another editor. The only thing lower than its budget is its circulation – unless you count its quality."

Don Hogarth warned me at that at the end of that afternoon's editorial conference there would be a critiquing session, during which the magazines' key editors were supposed to comment on each other's work. Once upon a time, they really had offered one another constructive criticism. But then everyone had realized that Rupert always found quite enough to tear everyone limb from limb over without prompting. Unless I wanted to be gigantically unpopular, I would say complimentary things, or keep my mouth shut. It was also Don's view that I should bring a yellow legal pad so I could write down everything Rupert said — and have an excuse for not making eye contact with him.

Astor, who was said to have spent all morning in the conference room to ensure himself the chair just to the right of Rupert's, did better than that. He'd set up a microcassette recorder with not one, but two microphones: stereo! His secretary distributed a memo. "As you've probably heard by now, I have been named executive editor of Bathroom Companion. It is both a thrill and an inspiration to work for a company that recognizes and rewards merit with such speed, alacrity, and swiftness. I shall try and endeavor in every way and manner to demonstrate myself worthy and deserving of the trust senior management has placed in me. I believe that I can make BC the fourth biggest selling men's magazine in America, after Playboy, Penthouse, and our own Cuntry, but not without your help, assistance, and aid."

I looked through the new edition of Cuntry three times trying to find something to praise. If it came to it, I decided, I'd have to praise the vividness of the color in the "Angel Dust Sex" photo spread.

Rupert finally came in 18 minutes late, read Astor's memo in two milliseconds, crumpled it into a ball, and growled, "Don't bother me with bollocks." Astor made a big show of writing this down on his notepad.

"As you've probably heard, Thomas Washington is no longer a member of the HPP 'family'." One thing you need to succeed round here is a sense of humor. Uncle Tom didn't have one. Sod him. But his departure leaves us without an editor of color. Recruit a black, Hispanic, or woman to replace him and you'll be doing yourself loads of good round here."

[Continues tomorrow! Don't miss a single installment!]

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