Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wm. Floggin' Buckley - Part 8

[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.]

He wasted no time summoning me and poor Don Hogarth to his office, outside of which he kept us waiting 25 minutes. "Mrs. Palmer believes, and I couldn't agree more wholeheartedly, that our magazines need to be livelier, harder-hitting, more emotional, more exciting. This Doomsday thing of yours doesn't excite me at all. Liven it up!"

To get to the Chinese restaurant where Sylvie wanted me to take her for lunch, we and I had to walk through the plaza between the Twin Towers – that is, past countless dozens of HPP employees. Please, God, I thought, don't let her put her hand on my arm. No such luck. I heard somebody snicker.

The food wasn't good, but better than the conversation. All Sylvie wanted to talk about was the dream she'd had with me and Rob Lowe and a hose that squirted K-Y jelly instead of water. When I finally got back to my office at nearly two, poor Don Hogarth paid me a little visit to ask if I knew that Sylvie's husband was Bill Recker, Hammond Palmer's chief bodyguard, widely thought to have been involved in the disappearance six months before of a mailroom worker to whom Sylvie had taken a fancy. My intestines hurt.

To keep my mind off Bill Recker, I got to work on the Doomsday piece. I'd asked the research department for the most stomach-turningly graphic material they could find on the horrors of starvation. Fry or freeze, I thought, the greenhouse effect would almost surely cause global starvation. The researchers outdid themselves, providing reams of material that listed diarrhea and loss of bladder control as symptoms of severe malnutrition. Swept away in a river of diarrhea! I pictured a subhead screaming. Lively enough for you, Astor? I went to work with a vengeance, and spent the most enjoyable afternoon of my entire time at HPP.

But then, minutes before quitting time, Astor's secretary dashed in with a memo. Hammond Palmer himself had decided to have dinner with us key editors. I ran next door to ask Don Hogarth if my not having a necktie was going to be a problem. It was Don's guess that, for all Hammond was likely to notice, I might as well wear a garter belt, stockings, and snowshoes.

The great man didn't actually materialize until nearly seven, when Bill Recker and three big lieutenant thugs burst into our office as though into the cockpit of a hijacked jetliner, followed by the frantic Astor and a nurse pushing the wheelchair in which rode the self-appointed antichrist of American publishing himself. He was nearly as pink as the labia in his magazines. It wasn't a healthy pink, but the flushed one of a pallid person running a fever. He had four or five chins and tiny colorless eyes that didn't focus on anything. His fingers, which no fewer than half a dozen rings called home, were as big around as a newborn infant's wrists.

The entourage came to a halt. Astor blurted, "Everybody's just thrilled to see you! You couldn't believe the excitement level around here this afternoon!" Hammond tried to say something. [Unintelligible] A stream of drool escaped one corner of his mouth. His nurse dabbed it away. Astor howled as though shocked by electricity. "I said I'd do that!" Hammond tried again to speak. This time his nurse translated. "Crack the whip."

I'd hoped we'd at least get a lavish catered dinner out of the deal. Once in the conference room, though, we key editors discovered that our choice was between Hammond's own favorite meal -- do-nuts dipped in bowls of maple syrup --on the one hand and going hungry on the other. Only Astor chose the doughnuts.

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