Saturday, December 13, 2014

Deafened by Geffen

After I stopped processing words for the biggest fascist law firm in San Francisco, I imagined that I’d resume being a famous writer. I imagined incorrectly. Within two years I was back to processing words for lawyers, albeit the invariably down-to-earth ones who worked for The City, on scandalously outdated computers that were all The City could afford. But then I wrote a novel and sent it to the New York-based literary agent who’d represented me years before, prior to my getting on her nerves by being…me, and she liked it enough to take me on again. While she peddled it, she said, it would be good if I could come up with a couple of saleable nonfiction ideas, just in case.

Naturally, what she wound up selling — to a publishing, uh, house that specialized in celebrity tell-all crapola — was one of the nonfiction ideas, a biography of David Geffen, who’d just sold his record company for a great, great deal of money. I’d met him, two decades before, when he’d tried to keep me from attending a performance by Laura Nyro, whose Svengali he was at the time, because she wasn’t feeling well and I had a reputation for tearing to pieces artists I didn’t like. I actually loved Laura Nyro.

Boy, did I not have fun trying to write about Geffen. He didn’t want me writing his biography, and everyone in Hollywood soon knew it. He had a great deal of power, and was known for his vengefulness, and I spent most of my work day being hung up on by people who didn’t have a terribly difficult time deciding between helping out someone who years before had torn to pieces an artist they’d hoped would be their meal ticket, on the one hand, and, on the other, staying on the good side of one of the most powerful, vengeful players in American entertainment.

Michelangelo Signorile, who detested Geffen for not admitting to his homosexuality, was delighted to talk, and talk, and talk. I sent Geffen a letter saying that I sure hoped I wouldn’t have as the only sources for my book gay militants who loathed him. Soon thereafter, I received a letter from the extremely powerful entertainment lawyer Bert Fields warning me that my letter had looked a lot like blackmail.  New York-based gossip columnists noted the zany goings-on.

My editor put me in touch with one of his best-selling authors, J. Randy Taraborelli, who specialized in dreadfully written celebrity biographies (and who, this being a wacky, wacky world, is still being published, 22 years later (watch for his forthcoming definitive biography of Beyonce!)). J. Randy suggested I hire one of his private investigators, who came up with something ever so juicy: Elton John disliked Geffen. Money well spent! The only major figure who’d actually talk to me in the end was Jerry Heller, who’d once been a prominent agent, and had since come to manage the gangsta rap NWA, whom he called the black Beatles with a straight face.

Having very little to go on, I pretended when I finally sat down to try to turn my pathetic collection of notes and press clippings that I was Tom Wolfe, trying to make up for with exhibitionistic prose and sarcasm what I lacked in substance. I had the wonderful idea of thanking in a foreword all of the dozens of persons who’d hung up on me. I wouldn’t actually be saying they’d talked to me, and Geffen would draw his own conclusions. I made myself laugh for the first time in weeks.

My editor pronounced my book a disaster, and I went back to redeeming empty aluminum cans for a living.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Suicide by Cop - Part 2

The cops all drew their own guns and ducked behind something — a tree, a squad car, even a recycling bin in one case — the moment they saw my toy AK-47. “Put down the weapon,” the one who’d appointed himself their spokesman bellowed at me.

“No,” I said. “You put yours down. Or, better yet, stick it up your ass.” That inspired one of the other cops to snicker in spite of himself, which inspired the bellower to give him the dirtiest look in the history of facial expressiveness, which inspired me, in turn, to giggle, which inspired another cop to speculate loudly that I might be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, which inspired me to sneer and ask if he couldn’t do better than that.  “I’m a law enforcement officer, sir,” he said, “not Bill Maher, OK?”

I found touching his calling me sir, but it was a tiny Band-Aid on the gaping wound that my life had become.

"On TV," I said, "whenever cops break into some evildoer's house, they shout at him to get face-down on the floor. I get that that's meant to be intimidating, but don't they teach you in cop school that one can sometimes make his point even more effectively speaking very softly, as witness Marlon Brando's hoarse mumbling in The Godfather."

"Didn't see it," said the lead cop, gravely undermining his own credibility. "I'm not much of a cineaste, I guess." He pronounced cineaste much as I'd have expected him to pronounce faggot. 

It occurred to me that two of the cops were black — I wouldn’t say African American in life, and I won’t say it now either — and three of them, including the bellower, Latino. I didn’t feel right about my imminent death being on the conscience of somebody who’d had to deal with being dark-skinned in a racist society. I mean, I read. I know full well that a lot of cops are traumatized beyond repair by having to kill someone.

I said I’d reconsidered, and that I’d drop my weapon, which of course wasn’t really a weapon at all, if the cops of color would withdraw. Only one of them didn’t sneer at me. They’d taken my request completely wrong! “You don’t understand,” I said. “It’s because I’m not a redneck that I ask that.”

“Yeah,” one of the swarthier cops said disgustedly, “right.”

That really upset me, and I cut to the chase. I pointed my toy gun at them and they filled me with bullets. The first, in my chest, hurt like a motherfucker, but I hardly noticed the rest, and within a second I was gone. I was pleased to realize, in that second, that I’d probably done the right thing not trying to hang or asphyxiate myself, or jumping off a skyscraper.

Three of the five cops were deeply traumatized. One had to be hospitalized for depression, and the other two vainly sought comfort in alcohol and substance abuse. The only good part was that one of the alcohol abusers was the white guy, and that, in the big scheme of things, isn’t really that great a thing. I actually feel pretty rotten about the whole affair, and, from what I’ve been able to gather, will continue to do so for the rest of eternity. The devil turns out to be a plumpish woman in a blouse with a big bow and a coffee mug that says World’s Best Mom, the sort of artificially cheerful woman you’d meet in the Human Resources of a corporation you’d hate the idea of working for, but might have to because the world isn’t remotely interested in your hard luck stories.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Suicide by Cop - Part 1

A few years ago, I read a book about persons who’d unsuccessfully attempted suicide, and then grown to be grateful for their failures, even though several of them had survived mangled or paralyzed. The author had apparently intended his book to be inspirational, but my own principal takeaway was that jumping off bridges or tall buildings commonly doesn’t get the job done.  This troubled me, as I’d earlier ruled out an overdose of pharmaceuticals as the coward’s way out, and I’ve been cowardly enough in life as to be uncomfortable with the idea of being cowardly as I leave it. I thought of hanging myself — which I understood was apt to involve a moment’s sexual ecstasy — and of handcuffing myself to the steering wheel of my car while it was in the garage, and then turning the engine on, but I was pretty sure, given my mechanical ineptitude and dread of all things automotive, that neither was the right choice for me. 

Eventually I hit on the idea of suicide by cop, even though well aware that, if I got one who was a rotten shot, I might wind up in worse condition than if I jumped off a building. I went to Toys R Us and bought myself the most convincing-looking AK47 they had in stock, drove over to David Geffen’s 13,600-square-foot house on Angelo Drive in Beverly Hills, originally built by Jack Warner of Warner Bros. fame in the late 1930s, and then gutted and rebuilt by Geffen, who is gay, and thus has exquisite taste. I handcuffed myself to the front gate, threw the key into a thick hedge, and began shouting about how I’m a better songwriter than Jackson Browne and a better screenwriter than Robert Towne, and thus had deserved Geffen’s patronage a lot more than they had. 

It took only about 90 seconds for the first of half a dozen neighborhood security patrolmen to arrive on the scene. While the rest were arriving with much screeching of brakes, it occurred to me that at any given moment during the day, Spanish speakers — maids, pool cleaners, gardeners, and what have you — probably outnumber English speakers in Beverly Hills by around five to one. None of the security guards, all of whom addressed me as sir, in that begrudging way of persons who flunked out of cop school, spoke anything other than English. My favorite of them told me that he too was a failed screenwriter, and that he felt my pain, but I nonetheless refused to divulge where I'd tossed the handcuff key.

At least one of his colleagues, probably hoping to curry favor with someone who hadn’t flunked out of cop school, called the LAPD, and five minutes later I was surrounded by cops, television news teams (every last one including a reporter named Kelly or Kelli with blonde hair on whose maintenance she obviously spent a great deal of money), and a few bemused Latino gardeners. 

A helicopter buzzed and sputtered overhead. It felt as though I’d finally regained the stardom of which cruel circumstances and my lack of talent stripped me in 1973. I reached into my Adidas duffel bag and produced my AK-47, inspiring much gasping.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jewish Male Narcissism in 20th Century American Literature

Another grand scheme shot to hell! I saw the Lisa Ling thing, ring a ding ding, on CNN about Websites that match hot young golddiggers with very wealthy men, and thought, “Well, why not?” My royalties from my dismissive Rolling Stone review of the first Led Zeppelin album continue to pour in, and I’m much in demand as an after-dinner speaker. I’m not wealthy as many in Beverly Hills or the nicer parts of the San Fernando Valley, certainly, but the Talmud teaches us that the rich person is the one content with what he or she has, and the only time I ever feel sorely dissatisfied is during a long plane ride in Cattle, with my video screen two and a half inches from my nose because the inconsiderate so-and-so in the seat in front of me has decided to tilt his or her seat ‘way, ‘way back.

I went to a party sponsored by, and there met a young woman with large breasts, false eyelashes, and high cheekbones. Three out of three! We will here refer to her as Naomi, though her name is in fact Paulette. She was well aware of the Talmudic view of wealth by virtue of having just enrolled in the American Jewish University of Los Angeles, with the intention of becoming a rabbi, or at least of meeting a handsome young man with one of those circular fur hats. She laughed at all my jokes, and didn’t run away when I told her that I customarily fly in Cattle, and we exchanged phone numbers.

I met her “for coffee” a few days later, and we struck a deal. In exchange for my paying her AJU tuition, renting her a penthouse apartment in the Marina, and buying her a car, she would accompany me to restaurants in a low-cut blouse and a pushup brassiere, and would have sexual intercourse with me no fewer than five times per month, provided I could manage it at my age. I had to liquidate both of my two younger kids’ college funds, re-mortgage my house, and sell the Lexus, but you already go around once in life, and the bus isn’t so bad once you get used to the fact that there’s always at least one loud lunatic aboard, either arguing passionately with himself or shrilly beseeching the rest of us to embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord ‘n’ Savior.

Things went smoothly for the first two months. When I took her to the Ivy the first week in November, I could tell that several of my fellow male diners were thinking,  “Oh, yeah!” or “I wouldn’t mind some of that myself!” or “As long as I’ve got a face, she’ll never lack for a place to sit!” And she seemed pretty content with her apartment and car and my not minding that she supplemented our own, uh, relations with regular visits from the reigning stud at AJU, who taught her Jewish Male Narcissism in 20th Century American Literature class.

Now, though, I learn that it hasn’t been her professor with whom she’s been supplementing my own desultory lovemaking, but Patrick Cardinal Holman, Archbishop of the San Fernando Valley. It has always been my understanding that Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, but I don’t pretend to know everything about everything, as I could hardly be expected to do.

I wish I were gracious enough to wish them every happiness. They will have to be content with my wishing them most happinesses.