Lights, Camera . . . ASSHOLE!
Written by: Alex Sandell
NOTE: To view this update properly, you need the "chiller" font.
Let me introduce you to someone. A lot of you may already know him. He's a movie columnist I've really respected for the past few months. He always impressed me with the way he talked about movies in his movie column, rather than discussing which cast member was fucking the other, behind the scenes. He'd complain about certain theater chains and the way he was treated at them, or how poorly they were run. He spiced up his column by including letters from readers. In a period of a week, I had two letters printed there. He was seriously interested in whether or not people agreed with what he said, or thought he was a raving nut. Basically, he appeared to be an audience member who just happened to get paid to be in the audience, not a hipster hiding behind the scenes. Yet, when he gave me his phone number, and a chance to read between the lines, I found that appearances certainly can be deceiving, and Hollywood is, indeed, the land of the self-inflated and perpetually indulged.
The man, who I'll leave nameless, had written to me a couple of times, and, as I mentioned, printed a couple of the emails I sent him, inside of his column. Since the "love of my life" left me alone in the apartment she rented for us, along with all of her bills that were due, I have been desperately searching for a job, hoping to work my way out of this rental pad of bad memories. I need to somehow gather up enough money to get myself out of this two-bedroom hell and into a smaller, cheaper, one-bedroom abode created for single people who like cockroaches served up along with their loneliness. Maybe I'll move into a box on Wall Street and hop around the sidewalks pretending that I'm Gary Coleman. I've heard that handouts are quite frequent when they are handed out to broke ex-TV stars who are now midgets living in boxes.
Still, my dream of being a broke midget living inside of a box is a distant one, being that I've never been a TV star, midget or African-American. I am friends with an African-American, if that counts. Maybe I could recruit midget black dudes that look like Gary Coleman and give them 10% of everything made. It's the get rich scheme of the new millenium! But, honestly, the initial thrill of living inside of a box with a bunch of black midgets who haven't showered in 3 years would probably wear thin within a decade, or two, and I'd want to move on. Possibly to a bigger box, with bigger midgets. Maybe I'd go all the way up to the stunning "Dwarf" level. Sadly, I've heard dwarves don't draw in the sympathy change the way that a midget that looks like a person that used to be on TV does. So, my dream stopped there, and I applied for a dishwashing position at some Chinese joint. Chinese people are usually short, so it's KIND of like working with midgets. It's the best I can do for now. Or, is it? I like to write, right? Every day people write to me and tell me that I should put stuff on paper for a living. Maybe I should do that, huh? I wouldn't get the 1/2 priced order of Sweet and Sour chicken during my ten minute lunch break, but I may make enough, with the stuff that I type, to actually pay FULL price and buy the damn chicken, anyway!
Yet, I'm still at a loss. How do you get people to pay for you to be a writer? I've been a writer for 20 years, and no one's given me a dime. I've written regularly on this page for three years, but I still haven't seen any pay. Do I just have to type more? It's already a damn full-time job, how could I possibly come up with anything else? It would be like squeezing a rock from a bigger rock, or whatever that saying is. BUT! I do know of that certain movie columnist who seems to have a decent head on his shoulders! Maybe he could set me off on the right foot. Lord knows that he's asked me enough questions and I've happily donated two of my precious letters to his column. I guess I'll email him and ask if he knows how I go about being a writer. So, I do. This is what I write:
(Name deleted) -Sorry I haven't written in so long (although I don't really know why). My female companion of two years has begged me to move in with her for one of them. I finally agreed, moved three hours away from where I once lived, spent five days with her in this loud apartment, and woke up one morning and she was gone. She is now UNREACHABLE and I am left with six months rent, a bunch of "installation" fees, phone-bills and computer crap. Not to mention, one of my speakers broke on the way down, and my computer got jarred and barely runs. Oh, and I'm left alone in an apartment that costs $625.00 a month, and I make $300.00, TOPS. So, to make a long story short, I'll send you the column I've been doing for the past month, and see if you can line me up with some magazine/web type place that may like a movie columnist such as, say, myself. It's not the best I've done, it's just the most current. If you want more examples of better columns written, you can find them at my site. Tell me what you think.
Okay, maybe it was a little forward, and I didn't really need to spew out my life story, but I'm quite comfortable spewing, actually. I think I have some justifiable "spews" coming to me, for the years ahead I must spend living without the girl that I loved. Is spewing a sin? Last I heard, it wasn't, unless you're a Latter-Day Saint. If he doesn't like my spewing, or is too busy for my spew, he doesn't have to write back. At least I gave it a shot.
So, I wait like two minutes, and get a reply from him. Here's what it says:
You've seen The Haunting. Would you mind calling at ###.###.####? I'm seeing it this evening. - (Initials Deleted)
Alright, he totally ignored everything I said, but at least he's seeing The Haunting. Good for him! Now I have his number (no, it's not "###.###.####"). Maybe that's a positive thing. He might have something for me. I'll finally be a paid writer, after all these years! So, I call. He's not home. I leave a message. I decide not to call again, so as not to annoy him. He may think he's important, or something. I send him an email, instead:
Dear (Name deleted) -
I called, but I'm guessing you were at "The Haunting," laughing at the horrible dialogue and pitiful acting (not to mention that DAMN CGI). I left my number on your machine. I only have one line in this shithole, so if you decide to call sometime tonight, you're going to have to email me to tell me so. Thanks.
LOL! I had a good joke in the "PS," but it gave away his name, so I cannot reveal it here. Sorry. Anyway, I waited for a response from him. He didn't call, but after about 12 hours, I received this email:
I'm looking for teh story abotu Ford and Carter and Judd
signing a leter about vilence in the media...how old is that one?
And the guy who claimed the "Scream" defense...where's that from? That's im-portant to find. Where'd you hear it? read it?
How the HELL can a well-paid columnist, one who has written for nearly every movie magazine around, and is published weekly in a well-read movie 'zine, be so grammatically handicapped? He doesn't spell like that in his columns. He must have a good editor. Maybe the editor is too good. Maybe he's just a guy with parents who were rich dorks that had "connections." At least a connection to a damn good editor. Notice that, once again, he failed to respond to any of my questions. It's funny, though, that he felt it okay to ask three of his own. It took me about 3 hours to decipher the "leter," through all the spelling mistakes, but it was "im-portant" to get back to him on the "vilence" in the media. A well-paid columnist should know "abotu" these sort of things, especially when his own publication has them printed in the headlines.
Even though I was starting to think I was dealing with an imbecile, I sent the letter, letting him know that I was still curious why he wanted me to call him. Especially since the subject of the letter above was "call again?" (Although I'm guessing he earns more in a day than I earn in a week, I was expected to do the calling each time. Even those times, like above, that he wanted MY help answering HIS questions. That's okay though, since I'm figuring he must spend all the money he earns doing fun things like shooting smack. How else would he develop that wonderful prose of his?)
By this point, I was getting pretty frustrated and started wondering what kind of person it was that I had admired so strongly, as a writer, mere weeks ago. I decided not to call the aging pile of wrinkles, and instead wrote him an email. I kept it fairly polite, but you can see the anger I was feeling was starting to emerge:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!! I usually don't care if my letters sink into the abysmal waste of what you have once read and then disregarded, but the last one I wrote I wish you would respond to. Basically, I'm just curious why you wanted me to call, and if you got my message?
I have nothing funny to say, right now.
PS - I also found "The Thomas Crown Affair" to be a fun, rewarding movie. Hopefully it will be a nice little sleeper hit during the dog days of summer. The screening was odd. It seemed as though half the audience loved it, and the other half despised it like I despise the letters C G and I.
Notice how I brought up a little agreeable movie topic in the "PS," to loosen him up, a bit. A little ass-kissing doesn't hurt, especially if you want to become a writer. I guess writers do a lot of ass-kissing. That probably explains the breath.
This is the letter I got in return:
Call me at ###.###.#### and we'll go over everything.
That was it. No signature, nothing. Kind of like Mission Impossible. I think all real writers who are paid to write stuff that people think is real pretend that they're stars in Mission Impossible. Either that, or Gilligan's Island. Being that I couldn't turn down this wanna-be Skipper (although his resemblance to an aging Gilligan is uncanny), I broke down and called. He didn't answer. I left a message. I waited for two or three hours. He never called back. I got up and said, "FUCK THIS! My Gary Coleman midget dream is never gonna come true, and if things don't start looking up, I wouldn't be able to afford the box for all the has-been celebrity midgets, in the first place . . . I'M CALLING AGAIN!" So, again I called. This time he answered. "This is, 'name withheld'" he said, obviously trying to sound cool, just in case I was some studio exec. that he wanted to impress with the new way he found of spelling "about" "abotu." Once he heard it was me, he was obviously disappointed.
I was AMAZED over how rude this person was, and the way he thought he could treat me, just because I didn't co-write the new Mission Impossible, and couldn't get him on the set of the prequel to The Flintstones' movie. He mumbled and grumbled at me, seemingly forgetting he was the one who asked ME to call HIM three times. "Look . . ." he said, in the most threatening manner possible, which was about as threatening as the school nerd trying to sound tough, "I'm doing my column and I can't talk. I don't remember why I called you. I had something I wanted, but I don't need it anymore."
Have you ever felt really, really USED?
"Two can play at that game," I thought, and I decided that it was time to turn this thing around. "I was just wondering if you knew of a magazine or eZine or some form of publication that would like to publish my writing?" He just sat and typed. Finally, he said, "yeah, I can think of a couple." Of course, I got pretty excited, being that my dream was about to come true, and everything. "Where are you located?" He bitched (I'd say he "asked," but he NEVER "asked," he BITCHED). "Minnesota," I answered. "You have to be here or in New York to get a job . . ." "I'm willing to relocate," I told him. Suddenly he got even bitchier (which was quite an accomplishment). He told me, in that abusive manner he's perfected to such a degree, that Tuesday or Thursday at 3:00 PM would be a good time to call him. I told him I'd call him Tuesday. He agreed and hung up. I then sent him this email:
I called. We really didn't cover much of anything. I'm
sorry that I interrupted your column. Hope you get it in by deadline. If I'm
just an annoying thorn in your side that you want to throw away and never feel prick you
again, let me know. Otherwise, it was good talking to you, although I'm
still not sure what it was that you initially wanted me to call you about.
I'm excited to hear you might know of some publication or another
that would be interested in my writing. As I said on the phone, I'm willing to
relocate, and can write until my fingers bleed and my teeth fall out, as long as someone's paying for the inevitable dentures. I'll call you tomorrow at around 3 PM, your time. Hope you'll have a little more time to talk, then. I wish I could find a way to end this email. How about this?
It's worked before. No one ever said anyone had to be original, right?
I received no response from him, so I called, at the scheduled time. Before I got out my name, he started snapping at me. "I'm in the middle of a negotiation! I can't talk!" I asked if I should call him later that night, or maybe the next day. "Look . . ." he screamed, "you're in Minnesota, I'm in California, and I don't care about you." Ouch. I've heard all about bitter old men who have no one to love, and take it out on the rest of the world, but this was ridiculous. I had never been impolite to him, and did nothing to warrant this. He, as a matter of fact, is the one that gave out his number, that said he might have some magazines that might be interested in my writing, and told me that "now" would be a good time to call him. As a matter of fact, I sent him an email (the one above) giving him a chance to politely tell me he didn't want to help out. But, regardless of what I did or did not do, Mr. Arrogance was mad at the world, didn't seem to care for his job, hated his life, and wanted someone to scream at, and I made just as good a whipping boy as anyone who didn't have the power to destroy his image in Hollywood power circles.
After he stated the obvious, telling me that he was there and I was here, and he didn't care about me, and that he had deep personal issues that could never be resolved in a million years, I sarcastically said (in a very OBVIOUS manner) "don't hate me." It was meant as a joke. Unfortunately, Mr. "Too Cool For People Who Don't Send Me Scripts Or Get Me Into Mission Impossible 2" Columnist obviously felt his life was a joke, and he was too involved with himself to realize anyone else may have feelings, or possibly even be insulted by things that he spit out. So, he said, "I don't know you, and quit asking me for things . . . IT'S PISSING ME OFF." Before I could say "sorry" or "fuck off" (I couldn't decide which one to use, on such short notice), he hung up on me.
All I had ever asked this guy for was advice on how to get a job as a columnist, and if he had any clout in getting me into that inbred Hollywood circle that's so hard to break. How many things had he asked me? You can count up above, if you're bored.
It's ironic, really, that someone who does nothing but ask people for "things," interviews, scripts, information, can be "pissed off" when I ask a favor of him. And why did he say he had a couple of places that might be interested in my work? Why did he give out his number? What did he think he would get from me? It's obvious this wasn't ever about me, it was about what I could provide. If I proved useless, I wasn't worth anything. He didn't see me as a human, he saw me as someone that could benefit him. He didn't realize what a spoiled little snot he was being, he was just doing his best impression of Kevin Spacey in Swimming With Sharks.
Me? I think people should be equal. I don't think income or job status or height or weight should matter. I don't think Mr. Dick Columnist should be any worse than Mr. President of Warner Bros. and I don't think Mr. President of Warner Bros. should be any better than Mr. McDonald's Employee. It's when people start getting this image of themselves as being "better" than the ones "below" them, that things start getting scary.
None of us deserve to be treated like shit, for no reason whatsoever. I hope I've never unjustly treated any of you that way, or made you feel less than me, and I hope none of you have ever treated someone else in that manner. I also hope we all avoid these pompous Showbiz pricks, and remind them that they are nothing more than mortal. And, within the next hundred years, that will mean that they are really nothing at all.
©1999 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved]. Copy this, without my permission, and I'll show you how nasty a columnist REALLY can get! Wait, I just did that, didn't I? Um . . . just don't copy this without my permission. Thanks.
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