So I’m going through my home office trying to reduce some clutter and I find it hard to throw some of this stuff away. Maybe if I itemize some of it and give a brief background, I will have archived those memories. I’m starting with a small white box, mostly business cards, but each one contains a character, and a story. Let’s begin:
1. Business Card
Golden Harvest Films
Peter Steinbroner was a former William Morris agent in L.A. who represented the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a wildly popular comic book that became a national craze. He left his job at the agency to co-executive produce the first feature film on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was also successful and spawned at least two sequels. It was in this role he read my screenplay Natural High and wanted to produce it for Golden Harvest Films. But by the third sequel of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the company’s fortunes had reversed, and it became strictly a distributor for Chinese martial arts movies instead of a company producing original films. Peter eventually left on his own and never had the same level of success, though today he is still a good friend and still swears he will get Natural High made as a feature film. In a city of tribal liars and thieves, he was always a good Catholic, so I put some faith in that.
2. Business Card
Local 44 – I.A.T.S.E.
Before home satellite TV was available, I used to watch all the Washington Redskins football games at a Sports Bar on Washington Boulevard at Sepulveda in L.A. There were about 20 regular Skins fans I would watch the game with on the big screen. Most of them were blue-collar workers like Mike, a motion picture prop man, who drank heavily and sang the Redskins fight song loudly every time the team scored a touchdown. Good times. But the 1 p.m. Eastern Time zone games started at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, so it was always strange to be surrounded by drunks by noon, and step out into the bright sunshine after the game with a full day still ahead.
3. Business Card
Duane Harvey, M.A.
Therapy for Relationships and Creativity
Around the time my career was in the doldrums and my wife and I were arguing over leaving L.A., we went to a therapist who specialized in couple therapy based on the best-selling book at the time by Harville Hendrix; Getting the Love You Want. The techniques involved required you to mirror each other’s feelings as a way of acknowledging you heard their concerns and were empathetic to them. It must have worked because we left L.A. together. Duane Harvey was also a wannabe screenwriter and held group therapy for writers who were trying to stay creative despite personal or professional setbacks. I remember attending one of these group sessions only to realize I was the only reasonably-accomplished professional screenwriter in the group. Nobody else had published or sold anything, though they had been trying for years. That made me feel good enough and I never felt the need to go back.
4. Concert ticket
The Universal Amphitheatre presents
Tues. Oct. 7, 1986
I probably saw Elton John a dozen times in concert in Los Angeles. He consistently put on the best three-hour rock and roll concert I had ever seen. The first time I saw him was at the Universal Amphitheatre in 1979, while I was working a survival job in the Universal Studios television tape library during the day. The show was so good that, during the second night of a five or seven-night concert appearance, I snuck over the fence into the then-open Amphitheatre two hours before the show, pretended I was venue manager checking with the concession vendors to see they had enough change, waited for the gates to open for the regular crowd, then worked my way back to the box office and told them I had dropped my stub between the outside gate and the concert hall and needed another stub to get in. They gave me one and I found an empty seat (temporarily, until the actual owners came, then moved and those people never arrived) and watched the entire concert a second night for free. I always had serious balls when it came to getting into a concert I wanted to see, or smuggling a camera in to get photographs. Some of those Elton John photos taken from the foot of the stage hang in my office to this day. There’s one where he’s looking directly at me really pissed off because I’m taking a picture about four songs past the time when the press is allowed to be that close taking pictures (the first three songs of a concert). I feel a little guilty about that, but it’s a great picture with direct eye contact.
5. Business card
U of L School of Music
Peter McHugh is the conductor of the Louisville Symphony Orchestra and the brother of David McHugh, a Hollywood soundtrack composer I worked with on the Motown/CBS TV movie pre-production of my screenplay Romancing the Beast, co-written with legendary Hollywood wit and Academy Award joke writer, Bruce Vilanch.
6. Business card
Los Angeles, California
Duane Law studied acupuncture in China for 10 years before returning to practice in West Los Angeles. He treated me for a condition where I felt like I had something stuck in my throat. I wrote about the episode in my book Hollywoodaholic. It had been previously diagnosed by a surgeon as possible Hodgkin’s disease, and then by a pharmacological doctor as a spasm of the esophagus. Duane Law diagnosed the condition under his occidental medicine background as a condition called “the plum seed,” which was due to “choked back anger.” My career was going through a very frustrating period at the time and his treatment and prescribed meditations relieved the symptom and further convinced me that, ultimately, all illness or dis-ease has some metaphorical origin in your emotional state.
7. Business card
14513 Ventura Blvd.
Comics, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
A comic book and science fiction-based bookstore in the valley that is named after my favorite television show when I was a kid growing up in the 1960’s.
8. Micro cassette recorder earplug
I would sometimes dictate plot or story ideas into a micro-cassette recorder while driving. I don’t remember ever using the earplug for playback, but here it is.
9. Business card
Stephen J. August, M.D.
I played full court basketball in a Mormon Church gym three times a week with Santa Monica cops and other law enforcement authorities, including a big (bigger than me), awkward (more awkward than me) Deputy District Attorney. One afternoon his flailing arms and hands with fingernails hit me in the eye scratching the lining on my cornea. This is about as painful as it gets for a cut anywhere on the body. I had to go to this ophthalmologist, who proceeded to peel the rest of my cornea lining off that eye with the promise that it would grow back…. at least this once. But until it did, I had to wear a patch because there was no protection from any possible infection agent invading the pupil and causing potential blindness. It grew back.
10. Greeting card
Lake Champlain Chocolates
For a good New Year
Best, Sasha, John & Lana
John Barber was the Vice President of Production for Paramount Pictures Television. We became friends, but he never did stick his neck out to get me a writing gig on any of the Paramount shows, including Cheers, or Star Trek: The Next Generation. Still, he arranged for any of my family and friends to get the V.I.P treatment for live taping of shows at the studio whenever someone was in town.
11. Business card
Apartment Owners & Contractors Association
My girlfriend at the time, who worked as an insurance claims adjuster for AAA, introduced me to a Korean businessman who published a trade magazine and needed sales representatives. I had never done sales before, but got a job selling subscription ads (monthly or yearly) for this magazine. In one month’s time I sold more ads than all the other salesmen, including the owner/businessman. If he didn’t resent me enough for my beautiful girlfriend at the time (who he had the hots for and took scuba diving lessons with), he became livid over this development and required that I show up at the office promptly at 9 a.m. every morning wearing a tie. This had nothing to do with my sales ability, of course, but was enough to make me quit and leave several thousand dollars worth of forfeited monthly commission percentages on the table. Still, in that month, I made enough to buy a great used Volvo.
12. Business card
A hick cowboy from Oklahoma, and friend of a friend, who came to town as a custom boot maker for a Western store that catered to celebrities, and who parlayed that into a regular gig doing character voiceover work, including the wookies for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Only in Hollywood does stuff like this happen.
13. Business card
David A. Cheresh, Ph.D.
Biotech Consult Inc.
La Jolla, California
I met David Cheresh at the University of Miami housing department looking for an apartment roommate on the bulletin board in 1974. We talked about being roommates but he was somewhat evasive about committing and I couldn’t figure out why, until I discovered he moved into the apartment next to mine in Coconut Grove with a hot-looking girl. She also turned out to be hot-headed. Within a month they were screaming at each other and she was throwing pans at him. He later said he regretted not moving in with me. Instead, I had a body-building roommate fresh from Pennsylvania who soon got addicted to steroids, went crazy with homesickness and moved back home. My next roommate was Peter Murad, who I remain great friends with to this day. We spent a lot of time hanging out, partying and going to bars with our next-door neighbor, David Cheresh. He was always borrowing quarters from us and he would actually take unfinished pitchers of beer or pizza from other tables. We eventually all ended up in California, with Dave finishing his graduate work in microbiology and going to work at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla, researching breast cancer. Today, he’s a top biotech consultant millionaire, lives in huge house near San Diego, drives a Porsche Carerra and races his yacht on weekends. But I will always remember him as the good friend always borrowing a quarter from me.
14. Business card
The Landsburg Company
W. Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
Zev Putterman (great name) was a producer I met who was a fan of my scripts and was always friendly to me and tried to get several projects going together. Perhaps I should have taken it as a sign of the limited nature of my fan base in Hollywood when Zev, one of the most enthusiastic of my fans, turned out to be a recovered heroin addict who had spent ten years behind bars (in Alcatraz before it closed, I believe) and who eventually turned his life around. He had a good vibe, though. He was one of those people who had been to hell and back in their lives and now made every day a positive experience.
15. Business card
National Lampoon Films
Motor Ave. L.A., CA
Michael Simmons was the son of the founder and publisher of National Lampoon Magazine, Matty Simmons. Matty hired me as a screenwriter to work on follow-up films to the hugely successful Animal House, which he produced for Universal Pictures. One of those projects (detailed in Hollywoodaholic), was a comedy about screw-offs in the Army reserves during the Vietnam War called Two Weeks at War. Matty hired his son, also in his mid-20’s like me at the time, to be my co-writer on this project and we went off on adventures together to Fort Ord, California and to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, researching the script. We did a mock version of boot camp, shot M-16s, flew in Huey Helicopters, and were housed at the General’s quarters on base, and enjoyed all the privileges of Hollywood bigwigs being sucked up to by the army brass looking for good PR. They never got it since the picture didn’t get made; and it would have been worse if it had been, since the Army never knew it was going to be a National Lampoon picture that would skewer them mercilessly. Michael took his role researching army screw-ups quite literally and went through his $750 per week (a cash allowance) from the studio in three days almost entirely on booze. I’ve been in touch with Michael again recently and he writes for the Huffington Post, L.A. Weekly and is a regular contributor to my favorite music magazine – MOJO. Check out his story on the comeback of Leon Russell with Elton John in the latest (November) issue.
– A. Wayne Carter