Archive for April, 2013

Day-glo shoes are the next big hair

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

This blog arrives possessed by the curmudgeon spirit of Andy Rooney, where I find myself admitting this current invasion of day-glo, neon-colored athletic shoes just reminds me how those fashion fads we rush to embrace one day, can become shockingly embarrassing by the next decade.

Sure, I get it. White or black sneakers never really went with anything else in your ensemble either, so if you’re going to clash, you might as well clash BIG. And nothing clashes BIGGER with anything you’re wearing than a nice fat pair of day-glo electric chartreuse running shoes. Shoes that don’t just make a fashion statement, they SCREAM one. It goes something like this: “I just paid $150 for a pair of kick-around shoes that will immediately distract you from the fact that the rest of my ensemble came off the rack at Target.”

I kids. Or, for you boomers; I Keds.

But remember Nehru jackets and bell bottoms from the 70’s? Or how about big hair, porno moustaches, wide lapels and skinny ties from the 80s? Oh, wait, this just in: Skinny ties are BACK in again. And so are skinny lapels, tucking in your shirt, and wearing a suit that is pinched at the second button up so it accentuates… what? That you’re busting at the gut if you’re not a starving television personality?

Now imagine ten years from now looking back at neon-colored sneakers that people were paying more than $150 for. I can remember once paying $120 for a pair of high-top Air Nikes, but at least those were supposed to help a white man defy gravity and dunk a basketball. Sadly, not only did they not help me dunk, but they fell apart in less than three months. I had to send them back to the Nike factory, which, forgive the reminder, is probably a sweat shop somewhere in Indonesia paying kids ten cents an hour. Even sadder now is the fact those kids are now probably going blind stitching and staring bug-eyed at day-glo fabric all day.

If you’ve been to a rave lately (so late 90s, or early 00s), no doubt your shoes look great dancing around by themselves under a purple UV light while Skrillex does the same thing to your ears that your shoes do for your feet. But if you’re walking around day-to-day in these shoes, here’s the dirty little secret… day-glo sneakers really look bad when they get dirty. Not only do they lose their glow, it just seems to accentuate the effect of making them look… kind of gross.

An old, scuffed pair of white tennis shoes somehow just pegged you as somebody who got good economical use out of your shoes and were proud of where they had taken you and how far. But dirt and wear on day-glo shoes tarnishes the glow, so to speak. They only seem to say, “I’m not quite ready or cash-rich enough to rush out and buy a gleaming bright new pair yet, so bear with me on this pair that looks like I swallowed plutonium and vomited all over my shoes.”

As far as fads go for pioneer trend-setters, I guess day-glo athletic shoes are silly, but ultimately harmless. Cops are sure to love them. If pants hanging around your knees doesn’t slow you down enough for the police to tackle your underwear-baring ass, now they can just chase you down following the streaking phosphorescent glow of your shoes in the dark.

— A. Wayne Carter

Bruce Springsteen, I’m so sorry

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

brucespringsteen_live1975-1985_lp

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

Hey Boss,

The year was 1991. You had divorced the Hollywood actress wife, married the New Jersey hometown girl (Patti Scialfa), and relocated to California. The timing of those events appears a bit off (why didn’t you relocate to L.A. for the Hollywood wife and stay back East for the New Jersey wife?), but let’s not quibble. Those of us who had already moved to Los Angeles were glad to have an authentic, working class living music legend among us, emphasis on the ‘authentic’ part. You helped validate our own struggle and choice to be there.

A college buddy of mine who worked as a microbiologist cancer researcher at the Scripps Institute in La Jolla was visiting. Cruising down Main Street in Santa Monica, we spotted a relatively new food joint called Joe’s Diner, where we assumed you could get an authentic, working class cheeseburger. The unpretentious name and promise of American diner food must have also attracted your attention, because no sooner had we sat in our booth when I spotted you sitting with your very pregnant wife in the booth directly next to ours.

Now my buddy was a bit star struck and had been itching to spot celebrities on his abbreviated visit with me in La La Land. How could I indiscreetly tell him the back of his head was less than a foot away from Bruce Springsteen’s in the booth behind him? Well, not wanting to create any kind of scene, or disturb your lunch, I couldn’t, of course. So we just continued to calmly eat our lunches.

Now I’d seen plenty of celebrities in my business and entertainment excursions around L.A. almost every day – it was just part of the scenery, but I rarely had any interest in actually walking up to or meeting most. I don’t know whether it was my own pride, or perhaps wanting to appear just as cool as everyone else in the industry, or simply from a lack of interest or respect. But this was an entirely different case. This was ‘The Boss,’ – more revered than the Pope, more honest or authentic than any president, and more awesome than any other rock star then living in Los Angeles.

So when both our lunches ended and we happened to converge at the cash register around the same time, I couldn’t resist.

And that’s when it happened.

Being from New Jersey, you naturally disdain credit cards and carried around what could only be sociologically and anthropologically be described as a ‘Jersey Roll.’ Italians, Catholics, PRs, gangsters, punks and priests and just about everyone else in North Jersey carry their cash around in a flashy roll, usually wound with a rubber band. That your ‘Roll’ happened to flash a huge and tight wad of hundred dollar bills just spoke to your native trait status level. You can take the boy out of New Jersey, but never quite take the New Jersey Roll out of the boy, no matter how rich or recognizable that boy becomes.

So when I reached to shake your hand, it looked like I was actually reaching for your … Roll. Your teeth clenched, and a momentary, blood-drained look of flinch and fight crossed your facial expression. It only lasted a brief second until you realized I was simply a friendly fan trying to shake your hand and not steal your Roll, but it probably caused you a minor stroke flashing back to your Jersey shore survival days.

And for stressful moment of trauma, I’m so sorry.

You peeled off a hundred, paid your bill, shook my hand and I smiled and said, “I just wanted to welcome you to California.” You smiled back and replied, “Thank you, man. Good to be here.”

You walked out of Joe’s Diner, and my friend and I stepped out to the sidewalk and he turned to me and asked, “Who was that – a buddy of yours?” And I grinned at my friend and said, “No. Didn’t you recognize him? That was Bruce Springsteen.”

My friend nearly had a coronary right there on Main Street. He started freaking out getting all excited and asking me over and over, “Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“Well, for one reason,” I explained, “this exact reaction.” I told him his head was a foot from yours the whole lunch, almost to the point where follicles might have brushed through each other. How calm or comfortable would both our lunches have been if my star struck friend knew all along?

But you were definitely uncomfortable when you thought I was about to grab your Roll. So, for that moment, and whatever tense, dark Jersey alley flashback it might’ve caused you, I’m sorry.

You made the right move going back to live in New Jersey a couple years later.

Everyone there knows how to stand clear when someone pulls out their Roll.

— A. Wayne Carter

R.I.P.  – Clarence Clemons 1942-June 18, 2011

Robert Duvall, I’m so sorry

Monday, April 8th, 2013

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

Dear Robert,

Think back to late summer 1971 and you are hanging out in Pompano Beach, Florida spending time with your ailing father (or, at least, that was your story). My family is vacationing at the Lighthouse Cove Resort in Pompano, and I just joined them from spending three months as a foreign exchange student in Peru prior to my senior year in high school.

My mother, Gwen, is about 44 at this time, but still quite good looking. She was the lead baton-twirling majorette at her high school back in Iowa. Apparently, you struck up a conversation one late afternoon with her while in the restaurant at the resort, which also has a bar. You told her about your father and why you were hanging out there, and some of the stories about your acting career. This was probably close to the time you had just been cast to play the part of the consigliore, Tom Hagen, in Francis Ford Coppolas’ classic “The Godfather.”

My mother, besides her beauty, always had the uncanny ability to attract conversations from almost anyone anywhere. She was an open, bright spirit, with major(ette) social skills and an Iowa politeness and innocence. She could even summon great conversations from the usually non talkative. She somehow summoned a lot of conversation from you about your life, your father, and your acting, and later mentioned it to her son (“He’s an actor, Wayne, maybe he can help you with your scriptwriting.” “I doubt it, mom,” the obstinate teenager replied). She wasn’t quite sure who you were, even though we had no doubt seen you in countless television shows from the 60’s such as “The Outer Limits,” “Route 66,” “The Virginian,” and many more. But you weren’t a ‘movie star’ yet.

Cut to nearly 20 years later. I’m living in L.A. working as a screenwriter and my mom and dad, who have been married nearly 40 years at this point, come to visit. I want to take them to all the hip places. Dudley Moore and Tony Bill had recently opened a restaurant down the street from where I lived in Venice called “72 Market Street,” and all their movie star friends liked to hang out there, so I took my parents there to eat.

No sooner have we sat down, when my mom looks over to another table nearby and spots you. She gets very excited. She remembers the conversation you had all those years ago with her in Pompano Beach, but now you are a big movie star. I tell her she should go over and say hello. But my mom is way too shy. My dad is usually even shyer, but at some point he says he’ll go over and say something.

My dad steps over to your table, stands just behind and above you, and, very nervously and tensely starts to say, “You met my wife at a bar in Pompano Beach several years ago …”

And, at this point, it all suddenly dawns on me and I think, “Oh, shit.” Of course. You were an actor hanging out in a local hotel restaurant bar where tourists stay in a town while no doubt being bored in between visits with your father (if that story was true) and you were trying to pick up my mother. God, it was suddenly oh, so obvious.

And here was this six foot-tall stranger stepping up behind you towering over your seat and very tensely saying, “You met my wife in a bar several years ago ….” And I believe I saw your face turn a whiter shade of pale.

Was this guy about to clock you for having an affair with his wife? How could you have had a clue or known otherwise? That must have been one tense moment. I could see it in your expression and in the way you tensed up.

But then my father continued, adding something like, “… and I just wanted to thank you for having such a nice conversation with her that helped make her vacation so much more memorable.”

What????!

I guess at this point you were wondering just what the hell happened, but you’re being thanked by a strange man for having a ‘conversation’ with his wife. Still, you looked visibly relieved. You smiled politely. Looked over to where my mom and I were sitting and nodded politely, and that was it. You weren’t about to die.

But if that moment cost you a few more strands of hair, or a near stroke, or some possible indigestion, I apologize. It was all very innocent.

Unless of course you really WERE trying to pick up my mother that afternoon in Florida; in which case, the apology’s off.

— A. Wayne Carter

Ray Bradbury, I’m so sorry

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

(No, it’s not Summer, but I’m playing a few re-runs for the uninitiated while I am in heavy script mode on a feature. Here’s a favorite. Don’t forget to check the archive.)

(We lost Ray Bradbury last year, but his legacy is immortal.)

Dear Ray,

Okay, this is really embarrassing. You are the legendary science fiction author of Fahrenheit 451The Martian ChroniclesDandelion WineSomething Wicked this Way Comes, and hundreds of classic short stories such as The Illustrated ManI Sing the Body ElectricThe Fog HornThe Veldt. I read them all as a kid. I watched them adapted into episodes of my favorite television shows, on The Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents and Suspense. They were a key inspiration for me to write short stories in my youth and to pursue a career as a writer.

Your brand of science fiction was different than many of the technological or hardware-oriented genre writers of the day. Your stories were humanistic. You were less concerned with some new gadget or where a planet was located in the galaxy, and more interested in what effect that invention or discovery had on humans and their relations to one another. It was science fiction with soul. And it moved and inspired me. You were an idol.

And I diss-ed you to your face.

Oh, it wasn’t deliberate, or premeditated, or by any means intentional. I didn’t even realize it was supremely disrespectful at the time, heck, I was in my twenties, but I do now. And that’s why I’m writing this note to say I’m sorry.

Cut to 1983 and I’ve already had a little success as a screenwriter in Hollywood. I wrote a couple comedy feature scripts for National Lampoon that were going to be produced by Universal Pictures, but never quite made it to the screen. You first tried your hand at screenwriting as early as 1956, when you were hired to adapt Moby Dick for the screen, starring Gregory Peck. I was following the same path.

I had a meeting with an independent producer to possibly adapt a science fiction novel called Space Vampires by Colin Wilson for a feature. These weren’t your usual bloodsucking vampires, but vampires from another planet that sucked the very life force or energy out of your body until you were a withered piece of crust. I liked the story and the inherent metaphor of ‘energy vampires’ who drain you (we all know one or two), and was very excited about working with the director, Tobe Hooper, who shocked audiences with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

But Cannon Films, which was going to oversee, market and produce the picture had another project they wanted me to interview for instead that they were also excited about. This was going to be a 3-D extravaganza called Escape From Beyond about a bounty hunter in space. There were already a director and producer attached who just had success with their previous ‘revolutionary’ new 3-D picture, Comin’ At Ya! This would be their big science fiction follow up, and they were interviewing well-known veteran science fiction writers for the gig and some up-and-coming hot screenwriters. I was one of the up-and-coming hot screenwriters who interviewed for the gig. And you were one of the veteran science fiction writers.

But I got the job.

Now, of course, I understand the decision made was not entirely based on merit, or just because I might have a younger or hipper approach to the material. The deal with me was undoubtedly finalized because the budget of the film had been targeted at about $2 million total, and my negotiated fee was about $17,000 and your agent was probably asking somewhere around $100,000 minimum. Your fee was definitely a factor, if not the factor.

I didn’t know that you were up for the same film until after my deal was in place. They didn’t even want to pay me as much as they did, but I was already a Writer’s Guild member and my agent and I insisted as part of the deal that they become signators of the Writer’s Guild (make a formal agreement to abide by union rules and minimums for professional screenwriters) and pay me the union minimum for a writer on a feature motion picture. I had some clout as the hot newcomer. I was always very proud of the fact a company that had previously underpaid and probably abused screenwriters for scores of projects finally went legit with my deal. Of course, $17,000 is still a LOT less than $100,000, but that didn’t make me any less proud. I had successfully ‘scored’ a screenwriting gig over a childhood hero.

Now, if it makes you feel any better about losing this particular gig, you will be pleased to note I was seriously abused for this victory. The fact they became WGA signators and had to abide by union fees, didn’t mean they couldn’t take their pound of flesh out of me in other ways. I eventually wrote about seven full drafts of the screenplay, working with an Italian director who spoke little English, and a temperamental actor-producer. The film went from a space bounty hunter picture to a medieval Spain chariot picture to-, well, at one meeting with the president of the film company, he said to me in the most serious and dramatic Israeli dialect and tone possible, “Vee got Charles Bronson.” Yes, could I somehow turn this original science fiction epic into … Death Wish IV?

Escape From Beyond poster in Reporter

The Charlie Bronson part of the deal never came through. His fee would have chewed up about $1.5 million of the $2 million budget (minus the $17,000). And by the time they had hired the chariot stunt crews and started building the sets in Mexico to film the medieval Spain version, the budget started to look more like $10 million and they pulled the project as being too costly. But not before they had pre-sold the film at the Cannes Film Festival using posters and art with my name as screenwriter, along with two other ‘producers’ who had nothing to do with the script. More abuse.

The money they didn’t have to spend on Escape From Beyond probably went to the budget overages for Space Vampires, which had gone before the camera earlier. This film was eventually released as Lifeforce; a film most horny science fiction fans will remember as the movie starring this unbelievably voluptuous naked chick walking around sucking the life energy out of every man within kissing distance. (She was Israeli, didn’t speak a lick of English, and was the company president’s girlfriend at the time, I’m told).

This brings me to the moment where I unfortunately diss-ed you.

You were making an appearance at a local science fiction bookstore, A Change of Hobbit, to sign copies of your books along with another of my writer heroes, horror scribe Robert Bloch (Psycho).

I waited patiently in line with paperback copies of your Golden Apples of the Sun and Bloch’s Stuff that Screams Are Made OfAnd when I got to the front, I shook your hand, effusively talked about how you had been my childhood inspiration; how I was now successfully making it as a writer in Hollywood; and how I had even got a job you were up for.

You betrayed no distress at my hideous lapse of manners, and graciously signed the book, but the conversation quickly and awkwardly ended. I grinned excitedly at finally meeting you, and under these unique circumstances, and walked away on air.

And later felt like a total douche bag.

My only excuse is that, I was just so excited about finally getting somewhere trying to walk your very same path, I didn’t realize when I was stepping on your toes (or heels). It was the move of an ego-pumped amateur. An upstart. And I’m sorry.

Karma caught up with me on the nightmare that was the rest of that project, and I have no doubt that neither you nor your agent would have put up with the blood I was made to spill on those seven different drafts (when the WGA supposedly only allows one revision per fee).

And I never made it much further up the path you blazed in terms of fame, fortune, or movies produced or adapted from your own stories or novels.

But for that brief moment, I felt like I could look a childhood hero in the eye from the same height and share the rarified air up there.

Thanks for not calling me a punk, and kicking my ass off that cloud.

— A. Wayne Carter