By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
"You think that's bad?" Manager says. "Wait until the next time you come out here. It's just going to get crazier." I hope he's right.
We walk--actually, I walk and Manager hobbles gamely--to a nearby café where nearly everyone is eating salad and sharing tall bottles of what I repeatedly hear referred to as "flat water." If you order water at a restaurant in Minnesota, its flatness is a given. You'll get a glass of cold tap with ice, no questions asked. If you're jonesing for something fizzy you order a PBR. But in L.A., water comes in many distinct flavors, carbonation levels, and vintages. You can even get water that's been blessed by a rabbi and is approved for consumption by paragons of Judaism such as Madonna and Paris Hilton. Drinking tap water around here is unheard of. L.A.'s water is supposedly pumped in from other locations via aqueducts anyway, so maybe it tastes unfashionably rural.
"When I used to call you, it always seemed like you didn't believe the things I was saying," Manager says, alluding to the early days of our business relationship.
"I didn't," I say, attacking a pile of French fries. I refuse to do as the Romans do, cuisine-wise. Salads are for pussies and Best Supporting Actresses. "What reason did I have to believe you? I'd never written a screenplay before. Everyone I've ever met who's tried to write a screenplay has languished in obscurity. It didn't seem possible to succeed at it."
"Obviously, it was," Manager says smugly.
"I just think this whole thing is insane," I say.
"It's like the story about the emperor's new clothes," Manager says. "One person in power decided you'd written the greatest movie ever. Then another guy jumped on the bandwagon. Next thing you know, you have the most talked-about script in Hollywood and two studios are fighting over you."
"The emperor's new clothes, huh?" I say.
Afterward, Manager wants ice cream, so we walk/hobble to the farmers' market and enjoy the frosty homemade stuff on a remote bench. "I hate people," Manager remarks, digging into a dish of peppermint stick.
"Me too," I say happily.
I'm driving the Moneywagon onto the Lot, which is the actual official name of the space formerly known as Warner Hollywood Studios, United Artists Studios, or the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, depending on the era. Now, it's just the Lot. When Manager told me to drive to a place called the Lot for my meeting, I don't realize it's an actual movie lot. In fact, I don't figure it out until the parking attendant laughs at me and hands me a detailed map of the premises. It's a lot, all right, full of the usual eerie silence, giant soundstages and grips tooling around in golf carts. I'm headed for the Frank Sinatra Bungalow, which was Frank's actual office back in the day. It's hot as hell, and even though the Lot is a Lilliputian operation compared with other studios, I find myself wandering aimlessly down the studio's Main Street, wondering where the hell Frankie's crash pad might be. I finally find it after following a complex series of directions I get from a security guard.
Frank Sinatra's former bungalow looks exactly like I wanted it to look, equal parts dignity and ring-a-ding-ding. The producer who now occupies this office is a delightfully grounded fellow who asks me as many questions about my actual life and the Twin Cities scene as he does about screenwriting. He gives me a DVD of the gritty adolescent drama Thirteen, which he also produced, and I instantly decide that I love him. I will guard the DVD like a talisman for the rest of the trip; it is special. It's like being given a hamburger by Ray Kroc himself. The producer listens to me babble as I describe my new spec script, a darkly humorous story about a very unlikable schoolteacher.
"It sounds like you're drawn to the same kind of characters over and over again," he comments. Which is true. I've written more material about suicidal middle-aged male protagonists finding redemption than I care to admit.
"I don't know why I do that," I confess. I really don't. I'm a twentysomething female who couldn't find redemption in a coupon book. But the producer seems satisfied with the response and lobs a few interesting propositions at me. I answer them as if this is really happening.
When it's all over, I'm relieved to be off the Lot. The Lot scares me. In my car, feeling confident enough to pilot an automobile down Melrose while talking on the phone, I call Jonny back in Minneapolis. "I just had the best meeting!" I say. "I got a free DVD. Oh, and I might get to write a TV show or something." The propositions here are so vague that I never know what to report.
"Cool! Did you meet Robert Evans?" Jonny asks.
"Not yet," I say. "I'm working on it, though. I met someone who claims to have hung out in his bedroom at Woodland. His bedroom."