Monday, January 12, 2009

SCHINDLER'S CHRISTMAS LIST

Finally.



At the risk of looking a "Gift Reindeer" in the mouth, I don't think I've ever been so glad to see the chimney flue hit Santa on the ass on his way out as I was this past Christmas.



Granted, the holiday season has always been a challenge here at “Six Palms”, my little piece of desert paradise so named because of the six majestic palm trees swaying in the back yard –



- although a recent landscaping excavation has uncovered several more palm trees hidden behind a brick wall in the southeast corner but somehow “Nine and A Half Palms” just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, sounding as it does like a Mickey Rourke movie from the early 1980’s.



(Speaking of Mickey Rourke, his turn in the film "The Wrestler" is certainly remarkable, indeed worth all the praise it's getting, and I certainly can appreciate a "comeback" as much as the next fellow, but could he not have made the return trip without those ghastly lips?



Good heavens, the man makes Cher look like a natural beauty!)



Now don't get me wrong, I simply adore Christmas – goodness knows nobody likes artificial joy -



- simmering family tensions and the absolute bastardization of religious dogma more than yours truly –



- but in previous incarnations of the festive event I have usually been out of town on some remote location shoot, flying in at the last minute to frantically throw together just enough Yuletide merriment to get us through to New Year’s Eve without a homicide. While this sounds like a challenge to even the most devout Elsa Maxwell fan -



- the truth is I’ve always enjoyed the anaesthetic qualities of chaos, and there is something to be said for the calming effect of running around like a “poulet sans la tete”, as it were.

This year, however, was quite different. Having finished post-production duties on both “Black Rain” and “Death Among Friends” – my latest cinematic gifts to the masses - a week earlier than anticipated, I found myself free to obsess over the minutiae of this year’s Christmas debacle with a single-mindedness which would’ve put Captain Ahab to shame.



Walls were scrubbed until the paint peeled, windows were wiped so spotlessly that entire flocks of migrating birds committed accidental suicide against the glass, and carpets were shampooed to the point that even the five-year-old child strapped to the loom back in Rugazikstan smelled “minty” fresh.

All of this was exhausting, as you can imagine, dear reader. Needless to say I myself didn’t actually DO any of the work - that's why one has household staff of course -



- but simply watching my houseboy Panton scurry from chore to chore in his chatteringly haphazard fashion, all the while keeping one worried eye on his rapidly dwindling stock portfolio



- (for someone who professes not to understand a word of English, Panton has a remarkable grasp of the ups and downs of Wall Street) was quite enough to leave me utterly limp.

To top all this off, my Mother arrived from Canada, that deep freeze which masquerades as a country, hat boxes and steamer trunks in tow, all ready for a month in our sunny climes.



She's actually not much trouble, all things being equal, although trying to keep up with her as she reconnects with her various friends -- including Hollywood icon Robert "RJ" Wagner and the like - is quite distracting to say the least.



(As many of you have guessed over the years, I am the product of a brief 1959 liason she had with the late Prince of Monaco - here seen with that tramp Grace Kelly - HOMEWRECKER!!



My mother, being a lady, simply refuses to admit to this little indiscretion - in fact she denies it flatly, insisting the "rockabilly" singer who showed up at our house from time to time during the 60's and 70's was in fact not just her "husband" but also my father. But deep down, I'm sure she knows the truth.)

In spite of all this, I was somehow able to summon the strength for our annual “Christmas Pilgrimage”, during which I graciously fill a twelve passenger van with underprivileged out-of-towners and take them into the world renowned “The Grove”-



- a mildly vulgar shopping megalopolis nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, for a day of celebrating the true meaning of Christmas – Retail Worship.

This year we were joined at lunch by several special guests -



- including my recently affianced sister Jane and honorary Oliver Sister The Duchess of Milton -



- not to mention writer/director Don Mancini, whose first film “Child’s Play” gave the world “Chucky”, arguably the best gift a kid could ever get.



There were some rather unwelcome attendees as well, namely a herd of those dreadful “paparrazi” -



- the amateur photographers/parasites who have started to clutter almost all of Hollywood’s public spaces, including The Grove, like crab lice on a randy college boy, desperately trying to get photographic evidence that "Movie Stars" are just like You and Me.

This is not even remotely true, of course. "They" are not like us, which is why they are Movie Stars. But it doesn't stop these F-Stop Vultures from circling every restaurant or bar in town like moths drawn to the light of people who have, in most cases, actually done something worthwhile with their lives.

Pickings must have been slim on this particular day however, as they seemed to be chasing a skinny bobble head named Peter Wentz -



- apparently the lead singer of yet another utterly forgettable pop band - as if he were an actual STAR, like soon-to-be President Obama, say, or Uma Thurman.

Honestly, stalking D-list celebrities when they are regurgitating their Red Bull and Vodka outside some show business dive is one thing, but chasing them through a crowded shopping mall and blowing any possibility of surprise in their Christmas gift-giving is in my opinion simply beyond the pale. There was one amusing moment however, which practically made up for the sheer nonsense of it all.

As is my custom, I had been buying gifts for friends and family all year long, secreting them in my office closet beneath the vast piles of unread screenplays and unopened fan mail. I'd been keeping track of just exactly how much money I’d spent on these various baubles and trinkets, each one thoughtfully selected to match the exact dollar value I placed on the relationship I had with the intended recipient and was, as far as I was concerned, quite finished with my gifting responsibilities for this holiday season, thank you very much.

So while my luncheon companions departed to make their way through the packed streets of this artificial “downtown” to find some way to express their love for me -



- it is, as you can imagine dear reader, incredibly difficult to choose just the right gift for Yours Truly -



- I was able to linger at the outdoor café and enjoy another champagne cocktail (made with domestic bubbly, I might add – in these recessionary times, methinks it would be a trifle gauche to soak a sugar cube in a glass of Veuve Clicquot…) while watching the magic of Christmas shopping unfold around me...



But it was, perhaps, this second drink – or maybe Frank Sinatra’s version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” washing over me – that caused me to be struck out of the blue with the most hideously gut wrenching feeling of - dare I say it ?- INADEQUACY!



Yes, dear reader, as a third cocktail arrived and I gazed at the shoppers laden with bags and boxes, most of which were bought on maxed out credit cards or upside down lines of home equity, I suddenly felt like the lead character in Steven Spielberg’s motion picture “Schindler’s List”.



“Could I have done more?”

Now this is not to suggest that the Holocaust could have been stopped by an artificial pine tree draped in a few hundred feet of tinsel; certainly not even Oskar Schindler himself could’ve saved that little red caped girl with a handful of candy canes and a Betsy Wetsy Doll.



(Although she might have been happy with my favorite doll of all time, found amongst other Chinese import toys with equally mistranslated names in a Sunday market at Takapuna Beach, New Zealand -- the Benign Girl Doll.



One can only imagine Benign Girl comes with such accessories as The Deluxe Chemotherapy Fun Salon and The Survivor Support Group Play House...)

But at that moment, awash in the spirit of giving, I heard a little voice inside of my head, speaking to me – it could have been my conscience, I suppose, if my conscience had an Irish brogue and sounded like Liam Neeson:


“With one more gift, could I have made my Christmas guests happier? With one more book, one more dvd, one more designer tie which lights up with LED bulbs in the shape of the wearer’s Chinese astrological animal, could I have made a difference in someone’s life?”




Fortunately, before I went too much further with that inane line of questioning, I was jolted from my reverie by one of the paparrazi stumbling against the patio railing and knocking the champagne from my hand. He glared at me, as if it was MY fault that he had been so blinded by his pursuit of this year’s Jayne Mansfield that he had been unaware of my Prada clad foot jutting out just ever-so-slightly into his path.

“Thanks a lot, asshole,” he muttered, picking himself up.

“I beg your pardon,” I said crisply. “I believe you owe me a champagne cocktail, you oaf!”

I shall spare you his vulgar reply, dear reader, but suffice it to say that I will not be appearing in the pages of “Hello” magazine anytime soon. I suppose I should have thanked him, though; he did bring me back from the edge of an emotional meltdown, hardly the sort of thing one can afford when hosting a Major Yuletide Event.



And major it was.





With a guest list including celebrated actors and acclaimed politicians-



- award winning journalists and prominent local businessmen -



- motion picture moguls-



- and at least one Supreme Court Judge all enjoying a dinner catered by Barry Manilow’s personal chef AND entertainment courtesy of our very own Diva Denise Carter -



- this particular Christmas party has gone down as the most enjoyable one we’ve had at Six Palms yet.








But still, even after the last present was opened, the last bottle popped and the last bird unstuffed, I have to admit that little voice came back into my head, the one that sounded like Liam Neeson; only this time it wasn’t the Liam Neeson from the Spielberg movie but rather the Liam Neeson from “Batman Begins”:



“Bruce, please! For your own sake! There is no turning back!”

I don’t know why he was calling me Bruce, but I figured he knew what he was talking about. There is no turning back. There is only the New Year…2009.



Bring it on...