In our constant quest to stay abreast of all of the cosmopolitan trends and fads in popular culture-
- I am delighted to report that the “Swine Flu” about which all of the news programs have been breathlessly howling for the past several weeks has claimed its first victim here at 801.
Fortunately, the symptoms don’t seem to be fatal; in fact, if one ignores the dark, comb-shaped bruise on the side of his head, my houseboy Panton appears absolutely healthy in every other regard and hardly required the two days paid leave IN BED he insisted he needed to recover from what he calls (with his limited grammatic skills) "piggy cough cough".
Granted, I might have overreacted by hitting him with that garden rake, but dear reader what would YOU do if you saw a swarthy, half-naked savage come charging toward you with a bandana wrapped around his head?
Is it my fault that he decided to protect himself from the possible inhalation of diseased porcine particles in the atmosphere at exactly the same moment that I was watching Anderson Cooper interview one of those similarly masked Somali Pirates?
It was dark, after all, and that silver tray bearing my evening martini did look rather menacing in the dim light; it could have been a rapid fire automatic weapon for goodness’ sake, and given the current trend toward murder/suicides amongst our nation’s unfortunates one simply cannot be too careful. After all, while the protective wall of ficus trees around our Desert Paradise shields us from the various degradations of modern society, this current “Aporkalypse” may well be the end of the world as we know it.
Now I, for one, don’t particularly fear “la grande finale” as it were; I have lived in Paris -
- I have jumped out of an airplane and I’ve cavorted in the ocean with dolphins, sharks and naked rugby players -
-everything from here on in is simply frosting on the already too-rich cake of my life.
In fact, many is the morning where I awake from my dewy slumber, gaze at the ceiling and cry to - in Cole Porter's words - "the gods above me": “Not another ONE? For the love of all that's decent, what MORE do you want from me?! I've received TWO GLAAD nominations this year alone, have I not given you people ENOUGH?”
(Granted, it could be argued that if one couldn't receive an award nomination from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for one's gay movie featuring a gay private eye and his gay boyfriend solving a gay crime against gay people, perhaps one had better choose another line of work...)
However, should I suddenly be given my ticket for that last boat ride across the River Styx, I’m afraid the other passengers are going to have to wait around awhile before I’m ready to board. If, as they say, one’s whole life passes before one’s eyes in the moments before expiration, I expect that recounting just the events of the past couple of months are going to take enough time to have even The Grim Reaper himself ducking out back for a cigarette.
Take, for example, My Big Opening.
Some months ago - as the faithful among you will recall - I finished work on my latest epic, a suspense thriller entitled “DEATH AMONG FRIENDS” which eventually became known as “SOMETHING EVIL COMES”.
To my delight, it turned out rather well and, as such, the studio decided to have a proper, old-fashioned “Hollywood Premiere” complete with Red Carpet, Photographers-
and - best of all - free popcorn!
Now to the untrained eye, these kinds of events seem almost magical - how did ALL of these people end up at the theater, and why are they all so impossibly glamorous, and how can I, a mere “mortal” ever hope to achieve the heights of fame and fortune that these people so casually ascend?
The truth is, like much of show business, nothing but smoke and mirrors. For weeks before the “Premiere”, invitations were sent out, emails were traded, favors were called in and threats were made, all in order to fill the 800-odd seats of the beautiful old “Showcase Theater” on La Brea Avenue with enough bodies to make it seem like an actual “event”, instead of just a nice night out at the movies.
In keeping with the “Day of the Locusts” motif prevalent in the Hollywood of today, we had our fair share of “celebrities” -
- “reality” personalities -
- and any number of actors just happy to be indoors for a change -
- but all were outshone by a special surprise guest who arrived at the last moment and completely took the paparazzi by storm.
Some context might be in order here. Many years ago, while I floundered in that No Man’s Land between high school and “what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-now?”, a group of friends and myself were utterly addicted to a soap opera called “General Hospital”.
One of the major characters on the show was an International "Superspy" named ROBERT SCORPIO, played by an Australian actor named TRISTAN ROGERS.
His slightly tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a - to use his own words - “KMart James Bond” helped propel the show to the top of the daytime ratings and made it an iconic part of early 1980’s tv.
It also had a huge impact on a young wanna-be filmmaker who, at that time, was trying to figure out just how he could make his way to Hollywood and carve out a career in show business.
Flash forward to a couple of months ago.
The Boyfriend had, through his generous patronage of a local charity, arranged for us to attend a black tie fundraising dinner held here in our Desert Paradise. (He's the benevolent one in the family - I only contribute to whatever The New York Times lists as its "cause of the week" in the perhaps misguided belief that I'll end up with my picture in the newspaper.)
Between the presentation of yet more awards to our neighbor Barry Manilow -
(who actually deserves them - he recently bought an entire truckload of musical instruments for a cash-strapped local school)
- and a rather bleakly scripted series of “comic” dialogues between TV icons Morgan Fairchild, Linda Gray and Donna Mills
(one had the rather disorienting sensation of having wandered onto the final cruise of The Love Boat), there was entertainment by Miss Dianne Carroll -
(whose rather unfortunate makeup job didn’t distract from her marvelous singing voice - much...).
But none of this could keep me from utterly embarrassing myself by plopping down next to my table mate - the aforementioned Tristan Rogers - and spending the better part of the catered dinner gushing about the influence he had on my life.
As shameless as that was, and fueled by the seemingly endless bottle of wine in front of me, I then compounded the social infraction by inviting himself, his lovely wife and our mutual friends to the premiere of my new film in Los Angeles, never once expecting them to actually show up.
So imagine my shock - nay, my complete thrill! - at the sudden appearance of Superspy Scorpio behind me on the Red Carpet!
The press photographers went wild, flashbulbs blazing at this genuine “STAR” in our midst; with remarkable ease and grace he smiled for them all, genuinely surprised by the attention. When I finally went up to the front of the theater to make some opening remarks, and thank the audience for attending, he gave me a grin and a wave as I passed by.
It’s been almost 25 years since I sat glued to the set on weekday afternoons, following the absurdly overwritten adventures of the characters on that silly soap opera, and imagining what my life might be.
It has, of course, worked out rather well, the occasional run-in with the help notwithstanding. But sometimes one needs a sign-post, a marker as it were, to remind one just how far along the trail the journey has led.
Certainly the material things help - on those days when the writing isn’t working or the phone isn’t ringing or some dull bastard rears his greasy head from his parents' basement long enough to refer to you as a talentless hack, the only real defense is a chilly martini from a Tiffany glass -
- or a nuzzle from the cold and wet nose of the most recent addition to our household, named CRAWFORD in honor of his arrival on Miss Joan Crawford's birthday -
- but failing those touchstones, I think getting a thumbs up from a Super Spy will do just fine.