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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in hollywood (2)

Wednesday
Sep222010

In Which It Comes Off With Time

The Shine

by SUSANNAH BRESLIN

1. Ari Gold

Maybe a year or so ago, or maybe it was closer to two, I got a phone call from Ari Emanuel. In case you’ve never heard of him, he’s a famous agent in Hollywood and the inspiration for Ari Gold, who is played by Jeremy Piven on Entourage. When I picked up the phone, a woman who sounded like she was Asian and maybe in an elevator said, “Will you hold for Ari Emanuel, please?” I said, “Yes,” because that’s what you do Ari Emanuel calls, or so I assumed. I don’t remember what I was doing at the time. Probably nothing. I was probably wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt with food stains on it. I am sure it was not glamorous.

2. Rollergirl  

I can’t remember what Ari said, but it was something like, “You’re the porn writer?” This was not exactly true. I had been writing about the adult movie industry on-and-off for a decade or so. I wrote about porn, but I was not a “porn writer,” per se. I think I said, “Yes,” because it seemed like the easiest answer I could think of. Then Ari started to speak very quickly about people named Mark and Lev and a famous director, and I had no idea who he was talking about or what he was talking about. I listened to him talk on at this speedy clip. I imagined him barreling out of an elevator with his frantic, frightened entourage of small, insignificant people in tow, and him climbing into a large car with blacked-out windows. He paused. I said, “Mark, who?” He said, “Mark Wahlberg.” 

photo by the author

3. Couple   

Ari explained that Mark Wahlberg and his production company partner Stephen Levinson, who is at least part of the inspiration for Eric “E.” Murphy, who is played by Kevin Connolly on Entourage, had a development deal with HBO, and they all wanted to make this TV show for HBO about the porn business. The way that Ari told it, they wanted to make it with this famous director, and, Ari said, the famous director, who I had the vaguest connection to on account of knowing one of his siblings, would only do the show if I was the one who wrote it. This seemed quite odd. It was hard to imagine that anyone important in Hollywood would only do something if they did it with me. I was not even fully dressed, or at least not dressed properly. 

4. James Joyce

The reason Ari was calling me, or he had my number, was that at the time I was represented by Endeavor, which is what Ari’s agency was called before it became William Morris Endeavor. Maybe six months or so before the phone rang, I had sent the first 30 pages of a novel that I was working on to a literary agent there, and he had signed me. The novel was about — well, frankly, it is hard for me to recall now. It was based in Porn Valley, of that I am sure, and I believe it was about a detective trying to find a killer on the loose in the porn industry. My agent thought it was brilliant. 

5. Citizen Kane

After Ari stopped talking at me, I got off the phone, and I called up my agent. Ari had been wanting to do a TV show about porn “forever,” the agent said. He was always shouting at people about it, telling people to go out and find him something that he could turn into a porn movie or TV show or what have you. Ari was into porn, from what I gathered. His interest seemed more than professional, to me. It was like a mission — it mattered. My agent got off the phone and called Ari. My agent called me back and said I had to write a treatment for my TV show about porn that I would be writing for Mark Wahlberg and the famous director. So I did. 

6. Academy Awards  

Somewhere along the line, I sent an e-mail to the famous director who was maybe going to direct my TV show. I told him what Ari had said. He e-mailed me back and told me to call him. Basically, what Ari had said the famous director had said was not exactly what the famous director had said, although the famous director had said my name when he was speaking to Ari about said project. I felt kind of stupid. It didn’t matter, in a way, in that we kept working on my TV show. The famous director said Ari does stuff like that all the time. The famous director said that he, himself, had done stuff like that too. I guessed that I had forgotten that this is how it works in Hollywood. Like: The way you can tell an agent is lying is if their lips are moving. That sort of thing. 

7. Marilyn Monroe 

I wrote the treatment, and I sent it to my agent, and he sent it to Lev, and then I had to call Lev, because Wahlberg was too busy, and I was to pitch the show. This wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. I called Lev, and it was pretty clear that he had not read the treatment. It sounded like he was at a kid’s birthday party, which made talking about a show about porn awkward, what with small children screaming in the background and such. The whole thing didn’t last very long, but it seemed like it lasted forever. It did not go well. In the end, they didn’t make my TV show, and when I finished my novel and sent it to my agent, he said it didn’t make any sense, and after that we stopped working together. And that was that. 

8. James Frey

Last month, I read online that James Frey, who wrote a fake rehab book called A Million Little Pieces, had been hired to write the porn movie show that I had failed to make. According to Page Six, "The plot will focus on a giant video company under siege from Internet competitors and a girl from the Midwest whose boyfriend convinces her to move to Los Angeles to become a star." Which I guess is one way to do it. I don’t know if the famous director is attached to the project being written by Frey. Reached by the New York Post, Frey said, “We're going to make a sprawling epic about the porn business in LA. We're going to tell the type of stories no one else has told before, and go places no one has gone before.” Reading that made me want to vomit, partly due to the fact that it wasn’t me saying asinine things to the Post, and partly due to the fact that James Frey is a total tool. 

9. Missy  

A couple weeks ago I sent Alex Carnevale, who is the editor of this site, an e-mail. I asked him if he wanted me to write something for the site. He e-mailed me back something like that he would like nothing more, but that he didn’t have the budget to pay me. I said, I’m offering to do it for free. He said something like, great. I sent him a few story ideas. The first one was about porn, and the other ones were about other things. He picked the porn idea first, because editors always do. I said I wanted to write about this dead porn star whose name was Missy. She was really blonde, and she was really beautiful, and she was really tiny. I met her on a porn set 13 years ago. She had this high little voice, and she was married to a male porn star who was having sex with someone else in the same movie, and she had this inarguable angelic quality to her, which is not something you see a lot of in the porn business: angels. She was one of those people you never forget. I think she had that thing Dick Hallorann, who was played by Scatman Crothers in The Shining, called the “shine.” In the movie, Dick says to the boy, “Well, you know, Doc, when something happens, you can leave a trace of itself behind. Say like, if someone burns toast. Well, maybe things that happen leave other kinds of traces behind. Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who ‘shine’ can see.” Missy had the shine. She kept on making porn movies after I met her. Eventually, she left the business and her husband, and she found God. She told the porn industry’s version of Variety that she “had a mental breakdown and went crazy." She said, "Lord God and Jesus never left me and now I will never leave them." Of her time in the porn industry, she said, “I met something that was pure evil in that industry,” and, she said, "I'm having premonitions of the end of time." In 2008, though, Missy died. She was 41, and she was living alone. Her family said it was an accidental overdose of her prescription drugs. They withheld the news of her death for a month so no one in the porn business would come to her funeral. I think about Missy sometimes. Mostly, it makes me sad. When you’re in the porn business, you have to see the shine amidst the shit. Some people can’t see it, though. There’s a lot of shine if you know where to look, but if you can’t see it, you don’t. 

Susannah Breslin is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her blog here. You can find her photographs here. Photo of Tori Black also by the author.

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photo by the author

Monday
Apr272009

In Which Altman Moves On To Something Else

Altman's Revenge

by PETER BISKIND

In 1954 Robert Altman met and married his second wife, Lotus Corelli, a former model. This marriage lasted three years, and the Altmans had two boys, Michael and Stephen. A year later, he made a low-budget feature, The Delinquents, that was financed by a small Midwest exhibitor.

He was determined to edit the picture in L.A. The exhibitor refused to pay his airfare, so in the last week of August 1956 he dumped the dailies into a '56 Thunderbird that he had finessed from the production, and headed west, accompanied by an Iranian friend, Reza Badiyi. Altman turned his back on Kansas City for good, leaving behind two marriages, a couple of kids, his parents, and his sister. During the trip they listened to the Republican convention, which nominated Eisenhower and Nixon. Altman was a Democrat, supported Adlai Stevenson.

The following year he landed a job working for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. This would be the beginning of a decade's worth of television work, which repeatedly saw him make his mark with innovative methods. He would antagonize whoever there was to antagonize, and in high dudgeon, move on to something else.

Along the way, like a snowball rolling down a hill, he picked up people who would become part of his creative team. Among them was Tommy Thompson, whose claim to fame was that he had, in 1946 while working for the Armed Forces Radio Services in Tokyo, reported that Japan had been invaded by a Godzilla-like sea monster. This prank was something Altman could appreciate, and the two men became fast friends.

Thompson began working regularly for Altman as his first assistant director. He used to pick him up from his apartment in a grand old building on the northwest corner of Fountain and La Cienega in West Hollywood, to take him to work. Often he'd knock on the door, no answer. He'd walk in and find Bob, passed out, an unfinished drink by his side.

"He was like the big Pillsbury Dough Boy," Thompson recalls. "I'd get him in the shower, dressed, down to the car, and we'd get out on the location. He sat in the high director's chair while I stood behind him. As they'd rehearse he'd nod off and I'd kind of poke him, and he'd wake up and say, "How was it?" I'd say, "Run it again," and he said, "All right, let's run it again." And he'd go back to sleep. I'd punch him, "Say 'Cut'!" "Cut! How was it?" "Tell 'em to go faster." "Speed it up a little, guys." We'd run through the whole day like that."



***

One day, when Altman was hanging out in George Litto's office, the agent handed him a screenplay, saying, "This is written in a style that might appeal to you. Read it?" It was M*A*S*H. The writer, Ring Lardner Jr., was just emerging from the shadow of the blacklist.

Litto saw a similarity between the feel of the piece and the material Altman liked to do. Altman called a day or so later and said, "This is great. Can you get me the job?" Litto replied, "I don't know. Probably not." Fox was an old-line studio that still liked to work with producers. Ingo Preminger had a deal there, and Richard Zanuck had given him the green light on M*A*S*H. Lots of directors, including Friedkin, had turned it down. Litto showed Preminger some of Altman's work. Preminger liked what he saw, and decided to take a flier on the director. Litto negotiated the deal, $125,000, and 5 percent of the picture. But when Fox heard that Preminger wanted to hire Altman, they went through the roof.


He was still infamous for a TV show he did nearly a decade earlier that had gotten the studio into hot water. One of the Fox executive expressed the feeling at the studio: "You're making a deal with trouble!"

Owen McLean, Zanuck's business affairs guy, was a tough nut. McLean called Litto, said, "George, I have a memo here that Ingo, without authorization, made a deal with you for Bob Altman. We cannot stand behind this because Ingo was not—"

"All I know is I made the deal, Owen. I'm just a humble agent. Just tell me what you have to say and I'll transmit your proposal to my client."

"You're full of shit, George, but here's the deal. $75,000 cash, take it or leave it. Don't come back and try to negotiate with me. That's what he gets if he wants to do the picture."

Litto called Preminger, said, "McLean is trying to provoke me. he doesn't want Bob to do the picture."

"What are you going to do, George?"

"I'm going to make the deal, and if the picture's great, I'm depending on you to fix it later." Litto called Altman, told him the terms. Altman was furious. Litto said, "Bob, you really want to fuck 'em?"

"I'd love to fuck 'em."

"Okay, take the deal. You'll make a great picture. I'll make you rich on the next one, all right?" The director acquiesced. Litto never did make Altman rich. But he came close, and would have succeeded had Altman not indulged in his propensity to shoot himself in the foot.

Peter Biskind is the author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, from which this excerpt is taken. You can purchase the book here.

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