Flashback Friday: Christmas in Hollywood (Part Two)

The second in a two-part fictional series from 1981.
Flashback Friday: Christmas in Hollywood (Part Two)
Steve McCoy

Our last installment found our Nootka hero awash in a sea of Hollywood phonies and fake hors d’oeuvres at a party given by a very famous screen actor. Returning now to the festivities, we find the famous actor and a few close friends about to begin rehearsal for a key scene in his upcoming movie in a story originally printed in the January, 1981 issue of High Times.

WARNING: The following is purely a figment of the sick imagination of a Nootka madman in the throes of terminal delirium tremens. Read it at your own risk…

The actors, having had sufficient time to prepare, began the scene. The big junky carnival of a woman gave a wave of her awkward crane of an arm and it began. The small writer of the work jumped and poised motionless, attentive. Only his eyes seemed to bulge and pulse in a rapture of encouragement. Johnny Bob was probably hallucinating this. No doubt someone put opium in the caviar or STP in the Perrier, or Amanita mushrooms in the crudités.

Johnny Bob slipped a sterling flask carefully from the pocket of the writer sitting next to him. The Indian was shaken. While the iron-rank whiskey flowed down the Indian throat directly to his stomach without touching either side—so correctly was he aligned, mouth open, eyes upon the ceiling where he wished the dapper stars had been—while he performed this modest miracle, the show went on.

It is best to transcribe it as it was written, for that is how it was acted.

Jack: (Glances avidly about the room. He sees Randy on the stairs. He notices but quickly affects not to have noticed Randy.) Hey, everybody! What time do you think it is… It’s time for a change of scene!

John: (truculently) Yeah, let’s go skinny-dipping in the pool!… Again. I’ll be lifeguard.

Mike: (railing) Lifeguard, John? Is it true that fat guys have tiny dicks?… Is that why you won’t come in?

John: (Improvises angry curses. As if he really had a tiny dick. Rushes across room at Mike, but is confused when Mike dives under couch. Stands arms akimbo and miserable.) Where’d he go? No one can say that about my dick! You’re obviously a very insecure individual if that’s your idea of a joke!

Mike: (from under couch) Needle-dick the bug-flicker.

John: You wouldn’t say that if I knew where you were. (Moves toward bookcase at side of room.) Am I getting warmer or colder?

Mike: Colder. Which will make your dick shrink up.

John: You’ll never work in this town again! Plus I’ll blind you forever if I catch you…

Mike: Maybe I can introduce you to some hot blind girls, braille-dick. Smell is the most important thing to them… (John spots Mike’s foot protruding from end of couch. He grabs a table lamp and smashes the base on Mike’s foot.) Oww! I’m lame. He’s lamed me! You all saw it! Stop him! I can’t fight! It hurts when I have to kick. I may have to use an unsightly cane for the rest of my life! Oww! Oww! (John seizes a four-foot potted palm and begins jabbing it under the couch.)

John: Come out! Come out and fight like a man! Do you want me to burn you out with crumpled-up newspapers?…(John takes. His own idea has just struck him. He begins to pack all the papers he can gather around the room under the couch. Mike does his best to kick them out.) It’s no use. If this doesn’t work I’ll starve you out. You’re wounded—you don’t have a chance. Give up now and I won’t blind both your eyes. (John lights a piece of paper and sticks it under the couch. Others about the room begin to laugh. Mike kicks the paper out.)

Mike: Never! Burning paper! Starving people out! You call yourself civilized! All right! You fight dirty, I’ll fight dirty! You asked for it! (Two young actresses, Gale and Tiffany, move to positions where they can talk to the fighting parties. Gale kneels by Mike’s couch; Tiffany stands close to John, her arms about him in gentle restraint.)

Tiffany: John, a lot of people have small cocks. The statue of David in Italy and a whole bunch of other people as well. It isn’t important… (Fade over)

Gale: Michael, come out of there. You’re being very immature. (Mike grunts several times.) Michael, for God’s sake, what are you doing now? Don’t be childish. You can come out—John isn’t going to blind you. He doesn’t even have anything sharp…

Mike: (mumbles) His dick’s like an HB pencil.

Gale: Michael! It so happens that isn’t true!

Mike: WHAT! How do you know?

Gale: If you promise you won’t tell… (sounds of Mike rearranging self) Tiffany took a wax cast. He uses his dick to lock up his cocaine and she just, well, wanted to be able to get some, if he wasn’t there. It’s a special lock. There’s only two of them in the world. Donald Sutherland’s and John’s. His thing is like a key. An old-fashioned key.

(Cross fade to:)

Tiffany: Come on, John—Don’t be stubborn with your little sex poodle… Mike didn’t mean what he said. He only said it because he knew it would get you angry.

John: No, he didn’t—he said it to cause me incredible pain. The pain made me angry. He’s jealous of my professional prowess, and my car, and the way when they gave me my Oscar I broke it in half and jumped on it and then punched out that guy who presented it like it was something I dropped… (Tiffany cuddles up)

Tiffany: That isn’t why, John. Promise you won’t be mad if I tell you why he behaves that way…

John: I reserve the right to burn him and blind him in an eye or two as I see fit.

Tiffany: A long, long time ago, before I met you, John, I went out with Mike.

John: With him! You don’t mean to tell me you dated him!

Tiffany: Listen to me, John. It was a long time ago. I was naive and on Tuinals and Aquavit. He told me he had cancer in his brains and had just three months to live. He said we were going to get married right after by a preacher. He even called some friend of his who pretended to be a licensed clergyman.

John: (mumbles aside) My God! That was me…

Tiffany: I guess I was a fool, Johnny. Because I dated him. It was on the couch. I never even had my shoes off. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. I let him know it, but he told me to go to sleep. When he fell asleep, about a hundredth of a second later, I pulled my panties up and left.

John: Your panties, you let a stranger pull your panties off? The crotchless ones! You’re lucky he didn’t bung-hole your behind!

Tiffany: He was far too drunk to get into a tight place like that, John. (Tiffany and John embrace. Mike slowly reaches his hand out and takes Gale’s in his.)

Mike: (from under couch) I love you.

Gale: Same to you with bells on it. (SPFX: A man in evening dress begins to play the piano in the comer. Noel Coward’s “World Weary.” Jack strides across the room to the edge of the couch and stoops to address Mike while smiling at John.)

Jack: Well, now that everything’s settled, let’s go do something unusual. That little quarrel of yours gave me an idea of how we can change our scene. Come on out, Mike. Okay, everybody, let’s go. We’re going to a library to look at the books!

Mike: Far out! Uh. Damnit, I’m stuck. Somebody lift this damn furniture. Feels like it’s made out of wood or something. Haven’t you ever heard of acrylics, Jack? (Several men bend to the couch, lifting it slightly.)

Mike: That’s enough. I’m out. Put it down. (He is only half out and trying to pull his pants back up. They shift the couch right off him and see he has taken a dump.)

Jack: What the hell, Mike? You might have asked for a skillet or something. The maid’s going to have to clean that up, you know. How would you like it if you were a maid?

Mike: I wouldn’t like to be a Mexican at all, let alone a maid If I had to be a maid, I wouldn’t work for you.

Susy: (Jack’s girl friend) Oh, that’s not really excrement, is it? It’s some kind of gag from a prop shop. (She reaches down to pick it up; her fingers stick in.) It’s very realistic! Yucck! That’s not art—it’s life! (She rushes from the room to wash her hand.)

Mike: (defiantly) He was pushing burning newspapers at me under a flammable couch. If he had done it one more time I would have hurled the feces in his face and made good my escape in the confusion.

Jack: Well, never mind that now. Let’s go to the library.

Agent: Far out. Those places are potential gold mines. Hundreds of ideas. Some of them still applicable today, with a few minor changes here and—

John: Shut up, you pig, before I blind you with a slash of my overgrown pinkie nail.

Agent: My God, don’t touch my eyes. I make a living with my eyes.

Gale: Say, it’s almost four o’clock. Are libraries open this late?

Jack: There’s sure to be an all-night one somewhere. L.A. is a big town.

Mike: Wait a minute. I’ve got a Rolex Oyster watch. It’s not four o’clock in the morning… it’s four o’clock tomorrow. Afternoon.

Jack: Jack, then the sun is very, very late.

Mike: No sun? Shit, my Oyster must be trashed. Probably the goddamn biodegradable detergent I’ve been using in the dishwasher.

Gale: Maybe it’s not broken, honey. Maybe it’s just set on New York time or Europe time. You never know what time it is there. Maybe the watch is right for there. You can keep it for trips, then, in your toilet kit.

Mike: I’d forget it, for sure.

Gale: Then wear it with your new watch. You can wear two watches. People will understand.

Jack: Goddamn it, let’s go whatever time it is, for Chrissake.

Susy: Jack… you promised you wouldn’t… about Jesus.

Jack: Fuck it all—then why did I have to marry a Seventh Day pet-dentist? (The party, including Johnny Bob, exit Jack’s house and stand confused in the driveway. Limos block the way everywhere. Every chauffeur starts his engine.) All right, everybody, into my car. It’s the best.

Susy: Jack, your car’s in the middle. It can’t get out.

Jack: Well, we’ll take whose car is on the outside then, how’s that? Whose car is on the outside? (Mike, who had been dozen to the bushes to take a leak, returns.)

Mike: I don’t know whose car it is, but the chauffeur’s a Chink. He’s wearing a baseball cap with horns on the front. (A writer steps forward.)

Writer 1: He’s not a Chink. If he were, he would be called Chinese. He happens to be Korean and he is an honors student in gravity science at Ambassador College. It is just possible that he may be the one who eventually frees mankind from the fetters of gravity and enables us to abandon clumsy, inefficient limousines and leap about to where we are going. If he could, I believe he would thus do himself out of a job. Without a second thought.

Jack: Is this limo a rental job?

Writer 1: What difference does it make?

Jack: Because fucking lowlifes rent those things. Herpe’d-up rock bands with spook drummers who fuck women right on the backseat. Women groupies with the ambition to spread gonorrhea all over everything, including the complimentary matches.

Writer 2: Hey, if you don’t dig the fungus odds in his limo I think mine’s parked right behind it. And it’s not rented, it’s borrowed. From a real old queer actor who never goes out because he’s afraid of getting stomped by rough guys…

John: Watch what you say about actors, buddy. That guy’s paid more dues than you’ll ever pay. Keep talking that way and I’ll blind you as blind as Stevie Wonder or Batman.

Writer 2: Sorry. It’s a cinch the guy’s within a hair of being a saint from all that suffering.

John: It elevates a man. (They all cram into the car. Johnny Bob is more or less shouldered aside and sits up front with the chauffeur.)

Johnny Bob: (to driver) What the fuck gives with these loons?

Driver: Shhh, man. Quiet for now. Talk later. Got a ’lude?

Jack: (leaning head through partition) If you don’t have a speaking part, shut up. That’s the first rule of acting. If you spend any time around a set you better learn that fast. You break the flow, and John might blind you.

Johnny Bob: Give me some Quaaludes and whiskey.

Jack: You’re not supposed to say that.

Johnny Bob: Don’t give me any shit, you fucking corpse. If I don’t get some gorilla biscuits and Jack Daniels fast, I’ll write myself a scene whipping your liver with a snapped-off antenna on a moonlit mesa. (Jack passes forward pills and whiskey. Johnny Bob passes them to driver, who takes several from Johnny’s palm and cradles the bottle between his legs). Here.

Jack: You know, the hardest thing for an actor to learn is when to be silent.

Johnny Bob: Shove it, lizard-brain. (Jack pulls partition closed angrily.)

Jack: Who is that guy? He looks part something. Other than Italian or something.

Susy: He could be a very dark Jew.

Mike: No way. I’m a Jew. I know my people. They smell.

Jack: Let’s get back to the script, okay? All right, driver, take us to the library as fast as you can. We’re anxious to begin to grasp the vast store of learning contained therein…

Mike: Don’t let’s fool ourselves. There’s more in one single book there than we could begin to learn in two lifetimes.

John: One single very hard book with outlandish words seemingly from another language.

Driver: Books, books, books. You won’t find everything in books, you know. (He drives off erratically.)

Jack: No, maybe not. There are some things that can’t be taught—they must be felt. But books open minds and minds can shape feelings. Surely a Negro like yourself would know that better than anyone.

Driver: Well, sir, book-read folks call me Negro and treat me [N word]. Ignorant peckerwoods call me [N word] and treat me Negro. Ain’t none of ’em right but I’d rather have the peckerwoods. (Some confusion in the backseat).

Jack: Driver, you’re not black. You’re supposed to be black.

Driver: No, Jimmy’s supposed to be black and he is. He does what he’s supposed to but tonight he had a chance to fuck some actress from the TV series about the garage and he went off in the bushes with her. Back at the house. So I’m like fillin’ in. While he’s back there. Until he gets here. Which he will not likely do, given the relative speed of a man and a good used car.

Jack: Shut up.

John: Well, he’s white. This won’t work. I vote we call this off. It wasn’t working anyhow.

Gale: Why not get the other one to read the lines? He’s not black. But he isn’t white. That would make him better, wouldn’t it?

Tiffany: Hey, you in the front, do you think you could feel pent-up rage properly as a real black man would?

Johnny Bob: Maybe if I think about someone I really dislike…

John: Well, if a black man can feel it, anybody can…

Jack: O.K. Books unlock men’s minds. In that sense they are like keys to a box filled with unknown possibilities…

Johnny Bob: Well, let me see, sir. Once we get to the library maybe I’ll have a look. Might do me some good. Understanding can come in many ways. I’m not ruling out books, but men forget what’s written down in books. That’s why they write it down. But they never forget the lessons life learns them. Every morning when I shave myself I read the bumps and cuts of my whole life in the mirror. I remember how I got them. I remember. Only a stupid man needs a second lesson from a busted bottle. Well, sir, here we are at the library.

Jack: You know, for a man who probably has had virtually no formal schooling, this man displays an impressive degree of intelligence. You come into the library and see our books. Maybe they may have something to teach you, but I’m more than certain you have something to teach us… Hey! This isn’t the fucking library! Where are you going, driver!?

Driver: Just cruising, man. Cruisin’ up to the hills. Mind if I put on some Dead?

Jack: Who authorized you to take Jimmy’s place tonight?

John: This better be good or you’re blind

Mike: He’s not kidding. I saw him blind a canary once to make it sing better…

John: Like shit. It was for shitting on the settee. Talk, buddy, or you’ll be driving on instruments.

Driver: Jimmy authorized me to take his place. Then he went to fuck that TV actress in the bushes. Black guys don’t get a chance like that every week. At least not with woman stars who do most of their own stunts, including stumbles and dangerous double takes and spit takes.

Tiffany: Well, whose are you? Who are you supposed to be driving tonight? Where is the library from here, do you even know?

Driver: I’m not supposed to be driving anyone. I’m on parole for negligence. I was just walking up the road checking out the dashboard of parked cars for a pack of cigarettes when I run across your regular driver Jimmy. He was in a bit of a spot so I said I’d help him out. I got nothing against colored guys at all. Like they say, no colored guy ever called me a round-eyed devil, like the Chinese in Korea.

Johnny Bob: Have a ’lude.

Driver: Thanks, pal. You a Deadhead? Good? Yeah. All right.

Johnny Bob: Listen, I hate these rat sacks. How about dropping me off here?

Driver: I don’t know about that, Injun brother. We’re way up in the hills. Let you off here you might get jumped by psychopaths—don’t know what they might do. Why don’t you just string along with the rest of us until I drive off the cliff? I let you out first if you decide then you don’t want to. (Johnny Bob looks hard at driver.) I can see you’re one of the stubborn ones, all right. Your mind’s made up and you’re not about to change it. Well, you know what’s best for you. Being an Indian and all, I can’t expect to properly understand you. Well, I respect you just the same. (He slowed the car to a stop.) Don’t none of the rest of you get out. I’d hate to shotgun you down and blow my state of mind to jagged shards. Stay right there where you are. Help yourself to the bar. It’s free all night. (Johnny Bob steps out and the driver pulls away. Turning back to face the Injun on the road, he lifts his beaded leather hat in a farewell salute.) Sorry you couldn’t come along for the ride, Injun! Don’t worry about a thing! (Johnny could hear his agent shout.)

Agent: (fading) Let me out! I’m his agent. He needs me. (The taillights fade shortly before the last whisper of the Grateful Dead. Johnny turned and began to walk slowly back dozen the canyon road.)

Right there is where the credits would have been rolled in a real Hollywood movie. But it was not a real Hollywood movie. It was a rehearsal. Developmental, experimental improvisation, scriptwriting and casting. He had been written out. Because he was an Indian, the driver had said. Maybe it was a car theft as well with the possibility of a little kidnapping and murderous intent. The possibility could not be ruled out. It may have been a joke. “Maybe they’ll come back and give me a ride to the hotel.” Johnny stumbled on dejectedly until he came to a lighted road, which led to a bigger road upon which taxicabs for hire presented themselves. The cabs were quick and unfamiliar with the practice of picking fares off the street. A worthy game. Johnny stalked carefully, watched and waited, and when the moment was right pulled one in with the effortless grace of his forest-born ancestors.

He swelled with a small, hard pride. Then, prodding at this knotted emotion, he discovered not an insubstantial emotion but an assortment of diminutive liquor bottles containing assorted premixed cocktails. Happily that early Christmas morning he opened a Mr. Boston Margarita.

“My one weakness,” he mumbled and drank the bottle.

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