The Ringtone

cell

Belinda lay in bed staring at the ceiling. That morning marked her third straight month of unemployment. She was reviewing all the interviews she had in her head and wondering what she did wrong. Her benefits would run out soon and they weren’t really enough to live off of. She realized she should probably plan on going to sell plasma that afternoon.

She heard her phone buzz and she fished it out from under the bed and looked at the text. “I might not make it tonight…may have to work, Bill” the message said. For a moment she was confused; she didn’t know a Bill, it was obviously a wrong number.

“I really want to do this, would tomorrow night work?

 

She chuckled a bit she wondered what the circumstances were. He was Identifying himself, so whoever he was texting was obviously new in his life or he would be programmed into the phone he was attempting to text. She wondered if it was a date, or maybe a special professional meeting.

“Let me know,” said the next message.

She realized that she should text him and tell him he had the wrong number. She decided she’d do it as soon as she officially got up. She fell back to sleep for a bit. Then she got out of bed made coffee and took a shower. While she was showering she imagined what Bill must look like. She envisioned someone not very handsome, but very well groomed. Possibly the sort to wear designer clothes, go to the gym daily and get $100 haircuts on his balding head. She was sipping the coffee and looking at Indeed.com when she heard her phone buzz again.

She picked up her phone to see yet another message from Bill.

“Please do let me know if you’re getting these texts,” the next message said.

‘God, desperate much,’ she thought.

“I got them,” she texted back.

“Cool, is tomorrow okay?”

“Are you sure you won’t have to work again,” she wrote back.

“Yes, this was a one time emergency. Thanks for being cool.”

She wondered if he was being sarcastic or if he was simply trying to kiss her ass.

“It’s just that I canceled plans for tonight.”

“It’ just that I can’t do six. I can do eight if I drive like a maniac?”

“eight is fine.”

“Still want to go to Zorba’s,” he asked.

“Tots” she wrote back with a wink and a smile.

She went back to applying for jobs and surfing the net. She walked to Walgreen’s and bought some Dryel sheet which she used to clean her best interview dress. She put it on and drove to Zorba’s where she arrived at 7:50.

The bar was sort of dead that night two old men sat at the bar not speaking to each other. There was a married couple having dinner and talking about their lawn behind her and there were two women at a booth chatting quietly. One of them, a pretty, thin brunette was devouring an enormous piece of cake and appeared to be quite drunk. Her plump blonde friend appeared to be comforting her. Belinda attempted to eavesdrop on their conversation.

“It’s better to find out now than once your actually..” the blonde’s voice drifted off into the distance.

Belinda strained to hear what the brunette said, but only heard part of it.

“…took one look and walked out?”

With this a tall thin man with brown, thinning hair walked into the bar. He was wearing a nice suit and seemed to be in a big rush. He glanced around the bar looking right past her as he went. He walked over to the two woman.

“Bethany,” he said to the Brunette just as she was stuffing a giant piece of ice cream and fudge covered cake into her wide open gape.

“Bill,” she said when she could speak.”

“I’m sorry, if I’m a little late there was traffic and..”

“A little late, try two hours.” The blonde said. “I’m sarah.”

“”I thought we said six,” Bethany said.

“No, I texted you and told you I couldn’t make it until eight?”

“I never got it. Why didn’t you just Facemail me?”
“I don’t know I thought that since you gave be your cell I should just text, besides I…”

”You know what, Bethany exclaimed. I really don’t want to hear it. I’m really sick of cyber dates that I never hear from again. And every single plan being tentative, and saying lets hang out instead of do you want to go out with me? I’m sick of saying ‘it’s no big deal’ when it is a big deal. I sick of sleeping with people and acting like I wasn’t expecting anything. I ‘m sick of it! How dare you be two hours late, you dumb schmuck! What’s with the suit? You want everyone to think you have money? Learn how to spell if you want to impress people.  I’ve never texted with anyone who made so many mistakes.

Bethany got up and through some money on the table. The two woman stormed out. Everyone stared at Bill. He checked his phone and pushed a button. Suddenly a National Anthem ringtone went off.  Belinda instinctively turned to reach into her purse, but then realized she couldn’t answer it. Bill hung up and dialed again, this time when the Anthem played he looked around the bar, his eyes landing on Bethany.

He hung up his phone and the ring tone stopped. There was dead silence in the bar everyone stared at Bethany as he began to walk towards her.

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Woody the Factual; Woody the Fictional

woody

Call me a crazy stalker with no life (I do), but all this recent revisionist Hubbub about the Woody Allen child molestation case can’t help but make me think about the meaning of some of his movies, his on screen persona and why people were so devastated when what happened, happened.

I’ll never forget turning on the news to see Woody giving a press conference saying that the child molestation charges against him were untrue, but he was “guilty of falling in love with Mia Farrow’s 21-year-old daughter.” He went on to say what a great actress and beautiful woman Mia was, at first, I thought it was a joke.

I was shocked and appalled, so was the nation. No one could believe that the loveable, nebbishy intellectual, who always seemed to have a case of extreme Jew guilt, could possibly have done something so insensitive. It seemed like something a hillbilly in a wifebeater would do, not a respected filmmaker.

I’d loved Woody ever since I was little. I’ll never forget the first time I saw him. I was eight years old, there he was dressed as a sperm, in “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask). Something about his small head, large thick glasses and nervous attitude comforted me. Even though I didn’t understand half of the jokes in the movie I could relate to his fear and feeling of ineptitude. I decided then and there that I was going to marry Woody (I didn’t know I was too old for him).

When I got older I discovered his short stories. I loved Without Feathers. Woody Always said that even though he wasn’t an intellectual he was often mistaken for one because of the way he looked. I wasn’t an intellectual either, but I grew up around a few of them. Woody had a way of taking classic works of literature and retelling them in their most plebian form. I must have read Notes from the Overfed a million times I could relate to the overfed man much more than the underground one.

When the scandal broke I was 26. Appalled as I was by the whole thing, I had to know everything. I bought my first ever copy of “People”(sorry trees, sorry western civilization, sorry mom and dad) I couldn’t help it. It said Mia discovered the affair when she found naked pictures of Soon Yi in Woody’s dresser.

Woody later came out to defend himself in several interviews. He acted as if he didn’t understand why anyone was upset, even Mia. He gave some story about how he and Mia hadn’t slept together in years and their relationship was platonic. He said he hadn’t really known Soon Yi very well until she was an  adult.

The story got weirder when he produced a creepy Valentine given to him by Mia along with several crazy sounding correspondence. I felt sorry for her and at first I believed the story about the molestation. The guy who would sleep with his girlfriend’s  daughter seemed so different then the Woody Allen character in the movies that it seemed he was capable of anything.

The only thing that made me doubt it a little bit was and experience I’d had with a “therapist” of sorts. She wasn’t a real therapist she had some sort of counselor certificate from a Jesus college, my insurance didn’t cover mental health, care so I ended up going through a charity and getting her. I told her my mother was so complacent that I was lucky my father wasn’t one of those pedophiles and she tried to convince me that my father was, in fact, a pedophile. I didn’t believe her of course, but I could see how someone might if they had been through a very traumatic experience. There was a lot of that sort of thing going around in the nineties. It seemed that you weren’t anybody if you hadn’t been sexually abused as a child. I volunteered on a rape crisis line and some people would call in who hadn’t been raped at all they wanted someone to talk to and there wasn’t a hotline for other kinds of crisis in the area.

Facts in the molestation case began to emerge and it really sounded made up (I’m not saying it was, I’m saying it sounded that way). It was alleged to be an isolated incident that took place on a single  afternoon during the custody hearings. Woody was alleged to have taken Dylan into a room at Mia’s house and molested her and then never did it again. He said himself it would be an odd moment to decide to become a child molester and I have to agree.  The charges were later dismissed for lack of evidence, he lost custody of his kids as well he should have. Even if he wasn’t a child molester, he should know better then to schtup his kid’s stepsister.

After reading about the scandal I was reminded of The Purple Rose of Cairo in which Mia portrayed a battered woman and ineffectual waitress whose one comfort in life is going to the movies by herself in the afternoon. She see the same movie over and over again because she is in love with (or thinks she is in love with) the lead actor. The character he plays in the movie comes down off the screen and romances her, he is a classic movie hero honest faithful and trust worthy, with a firm belief in the screenwriter. “He’s fictional, but nobody’s perfect”, Mia quips. When the actor who plays the character finds out what has happened he comes to town to romance Mia and take her away from the fictional version of himself. The actor is of course an insincere boar who only cares about himself.

After the scandal broke, I couldn’t help but think that Woody was actually writing about himself, we all saw him as a lovable and  neurotic, self-deprecating intellectual, when in actuality he was a pompous sleaze who didn’t give a fuck about anything but his own enjoyment.

Most recently Woody wrote and directed Blue Jasmine which has been nominated for an Oscar just as it should have been. The movie is about a Blanche Dubois like character who comes to live in her sister’s dumpy San Francisco apartment after her Bernie Madoff like husband had killed himself in jail.  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SPOILER ALERT! STOP READING I YOU HAVEN”T SEEN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It turns out the only reason he was ever caught is because he was cheating on her with several younger woman and a good friend of hers. She got mad and in an irrational moment turned him into the feds.

In other words the character is an upper-class New York woman who has been cheated on and humiliate, sort of like Mia.

I can only imagine what Mia must have thought when she heard the plot, first he cheats on her with her adopted daughter, acts like it doesn’t matter and then he marries the daughter, He goes on to make a movie a year and gets nominated for many an Oscar while her career stagnates. Then he writes a movie which arguable mirrors some of her story and he gets all kinds of accolades for it. If I were her I’d be pissed all over again.

A lot of his movies deal with luck like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Matchpoint. If those movies a single piece of luck saves the hero’s from the consequences of their actions. I can’t help but wonder, if Mia hadn’t found those pictures of Soon-Yi, what would have happened?

At the end of the day, he is as much of a bastard as he is a talent. No one is like Woody in terms of talent and proliferation. Anyone can see what an amazing writer and director he is and it turned out he was a pretty good actor too. His work and his humor are deeply inbeded in our culture. He has influenced many, many writers and comedians including Lena Dunham, Louis C.K. and Todd Solandz to name a few.

None of us will ever know what happened, but we can try to read between the lines.

John Cusack and the Hollywood Redemption

My story of Hollywood failure begins long before I ever tread The Walk of Fame or worked background on a TV show; it begins with me as a lonely only child watching one old movie after another and dreaming of a day when I would escape the constant bickering of my paranoid parents.

I would watch Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, I knew the lyrics to every song in every musical. I tried to teach myself to dance.  I went through a period of wanting to be a boy, it wasn’t a gay thing; boys got all the meaty parts. I watched The Graduate over and over again and imagined a day when I would play someone just like Benjamin Braddock.

It is not unusual for a child (or anyone else) to want to be an actor. Almost everyone has at one time or another wanted to be somebody else. Who wouldn’t want a job where you have the rapt attention of an audience? Who wouldn’t want someone to cheer for them when they performed their job correctly? But, to me there was a deeper appeal; acting offered something that life didn’t – a resolution.  Oh, I’m not talking about a happy ending. I grew up in the seventies and few films or plays offered the happy ending.  I just longed for some kind closure as a kid.

Although my parents fought endlessly they never got divorced. When the other kids at school taunted me, I wanted the director to yell cut so I could wipe the tears away and take a bow for my heartfelt performance. I had just enough interest in science to want to play a doctor. I had enough passion for justice to want to play a lawyer, although I would never have the intelligence or patience to be one in real life.   I wanted that harrowing scene in the courtroom where everything was changed by my words. I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein, I wanted the glory of exposing the bad guy, but I didn’t want to have to do all the leg work and research it would take to accomplish this – I didn’t have enough interest in anything for that. I wanted the thrill of the catch!

Growing up in Chicago offered a wealth of opportunities for a young acting hopeful. My parents grudgingly enrolled me in The Jack and Jill school of Acting. It was pretty well know as Harvey Korman from The Carol Burnett show had studied there as a child. I played a lost boy in the production of Peter Pan. The teacher seemed to think I had potential and I was good at line memorization. When we moved to Evanston I enrolled in the famed, Piven Theater Workshop (Jeremy’s dad owned it). Where I took improv classes. The teacher always seemed to like what I did, but I was never picked to be in any of their shows. You see I looked just a bit different than a typical actress looked.

I grew into a rather unfortunate physic. Although blonde and blue eyed my head had grown into a strange square shape. I was chubby and flat-chested. At the age of twelve I had child bearing hips and hair that was baby fine and riddled with cowlicks. I just wasn’t believable as a leading lady. Leading ladies tended to be the romantic interest of the leading man. The seventies open the door for unconventional looking actors as long as they were male.

A man could be interesting and attractive if he was funny and smart. So long as one possessed these qualities, one could obtain the virtually interchangeable “girl”. Think I’ve being glib? I give you The Paper Chase, The Graduate, The Verdict, Annie Hall ,  Atlantic City, The Conversation, The Godfather and on and on. They were all masterpieces and they were all had unconventional looking male anti-hero’s.

I wasted a good amount of my time wishing I were pretty and trying to make the transformation happen – it never did. In high-school my classmates included Jeremy Piven, John Cusack, Joan Cusack, and Steve Pink.  John was Jeremy’s best friend and a star in Piven Theater Workshop Productions. John Hughes discovered John and John and his sister got parts in all his movies. John secured parts for several of his friends in these films. Eventually they would follow him to Hollywood where Jeremy and Joan would appear in his films and Steve would act as a producer.

So if I was so interested in acting and I knew John Cusack, an actor famous for making his friends stars , why didn’t I simply befriend Mr. Cusack? Well tall, dark handsome boys don’t generally hang with goofy looking chicks, who have learning disabilities and two friends; Jeremy would occasionally even taunt me. I got to watch as John and his crew became more famous and live out my dream.

I moved to Denver and went to college for a bit, but I could never really feign an interest in my studies. As an adult I took to writing screenplays. It was my goal to write roles for female characters who were not pretty. I wrote one about an unattractive young woman who gets revenge on her cruel classmates. I sent it around and managed to get an agent, but she dumped me when she couldn’t sell it.

Eventually, I would decide to head to Los Angeles, in spite of everything I still had to try and see if I could change things in a way that might benefit women like me. On my strange journey I would encounter an illiterate producer who would option a screenplay of mine for no money and an indefinite period of time, a theater owner who resembled comic bookstore guy on The Simpsons, a Willy Lomanesque porn star, the dumbest “intellectual” I ever met, a delusional Script Analyst, two slumlords, a plethra of incompotent but cute business people, a real life Broadway Danny Rose, the worst actress in the world and many, many a religious zelot.  I would  be taken advantage of in a way I thought only happened in the movies and lied to by people who considered lying a sport.

In spite of everything I don’t regret my time in LA, it gave me a great story to tell, so sit back and get ready for a tale that gets curiouser or and curiouser.