Nina Pennington and I are having one of “those” discussions. You know, the ones which demand that I either stand on principle and break up with her, thereby losing not only access to her father’s black American Express card but the mineral rights to her body, which means I have to stop drilling her, or surrendering my dignity and admit that the world revolves around her and her menstrual cycle.
I quickly mentally perform the calculations necessary to come to such a momentous decision. It’s all based on a complex formula I developed which will someday garner me the Nobel Prize in Mathematics. You take the credit limit of your girlfriend’s Amex, subtract your monthly pay and divide this number by your girlfriend’s IQ. You then multiply this by her bra size, and divide the number by the size of her waist in centimeters. You finally subtract the number of women who have had sex with you. If this number, what I call the “acquiescence threshold,” is greater than one you agree to anything she demands, mumble “I understand” during any brief momentary pauses in the conversation and wonder if evolution is so fucking good at making the species adapt to their needs why man’s balls haven’t evolved into having a zipper, so it would be so much easier to take them off and ever so occasionally bolt them back on.
“…and if you hadn’t written your stupid so-called autobiography, While I’m Dead…Feed the Dog, and betrayed me by taking the Judas money from Hollywood and let him make that piece of shit movie Behaving Badly or whatever they are calling it, there wouldn’t be those reviews that make me the laughing stock of the world.”
“I understand,” I fill the pause, while contemplating what Judas’ thirty pieces of silver is worth in present day dollars, given the inflation rate over the last 2000 years. I’m sure he raked in several million times more than what I got from Hollywood.
“Have you seen the reviews?” Nina fishes out a twenty dollar bill from her purse and starts rolling it into a tight cylinder.
“How did you manage to get the entire domestic box office for Behaving Badly? You got a better contract than I did. Who is your agent?”
“I didn’t ask you about my agent did I? I asked you about the reviews. Did you see them?”
“Yes, I think I saw one or two of them,” I admit.
“And what?” I stall, trying to think of how I should respond to her inevitable next question.
“What did you think of them?” she demands.
I quickly compute the odds of emerging from this conversation with an intact relationship with Nina, her tits and her Amex card. According to the my mind’s current betting line, telling the truth and admitting that I agree with the critics is a 100 to 1 longshot, and since I am not a Republican and not that good at lying, the odds of me getting away with saying that the reviewers were misguided and don’t matter, is running at 80 to 1. So I select a different tact.
“I think I read one that didn’t describe you as ‘vapid’ or ‘wooden’.”
“I asked you…” she pulls out a vial of white powder.
“Don’t you think you should lay off the coke?”
“It’s not real cocaine – I don’t do that shit, I’m just practicing my image. I’m a Disney girl and to be a Disney girl you have to appear to take cocaine, We have to twerk. We have to take nude selfies, We have to make out with chicks in public and in return we’re guaranteed corner suites at rehab and wardrobe malfunctions in front of paparazzi. It’s standard in Disney contracts!”
“For real? It’s in your Disney contract?”
“Yes, it’s part of the morals clause we have to sign.”
“I understand,” I reflexively reply, silently wondering what a Disney girl’s morals clause might possibly say. Does fucking Justin Bieber fall within the scope of morality or is the clause triggered solely upon the number of times you skip out of rehab?
“You damn right better understand!”, Nina brings me back to reality. “I was asking you what you thought of the reviews?”
“I kind of like the one from the Hollywood Reporter, that says my “cult novel While I’m Dead…Feed the Dog is a darkly comic romp which reads like Catcher in the Rye crossed with Fight Club.” They think I’m a genius.”
“Fuck you, I read that one. It went on to say Behaving Badly is ‘dangerously low on wit, charm or narrative logic’ and you’re no fucking genius. You’re an author. You’re a nobody, yet you try and present yourself as some sort of fucking genius because you were able to type 95,647 words. Any idiot can do that if they don’t die of boredom first. I didn’t see Apple hiring you to work at the Genius bar.”
Nina reaches back into her wallet and pulls out her American Express card, causing me to temper my response, “Well it’s better than the Variety review that called it a “ruthlessly unfunny misfire.”
“I’m a fucking laughingstock because of you,” she uses the credit card to chop her name in lines of powder. “I think it’s time to ditch you for someone who understands me like Justin..:
“Don’t you think you’re being hasty – those are just two reviews in magazines whose readers mooch free tickets to everything anyway. You need to check the reviews that are written for people who actually pay to go see movies.”
“Which ones are those?”
“I don’t know exactly. Why don’t we ask Hollywood? He’s got the best publicist in the business because you don’t ever read anything in the press about what a lying, cheap bastard he is. His publicist has to be a fucking genius. Plus Hollywood told me I don’t know shit about the movie business and that I should always ask him to get the inside scoop.”
“When did he say that?”
“When he was trying to seduce me into giving him the movie rights to While I’m Dead…Feed the Dog, He promised to make me happy. Then when I asked him if I could write the screenplay to my book he told me I couldn’t because I never had written a movie before. I told him I had never written a book before but he seemed to like that enough to fall off his wallet.”
“And how did he respond to that?”
“He told me that I didn’t know shit about the movie business and then went into some song and dance about how part of moviemaking was realizing your dreams and since I am an insomniac I didn’t sleep enough to dream – so instead he hired Roger Debris to write and direct the movie and again promised to make me happy.”
“Did he give you a blowjob?”
“No. I’m not gay. What does that have to do with anything?”
“’Cause it’s the only thing I know that ever really makes you happy and I’m pretty sure that’s all you dream about.”
“That’s not true. Having a good movie with good reviews would make me happy.”
“Yeah right. Tell yourself that when you come home to an empty apartment after a hard night delivering pizzas,” my future former girlfriend snarls as she pulls out her purse and tosses me her car keys. “You can drive me. If you like the job I’ll tell you about Uber, and maybe you can make even more money delivering people than you do pizzas.”
We drive in silence to the Warner Brothers lot and walk to his office behind the trash compacter. I open the door to find Hollywood alone in his office on his knees stuffing Behaving Badly posters into the wastebasket.
“Hi Hollywood,” Hollywood looks up, his face goes white as a ghost, and dives behind his desk.
“Don’t shoot,” he screams.
I debate whether I should tell him I don’t have a gun, because I am enjoying his cowering, but Nina squelches my deliberations by telling him we only came to see the reviews.
“You know I don’t read reviews,” he gets on his feet and starts gathering up all the papers on his desk
“The same way you don’t read books?” I inquire, picking up a newspaper clipping that he inadvertently sends tumbling to the floor.
“Who has times for books that take time to read? I make entertainment for the masses. I make movies.”
I glance down at the newspaper clipping. “Not according to the Los Angeles Times. It says, ‘Behaving Badly is a dreadful sex comedy that gets worse and worse as its dopey story snowballs into relative incoherence’… and then it goes on to say, ‘it’s an egregious waste of talent – and your time’. Look on the bright side Nina they imply you have talent to waste,” I try to console her.
“You’re taking one review and letting it ruin your day? Look at the big picture some sucker disagreed enough to pay one million Euros for the Italian language rights. The movie is a hit in Singapore.”
“One million Euros, that’s 1.3 million dollars! That means we’ve almost recouped and you’re going to have to pay us royalties!”
“Royalties?” the color drains from Hollywood’s face. “Did you see the review from Movie Mezzanine? The headline is ‘Behaving Badly is Head-Shakingly Awful’ and then it goes on to say it’s ‘a contender for the worst film of the year, an amoral and nonsensical piece of tripe.’ Rotten Tomatoes gave it 12 out of 12. The movie sucks. There won’t be any royalties. Now if you can please excuse me, I’ve got a meeting with the guy who owns the screen rights to this book called the New Testament. It’s about a guy named Jesus who goes around performing miracles while hanging around with a hooker named Mary Magdalene who turns out to be his mother Mary…”