True Tales Of Hollywood Episode One | MY FIRST BIG TIME HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT MEETING

January 1, 2019

Spruceton

 

Dear Everyone Out There:

 

As you can see, I’m jump-starting my blog again. Not going to name it anything this time, just Stephen Foreman’s blog. I remember hoping, decades ago, that one day I’d reach a point where if I wanted to write about a blade of grass I would. Am I finally there? There are those days, yes, although not always quite enough of them. That said, I want to put out a lot of stuff on a somewhat regular basis, some short, some long, some fiction, some non-fiction, some funny, some not, some Hollywood, some not, some you might hate, some you might not. Why? It’s what I do. Keeps me out of trouble.

 

Another reason to resuscitate this thing: as I approach an age I never even fathomed, I don’t want to begin anything that will take me years to finish because I may not have those years may not be available, and, if I did? That’s only the beginning of the battle. First, I’d need to bully and bribe friends and family into instantly dropping everything in their lives to read each syllable of every draft and then come the publishers/editors/assistants/PR/salesmen, all kinds of experts ad nauseum enter the mix - no thanks. Time’s too short. I could be “rockin’ my soul in the bosom of Abraham” any day now. I’ve had three novels published since 2007, finished a fourth a few weeks ago, feel absolutely no compunction to do it again. However, short pieces. Shorter pieces. Blades of grass. Whatever I want. Then, that question: Do I really want to wait months for an answer from some obscure journal, and, if the answer is positive, how many readers does this journal have, and, of course, what goes without saying, no money? Therefore, if nobody’s going to read it, and nobody’s paying for it, why bother? So, I can say I’ve been published in Bum F**k Review? Feh. Since I’m not going to make any money, anyway – and since I don’t care to be dead to be read or not read - I might as well just tap the key and put my work out there when I think of it. I hope you like it – most of the time. I’d be happy if you passed it on.

 

Here goes.

 

True Tales Of Hollywood Episode One

MY FIRST BIG TIME HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT MEETING

 

1974

 

Universal/Park Ave/NYC

 

Who remembers Jennings Lang? At the time he bought my first script, 1973 (without our ever having met or spoken), Jennings was one of the handful of great white sharks patrolling the shoals of Hollywood. A very powerful man in that world. I had no idea at the time but would learn that soon enough as we went along. He opened doors and ushered me through. I was without a clue.

“I’m coming to New York. Can you meet me at the office?” That voice on the telephone, my first call from “the coast”. A bit growly but very polite. “Can you meet me…?” What? I’m gonna say no? It was Jennings Lang. I didn’t know who he was but that’s who he was. He signed my check. It would be my first script meeting ever. I’d heard horror stories and would soon begin to experience them first hand, but not yet. “Heard” was the operative word.

 

I had absolutely no memory of wearing a suit in years, yet I did own one, a blue wool suit, and, for some reason, decided to wear it that day. Why? My daily uniform was and is Levi’s and some shirt. In those days it was probably a blue work shirt. Very hip. It showed one’s roots in toil. So, why the suit? Do not ask me that question. Clearer minds than mine may figure that one out. I still don’t know, but I wish I hadn’t. The first thing Jennings said when I was shown into his office was, “I see you wore your Bar Mitzvah suit.” Welcome to a lesson in power, young man: the art of throwing someone off balance from the git-go.

 

Anyway, we talk about my script, and I find his comments insightful and helpful, not at all negative. Complimentary, in fact. Hopeful. I would come to learn that if a producer or director or anybody in charge waxed mightily about what a good writer I was, watch out. However, I was new at this. They think I’m wonderful. OK! Sounds good. I can handle this.

 

After our meet, Jennings asks me if I’d like to join him and a friend for lunch? Sure! Why not? At which point I wind up a few minutes later at Le Cirque, my first truly high-end restaurant,  watching a maitre’d fawning all over the man who took me there. I was impressed. I admit it. The last time I was this impressed was when a jockey from Pimlico race track stopped by our booth in the White Coffee Pot Restaurant, Baltimore, Maryland, up the street from the track, around the corner from the movie theatre where my father had just taken me to see “The Quiet Man”. Was I five? Six? Now, we were eating t-bone steaks! My first. And then a jockey from Pimlico! Just stopped by our booth. He knew my Dad! Just stopped by! They tossed it back and forth a bit, joked about something. He shook my hand. They said so long. My Dad knew all kinds of characters.

 

Now, it’s thirty years later, 1974. Le Cirque. We are shown to our table. A man already sits there. Wearing a pork pie hat. Kinda disheveled. Jennings introduces me, “Stephen Foreman, I want you to meet Billy Wilder.”

 

I am not bullshitting you.

 

Billy – the Legend – Wilder.

 

Stephen Foreman meet Billy Wilder! Holy shit! So, I sit down and Billy Wilder immediately begins talking about my script – says to me, “Now, about your script…” and proceeds to go through all the talking points Jennings had just gone through back at the office. In truth, just then, I wasn’t as “aware” as I came to be of Billy Wilder. Sure, I was impressed but not as much as I would have been given another few months in the film business. That’s how dumb I was. Still, it was Billy Wilder, and he liked my script enough to give it such attention. “Gee, Mr. Wilder,” I think I said, something stupid, “I didn’t know you’d read my script!”

 

    His face took on a Kris Kringle type twinkle. “I didn’t read your script,” he said in his Austrian accent, sly, impish, “I been puttin’ up mit this shit for twenty-five years.” To his credit, Jennings guffawed. I don’t remember what I felt, but knowing what I know now, I should have taken it as a warning.

True dat.

 

NEXT UP: TRUE TALES OF HOLLYWOOD

                

Episode Two

 

      HOW I PARTED THE RED SEA

 

 

Y’can’t make this stuff up. Stay tuned.

 

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