Thoughts on MLK, Jr. Day, 2019

How I Parted the Red Sea

Tale Two From The Trenches of Hollywood

Episode Two

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was at the typewriter (remember those?) in my office in George Roy Hill’s suite. Nobody else. Just me. Huge desk. Plush leather chair. Carpets that would cushion a rhino. Quiet as a monk’s cell at midnight. I’m working on “August King”. I don’t know how long – a long time – when I write I forget to move – I start to feel a little itchy. Gotta walk around. Gotta get out. So, go outside, start up my rental, click on the radio – Dr. Demento as I remember - go for a spin. A spin. Around the Universal lot. Only me. It wasn’t the gargantuan amusement park it is now – it wasn’t an amusement park at all, only a back lot but what a back lot! Surreal, “wondrous strange”, astonishing, a trip where you keep yelping “Wow!” and “Outta sight!”

Hey, there’s Psycho house! There’s that television family’s front yard. Ozzie and Harriet, right? There’s Jaws. The front part. The teeth part. Radio now tuned to a country station. Waylon and Willie. I stop in front of a concrete trough, maybe fifteen feet long. I’m not sure what it is, but suddenly the trough starts to flush, water rushes down both sides, flooding, churning, lots of water, too much water. I watch for a while waiting for it to stop. It doesn’t. So, I shift and drive on. Not a good feeling about this one.

Got to Mexico town where “The Magnificent Seven” was shot. Parked in the middle of the square. Sat there. Amazed. Wow. Look at this. Me. Here. Yul! Eli! Then, holy hell! Sirens blared 360. Police cars converged on me. Lights flashing. What the hell? Overweight policeman gets me out of the car, against the door, finger in face, my face, yells,

“How did you part the Red Sea?”

Pause.

How did I part the Red Sea?

“Yeah, the Red Sea, goddamnit!”

You had to laugh, although I don’t remember doing that. They seemed pretty angry. Turns out no one is allowed to drive around the lot at random. Also turns out that my rental car radio frequency (remember Waylon and Willie?) triggered the Red Sea. That’s what it was. The Red Sea. The real thing. Well, the fake real thing.

Charlton Heston would have been proud.

George Roy Hill had to identify me. He was neither happy nor proud.