(you were expecting maybe Elmer Fudd?)
It only makes sense to be nervous driving the most congested highways in the world. Like so many in LA, a preoccupied look on my face, maybe a little worried, eyes darting fitfully to try to see trouble coming. There's lots of potential trouble on these roads. They're armed, for Christ's sake.
I've developed this habit of thinking about whats happening to me as if I were going to write a story about every day. It made me realize that each car contained another soul, similar jagged thought lines firing through their minds, different concerns, different abilities, but each one focused on themselves. It seemed like an appropriate idea in this city that, according to legend, is the home of sybarritic egotism.
What I was principally worrying about was giving up my identity. For three years, ever since premature retirement, with a golden parachute and the whole nine yards, I'd been writing porn for the Net. A lot of it sat on my disk, because aside from the E-zine that had gotten me here, I still hadn't found any sort of revenue producing way to use it. It's not that good. When, within three months of my column's introduction on "Freaky", someone had actually wired ten grand in exchange for the rights to "Interlude with the Vampire", I had been amazed. But they never even proposed that I get involved in the screenplay or anything. Six months later, the E mail from Jim suddenly ratcheted up the risk of losing my anonymity.
Hi Whiff... No fucking shit... They want you to come to LA to consult on your vampire thing. Two grand a fucking day. I always knew you hid it in you. ASAP, they say... Tackman
Hi Tackman... Surely you jist jest... Whiff
Hi Whiff... And screw you too... No, they're hot to trot. This afternoon if you can make it. Look call me, I promise not to trace the call, but they're really on my case. They give me shit for not knowing who you really are. I explained to them about the Net, and all that, so they said they'd preserve your secret... Hey I'm sirious, man. They're hot, and two grand a day!!!!!!!!!... Tackman
I had called him on a payphone twenty miles away, that's how paranoid I am. I suppose I should explain that Tackman has some problems with grammar and such, and I tended to give him a bad time about it. It was a sort of running joke between us. But he had told me once my column had boosted his "hits". I never have known how much, but he's been increasingly nice to me, so it must be substantial. Short, of course, of paying me any money.
It had been twenty years since I had been to Southern California, and thirty since I had driven in the city during my navy years. It really hadn't changed, to my eye. As I jolted out of my reverie, the exit I wanted went whipping by, but there was another just ahead, so I got off there and concentrated on finding the studio where I had been told the movie was being shot. When I tried to drive in, they gave me a bad time, so I told them "Look on your list for Whiff". They found it, but still gave me a dirty look as I screeched through. I think it was the rented car.
This was all new to me, of course. Because of that, and a natural paranoia, I parked and kind of snuck into the big warehouse, finding "Love of the Dead" filming in one corner, according to a ratty little guy I asked. I was supposed to see the director, Leslie Davis, but instead sort of slunk over to a wall, and watched the proceedings. It was chaos.
Maybe it would all have made sense if I had the least idea about what it was normally like, but it seemed to me there was constant yelling, people running around wildly, and in the brightly lit corner where a blond, pale looking, large breasted woman was lounging on a bed, filing her nails and chewing gum, a guy was pounding with a hammer to no great effect that I could see. That corner was surrounded by equipment and people. I heard a sudden wail of feedback through the mikes, which almost instantly quit. The guy with the hammer quit pounding. Soft music suddenly dominated the whole room, and suddenly I heard a hoarse, female voice. "And... action." All the activity stopped, the blonde tucked the file under the pillow, used the one hand she wasn't leaning on to pump up her tits, and as she started to smile, swallowed the gum. No kidding.
And then here came the vampire, in white tie and tails, creeping in a frail imitation of Bela Lugosi. One arm stretched out holding the black cape. Even from thirty feet away, I could see the fangs, a good two inches long, and this guy was leering comically. The girl was staring at him, she was better, struggling with the classic combination of horror and desire on her face. The trouble was, all I could remember was her swallowing the gum, and I started giggling. A kid standing next to me, working a piece of electronic equipment, heard me and he caught it too, until after ten seconds, the whole place was laughing.
I guess I should explain that my story was about a very modern bloodsucker, who seduced the girl until she ached for him to do her, any way he wanted. It tried to deliberately avoid the cliches, and there would have been no place in it for this kind of scene. So my sense of the absurdity of it included the realization that whoever wrote the screenplay had ignored my story, so I was wasting my time even being here, taking what I thought of as big risks.
Over the tittering, I heard "Cut", and suddenly this woman was in my face. Her brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail, no make up, looked about thirty five, but pretty, in a silk blouse and jeans. Tight jeans. With barely concealed fury, she growled in a very menacing way "Who the fuck are you?" The whole place suddenly became silent. At first, I felt like a little kid again, getting chewed out by teacher. Then I felt my anger start, but tried to fight it back. Finally, with the thought that this woman looked vaguely familiar, I just grinned and said "The author. Whiff."
That threw her. I saw her register surprise, then the anger returned. She grunted "Oh", and suddenly she started to grin. "Yeah, well shit. I... where do they get this crap? Fuck. That was going pretty well. I know it isn't what you wrote. I mean, what was so fucking funny?"
I paused for effect, then kind of gurgled "She swallowed the gum." Surprise again, then she started laughing, and the whole place erupted. The woman seemed to be releasing tension, and ended by leaning over, hands on knees, her head down, choking with laughter. Her shirt opened one button, I saw this nice big set of boobs hanging there, and recognized her. Its a guy thing. Ashley Shift. Long time porn star, whom I'd always thought was damned good looking, and radiated a certain intelligence in her movies. I wondered what she was doing here.
The whole thing lasted about a minute, then Ashley turned around and hollered "Okay, take your lunch break. This is the author. Be nice to him." Then she turned back and held out her hand. "I'm Leslie Davis." I must have registered surprise, because she smirked, and hissed "Okay, you recognize me. Well, fuck you, and remember I'm the director. They told me you haven't even seen the goddamn script. Wait a minute, I'll get it for you."
As I was standing there, the male actor came up to me, fangs still showing, and in this really serious way, asked me "What's this guy's motivation for his lust, in your conception? Enslavement, need for blood, sex, I mean, I don't really get it." He was trying to sound like he just got out of method acting school, it seemed to me. I said "He's hungry, man." The guy nodded wisely, and muttered "Thanks", then sort of slunk away, trying to look deep in thought. All I could think of was, this was a nut house. How in hell did a retired businessman who had been a straight arrow all his life get here? A porn star directing, a mental midget trying to play an overpowering vampire, and a female lead, who was a surgeon in my story, played by a bimbo.
Ashley came back, and in a very urgent way, asked me "Can you have lunch with me? We really have to talk." I shrugged assent, and the next ten minutes was a whirl of racing down these side streets in an open sports car, her muttering defamatory remarks about things I didn't understand, getting to a small restaurant, and getting seated with a lot of attention from the Maitre' de and this queer waiter. She ordered a Daiquiri, and I asked for a beer. She handed me a thick paper bound book, which I assumed, correctly, was the script, then grabbed my hand.
"Look, this is my first shot at something other than a skin flick. Honest to god, I know what I'm doing, but this script is worse than some of my films. Your story was neat, sexy, really turned me on. You'll see, the guy kept some of it in this", tapping the script, "but lost the whole essence. My idea, read it this afternoon, then you and I watch the rushes from this first week tonight, then we talk until morning, if we have to. Now look, it's meant to be cable, you know, a little pussy hair, lots of tit, lots of fucking, but we can't keep the motherfucking thing. The guy came up with the neighbor boy, and that can work." In my story, the vampire eventually had his daughter seduce the woman's son, and they ended up in incest. "So, how about tonight? If I'm gonna turn this thing around, we have to move fast."
.... There is more of this story ...