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GIFT-GIVING IN HOLLYWOOD : There's Providence Even in the Fate of Fruit

January 05, 1986|DAVID T. FRIENDLY

This is a story about a basket of fruit, its hopes, its fears, its ambition. It happened in Hollywood where sometimes real life gets a whole lot weirder than the fiction that they peddle to us at $6 a seat. As they like to say, this one is based (albeit loosely) on a true story.

It all started about a week before Christmas when this producer Brian Brillnick arrived at his office one day to find a 35-pound wicker basket filled with goodies. Wrapped inside the orange-tinted cellophane were slabs of Brie and jars of macadamia nuts; there was Crystal Champagne and Pellegrino water; there were seedless grapes and even chocolate-dipped strawberries.

The basket came from Blockbuster & Blockbuster's agent, Stan Swift, who had sent the gift in thanks for the million-dollar production deal he had just closed between Blockbuster and Paramount. (Commission to Swift's agency: $100,000 minus $89.50 for the basket.)

Well, Brillnick was impressed and touched and all of that, but since he was never that big a fan of goat cheese anyway, he decided to send the gift (unopened, of course) to his star writer Dale Peachtree, who had come up with the idea for the picture Brillnick was making at Paramount.

When Jimmy from Turbo Messenger arrived at Peachtree's Santa Monica condo bearing the gift, the writer was duly touched. The previous year the same producer had sent a bottle of rose wine (which carried in small type on the label: "Bottled exclusively for Sam's Dry Cleaners").

Peachtree figured his career was really on the move, but since the one time he had eaten a truffle he had broken out in a rash anyway, he decided to send the basket on to his favorite studio executive, Sean Katzpatrick at Paramount. The studio had promised him an office where he could write Brillnick's movie, and he thought this might be just the ticket to ensure an office with a window or at the very least an unstained couch. So he sent for Jimmy from Turbo, who blanched when he saw the now-familiar orange cellophane. This was the third time that he had delivered this basket and some of the chocolate strawberries were starting to fade. Of course Katzpatrick never noticed that. He was simply amazed that the writer had sent such a lavish gift. In fact, the only other gift he ever received from a writer was a tip on one of Jack Klugman's horses, a mare that may still be running at Santa Anita.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Katzpatrick already had an office full of these baskets and never really liked stone-ground honey mustard anyway. Besides, he thought, hadn't he just started $50 personal workouts with Jake Feldstein?

When the basket arrived at Jake's Westside condo, Jake was thrilled. Sure, he had revived the slipping bodies of many a studio executive and plenty of stars too, but none had sent such a generous gift. The best he had done so far was a screening pass from Slyman Schwartzenorris for "Death Wish 196"--and he knew how that one would end anyway.

But Jake recently switched to an all-salt, no-fruit-or-vegetables pain-to-gain diet and it was with even greater anguish that old Jimmy from Turbo found himself winding through the hills of Beverly with his 35-pound passenger looking for Sly's house. Yup, you see Jake figured Sly already had one of everything anyway so this was the perfect holiday gift.

Well, the basket arrived just in time and Sly was touched--for a moment. That morning while sipping a protein shake and skimming the trades, Sly noticed that Brillnick had been signed by Paramount to do a remake of "The Yearling." Brilliant, thought Sly. He was tired of making macho muscle pictures and here was a chance to break the pattern. And maybe get respect and be an Oscar contender like that Spielberg on the purple film.

When Jimmy picked up the basket from Sly's place, he promised himself that this was the last time he was driving it anywhere, even if he had to eat the stupid strawberries himself.

And if you think he was bothered, imagine the look on Brillnick's face when that old basket of fruit arrived at his office on Christmas eve.

Well, old Brillnick had a good laugh, hefted it with both hands and hauled it home. He gave it to his wife with a kiss on the cheek and a smile. Brillnick wasn't laughing very long. His wife opened the basket to find a small card that read: "Wishing You a Very Happy 1985."

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