I had lunch the other day with an independent television producer named Gordon. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Santa Monica and Gordon ordered his fish unsalted and boiled in bottled water, and his vegetables thoroughly scrubbed with a new brush before they also were boiled in bottled water.
The waiter said something like "Yeah, sure," which indicated to Gordon that, while they might not salt his food, they were going to cook it in tap water whether he wanted it or not.
Gordon feels that all tap water is contaminated and thereby second only to thermonuclear war in its potential for human destruction.
He rose to his feet and demanded the right to inspect the preparation of his lunch in the kitchen, at which point a loud shouting match ensued and Gordon was thrown out, rights and all.
The incident did not surprise me because, as I mentioned, Gordon is an independent television producer, a strange and unpredictable order of primate given to emotional outbursts under the most serene of circumstances.
I am speaking specifically of those who produce movies and pilots for the tube, since they are totally at the mercy of the networks, a condition that engenders a high degree of instability and probably accounts for their often erratic behavior patterns.
I have known many producers over the past 10 years, only a few of whom I considered normal. The others varied only in the degree of their dementia.
One of them, for example, was a health nut who used to wash down about 50 vitamin pills a day with straight vodka. Another was a hypochondriac who sprayed the mouthpiece of his telephone with Pine Sol every time he made or answered a call, and a third was a haphephobe, who could not stand being touched.
Gordon, by the way, avoids people with beards (pogonophobia). I don't know why, but I suspect he feels that a beard may conceal tap water. Well, it makes sense to him.
The reason I discuss this angst- haunted subgenus today is that a friend of mine, also an independent producer, has just written a book called "Producing TV Movies."
His name is Everett Chambers. I know him to be among the handful of independents who fall into the broad category of functionally normal, which is to say he dresses himself and remembers where he lives.
"Producing" is a very good book, honest and filled with the kinds of details beginners will need if they are ever going to make money in television. But Everett can't get the book into the bookstores where, naturally, the book must be placed in order to be sold.
This is making him a little crazy, sad to say, and when Everett gets a little crazy, it is likely to register on the Richter scale. He is not very tall but he has the kind of temper that can scatter armies.
I remember walking into his office one day and Everett was yelling at a man who was seated on a chair with his eyes closed. The man remained that way even after Chambers and I left the room. I have wondered ever since whether the poor soul had been bellowed to death or was simply in a state of catatonia, but I've never had the courage to ask.
When "Producing" came out, Chambers telephoned his publishers to ask about distribution. They said they had never heard of either him or the book.
That is enough to make anyone angry, but anger is too mild a word to be in Everett's lexicon. He began to bear in like a tiger shark in a feeding frenzy, and after he had eaten through a few people at the company, he discovered that his book had been incorrectly listed.
Once he got that straightened out, he further discovered that the book had not been distributed at all.
It seems that while the firm had promised to publish "Producing," it had not necessarily promised to offer the book for sale. If Everett wanted his book distributed, he would have to do it.
Chambers said all right, he would buy the damned books himself and peddle them from door to door if necessary. They said fine, but he could order them only if he paid first because he had no line of credit with the publishing house.
What amazes me about the incident is not that Everett ordered 50 books on his Diner's Club card, but that he managed to calm down long enough to give them his name and address in order to have the book delivered.
Shortly after that, he left for New York. I suspect he is going from office to office at the publishers, bellowing his displeasure at their failure to distribute his book.
That means "Producing TV Movies" will either be personally banned by the chief executive officer of the company or we will soon see it in the window of every business establishment on the Westside, from Neiman-Marcus to the 7-Eleven stores.
Meanwhile, if a man about so tall knocks on your door and asks you to buy a book about producing television movies, I'd buy it if I were you. I'm not saying he would commit violence on an innocent stranger, but I'm not saying he wouldn't.
I have 43 of the books myself.