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INSPIRED BY THE KING OF CHROMA : One Producer's Neologism Restores Her Lust for Lingo

November 16, 1986|DEBORAH CAULFIELD

When I first began reporting on Hollywood and everything was new and interesting, my greatest fascination lay with Hollywoodese, that mixed-up melange of techno-Yiddish blurbology spoken by anyone who fancies that they are a true industry insider.

I savored every new piece of slang, from "multi-pic-pact" (multiple picture deal) to "turnaround" (when a project's progress at a studio is suddenly thrown into reverse).

I schmoozed, schlepped and Spago'ed. I did lunch (one "takes" meetings, "does" lunch). I would have had my girl call their girl, but they still haven't given me a girl here. I studied that Hollywoodese touchstone--Variety--until I could speak like one of its headlines.

"Well, Boss, I nixed the H'W'D' prem of the Aussie pic. Heard Col's prod prexy eyed it and ankled quick. Sounds like B.O. poison to me." (I didn't go to the Australian movie because I heard Columbia's president of production walked out of the premiere. Must be a flop.)

Yeah, yeah, I reveled in it--until there was nothing left to revel in--I'd heard it all. It hit me like a dinner check at Rex--the fun had evaporated from my job. Without new slang to fuel me, how was I ever going to listen to the same old lies from the same old sources?

It took someone as prolific as "Miami Vice"/"Crime Story" producer Michael Mann to renew my lust for lingo. He did it in spades the other day as we talked by phone. In the middle of detailing the changes in this year's "Vice," he let it drop:

"Well, I got tired of looking at the same old pastels, so I decided when I deepened the chroma that I would. . . . "

Deepened the chroma ?

Excuse me?

For a fleeting second I tried to persuade myself that he merely had underenunciated "changed the format," but in my heart I knew better. It was a genuine, bona fide, almost-a-virgin tidbit of Hollywoodese.

Better yet, I thought I knew what he meant. I stopped him mid-sentence.

"Ummmm . . . Michael . . . you mean when you changed the color scheme?"

"Yeah, yeah. I deepened the chroma. We went from pastels and daylight to dark blue and lots of night shooting."

I don't even remember what he said after that. I was like a dog with a new bone. I chewed on it, I tossed it around, buried it and dug it up again. Hell, I even ran it up the flagpole to see if anybody saluted (and I hadn't used that cliche in years ) .

I fantasized about its use--I could see a TV producer summoned before the network chief to talk about his struggling new series.

Network chief: "Say, babe, we've decided to uhhhh, deepen the chroma on 'Bad Henry and the Hernia Bandits.' "

Producer (whining): "Deepen the chroma? But it's already deep fuchsia!"

Network chief: "Sorry, pal, we're deepening it to black--you're canceled. . . ."

I tried it out on a friend later that night when he asked if my steak was satisfactorily cooked.

"Actually," I said, "can you deepen the chroma just a little?"

When he finally understood, he offered to re-chroma an area around my eye instead.

I think Ted Turner needs this word. Then when all those Hollywood yahoos scream and yell because he's colorizing classic black-and-white movies, he can shoot 'em one of those dazzling Turner grins and say, "Well, heck, I just thought I'd deepen their little ole chroma a tad!"

Colleague Morgan Gendel chuckled when I relayed Mann's neologism. "That's Michael. He uses the word palette a lot too when he talks about the colors." Morgan left me wrestling with the weighty question--did Mann need a palette of a different chroma this season, too?

For all his chromanizing, Mann didn't want to talk about the show's new fashion colors, per se: "Nah, that's something you press guys jumped on last season. I'm not talking about the colors anymore, I'm more interested in plots."

Guess I wouldn't get a chance to tell him how much I HATE the ugly shirts he's putting on the surveillance van guys this year. Couldn't he find deeper chroma'd Hawaiian shirts? No wonder one of them has asked to be killed later this season.

Despite your taste in shirts, doll, I owe you one. You've restored me to my old happy, jaded self. I now know that Hollywood lingo is a renewable resource, it just hibernates occasionally.

So, say "pal" to Don for me and, listen, I hope your shows are high in ratings this season--and up to their credits in chroma.

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