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THE RULES OF HOLLYWOOD

Sweet Revenge Can Come in the Unlikeliest Places

December 24, 2006|James Dawson | James Dawson has had his work featured in the Washington Post and Penthouse Forum.

"These are good," my friend-in-the-biz said, blessing two of my spec scripts with the kind of validation every wannabe writer craves. "I can forward them to my agent, if you want."

I wanted, all right.

I had just moved to L.A. and needed representation. My fellow alumnus had arrived here a few years earlier. He had sold a script to a hugely popular sitcom, joined the staff as story editor, and quickly became one of the show's producers. A mere referral from someone in his position might mean everything to my fledgling career. There was no conceivable reason why he would renege on such a simple, easily fulfilled promise.

Did I mention that I was new in town?

I never got any response from the agent. I couldn't believe that someone who must be making a fortune in commissions from my dear acquaintance would consign a "give this guy a look" package so cavalierly to File 13. I'm guessing he probably never received the scripts.

After a few weeks, I tried contacting Mr. Hollywood at his office. He was never available. He apparently also never read his messages or checked his voicemail. I resisted the urge to call his house because I was getting the impression that he didn't care to talk to me. I mean, I didn't want to seem needy. I've heard that I'm not the only friend, ex-roommate or relative who got false hope from someone who succeeded in the entertainment industry. Maybe those offers are a gullibility test, a way to winnow out the overly trusting rubes who have no business in show business.

It's always tough to discover that a sincere-sounding associate doesn't really have your best interests at heart. But destiny occasionally grants a smidgen of schadenfreude-ish satisfaction to those of us who haven't made the Power List.

Years later, I was meeting my entertainment-reporter wife for a screening in Culver City. I didn't have high expectations for the movie, but I had two good reasons for spending the gas money to see it. First, the studio involved was known for handing out unlimited concessions vouchers. Second, nearly any excuse to get out of the house is good enough for some writers--especially one whose career is as cold as a box of Sno-Caps smuggled home after an unlimited concessions screening.

Although my work has appeared in plenty of print markets, I still don't have a single movie or TV credit. My neglectful nemesis went on to produce other network TV series, in addition to getting his name on more than one major motion picture. He also wrote a novel.

I know that because I reached Culver City with enough time to stop at the Salvation Army thrift store and check out its used-book section. I spotted his name on the spine of a hardback. I felt a frisson of pleasure at the idea that someone had parted with that slender tome instead of treasuring it forever. Only one thing could make the moment more gratifying. Hesitantly, hopefully, I opened the book to its title page. Inscribed there were the words, "To Gina, Thanks for everything," followed by the affectedly stylish autograph of my personal Judas.

I never thought his name would make me smile, but it sure did that day. He might be a multimillionaire with an impressive Hollywood resume and homes on both coasts. And I might be the kind of no-prospects nobody who frequents thrift stores and attends movie screenings for the free concessions.

But for that brief, delicious instant, all was right with the world.

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