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Thursday, April 26, 2012


"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." - H.L. Mencken


Chris and I sat in the Black Whale, morosely contemplating the swordfish mounted above the bar. One shiny glass eye glared back at us accusingly.

"No matter which way you move your head," Chris observed, "it keeps staring directly at you. Kind of like the Mona Lisa, but with scales and a big fucking nose."

"Would you call that a Giaconda kind of look?" I asked. "Or a grimace of sheer terror?"

Chris rattled the ice in his empty glass to signal the barkeep for more Scotch. "He looks like I feel," he said. "Like a writer who has been hammering away at a book with his partner for almost three fucking years, and now that the end is in sight, they're flat out of god damned money."

"Jesus, guys, I can take the hint," the bartender said as he swept up our empty glasses. "The House is buying the next round."

"It's a good thing, too," Chris said. "I was afraid we'd have to go call our agent sober. Another scotch will make him seem like a little bit less of an asshole."

At this point in the game, we were repped (as Variety would put it) by the William Morris Agency, a Misadventure I'll save for another time because Chris and I had bigger problems that day.

"That's a total waste," I said. "They'll just try to stall by sending us out on cattle calls, then clip us for ten percent when we finally land our own job with no help from them."

In those days, the Writers Guild was trying to encourage the Free Lance market for their members by requiring that shows meet with a certain number of writers every season, whether they bought their stories or not. This quota system was easily met by cattle calls - scores of writers sent by their agents to meet with the producers en-masse in studio theaters.

Chris and I avoided them at all cost. Not only was it demeaning and unlikely to produce work, but there are few things more terrible - or smelly - than being jammed into a room packed with hungry, fear-soaked writers.

My partner nodded agreement. "The main problem is that we've left it too late," he said. "We should have seen this coming and hit the bricks a month ago."

Bottom line: It would likely take several weeks to land a gig. Then it would be many weeks more before we got paid. Studios were (and are) notorious late payers. Sure, if they took too long they might be fined by the Guild. But the fine was so small, no gimlet-eyed Business Affairs Boss worth his cash flow gave a shit.

Here's how we had (once again) found ourselves mired in the money mess: As mentioned in these MisAdventures before, our standard MO was to sell the hell out of scripts, and when we had enough money stashed, we'd take the phone off the hook and write books. This had worked okay thus far for the Sten Series.

But our Vietnam novel - A Reckoning For Kings - was a different matter. It was a tough book: for the first time in fiction we were telling the story of the war from both sides. The idea was to go hey diddle-diddle, right-down-the-middle and let the readers make up their own minds about the war. To that end we had over thirty major characters and fully half of them were Vietnamese.

Chris and I were betting our literary futures on the book. We were certain that once it was published our professional lives would be changed forever.

Any round-heeled old pro reading this will accuse us of smoking funny cigarettes. And he'd be correct, although we usually stuck to scotch and soda. (easy on the soda - too much sodium)

As it happened, however, young and dumb as we were it played out as we'd hoped. After Reckoning was published in 1987 - and especially after the paperback was issued a couple of years later - we were able to start dropping Hollywood out of the picture and rely on books to make our living. (And Reckoning turned into The Shannon Trilogy.) 

But getting there was a hellacious grind. We'd been hard at work on the novel for nearly three years. When we were about two thirds done we thought we had enough money to turn off the phones and complete the book. Then we could turn them on again and sell scripts until Reckoning and Sten rescued us. Unfortunately, we had fallen short of that goal.

And now we were agonizingly close to the end of the book, while perching perilously on the edge of financial disaster.

I polished off my drink, handed over my credit card for further bruising and said, "Well, partner mine, although it pains me terribly to say this, it's time to put the book aside and get a job Sha-Na-Na."

As we slid off our barstools, Chris said, "Maybe let's skip out the agent and go directly to the source."

"Might speed things up," I agreed. "We can make a list of everybody we know and then try our hand at a little telemarketing Hollywood style."

I was living in Venice Beach, practically across the street from the Black Whale, and in no time we were hunched over our respective phones, sucker lists at our elbows, dialing for dollars.

The pitch we chose was nakedly avaricious. If a secretary answered we'd say, "Hi, (Jeannie, or Crystal or Kimberly) is (Frank, Joe, or Bernie) anywhere around?"

If he wasn't, we'd say, "Tell him Bunch and Cole called to scream: 'Help Us, Mr. Wizard!!! Save your favorite starving artists from getting kicked out of their garret.'"

If the guy was in, we'd say, "It's like this, (Frank, Joe, or Bernie)we are weeks away from finishing our Vietnam book and we are flat, fucking out of money. Buy something from us so we can finish the book. It'll be your contribution to World Peace and American Literature. And we promise you'll be remembered in the acknowledgements."

You might be surprised to learn that cynical old Hollywood was overwhelmingly positive. Really. Of course, some people weren't in the position to buy. We were very late in the season and most shows were scripted up. But we were promised back up scripts when that time came around. Others were in the process of pitching new series to the Networks and said if the Network bought, so would they.

So, there was promised money. And there was promised promised money. But no promised promised promised money. (Three promises equaled Cha-Ching!)

Finally, we came to Al Godfrey, our self-appointed producer/mentor. We both talked to him via the speaker phone. Unfortunately, Al was between jobs, but he had this to offer. "Have you tried Freilich?"

"The EatAnter?" Chris said. (He'd dubbed Jeff Freilich The EatAnter after the character in the BC comic strip for reasons previously explained.)

Godfrey laughed. He thought Jeff was an EatAnter too. Then he said, "He and Stu Sheslow have some sort of development deal in the works at Fox. (This was 20th Century Fox before the Rupert Murdoch era.) And I hear they're having script trouble."

"Trouble as in pay us immediate money to get out of, trouble?" Chris asked. "Or, just the usual EatAnter dithering chaos trouble?"

"Oh, there's money there," Godfrey said. "Go get it boys."

We called The EatAnter and sonofabitch if he didn't sound glad to hear from us. "Hey, guys," he said in that cheery EatAnter's voice of his, "I was just thinking about you two."

"Well, marriage is definitely out," Chris said. "But we might consider a brief affair."

The EatAnter laughed, but I knew him to be an overly sensitive soul who might not really be finding Chris funny. So, quick like a bunny rabbit I jumped in and gave him our "Contribution to American Literature" pitch.

"No shit," Freilich said. "You guys are really close to being done?"

"All we need is one decent, quick-paying gig," I said. "And your name will be writ large in the Acknowledgements."

"As a matter of fact," Freilich said, "I've got a two-hour pilot rewrite that has to be done right away."

"How right away?" Chris asked.

"Yesterday," Freilich said.

"We can do that," I said.

Chris said, "How much does it pay?"

Without hesitation, Jeff said, "Thirty five thousand dollars."

Chris said, "We'll do it."

Jeff said, "Don't you want to know what it's called."

"Not particularly," Chris said.

"Well, I'll tell you anyway," Freilich said. "It's called Towtruck Boogie."

There was a long silence from our end. We could tell from the way he said it that he wasn't shitting us. It really did carry the gut-clenching, no class at all, title of "Towtruck Boogie." Chris and I looked at each other. What should we do? Say fuck off and die? Or, close our eyes and think of Literature?

"Guys?" The EatAnter pressed. "Guys?"

Chris said, "We'll do it anyway."

And we did.

And yeah, William Morris got its ten percent.

* * *

Postscript: Towtruck Boogie proved to be a proposed TV series "inspired" by the hit cult movie, Repo Man. So they took out all the sex, drugs, rock and roll and the aliens, then told us to go write the sucker. When we were done, Greg Mayday, head of TV development at Fox said it was the best pilot script of a shitty idea that he had ever seen. Thumbs down for the series, thumbs up for further work from Mayday and Fox for Bunch & Cole




The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 115,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!

Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, April 20, 2012


"Know how many producers does it takes to screw in a light bulb?" the gate guard asked. Chris and I said we give up - how many? The guard said, "Producers don't screw in a light bulb, they screw in a hot tub."

Guffaws all around. We were at the East Gate of MGM studios, roughly between the Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly buildings. The guard was a tall, trim black man with a leading man's profile and was doubtless carrying a newly-minted SAG card and waiting for his break.

Pleased with our reaction, the guard said, "I've been collecting Hollywood light bulb jokes to try at the Comedy Club next week. Maybe I'll luck out and Robin Williams will be there."

"Better hang onto your joke wallet," Chris advised. "They say he's a bigger thief than Bob Hope."

His rejoinder was interrupted by a tinny horn beeping and we saw a canopied golf cart tooling along Main Street in our direction. "There you go," the guard said. "It's the Chief. Told you he wouldn't be long."

The guard hadn't been guarding us - as MGM employees we had every right to be there. He'd just been keeping us company while we waited for the Chief to show up at the appointed meeting place.

The head property master stopped in front of us and got out. He was a big man - at 6' 2" he'd be about Chris' height. And burly, with a barrel chest and thick arms, sleeves rolled up to show several Naval tattoos: anchors, a mermaid, and a heart, labeled "Courage" with a dagger stuck through it.

He offered a meaty paw for us to shake, then after introductions, waved us into the cart. I eyed the machine doubtfully. With the three of us it'd be hauling upwards of 700 pounds. The Chief caught my look and laughed, kicking a tire. "Don't sweat it," he said. "I liberated a bigger motor for her and had Transportation beef up the springs."

The guard called after us: "Remember me to your casting director. You got my card, right?"

I patted my shirt pocket, showing that I did, then we clambered aboard - Chris riding shotgun, me squeezing into a little bench seat behind the Chief. He took off, smoothly evading a big open-bed truck filled with lighting gear, then diving into a warren of sound stages and drab office buildings with signs bearing the names of old MGM stars: the Clark Gable building, the Myrna Loy building, the James Stewart building and so on. Years before the studio publicity department had famously boasted that at MGM there were "More Stars Than There Are In The Heavens."

Robert Urich & Co.
The Chief said, "You boys are at that new Robert Urich water show, right?" It was refreshing to hear him refer to our star as Robert, instead of the Hollywoodeese - Bobby. As mentioned before, the denizens of La-La-Land favor terms of familiarity, whether they know the guy or not.

"That'd be us," Chris said. "It's called Gavilan. Sort of a cross between Mission Impossible and Sea Hunt, is how they sold it to the Suits."

The Chief said, "That's what I heard. And it's a water show. Toughest kind."

Chris agreed. "Everything on water takes fucking forever," he said. "But I don't have to tell you. What were you - Chief Bosun's Mate, or something?"

The Chief gave Chris a quick look, then smiled. "Guess the tats gave me away."

"Yeah. Also all those tats told me you couldn't be an admiral," Chris said, chuckling. Then, "How long were you in, Chief?"

"Did my twenty for Uncle Sam," he replied. "Came here to work with my dad. He was the head prop master then." He sighed. "Now, I'm about done the second time around. Retiring next week after twenty five years."

I said, "So you've seen this place shrink to almost nothing."

The once grand studio had been downsized by Nevada zillionaire, Kirk Kerkorian, who had sold most of the studio off for real estate. Helping him oversee the studio's demise, was one, John. T. Aubrey, known as the biggest son of a bitch in Hollywood. Which, in a town overcrowded with sons of bitches, was really saying something. In my newspaper City Editor days my reporters had covered those events.

The Chief grimaced, saying, "Hell, I was here the day they auctioned off the costume department, right down to Judy Garland's ruby red slippers."  He shook his head. "Shit, they even sold the steamboat to some fuck. An actual paddle wheeler they used in Showboat and which was still steaming around our lake carrying folks on the Studio Tour."

He glanced over his shoulder at me. "It's too bad, but they filled in the lake for condominiums," he said. "You guys could have really used it on your show. You'd save a bundle in location fees and travel costs. But, don't worry. We still have lots of facilities for water shoots."

He indicated a sound stage that was dead ahead. "Like over there. Wait'll you see."

We parked at a side door, noted the red warning light was off - nobody was filming - and entered. Entrances to sound stages are like air locks - you enter a small dark hallway, then have to shut the door behind you before you can open the next, which leads directly into the building. Its purpose, logically enough, is to keep out errant light and sound.

I've described sound stages before in previous Misadventures, and this one was much like the others. But bigger. I'm talking 747 Airline Hangar huge. Well over 42,000 square feet. The roof was so high that in the right conditions you could get weather, like a brief rain. At least that's what I was told by a wise producer who was occasionally known to sort of tell the truth. Except when he was in the hot tub, doing - you know.

The place was dimly lit, with small pools of brightness scattered here and there. Thick electrical cables snaked off into the darkness, coming together in big metal gang plugs, then snaking off again. Strange machinery bulked silent, giving only vague hints to their purpose.

The Chief flipped on some lights. We were greeted by a gleaming white set, with white tiled floors, and big banks of prop computers. Long desktops, with monitors and controls, were grouped in aisles.

Mathew Broderick
Alley Sheedy
"This was the Command Center for your boss' new movie, War Games," the Chief said. He was speaking of Leonard Goldberg, exec producer of our TV series, who was also a big time movie producer. War Games hadn't been released yet, but as most of you know it starred a young Mathew Broderick and Alley Sheedy and became a huge success.

"They finished this part of the shoot," the Chief said, "and we still haven't broken down the set. Maybe it'll fit into something on Gavilan. If it does, let us know and we'll hold off."

I made a note and sure enough, many weeks later, a portion of the set was used in one of the episodes of the short-lived series. (A quick aside: Gavilan was helmed by our old buddy from the Hulk - the late, great Nick Corea - so for a change we'd landed a decent staff job.)

"But, that's not what I wanted to show you," the Chief said, shutting off the lights, then drawing us deeper into the gloom.

After picking our way over cables for some distance I smelled the distinctive odor of long standing water. A moment later the Chief flipped on lights and we found ourselves at a edge of an indoor pond. It was rectangular in shape and many times the size of an Olympic pool.

"Take a look at those babies," the Chief said with a note of pride. He was indicating several banks of miniature ships and boats, parked and piled up like a little indoor shipyard. They ranged from aircraft carriers and battle ships, which were about rowboat size, to Chinese junks and luxury yachts, which were about half that size. Except for one extra large yacht that sported a helicopter pad, complete with remote control helicopter.

"Well, shit and fall back in it," Chris said in awe-struck tones. He was especially impressed because he'd taken up his father's old hobby of creating miniature objects - mainly militaria, like soldiers of different eras and nations. It was amazing to see him at play: a big man, with large hands, and thick fingers, delicately painting the minute details of uniforms with brushes the size of a few human hairs.

Pointing toward the far end, the Chief said, "Got a wave machine down there. If you want a storm, all you have to do is turn it on and maybe bring in a rainbird. The boats are weighted, so they look natural when they roll. Plus, they dump vegetable oil on the water, so the waves look big and heavy like they could do some damage."

He pointed to a big crane device overhead, with immense hooks hanging down. "They crank up that sucker to raise and lower the flooring. So, you can cover over the whole thing if you need more room for sets. Or to make the ocean smaller. Only takes a couple of hours."

We circled back, taking a slightly different route. Near the exit we came to what looked like a portion of a house sitting on immense bedsprings.

"That's for earthquakes," the Chief said. "Right now it's set up for a living room and kitchen." I could see a couch, pole lamps and even a TV set through the windows on the right, and kitchen appliances on the left. "If you want an earthquake, you just get your cast in the house, and some big grips grab those poles over there." He indicated big metal bars inserted through the springs on either side of the set. "And they rock the set back and forth, knocking people all over the place. Looks a lot more real than just shaking the camera."

Next on the agenda was the MGM water tank - also known as Stage 30 - a must for anyone doing a water show. But the Chief called it by the name that is still used today. "This is the Esther Williams tank," he said as we pulled up. "It's where they shot all those old Esther Williams musical extravaganzas. Bathing beauties with Esther in the center, coming up out of the water. Fountains shooting all over the place, and all in glorious, Technicolor. Reds so bright they'd burn your eyes out." A sad shake of his gray head. "That's how they made them back in my old man's day. What a thing to see."
Esther Williams In Million Dollar Mermaid - Tank Shot
The tank was many stories high, and was set in a hollow core, as we soon learned when the Chief opened wide double doors and led us inside. There, we found a ramp with narrow parallel tracks set into it that curved up to the top. We started the climb and almost immediately we came upon a series of thick glass portholes that looked out into the water. It was like Seaworld, but without any fish.

The Chief said, "The rails are for the camera. And the windows go all the way around and all the way up. So, the cameraman can run his Mitchell along the rails, shooting at any angle or depth that he wants. 

Lloyd Bridges In Sea Hunt
"A lot of Sea Hunt was done here. And Flipper. Then they could second-unit places like Crystal Springs and Catalina and save a bundle." (A Second Unit is usually a skeleton crew with its own director - usually a kid trying to make his bones.)

Finally, we reached the top and exited, blinking in the sunlight, onto a wide cement platform that circled the Esther Williams Pool.

"Get the camera down low," the Chief said, bending down, "and shoot across and you've got yourself a horizon view. Looks like nothing but water for miles and miles. You can do castaways, or lifeboats, or lazy days of summer fishing, or anything else that comes to mind."

More note-scribbling, then I asked, "How much water does it hold, Chief?"

He straightened, scratched his head, then said, "Near as I can remember, it's about eight hundred thousand gallons."

I blinked. That's a hell of a lot of damned water.

The Chief caught my thinking and nodded, saying, "Takes over a week... maybe two... to fill her. And then, maybe another week for the shit to settle out of the water. Especially if you got a sandy bottom and you want to shoot SCUBA stuff, like I know you guys do. I mean, just a little bit of foreign material fucks up your camera big time. Right now she's full, so you're okay there. But soon as you add some sand, and decorate it with plastic plants and rocks, why you've got minimum of a week of settling time before your shoot can start."

He gestured at the pool. "Of course, you can save time and do your surface stuff while you wait for the water to clear. Slide in any canvas backdrops you want: sunny day clouds, stormy day clouds, empty blue skies, blue skies with an island off in the distance... anything your imagination can come up with."

He frowned, then said, "One thing to watch out for, though, is disgruntled crew members. They can break your balls - and budget - big time. There was this shoot last year, for instance. I won't mention the show. The exec producer is a real asshole, so you'd probably know him by reputation. And his whole team consisted of assholes as well.

"Anyway, they kept fucking with the crew. Even pissing off Teamsters, and you know how stupid that is. So, there was this one lighting guy they were really screwing with. Telling him that he and his guys were no talent jerks and they were gonna fire them if they didn't start doing things right. Well, lunch came around and the head lighting guy buys himself a little old container of milk. You, know, one of those pint-size deals?"

We nodded that we did and he said, "So, just before the lunch break was over, he wanders to the side, pops open the milk, and tosses the whole container in. Now, it might have been just a pint of milk, but it spread through the water like the dickens. By end of day the cameraman couldn't see shit and they had to close down the set."

The Chief gave us a look. "You remember what I told you about light refraction, right?" We did. "And you remember how long I said it takes to empty the tank, then fill it, then let things settle out."

We remembered - three weeks. Minimum. The Chief nodded. "Yep. Three weeks down the shit hole. What they had to do was, move the whole thing to Catalina Island and finish the shoot in the old Sea Hunt cove."

"Must've cost a fucking fortune," Chris said.

The Chief laughed. "You got that right, soldier."

We heard a crackling sound coming from the handi-talkie on the Chief's belt. (In the barbarian, pre-cell phone days of yore, Motorola handi-talkies provided mobile communication via short wave radio.) He grabbed it, keyed the mike and there was a fast exchange.

He re-clipped the device, then said, "My boys need a little help, and I guess we're about done, here. Come on. They're over by your office."

We trooped down the ramp, climbed onto the golf cart and a few minutes later we were pulling up to a flat-bed truck, filled with what looked like a small mountain of rocks. Next to it was a pickup truck, also heaped with rocks.

Two large men - duplicates of the Chief, but younger and without any visible tattoos - were hoisting rocks out of the pickup and dumping them into the flatbed. As we stopped, they were grabbing hold of a huge gray boulder that looked like it weighed a ton or more.

"Holy, shit," Chris said in stunned disbelief as they lifted the huge boulder like it was a toy, carried to the flatbed, and dropped it in.

We looked at the Chief with more than a little increased respect. "That's my boys," he said proudly.

"You got some kind of secret government program going on here?" Chris said. "Breeding supermen for the Army? Sorry, Chief, I mean the Navy?"

The Chief laughed. "Oh, I have big boys, that's for certain," he said. "But they're far from supermen. Here let me show you."

He strode to the truck and grabbed a piece of granite the size of a beach ball. He lifted it without strain, turned, and tossed it to Chris. Surprised, Chris braced himself, caught it, and almost hit himself in the face when the expected weight didn't materialize.

He gaped at the Chief, cradling the rock in his arms like a baby. "God damn, Chief," he said. "Can't be more than a few pounds."

"Movie rocks," the Chief said with a huge grin. "Made of some kind of paper-mache material and painted to look natural." He thumped the side of a boulder. It sounded hollow. "You get some Steve Reeves actor in a Hercules getup, and he picks this up over his head and throws it at the bad guys and squashes them flat. Director calls, 'Cut!' and the guys get up, dust themselves off and get set for another take. Movie magic, my man, movie magic."

Chris and I laughed like schoolboys. Then we set up a rock bucket brigade with the Chief and his sons, grabbing rocks and tossing them down the line and into the flatbed. There were rocks of every size and shape imaginable, from fist-sized rubble, all the way up to huge boulders.

When we were done, the Chief thanked us for the help, then said, "Now, when your art director starts making up the Esther Williams tank to look like the bottom of the sea, have him give me a call."

Puzzled, I said, "But I thought you were retiring next week, Chief."

"Sure the hell am," he said. "Then I'm starting my third career. As a rock wrangler."

We said, what the hell, over. And he patted the side of the flat bed. "This here's my fortune, boys." He jabbed a thumb at his sons. "And their fortune too."

We continued to look confused, so he explained. "It's like this. A few weeks ago they had an auction to get rid of the rest of the stuff in the prop department. They sold off Roman swords and shields. They sold a couple of old cannons and even a stage coach. Finally, there was nothing left but these fucking rocks.

"And there was not one damned bid. Not a soul wanted them. Of course, it wasn't just these rocks, but a whole field of them, piled around the nursery in a big rubbish heap. Maybe, six, seven truck loads. So, anyway, I said I'd take them off their hands. Wouldn't charge them a cent for all my hard work and my boys' hard work."

He gave us a wolfish grin, then turned and pointed at the hills above the studio, where Loyola Marymount University stood. "Right over by the college," he said, "just off PCH... me and my boys own a big vacant lot. I was thinking about paving it over and making a parking lot. You know, LAX is just up the road. But then I got these rocks, so, all I needed was a big fence to keep the kids out."

He could see that we still didn't get it, so he said, "In short, I cornered the damned movie rock market, guys. Only two or three places in town that stock any, and they don't have enough to do diddly, except maybe a little old rock garden. Hell, me and my boys can make you a avalanche. Make it look like you are bringing down a fucking mountain."

He picked up a small rock. "I rent one this size for five bucks a week." He put it down, then knocked against one that was about the size of a beach ball. "Fifty bucks for this baby." Patted one that was even bigger. "A hundred for this." He slapped the side of a boulder. "And I get maybe five hundred a week for one of these. Bottom line, as my accountant likes to say... A nice under-the-sea grotto for your show will cost your art director six, seven thousand dollars. And that's if he's nice to me."

"Shit!" Chris said, with heart-felt admiration.

The Chief laughed and said "That's what all those sons of bitches are going say, son, when they go looking for rocks and they have to come to me."

Then he said his goodbyes, and he and his sons drove off in a little caravan: the flatbed with its mountain of movie rocks in the lead, the empty pickup behind it, and the golf cart bringing up the rear.

We looked after them. Total awe.

And Chris said, "There goes an old salt who really knows how to get his rocks off."




The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 115,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!

Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, April 13, 2012


"Tell Them About The Bats, Joe."
"Tell them about the bats, Joe," Al Godfrey said.

"The rats?" Joe said. "You mean the rats on Willard, or King Rat?"

Joe was at the far end of Godfrey 's table at Dear John's, one of the best known, unknown watering holes in Hollywood. Technically, it wasn't really in Hollywood but Culver City, just down the street from MGM (Now Sony) Studios. And Joe wasn't really called Joe, but I don't remember his name, so Joe it is.

He turned to me and Chris. "Both gigs were pretty miserable. Willard because Ernie Borgnine kept getting drunk and falling on them, or stepping on them, and King Rat because it was a jungle shoot and the little fuckers kept dying on us in the heat."

"No, no, not rats!" Godfrey said. "Bats! Bats! Tell them about the bats!"

"Oh, yeah, bats," Joe said. Although he was only in his late 40's, or early 50's, Joe's hearing was less than it should be thanks to all the prop guns he'd fired in his career. Joe's main specialty was weird animals - he'd wrangled, rats, roaches, snakes and, apparently, bats. But he had a sideline as a gun wrangler for when the spooky critter business was slow.

He frowned at Godfrey. "What bats are you talking about, Al?"

Our producer/mentor was not the most patient man, except when it came to crew members and other working stiffs. Very kindly he said, "The ones we used on Mission Impossible. You remember, Joe."

Joe's face lit up. "How could I fucking forget?" he said. He turned to us. "There was this scene where the IM team wants to terrorize this bad guy couple. They're both in bed, fooling around as much as you could fool around in television in those days. Anyway, the deal was that at just the right moment, a mess of bats was supposed to explode out of nowhere and freak them out."

Godfrey, who got his start on the Mission Impossible TV series, added, "Joe was the bat wrangler for the episode. Which turned out to be a real pain in the ass for Joe, and a double pain for us."

Chris and I had just landed a gig at MGM and Godfrey, who knew everybody worth knowing at all the studios in town, was having a little luncheon get together to introduce us to the really important people at the studio. No, not the stars, or the directors, or the producers. But the people who did the actual work: lighting, sound, Foley artists, costumes and makeup, prop masters, set designers, art directors, stunt men and women, and so on. The ones they call the Below The Line Talent, because their credits come last on the Roll.

For me and my partner it was like auditing a university class, but with scotch and soda privileges. Of course, that was Godfrey 's intent. We hung on every word as those battle-scarred veterans of The Biz regaled us with their favorite anecdotes.

It was Joe's turn now, and he was saying: "The main thing about handling bats is that to control them, you have to keep them cold. Put them in temporary hibernation. I've got little wooden stands with pegs poking out like branches. I call them bat trees. So, I put the bat trees in the cage and start lowering the temperature. Pretty soon the little fuckers get sleepy, hang off the pegs and take little bat snoozes. Then, when you want them to wake up and fly around you just heat them a little. Turn on a space heater, or a heat lamp and they snap to."

"Pure-dee amazing," Chris said. "Bat trees, huh?"

Joe shrugged. "Every critter has his ways. My brother works with big cats sometimes and he says that for tigers, you have to treat them like a dog. Pick up a stick and say 'No!' real firm like." He downed half a shot, swilled some beer, and added, "And if that don't work, the trick is keep some raw chickens on ice. Toss them a whole chicken and get the hell out of the way."

"That's great about the tigers, Joe," Godfrey said. "But we were talking about bats."

"Yeah, the bats on Mission Impossible," Joe said. He wet his throat again with a shot and some beer, then continued. "So, anyway, while they're setting up the bedroom scene I show up with the bats - all asleep, hanging off the pegs like they're supposed to. I put them over in a quiet corner and go see the director to get the timing of the gag straight. The actors come in and they're all set for bed. Their characters are rich, so he's like in silk PJ's, and the girl's in a sexy nightie.

"But what we didn't know was that some apprentice had moved one of the light stands right over the bat tree. He'd shut the lights off, but they were still hot, you know? Meantime, the director calls for action and the couple climbs into bed and does some light weight smooching. Then there's supposed to be a little talk-talk to further the plot. Back to smooching. Then cue the bats. But, they're still kissing and cuddling when all of a sudden -

"Wham! The bats wake up and fly right at the bed, screaming their little heads off because they're scared. And the actors freak out, especially the girl when one of them gets hung up in her hair. And they're running like hell all over the set, waving their arms, making the bats more scared.

"It would have kept going like that but I got a net and shooed them out of the set. But then they fly up into the sound stage's cat walks, which are..." he raised a hand over his head... "thirty, forty feet high... so there's no way I can get them down and freeze 'em again. At least, not right away."

Godfrey broke in. "That meant we had to shut down production," he said. "We're talking several thousand dollars an hour here, with the whole crew standing around with nothing to do but scratch their asses."

"Until I get us some more bats," Joe said. "Luckily I had some at the ranch. So, I hustle back, freeze up another batch, and drive like hell to the set. Get everything ready and they do the scene no problem. Except all the sound had to be dubbed later because the bats in the rafters squeaked their little heads off. And it took me days to round them all up and put them back." He leaned closer. "I use crickets," he said with great solemnity. "That's the trick. Bats love crickets. Get them at a bait shop."

A guy on my side said, "Well, bats can be bad, but bears are a whole lot worse. They are not only way the hell bigger, but crankier than shit."

Godfrey said, "Oh, you mean when you were working on Old Yeller, right, George?"

George, who was a set man, said, "Yeah, Old Yeller. I was just a kid. An apprentice. And we were doing the cabin interior and shit. Me and my team also helped put up a big fence around the whole thing - it was about an acre, or so, with the cabin in the middle. The fence was maybe ten feet high. The director wanted to keep the actual animals that lived in the forest out and our animals in."

"You mean like the bear?" I said.

George laughed. "You don't know the half of it, son," he said. He paused while the waitress brought another round, then said, "First I see of the bear is this big old station wagon driving up. And it's real low on the springs, like it's carrying a lot of weight.

"Well, in the back we could see why. Because there was a cage thing back there, with this huge fucking bear, all muzzled and wrapped up in chains. And I mean they were big, thick chains." George made a large circle with two hands to show how big. "And you're thinking, with chains that thick the bear must be pretty damned mean."

He paused to get a drink, then said, "Well, sir, even with the station wagon's gate shut you could see this bear was not in a good mood. No way in hell, was he happy. And you couldn't blame him, because when the bear wrangler opened the gate it was so damned hot in there that the heat just came rushing out like a fucking Santa Ana wind. And a damned smelly wind, too. The bear had shit himself and he didn't look too happy about that either.

"So, the guy prods the bear out with a long pole, with an iron hook on the end. Like you'd use on an elephant, or something. And he says to the director, 'You get everything set and I'll just get him loose from these chains so he can stretch a little. He's been kind of cooped up three-four hours.'

"Now we're all looking at that bear and he is giving us the look back. And he's growling and shaking his head and rattling his chains, and trying to bite the muzzle. And we're getting kind of antsy, you know?"

Chris and I allowed that we would have felt the same.

"And the director's none too happy either. He says, 'You're sure that bear's okay? I mean, he looks pretty mad.'"

The bear wrangler says no worries, he's got his pole and his hook and if the bear gives us any shit, he'll scare him tame with that.

Then he looks around the place, frowning... suddenly acting cautious... like he was expecting cops, or something... and he says, 'You don't have an SPCA guy around, do you?'

"With animals, you're supposed to have a Humane Agency person on duty to make sure they are treated right. But in a Disney movie, the budget's the number one thing. And you have to pay the SPCA inspector wages, which the cheap-ass bosses at Disney think is a waste of their good money."

A woman broke in. Joanie, one of the MGM prop people. "Yeah, my dad worked on Disney 's Perry The Squirrel back in the 50's. And you know that bit where Perry is hiding in a log and a fox is trying to get him?"

Chris and I both remembered it well from our childhood Saturday matinee days.

"Well, my dad told us the fox was pretty hard to control with a squirrel just sitting there in this little old log," Joanie said. "He gobbled up six or seven of the poor little things before the director got the shot he wanted. And, no. There wasn't any SPCA person there either."

George nodded. "Same with us. I mean, this was an animal show. Old Yeller's a dog. The main character after the boy. And they're on a farm, so there's other animals. But we almost never had an SPCA guy around. And on that particular day, when we were looking at that poor bear, we were all thinking, maybe we'd have all been a lot better off if there was.

"The director's looking worried, but he's got to do the scene. Time is money and at Disney money is God. So, he tells the bear wrangler that we'd all back off while he got the bear out of the chains. So he wouldn't feel crowded, or anything. And maybe give the poor thing something to eat and drink before we got to work.

"So, we back off. And the guy starts unlocking the chains and the bear's getting really pissed, now. The guy pokes him with the pole to make him behave. Then he gets all the chains off, and the muzzle off, and goes to the station wagon to get out some water and whatever, and that bear's head is going back and forth... You know how they look with those long necks... Almost like a big, furry snake, but with a huge head.

"And he spots us and he growls and the bear wrangler turns around and pokes him hard with the pole. This just makes him madder and he forgets us and goes for the guy. Well, quick as a bunny, the bear wrangler drops the pole, jumps into the station wagon and slams the door in the bear's face.

"The bear bangs on the car a bit, then remembers us and turns around to look. And from the way he was acting he was thinking everything was our fault. We keep backing off. Then if that damned bear doesn't get up on its hind legs and fucking roar."

George shuddered at the memory. "Jesus, was that a roar! But then the director shouts, 'Run!' Like we needed to be told. So, we all take off, the bear roaring and coming after us. But just ahead of us was that big fucking fence we had worked so hard to put up. And right then ten feet looked like fifty feet. But we kept running. And the bear kept running.

"I'm one of the last guys to reach the fence." He paused to lubricate his throat, then said, "Anyway, I hit that fence and the bear's right on me. And I'm climbing like nobody's business. I get just near the top. But then I feel that damned bear grab my shoe.

"And he's pulling me down. But, luckily, I kick the shoe loose and fall over the other side. And damned if he didn't eat my shoe while I watched."

George paused and took a long thirsty swallow of beer. Put a hand on his chest. "Thought my heart was going to come right through," he said. Shook his head, then said, "Took the rest of the damned day to get that bear under control and back in that wagon. Next day, another guy showed up with a different bear. And he wasn't chained. Or mad, or anything. And in the end, we got her done."

Chris and I sat back, looking at George in amazement. Then the others got back into the act trying to top one another with Hollywood stories.

Later, as we were leaving Dear John's, we had to wait a few minutes for a big garbage truck that was blocking our car.

Godfrey said, "You know, when you've been in the business as long as I have, you don't look at anything the same way. Even small things."

"For instance?" I asked. Which, of course, is what he wanted me to do. We didn't mind. It was not only fun to be Godfrey 's straight man, but rewarding.

He nodded at the garbage truck, where two men were muscling stinking, overflowing bins to the lift gate. "Like garbage," he said. "You don't even look at garbage the same way."

"What about garbage?" Chris asked dutifully.

Godfrey said, "When I took over production at Vega$ - the Bobby Urich show - the first thing I did was to send for a budget so I could get a feel of what was what. I'm looking at it item by item. And see that this thingamabob cost of hundreds of dollars, and I'm looking at another, and it's hundreds of dollars more. And so on and so forth, down the line. Hundreds of dollars here. Hundreds of dollars there.

"And then I come to an item listed as 'Garbage.' And the cost is ten thousand dollars."

Chris and I were both jolted. "Ten thousand dollars for fucking garbage?" Chris said.

Good Garbage
Godfrey grinned. "My reaction exactly. I looked to see what the garbage was for. And find that there's this scene where Urich is looking for clues to a heist at the casino. Turns out somebody tossed it into a garbage bin. So, he hightails it to the spot, but the garbage truck has already hauled it away. He follows it. We have some fun garbage truck-chasing gags. Then he has to crawl into the bin and search through the garbage for the vital clue."

"Okay, so that's what the garbage was for," I said. "Then what?"

"Well, I call in the prop master and ask him how come he's charging me fucking ten thousand dollars for fucking garbage. And he just gives me this look like I'm the one who has lost his marbles.

"And he says, 'But, Al. It costs money for good garbage. Don't you know that?'"  




The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 115,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!

Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    

Friday, April 6, 2012


"There Is Nothing In The World So Demoralizing As Money." (Sophocles - 496-406 B.C.)
Our agent was on the phone. I won't tell you his name, but Chris had dubbed him "The Weasel," which was an apt description: he was a little guy, a not uncommon trait of the Ten Percenters' breed, with a skinny, pointed face, needle teeth and quick, nervous mannerisms.

If you want a hint on who he was, we named the slimy villain who killed the Eternal Emperor 's favorite joy girl in Sten #3 - The Court Of A Thousand Suns - after him. 

Anyway, let's just call him "The Weasel " and be done with it.

So, The Weasel was on the speaker phone and he was saying, "I've been talking to Tony and Nancy Lawrence about their new series, which is just the hottest thing in town... there's so much buzz... I mean REAL buzz, guys... and everybody's talking about it, and it stars Judd Scott, that Star Trek guy, and he plays this-"

"For God's sake," Chris barked. "Spit it out, man. When's the fucking meeting?"

You may think that Chris was being rude and impatient - which he was - but you have to forgive him. The Weasel talked a mile a minute, and had this shrill Clearasil voice that got to my partner like fingernails digging into his skull. It so irritated him that I had assumed the role of being the Designated Weasel Talker. But I was making us an afternoon Scotch, so this time around Chris had grabbed the phone.

The speaker phone went into pause mode, then The Weasel squeaked: "I set it up for Wednesday at 2 p.m. But first-"

At this point I cut in, picking up the receiver - chopping off The Weasel 's speaker voice before Chris stabbed it with his boot knife - and motioned for my partner to take over the drink-making chores.

"Hi, Allan here," I said. "Chris had to... uh... go use the John. What's up?"

He explained again about Tony (Anthony) and Nancy Lawrence, the couple who had created a new Sci-Fi TV series called The Phoenix. The appointment was indeed Wednesday at two, but they wanted us to show up early so we could see the pilot before we made the pitch.

"Couldn't we get a peek at the script first," I asked, "so we know what the show is about before we start figuring out stories? I mean, we've only got two days and less than zip to go on."

"Oh, no, that's just not possible, Allan," The Weasel said. Then, lowering his voice as if surrounded by Russian spies, "They are really keeping the show's details under wraps. And the pilot is 'Eyes only,' so it's really a big deal that they're letting you two see it. I had to give them my word you wouldn't tell a soul."

I suppressed a laugh. An Agent's Word is right up there with Military Intelligence, or Business Ethics, as oxymorons of the first order. (As it turned out, the show had a pretty thorough Bible readily available to all, but The Weasel either didn't know, or... well, he was The Weasel, right? Explains everything.)

"Can you at least tell me enough so we can rough out some ideas?" I pressed. I mean, this was ridiculous. But we needed the money, so I made nice.

The Weasel thought a minute, then started rattling on. I pictured him jumping up and down beside his desk like a Poodle in heat while he yapped, "Well, it's about this Ancient Astronaut... played brilliantly by Judson Earney Scott... who was just so fabulous in Star Trek that the town still isn't over it... and you know ABC just has to be totally behind Tony and Nancy or they wouldn't have been able to get such a big star as-"

Losing it, I broke in: "Yo, yo! Just tell me the premise, for fuck-"

Chris waved at me. "Temper, temper," he admonished - with a big shit-eating grin pasted on his face.

I took a breath. Then, "Sorry. I'm having a bad day. Okay... What's the story?"

Eventually he got it out. There's this Ancient Astronaut, see, who crashed-landed his space ship hundreds of years ago in Peru, but has been in deep sleep ever since. An archaeologist and his team find the guy, revive him, and it turns out he has these incredible powers that he's supposed to put to use for the benefit of mankind. But he's forgotten his purpose and...

"... He wears this golden medallion," The Weasel squeaked. "Tony showed me the prop and it is just amazing. Just like the real thing." (How could it be LIKE the real thing, when the thing itself wasn't real? These were deep questions in the La-La Land of my youth.)

I let him babble on a bit more to make up for using the Eff word, but when I could take it no more, I said, "Okay, I think I've got it. Good job on getting us the pitch. Tell them we'll be there with our medallions on."

When I hung up, Chris asked, "Medallions? What medallions?"

"It's an Ancient Astronaut show," I said. "The guy's got a medallion with the usual incredible powers and hidden secrets."

Chris groaned. "What a load of newage."

Newage, pronounced like sewage, was Chris' term for New Age crystal gazers and incense sniffers.

"You were just complaining a few minutes ago about the state of your bank balance," I said.

"I know, I know," he said. "I should look upon this as a good thing."

"It's got Judson Earney Scott for a star," I said.

Chris brightened. "That's not bad," he said.

"And, I think, E.G. Marshall," I added.

Chris brightened further, saying, "E.G. Marshall? No shit? How bad could it be?"

Hide and watch, babe. Hide and watch.

Okay, so Wednesday rolls around and we show up an hour early like we were supposed to. We meet Tony and his wife, Nancy, and learn that Tony will be taking the meeting solo because Nancy is busy on some production stuff. But first - Ta Da - we were getting the special treat of actually viewing the pilot.

They put us in a cramped little room next to Tony's office. It was equipped with a television and a Betamax. (Film pros preferred the Betamax because the image and sound were so much better. Even so, VHS won the videotape wars. Riddle me that.)

We clicked the clickity and sat back to watch. And watched. And... Geesh! All I can say is, thank God we were alone. Because it was awful. Truly awful. The dialogue sucked. The story sucked. The special effects sucked. In fact, there was not one thing that we saw or heard that did not suck. It sucked so badly that Gravity could vanish from the Planet Earth and everything would still remain sucked to the surface.

Chris groaned and moaned in his Sergeant Major's stage whisper and I had to plant an elbow firmly in his ribs to shut him the hell up. I mean, there was just a thin wall separating us from the producer.

Finally, I turned the volume up for cover, because I could barely control my own reactions. I wanted badly to speed the video up to shorten our time in Pilot Purgatory, but we were surrounded by the Phoenix staff and there was no escape.

Finally... mercifully... it was over.

Chris said, "Holy shit, Cole. What are we gonna do?"

"Only thing we can do," I replied. (Wednesdays were my turn in the responsibility barrel.) "We need the money. So, let's put our race faces on and make the best of it."

"Rots of Rucking Fuck," Chris said. But I detected a shade of acquiescence, which boded well.

Feeling like a prisoner entreating his jailer, I cracked open the door and signaled the secretary that we were done. We waited in the outer office for a few minutes and then were escorted into what I can only call Tony and Nancy's Crystal Palace.

The room was white, white, white. But with lots of gold trim, crystal knick knacks, faux Native American artwork, a Buddha or three, and uncomfortable furnishings. I think there was even a crystal chandelier hanging over the meeting "space," but maybe my memory is playing me false. If there was no crystal chandelier, then there should have been one.

Tony was a polite man and very sincere. In fact, Sincerity was the first thing I noticed about the Lawrences. That, and a certain puzzled look about the eyes, as if they were perpetually wondering how they came to find themselves in this place. You know the type.

We started our pitch.

And in short order every single one of our story ideas was shot down.

Politely. Sincerely. But shot down just the same.

This was not something Chris and I were accustomed to. We prided ourselves on the fact that every meeting we'd ever had with a person who had the authority to say, Yes, or No, that we invariably got a Yes.

Also, did I mention that we needed the money?

Chris gave me a look - Come on, Cole! Clutch hitting was one of my talents and if ever we and our debtors needed a hit, it was now.

My mind raced. In the Purgatory Office where we'd watched the pilot, I'd noted the books on the shelves. Except for a dictionary and a couple of other reference works, the library consisted entirely of Newage books. Books about Crystals. And Mantras. And Crop Circles. Ancient Yoga Positions. UFOs. Bigfoot, Yeti and Loch Ness Monster Sightings. Atlantis ad infinitum. The complete works (gag me with a mind-bent spork) of Erich von Daniken. A couple of books about people talking to dolphins and shit. And, oh, yeah - the dolphins talking back.

Wait up!


What could we do with Dolphins?

This all took place in a flash, you understand. If you pitch products for a living - be they stories or main frames - you know what I mean.

I said, "We have one other story, Tony. But, more of a story in progress, I'd guess you'd call it."

Chris brightened. Of course we didn't have another story - in progress or otherwise. But this was a ploy that had worked before. (See Magnum P.I.: The Ugliest Dog In Hawaii ) He leaned closer to watch for any point where he could dive in and help.

Tony also brightened. He nodded, "Stories in the rough... Right out of the subconscious.... Sometimes they're the best."

I said, "Now, with all the powers our guy has, I'm sure he can uh... communicate with... uh... dolphins, right?"

Tony got excited at that. "Talking to dolphins? Damn right, he can."

"Well, in the story we were kicking around, our hero meets a dolphin."

"Good, good," Tony says.

Chris sweetens the kitty: "...And he's no ordinary dolphin."

Tony nods vigorously. He's getting hot. "No ordinary dolphin! Yeah, yeah!"

I say, "In fact he's..." I toss about for some word, any word, and grab for... "He's Sophocles the dolphin!"

Tony claps his hands. "Sophocles the dolphin! Damn! I love it! I fucking love it. Perfect! Perfect!"

Chris nearly breaks up...Turns away just in time... Sophocles The Frigging Dolphin? Makes no sense whatsoever. And I know that, but Tony obviously doesn't, so I plunge onward. Grabbing for anything I can about dolphins and potential dolphin problems.

I say, "And where this dolphin is, there are some greedy fishermen...uh... Tuna fisherman."

"Tuna fishermen! Yeah! Yeah!" Tony goes.

There's a spark and I think, Gill nets. Gill nets. What was that about Gill nets?

And I say, "And the fishermen... they... refuse to use nets that are safe for dolphins!"

Tony sits up straight. He's incensed. "The bastards!"

I continue... "And our dolphin..."

"Sophocles the dolphin," Tony reminds me...

"Yeah, Sophocles the dolphin. Wisdom of the ages. He's caught in one of those nets. Along with... along with... Tons and tons of tuna."

"Shit!" Tony says.

Now I'm really getting into it. "And they take all the tuna, along with Sophocles the dolphin to a big canning factory. And he's dumped in with all the fish. And our hero learns what's going on and he's... and he's... trying desperately to get there in time. But, then... then..."

Tony jumps in. "I've got it!" he cries. "What if our guy is too... too late? And the dolphin is... you know....canned..."

I'm so swept up in my own bullshit that I forget that it IS bullshit and I say, quivering with indignation, "You can't kill Flipper!"

Dead silence.

I look at Chris. Chris looks at me. What the fuck, over?

But Tony sees the wisdom (ha) of my objection. Calmer now, I proceed and spin the rest of the tale. The day is saved. Tearful (I wonder, Do dolphins weep?) farewell, blah, blah. Fade Out. The End.

Then Tony says the magic words, "Who's your agent, boys?"

And just like that, we've got our sale. Chalk another one up for Bunch & Cole. Tony says that they are really under the gun, so he wants us to please jump on it right away.

And we head home, a song in our hearts, visions of dollar signs dancing in our heads.

Back at our office, we congratulate ourselves, suck up a couple of Scotches. Get out the typewriters, fire them up. Ready to type.

After Fade In there is a long and terrible silence.

"This is really awful, Cole," Chris finally says.

"I know, I know," I groan.

"Sophocles the fucking dolphin?"

"I know, I know," I say again.

"It's got fucking nothing to do with fuck all."

"I know, I know. It just jumped into my... you know... head."

"Shit," Chris says. "We sold the son of a bitch. Now we've got to write it."

"I know, I know," I say.

Chris bottom-lines it: "We're fucked!"

"What can I say? We needed the money!"

"Fucking money," Chris says.

If money had been a living, physical presence in the room, he'd have shot it.

The phone rang. Depressed as all hell, and stifling a sigh, I hit the speaker button.

It was Himself - Anthony Lawrence.

"Guys," Tony said, "have you two started writing yet?"

"Absolutely," I said, lying like a warehouse full of rugs. "We just wrote Fade In and the first scene, and we're raring to go."

"Aw, Jesus," Chris said.

Thankfully, Tony didn't hear him, because then he said, "Well, guys, I really need to ask you a huge favor."

"Whatever we can do," I said. Trying to sound like Tony and Nancy - you, know. Sincere.

"It's like this. I told you guys you had a sale. I told you to go write. Ethically, and even legally, that's a contract."

I agreed that it was. Chris raised his eyebrows. What's going on? I shrugged. Beats me.

"Well, it's like this, guys," Tony went on. "A few minutes ago I got a call from the network. And they cancelled our show. I mean, it hasn't even been on the air yet, and they cancelled it. With no warning. Can you believe that?"

After seeing the pilot, I could not only believe it, but wondered who among the VIPs at the Anything But Class (ABC ) Network had the IQ to see the disaster in the making. Somebody should make that young man CEO. But, Hollywood being Hollywood, he'd probably end up a janitor's assistant.

But what I said was, "The assholes!" I put in as much indignation as I could muster.

Tony said. "Nancy and I are in shock. Total shock."

"I can imagine," I said, doing my best to appear sympathetic.

"Anyway, the favor I wanted to ask is that - even though I gave you a go ahead - could you find it in your hearts to let us off the hook?"

"You mean, not write the episode?" I said. I tried to sound forlorn. All Artus Interruptus. In reality I felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

"Yes, guys. That's what I mean," Lawrence said. "I would consider it a personal favor if you'd agree to that. My wife and I have our own money in this. We took out a second mortgage on our house."

I looked at Chris, whose thumb shot up in the air. Fuck yes!

I said, "Sure, Tony. After all, it's Us against Them, right?"

He gobbled many, many thanks, never forget you guys, etc., etc. Then got off the phone. Chris, meanwhile, had poured us two shots of the good stuff - Metaxa, direct from Athens.

Chris raised his shot glass. "A toast," he said.

"I love toasts," I replied.

"May The Phoenix never rise again."

"Here, here," I said.

We downed our shots. Poured a couple more and then got gloriously, uproariously...



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 115,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration.  Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?