It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here, but I have some good excuses (as far as I’M concerned). First, Hollywood called (well, actually it was Stamford, Connecticut) and then London emailed. Too bad the modes of communication weren’t reversed so I could have sound tracked this with a nice Clash song. But, alas…
As much as I can tell you about the Hollywood adventure is this:
Sometime last year, my pal Jenny Lumet and I were both at the housewarming our old pal Lisa Edelstein (don’t you just LOVE “House”?) threw at her lovely new Manhattan apartment. Or, maybe it was a birthday party…I can’t remember, actually. I know I’ve been to Lisa’s new place twice and ONCE was for a housewarming. But, that’s not the point. The point is that Jenny came over to me and told me that she had something to tell me that I couldn’t tell anyone else. I swore on every soul of every dead ancestor that I cared about that I would keep my mouth zipped. Jenny then told me that she had written a screenplay and that she had been working on it with Jonathan Demme because he wanted to direct it.
I was SO thrilled for her. Jenny had written a play or screenplay … I can’t remember what it was suppose to end up as…many years ago and had a big reading of it for friends and family in a theater. It was HILARIOUS. However, that was the last I heard of it. Instead, Jenny seemed to switch her focus to being Jake’s mom and teaching a drama class for kids.
At that time I was faced with a dilemma: Do I badger her about doing SOMETHING with that great play/screenplay or do I keep my mouth shut and assume she knows what’s best for her and her life. I didn’t want to open any wounds that I wasn’t aware of insofar as the aftermath of the reading and the feedback she got or didn’t get. I love Jenny too much to trigger any emotional landmines. I chose to remain silent and wait for her to bring up the subject, though it killed me. I just thought that one was a better friend when one didn’t nag. And she never brought the subject up again.
Therefore, this news was SO great to hear. It killed me to keep my mouth shut about the project, but I did as directed. It was funny that, later that same night, Lisa also shared a confidence with me, swearing me to total silence. What was even funnier was that I found out months after that night that both Lisa and Jenny had told each other what they had each told me not to reveal to anyone. And, naturally, swore each other to silence. God bless them both.
Anyway, in the Spring, there was an engagement party for Jenny and her now husband, Alex. The party was at Jenny’s dad and stepmom Sidney and Piedy Lumet’s apartment. The person who answered the door when we arrived was… Jonathan Demme.
Demme was a very friendly and cheerful man. I had known his late nephew, Ted, and, I must say, it most certainly appears that being good-natured runs in that family. The initial greeting at the door and the introductions we made to each other were the sum total of any words exchanged between Demme and myself. I spent most of the evening hanging out with Jenny’s mom and stepdad, Gail Lumet Buckley and Kevin Buckley, who are two of my fave people and who the Mod Cousin and I had been invited to sit with.
Then, sometime in very early September, my phone rang. It was Jonathan Demme’s assistant telling me that there was a DJ role in the movie he was directing based on Jenny’s screenplay and he wanted me for the part. What Jenny had not told me whenever she had spoken about the movie was that she had written a part with me in mind. I guess she didn’t want to say something to get my hopes up, especially if the part was written out or if Demme had another choice for someone he preferred to play…ummm…ME. Happily, the part remained and when she told Demme she wanted me to play … well … ME … he DID agreed. I was told that my scenes would be shot for three days at the end of September and three more days at the end of October. I was basically just a glorified extra, but I was so excited to be experiencing something new and something created by someone I love and respect and helmed by a legend. Wow!
So, during both the end of September and the end of October, I filmed my scenes for the upcoming “Dancing With Shiva”. I’m not allowed to say anything more about that just now except that it’s a comedy and stars Anne Hathaway, Debra Winger, Bill Irwin and Anna Deavere Smith. Others who play themselves are Fab 5 Freddy (who, incidentally, was the host of “Yo! MTV Raps”, which had been directed by Ted Demme), legendary Brit musician Robyn Hitchcock and famed New Orleans jazz saxophonist and former Biggie Smalls pal and mentor, Donald Harrison.
I did not say a word to my friends or co-workers about the movie. I only told Patrick that I would be missing some days at the studio because I was in a film, but told him I couldn’t give him details because I didn’t want the news to get out. Patrick is a regular Chatty Cathy and sometimes doesn’t think before he speaks while he’s out working and socializing…which he does nearly every night. Without any malice whatsoever, he might make a big deal out of my being in a film if he saw me out and it might end up being heard by someone who was having a slow news week and it could take on a life of its own. Patrick readily agreed to my caution, knowing how loose-lipped he can be.
My paranoia had a very real reason for being. I already knew that Hollywood types are really serious about controlling every aspect of their projects, including any publicity. I once had an awful experience along those lines years ago. I was hired by 20th Century Fox to be a special promotions consultant for a movie they were releasing. They believed strongly in the movie, but were afraid it would get lost and not find the audience it was intended for. Someone at Fox knew someone who knew me and they all decided that I knew the type of people who would appreciate this movie and could build up a buzz for the flick’s projected audience.
I held many special screenings based on my lists of contacts, attended loads of meetings at Fox’s NYC offices and was very much a part of the way the promotional process unfolded, including the premiere festivities. I was even in charge of entertaining the cast members when they arrived in town (most had never been in NYC before) and deejayed the premiere party.
The word definitely got out.
The day after the big premiere party, it broke in the Rush and Molloy column in “The Daily News” that I had a major role in developing the buzz on this movie and in developing the premiere’s guest list… which was considered unusual in that it did NOT include merely the usual suspects. I found out about Joanna and George’s blurb because I received a phone call from the then head of promotions at the studio the following morning. Instead of thanks and congratulations, he just screamed at me. He accused me of grandstanding and taking credit for things he alleged I never did. He was so abusive and out-of-control…not to mention SEVERLY delusional as to what I did and didn’t do and what I said and didn’t say to George and Joanna. I immediately phoned Joanna Molloy and told her what went down. Without me asking her to, she phoned this jerk and INSISTED on speaking to him, no matter how often he tried to dodge her calls (which he kept trying to do). She told him that all the information she got about my role was gleamed from OTHER sources, not from me and CERTAINLY not because I had phoned her to brag. She told this fool that everyone else at the party had told her that the reason they ever heard of the movie or were invited to the screenings and/or premiere was because of their relationship to me, not to Fox. He finally gave in and promised he would phone me with an apology. He did, but I never took his call. I couldn’t stand to ever hear his voice again.
Instead, I phoned the person who had suggested I be hired and told them what had happened. I then sent him all the memos I had saved of everything I had been responsible for. He phoned me back, laughing. “How did you know enough to keep a paper trail? Everything you said you did and when you did it is certainly backed up with written and dated proof.” “I learned to do that from that film ‘Working Girl’”. I said. The guy really laughed when I said THAT. “Funny…that was one of Fox’s own films!”
The movie became a HUGE hit. And, soon thereafter, that shrieking creep was fired (he had a rep for being unacceptably nasty, even by Hollywood standards). Good riddance. And I stayed far away from the movie biz afterwards.
Therefore, I think you can understand why I’m really scared of even APPEARING to show disrespect or come off as grandstanding. Besides, as I said, I was no more than a glorified extra and it is entirely possible that I could end up on the cutting room floor in the end. I was playing myself and referred to by name by other characters in the film, but I certainly was not essential to the plot in ANY way. Hell, I didn’t even have one line to speak!
But, GOD, it was fun!
And if I say anything more, Jonathan and Jenny will probably sic Hannibal Lecter AND one of Jenny’s crazy dogs on me. So, that’s all she wrote…
A couple of days after I received the “Dancing With Shiva” phone call, I received an email from London. It was from someone named Fred Mann who wrote that I probably didn’t remember him (I didn’t), but that he had been one of Michael Alig’s crew of club kids and had been DJ Andy Anderson’s boyfriend back then. Now, 20 years later, he owned galleries in London and Leipzig, Germany and a record label. They were all named Fred. (what did you think they’d be named… Trump?). The reason that he was writing to me was that he was going to begin a night at Fabric, one of the most famous clubs in London. His idea was to break the mold that London clubs have ossified into, where only one type of music was played and only one group of people attended. Fabric had gained fame for its House/Drum and Bass music and crowd, which, as far as Fred was concerned, had become a bit of a time warp. Fred said that the type of diversity he wanted to bring to Fabric was the sort he remembered in Manhattan clubs decades ago. He particularly remembered that my deejaying was extremely eclectic, which was what he was going for. He envisioned a night of various DJs coupled with the arty and left-of-center groups on his label. He wanted me to come to London to play on Thanksgiving night. I immediately agreed.
And that will be Part II of my excuse for not blogging for so long: “I AM DJ”
To be continued…