The Hollywood Shuffle: Tales From a Showbiz Bigshot (Part One)

sampic


Compared to you, I’m still a Showbiz big shot. Trust me on that. I’ve made a lot of money, I’ve got a shitload of impressive credits, and in a few small circles, I’ve been afforded cult star status—but I won’t bore you with the resume. Look it up for yourself, or just take my word for it. (You ain’t gonna do either, and don’t think I don’t know that.)

However, it’s not much solace that most of my glitzier credits now wave to me from my rearview mirror despite the fact that some of my best work has been done within the last twelve months. (You know, I promised myself a long time ago that if I ever used the phrase, “Some of my best work,” I’d hang myself in a closet and hope the press attributes it to kinky sex gone awry. Hey, it worked for David Carradine, right?)

By the way, Carradine was one of the kindest souls I’d ever met. One time, he hand delivered me a Christmas present:
“Open it up, now,” he ordered.
I asked him if I could wait till Christmas, ‘cause it was probably gonna be the only present I got.
“Just open it now, Mothafucka,” he said.
It was a rock, on which he had painted the following:
For Sam… I hope you find the peace you so desperately need.
To which I replied, “You’re giving me a fuckin’ rock?”

Two weeks later, he was hanging from a shower rod in the Philippines, or Thailand, or Guam—one of those places where you can trade a cow for a child bride and two future draft choices. I’ve still got the rock, as well as the lack of inner peace—I’m keeping the rock, and the jury is still out on the latter.

I really have no interest in getting back into television—and the feeling seems to be mutual. Last year, at the behest of the guy who works the Deli Counter at Vons, I signed on to be part of a class action lawsuit against Hollywood studios, networks, and agencies. You had to sort of prove that, because of age discrimination, you were no longer being employed in the fashion that you had grown accustomed. The Deli Guy thought it was a slam dunk for him.

“It’s my ticket out of here,” he’d bark at me, while fucking up my order of thinly sliced swiss. It didn’t seem to matter to him that, to get paid off, you might need a couple of credits to start with.
“No, no,” he explained, “it’s based on how they fucked me out of my projected earnings!”
“Projected based on what?” I asked him.
“Based on talent,” he responded… and then he handed me a package of Provolone.

Needless to say, he didn’t share my enthusiasm when I told him I’d received a settlement check for $50,000 plus.
“$50,000???” he spat out. “My check was for $12… I GOT FUCKED AGAIN!” he screamed.

Now here’s where your own thought process can sometimes not be your best friend (and in my case, more often than not). My logic told me that receiving this check was an admission of guilt by the Hollywood powers that be—that this check was not only an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, but a clean slate so to speak, a peace pipe, and an invitation to rekindle our syphilis-riddled romance. In actuality, that would be a no. What the check actually meant was the equivalent of receiving the following letter:

Dear Mr. Kass,

Chances are, we were done with you before this… but you can rest assured that your ass will never see the inside of another studio or network office. You didn’t help your own cause by asking a Show Runner tandem, “Do you guys get paid evenly, or does the one that gets fucked in the ass get paid more?” Or, the time at Fox when you told a development person that Rupert Murdoch’s wife “worked at a massage joint on Santa Monica Blvd.” Or the time you asked a network exec, “Is there anyone in your weekend Basketball game taller than 4 ft. 10?” Or, need we remind you, of the time you went to a memorial service and then told the widow that you just saw her deceased husband “blink.”

These are just a few of your mental snafus, the biggest one being you having agreed to join this class action suit. Good luck, Mr. Kass. Save your money.

Regards,
Hollywood

Which brings me to today. Shh, don’t tell anyone, but I had a meeting at a studio that shall remain nameless. Maybe they weren’t aware of my lifetime banishment—all I know is, A-Rod is still playing, and if you believe everything you read, this guy is a cross between Sammy the Bull & Nicky Barnes. (Just Google it… I don’t have time to explain everything.)

So here’s how it went down. I’ve got a neighbor who works in “Business Affairs” at one of the studios, and I saved his dog from getting hit by a car once, so he sorta owed me—well, the truth is, I was the one driving, and his dog ran out into the street. I swerved to avoid it, jumped a curb, and “slightly” tapped an old lady who was dropping a letter into the corner mailbox. (Let’s just say that she’s now a beneficiary of my Age Discrimination Payoff.)

So, I’m off to my studio meeting, taking this seriously (covered up the tats and everything). Now, lemme semi-preface all this by saying, this meeting was regarding programming for kids. Shows for children. Impressionable, young, innocent children. This is the equivalent of letting Whitey Bulger out of jail and sending him to work as a grief counselor. Not the best match, but whatever.

My marching orders were: park on the roof, go down to the 4th floor, and ask for a pass to the lobby. Huh? First off, I ain’t parking on the roof. I don’t care if I never work again, don’t have me park on the roof. The only bigger insult is, “Oh, we thought you had died.” So fuck it—no roof parking.

I squeezed in on the street between two of those rolling cafeterias—one was selling Mexican food, and the other was peddling chicken & waffles. (I’m just painting a picture here, okay?) Then I head into the lobby, and here’s the conversation verbatim:

Me: I’m here to see Blah Blah.
Guard: You need a pass from the 4th floor.
Me: I wasn’t on the 4th floor.
Guard: How’d you get in here?
Me: Through that door… the main entrance.
Guard: You didn’t park on the roof?
Me: No.
Guard: Why not?
Me: How do you know I came by car?
Guard: How do I know you didn’t?
Me: How do I know you’re who your badge says you are?
Guard: I’m not wearing a badge.
Me: Why not?

And now he grabs the walkie talkie. And here comes the supervisor.

Supervisor: What’s the problem?
Guard: He didn’t come from the 4th floor.
Supervisor: Sir, you have to come from the 4th floor.
Me: You want me to go up to the 4th floor and then come back down here?
Supervisor: Yes… after you get a pass.
Me: Will the guy on the 4th floor send me back to the roof?
Supervisor: Probably.
Me: I’m not parked on the roof…

Okay, you see where this is going. After a major confab, they allowed me to go up to the 21st floor. Now mind you, my meeting was on the 18th floor. So I get to the 21st floor—no one there. Just a locked door and a wall phone. I pick up the phone, and this is what goes down:

Voice: Yes?
Me: I have a meeting on the 18th floor, but they sent me to the 21st floor.
Voice: Why?
Me: Because they’re stupid.
Voice: Why did you agree?
Me: Because I’m stupid too.
Voice: What’s your name?
Me: Sam Kass.
Voice: Are you Obama’s Chef?
Me: That’s another Sam Kass.
Voice: Because we’re expecting him today… are you sure you’re not him?
Me: No, you’re right—I am him.
Voice: You are?
Me: Yes…
Voice: Who are you here to see?
Me: I’m here to see Blah Blah.
Voice: She’s on the 18th floor.
Me: I know that.
Voice: Then why are you here?
Me: I don’t know…

So I get down to the 18th floor, and the voice on the other end of that floor’s phone asks me to take a seat. So I do. Thirty minutes later, someone comes out:

Girl: Sam?
Me: Yes.
Girl: I have some good news and bad news.
Me: Okay.
Girl: Would you like to hear it?
Me: Sure, why not…
Girl: I wasn’t expecting that answer.
Me: What answer were you expecting?
Girl: I thought you’d for sure say, “No.”
Me: Fooled you, huh?
Girl: Yes, you did…
(Silence.)
Me: So you’re not going to tell me?
Girl: Oh… yeah. (Beat) Your 11 o’clock meeting has been pushed.
Me: Pushed to when?
Girl: November.
Me: It’s August.
Girl: I know.
Me: So what’s the good news?
Girl: We had a cancellation, so you’ve been moved up.
Me: Good… to when?
Girl: Right now… are you available?

So, in I go. Corner office. Women comes in—I don’t wanna keep calling her Blah Blah, so let’s just call her Jodie. Very friendly. Eyes are bulging out of her head. Seriously.

Jodie: Thank you for coming in.
Me: Thank you for having me.
Jodie: I’m a big fan.
Me: Oh… thank you.
Jodie: Tell me about your garden.
Me: My garden?
Jodie: Yeah—what are you growing this year?
Me: Weeds, mostly.

Phone Rings. Jodie picks it up.

Jodie: Yes? (Pause) Oh, I see. Okay. (She hangs up.)
(To me) You’re not Sam Kass?
Me: I am Sam Kass.
Jodie: But not the chef Sam Kass.
Me: I make a decent grilled cheese….
Jodie: We are interested in doing a show with Sam Kass.
Me: And that’s why I’m here.
Jodie: The other Sam Kass.
Me: But he cooks… I write.
Jodie: It’s television. Have you watched our stuff? Trust me, anyone can do it.

A few days later, I was back at the deli counter, telling my story—The Deli Dude was furious for a change…

“They hired the Chef to write the show?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I replied.
“Well, what’s the show about?” he inquired.
“It’s about a guy who grows a magical garden. He feeds the homeless, he cures disease…”
“WAIT A SECOND!!!” The Deli Dude starts screaming.“Does he have a three legged Dog named Tripod?”
“Yeah, I think he does,” I responded curiously.
“THAT’S MY FUCKIN’ SHOW!!!” he screeched. “I’ve been pitching it for years, all over town! What the hell should I do?”
“You should go in there and tell them,” I offered. “And do it quickly.”
“I WILL! I WILL,” he exclaimed. “I’m going in tomorrow.” He simmered silently for a few seconds, thinking this whole thing through. “I’m gonna bring a lawyer, and all my treatments… they’ve been notarized, registered, scanned, faxed, framed, mailed, cryogenically frozen, and alphabetized… I am ready for war,” he huffed.
“Good,” I said. “You go in there, and get what’s coming to you.”
“I will,” he shouted, banging his fists on the counter. “I’m gonna do it for everyone who’s ever gotten screwed by the system!” He paused for a moment, and asked, “Is that the place, they make you park on the roof?”
“It is,” I replied.
“Fuck it,” he said, “I’m not going. No roof parking for me. That’s the beginning of the end, buddy. You do know that, don’t you? They may be able to steal my material, but they’ll never take my dignity. You got that?”
“I got it,” I smiled. “Loud and clear.”
And with that, he exhaled deeply, and went back to slicing cheese… badly, I might add, but with his dignity intact.

Postscript: I have a follow-up meeting back at the same place. Gonna meet with Sam Kass about consulting on his show.

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