UNITED STATES—In Danny’s coffee shop Uncle John looked at me levelly and said, “Someday you are going to hit it big.” He said it so jauntily, so casually—like a fact of nature. My uncle secretly implied that it may not happen right now. But it will happen.
That’s a nice thing to put in your pocket and travel with. I had all the confidence in the pending screenplay sale: Everett, with all his connections, would take care of that. On my end, I got a tip from Cheryl in the office about another guy in the Valley who had produced a horror movie or something. I dutifully took a copy and dropped it off. I did what I had to do, as I had done in giving the first version to David Lynch and later Everette Lewis. I had a great deal of faith in Everett after our collaboration, and was ready to move on.
In the after-glow of finishing the screenplay, Miguel Rodriguez, a tenant of St. Andrew’s Place was preparing me to do just that. He taught English to Spanish speakers at different factories and businesses.
“It’s easy,” Miguel said. “Do a lesson plan with the numbers, another with the colors. You can string out the lessons forever.”
That’s my voice creeping in, but that was the jist. Miguel provided me with copies of the hand-outs and exercises he used in his classes to immigrants. He was helping me plan my getaway. To Mexico.
Jim Wylie and I were spending a lot of days in court because of all the evictions at Manhattan place, laying the groundwork for the troubled house’s transition into a sober living facility. Going downtown always meant an early start, and parking in the spaces at DWP. When I went inside to get parking validation I beheld the panoramic pictures of Owens’ Valley dedication and pictures of William Mulholland, who helped spawn the Los Angeles we know, providing the water. In this mid-sixties office tower, I felt at the very nerve center of the beautiful beast that is Los Angeles. I would miss this.
The final days of 1991 rained, practically day and night. I remember I saw a movie. When I got back to the house, David the actor was being harangued by Chuck, who was a wrestler turned screenwriter. Our rooms were divided by a single door, so I heard Chuck’s phone calls and typing. I was, and remain impressed that he tapped out a whole screenplay in a 24-hour period. Inspired by high school escapades in Jersey, it was competently written. I realize now I owe something of my screenwriting education to reading and talking about these screenplays with Chuck. The former wrestler was full of bluster as you might expect, but he had some good ideas.
Anyway, the argument between Chuck and David was, “If you are so poor, how can you go see a movie?”
It was drama and you could see these two people, so opposite in personality and yet similar in ambition, go at it forever. Still, it was a far cry from a year ago when Moorehead brandished a knife in the kitchen at the young musician dad, as the war drums were warming up for Kuwait, and asserted, “George Bush told me to do it.”
In fact, things were better for Moorehead, gone but not forgotten. In recent months, he had signed up at L.A.C.C. to study to be a dental hygienist, and Jim Wylie gave him a check returning his security deposit.
I spent some time at the Kenwood house, which was down to one vacancy. There Ron Leaf had the tiniest room in the Wylie Empire, a sepia closet, shag carpeted, for $200 a month. It was a gift. Even so, Ron got a little behind on rent. Cheryl in the office had so much respect for him; he kept paying so faithfully and mailing every bit of income from his cleaning business, along with little notes. Finally he got caught up. Cheryl appreciated that steadfast character. In a way, Ron was the example to hold against all the disillusioning tenants, among whom our screenwriter-wrestler was to become the latest.
Things had calmed down quite a bit around Wylie’s houses. The great event on the horizon was giving Jim Wylie notice. The question was how and when.
Grady Miller is a humorist. You should read his early pieces in “Late Bloomer” (on Amazon) selected from when he used to be funny.