This just in from Gestation: Nothing. For over a week; no emails, no phone calls–no nothing. I checked the weekly flyspeck of an ad in today’s NY Times to see if the film was still playing. It was; at one theater with only two evening showings. So I filled a sock with 6 years of blood, sweat and tears and tied a knot in it. It was pretty heavy. When I swung it against the wall I was pleased to see it knocked a hole right through the plaster.
The noise woke my friend Jimmy who’s been crashing on the couch for the past 2 weeks. Jimmy and I go way back. He’s filmmaker too but I’ll be honest, his tastes are little extreme even for me. His last film was a 17-hour single shot of three French girls trying to recite the Koran in Chinese backwards. It won the Golden Palm at Cannes. What I love about Jimmy though is his fierce passion for film. He actually told me once he thinks film is an “art form“.
Jimmy’s been a good listener all through this difficult period. I have to be careful what I tell him though because he gets all worked up and sometimes he bugs me with the unrealistic “intensity” of his advice. Jimmy came with me when I went to see Dr. Owen this morning. He liked the weighted sock I’d made so I let him carry it. On the way we stopped by Gestation’s offices on West 54th street.
Traci, the receptionist knew me so she let us in though I must say her smile was less than receptive. The door to Arnold’s office was closed but at Jimmy’s urging we slipped in. Arnold was standing with George, his head of distribution. They had their backs to us, immersed in rapt conversation over a new, framed photo hanging on the wall. Jimmy and I stepped quietly closer and peered over their shoulders.The photo was of Arnold and his wife standing with Hugh Hefner who was giving the camera two big thumbs up.
“Sweet shot, Arnie,” George murmured.
“Thanks,” Arnold nodded proudly. “Look at me with Hef. What a great guy. And he loved Delirious. Can you believe it?”
George shrugged. “Nice frame. What’d it set you back?”
“Eight hundred bucks. I charged it to the film.”
“Makes sense,” George replied. “Shelley looks good. She losing weight?”
“Working on it.”
“Too bad you couldn’t have gone solo, eh?”
Arnold just grunted in agreement. At that moment Jimmy swung my weighted sock as hard as he could and smashed the photo to smithereens. Both execs dropped into frozen cringes under the shower of splintered glass.
“Hey, guys,” Jimmy said. “We just thought we’d drop by and say hello.”
Arnold quickly reached for the phone. Before I could stop him Jimmy swung the sock again and sent the phone flying across the room.“Oh, now you’re going to pick up the phone?” he asked with a grin of comical mock hysteria.
Arnold whirled on me. “Who is this guy?! Why’d you bring him in here?!”
I was beginning to wonder that myself. “He’s a friend,” I managed to say finally, fearing even this revealed too much.
Jimmy swung the sock at George making him jump back so fast he knocked Arnold into one of the 20 vintage pinball machines he’d crammed into his office for flair. “You call yourselves distributors?” Jimmy snarled. “You couldn’t distribute condoms in an airport bathroom. I saw your ad for Delirious in today’s NY Times. It only took a fuckin’ microscope to find it!!”
“Now, that’s not true, Jimmy,” I stated, trying to ease the tension. “We used a magnifying glass and you know it.”
Arnold took the opportunity to slip behind the safety of his desk. “Tom, we’ve told you many times; the Numbers don’t justify any further expense.”
“I know, Arnold,” I replied, nervously watching Jimmy stalking George out of the corner of my eye. “But, I have to say I’m a little confused. If you expected the film to open with a big weekend like it was a studio film then why didn’t you advertise like it was a studio film?”
We all jumped as Jimmy swung my sock and sent a museum quality lamp crashing to the floor. “What advertise?!” he cried. “They printed up a couple of posters which nobody saw, they took out a mouse turd of an ad in the Times and then sat back and waited for a miracle. You know what the miracle was? That anybody even went to the movie at all!”
His words spurred George into predictable outrage. “We don’t have to explain anything to you!” he blurted. “We spent what we could. The fact is the film had no legs.”
“And you’ve got no balls,” Jimmy shot back. “But you’re still a prick.”
See, this is what I was saying about Jimmy. He goes too far. I put my hand on his shoulder in firm rebuke. “Now, Jimmy,” I warned, “Let’s calm down here. OK? It doesn’t help when you get inflammatory.”
“No, it really doesn’t,” George sulked. “It’s counter-productive,” Arnold added, still behind his desk.
“OK,” Jimmy smiled. “Let’s say we throw you that bone. Let’s say the film didn’t perform and you couldn’t afford to buy advertising to help it. Last week Delirious got a great review from Roger Ebert. You didn’t have to spend a dime for it. You got it for FREE. Everybody knows a rave from Ebert is a huge boost for ANY film. Any other distributor would have used that review to attack the market. But what do you do? You say the review means nothing and then use the Numbers to attack the film!”
Jimmy whirled my sock and smashed the glass in on the most vintage of the vintage pinball machines. “You didn’t even put Ebert’s review on the Delirious website until a week after it came out! And then not until I made Tom call you about it!”
“He’s lucky we even distributed the film at all!” George blurted.
He was right. Before Jimmy could do any more damage I yanked my weighted sock out of his hands. But, to my horror he walked up to George and slapped him across the face. The crack of the impact echoed as loud as a shot. George stood in stiff, trembling silence, tears welling in his eyes. His cheek turned bright, splotchy red. I felt sorry for him. Jimmy had really hit him hard. Jimmy must have felt bad about it too because he suddenly stepped over and gave Arnold a slap, taking care to make his just as hard as George’s.
“You mice,” he said. “You mollusks. No matter what you say about Numbers the fact is Tom made his movie. And he’s proud of every fucking frame of it. He fought to get it made and he fought to get it released. What did you fight for? What do you own? Nothing but Numbers. You can count them when you’re sitting on the toilet, dozing in the stench of your own moral ineptitude. Because the best thing–the ONLY thing–you can say about your Numbers is this: they justified your colossal act of cowardice.”
Both men were crying openly now. I wanted to go up to them and hug them. But Jimmy wasn’t done.
“You’re nothing but a couple of taco farts!” he said.
“Jimmy!” I shouted. “That’s enough!”
But Jimmy wouldn’t stop. “You snail turds!” he rushed on. “You skidmarks, you rectal itches! You penile dribbles. You zipper salesmen. You pubic hairs. You toejam pickers! You dandruff flakes. You chicken molesters! You butt sniffers, you genital warts! You mothballs. You termites. You gutless, dickbrained
I looked up from my People Magazine to see Dr. Owen regarding me curiously from his open doorway. I followed him into his office. He smiled gently as we both sat down.
“And how is your friend today?” Dr. Owen asked after a brief pause.
“Who?” I asked.
“Your friend, Jimmy.”
“Hey, listen, doc,” I said. “I told you last week; I don’t know any Jimmys.”