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Posts Tagged ‘Pamela Anderson’

Lost Sheen

So, they fired Charlie.

My heart goes out to all the folks who work on Two and a Half Men – all but one.  I don’t wish Charlie ill.  I hope he picks up the clue phone before he kills himself.  I hate that the media uses this sort of tragic spectacle as ratings fodder.  Lindsey, Anna Nicole and now Charlie.  They still cannot stop talking about Marilyn – I always wonder how her story would have played out if she’d lived? Lushy old has-been or grand dame of the business? Either would have been more interesting than 50 years of badly written, National Enquirer, conspiracy theories.

But the people who suffer most in all this are not the ones getting all the air time.

I know from personal experience how this plays out.  A few years back, I was convinced to write a couple of novels with Pamela Anderson, based on her life – or at least what people believed her life to be.  I was paid almost nothing.  I was promised a nice cut of the profits but what convinced me to do it was the assurance that we were developing a series.

Every writer hopes to come up with a writing project that keeps on giving.  Harry Potter, Miss Marple, Twilight, Lestat, a new novel every year and a built-in audience waiting to buy it.  It’s a writer’s dream come true.  This was hardly the stuff that I’d dreamed of writing, but the promise of regular work and the possibilities that it offered for my life and my career seemed worth the sacrifice.  I went along for the ride.

Success was far from assured.  She’d tried and failed before.  The project had been around for a while and was foundering and, I think, considered a bit of a lost cause by the time I signed on.  She was like press catnip, but the book just wasn’t coming together — I realize now it was because she wouldn’t get it together.

Carrie Fisher once said to me that in publishing “you get the money up front or you surely get it from behind.”  And not in a good, loving, well-lubricated kind of way.  It’s more like jailhouse shower ambush.  I had learned my lesson in publishing the hard way, long before I met Pam.  But I was starry eyed, I guess, though more for the promises than for her.  She seemed nice enough.  I figured if she could deliver the press, I knew how to do the rest.

For wages far below the poverty level — and paying a percentage of that pittance to my agents — I wasted more than two years of my life.  She did her part and I did mine.  The first book was a New York Times Best Seller and the critics, hmmm, let’s say tolerated it.  The tour was amazing.  The crowds were enormous here and abroad.  It was more than anyone had hoped.  My editor began calling me “Golden Boy.”   I was, by proxy, Amazon’s Chick Lit Author of the year.  I wrote a second book that almost no one has ever seen.  It was a genuine sequel to the first book.  It was damned good.  Pam said she loved it.  The publisher was thrilled.  The tour was planned to be more sumptuous and glamorous than the one before.  We began shopping for voice talent to do the audio versions.  All we had to do was score another best seller and new contracts and real money were a genuine possibility.

Then, at the eleventh hour, I was summoned to a teleconference not unlike the recent series of “press releases” Charlie has issued on YouTube and radio and every formerly legitimate news outlet on earth.  In a breathless discourse – literally I don’t think she inhaled for half an hour – Pam revealed to me and our publisher that she and her brother had “stayed up all night” and “fixed” the book that no one thought was broken.  As an alternative to the book I’d written and she’d signed off on six months before, she pitched us what I later discovered was the plot of a dreadful movie called Paparazzi. She told us she wouldn’t do the book tour if we didn’t make the changes.  We really only needed her to do the book tour.  The books were fiction and I wrote them.  The publisher got them printed and distributed and planned the tour.  It was do or die.

I had literally 72 hours to create re-writes of the book in a series of cuts and insertions to the already typeset manuscript scheduled to go to press the following week or the deal was off.  I worked through the long Memorial Day weekend and managed to achieve coherence, at least, and something of a the twisted narrative she had blackmailed us into deforming the book.

Once the novel was printed, our “Star” announced she was “too busy” to do the book tour after all.  Too prove it she went to Miami to attend the VMA’s at the very same time we would have been there on book tour.  I guess it was the parties she was there for since she wasn’t nominated and isn’t a musician.  She was even filmed signing our book – something she never actually did in real life – for the movie Borat.  She destroyed the novel, sabotaged the promotions and killed a successful series.   The last time we spoke was when I called to wish her a happy birthday a month before the book was published.

She has never paid me a dime of my share of the royalties.  She has broken every deal and contract we ever had.  She has never returned a call of mine, let alone called to find out if I’m okay after she left me destitute.  She has never offered me any explanation for her bizarre and selfish behavior.

Nothing.

All she had to do was show up for the tour, be wined and dined, go on Letterman and Leno, wear the fancy clothes, fly on the private jet, be a star.  In exchange, she might well be reaping the benefits of contracts for a bestselling book series.  Ask JK Rowling how that’s worked out for her.  The only price she had to pay was to do her job and be the star.  All she had to do was a couple weeks of celebrity summer camp each year and we might still be minting beach reads and making a tidy profit.  Instead, she needed to get fucked up with her friends at the VMA’s.

Charlie’s show, like my book project with Whats’ername, was the collaborative effort, the hard work and the living wage of a lot of people who were not being paid the big money.  Charlie was getting millions for a success in which he had to do little more than say the words and not crash into the furniture.  It wasn’t Hamlet.  I suppose he has some talent.  I never saw it.  I found the show a bit misogynistic but I don’t think they made it for me and thirteen million people a week thought differently.  He was the star and I know how the system works.  Still, it’s a pretty dingy little star who puts his ego above the welfare of those who have bent over backward to try to help him (or her) surmount what is admittedly a potentially fatal malady and refuse to go to rehab and clean up.

I wish Charlie a speedy recovery.  I hope Pam sobers up, too.  I’d help her out with that if she asked.  But she’s had a series of — albeit increasingly degrading and exploitative – jobs since she suffocated our book series in the crib.  Fired, Charlie has begun the Anna-Nicole-reality-series-death-march that will keep him in porn stars and crack pipes until his heart stops or the next hot mess pushes him off the front page.  I only worry about them to the extent that someone might let them drive or that they might do themselves harm as they are encouraged in their insanity by the same forces who use celebrity to make gold.  Tarnished gold spends the same as shiny.

No, my heart goes out to all the folks who built the scenery, painted the faces, wrote the scripts and produced the series that made Charlie famous and paid him so disproportionately for blessed little work.  I feel for Holland and Conchata and John and Angus and Chuck and all those people that this selfish, childish jerk has put out of work because he’s too good and too smart and too cool to clean up his act and toe the line that the least of his cast and crew must meet by necessity each day.

At the Oscars this year, the speeches that impressed me most were those of Christian Bale and Natalie Portman.  Each, while standing in the spotlight before billions to accept the accolades of the world, took time to remember by name and thank the people who, by their hard work and unsung achievement, had not only made Chris and Nat look good but, in a real way, given them the opportunity to stand where they stood at that moment.  Not just producers and directors, but make-up people and beat up old boxers.  More than that, Christian and Natalie and all their fellow nominees and winners showed up for work and did a bloody good job while they were there.

Those are stars with some real sheen.

Everyone else should take a lesson or maybe shut up.

 

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Words are how I enter the world.

I actually thought I was going to be an actor.  I still do a little bit.  I miss it a lot.  When I was a baby, before I could sit up on my own, I would recite poetry.  I did a particularly stirring Owl and the Pussycat, I’m told.

I loved the power of words from the start.  I could talk at six months but didn’t walk until I was three.  Why get up when you can just ask for it?  But alas, I could not seem to learn to spell or punctuate and still don’t know which sides the knife and the fork go on or which way is west with consistency.  And so I fell in love with the power of the spoken word.  Stage left and camera right never change no matter which way you’re facing, so I felt at home there.

It was acting that brought me to writing where I discovered the power of creation that exists there as nowhere else.  Writing brings whole new worlds into existence and invents the future through collective dreams.  There were no submarines when Jules Verne wrote 10,000 Leagues Beneath the Sea or pocket communicators when Gene Roddenberry put them into the hands of Captain Kirk and his crew.  Today we’ve been to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and our pocket communicators have become so ubiquitous they are arguably our single greatest addiction issue.

Still, writing is sort of an accidental career for me.  When I was in college I got a part time job as a writer.  Given my abilities or lack thereof,  I’d never pursued it.  I took one writing course in college because they made me.  I couldn’t diagram a sentence, still can’t.  I can’t even think why you’d want to.  It just never occurred to me that I might be qualified to write.

So, when everyone else in school was getting a job waiting tables — I tried to get one, too — I found myself in need of employment and short of employable skills.  In the free time that unemployment offered, I auditioned for a production of Wild Oats that was being mounted near my college.  I got cast.  The director, who owned an ad agency, hired me.  I wrote copy, ran errands and answered the phone often, as it turned out, at the same time.

I’ve been writing ever since.  Writing for advertising and public relations lead me to writing plays of my own — some for client trade shows, some just to live in my bottom desk drawer.  I began writing an arts and entertainment column for the Free Times, a local entertainment tabloid.  My words there got me hired to do arts and entertainment reporting on-air for the local NBC affiliate WIS with my own weekly feature Backstage with Eric Shaw Quinn — catchy right?

With the three jobs and continuing to act and direct, I found myself with Saturday mornings free.  An idea came to me one day born out of my own vague attempts to grow up — I’m still working on that one.  I’d always considered that being gay was more incidental than significant and I just figured that I’d have basically the same experience as everyone else save that it would be me and another man rather than me and a woman, but the rest of the details, I assumed, would be the same.

But when I didn’t meet him in college and marry him after graduation as I’d planned, I began to see that it really was different.  I wondered about some of those other details, not the least of which: children.

Would I? And if I did, what would that be like?

I began to explore those ideas on paper.  Yellow pads and pilot razor points, one page at a time, it became my first novel Say Uncle, the story of a gay man raising a child.  Given the prevailing political climate, it was some time before it was published.  But when it happened, the time was right.  I actually got my first movie deal with Propaganda Films before the book came out.  I even got hired to write the screenplay.  I got the chance to work with the legendary director John Schlesinger and to collaborate with the sublime Lewis Colick and the sublimely funny Amy Heckerling on the script.  Several drafts and several years later, with Amy stepping in to direct and Billy Crystal ready to play the lead, the studio was sold and my beloved Say Uncle was delayed in coming to the screen.  Someday.

The book was a critical success, but it was the readers that really made it worth the wait.  People came to my appearances to get their books signed and to ask me parenting questions! I could not have been more surprised or delighted.  Probably my favorite moment from the book so far came rather anonymously, in line at the San Francisco airport several years after the book’s publication.  I had been E-ticketed and presented my driver’s license to the man working at the desk.  Noting my name, but without any other explanation or a mention of Say Uncle, he began telling me the story of how he and his partner had adopted and were raising a little boy.

Imagining a future into being.

When I wrote the book, courts were taking people’s actual children from them because they were choosing to be true to themselves and live as out gay people.  Today “Gay-bies” are as common as tight tee shirts in the gay community.  I don’t think that Say Uncle caused that, but I hope it helped to.

With the movie deal off and my editor departed from my publisher, the sequel to Say Uncle languished.  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell had made bigotry a bumper sticker and there were growing numbers of people who called themselves Christians but who spoke mostly of hatred and intolerance.  My father, in an effort to help me see that there was maybe room in the tent for all of God’s children, pointed out to me the stories of the books of Samuel and the verse that inspired me to write my next original novel.

And it came to pass that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David

and Jonathan loved him as he loved his own soul.

Then Jonathan and David made a covenant,

because he loved him more than he loved his own soul.

1 Samuel 18:1 & 3

It has taken some years to complete this rather ambitious project, I knew nothing of 10th Century BC Israel, let alone the bible.  I’m not even Jewish.  So there was a lot to learn.

In the interim, I worked with the producers of the television series Queer as Folk to write two original novels based on the early lives of the show’s characters, Never Tear Us Apart and Always Have Always Will.  My work on those books brought me to a new publisher and the racy content caught the attention of my next collaborator.

I was driving home from the gym one day when the cell phone rang and a young woman asked me if I was available to meet with Pamela Anderson’s manager.  Well who could say no to that?

One thing led to another and before you can say “boob job” I was sitting across the lunch table from Pancho, Lefty and the girl they’ve taken along for the ride, Pam.  I wrote my next two books the hit Star and the unfortunate Star Struck based on a series of breakfasts with the then most famous woman in the world.  I was supposed to work as a ghostwriter, but Miss Anderson said no one would believe she had written the books and she did not have room in her closet for any more secrets.  She outed me on Jay Leno and very generously took me on a book tour quite unlike any I’ve experienced so far.  So, if you read Pam’s books and thought they were hot and sexy, that’s me.  In the end it wasn’t my favorite experience.  Still, I’m a New York Times best seller now, so there’s that for the obituary at least though by then I fear no one will remember what the New York Times was.

After the Pam project subsided, shall we say, I found myself with that pesky free time again.  It was a new century but despite huge cultural changes for gay people, civil rights were and are still not among them and the bible is regularly used to justify bigotry and worse.  That verse from Samuel came back to me and the time seemed right.

It’s several years later.  Star Crossed is written.  I know way more about the bible and the laws of Leviticus and ancient Israel than I’d ever thought I would.  What will happen next? I can only imagine.

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