Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Apparently “pitching” has a completely different meaning than the one I learned in prison

This is unfortunate. I never had to do hard time like my manager Murray, but the stint I served for stealing lawn-mowers in the early 90’s did teach me the value of a good forced buggering for the purpose of establishing social hierarchy. A “pecking order” if you will.

At McLean-Stevenson Correctional Center we had “pitchers” and “catchers.” The fuckers and the fucked. What side of the fence you sat on was decided your first day in. There’d be orientation in the morning, lunch followed sport activities in the yard such as tether ball, then some light rape. McLean-Stevenson being a medium security facility, we didn’t resort to wanton shanking like at your harder calabooses. This was a kinder, gentler penitentiary with a focus on reform over retribution. Toothbrush shivs were reserved for only the direst of situations. Thus gang-bangs were enforced with mere rough name-calling and a cudgel made from a tin of Spam stuffed in an old sweat sock. Nobody took one up the digestive tract unless they really wanted it. If you stood your ground and fought like a man you’d earn instant cell-block cred and were generally given first crack at the next piece of sweet-meat rolling in for a six month stretch.

So you can imagine my surprise when Murray (no stranger to prison love) explained to me the do’s-and-don’ts of “pitching” as it pertains to the outside. Because it sounded a lot more like “catching” to me. After 3 re-schedules I’d go in and dance like a hambone minstrel for some sub-Ivy League pedigreed executive, practically offering up my baboon-red posterior for his ill-formed abortion maker to vandalize? Then, after withdrawing his spent unit and dripping syphilis-tainted DNA matter down the front of his Armani sport slacks he’d say to me “so what else you got?” I hadn’t felt this much like a whore since, well, since I was a whore. And in my tenure as a sexual service provider I never once wore the tell-tale knee pads and face mask of the bottom bitch. As a matter of fact, the few same-sex customers I took on during a financial dry-spell were only allowed to blow me through a hole in the wall of a Chevron toilet stall. I’m a lot of things, but I ain’t no fag.

Murray did his best to reassure me en route to my first pitch meeting at XYZ Productions (not the real name), the vanity imprint of a VERY IMPORTANT leading man who -- despite having recently joined a cult that worships a giant fire-breathing arthropod -- carried green-light heft at the studio where his office was situated. This was all part of the game, Murray explained, and the game is what it is. I trusted Murray. He’d been in the B.I.Z. since I was knee-high to a dung beetle and knew the in’s and out’s better than anyone. I arrived at XYZ’s bungalow lubed and ready for six inches of whatever they had to offer.

After a pat-down from security I informed the receptionist that I was to meet with Steve (his real name), VP of Production and the man directly beneath the man who mattered. I was handed a bottle of courtesy spring water then escorted to the conference room by Steve’s large-breasted assistant. Steve bounded into the room with the energy of a man operating on an exclusive diet of low-carb Red Bull and high-grade cocaine. He also exuded that false self-confidence so common to those in his position, the kind they beat into you at prep schools and those private colleges for kids with net worths far greater than their SAT scores. Even though I was the kind of guy who made him lock the doors of his Volvo SUV when he saw me on the median strip selling oranges, Steve’s body language let me know that here in THIS domain HE was king.

After making the compulsory small-talk I gave him my pitch for Giant Robot Jesus. I explained that in the wake of the monumental success of Passion of the Christ -- and what with all the buzz surrounding the forthcoming Transformers live-actioner -- it was the perfect time for a robot/religious hybrid. This was a film that answered the question: What would happen if the Son of Man was a giant robot, with shoulder-mounted rockets, who could transform into a Volkswagon micro-bus? Steve soaked it in. Or maybe he was soaking in his own piss. I couldn’t tell if his quivering was due to the large quantity of stimulants coursing through bloodstream or because he suspected he’d been left in the room alone with a madman. Steve cleared his throat and asked me, “So what else you got?”

I then launched into my pitch du resistance, the best I’d been saving for last: Die Hard With Monkeys.

“See, it’s Die Hard, right? Only with monkeys.”

“Okay… and what’s it about?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“But what happens?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“I mean what’s the story?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“No. The plot.”

“Oh, that! You’ve seen Die Hard, right?”

“Of course.”

“Replace all the terrorists with monkeys. But not just any monkeys. Super-monkeys. Experimental government monkeys.”

There was a silence. A long, awkward-as-Michael-J-Fox-on-roller-skates silence. Then Steve, mustering every ounce of his prep school instilled courage, muttered the following phrase:

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

I'm still not quite sure why I reacted as I did. All I know is before he could speak the period at the end of that sentence I’d pulled the shiv out of my boot (guard missed it during the pat-down, natch) and installed a picture window in Steve’s personal-trainer-sculpted abs. I don’t remember kicking the receptionist in the tits or bludgeoning the security guard with the Oscar I’d pulled from the glass display case (Murray relayed all this to me later with much amusement). I just remember a blur of activity and waking up the next day in a safe house belonging to some of Murray’s Mexican Mafia friends.

Murray stopped by later with a bottle of tequila and filled in the blanks for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d blacked out in a violent rage and certainly wouldn’t be the last, and Murray having a legendary explosive temper himself understood that I’d merely done what I had to do. Of course there’d be repercussions. I’d have to lie low for a few months until things cooled off. I’d have to change my name, the titles of my scripts, and I’d probably have to wear a fake moustache to future meetings. But my career was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning. Hey, I didn’t get into this business thinking things would be easy. I knew there’d be a lot of hard work and occasional stabbings. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that I have the tenacity, the guts, and the TALENT to make it in this town. I’m not just some shady drifter with bad jailhouse tats and a rap sheet longer than his leg; I’m all that, AND a writer.

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