ABlog the Author

BOOKS   EVENTS   BIOGRAPHY   OTHER WRITING & FAVORITE LINKS   WRITE TO BILL

I plan to weigh in every other day or so with what I hope are yak-worthy thoughts, musings and reconditioned events from my alleged past, my assumed present and my delusional future. If you want to comment, I will respond almost as quickly as those spam guys who claim you can make $500/day in your underwear.

Jul 27
Permalink

Archive Sunday: Here is the first of two pieces that made it into George Magazine in 1998….

(NOTE: This is the piece that launched maybe the best story I tell on the circuit, about the woman fact-checker at George. If any of the seven of you don’t know it verbatim by now, let me know and I will attach a clip of me telling it. This was a daunting assignment, probably because it was their idea. They wanted me to do a conspiracist’s view of American History in 600 words. I don’t think like that, so I just went with paranoid. I did two versions of the piece (as I used to do sometimes to give my editors a choice), and this first one made it through and sparked the great story with the fact checker. I got one more piece published, “The All-Purpose Concession Speech,” in the next issue, then tried to reboot the “Other Women Come Forward” essay which you’ve already seen. No dice. Then, JFK Jr. retooled the magazine for the fourth or fifth time and killed the humor essay —“Quips” — at the front of each issue. But two pieces in two months? What a run!)

QUIPS:    CONSPIR-U.S.-CY HISTORY

      First of all, I am not going to fall for your tricks. I will not be lured out of my ironclad ideological hole and into your mind-bending snare. But I need the money, so I’ll fill your space.

     The entire history of the United States never happened. Never happened spontaneously, that is. It was all staged. All an elaborate 222-year ruse to distract you and me (Well, you, not me.), while an unseen force from the Unknown Galaxy makes untold riches pulling the marionette strings on its earthly ally.

     By the way, if you’re paying attention, 222 is one-third of 666.

     You’d love to know what I know. I have all the data, and all the documentation, but I refuse to feed your “lawyers” and “experts” who will spin my logic in the centrifuge of  so-called “rational thought.” Whose rational thought? Yours? THE MEDIA? What, and leave show business?

      However, for the sake of discourse and because, like I said, I need the money, I will indulge you slightly. Ask yourself these questions, and let yourself see, if you dare, the pattern that emerges:

     ** Why on the original Declaration of Independence – the one nobody can seem to find anymore – does the flourish under John Hancock’s signature look like a Nike swoosh?

     ** Why did John Hancock die without life insurance?

     ** Why were the French so nice to us during the Revolution and so rude since?

     ** Is it just a coincidence that the last thing eyewitnesses heard Alexander Hamilton say to Aaron Burr was, “Now, you’re sure this will get me on the ten?”

     ** We all know tobacco was America’s first cash crop. How come everyone in France still smokes and no one gets sick?

     ** Why, in the middle of a battle, does Francis (pronounced France-iss) Scott Key write a song he knows is not nearly as good as “America the Beautiful?” (And we’re not even talking about the Ray Charles version.)

     ** How comes there’s a first draft of the shooting script for “Gone With the Wind” registered with the Writers’ Guild and dated April, 1859?

     ** Why does the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France) have its torch perfectly aligned with Neptune? Or do you think it just cute that “immigrants” are now called “aliens?”

     ** How come the Native Americans in California, who’d lived on the land for centuries, never found gold, but some idiot from New Jersey with a pick and a pan did?

     ** Why was a man fitting Walt Disney’s description seen sneaking into an ice wagon near Anaheim in 1884, 17 years before he was “born.”

     ** How come the first airplane flight didn’t take place until 1903, over 3000 years after the first Kosher meal?

** Why do sequels traditionally fail, yet World War II made much more money than World War I?

     ** And while we’re on the subject, how come every vacationing foreign tourist left Hawaii on December 6, 1941, despite the fact that the cheaper air fare required a Saturday night stay?

     ** Why would a guy trying to prove he wasn’t a spy keep the name Alger Hiss?

     ** How come the Korean War lasted four years, but “M*A*S*H” lasted eight?

     ** If there really was a Cold War, as reported, why do you supposed of the six men who each knew one number of the combination of the safe which contained the recipe for Coca-Cola, three of them spoke Russian? And all of them spoke French?

     ** And why, in the list of ingredients on a can of Coke, is nerve gas never included?

     ** Am I the only one who, when he saw the “moon landing,” noticed the Paramount water tower in the corner of “outer space?”

** Why was the Gulf War so conveniently scheduled during February sweeps?

    ** How come Linda Tripp has the exact same jowls as Nixon?

    ** Why is soccer popular everywhere else in the world but the United States?

    ** Why is Jerry Lewis  popular in France?

     ** What country won this year’s World Cup?

     This was too easy. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to de-activate the land mines the Department of the Interior planted under my living room rug while I wrote this.   

      (By the way, you didn’t hear any of this from me.)

Comments (View)
Jul 26
Permalink

It may or may not be time for my semi-annual update….

SHRINK THYSELF, despite raves from Toast and Ed Markey, has been out a little over a month and selling, uh, as my books seem to sell. I am hoping that Mark Maron’s WTF podcast, whenever it airs, will shake things up a bit. That would be great. If not, unlike the three novels before, I take great satisfaction and solace in how well it turned out and gladly wait for the rest of the reading world to catch up.

THE RINGER SEQUEL (“Through the Ringer”) is officially halfway done, which, if you’ve been paying attention, means I have no friggin idea what is going to happen in the second half. I’m going to give myself the rest of the summer to kind of figure it out before I start to give myself shit. Which may make the day after Labor Day a bit uncomfortable….

ARCHIVE SATURDAY OR SUNDAY on this blog seems to be going well…for me. I’ve enjoyed re-looking at these pieces, and we’re not even out of 1998 yet. Let me warn you that after I started working on long-form fiction, the number of humor essays diminished precipitously. So, once we hit the new millenium, you’ll see more roast material and the like….

THE TRUANTS are back at the Red Lion next Sunday doing the Hard Day’s Night album track-by-track. We are also there Sunday, September 7 and will be rejoined by hired gun John Merjave on lead guitar. Merjave will also be with us at a big boy gig ($15/$10 cover!) Wednesday October 15 in Westchester at The Winery at St. George’s, when we do full sets of nothing by British Invasion music.

THE SHOW has ten months left, give or take a week. I am just focusing on the journey and not the destination, which a Zen-like way of saying I’m repressing. That said, I am thrilled with the news Stephen Colbert will be doing his version at the Ed Sullivan Theater because all the union guys will be retained. I continue to be amazed at the number of people, and people who show better, assuming I will be going to work for Colbert, like it’s GM just getting a new President. That has now morphed into people, the same people, asking me if the Colbert people are in the building yet. Yeah, I got a file cabinet and a rack of his suits in my office.

Lastly….And I know I should have led with this, but it’s too distracting….

ADRIANNE had a clean CTscan last Tuesday, 14 months since her surgery. She has three gigs in August. And she looks great. And if you don’t believe me, I call to your attention People’s Exhibit A, one of her new 8x10s….

image

Everything else is just conversation.

Comments (View)
Jul 21
Permalink
Comments (View)
Jul 20
Permalink

Archive Sunday: Here’s the only finished piece I’ve ever submitted to New York Magazine …and thus the only piece I ever had rejected by New York Magazine. A little high concept job from June 1998 called “Derek Jeter-Mariah Carey Summer Correspondence….”

(AUTHOR NOTE: A editor from New York Magazine had seen my essays in the New Yorker and wanted me to do something for their “Summer Fun Issue.” Jeter and Carey had started dating, quite publicly, so, that seemed like nothing but fun. Sadly, it was not the kind of fun New York Magazine had in mind. Too bad, because normally I have nothing but admiration for the choices they make over there. As you can tell, I had to do some fast early Internet research on Mariah to try and understand exactly why she was who she was. It is 16 years later and I am no closer to understanding. Sharp-eyed readers will note the use of “Puffy Combs,” which is the name he was going by in May 1998, and “beeper,” which is what he would have been using in May, 1998….)


DEREK JETER/MARIAH CAREY SUMMER CORRESPONDENCE

     (NOTE: These are selected letters, which were originally dictated to personal assistants,  then retyped and spell-checked by publicists. All negative references to Whitney Houston or Mike Piazza have been deleted.)

(June 6)

M –

     You looked so fine sitting in the stands at the game last night, even if it was only for an inning and a half. I’ve talked with the head of stadium security. He’s decided not to press charges against your bodyguards for beating up that vendor. I should have told you they don’t serve Cristal.

     Listen, no big deal, but next time, could you leave in between innings? I don’t think David Wells would have thrown those three wild pitches in a row if he hadn’t been, ah, distracted. Luckily, we came back and won the game in the 11th.  I got into the city around 2:00, but you were downtown somewhere and I couldn’t find you. Can you give me Puffy Combs beeper number?

                                                                                                         D

(June 13)

D –

     You know I want to see you, baby, but today is no good. I’ve got acting class, biofeedback and aroma-vocalization in the morning. And then, in the afternoon, I have to

put on a Donna Karan suit (ugh) and tell Tommy Motola’s mother we’re trying to work things out. Then from 4-6, I’m processing a couple of painful experiences from my childhood. You’re already at the ballpark by then.  I’ll be downtown somewhere tonight. If I haven’t fired my limo service, I’ll send a car for you.

     Does Yankee Stadium hold more people than the Meadowlands? I’m thinking of booking it next spring.

                                                                                                            M

(June 18 - Cleveland)

M –

     This sucks. It’s so much worse not seeing you when I’m out of town.  Sorry about the mix-up last night. I was sure I told you we’d be on the road till the 21st.  You’re right. It is much easier to park at the Stadium when there’s no game. Maybe you could come out here to Cleveland for the last two games. They’ve got that thing here, the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Are you in it yet?

     Oh yeah, Giuliani, that smarmy-ass, keeps breaking my balls about asking you to do some promos to get people to come to Yankee Stadium. I keep telling him no, and then he says, “Well, how about two dozen bats, then?”  I have to be nice to him because of a memo we all got from Steinbrenner, that turtleneck-wearing pimp.

     When you say “The Meadowlands,” are you talking about the little 20,000-seat arena, or Giants Stadium?

                                                                                                                        D

(June 24)

D –

     When was the last time we were alone? I just thought of something I meant to tell you last night, but Busta Rhymes pulled me onstage at the Palladium. There must have been at least 50,000 people there.

     Oh yeah, I can’t come to the Mets game Friday because I have to give a bunch of satellite interviews to celebrate the one-year anniversary of my last video and tell people Tommy Motola was not controlling me and that he doesn’t have mob connections. And then I have to call Tommy and tell him how it went. See you Saturday. Wear the tight pinstripes.

     And 20,000 is not “little.” You guys had 15,271 for that Kansas City game last month, but who’s counting.

                                                                                                                        M

(July 1)

M –

     After he took my order last week, the guy at the flower shop asked me who died. Hope you got everything. Now baby, I know I told you the Met game was at Shea Stadium. I know I did. And if I didn’t, it had been in the papers all week. “Subway Showdown at Shea,” “Bombers Invade Shea,” “Shea It’s So.” Stuff like that. I’m sorry you missed the first six innings, but that was not my fault. And it wasn’t my fault when they showed you on the Dynavision and played that Celine Dion “Titanic” song. Just like it wasn’t your fault that I went 0-for-4 and stranded six runners. But how come whenever I go 0-for-4, all the damn media asks me about is you?

      Did you notice the crowd? 55,000.That would be like three shows for you at the Meadowlands.

                                                                                                                        D

(July 5 - Vancouver)

D –

     How’s my little Hit Factory? I can’t believe I didn’t tell you I’d be in Vancouver this month doing a movie. Are you sure I didn’t mention “00-Soul” with Chris Tucker? It’s like a hip-hop “Austin Powers.” I don’t know when it’s coming out, but like 5 million people are going to see it the first week. What did the Yankees draw last year, 2 million-something?

      All the guys on the crew want bats. They keep asking me if your groin is okay. Did something happen to your groin? Was I involved?

     All my acting lessons are really paying off. Yesterday, I did a real diva scene, you know, screaming, crying, throwing stuff, and after like 15 minutes, the producer agreed to fly Old Dirty Bastard in to hang with me.

     Are you off during the All Star break?

                                                                                                                        M

(July 18 -Toronto)

M –

     It’s been so long, I thought that was someone imitating you on the phone last night. Hey, you’re right. We are both in Canada. And I’m sorry,  I just thought “00-Soul” was another one of those lame-ass rappers trailing you around town.

     I’m glad you saw the game Saturday afternoon, and that was a trip how you got them to put a satellite dish on your trailer. Baby, one thing. I don’t tell you, “Hey, on ‘One Sweet Day,’ it sounds like you only hit four octaves.” So, don’t be telling me it looks like I’m opening my hips too quickly against lefties.

     Was I off during the All-Star break? Are you off during the Grammys? And that game against Kansas City in May should have been rained out. And it was 18,271, not 15.

                                                                                                                        D

(August 4 - Honolulu)

Aloha, D –

     On location. With the time change, I’m actually going to bed at midnight. Imagine me in bed at midnight….

     I read somewhere the Yankees, the whole team and everything, are worth $250 million. Is that true? Because if it is, that’s like a quarter of what I’ve made for Sony the last seven years.

                                                                                                                        M

(August  20 - Minnesota)

M –

     Okay, Labor Day. Noon. Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street. You on one side, me on the other. Let’s see who draws a bigger crowd.

                                                                                                                        D

(August 22)

D –

     Fine.  Tommy wanted 54th Street, because that’s closer to his office, but I told him no.

He does not control me. And he does not have mob connections. I’ll be there. Can’t wait.

                                                                                                                        M

(August 24)

M –

     I just checked the schedule. We’re in Boston Labor Day. Damn.

                                                                                                                        D

(August 26)

D –

     Miss you.

                                                                                                                        M

(August 28)

M –

     Me too.

                                                                                                                        D

(September 1)

D –

     October?

                                                                                                            M

(September 4)

M –

      Busy….

                                                                                                                        D

Comments (View)
Jul 18
Permalink
Comments (View)
Permalink
Comments (View)
Jul 17
Permalink

So long, Stritchy….

As I wrote on Twitter, I once bought her a decaf with sweet ‘n lo (she was a diabetic) at SoupBurg on Madison and 73rd, and she said to me, “Well, aren’t you from Heaven!” But my best brush with her was this day in July, 1996, when she appeared on the show in this extended four-part bit where she thought Dave was her pool boy. It was written by a writer named Jeff Judah, who had been faxing in monologue jokes to me and was hired as a staff writer. He lasted two cycles, six months, and was let go no more than a week after this aired. The producer who fired him said, “The Elaine Stritch thing will be shown on every anniversary show as long as this show is on the air.” It is one of the more unique things we did. It is, of course, very well written, but does not become indelible without Dave leaving his comfort zone and Elaine Stritch pitching a tent in her’s.

Comments (View)
Permalink
Comments (View)
Jul 12
Permalink

Archive Saturday: From October 1998, here’s “Got A Shot,” the story that launched Bonnie Dressler….

 (NOTE: I referred to this piece last week, when I ran “Where’s Dave?” This is the last short story I ever wrote (there are two from 1981-82 in my files that I would have to scan in, and I don’t know if I want to be that bad on record). I completely forgot the original title was a double play on words. I did love the character I created in Bonnie, and I learned later not to waste anything you really love, which is why over the years I have cannibalized my first novel, WHO LISTENS? to supply ideas, characters and set pieces for my other books. Enough. For those of you who have read, SHRINK THYSELF, think of this as a documentary. For those of you who haven’t, as always, I hope you think this is something….)

                                                                                      

GOT A SHOT (GOTTA SHOT)

     He wanted to let her know before she took her earpiece out.

     “Bonnie, what can I say? As always, flawless.”

     “Who’s this? Sam?” Great. She knew.

     “Yes.”

     “Thanks, Sam. That means a lot. You still want me for Thursday?”

     “Yes, absolutely. Can you make it down here?”

     “You’re hungry and you’re looking to collect, Sam. Am I right?”
     “Yeah.”

      “Let me get back to you, but Thursday looks good.”

      Was he wrong? Was he so wrong? Twelve years as a television producer. At least a decade of mistakes. Bad hires. Bad information. Bad timeslots. Bad numbers. Worse numbers. A lot of those meetings where nothing gets accomplished and there’s no food. Just being flat wrong. That’s what Sam Savitz would say all the time to his bosses. “This one’s on me, guys. I was flat wrong.” Stand-up guy. Maybe his best quality. That’s why the jobs and the money got better. He could say he was “flat wrong,” an erstwhile phrase which had been deleted from the television producers lexicon during the last week of the DuMont Network.

     So, was he wrong here?

     Eight months they had known each other. Met over the phone the day after the day after the scandal broke. A week after Linda Tripp had been wired like an IAB rat. Two days after Lucianne Goldberg started chain-smoking self-promotion and just before William Ginsburg got the knot on his bowtie just right, and nothing else.

     “We need a smart, good-looking woman to come on and say, ‘What’s the big deal? The President got a blow job.’” That’s what Sam had said at one of those meetings where nothing gets accomplished. “How about my ex-sister-in-law, Bonnie Dressler?” Tim said between bites of curried tuna. So, there was food.

     In the eight months since Sam Savitz had made that first call, and heard this alarmingly bright woman say “It’s a blow job, so what?” while a Bruins-Penguins game blared in the background, Bonnie Dressler had appeared on his show, “Beltway Today with Rod Richmond,” 54 times. And every time, at some point, she would lean her formidably striking face into the satellite screen and utter some combinations of the words, “blow” “job” “so” and “what.”

     Bonnie Dressler taught an undergraduate course in constitutional law at SimmonsCollege, three McGwire home runs down the street from FenwayPark. She had spent the last six years turning down lucrative consulting jobs from various political campaigns because she knew she could never take the candidates as seriously as they took themselves. Once, when her eight-year-old son, Che, told her he was going to run for office when he grew up, Bonnie Dressler said, “Why? So you can win and run an employment agency?”

     The consulting job offers began pouring in six years ago, after she appeared on a locally televised legal roundtable and made an Alan Dershowitz-wannabe cry on camera when she said, “You’re making no sense, Carl. Take a break. Come back when your mind is clear. Go out. Get laid.”

     She never regretted the line, only the acclaim that came with it. She would not be the “Get Laid” Lady, some 90s soundbite-sized version of that old broad in the Wendy’s ads who said, “Where’s the Beef ?” and unwittingly gave Mondale his best line of the 1984 campaign. Mondale. What a whistlestop train wreck that was. What was Dennis Miller’s line about Mondale? “When I went to bed on Election Night, he had three electoral votes. Three. I didn’t even run, and I almost tied him.” Mondale. Now there. There’s a guy who could have used a blow job.

     So, Bonnie Dressler had retired her great-looking mouth and all that danced fiestily from it from the airwaves six years ago. She was more than content being the most popular professor at SimmonsCollege. That was until 18 months ago, when Bonnie Dressler added a second title, most popular divorced woman at SimmonsCollege.

     It wasn’t until the custody hearing, when she took the stand and referred to her husband, Dave, as “Putzo” 564 times, getting a laugh every time, that Bonnie Dressler realized she missed being on TV. Great, but where to go? The world had long forgotten the “Get Laid” Lady. Everyone except Tim, her former brother-in-law, current line producer for “Beltway Today,” and the only one who still referred to Dave as “Putzo.”

     After that first phone call eight months ago, Sam Savitz realized although he had a story out of the White House that might go away, he had a woman he didn’t want going anywhere. One phone call, one “It’s a blow job, so what?” and he sent Bonnie Dressler an exclusive contract and a check for $6520.00, AFTRA scale for her first ten satellite appearances. Guaranteed money just in case this silly story, a 22-year-old intern giving Oval Office hummers, proved nothing more than Internet whimsy, Penthouse Cyber-Forum.      

      He almost had her in the studio three months ago, the night after Kathleen Willey appeared on “60 Minutes” and Ed Bradley (“Was he aroused?”) turned the thing into a Colt 45 commercial. That was Bonnie Dressler’s line. “I tuned in to watch ‘60 Minutes’ and what I got was Ed Bradley doing Billy Dee Williams in a Colt 45 commercial.” Unfortunately, she had to deliver the line three days later, via satellite, when it’s freshness had softened in the unrefrigerated air of time. At the last minute, as she was leaving for Logan, there had been some passive-aggressive calisthenics from Putzo and she had to stay in Boston with Che. She apologized to Sam and offered restitution in one sentence. “I owe you a dinner, but you’ve got to get me down there to collect.”

     That was three months ago, and Sam Savitz, producer that he was, man that he might be, kept looking at the breakdowns – the playful phone conversations, the chemistry of her accessibility, the self-conscious-free smile as she took her earpiece out while the satellite picture stayed up – and asking himself, “Am I wrong? Am I flat wrong?”

      There was a message waiting when he got in the next day. Thursday was fine. She’s be in around 4:00. In a perfect world, she’d like to be done with their dinner and make the 10:00 p.m. shuttle back. In an imperfect world, she’d like a room at The Willard.

      Shit, they must have said “blow job” to each other – let’s see, 54 appearances, at least two phones calls before each appearance, at least two minutes per phone call – 216 times. How tough could the subject be to broach around reference #220? And over a dinner she herself owed him? On his turf? Would the witness please answer the question?

     And the fact, the unstated fact, the understood fact, that Sam Savitz was married? Well, the woman taught constitutional law. She knew a precedent when she saw one. And he knew she’d seen at least one. Hell, she’d been called for expert testimony 54 times. This wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory.

     Was he wrong?

     He remembered something from a thin book he’d read a few years ago that Celeste had tossed on his side of the bed during their one and only extended rough patch. Some guy named Larsen wrote it. Not the cartoon guy. A little darker. All through the thin book were these words: “If nothing changes, nothing changes.” Now, in the liberal rewrite of the last eight months, and especially the last three, Sam Savitz had carnally morphed this mantra: “If a blow job is no big deal, a blow job is no big deal.”

     How could somebody look that much better in person? He may have lingered in his post-cheek kiss handshake at the make-up room door before she went in to get God knows what touched up. Maybe half a second. Maybe. Nah. Not at all. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, he let go. No lingering. No awkwardness. In fact, as he walked away, she yelled from the make-up chair about eating at The Red Sage, right around the corner from The Willard. Right around the corner.

     Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, with all due respect, come on.

     He was not wrong.

                                                                *     

     “In the studio tonight, one of our favorite regular panelists, the outspoken constitutional law professor Bonnie Dressler. Bonnie, thanks so much for making the trip down to Washington to join us.”

      “My pleasure, Rod. How come your chair is two inches taller than mine?”

      “Hah! Ah, how did they finally persuade you to come down here?”

      “Job interview.”

      “Really?”

     “Yeah. I’m having dinner with your producer Sam Savitz. If I give him a blow job, you’re looking at ‘Beltway Today with Rod Richmond and Bonnie Dressler.’”

     “Is that true?”

     “Not entirely.”

     “I thought so.”

     “I have to pay for dinner as well.”

                                                                   *

Comments (View)
Jul 11
Permalink
Comments (View)