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.
(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.)
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?
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.
(June 18 - Cleveland)
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?
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.
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.
(July 5 - Vancouver)
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?
(July 18 -Toronto)
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.
(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.
(August 20 - Minnesota)
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.
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.
I just checked the schedule. We’re in Boston Labor Day. Damn.
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.
(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.
“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?”
“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?”
“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?”
“I thought so.”
“I have to pay for dinner as well.”
(Some background: In the last 16 years, I have written two pieces over 1000 words that haven’t been published. I have written several 800-word pieces which never saw the light of day…until now for the seven of you. 800 words is the length of a single-page magazine humor essay. So, when you venture out over 1000 words, you are officially making a foray into the realm of the short story or the David Sedaris-type embellished memoiry essay, which I like to call non-faction. The only short story I attempted was something called “Got a Shot,” about a Washington DC TV news producer who becomes infatuated with an attractive talking head, Bonnie Dressler, who keeps saying “blow job” on his show during the early days of the Clinton-Lewinsky Carnivale. Sharp-eyed Scheftophiles will immediately recognize that I rejiggered this story for a central plot line in SHRINK THYSELF. Clocking in at 1800 words, I finished “Got a Shot” in early 1999, then sent it off to the fiction editor of the New Yorker, Mr. Roger Angell. He wrote back, offering praise for my uncle before accusing me of relentlessly choosing writing jokes over writing. Aw, what did he know?
Also in Angell packet was this piece, “Where’s Dave?”, a 1300-word effort to try and make light or sense of my frustration in trying to sell my first novel (WHO LISTENS?) when the world wanted something else. And by the world, I mean Roger Angell.
I never sold WHO LISTENS?, but even I have to admit things turned out pretty well.
So….(cue Robert Osbourne voice) from July 14, 1998, 16 years ago next Monday, here’s “Where’s Dave?”
Well, I’ve done it. I’ve written a controversial book. Frankly, I didn’t think I had it in me, but I have managed to enrage and confound the literary world with my complete disregard for ethics, morality and good taste. And, whoa baby, imagine how the literary world will react if this book ever gets published! Then the public will be able to witness firsthand how brazen, how arrogant, how self-centered an author can be. But I don’t think this will happen. Mercifully, you all will be spared the indulgent ravings of a cruel man with a dangerous agenda. Ah, that would be me.
I have a written a book – man this is tough – that is not about David Letterman. How could I be so heartless?
Until last September, I had been a monologue writer for David Letterman for six years, the last two at NBC and his first four at CBS. I left the show to try and become one of the eight people in the universe who make a living writing novels. So far, other than not selling anything, it’s been going quite well.
Since November, I’ve been shopping my first novel, Who Listens?, around to agents. When I told them I had left the Letterman show to write a book, each one lit up like Lucianne Goldberg’s smoke detector.
“What is it about?” most of them asked.
“Oh, you know. Typical first novel,” I said. “The fictionalized autobiography.”
“We’ve just sent a car. Put the manuscript in the back seat.”
The most diplomatic agents wait two months and squeeze out one of three rejections. Well, not rejections, more like letters of disappointment:
1) Are you writing anything else?
2) Did you send me the entire manuscript?
3) This isn’t your first novel. This is your second novel. Best of luck with your first novel.
That’s if they read the whole thing. Sometimes, they call me after they’ve finished the first chapter.
“Dave. He’s your dad, right?”
“When you talked about Paul Robeson being misunderstood, you didn’t make the connection for the reader that you were really talking about Dave.”
“You’re just setting the stage before you meet Dave.”
“Wait. I see. Very clever. You’re not you. You’re Dave if he was you.”
My answer is always the same: “Uh, no.” I can hear the feet tapping on the other end of the phone. The conversation I want is long over, but many agents don’t hang up. They continue to chat, on spec, but this is the conversation they really want to have (Note: The following is a composite of direct quotes I either altered or completely fabricated.):
“So?” they say.
“What?” I glib.
“Where is he?”
“You know who.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You think this is some kind of joke? You think people go into Barnes and Noble to buy novels?”
“I think people go there to get coffee and not buy magazines.”
“All right, so where is he?”
“No. Dave ‘Mr. Universe’ Draper.” (They never say that, but come on, give it up for an obscure late 60s reference.)
“Dave?” I volley. “He’s not in the book”
“You mean this book.”
“Well, that’s better.”
“So, when are you finishing the other book?”
“What other book?”
“The one about Dave.”
“I’m not writing a book about Dave.”
“But you mentioned another book.”
“No, you did.”
“Well. Okay. Now we’re talking.”
“I have started something else.”
“It’s about a guy….”
“No. A guy who has to….”
“Okay, Dave has to….”
“No. It’s about a guy who has to leave New York….”
“Because his talk show went off the air.”
“So, Dave is not going off the air?”
“So, why is Dave leaving New York?”
“It’s not about Dave, and I haven’t gotten to that part yet.”
“Okay, easy fix. We can do this. Why would Dave leave New York? Why would Dave leave New York? Why would Dave leave New York? Why would – ”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, write what you do know. I’m sending over a release.”
“Look, I haven’t written anything about Dave.”
“Well, get going! And the release isn’t for the book. It’s your permission to be outfitted for a wire. You sound like a 40 regular. And, oh yeah, no big deal. You might want to ask for your old job back.”
Don’t kid yourself. There are all kinds of problems to deal with when you don’t write a book about a celebrity. First of all, are your sources accurate? Well, since my book is a novel and I’ve made just about everything up (Except the mention of my having a spastic colon and the story about my brother’s testicles.), my mind is my only source. Am I working with an accurate mind? Well, you see what I mean when I say there are all kinds of problems.
Second, what kind of legal entanglements do I leave myself open to by not writing about Dave? What about the rights of a television star who may want an unauthorized book written about him? I mean, come on, even some haircut from legal aid could prove that I am capable of being vindictive and spiteful enough to write such a book, and if not, I am fully capable of lying. Am I or am I not the man who just admitted to “making up” 95 percent of my first novel? Would the witness please answer the question? You make me sick, get off the stand!
Third, by not writing about Dave, my credibility becomes, at best, suspect. Let me get this straight, I see the guy every day for six years, leave the show and six months later there’s no 150,000-word diatribe wrapped in paparazzi rage with a forward by Dick Cavett? And I call myself a writer? Forget that, if I don’t write the book, it’s like I never even worked there. And if I didn’t work there, where was I for the last six years? Clearly, I have some explaining to do.
A lot of explaining. Like why I don’t need the six-figure advance I would surely receive for a book about Dave. Well, why don’t I? Am I doing that well? Like all of a sudden I couldn’t use some extra scratch? Come on, out with it. Maybe Dave paid me not to write the book. Wow. He didn’t, but wow anyway. And once the press gets a hold of this – “This” being the documented fact that David Letterman didn’t pay me to not write a book about him – well, get out the potato sacks, Martha, we’ve got ourselves another field day.
And while we’re at it, why didn’t Dave pay me not to write the book I have no intention of writing? What’s his problem? What doesn’t he have not to hide? You think you know a guy and then he doesn’t do something like this. Who is he to be beyond extortion? And what about my integrity? Certainly that’s worth a few bucks. Ironic, isn’t it? I am left saddled with a life of honoring someone else’s privacy. I’m the one who ends up the prisoner of fame. And let me tell you about being a prisoner of fame. It’s lonely. Almost as lonely as if I was actually famous. Oh, why are the innocent always the victims?
Enough. I’ve gone on and on about the book I haven’t written. Hey, wait a minute…. Maybe there’s a book in this. A novel. About a guy (not me) who used to write monologue jokes for a talk show host (not Dave) and left the show (not his) to write a book (the one I wrote), and the struggle he faced not writing the book that everyone wanted.
I think I’m really onto something here. Maybe I can get Dave to write the foreword. He owes me. He owes me big time. Okay, he doesn’t, but I mean, would it kill him?