Monday, September 29, 2014

Chapter 53 – Thespian Days

It was now a few months after Mom’s passing and I needed to put my energies into something constructive. Jonathan and Daniel were in elementary school and Morgan was going to Thompson Station Day Care three days a week which afforded me the luxury of having two free days to create, make money, play golf and whatnot. Then word came down that they were closing up shop and we had to find a new day care facility for Morgan. Wonderland day care in Franklin was about ten miles away and much more of a schlep than the place on the corner only two miles away. Morgan didn’t really like the atmosphere and their strict rules all that much and when they informed us they were raising their rates, I volunteered to keep my youngest son home until the time he would start nursery school in six months time.
I was earning a decent part-time wage working Ebay for all it was worth buying and selling guitars, amps and recording gear. I spent my free time writing songs for my next album at night or when Morgan was napping. Still, I felt that the boy needed some extracurricular activity to keep his creative juices flowing. I found out about an art class down in Spring Hill (the next town south of Thompson Station) that was a parent/child facility. It sounded like a lot of fun—it was! We shared our hours there making paper Mache masterpieces and balloon mobiles covered with sparkly things and such. It was a fantastic way to bond with my three-year old and I felt like I was getting to know him better. Being a house-husband was wonderful; I could understand what John Lennon was raving about in the final five years of his life.
One of the mother’s who came to the art studio, Marcia Gallardo, told me about a new group of actors forming at the Spring Hill Arts Center aka SHAC, and they were looking for people for the upcoming production of Oliver. I figured, why not. My father was an actor and I knew it was in my blood. The play’s director and head honcho of SHAC was a seasoned veteran by the name of Dionne (another Yankee) so I decided to audition for the lead as Fagan. After a week of deliberations, it came down to a decision between me and another more experienced actor, John. He ended up getting the lead part, but I received enough kudos for what they believed was talent (I wasn’t so sure) and got the part in a supporting role as Doctor Grimwig. I was okay with that and actually a bit relieved not to have to memorize so many lines. I did three more plays after that, one original called Crossings where I played the part of Isaiah dressed in a long beard and tunic, and Up the Down Staircase. In the latter, I had a scare when I had totally forgotten my line, (an actor’s worst nightmare). There was a thirty second pause where the tension in the air was as thick as Steak Tartare. I felt like I was completely naked and could do nothing else but wing it. Finally, I made up some speech and I think I got away with it since the play resumed—the show must go on! Even though there was that one hiccup, I had a great time doing these plays and had learned so much about acting from Ms. Dionne that I decided to audition for the lead as Cpt. Hook/Mr. Darling in the autumn production of Peter Pan. I was into really it. I bought a Howard Stern wig and grew a handlebar mustache (I even waxed the tips) and soul patch. I looked awesome (if I do say so myself) and got the part.
There were open auditions for children to play various roles such as Peter Pan’s crew and Hook’s navy, so I encouraged Daniel (who was six-years old at the time) to try out. He was hesitant at first but when he saw a few friends from school had also gotten parts he got with the program and got the part as Dirty Dan, one of my dastardly crew members. It took a lot of work to memorize the lines and dances for the part of Cpt. Hook but I felt up for the task, after all, I am a pirate at heart and can be downright scary if I put my mind to it. Funny enough, Marcia, the woman who suggested I check out SHAC got the part as my wife, Mrs. Darling.
There was a scene where Cpt. Hook goes off stage to fetch a lantern to investigate a disturbance in the galley of the ship which was in actuality Peter Pan making crocodile sounds and generally taking the piss out of the fearful captain. I had an idea. I wanted Daniel, who didn’t have any speaking lines, to have a few lines, well at least one. Hook said, “Dirty Dan, go out and fetch me my lantern.” He replied, “Aye aye, sir,” and would venture into the wings to get the said lantern. While he was off-stage I said, “I really like that young chap, he’s like a son to me,” which got a big laugh since most of the audience knew he was actually my son. Like my father, I loved to improvise. It reminded me of the time when my father was playing Sammy Fong in the show Flower Drum Song. There was a scene where the waiter brings an ice bucket with champagne to him but while making his entrance the waiter knocks into a hanging microphone that begins to swing violently back and forth. The waiter said, “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?” My dad said, “Yes, can you please stop the microphone from swinging.” The crowd went absolutely wild and I was beaming with pride for my father who not only eased the tension but made it seem like it was part of the show. I’ll never forget that.
During one particular performance of Peter Pan, there was a child in the audience that was crying and it began to get annoying not only to me but the rest of the cast. One of my crew had a line, “is there anything else I get do for you captain?” I answered, “Yes, can you please get that young child to stop his incessant crying.” I gave that poor child the look of death. I found out years later when he approached me that he had had nightmares for years about it. Just like my father had done fifty years earlier, I had done my job!
After the show ended, the assistant director, Myra Anderson, informed me that she had written a play called Fairytale Confidential, a story based on the Grimm fairytale’s about four characters (Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty) who had psychological problems. I got the part of Dr. Grimm, the psychologist. It was a main role and I had to learn a ton of lines, most of which were fairly interchangeable. For example, “I see,” or “I understand,” and “tell me more about your mother,” were easily confused.” Sometimes I had the habit of improvising which frustrated the other actors (all women, except for Prince Charming who might as well have been a woman.) I thought it would be a blast being in a play with good looking females but, I’m afraid, it was not the pleasurable experience I thought it would be.

We performed a preliminary week’s run at The Bongo Java, a well known coffee house in Nashville. There was of tension developing between the cast and me since I didn’t want to participate in their nightly prayers to Jesus before the curtain rose. Oh I went along with it at first, but the whole idea of praying about a performance seemed in the same league as praying for the outcome of a high school football game. I think God has more pressing things on his plate. One night Myra hired her daughter, a twenty-one year old know-it-all, to work the lighting. As she was moving the fader for a blackout, there was a glitch in the system which would cut out the lights in mid stream. I, knowing a little about such things, figured it was probably some dust in the fader and all it needed was a little movement to work out the kink. The young girl marched up to me scowling and said with an attitude, “So, I suppose you are the new lighting engineer, too? Take your hands off the damn fader.” I had had enough. There was no way an ingĂ©nue was going to talk to me with such disrespect and I was going to let her know how I felt. I said, “You know, you are just like your mother, a REAL BITCH!” I walked off without turning around but I could feel her and her mother’s stares like poisoned daggers in my back. It goes without saying that when the second run of the show scheduled for a few weeks later, I was not asked to return as the lovable Dr. Grimm. It was a shame since I really enjoyed the well written play and thought it had a lot of potential. But I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut about how I felt. I think that is a major theme in my life. Somebody has to speak up—it might as well be me. That was my last play. It was time for me to get back to the music and begin work on my new record; still, it was a lovely distraction while it lasted.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Chapter 52 – Cadillac Eyes

I’m looking forward to going back,
A sojourn to the past.
They say you can’t go home again,
 But I know that in the end,
 I’m looking forward to going back—JWH

The mind is like the internet or vice versa. Sometime you hit a link that leads to another link and you spend the whole day linking up instead of getting down to business. Well, last week I wrote about the Silver Quaich and it made me think of the original one in ’97; which linked me back to what happened just prior to leaving for Scotland in July of that year. I must have blocked it out. Either that, or the Tramadol or Ibuprofen to block the pain of a root canal and a fractured molar has clouded my mind. How could I have passed over one of the most important events in my life? Even though I’m backtracking a little –here it is.
It was July of 1997 and Bridget Bardog was 16 years old and, as most dogs at that tenuous age, her health was failing. The five Haymers had booked a flight for Scotland scheduled to leave the last week in the month and we were worried about putting Bridget in a kennel. I knew it would most likely kill her and I couldn’t stand the thought of abandoning the poor girl; she would have thought the same thing, that I was abandoning her in her time of need, her last precious weeks, days or hours on the planet. Animals (especially dogs and cats) know these things. She didn’t have any diseases, no heart trouble, (all the years we spent together, me on skates and her pulling me along the streets of Los Angeles kept her in shape) the only problem was her age. She had lost a lot of weight and was incontinent. (What do you expect?) I would bathe her every day and still, I hate to mention, how horrible it was to see her rump covered in maggots. I would spray her with vinegar mixed with water and then brush the dead maggots off of her with a toothbrush. I knew it was time but I couldn’t let go. Fortunately, we adopted a male, black cat named Mowgli in 1996 and, as it turned out, he helped us through the hard time of letting go of Bridget and would earn the distinction of being the family’s once-in-a-lifetime cat. More about him later.
Bridget’s life-long friend and companion, Ginger, had succumbed to liver cancer two years earlier at the age of ten. We had to put her to sleep. I was going to take her to Dr. Woody’s before Donna got home but, as fate would have it, my MGB-GT (one of the most reliable cars I had ever owned) decided not to start. I tried everything I knew to get it going, cleaned the spark plugs, charged the battery, checked the points in the distributor—all good. As fate would have it, as soon as Donna got home, the car fired up. It was the hand of God intervening, waiting for my wife (who had a special attachment to Ginger) to come home to say a final farewell.

 But now it was Bridget’s turn to leave. I wanted her to live forever but I knew that was a child’s dream. At least, I hoped, she could pass on naturally before we left on our trip across the sea. On Sunday, during the final round of the British Open, it was unusually hot and humid here in Tennessee. I let Bridget out, as I usually did, to the place in our front yard where she would lie down overlooking the rolling hills and tree-lined hollows of Thompson Station. I was watching Justin Leonard fighting his way to the top of the leaderboard and had forgotten about Bridget. When I realized that I had left her outside too long in the heat, I panicked and went outside to look for hoping that it was not too late. I didn’t see her in her regular spot, so I searched high and low. I couldn’t find her. I remembered that when it’s time for animals to die, the sometimes go off on their own not wanting to burden their owners with seeing them in pain or misery. That’s what my Beagle, Sammy Fong, did in the seventies and I thought that was what she had done. Then I saw her. Bridget was lying in the hot sun in the neighbor’s front yard. She wasn’t moving.
I picked her up and carried her lifeless body into the house. I was in too much shock to cry, but I knew the tears would flow sooner or later. I gently placed her on the Indian rug in the foyer and called out for Donna who was in the kitchen making dinner. When she saw the poor dog she cried out, “Oh my God, no!” I didn’t realize she loved her as much as she did. I had forgotten that she had lived with Bridget for nine of the sixteen years—more than half the sweet dog’s life. Jonathan (Morgan wouldn’t come along for another two years) was out visiting with a friend and Daniel was in his crib taking a nap. Even though Daniel would have been too young to understand, I was relieved they didn’t have to see Bridget like that. I moved her body into the shed (my makeshift garage) and put her down on the passenger seat of my Austin Healey. She used to love going for rides in that car and I felt it was only fitting (even though she was in doggie heaven) for her to spend her last moments there.
I dreaded having to dig a hole and bury her in the pet cemetery on the side of the house, besides the ground was dry and as hard as cement. I decided to have her cremated and put her ashes in a beautiful black and gold urn Donna and I had gotten as a wedding present. The next day I took her body to Cedar Hills and they did the deed. Her remains are on my bookshelf now resting beside my favorite novels (Mulligan’s Tour is one of them.)
 A week later, we were on a plane heading for Scotland. It’s like she knew the dilemma I was in and let go of her life so I didn’t have to worry about her. Bridget Bardog was the greatest animal I had ever had the pleasure of knowing. I thought about the first time I saw from my kitchen window on Radford Drive. The emaciated Shepherd/Wolfhound mix running in circles on Ventura Boulevard she began sniffing an old lady waiting for the 150 bus that goes from Canoga Park to Universal City and back again. The bus pulled up and opened its doors, and the dog followed. A few minutes later, she exited, or more likely thrown off the bus, and then bolted back to the alley. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing; like a scene from a Charlie Chaplin movie with the lead part played by a dog.
I went downstairs, and saw Jack (the retired aircraft mechanic that lived in the laundry room) and a few of his drinking buddies feeding the poor animal. “Hey Jack, whose dog is this?”
“He’s been hanging around here for a few days and we’ve been feeding him. Her name’s Bridget Bardog—at least that’s what we’ve been calling her.”
“Bridget Bardog? That’s perfect.”
I crept up to the dog, who began to sniff my crotch, and then lick my hands, which still had the pungent scent of hot dogs and mustard on them. “She seems to like you,” Jack said without any attitude at all.
“Do you think I could keep her?”
“Well that would be up to her, I think.”
I knelt down, looked at the dog, and then petted her head. “Bridget, you wanna be my dog? I’ll feed you the good stuff, walk you and take you for rides in my cool sports car, and even take you to the doggie doctor. I know you won’t like that part, but I’ll bet anything you have worms. I’ll be upstairs waiting. What do you say?”
The dog tilted his head, as if she completely understood. I went up the fifteen stairs that led to my apartment and waited. Twenty minutes went by and nothing. I looked out the window and didn’t see her; wondered whether I should go back down. That’s when I heard the clip-clop of claws scraping against the pebbled stairs. It was Bridget.

That was September of 1981. I had recently broken off my relationship with Marly, and now I had the much needed companionship, even though she was a dog, she instantly became my best friend. Problem was, being broke and gigs were scarce, I needed to get a job. It wasn’t only me now; I had another mouth to feed. I went back to Central Supply (the phone sales job I had in Hollywood, but they had recently moved to Van Nuys.) I soon was making enough money to pay the rent, feed us both and buy a Porsche 912, a poor man’s Volkswagen.
I’ll never forget the time I bought an ounce of weed and kept it in a baggie under my bed. I went out for a few hours and when I returned I saw Bridget passed out on the kitchen floor. There were remnants of green twigs and things in her mouth and I knew what she had done. I checked under the bed and it was gone. She had eaten the whole ounce, or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I freaked out and called my vet hoping I wouldn’t have the cops knocking on my door—but it was more important to find out what to do. Dr. Kim told me to douse her with Pepto Bismol and try to induce vomiting if I could. I then discovered part of the baggie in the kitchen by the fridge and was relieved to see at least half of the marijuana in the shredded bag. I poured half a bottle of the pink stuff down her throat. She shook her head in protest; struggled to her paws (even though she had walked into walls and her legs splayed too weak to support her weight) I knew she was going to be okay. But I had to make sure.
I drove her to Dr. Kim’s at Studio City Animal Hospital and concurred with my prognosis. He gave her a complete physical and then told me she had Cadillac eyes.
“Cadillac eyes?”
“Yes, but it is not too serious. The most important thing now is for her to rest and drink lots of water.”
“I soon realized that he (being from Korean descent) meant something entirely different.
“Oh, you mean she has cataracts.”
“That’s what I said, Cadillacs.”
I thought about the days she had pulled me (on my roller-skates) over the streets of Los Angeles, Burbank, Santa Monica and Venice. The dog had amazing endurance and it kept me in shape, too. That led to my meeting Maria, my pregnant, eighteen-year-old, punk rocker girlfriend that had run away from the domineering step mother in Germany. Maria had the baby and we gave it up for adoption (one of the hardest thing I ever had to do) and then I followed her over to the Fatherland. I had to come back to America, not because I missed my homeland or my family and friends (even though I did miss them a little)—I missed Bridget more.
I made a list of places we’d moved in and out of together over the years: Radford to Oakhurst; Highland, and back to Oakhurst; Mammoth Avenue in Van Nuys; then back to Oakhurst again; El Cerritos near Hollywood Boulevard; Washington Way in Venice:, Oakhurst yet again; Canton Drive in Studio City, where my parents had moved after getting thrown out of Oakhurst (because of Bridget and her three puppies born in May of 1982. My Mom and Dad kept two of the puppies and we gave one away to a neighbor); Camrose Drive, where they’d been living when I met Donna; 2107 Vine Street; 4711 Santa Lucia in Woodland Hills where Jonathan had been born; Chas’s guest house in Franklin, Tennessee...and finally the hundred-year-old farm house on Thompson Station Road where Daniel and Morgan were born, and who knew how many places she’d lived before I had found her. Fifteen places in her sixteen-and-a-half-years—that’s 115 in dog years. That night in July, 1997, Donna and I cried and laughed, and cried some more about sweet, loving Bridget Bardog—the once-in-a-lifetime dog who changed my life forever. The amazing dog with the Cadillac eyes.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chapter 51 – Damned Yankees and the Millennium Quaich

While relaxing in my office with my feet up on the desk I thought about what possessed me to want to write a Faustian golf screenplay in the first place. I thought about getting back into the music now that I had put the script away in that drawer but I hadn’t written a song in months.
I thought about the trip I had taken with my father to Wallingford, Connecticut in 1963. He was playing the role of Applegate (the Devil) in the musical, Damned Yankees in the theatre-in-the-round circuit along the eastern seaboard of the United States. I was in seventh heaven, just me and my dad and a cast and crew that consisted of starlets and baseball players. What more could an eleven year old kid want? It gets better.
Not only were we staying at a Tally-Ho motel with the cast and crew, there was a baseball field in the back with a real pitcher’s mound and machine rolled foul lines in pristine white chalk. The baseball players in the show all had Spalding Whitey Ford signature model baseball gloves and in the early afternoon, after they had their noon-time cup of coffee, someone decided to play a pick-up game on the field. I was so excited they included me in their festivities I almost forgot to get my glove from my dad. He didn’t play that afternoon; instead he was the home plate umpire, a job more suited to his demonstrative personality. He let me borrow his glove and I took my position as the starting second baseman for the Yankees against the Senators. I got three hits (I’m not sure the pitcher was throwing goose-eggs but I still managed to smack them into center field). I also threw a few of the opponents out at first and made a diving catch over the bag in the middle of the diamond. The shortstop came over and tousled my hair saying. “Way to go, kid.” I was one of the proudest moments in my life.
That night was the opening of the show and I got to hang out backstage watching my amazingly talented father in his red shirt underneath a black suit play the part of the nefarious Mr. Applegate. Not only was a treated like an equal, I was coming on like gangbusters to the statuesque showgirls who thought I was so damned cute. I didn’t care if they thought of me as harmless, in my mind I was planning to have an illicit time with them (even though I wasn’t quite sure what illicit meant or how I was to go about consummating any kind of serious romance). It didn’t matter—they were gorgeous and were paying attention to me.
After the show, my father and some of the cast went to a diner where they served them gin in coffee cups so if raided, it would look like they were all having a harmless cup of java. I was a little confused by it all but didn’t question anything. I was on a natural high—baseball, broads and showbiz. It goes without saying that day influenced me greatly. No wonder I ended up writing a story that was golf’s version of Damned Yankees.
Of course that show was a major influence and thirty-six years later working at Nashville Golf and Athletic for Mr. Whittemore proved to be a culmination of that story. I knew I had something special. My father was an actor who played a little golf and in Mulligan’s Tour his character, Johnny Mulligan, was the opposite—a golfer who did a little acting. But there was some other incident that rekindled my love of golf—The Millennium Quaich.

In 2000, five Haymer’s went on our fourth or fifth trip over to Scotland. In the old days, my drinking days, single-malt scotch was my favorite drink bar none. My brother-in-law, Roy, had organized a golf tournament called the Silver Quaich; a tribute to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s throwing the silver goblet into the Firth of Forth in defiance of English rule. It was the second time I was to participate in the tournament. Three years earlier, in 1997, (leaderboard pictured) I had come in 6th place. I was the lone American out of twenty-five Scottish golfers.

 Now the Quaich was taking place in Pitlochry, the same place where I proposed to Donna twelve years earlier. I was excited and in dread about playing with these same twenty-five Scottish blokes since the winner was supposed to drink a dram of whiskey from the traditional representation of the famed silver chalice. What if I won? Would I be tempted to drink? I didn’t want to purposely lose but I also didn’t want to get into a situation where I would feel obligated to perform the ancient rite.
Again, twenty-five Scottish golfers and I boarded the hired bus from Glenrothes to Pitlochry because after the two rounds of golf a lot of celebrating was going to take place and the golfers would be too drunk to drive home. A good, sensible idea. I remembered in ’97 I was bleeding drunk and could hardly make it in my in-laws front door without falling down. But now I was sober and I was sure I was going to be the only one who was after the tournament concluded.
Paired with big John Holmes and Ian McShane for the first round, I knew I was in pleasant company. John was a hulking Scotsman with fiery red hair and a large thirst for Murphy’s stout which he proceeded to devour after each hole. He was pissed as a skunk and his score reflected his inebriation. But, at least, he was a charming and hilarious drunk. Ian, a man in his late fifties, was playing it straight. In fact when he saw that I was contending in the tournament, he was more like a cheerleader giving me the confidence and inside information on how to approach the course. He was a godsend. I entered the clubhouse after the first round with a 79 and was in third place.
In the afternoon round I was fortunate enough to be playing alongside Ian and John again. By this time John had sobered up a bit and managed to keep the ball on the proper fairway. Ian was out of the running with his first round 96 so he concentrated on my game more than his own. When I was in the rough on the first hole he said, “C’mon Jamie, tak yer seven iron and knock it doon.” When I did as he said, I managed to cozy the ball up between the pot bunkers and the ball came to rest ten below the pin. Scottish courses are much different that American ones where instead of everything rolling toward the center the fairways and greens, they seem to slant to the roughs. I mean you could hit what you thought was the best shot in the world and still end up out of bounds. And the roughs? They’re nearly impossible to escape from. You have to muscle your way out.
While Big John and Ian bogied and double bogied their way through the next five holes, I had parred them all. I was one under par. Now at the highest elevation on the course, the view of the ancient castle in town was breathtaking. It was also the most difficult part of the course. I bogied seven and eight but birdied nine and had racked up a decent 39 after the outward nine.
The back nine was a series of dog-legs that I somehow managed to survey without too much difficulty. I guess between Ian’s coaching and my prior knowledge from the first round I came into the clubhouse with a 77— 39 on the front and 38 on the back. With only three golfers left out on the course I was in first place. My brother-in-law, Roy and the other mates were slapping me on the back congratulating me for having the tournament sewn up. Their only regret was having to hand the Quaich over to a Yank. I told them it wasn’t over yet since Stevie Robertson, and Alan Tait, two of the top golfers were still out on the course. My insides were churning like butter. I was hoping that Stevie or Alan would have a great showing. Second place would be fine and the prize was a Lyle and Scott sweater. I could handle that.
Alan had a tough second round and came into the clubhouse worn and weary. But not Stevie Robertson. He shot a 76 and had beaten me by one stroke. I came in second and, much to my relief got the gray sweater. At least I didn’t have to break my sobriety and the Scotsmen didn’t have to relinquish the Quaich to a Yank. “All’s well that ends well.” Shakespeare said that. “I’d rather have a Lyle and Scott sweater than a Quaich full of Glenfiddich single-malt scotch.” I said that.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Chapter 50 – 50th Draft

The day was a dry, California hot and the lake in San Dimas was huge, placid and inviting. Jonathan was having the time of his life on location with WACK (Wild and Crazy Kids). He participated in some boating adventures, jumping from one floating raft to another without getting wet (at least not too much) was a challenge but his team, the yellow team was winning the competition. It was the most smiling I had seen Jonathan do since our last trip to L.A. in 1998. It was going to become the first of three father and son trips to L.A. Donna and I agreed that a week or two with me, one-on-one, would be a memory the boys would take with them throughout their lives. Me too. So Jonathan, being the oldest, had set a precedent. When Daniel turned ten and then again when Morgan reached the same milestone, they would each experience the dad/son experience. It worked out well except Morgan had to wait until he was eleven. He didn’t complain—he never does. They are all such great, well adjusted kids. Must have gotten that trait from their mother.
Jonathan was exhausted on the ride back to Susan’s and slept most of the way there. The next day I had a meeting with Miguel Ferrer to discuss the 50th draft of Mulligan’s Tour, the screenplay I had written. It’s true most writers may indulge themselves in five, maybe ten drafts before their work is done, but since I was a novice and was learning on the job it took a little more effort on my part. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, I just needed it to be right. Miguel picked me up in front of Susan’s house at 8 a.m. in his white Porsche Carrera GT convertible. He suggested Art’s Deli in Studio City. I nodded my head thinking a good old lox, eggs and onions, and some strong coffee would complement our discussion. I hadn’t been to Art’s in years, but nothing had changed; I think the same waitresses were there, too. The breakfast was just like I remembered, plenty of lox in the eggs and extra cream cheese on the bagel with a Bermuda onion. I transferred some of the lox to the bagel and it was just like Sunday mornings at the Haymer household. It made me a bit teary-eyed to think of those amazing mornings with my mom and dad. I would pass that torch if I could find a good Jewish deli in Williamson County. The closest place was located in Nashville, funny enough, called Noshville. It goes without saying that the tradition of bagels on Sunday at the Tennessee Haymer would be far and few between. The jury was still out on the Bar Mitzvah situation. We didn’t belong to a temple yet since the closest one was in West Nashville, almost forty miles away. Jonathan, being ten, was already very late in his Hebrew tutelage even if he were to start when we got back from L.A. That would be a bridge to cross when we returned home.
Miguel mentioned to me that the screenplay was “almost there” but needed a little sprucing up. He had a writer friend who had agreed to look it over and help put the project in a presentable state. As long as he didn’t change the basic structure and story, I was not opposed to working with the guy. I knew a screenplay, not like a book, was read by a plethora of people before it ever got to the production stage and this would be the initial link in that chain. I thought I’d better get used to making some sacrifices for my art.
The next morning while Jonathan was hanging out at Susan’s, I rang the doorbell of the condo on Longridge Drive, not more than a mile from my parent’s last house together on Canton Drive in Studio City. As the door opened I saw a tall, skinny guy with thin brown hair and googly eyes staring back at me. He invited me in, made some coffee and suggested we sit out by the pool. I carried my bag with the screenplay and leather bound notebook to take down ideas. We were going to brainstorm in the California way—coffee, cookies and intense sunshine. I’m glad I brought my Ray-Bans.
In this draft, the opening scene was Mark Mulligan returning home from an appointment—he sold life and health insurance. As he unlocked the side door, a bolt of lightning illuminated the sign, Mulligan’s Lair, over the ingress of the door. The writer, who I will refer to as Barney Google, thought it meant the story should be a spoof—a comedy of sorts. I sat there listening to his ideas with a frozen expression on my face. I am not the kind of person to mince words and I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I knew I had to be careful not to offend Barney Google if I wanted the project to advance. The guy just wasn’t getting it at all. Driving back to Susan’s, I was mortified. What was I going to do? I figured I would sit with the changes and work it out when I got back to Tennessee. That was exactly what I did. After a week or so, I delved in. Nothing was working. I was losing the thread of the story. Barney Google was completely wrong about everything. I had to let him go.
It turned out to be a moot point. That fall the movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance, came out. It had mixed reviews and a poor showing at the box office. I thought the movie was good and might open the door for the studios to pick up more golf movies. Wrong. I called Miguel to apprise him of some of the changed I had made to the screenplay— a tightening up of the story. I took out the melodrama of the lightning storm and made it less like a Lon Chaney or Roger Vadim movie. I thought it was a good compromise. Miguel never returned my call. Same with Barney Google. I was beside myself with anger and depression. Miguel was supposed to be a friend, somebody I went to high school with. He was the drummer in Silverspoon until Mal Evans (under the influence of Larry Harrison) had fired him. How could he just ignore me like that? I was so distraught; I put the screenplay in the drawer and there it would stay. It was time to get back to the drawing board with my next album. I quit the Tennessee Screenwriter’s Association and rededicated myself to music. What was I thinking? Did I really think I was the next David Mamet? Still, that story was haunting me and in the night I swear I could hear knocking coming from that drawer and a small voice was saying, “Let me out—let me out. Ten years later I opened the drawer and let it out.