Suze re-emerges from the potty room and we decide we’ve now had too much fun at the Market, so we head out. In the parking lot I look up and notice that across the street is the WGA Library. Again, being from that corner of the planet which is NOT Hollywood, access to the WGA library of scripts and such is something of a rare treat, so I insist on crossing to visit.
We pass through the magnificent Stephen J Cannell gallery to enter the hallowed William Wilder Reading Room. The Billy Wilder room is a smaller than expected but still impressive library featuring a long central table (where three different people are set up with their Mac laptops, all intently banging away on what surely are their own spec screenplays), and loaded shelves filled with nearly identical leather bound volumes.
Screenplays. Thousands of them.
“May I help you?” asks a small yet somehow still intense voice. I turn and find a classic clichéd Spinster Librarian smiling at me with that tolerant smile of a librarian who is tasked with helping an idiot she’d really rather not help.
“Yeah, I was hoping to read a copy of a screenplay today.”
Spinster Librarian walks me in tiny stupid baby steps (as she has already categorized me for life as a paste-eating moron upon entry) through the hyper-complicated process by which a mere mortal might gain short-term access to read a script:
1) you write the title on a scrap of paper
2) you hand the scrap to the librarian
3) she “retrieves the material”
4) you may review the material at your leisure
5) you may NOT remove the material or make photocopies
6) when finished, you return the material to the Librarian
Somehow the Librarian makes it seem as though the process and rules are sacred and arcane, as she takes her time in making sure that I, a toe-sucking moron in her estimation, can understand the intricacies of this hopeless complicated dance.
“Fine,” I say, as Susan excuses herself to the bathroom again, it now having been 7.25 minutes since her last such visit.
I scribble the name of the screenplay on a scrap of paper—I’m almost certain that the paper is high quality linen stuff of the sort normally used only for the resumés of recent college grads eager to seem impressive as they apply for positions as assistant manager of a Luby’s—and slide it to Spinster. She looks at me with that nose in the air and eyes rolled up look that lets me know just how quaint and charming she finds it that a low-order simian is dressed like a human. She’s doing all she can to make me feel like Lancelot Link, and I’m making sure that I just smile smile smile and ignore her dismissive ‘tude.
She looks at the title and puckers in confusion.
“Animal House? You want to read Animal House?”
“I’m not sure we have that title in our collection.”
“You do. I already checked online. That’s why I’m here.”
“Well...” (she says it with exasperation, now tired of indulging the chimp) “... we’ll see about that.”
“Take your time,” I smile.
I swear — the woman groaned just like Lurch from The Addams Family.”
A few seconds later she comes back, leather bound title carried flat before her in her hands like a tray upon which a delicate object is balanced. I’m half surprised they don’t use the mechanical robot arms like in THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN.
“Here.” She lays The Materials on the counter, but does not sldie it to my side of the counter. “It’s actual title is National LamPOOOOOON’S Animal House.”
I try to squeeze her meaning from that oddly-emphasized phrasing.
“National LamPOOOOOON’S Animal House?”
“Yes,” she explains patiently for me in a way that communicates clearly taht she rates me a card carrying idjit, a moron incapable of operating doorknobs or pencils without adult supervision. “National LamPOOOON’S Animal House.”
“Well, I’ll be gentle with it, then.”
She nods and seems reluctant to let me have The Materials, so I surprised her by leaning in and grabbing The Materials from the counter. She seems surprised and serves up a slight gasp, but realizes too late that there’s nothing more to be done.
The Chimp has The Materials.
I plop down and start reading. Suze grabs a magazine—UROLOGY TODAY, I remember hoping—and then we kill an hour. During that time, my cellphone vibrates once, but I ignore it. (Not entirely true. I reposition the phone for increased nerve conductivity and pray for another call, but what I mean is that I did not check to see who the call was from.)
I finish National LamPOOOOOOON’S Animal House and return The Materials to the Spinster. She’s nervous, clearly expecting gunplay or a barfight or something. You can see it in her eyes— Monkeys throw their own poop, don’t they! Oh my god!”
I meet Suze as she comes out of the restroom, and we head back into the light where I check my cellphone for missed calls. We hop into Suze’s car and head up into the hills, up Mulholland Drive. As we cruise around the bends and through the canyons, I return the call that came in while I was in the Billy Wilder Room and end up laughing with Snake, one of my former college roommates, now a lawyer back in Texas.
The reason I’m laughing is that Snake called at exactly the moment I was reading a script about collegiate idiocy, a script which basically mirrors many of the memories that Snake and I share, a script which will no doubt be the model for a script about those memories and experiences, the script which most all of my college buddies have been on my ass to sit down and write for more than ten years now. Somehow, the ridiculously well-timed irony of it all amuses me.
I cut short my chat with Snake as Suze needs to find a restroom, so we pull into a Starbucks atop the hill, and I buy another 4-dollar bucket of go-go juice. Christ Almighty I’m am fried on caffeine, I think excitedly to myself in an internal voice which sounds like The Great Cornholio.
As I sit out front with my 4-dollar hypersweet iced tea, I marvel that this is a totally normal looking little strip center, one that looks not one whit different than any I might find back home, except:
1) it’s crowded by rugged hillsides which look only slightly less fake than the landscaping in a theme park
2) eucalyptus trees tower everywhere
3) there’s a short bald dude in a brown velour jogging suit wandering around the parking lot in front of me, yakking loud into a cell and gesticulating like a wildman, and he’s a dead ringer for a 4/5-scale model of actor Michael “THE SHIELD” Chiklis.
Suze emerges and sits with me.
“Look,” I say. ‘It’s a 4/5 scale model of Michael Chiklis....”
Brown Jogging Suit Guy turns around—apparently he heard me as I didn’t really bother trying to lower my voice—and I find that it’s not a 4/5 scale model of Michael Chiklis..
It’s actually Michael Chiklis -- the genuine article in all its surprisingly not so imposing majesty.
Chiklis seems confused and stunned, but I just laugh and give him a peace sign, and then he laughs loud and goes back to his call. I’d like to think that he told his phone-pal “some redneck Eddie Haskell looking mutherfucker just called me short!”, but perhaps that’s just the romantic in me.
Suze scolds me (she does that a lot—she’s very maternal that way) and we grab her car head off down The Hill. While winding down the backside into the San Fernando Valley, we swing past the home of one of the few Big Time Writer Pals we know, and we call his cellphone—perhaps Suze needed to use the facilities in his stately pleasure domes—but he’s away, likely schutzing with supermodels in Gstaad or smearing coconut oil on supermodels in Bora Bora or windsurfing on Mount Baldy.
We continue down the hill, slide onto the freeway back to Pasadena, and Suze explains to me that she has plans that evening, as some jazz-noodling pals of her have a CD release party as part of a fashion show at a gay disco.
In case you need help, “jazz” and “fashion” and “gay disco” are not exactly chart-toppers on my interest meter, so I beg off any more fun with Suze and head out into the lengthening shadows to see what last second amusement I can stir up in SoCal.
As I accelerate westbound back onto the 101, I pull my phone list and start running down the names, looking for someone I’ve not yet bothered.
I find a name. I smile, and I dial.