“I like it. And what’s the girl say when I walk in? I love that line.”
“‘Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?’ I stole that from Mae West — ”
“Will she sue?”
“Not if she knows what’s good for her.”
There was a moment of silence at the other end of the wire. “Listen, Dave,” he said, “I’m not so sure I can get up for this . . . ”
“This is no time to go soft, Weiner.” I must have barked because the D-girl jumped and nearly knocked over the life-size statue of Michelangelo’s David we’re using as one of the props. “You gotta get on the stick, get a grip on yourself.”
I could swear I could hear the sound of whimpering, or at least simpering. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do . . . ”
“You can act like a man!” I shouted. Sometimes you just have to talk to a guy in a tone he understands. “So when are you getting out here? My main character is a guy just like you — you wouldn’t even have to act.”
I could just barely make out some voices over the wallawalla at the other end. They were all saying the same thing: distraction, distraction, distraction.
“Dave,” he whined, “they cheered when I announced I was resigning.”
“That’s because they love you, Tony. You’re a man of the people, a regular guy who’s got his finger on the . . . ”
He started sobbing. “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it.”
“Kid, this ain’t your night. But it’s either my way or a one-way ticket to palookaville.”
“Tell me about it.”
“You want answers?
“I think I’m entitled to them.”
“You want answers — ”
“I want the truth.”
“You can’t handle the truth.”
That got to him. “I want to phone home.”
“Too late for that now. It’s my way or the highway.”
“Okay,” he said, flashing the stiff upper lip we all admire him for.
“It’s right here, waiting for you. The stuff that dreams are made of.”
I could hear the admiration in his voice now. “Jeez, Dave,” he said, “you can really write dialogue.”
“I’m the best there is,” I admitted modestly. “So that’s why you gotta listen to me. When the media finds out about your new career, you’ll have them eating out of your hand. Forget rehab — everybody in this crazy town loves a redemption story. Look what I did for Eliot Spitzer.”
“You know, Dave,” said Tony, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
I had him now. “You’re ready for your closeup. We start shooting tomorrow.”
“Made it, ma — top of the world!” he exclaimed. It was great to see the old Weiner fighting spirit coming back. “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
“And you are. Just think, your name in lights: The Full Monty II: This Time, It’s Personal.”
He was practically jumping for joy. “How do you think this stuff up?
I decided to let him in on our little secret. “We’ve got a saying out here in Tinseltown,” I said. “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.”
He paused for a moment, then dropped his voice. “Dave,” he said in a guttural growl, “I’ll be back.”
And he will, too. After all, tomorrow is another day.