It was one of those perfect nights here in Los Angeles. Ginger and her girlfriends had left, the hot tub was quiet, and the lights of downtown sparkled like Festivus-tree ornaments down the hill from my palatial pad in Echo Park. Only the occasional sound of gangbanger gunfire from Boyle Heights marred the stillness of the evening as I sat sipping my Jägermeister and contemplating the infinite void that my father, the sainted “Che” Kahane, had raised me to believe is my destiny. And then the phone rang.
“So listen, Dave,” said my agent, breathlessly. It wasn’t like her to be calling at this hour — heck, it wasn’t like any agent to be calling at this hour. As is well known, Hollywood observes strict business hours, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Pacific time, and if business can’t get done between those hours, it’s probably not worth doing. So this had to be big.
“This just might be your big chance so drop whatever it is you’re doing and fire up Final Draft, because we’ve got to hurry.”
I took this with a grain of salt. Hollywood is the land of hurry up and wait; everybody has to have everything yesterday, which means that all over this crazy town writers are even now tearing their hair out as they whip through spec drafts for their favorite producers while wondering how to make the rent — which, by the way, is too damn high. Then we turn in our work and wait months, if not years, to hear back. And, of course, the check is never in the mail.
So I was all ears. It ain’t cheap to maintain my lifestyle, even here in Echo Park, where we still march on May Day wearing red, speak Spanish to the help to show our solidarity with the coming Reconquista, and believe passionately in the innocence of the Rosenbergs, Alger Hiss, and Lindsay Lohan.
“You know what a hit Paramount has on their hands this weekend,” she said. “So I hear they’re crashing the next sequel and — amazingly — you’re on their short list of writers. You need to come up with a take, fast.”
Fast is my middle name. “When’s the bake-off?” I asked, “bake-off” being our inside-baseball, professional WGA members’ lingo for the parade of competing writers into an exec’s office, each one pitching his take on the project in question.
“This week,” she said. “ So hurry. And don’t screw this up, like you usually do. Remember — this is a straightforward popcorn tentpole movie that has to be in theaters next summer. Think teenage boy, which ought to be easy for you. In other words, girls, explosions, girls, explosions, more explosions, and girls. No moralizing. No social subtext. And absolutely no politics — unless, of course, you can help the Obama reelection effort. Got me?”
I got her. Leaping into action, I canceled the pizza delivery, ditched my doobie, shut down the phones, and fired up the computer.
And what do you know? In less than an hour, this is what I’d come up with. I’m showing it to you morons first, even before I send it to my agent, because I know that if the missing-gene brigade hates it, it’s a sure-fire, can’t-miss B. O. smash:
Transformers IV: The Quest for Fundamental Change — This Time, It’s Personal.
Act One: We open in Indonesia, where the quintessential outsider, BARRY SOETORO, thrills to the sound of the call to prayer, which as we all know is one of the prettiest sounds on earth at sunset. But on this day, something special happens: following the sound of the muezzin’s voice, our hero wanders into a magical cave, wherein he spies a small airplane, a scale model of a 747 emblazoned with the Seal of the President of the United States.
Now, in addition to being devastatingly handsome, with a trim, athletic body that looks good in bathing trunks, Barry is also whip-smart, with an I.Q. that can’t be measured even by professors at Harvard. He’s also kind to children and cute kittens, blindingly well read, and fluent in more languages and dialects than Sir Richard Burton — who, as you know, was married twice to Liz Taylor, which is our way of signaling to the audience that Barry is Hollywood royalty in the making, even though, as befits a quest movie, he doesn’t know it yet.