I had the worst nightmare last night.
I dreamt that I’d spent the weekend in Malibu, following in the footsteps of every screenwriter’s idol, Joe Eszterhas — lunch at Paradise Cove, a walk on Westward Beach to check out the bikinis, happy hour at Moonshadows, then dinner at Geoffrey’s, followed by a few carefully chosen nightcaps at the Dume Room in search of an appropriate companion for later in the evening.
For those who only know the Dume Room from St. Joe’s heroic accounts in such autobiographical tomes as Hollywood Animal and The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood: the Screenwriter as God!, let me tell you you’ll never find it unless you know where to look: in a little shopping mall on the west side of the Pacific Coast Highway near Point Dume.
(I’m not going to tell you exactly where it is, because then you might actually show up there and the last thing we need is more east coast tourists affecting the screenwriter’s mufti of running shoes, black jeans, black T-shirt, and baseball cap and trying to convince the Polish starlet at the bar to go to bed with them.)
Anyway, there I was, chatting up a few expensive-looking Malibu wives and their surfer-dude cabana boys when I suddenly realized that something was terribly amiss — I made a crack about what an idiot Bush is and nobody laughed.
I talked about a new thriller I’m pitching at Sony this week — a really cool, totally original project pitting a John Kerry-like hero against a redneck militia led by neo-Nazis bent on global warming — and this time they laughed. At me.
“Why not make it about, you know, Muslims?” asked one voluptuous blonde. “I mean, they’re the ones trying to saw our heads off and put these” — she jiggled part of her anatomy — “in a burka.”
“Why don’t you set it in Russia?” asked a surfer dude. “You wanna see some serious environmental damage, man, just check out what the Commies did to Kiev. Check out the water in Santa Monica Bay — hasn’t been so clean in 50 years.”
What the heck was going on? I quickly downed a couple of stiff ones — and nearly wept for joy when I saw Jon Voigt come through the door. At last, an actor!
“So what do you think of Chimpy McHitler’s bogus ‘War on Terror,’ Jon?” I inquired. “A plot cooked up in Texas by neocon Halliburton execs, right? I mean, since when has fire ever melted steel?”
Voigt was looking around the room, searching for somebody, but I tugged at his elbow until he finally deigned to notice me.
“Who the hell are you?” he barked.
“Dave — David Kahane. You remember, we met at the wrap party for Pearl Harbor?” I smiled modestly. “When Michael Bay brought me in to do the polish –”
Jon obviously didn’t remember. “Listen, fella, I’ll tell you the same thing I just told the guy from Radar magazine: The war on terror is real. People would have you believe it’s not real. This is not Vietnam. This particular situation is not the same wherein we can walk away and just leave destruction behind us. No, we can’t. Anyone who has paid attention to what Ahmadinejad is saying, what all the mullahs are saying in this country and in England, and in all of the Arab world, this is serious—they’re calling for the destruction of America and all democracy and that’s what’s going on. We could lose this war.”
“But, but –”
“They say our president lied to us. Well, he didn’t lie to us… Frank — over here!”
I turned to look. A middle-aged guy dressed all in black, with a fedora, was fighting his way through the crowd. Obviously, another screenwriter.
But as he moved through the crowd… they broke into applause. Even the hot chicks.
And then I realized I was looking at Frank Miller, the graphic-novelist turned, inexplicably, the toast of Hollywood just because his stupid movie about some dead Spartans has made $207 million to date and is still making more than a million dollars a week. Applause for a guy who crapped out on two RoboCop films!
Anyway, Miller and Voigt embraced, and then Jon turned to me and said, “Hey, Frank, tell what’s-his-face here, the writer, what you told the Los Angeles Times in today’s paper. You know, about radical Islam?”
The crowd in the Dume Room fell silent. Frank stared at me from under the brim of his hat for a moment…
“He writing a script about neo-Nazis!” shouted the bartender.
“And hillbilly militias!” chimed in the blonde. “Can you imagine!”
Frank’s eyes narrowed. “No wonder you don’t sell anything, cliché-boy,” he said. “Why don’t you write about what’s really happening? Get your head out of the sand” — O.K., he didn’t really say “the sand” — “and write like you got a pair.”
Everybody was laughing their heads off at my humiliation — in Malibu! — as Frank continued. “What people are not dealing with is the fact that we’re going up against a culture that finds it acceptable to do things that the rest of the world left behind with the barbarians in the 6th century. I’m a little tired of people worrying about being polite. We are fighting in the face of fascists.”
“But, but –”
The blonde bought Frank and Jon a round of drinks. She didn’t offer me anything as Frank continued:
“These terrorists are worse than any villain I can come up with, and I think it’s ridiculous that people in entertainment are not showing what we are up against here.”
I looked around the Dume Room, and every last person was nodding in agreement! Where was Danny DeVito when I needed him? Sean Penn? Rosie O’Donnell? My God, I was alone.
Suddenly, for one brief horrible moment, I realized what it must feel like to be a patriotic, conservative American in my own hometown.
My head spinning, I fumbled for my car keys and pushed my way toward the door. As I felt that first blast of pure Pacific air, I heard somebody ask Frank what he was working on. “A Batman vs. al Qaeda graphic novel called Holy Terror, Batman,” he replied. Everybody cheered.
I stumbled into the parking lot and revved up my Prius, with Frank’s final words still ringing in my ears: “Our hero’s key quote is, ‘These clowns don’t know what terror is.’ Then he sets out to get the guys.”
Then I woke up and, like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, I had a horrible realization: “This is no dream!” I shouted. “This is really happening!”