Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #49 – “Two Dreamers”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

This is a Tale of Two Dreamers.

The first Dreamer is Chet the Unhandyman. He and his DVD movie collection have lived on the Mountain with Gwen the Beautiful and me for two years. He came here to start a new life because his old one had gotten away from him.

I’ve known Chet for fifteen years, and tried to help him even though he’s difficult to like. Chet’s sarcastic and cynical and thinks he’s the smartest man he’s ever met. He lived in the trailer we call our “Annex” for over a year before trying to get a job, and regular readers know what’s happened to every job he’s gotten.

That’s right. Gone in three days. Because not only does Chet never seem to get his work—whatever it is—done, he drives people crazy while he’s not doing it, mostly by relating everything that’s happening around him to everything that’s happened in movies.

At fifty-six, it’s as though the only things that are real to him are the films he watches over and over and over again. Can’t find Chet? Look in front of the TV, where he’ll be dreaming dreams of himself as a character in Casablanca or Citizen Kane, or the little boy in Shane calling, “Come back!”

Dreaming dreams that aren’t his own.

The second Dreamer is Burl Jr. Until I saw him in Paradise yesterday I thought he was still in Bristol, Virginia, where he’d gone searching for love. But here he was, pulling me into the Music Store and showing me an old acoustic guitar. “Beautiful, isn’t she? Listen to the tone.”

He strummed a couple of chords so perfect they sent shivers down my spine. His boss, DW, looked over at me. “Burl bought that guitar from the father of the girl he went to see. Guess what it cost him.”

“It cost me the girl,” Burl Jr. admitted. “Brittany.”

He picked out a blues that sounded as innocent as he is. “I found her where I met her, at the Golden Corral. I told her straight out I’d come back to be her man. Then I moved into Motel 6 and started going to Brittany’s house everyday. Met her little girl and her mom and dad.

“The old boy’s a musician. Been touring forty years. What a guitar player! He and I played music on the front porch every night. He gave me this guitar, and that’s when Brittany took me aside and asked what I wanted to do with my life.

“I told her I had several possibilities but wanted to be like her father. And she freaked! She said he’d been the worst dad in the world, always gone, always broke. She said she’d never let herself love a musician, no matter what!

“I was dumbfounded. I sat in my car and started picking at the guitar, and realized that making music about how I felt was as important to me as loving or being loved. Maybe more.

“Next day I drove back here. I’m renting a room, and as soon as I’ve saved enough money I’m hitting the road to make it or bust.”

Burl Jr.’s dream stayed with me as I drove home. I stopped at the Annex, where Chet’s been holed up since he broke his foot. The doctor had said he could get back to his Cloud Creek chores this week, so I asked what his plans were.

“Oh, I think I’ll take it easy for a couple more weeks,” Chet said. “Don’t want to turn into The English Patient here.” And he turned back to Jaws on DVD.

A few minutes later I was dialing the Music Store. When Burl Jr. answered I asked if he’d like a free trailer to live in. “All you’ve got to do is feed the animals and look after things when Gwen and I are out of town.”

“Wow,” Burl Jr. said. “I could build up a real nice nest egg that way. End of the month okay?”

Now I’ve got to tell Chet the Unhandyman it’s time for him to move on. Because the way I see it is this:

Two dreamers. One represents everything I’ve worked hard not to be. The other reminds me of my hopeful self once upon a time. Which dreamer would you rather see across your clearing everyday? Which dreamer would you rather help fill with the sweet fire that is life?

Me too.

WGA-ATA Inching Forward…Maybe

by Larry Brody

Time now for the latest in the heroic struggle of Hollywood Writers Trying to Make Their Agent Employees Actually Treat Them Like Employers Instead Of Products.

Yes, that’s quite a mouthful. But when you get down to the proverbial brass tacks (or as I like to think of it, “brass brads,” after the fasteners that used to keep our script pages together before Final Draft software made hard copies obsolete) agents have historically treated the writers to whom they owe much of their living as little more than serfs.

Not much has gone on regarding the situation since last week, but the big news is that the ATA finally has moved from its start position to a place just a teeny bit closer to what the WGA has offered.

It’s just baby steps, really, but that’s better than nothing, no? Here’s the WGA summation of the situation as of last Friday:

June 7, 2019

This morning the Negotiating Committee received proposals from the ATA.  Although there was cause for concern, including a revenue sharing proposal that instead of 1% is now 2%, the presentation was wide ranging and complex.  We have asked for contract language on their proposals in order to formulate the appropriate response.  As we’ve stated, whatever solution we find, it will have to address conflicts of interest and realign agency incentives with those of their writer clients.

In Solidarity,

WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee

In Solidarity, Indeed!

LB

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #48 – “Horsepucky!”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

With Chet the Unhandyman bedridden with a broken foot, I’ve gone back to my pre-Chet lifestyle of getting up early every morning to feed and clean up after the horses.

“Clean up after,” of course, means shoveling horsepucky. Which is as close to nature as a man can get without being horsepucky.

Spiritually, pucky shoveling is one fine chance to talk to God or the universe or whatever you believe in. For the past couple of weeks I’ve spent much of the mornings telling my life story to whatever’s listening, and then listening for a response. What I’m hoping for is applause. But what I’ve heard so far sounds more like a sigh.

Physically, shoveling horsepucky is major exercise. I enter the corral with wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake. I go to the nearest pile of pucky, put my shovel down in front of it, and rake the pucky in. Then I dump my shovel-full into the wheelbarrow. And do it again.

When the wheelbarrow is full, I push it over to the fence—and—yes—dump it alongside other horsepucky dumped there in days gone by. In other words, all I’ve really done is move the pucky from the middle of the corral to the side, leading to the immortal question, “Why?”

There is a why. Horsepucky shoveling achieves two purposes.

First, it keeps the pucky from killing the grass and depriving the horses of more fuel with which to create more pucky. This only works, though, if you get to a pile soon enough, and right now I’m a good thirty-six hours behind Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang. So this part of horsepucky shoveling is, for all intents and purposes, utter horsepucky itself.

The second purpose of horsepucky shoveling is to keep flies from breeding and making life miserable for horses, dogs, cats, chickens, cattle, and, not so incidentally, humans like ourselves. Just between us, my life experience tells me that nothing keeps flies from breeding. But if you do it right you can cut down on the crop.

The trick is to not just dump the shoveled horsepucky into a mound along the fence but to spread it out in a thin layer so the sun bakes out all the nutrition those sweet little maggots need to hatch. I do the best I can, but I know full well that if I made my layer as thin as it should be it would cover not only the entire corral but also half our woods.

The best thing I can say about all this activity is that I get to hang with Huck, which is a terrific way to start any day.

Proud cut hunk that he is, Huck watches over his little herd more closely than a mother hen eyeing her flock. Since I’m part of Huck’s herd (or he’s part of mine; we’re still not settled on which of us is boss), he watches me closely from the minute I step outside, following my every move as I enter his domain.

Huck doesn’t understand what my pucky shoveling is about. He can’t imagine that any living being would bend down and peck at the ground unless it was for food. And if I’ve got food, then it must for him, right?

So as soon as I start shoveling Huck’s at my side, sticking his nose into every shovel-full to see if something good is waiting for him there. And with each one he raises his head back up and looks at me through huge, almond-shaped eyes and says, “Are you nuts, My Brother? What’re you wasting time with this pucky for?!”

And, every time Huck says that, I respond the same way: “To be with you, My Brother.”

“Why don’t we just chew some grass together?” Huck responds. “Or stand side by side and nibble along each other’s necks?”
He bares his teeth to show what he means. I bare mine. Huck shakes his head. “Awfully small,” he says.

“But my brain is very big.”

“Then why’re you shoveling up all my pucky?”

And on we go from there, bickering brothers even closer than Butch and Sundance.

I’m sorry about Chet’s foot but glad to have this time with my spotless brother. In fact, tomorrow morning I’m going to try something new. I’m going to tell Huck the story of my life—and then I’m going to teach him to applaud.

WGA-ATA Latest Salvos

by Larry Brody

Here they are, kids, the latest salvos in the War for the Hearts & Minds & Bank Accounts of Writers & Agents Who Formerly Were Best Buds.

A lot has happened since the last time we discussed this here at TVWriter™ , but what stands out in my mind is the shocking amount of ire directed at the members of the WGA by the ATA, which as a group has been violating its fiduciary duty for decades (i.e., fucking us over).

The good news last week was that UTA (that’s a talent agency) co-president Jay Sures asked WGA West president David A. Goodman to please, please, please come back to the bargaining table and Mr. Goodman accepted, which means, at least theoretically, that various injustices and ways to correct them already are, or soon will, discussed by the aggrieved and aggrieving parties.

Here are some highlights:

WGA Blasts “Bad Behaviors” Of Unfranchised Agents, Lawyers and Managers On Package Fees & Commissions

WGA And ATA May Resume Bargaining Talks June 7

And for those of you who are Writers Guild of America West members:

https://www.wga.org/messagewebview?tempName=Agency+Campaign+Update+5-31-19&tok=lHW71QkmVlw%3D

https://www.wga.org/messagewebview?tempName=Agency+Campaign+Update+Optics+5-30-19&tok=lHW71QkmVlw%3D

https://www.wga.org/messagewebview?tempName=Weekly+TV+Development+Memo+Launch+5-28-19&tok=lHW71QkmVlw%3D

I admit it. I look at all the info above, especially about the way we writers are pulling together and pooling job and development information, and all I can think is – why the hell didn’t we do all this years ago?

In Solidarity!

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #47 – “Sheriff Andy vs. the Tax Man?”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

It’s tax time for Cloud Creek Institute For The Arts, the non-profit corporation that eats all the money paid me by this fine newspaper – and then some – and that can mean only one thing:
Frankie Fitzgerald.

Frankie is Paradise’s sole CPA. He may even be the only one in the County. The difference between the way Frankie looks in, say, August, and the way he looks during tax season in March and April is the difference between day and night, beauty and the beast, or Al Pacino in THE GODFATHER and Al in INSOMNIA. I mean, this man works until he drops.

I’m not the world’s greatest judge of accountants, but it seems to me that Frankie knows his stuff. More important than his expertise, though, is his personality. From the minute I met him I loved him. I felt good being around him. Warm. Comforted. In good hands. Some people’s body language says, “Stay away!” His says, “We’re not touching, but I’m hugging you!”

In the ‘60s we would’ve said he had “good energy, man.” And we really could have said that because he and I are about the same age. We could’ve met at Woodstock, say, if both of us had been there. Or at least in Fayetteville, at a Razorbacks game. And we would’ve become friends, just like that.

I don’t go to Frankie’s office very often, but I look forward to each visit, no matter how deep the tax man’s bite. Frankie and I sit and discuss the weather and the latest gossip about his high school exchange student from France and what precautions we can take to keep from having to open a vein for the Feds again next time, and then I write some checks, and we shake hands and I go home.

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s the point. It’s not exciting in the least. It’s comfortable. No fuss, no muss, no sweat or strain. Pressure eases in Frankie Fitzgerald’s office. Burdens lift from my shoulders. Lines and years flow from my face.

Our meeting a couple of days ago was the perfect example. Yes, Cloud Creek’s taxes are going to be a little higher than we thought. Yes, several of those deductions we kept careful track of aren’t going to be allowed. And, yes again, I still don’t know how to make it come out better next time.

But Frankie’s smile made all of that seem about as important as whether our hens gave us five eggs or six on a day when we already have three dozen in the fridge, and nowhere near as significant as turning over our compost before the next rain.

As I got into my truck for the trek back to our mountain I thought about how good I felt. I realized Frankie reminded me of someone else who’d made me feel very good. My first thought was that it must be my grandmother, Pearl, who had the knack for making every one of her zillion grandkids feel the most special and most loved.

And then it hit me. Frankie Fitzgerald reminded me of someone I didn’t even know. The actor, Andy Griffith. Well, not really Andy Griffith but his most famous character, Andy Taylor. The Sheriff of Mayberry. Wise, strapping nephew of still wiser Aunt Bea. Understanding boss of Deputy Barney Fife. Confidant of Floyd the Barber. Opie’s daddy, the warmest, most lovable man most of us never have met.

How could I not feel good around the most trustworthy imaginary friend in the history of television—or just about anywhere else?

Andy of Mayberry! In person, doing my taxes with a self-deprecating, reassuring, and endearing grin.

Critics can argue about the effect films and TV have on audiences, but the way I see it TV’s version of Frankie Fitzgerald paved the way for me to welcome the real thing into my life. It let us shortcut the acquaintanceship process and cut to the friendship.

In this case I got lucky. The real “Andy Taylor” is every bit as good a man as the one I used to watch every week. Better, because he’s real.

But what about other people who remind us of wonderful characters yet are anything but wonderful themselves? Or who resemble bad guys but are in fact terrific?

From now on I’m keeping my brain as open as my eyes.