So a few years ago my friend Derrick went to Los Angeles to make it as a screenwriter. He didn’t even last two years out there. He came back in a year and a half without a satchel full of unproduced screenplays and without an agent. He did bring back, however, two Hollywood stories.
The first Hollywood story involves a beautiful actress.
Derrick had gotten a job working at a store that sold furniture. One day Raquel Welch bought a small coffee table and Derrick got the job of carrying out the table to her SUV. He said Raquel Welch in real life was very pretty, very nice and gave him a twenty dollar tip.
I said, “Yeah, well, was she wearing a bra? Did you see her breasts?”
Derrick said, “She was furniture shopping and I was carrying furniture out to her SUV. She wasn’t dressed for club-hopping and I wasn’t looking at her breasts!”
I said, “Oh, Derrick, you were in Los Angeles!”
His second Hollywood story involves a famous director.
One night Derrick was out taking an evening walk. He didn’t remember what street he was on. (It’s always a bad sign when a writer doesn’t remember [or won’t make up!] the pointless details that flesh-out a story.) At some point Derrick looked up and saw Blake Edwards walking toward him. Derrick introduced himself and told Edwards how much he admired his films. Blake Edwards made some strange hand gesture and then said something amusing and cutting which illuminated the very heart of the movie business. Unfortunately Edwards apparently had been drinking that evening and his speech was so halting, his pronunciation so slurred, that Derrick didn’t understand a single word of what Edwards said. Then Edwards just nodded and walked off into the beautiful Los Angeles night.
I said, “That’s a cool story for folks who know who Blake Edwards is. But is that the way you’re going to tell it?”
Derrick said, “That’s what happened!”
I said, “Yeah, well, but it’s a Hollywood story.”
Derrick told me that’s the way it happened and that’s the way he was going to tell it.
It the grand tradition of Hollywood stories, however, whenever I tell the story about my friend meeting Blake Edwards, in normal conversation—normal, that is, unlike a heart-to-heart blog posting—I usually tell it like this:
Yes, a friend of mine went out to Hollywood to be a screenwriter. He didn’t have much luck, though. He did have a cool brush-with-greatness while he was out there.
One evening he was walking along Hollywood Boulevard, looking at all the names and stars in the pavement of the Walk of Fame. At one point he looked up and there, walking right toward him, were Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards! My friend introduced himself and told them how much he loved their work. He told them that he was trying to make it as a screenwriter, he wanted to write films. They wished him luck. Julie Andrews said show business was all about persistence, about not letting the grind get you down. Then Blake Edwards pointed his index finger at my friend and said, “Let me tell you something about the movie business you should always remember. Really great movies don’t get made because of the skills and passions of a team of filmmakers. Really great movies get made in spite of the so-called skills and so-called passions of a team of filmmakers!” Julie Andrews grimaced and said, “Oh, Blake!” and hit him on the shoulder. My friend laughed, and said, “That’s very good!” Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards both wished my friend luck again, and then continued their evening walk. My friend shook his head, smiling. He was thinking, ‘Wow, that old Kinks song is right. You really do see the stars when you walk down Hollywood Boulevard!’