A NOVEL BY RICH LEDER
I was thirty-eight years old and on my way to Paramus for the first time since I’d left the Garden State for the Promised Land sixteen years earlier. I was flying home because my mother’s Aunt Ida was dead as dirt at the age of ninety-four. She was a prodigious cigarette smoker, feared for extinguishing her lipstick-stained butts on any forearm left exposed and within reach. This wasn’t because she was careless or daft or far-sighted but because she didn’t like you, even if she didn’t know you. She had no money and so lived off her relatives, who she never thanked and endlessly castigated. There was some vague uncertainty as to whether or not she was an actual blood relative. “There was no Aunt Ida and then suddenly there was,” my mother once told me.
My flight to Newark Airport was memorable because of a conversation I had with a fat man who helped himself to half my first-class seat.
“You in the movie business?” the fat man said.
I was working on a script. “Yes.”
“Me too. What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“Perfect. I’m always looking for writers.” He reached into his pocket, fished out a business card, and handed it to me with fingers as long and round as cigars. “Ken Moynihan. Great Dane Entertainment.”
I took the card and shook his hand, which was thick and meaty. “Mark Manilow.”
“What kind of movies you make, Mark?”
“Features. I’ve had one produced, but it’s tied up in a legal mess that’s never going to unwind. It’s called Full Force.”
“Who was in it?”
“Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
“No shit. That’s great. I make porn.”
There was nothing outlandish in his tone of voice. He might just as well have said: “No shit. That’s great. I make cutlery.” He saw the surprise on my face.
“People who live in glass houses, Mark. Know what I mean? Porn’s bigger than Hollywood now. It’s leaner, it’s meaner, and it has hot naked women getting it on like the sky is falling. Everybody’s making money. Nobody’s getting hurt. Customers couldn’t be happier. Porn is the biggest win-win in the world.”
“I don’t live in a glass house. I live in Coldwater Canyon. My house is on stilts.”
“Good for you. I shot a movie in Coldwater Canyon. The Pool Boy.”
“What was it about?” I couldn’t stop the question from falling out of my mouth. Ken had a big laugh. His whole face shook like a bowl of Jell-O. “I mean, I know what it was about,” I said, belatedly.
“Sure you do. Everybody does. That’s the kicker. The audience is in on the joke. We all know what the movie’s about. In this one, Dallas Westcott holds her pool boy hostage, screws his lights out, and then calls her friends over to do the same. Did someone say orgy? How much money you think I made?”
“I’m guessing plenty.”
“Cost me eighty grand to shoot, one fifty to market. Try again.”
“Three hundred thousand.”
“Add a zero.”
“I’m rich. I guess you figured that out. Know what I do with my money?”
“Anything you want.”
He laughed again. A great hearty roar. No shame. Not even a hint of guilt or regret. “I like you, Mark. When you get tired of Hollywood kicking your balls in, you call me. We’ll do some business, you’ll make some money, and I’ll get you laid. Let me tell you something, you’ve never met anyone in your entire life who can make you happier than I can.”
“I can’t write porn.”
“Listen carefully to this next sentence. It is the single greatest secret in an underground, multi-billion dollar industry that has evolved into the biggest subculture in the history of humankind, including every race, creed, and color in the rainbow. Here it is: anyone can write porn.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“Let’s see. Okay, I got one. Two nurses and a doctor go at it with a patient in the operating room. Patient’s in a full body cast. He’s got one hole for his tongue, another for his pecker, and all kinds of pulleys and shit to move him around in a dozen positions. Call it Broken Boner. We’ll get Dallas Westcott to play one of the nurses and make a boatload of cash. What do you say?”
I had no idea what to say. “I’ve got your card.” That’s the best I could do.