Memo to: Anthony Pellicano
From: Peter Bart
re: fiction friction
I understand you’ve finished a draft of your new novel, Anthony, and that it reads pretty well. I’m glad you’re using your time in the slammer to good advantage and that when the Feds finally let you out (they have to do that some day), you’ll have something positive to show for the experience.
Certainly, you have not been forgotten in the interim. Newspapers continue to run stories (most recently in The New York Times) darkly suggesting that important players may face indictment for hiring you to tap phones. To be sure, no one has the slightest idea who (if anyone) will be named by the grand jury and, by carrying these stories, the papers succeed only in confusing true suspects with those who just happened to be interviewed along the way. The names most frequently bandied about include Bert Fields, the estimable litigator, Paramount’s Brad Grey, and Michael Ovitz, who dwells somewhere in oblivion. But, again, these are hints, not facts.
So that’s why I turn to you, Anthony. I don’t expect you to name names, because you’ve made it very clear that your personal code bars such a practice. In your novel, however, I would hope your cast of characters would lend some insight into the motivations and neuroses of your personal client list.
You have mingled with formidable power players, Anthony. Why not describe for your readers a character whose arrogance is so overbearing that he feels he is immune to the dangers that threaten mere mortals?
Depict a power agent who becomes embroiled in a quarrel with a client and casually hires a private eye to tap the phones of his adversary. Sure, it’s a federal crime, but who cares? Do the big bucks really trigger that adolescent sense of invincibility? Do powerful lawyers really come to believe that they don’t serve the law, they manipulate it?
These are intriguing characters, Anthony — grist for a truly insightful literary work.
Along the way, I hope you will write about a private eye who absent-mindedly stashes away firearms and explosives. Perhaps he’d happened on them while cleaning out the possessions of a particularly self-destructive producer client and never figured out how to safely dispose of the stash. These were not weapons of mass destruction, to be sure, but they’re still things you don’t want to leave around the house.
The key element of your life, Anthony, is that the real and the surreal have kept colliding and that, ultimately, you’ve become the victim of that collision. That’s why all this could yield a good novel. I hope you get around to completing it.
I can think of a number of studio executives who would pay a great deal of money not to have it come to the screen.
The shilling fields
Those two words “product integration” have begun to carry an ominous ring. We’ve all become inured to product placement, but there’s a difference between a Pepsi “accidentally” appearing on a table and the whole show being about Pepsi. Les Moonves of CBS isn’t helping things when he confides to Advertising Age that product integration will entail “breaking down the resistance of writers, directors and actors.” How about the resistance of viewers?
These thoughts were brought home recently by a segment of “The Apprentice” focusing on “Zathura.” No, “Zathura” is not a cough medicine or a condom — it’s a movie, albeit one with an especially clunky title that is, in fact, the uncredited sequel to “Jumanji.” Columbia Pictures decided that Donald Trump’s shock troops could be dispatched on a new mission — to figure out how to market a movie rather than selling hamburgers or toothpaste.
This was a gutsy decision by the studio — one that’s arguably counter-productive. Watching these minions struggling for a sales hook doesn’t make me want to see a movie; if it’s that hard to sell, it may also be tough to sit through. (Variety gave it a positive review.)
Whether or not “Zathura” reaches its audience, the incident points up a bigger question: Whatever happened to shows about people, not products? I’m lining up with all those artists Moonves is intent on “breaking down.”
Maybe product disintegration could be the wave of the future, Les.