! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

There's No Business Like Show Business!

Back in the 80’s, I started writing for television sitcoms and often found great material on the studio lot itself. Dozens of shows were being taped at any given time-and the incredible variety of actors, producers, directors and crews constantly provided great people-watching, and sometimes...conversations overheard that were far more entertaining than anything I could imagine writing.

One such conversation took place while I sat alone in my usual booth at the commissary, desperately trying to look as though I fit in with the other writers, scribbling away, pretending to work. Peeking over the banquette next to me, I spied a PRODUCER who had rejected one of my scripts script just a week earlier, arm in arm with one of the studio’s huge STARS, who was then riding an enormous wave of popularity based on her leading role in a top ten show. PRODUCER was introducing STAR to a NERDY looking guy who was attempting to carry a telescope, a manuscript and a briefcase, but failing miserably on all counts.

Intrigued, I looked up from my fake work and peered over my glasses, listening to the introductions taking place. From what I gleaned, the STAR was being wooed by the PRODUCER for a new show and the NERD was the science consultant, brought on board to explain the premise to STAR. My interest more than piqued, I picked up my pen...and prepared to take notes.

“Why hello, professor” said STAR in her famous southern drawl. “Goodness, that telescope looks impressive”. She stroked it in a weirdly provocative gesture and batted her eyelashes. NERD fussed at her hands and fumbled with the telescope.

“Really, miss, if you don’t mind- I’d rather you didn’t touch the equipment. It’s on loan from the University and quite valuable”.

“Honestly professor, I’m not a infant !” sniffed STAR, while pouting in the general direction of PRODUCER.

“Of course not, my dear child” PRODUCER soothed, patting her hand and stroking her cheek. “You, my dear- are a STAR!” Momentarily coddled, she went on. “Oh, professor, I simply can’t wait till it’s dark. I’m just dyin’ to see the Crab Nebula!”

NERD looks her up and down and snidely asks if she knows what the Crab Nebula is.

“Well, no” STAR mewed “But it sounds adorable. I’m sure it’s just darlin’ ”.

“Mock if you must” snorts NERD “But one day, mark my words, we’ll all be living up there, in outer space”.

“Oh, please, professor. It’s hard enough livin’ down here.” Throwing a look at PRODUCER, she adds “especially on my piddly salary”. Turning her attention back to NERD, STAR adjusts her lipstick and adds “Must be murder gettin’ good reception up there. Bad for the skin, too”.

Sighing audibly, NERD shuffles through his papers and addresses them both. “There are millions of galaxies containing billions of stars capable of sustaining life. Many believe that beings from other worlds have already visited Earth.

STAR nudges PRODUCER and laughs. “Do you remember that Christmas Special I did with Bob Hope and E.T?. I swear to god, that prune faced little monster gave me the willies! On the other hand, E.T. was adorable!” Not waiting for a response, she continued. “One day I’m in the commissary havin’ breakfast and I saw E.T just sittin’ there, alone. Well, normally, he had a bunch of his handlers literally surrounding him, so I sashayed over and asked if he wanted to share my pop tart. Well, he just sat there, not sayin’ boo. I figured he was shy, so I put a little piece in his mouth- I guess I was flirtin’ a little”.

(By now I was running out of paper and writing furiously on napkins.)

“Well, the next thing you know” STAR continues “smoke started comin’ out of his nostrils”. Smiling slyly at both men, STAR leans in and whispers “I’ve excited a lot of men in my life, but when E.T.s head started to melt, I knew somethin’ was terribly wrong.

She winked at the stunned men in front of her and slyly glanced over the booth at me- “Well, that’s when the sprinkler system went off and all hell broke loose!”

Stammering and fuming, NERD rose and shouted “This meeting is over! ” while gathering his belongings. Looking down his nose at STAR, NERD cleared his throat one last time and said “But before I leave, and I know I’m going to regret this, I have to ask...what happened to E.T?

“Well”... drawled STAR, while admiring her nails “After they hosed him off and the smoke cleared... he still looked better than Hope.”

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