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Oliver Visits a Whiskey Bar

By Stan Lerner
Published: Thursday, December 18, 2008, at 06:15PM

I don’t really vibe with Seven Grand, too many people, too many guys, and a college hipster feel around the pool tables that I didn’t even like in my college years. Those would be the three years at UCLA before I dropped out for no reason.

But Seven's Grand's where I ended up. I sat in the front booth, the only spot that frankly doesn’t feel like a sausage factory to me, drinking a triple Blue Label. Now, let me make it perfectly clear, when it comes to whiskey, Seven Grand knows what it’s doing. So while I’m not into the crowd, it doesn’t really matter because I was there to hang out with my old friend Johnny Walker and possibly his cousin Jack Daniels.

“I thought I might find you here,” said Stan Peters, sitting down at my table. Stan is Hollywood’s most powerful and scummiest producer. He is also the subject of the novella “In Development”. I mention this often out of concern for new readers who may not know this very relevant information.

“Why would you think that? I came here on purpose because I never come here.”

Stan waved at the waitress. “Whatever he’s having—two rounds.” He turned to me. “I figured you’d be somewhere where you didn’t want to run into anyone you know.” Stan looked around the room. “And I know you don’t know anyone in this place.”

I downed my drink in anticipation of the next two rounds that were on the way. “What do you want, Stan? I gave Iren the first thirty pages of the script.”

The waitress put four triple Johnny Walker Blue Labels on the table. Stan handed her his AMEX black titanium card. “Keep it open, love.” We clanked our glasses together. I have to give it to Stan, he can chug with the best of us. Our empty glasses hit the table at the same exact moment. “So, what’s bothering you?”

“Besides you being here?” I responded to the invasion of my self-loathing. “Nothing, I’m great.”

“No you’re not. When Iren told me you actually gave him thirty pages of the script you’re supposed to be writing for me—I knew something was wrong.”

“I can stop writing it if you want...”

Stan almost spit out the swig he had just taken. “No, don’t do that. Although I hate to say it, the first thirty pages are some of the best writing I’ve ever seen. I almost forgot how talented you are when you do your thing. If the rest of the script is on the same level—you’ll get nominated for an Academy Award for sure.”

I shrugged. “Great, but only now that swag is taxable.”

“I’m guessing that since you’ve been doing the work I gave you an SL 500 as an incentive to do, something has got you down. Everything okay with your nineteen-year-old?”

It dawned on me that I hadn’t talked to Misha in almost a week—and that I had lent her the SL 500 that Stan had given me. I figured it was the least I could do given what a great boyfriend I am.

“I love her.”

“So, you haven’t talked to her in weeks?” Stan asked insightfully.

“A week. But I do love her. I just wish I wasn’t so old.” I took a gulp of my drink. “She won’t get it until it’s too late—they never do. I could be a better man for her, but I’m sure it would just end in disappointment when she cheats on me with some valet guy who parks my car somewhere.”

Stan sighed. “You know, just when I was feeling zero holiday spirit, you’ve helped me reach a whole new low.”

“Sorry, Merry f’n Christmas. Feel good enough to finish your drink and go now?”

“Oliver, you know what I’ve always admired about you?”

“Please don’t tell me, Stan. I don’t really care.”

“That’s what I admire about you. You don’t care. You can chitchat with the President, have dinner with a billionaire, sleep with your girlfriend’s mother, write a movie better than anyone in Hollywood and still be totally disconnected. I get so tired of all the kiss-asses that want something from me. Or pretend to like me because I can do something for them. I’m a schemer and you hate me for it. You are your own man Oliver. Why can’t you be happy with that?”

“I didn’t get the insider’s look at L.A. Live that I wanted. Two weeks I hung out and got nothing but some satire.” I held up my glass. “Cheers.” And down the hatch went another hundred and fifty dollars worth of whiskey.

Stan waved at the waitress, who was on the ball enough to already have two more rounds on the tray as she walked over. She set the drinks down. “Can we just get a bottle?” asked Stan, sensing that I wasn’t going to be easily consoled.

“Sorry, we’re not allowed to do that.”

I shook my head. “You know I have problems with authority in general, but I think I speak for all of mankind when I say that…”

Stan cut me off. “Just pour a bottle into four highballs and bring them to the table. We’ll take it from there.” He turned to me. “You didn’t really think they would make you part of the family?”

“I hoped…It was a historical event. I was the guy to write it—the real story, that’s what people wanted. You know when I see potential that isn’t realized it hurts me. I mean it’s like a knife in my heart.”

Stan nodded. “That’s why you’re so good at what you do—when you do it. But you’re too sensitive, Oliver. You can’t let yourself care about things so much. They’re not even your things.”

I drank and l laughed. “You realize you just contradicted yourself?”

“No, that’s the irony. You don’t care about you, you care about the world.”

“I’m not asking the world to change, Stan.” My mind drifted to the Coca Cola parade that ended at L.A. Live, a terrible high school band, a double-decker bus with screaming kids, and a Coca Cola truck—I drained the glass in my hand to make the vision go away. “I just want to be able to use my talent. Otherwise it’s all a waste, I don’t play golf, I don’t ski, I don’t even have a desire to collect action figures or baseball cards or whatever normal people do to keep busy. I just want to write. But I don’t want to write the same old formula crap that the people running the show seem to think the American public wants—until their Fortune Five Hundred Company goes bankrupt due to their incompetence.”

“Well, at least you have a script for me to write.”

“Now who’s bringing the holiday spirit to a new low? Why don’t you just tell me that GM is bankrupt and state taxes are going up?”

We laughed and clinked our glasses. “I can have my private jet take us anywhere in the world right now.” Stan nodded toward the exit.

“Why go anywhere in the world when we could go to Vegas?” My mind drifted to a number of vices. “After we finish our drinks.”

Ten minutes later Johnny Walker had left the building and so had we. I really couldn’t think of a more depressing thought than spending the holiday with Stan, given he stands for everything I don’t believe in, but I suppose if I wanted to have a happy holiday I would have made myself a better man when I had the chance all those years ago.

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