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My Unbelievable, Sometimes Horrifying, Ever-Perplexing but Entirely True Adventures in the Film and TV Biz: First Bite
PART THREE OF SIX: INSPIRATION HITS, IN THE STRANGEST OF PLACES.
It’s 1992, and not much has changed. Well, maybe one thing. I tired of Los Angeles, and desperately missed my home town of Brooklyn. I was exhausted trying to prove myself, and rationalized that Hollywood didn’t appreciate real talent. I became bitter. I convinced myself that “making it” would require selling out and beginning a career in porn to earn an honest living. I said it to my friends; I said it to my family.
I moved back to New York. My parents met me at the train station. I decided to return to the relative security of teaching for the New York Board of Education. Relative, as mentally I was not so sure. Financially, I’d be fine.
As soon as I stepped off the train and onto the New York City platform ... it hit me: I gave up on my dreams. I will never be a writer. I will never make a difference with my words, and I will never be exceptional.
Unless I utilized this turn of events as an opportunity.
I was (still) in my early-30s, horribly single, lonely, and already pondering my death. Don’t jump to conclusions; I was neither depressed nor suicidal. Never have been. I just convinced myself I was being realistic. But, to both my surprise and my chagrin, as I approached my smiling parents I immediately realized: In two years I will return to Los Angeles.
I just needed a break, was all. A two-year exhalation, and I’d be ready for my grand return.
It almost didn’t go as planned. I met a woman. We broke up, though, in a nick of time. It was as if forces beyond me were pushing me toward my destiny. I was following my bliss, thank you Mr. Joseph Campbell, as if there was no other choice in the matter. My returning to the left coast was more than a simple pull; something deep inside would not allow me to give up on my loftier ambitions. I knew who I was - I was a writer - and though I could certainly have tried my hand in novels (that would happen two decades thereafter, incidentally) while remaining in New York, it wasn’t meant to be. The next week, I rented a U-Haul, took my seat ... and cried as I once again left my parents, en route to a destination nearly 3000 miles away. I could barely look at my mom. She was devastated. My dad kept his emotions in check, but I still believe my glimpse in the rear-view mirror was accurate:
He was wiping his eyes too.
1994. I returned to my former part-time job as a telemarketing supervisor at KCET-PBS Television. While there, I met a friend who in a sense altered the direction of my life, a fellow comic book collector by the name of Joe.
Joe introduced me to Golden Apple Comics, Hollywood’s largest comic book store at the time. I was in hog heaven. As I waited upfront with my new stack of Marvels, I leafed through the brochure shelf. Ads for concerts, various promotions ... and an invitation to attend the world premiere of the new film, Interview with the Vampire. Seats were limited, it said. I called the listed number, and managed to reserve two seats.
That was a “WOW!” moment if there ever was. Indulge me a minute while I explain why ...
Anne Rice has been a particular inspiration to me since 1976. Her novel, Interview with the Vampire, forever altered the literary landscape. Personally, I couldn’t get enough, of either this tale, or this author. I traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan to hear her speak at the 92nd Street Y. The next day, she signed my book at Waldenbooks (a subsidiary company of the now-extinct Borders Group), in Greenwich Village. Interview sold millions of copies and appealed to the outsider in us all. Anne’s vampires were more than sexy, or erotic. They were us. We have conquered death. Anne’s young daughter, who had tragically passed from leukemia, inspired her character, Claudia, who is turned into a vampire by Anne’s mercurial hero, Lestat. Anne’s baby girl has now been immortalized.
And vampires have never been the same.
Such power, here. I remained a fan, attended numerous book signings over the years, and ultimately we became long-distance friends spawning from some treasured Facebook and email interactions.
But, for now, back to 1994 ...
The world premiere of Interview took place in Westwood, at a theater around the corner from UCLA. The fans who were fortunate to have claimed tickets, like myself and Joe - who I had brought along as my guest - were literally held in a pen until the red carpet concluded and the celebrities entered the theater.
By the time the pen finally opened and we made it inside ... my bladder was about to burst. The restroom beckoned. I asked Joe to grab our seats, and I’d be right with him.
I entered the restroom, and both stalls were, predictably, taken. I stood on the line to the left.
The first person finishes his business, and zips his fly. He flushes, turns around - it’s Tom Cruise - and nods his head to the person who had been waiting behind him, and standing in front of me.
I got a wink when he caught me looking.
The next person was up. Like Tom, he completed his business, flushed, turned ... I got another wink.
And then it was my turn. I did my thing, turned around ... there was no one behind me. There was something metaphoric about all this. Had to be. I dried my hands, and stepped out, and as I entered the lobby one thought came to mind:
$20 mil a picture, $20 mil a picture ... $12.75 an hour as a supervisor for my local PBS station.
What was wrong with this picture?
My answer would come as I watched the film. That answer would make all the difference, and once and for all set me on my way ...
TO BE CONTINUED
(Joel Eisenberg is an author, a screenwriter, and a producer. He is the co-owner of Council Tree Productions, a television development company, and the writer-creator of the Amazon.com bestselling fantasy series, “The Chronicles of Ara,” with Steve Hillard.)