True Confessions ofna Failed Hacknby Stephen ProvizernIt’s the Last Draft You Wantnto Write, Stupid,nNot the FirstnIbegan my relationship with Harveynvisualizing Rolls-Royces and starlets.nI ended up as so many writers have —nstaggering, script in hand, out of thisnerstwhile mogul’s office straight into thennearest bar; a cut-rate version of RaynMilland in The Lost Weekend. Attendnto this cautionary tale, all of you whonwould avoid the same grisly fate.nHarvey was co-owner of a large filmnexhibiting corporation and the spousenof an old high-school friend; yes, myn”entree.” A brief note aimed at remindingnher of my writing skills borenfruit, and she wrote back to tell menthey were ready to expand from Exhibitionninto Production and were developingnan idea for a teen-oriented movie.n(I eventually came to understandnthat “ideas” for teen movies were notnreally developed; they were actuallynextruded from various tubes until thenproper ilk of goop oozed out onto thenVITAL SIGNSnpage.) She asked me to forward anynscenarios I might have on hand andnthen, perhaps, Harvey and I could talk.nI didn’t have anything that really fitnthe bill, but after a week of intensiveneffort, emerged with two rip-snortingnscenarios: Blood-sucking Nymphets ofnPlanet Gamma Z, the plot of which isnself-explanatory, and Nazi MotorcyclenBimbos, Part 5; The Resurrection, mynhomage to the early Howard Hawkes.nThe fact that he liked them pleasednme; the fact that he didn’t think theynwere satirical scared me to death.nEither way, they served their purposenand the day finally arrived when Inwas ushered into the sanctum sanctorum—nthe offices of Worldwide Cinemanand its East Coast president, HarveynLemmon. The conference room/noffice was decorated, as all such officesnare, with a Variety-laden coffee table, anhalf-dead ficus tree, cushy leather sofa,nlarge black conference table, posters ofnHalloweens I through IV, a stereonsystem, and Harvey’s enormous desk.nI soon learned that Harvey followedna strict routine when entering thenspace: first, he surveyed his bald spotnin the mirror and did whatever patchupnhe could, and then he went tonthe stereo and put on his favorite litenrock station. (“I think music makesnthe office much cozier, don’t you,nSteve?”)nWearing the unofficial uniform ofnthe mogul — sweater, eyebrows, pinkynring, and potbelly — he began by remindingnme of my tenuous status:n”Steve, do you realize how many peoplenwould give their right arms to be innyour position? I mean, as soon as younget off the plane in L.A., everybody’sntrying to show you their screenplay —nthe taxi driver, the waitress — everybody.”nThen, he gave me a history of thenproject up to that point, which soundednlike the gory odyssey of the MaltesenFalcon (“The property somehow cameninto the hands of one M. Kamiroff, anRussian agent, who coated the valuablenscript with a layer of thick black enam­nnnel .. . “). Several other “spec” writersnhad already been chewed up and spitnout by Harvey and his West Coastnpartner, but when you have stars innyour eyes and what passes for yournbankroll wouldn’t choke a gerbil, it’snhard to hear the warning bells going offnin your brain. As we parted, Harveynsuggested that I acquaint myself withnthe genre by taking in some teenagenfilms and off I sallied, firm of mind, ifnignoble in purpose.nBy the time I finished the orgy,nthirty days and uncountable JuniornMints later, my fedora, which used tonfit like a glove, now bobbed on mynhead like an olive in a martini. I did,nhowever, learn the generic elements ofnyour basic teen movie: it is populatednby savage and/or cretinous adults; kidsnwho are either geeks or heroes ofnOlympian stature (in the more complexnversions, these two transpose); thentone is a sort of washed-out sit-comnmoralism, with just enough T and A tonget the sacred “R” rating; obligatorynscenes include voyeurism in the lockernroom, wimp loses virginity, peeing innthe popcorn, barfing anywhere, andncheerleader simulated striptease.nThroughout this period of “research,”nHarvey’s ongoing commentarynwas: “Steve, you’re not writing artnhere, you’re just baking a pie. That’s allnit is. You put in a little of this and a littlenof that and there you are.” As timenrolled by, I began to think of myself asna kind of ersatz Sweeny Todd, grindingnup half-baked ideas and forming themninto semidigestible, 90-minute celluloidnpies. In the end, he could havensaved us both a lot of trouble by justnarming a fifteen-year-old with qualudesnand a pair of scissors and locking himnin a room with piles of stock footage.nI’m only human, however, andnallowed the perks of the job to keep menfrom thinking too closely about what Inwas doing: I could walk into mostntheaters in town whenever I wanted; Inwas lounging in penthouses at thenPrudential Center, drinking wine andnwatching video tapes. Plus, I was at-nAUCUST 1991/45n