Hollywood fictionalizes Bukowski's experiences of adapting his novel into the film Barfly. Using his alter ego Henry Chinaski, Bukowski recounts his experiences as a scriptwriter in the mad, ...(more)
We were to meet Jon Pinchot in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Cheshire at 2 p.m. It meant missing a day at the track, which did bother me, but Jon had insisted. There was a fellow there who had the ability to raise money, to back films. This fellow, Jean-Paul Sanrah, had no money himself but it didn't matter: they said he could jack off a statue in the park and money would emanate from the genitals. Great.
Sounded more like quitting time. Also, lounging around Suite #530 was Jon-Luc Modard, the French film director. Pinchot said he more than liked what I wrote.
Dear Sarah was along in case I needed help getting back home. Besides, she believed there might be starlets in #530 flashing their navels. We got there and Jon was in the lobby sitting in a big leather chair, looking for freaks and madmen. He saw us, then rose, puffing out his chest. Jon was a big fellow but he always liked to appear larger than he was. We exchanged words of greeting and followed Jon Pinchot to the elevator.
"How's the screenplay coming?"
"What's it about?"
"A drunk. Lots of drunks."
The elevator door opened. It was nice in there. Padded green, dark fluffed green material and if you looked into the green you could see peacocks there, many many peacocks. They were in the ceiling too. "Class," I said. "Too much," said Sarah. I
t stopped at 5 and we moved out. The rug was made of more fluffed green with more peacocks. We were walking on peacocks. Then we were at #530. It was a large heavy black door, much larger than ordinary doors, maybe twice as large. It looked more like the gate beyond the moat. Jon rapped with an iron knocker shaped into the head of Balzac. Nothing. He knocked again. Louder. We waited. Then the door slowly opened. A little man almost as white as a sheet of paper opened the door.
"Henri-Leon!" said Jon Pinchot.
"Jon!" said Henry-Leon. Then, "Do, all of you, please come in!"
We walked in. It was spacious. And everything was oversize. Large chairs, large tables. Long walls. High ceilings. But there was a strange musty smell. For all the vastness there was the feeling of a tomb. We were introduced about. The fellow as white as a sheet of paper was HenriLeon Sanrah, the brother of Jean-Paul Sanrah, the moneygetter. And there was Jon-Luc Modard. He stood very still, said nothing. You got the idea that he was posing, being a genius. He was small, dark, looked like he had shaved badly with a cheap electric razor.
"Ah," Henri-Leon Sanrah said to me, "you brought your daughter! I've heard about your daughter, Reena!"
"No, no," I said, "this is Sarah. She's my wife."
"There are drinks on the table. Many wines. And food. Please help yourself. I'll go get Jean-Paul," said Henri. With that Henri-Leon offed to the other room to find Jean-Paul. And with that, Jon-Luc Modard turned and walked to a dark corner, placed himself there and watched us.
We went to the table. "Open the red," I said to Pinchot. "Open several reds."
Pinchot began working the wine opener. There was food everywhere on silver platters. "Don't eat the meat," said Sarah. "Or the cakes: too much sugar."
The gods had sent Sarah to add ten years to my life. The gods kept driving me toward the blade, then, at the last moment, lifting my head off the block. Very strange, those gods. Now they were driving me to write a screenplay. I had no appetite for that. Of course, I knew if Iwrote it it would be a good one. Not a great one. But a good one. Iwas hot with words.
Pinchot poured the wine. We all lifted our glasses. "Umm Hummm," said Sarah. "French," said Pinchot.
"I forgive you," I said.
As we drank, I was able to see into the other room. The door, as they say, was ajar. And Henri-Leon was trying to rouse a large body resting on this large bed. The body would not rouse. I saw Henri-Leon reach into a bowl and grab a handful of icecubes. Two hands full. He pressed the icecubes against both sides of the face and on the forehead. He opened the shirt and rubbed the ice on the chest. The body still didn't rouse.
Then all at once it sat up, screamed: "YOU SON OF A BITCH, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? I'M GOING TO HAVE TO DEFROST MYSELF!"
"Jean-Paul, Jean-Paul...you have...visitors..."
"VISITORS? VISITORS? I NEED VISITORS LIKE A DOG NEEDS FLEAS! GO OUT THERE AND STUFF FROGS IN THEIR MOUTHS! PISS ON THEM! BURN THEM!"
"Jean-Paul, Jean-Paul. . . you had an appointment. . . with Jon Pinchot and his screenwriter..."
"All right...shit...I'll be right out...I'm going to jack-off first. . . No, no, I'll wait...something to look forward to..."
Henri-Leon came out and spoke to us. "He'll be right out. He's been under terrific pressure. He thought his wife was leaving him. Early today, a cablegram from Paris: now she has changed her mind. It was a mortal blow, like great oxen being ripped apart by a pack of mad dogs..."
We didn't know what to say. Then Jean-Paul came trundling out. He was dressed in white pants with wide yellow stripes. Pink stockings. No shoes. His hair was all in brown curls, didn't need combing. But the brown hair looked bad. Like it was dying and couldn't make up its mind what color to be. He was undershirted and scratching. He kept scratching. Unlike his brother, he was big, and pink...no, red, a red that flamed and faded, faded away one moment to his brother's white, then flamed, redder than ever. The introductions went around.
"Ah, ah, ah," he said. Then, "Where's Modard?" Then, he looked around, saw Modard in the corner. "Hiding again, huh? God damn, I wish he'd do something new."
Suddenly Jean-Paul turned and ran back into the bedroom, slamming the door. Modard let out a little cough from his corner and we poured some more wine. It was all really excellent. Life was good.All you had to do in their little world was be a writer or an artist or a ballet dancer and you could just sit or stand around, inhaling and exhaling, drinking wine, pretending you knew what the hell.
Then Jean-Paul came crashing back through the door. I thought he'd hurt his shoulder. He stopped, felt his shoulder, dismissed it, scratched himself and charged forward again. He began circling the table at a quick and even pace, shouting: "WE'VE ALL GOT ASSHOLES, RIGHT? IS THERE ANYBODY IN THIS ROOM WITHOUT AN ASSHOLE? IF SO, SPEAK UP AT ONCE, AT ONCE, YOU HEAR ME?"
Jon Pinchot dug his elbow into my side: "See, he's a genius, see?"
Jean-Paul circled at the same quick pace, screaming: "WE'VE ALL GOT THIS SLICE IN THE BACK, RIGHT? DOWN THERE, ABOUT IN THE MIDDLE, RIGHT? THE SHIT POURS OUT OF THERE, RIGHT? OR AT LEAST WE HOPE IT DOES! TAKE AWAY OUR SHIT AND WE ARE DEAD! THINK HOW MUCH SHIT WE SHIT IN A LIFETIME! THE EARTH, AT THE MOMENT, ABSORBS IT! BUT THE SEAS AND THE RIVERS ARE GAGGING UP THEIR VERY LIVES WHILE SWALLOWING OUR SHIT! WE ARE FILTHY, FILTHY, FILTHY! I HATE US ALL! EVERYTIME I WIPE MYASS, IHATE US ALL!"
Then, he stopped, seemed to see Pinchot.
"You want money, right?" Pinchot smiled.
"Fucker, I will get you your god damned money," said Jean-Paul.
"Thank you. I just told Chinaski, here, that you were a genius."
"Shut up!" Then Jean-Paul looked at me. "The best thing about your writing is that it excites the Institutionalized. Also those that should be excited. And that figure goes into the many millions. If you can only remain pure in your stupidity, someday you may get a phone call from hell."
"Jean-Paul, I've already gotten those."
"Yeah? Huh? Who?"
"YOU DULL ME!" he screamed and began circling the table again, scratching himself as he did so. Then, after one last big circle, he ran to the bedroom, slammed the door and was gone.