Where was I?
So the Dumb Fucking Lesbian and I become an unconquerable duo. I do my infinite monkey thing and she pimps me so hard we get invited to the Players' Ball where we all sport matching green alligator boots and jade pinky rings shaped like the Eiffel Tower.
Maybe. Memory's fuzzy there.
She's still working at the small agency but no longer an assistant and I've stopped worrying I won't get a job because she's out on a Starbucks run.
Which leads me to the beginning of the end.
One day I'm in Beverly Hills with a friend having lunch at a Chinese restaurant. It's a well known place and quite crowded. Furthermore, the tables are scrunched together to maximize the potsticker per square foot ratio. We're tucked into a corner crammed next to another twosome. They're both dressed in business attire and as neither of them remotely resembles a chicken potsticker I pay them no mind (the infinite monkey loves his chicken potstickers).
My friend and I turn to the menus and I try to control the excitement I always feel when ordering at a Chinese restaurant without parental supervision. Out of the restaurant noise this reaches me:
RESTAURANT NOISE: Blah blah blah JOSH FRIEDMAN blah blah JOSH FRIEDMAN blah.
I look at my friend. He's heard it, too. It's coming from the neighoring table and so I check these two out. A woman in her mid-to late twenties, Hollywood uniform. A man of the same age, with a slightly ruddy simian quality to him. We'll call her WOMAN. We'll call him THE CRIMSON APE. Here's the gist of the conversation:
CRIMSON APE: All I'm sayin' is...Josh Friedman could do better.
WOMAN: But what's wrong with Josh Friedman's career?
CRIMSON APE: Nothing! But (Dumb Fucking Lesbian) is a lightweight.
WOMAN: Have you ever met her?
CRIMSON APE: No.
WOMAN: I have. She's great. And she's doing a great job with Josh Friedman's career.
CRIMSON APE: Hah. Grunt.
They go back to their lunch and the subject changes. I return to my menu and strategize a way to get my friend to order more food than he's going to eat so I can vulture it while still only paying half. A few minutes later...
CRIMSON APE: I'm just saying...Josh Friedman doesn't know what he's doing.
WOMAN: Josh Friedman's loyal to her.
CRIMSON APE: I'd kick ass representing Josh Friedman. Josh Friedman's making a huge mistake. Josh Friedman's an idiot.
All righty now.
My food still hasn't arrived otherwise this (and the rest of my life) may have turned out differently. But I'm pumped up on tea and Diet Coke and after all he is talking about me. I lean over and put my hand on their table. They stop their conversation.
ME: Look, I don't mean to be rude and interrupt. I hope you don't think I was eavesdropping. I just wanted to introduce myself. I'm Josh Friedman.
I now witness two of the greatest reaction shots in the history of my-life-as-film. Crimson Ape's jaw drops some eighteen inches down to the table while Woman is wearing the BIGGEST SHIT-EATING GRIN I HAVE EVER SEEN. She can't help herself and frankly who can blame her.
WOMAN: Wow. This is...quite a Hollywood moment. We were just talking about you.
ME: I know.
CRIMSON APE: We're...big fans.
ME: Uh huh.
WOMAN: Yeah. (Still grinning) BIG FANS.
If I'm honest with myself I'll admit I don't think I've ever made a woman happier than I did WOMAN that day. And note this: Crimson Ape still has not said his name and I'm wondering if he thinks he's gonna get away with not telling me...
So I introduce my friend to them. And she says "LOVELY TO MEET YOU MY NAME IS (SO FUCKING LUCKY I WAS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS)."
I turn to him so he knows he's gonna have to fess up.
And Crimson Ape says "And I'm (SO FUCKING PISSED I'M SUCH A DICKHEAD AND WHY DON'T YOU STOP SMILING YOU SMUG BITCH)...We really are big fans."
ME: So you said.
CRIMSON APE: Check!
And he disappears through a hole in the floor.
Now the reason I'm in Beverly Hills is because I have a meeting with a producer after lunch. And I'm so excited because I'm always looking for good stories for the warm-up section of the meeting. And now I've got a doozy. I walk my jaunty walk into the producer's office, get my free Diet Coke and start in with my funniness. I get thirty seconds into the story and she says:
PRODUCER: Are you referring to The Crimson Ape?
ME: Excuse me?
PRODUCER: The Crimson Ape. It's the Crimson Ape, right?
ME: How...how do you know?
PRODUCER: He's a friend of mine. He called me from the car right after lunch.
Now understand this: the Crimson Ape had NO IDEA I was meeting with this woman. But he called HER. I am a little unsettled by this and begin to wonder about his powers. I decide not to tell the Dumb Fucking Lesbian the story because she's a little high-strung and I fear her knowing we're being stalked by a Crimson Ape.
I see her four hours later at a fund-raiser she's guilted me into attending. This is the first thing out of her mouth:
"OH MY GOD TELL ME THE FUCKING CRIMSON APE STORY!"
And now I'm starting to feel like the monkey in Outbreak.
I tell her the story and she takes it with good humor but now I'm totally freaked. The Crimson Ape has taken a story that ostensibly makes him look like a loudmouth jackass and is spreading it ALL OVER TOWN. He is taking MY STORY and making it HIS STORY.
And I begin wondering if he's doing this on purpose to take the sting out of my version of the events, or he's just such an insane megalomaniac it never occurs to him not every story which stars you makes you look like a hero.
The Crimson Ape may be a genius.
But like one of those movies that opens on 200 screens and then bursts onto 1200 the next week when the studio realizes its per screen averages are through the roof and word of mouth is wildfire, The Crimson Ape Story becomes a sleeper hit. People I've never met ask me about it but I stop bringing it up myself.
I realize with every telling the Crimson Ape gets stronger.
And then I hear something that chills me to the jelly. The Dumb Fucking Lesbian tells me that she's met the Crimson Ape at a party. And he's quite smart and funny (if a little obnoxious). They laughed and laughed about The Crimson Ape Story. And boy isn't he kinda self-deprecating in a weird way...
Do you see where this is going? I didn't.
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: Josh. Sweetie...
ME: Yes, Dumb Fucking Lesbian?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: You know I've been talking with my agency about giving me a little more respect?
ME: You mean money.
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: Well, no. I mean...Yeah. Money.
ME: What about it?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: I'm moving to another agency.
ME: What? Really? But I love our little agency!
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: So do I...But--
ME: Our little agency has pizza party Fridays! With beer!
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: I know that.
ME: Does our new agency have pizza party Fridays?
DUMB FUCKING LESBIAN: Josh I'm moving to The Crimson Ape's agency. He talked me into it.
Oh Dear God the Crimson Ape is a motherfucking Warlock.
I cannot begin to describe the horror and anger. I'd gone to bed a member of the Rebellion and woken up a Sith droid. How dare she! But understand this: there was never a thought in my mind of not going with the Dumb Fucking Lesbian. As I've said before, it's the agent, not the agency that matters.
But for God sakes she's taking me to the Nest of the Crimson Ape!
So the Dumb Fucking Lesbian leaves her skanky stroll in Westwood for a shiny bordello in Beverly Hills. And we bitches go with her. But I make one thing clear to her: I will not meet with other agents. I will not talk to them on the phone. No one calls me but for my Dumb Fucking Lesbian. IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES (such as, the Dumb Fucking Lesbian is out sick and I need someone to make a phone call) I will pre-approve one or two other agents. And at no time will The Crimson Ape do work on my behalf.
By the way have I mentioned that I'm insane?
And then one day it happens. I stop by The Nest to drop something off with the DFL. And there he is, strutting the polished marble hallways like the alpha ape warlock he is...Before I can gut-shoot him he's got a vice grip on my hand and pulls me close in what innocent bystanders may think of as an affectionate almost-man-hug but I immediately recognize as the death hold of some ancient evil spirit.
He bares his teeth in a "smile" and whispers in my ear:
"One way or the other, dude. Gotcha."
Some of you may not know but in a previous life I was Boris Spassky's cut man in his world championship battle against Bobby Fischer. I was sitting next to Spassky in Reykjavik when Fischer dropped him like he was Yuri Averbakh if you know what I mean. I'll always remember Spassky's vacant stare as I pulled him out from under his bed at the Reykjavik Hilton. But it was not until my encounter with the Crimson Ape in his Nest did I truly understand Spassky's last words to me:
"Goddamn. That cocksucker really fucked me."
I wish this was the end of the story. But a Nest lined by the black magic of the Crimson Ape was sure to spawn darkness. Sure enough, I began hearing stories from the Dumb Fucking Lesbian about how unhappy she was. The Nest was a big corporation and (back then) a dysfunctional one. There were no Friday pizza and beer parties and while my memory is fuzzy I'm pretty sure they didn't even have Fridays.
One day she asks me to lunch. Never a good sign, by the way. Dinner with your agent: something good's happened. Lunch with your agent: something bad's happened.
She was quitting. And not just the Nest. She was quitting being an agent and taking a job as A STUDIO EXECUTIVE. Whatever it was that had made her happy and love her job and talk in capital letters had been lost...It had been replaced with insanity.
I was going to kill that fucking Ape.
But there was a catch. And here's where Hollywood will fuck you if no one else will...The Dumb Fucking Lesbian had six months left on her contract with the Nest. In order for her to leave and go take another job they had to "release" her from her contract. And while she won't say this at the lunch I read between the lines: the only way they're letting her leave is if she convinces me to stay. At the Nest. The Ape's Nest.
HER: Just until I get settled.
ME: How long do you think that'll be?
HER: Six months.
ME: You mean the remainder of your contract?
HER: Is that what it is?
So because I love that goofy little pimp and I want her to be happy I stay. They assign me another agent--he's smart, cynical, urbane and skinny. The anti-Ape. But because I'm insane this is what I do: I sit in my house. And do not write. And do not take a job. And do not make the Nest a plug nickel. For the next six months.
Boy I showed them.
I begin planning my escape. (This doesn't really require a lot of planning unless you're also planning to enact a specific revenge fantasy against a specific Warlock Ape.)
In the middle of this New Agent calls. Here's what he says:
NEW AGENT: Have you ever heard of the book "The Black Dahlia?"
That was eight years ago. I'm still there. So is my (Not So New Anymore) Agent.
And so is the Crimson Ape.