“The Shape of Heavy Water” Sues “The Shape of Water”

Sid Goldstein at Shande Pictures in Van Nuys informs me that his production company is suing Fox Searchlight for stealing copyrighted material from Shande.

“We made a sweet little picture and we turn around and Searchlight with their budget steals our ideas and beats us to market,” Goldstein tells me. “I knew a guy who knew a guy who could let us have all the heavy water we wanted on our project for such a price. That stuff has a, you know, a newton? or whatever, an extra one in every atom. Whatever you want to do with water, now you’ve got something to work with. Then Searchlight uses plain old tap water and their guy, the one who hooks up with the girl, he’s thin, he’s a broomstick. And then what? Oscar talk.”

“I like a heavy guy,” Zie Foyt told me. “I want something to grab on to. I’m no little fairy princess myself. I need a guy who won’t buckle when the going gets rough.”

“It was always like this,” Goldstein said. “I remember back in ’92, we were making a nice little film, “The Smells of a Woman” I think it was titled and bam, here comes furshlugginer Universal Pictures with “Scent of a Woman” and Pacino wins an Oscar. See, what it was, they just concentrated on one smell, like a lady’s perfume or something, and ignored all the rest of her “scents.” What can you do with people like that?”

Taking the Plunge in Hollywood

“Let’s get married,” Ted said to Mary.

The couple was sitting by their pool on a summer evening. Hollywood stretched out below them, its lights beginning to glitter as the last of the sunset faded and the sky overhead turned from purple to black.

“Wow. A proposal,” Mary said, toasting Ted with her martini glass.

Cecil B. strolled by.

“That cat is getting fat,” Ted said.

“I think Mrs. Welles next door is feeding him. So you want to get married? It ain’t broke, you know.”

“Sometimes it’s fun to tweak something, even if it ain’t broke. We’ve been shooting a wedding in that church they use in Pasadena. It put me in the mood.”

“Does the couple live happily ever after?”

“The wife gets killed right after the ceremony. But still.”

“I could be interested,” Mary said.

They sipped their drinks, gazing into the depths of the pool, azure in the dusk. The tile mosaic seahorse at the bottom moved in a languid way, as the pool water circulated though the pool filter.

“I suppose we’ll need a pre-nup,” Mary said.

“You can’t ever forget the pre-nup,” Ted said. “If my folks taught me anything, it was to remember the pre-nup.”

“I’ll call Sid in the morning.”

“I’ll call Saul.”

“Then what do we do?”

“I think we swing by a County office and pay a fee and pick up a license.”

Mary signaled Brigitte to bring out another chilled pitcher of drinks.

“Please bring my laptop too, Brigitte” she said.

A towhee closed the day with measured chirps in the hedge, announcing the sunset’s completion as surely as a night rooster.

“We can apply for a license online,” Mary said, studying her laptop with a fresh drink in her hand. “Then we have to go together to pick it up at one of the County branches… There’s one on Burton in Beverly Hills. I’m shooting in Santa Monica tomorrow and you’ll be in Pasadena. Let’s meet halfway.”

“Do they still want a blood test?”

“Apparently not… There’s something called the Name Equality Act, but we won’t be changing our names, so we don’t need to worry about that. I’ll fill out the application right now and then we’ll go down tomorrow, show them our driver’s licenses, and pay them ninety dollars.”

“Wow, it costs to get married these days.”

“Ninety for a public license, eight-five for a confidential license. That’s for when everybody thinks the two of you are already married… Do you want a wedding?” Mary said. “I don’t care. It says here you can arrange for a civil ceremony when you pick up the license. Otherwise, you have your own ceremony, get the pastor’s name on the license, and mail it back in. You’ve got ninety days.”

With the light gone from the sky, the blue illumination in the pool grew stronger. The circulating water cast restless, rippling light and shadow in the trees overhead. Cecil B. meowed at the sliding screen door and Brigitte let him in.

“We ought to throw a little party or something, don’t you think?” Ted said. “At least? Have your sister and my brother over, and your folks. Some friends. Get Emilo to cater it. Or we could just tie the knot right there at the County building.”

“No, let’s have the party. Father Bruno can marry us. He’s consulting on our shoot and he’s a darling.”

“What did you and Fred do for a ceremony?” Ted said.

“We were never actually married. People just assumed.”

“Jane and I made it clear we weren’t married, from the start,” Ted said. “We didn’t want any confusion about that. We explained everything to her kids so they wouldn’t ever expect me to be some sort of dad to them.”

“OK. I’m filling out the application here. Hmm. Your mom and dad’s full names and the state each was born in?”

Ted told her.

“This is so simple,” Mary said. “Boom. It’s done. We have fifteen days to go down, show our IDs, pay the fee, and collect our license. Then we say I do when the padre asks us, a witness signs the license, the padre signs it and mails it in, and we’re married.”

“Woo hoo,” Ted said, and they toasted each other a second time.

They met at the Beverly Hills Courthouse the following afternoon. They both parked on the curb along Civic Center Drive. In minutes they were done at the County Clerk’s counter and stood together out on the wide grass meridian in front of the building, holding hands and shaking their heads in mild amazement at what they had done. Ted followed Mary over to Mariposa on Wilshire for a late lunch. They discussed their honeymoon while they dined. Because they were both working on pictures, they settled on a quick trip to Palm Springs, where they would stay at the Zoso or Parker or Viceroy.

The following day, Ted picked up a pair of wedding rings at Harry Winston on Rodeo and Mary splurged on a modest Judy Lee for the ceremony.

“It’s about time,” Mary’s mother said to her over the phone. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Mary said. “Ted was at a shoot that was filming a wedding. It struck a chord, I guess. All of a sudden, it just seemed right to us. When we got the license, he had a great big smile.”

“Has the subject of children come up in the conversation? Can I hope to ever be a grandmother?”

“Not yet,” Mary said, “but it could happen as quickly as this wedding has. Who knows?”

“He did OK with his girlfriend’s kids the last time around, didn’t he?”

“They loved him. He shied away from being a dad, though. But that was a long time ago.”

Her mother took all this as a good sign, and was satisfied.

Ted and Mary made the wedding arrangements together, treating the event mostly as a casual party by their pool. The pre-nup was in place. In addition, everything Mary and Tom owned belonged, without question, in a legally defensible way, solely to one or the other of them, in spite of the fact that they had lived together in total devotion for a decade. Money, property, and the future never created issues for Ted and Mary. Their sole point of connection and intimacy to date was their relationship – their love and respect for each other.

On the appointed day, the guests arrived – Mary’s parents and sister, Ted’s brother, a variety of aunts and uncles and cousins and friends in the business. Everyone kept to the shade of the trees and the tables with umbrellas around the pool. Emilio set up the buffet and bar at the edge of the back lawn, out of the sun.

The sky was cloudless and the day was quiet. A thrasher called from the scrub on the hillside. Mary’s uncle got ready to record the ceremoney on his iPhone. Standing in the shade of an oak, Father Bruno held forth for a bit and then asked the couple if they did in fact agree to take each other in sickness and in health, and so on, for the rest of their natural lives.

Mary responded in the affirmative without delay. Ted hesitated.

“Sorry to be a pain,” he said, “but I just want to be clear. When are we actually married? When I say I do? When the padre signs our license? Or when the County records the license after we return it?”

“In the eyes of God,” said Father Bruno, “after you both say yes, you’re married.”

“Sure, but I mean, in the eyes of California.”

“The same, I believe,” said the padre. “Although to eliminate any doubt, I’ll sign the license as soon as you say yes, or at least nod your head. Who’s the witness here?”

Mary’s sister was the witness, although she said she wouldn’t do it if Ted was going to be a jerk about it. She had had a yen for Ted for years, so she was looking a little hangdog in the first place.

“Let’s back up and do another take,” Mary said. “You don’t mind, do you, Father?”

“Used to it,” Father Bruno said with a smile.

“Uncle Bob,” Mary said, “would you move around and shoot on my good side? Thanks.”

Father Bruno just summarized his thoughts the second time around, and got to the crucial question a lot quicker. The attention of several of the relatives had strayed in the direction of the portable bar waiting under an acacia beyond the roses. A young man stood behind the bar in white shirt and black tie, ready to serve the guests whatever they ordered. Mary again said yes and Ted again hesitated.

“What’s the problem?” Mary said.

“It just seems like… How can me saying one little word now, or even just nodding, do the trick? It’s a big step. What if I say yes and then instantly regret it? Padre, will you still sign the paper if I change my mind before you get your pen to the paper?”

“I ought to,” Father Bruno said. “You’ll be married once you agree. I’d feel bad, not signing it.”

“What if you sign it and don’t send it in?”

“California doesn’t care so much whether you send it in or not,” Mary said. “I asked at the courthouse. If they don’t receive the completed license in ninety days, you get a computer-generated reminder. If the license gets lost in the mail or you don’t bother returning it, there’s a statement or affidavit or something you can sign later on. Basically, when you say yes, you’re married.”

“That’s so old-fashioned,” Ted said. “I could say I didn’t really mean it. I could say I didn’t really nod, it was just a muscle twitch. A mosquito bit me and I jerked.”

“Let me remind you,” Mary said, “that for us, you and I, it’ll be as easy to get a divorce as it was to get married, if we ever decide we want one. If you change your mind after you say yes, we’ll call Sid and Saul and they’ll move us back to square one in no time.”

Ted stood thinking.

“Don’t do it,” said Mary’s sister to him.

“Give it up,” Mary said to her. “He likes you. He doesn’t love you. Settle for that.”

She turned to Ted.

“Honey, it’s OK,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable with this, we can drop it. It’s no big deal. If you change your mind back, we can have another party. Is that all right with you folks?”

Everyone agreed that they’d be happy to come back for another attempt. Emilo’s catering alone made the trip worth it. Perhaps everyone would bring their swimsuits next time.

“You don’t care if we stop now?” Ted said.

“I care, but I care about you more,” Mary said.

“Nah…,” Ted said. “Nah, it’s OK. Let’s do this. Do you mind another repeat, Padre?”

“Not at all,” said Father Bruno.

“Can somebody lend me their phone?” Mary’s uncle said. “I’m out of memory here.”

Once the uncle was in place and recording with a borrowed phone, Father Bruno repeated his admonitions to the couple. Sensing that this would be the final take, he allowed himself to expand on his original thoughts a bit. When Ted’s moment came, he said yes in a strong voice. The couple exchanged rings.

“Feel any different?” Mary said.

“I feel good,” Ted said. “I feel very good. What about you?”

“I feel good, too,” Mary said.

The guests clapped, shook hands with the bride and groom, gave hugs, and headed over to the bar and buffet. Emilo sent out the table workers and they began uncovering the food.

Later, the couple took off for Palm Springs. Everyone cheered as they drove away from the house.

Life in Hollywood: Advertising

Screenwriters sometimes write ad copy. An Australian friend asked me to have a go at something new for Aeroplane Jelly. He had been paid a big advance for a draft now due, but after a week with me in Hollywood, he was too drunk and disoriented to write anything. The subject came up as we drank at the Pole Cats Lounge in East L.A. A dancer there uses aquamarine Jello onstage. After she finishes, she comes down and acts innocent while administering lap dances to patrons aghast at the glob of it she still holds in her hand.

98 words. An entry in the 100 Word Challenge.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Ring Gets A Surprising New Owner

[Headline, Huffington Post, 01/06/12]

First, I deplore the use of celebrity gear in voodoo rites. I wish that I had a nickel for every star who has died of lung cancer because some voodoo newbie didn’t know what he was doing.

Second, I’m sick and tired of standing by the Two-Buck Chuck in the Trader Joe’s on Vine and watching Brad Pitt’s cargo pants walk past on the legs of some pimply teenage trash cruiser. Stars used to donate their clothes locally. Now they ship them off to Cameroons or Dhalijalibab because some young woman wearing Angelina’s silk blouse seems to think that this gives her license to get up in Jolie’s grill and express herself on whatever crazy obsession of the moment.

By the time Elizabeth passed, her ring was her only remaining possession. Long before, you could walk down Sunset and spot the outlines of one of her famous bras, only partially filled, under some young student’s Hollywood High T-shirt. The town has become Vulture City. Certain stars, and I’m not naming Gwyneth or Jennifer, now buy stuff and hand it over directly to their fans, just to try and buy a few precious moments of peace.

Having said this, I know a guy who knows a guy who can get you pretty much whatever you want, as long as you’re willing to pay the freight. Let me know.

Dinner with the Kardashians

But not with Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé.

I was in Aparan, in Aparani Shrjan, Armenia. Aparan is a town of about 16,000 souls. It’s in a valley on the M-3, the main road between the capital Yerevan and Tibilisi. The population is a mixture of Armenians and Kurds, but I was dining with Armenians only. Armenian men.

“Tell us about Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé,” they said. “Our Kurdish friend Mamir says that they are actually Cardassians.”

“Cardassians are an alien race in Star Trek,” I said. “Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé are strange, but they are human. Their bodies have been tested by many male humans and have been found good.”

“Tell us of this testing. Do they test out as true Armenian women?”

“Their mother is of Dutch and Scottish extraction. They spring from the loins of Kardashians who have been in America for several generations. They are American bimbos, unable to milk a goat.”

“But they are expert at milking the little goat, yes?”

“So they say.”

“Their father was lawyer for O. J.? And then died quickly of cancer?”

“So they say.”

“God is great!”

“They say Kim bought a little black burqa in Dubai. What does this mean?” Mesrob said.

“It is what they do,” I said. “Kourtney, Kim, and Khloé buy things. Kim owns $1 million dollars worth of cars. She owns a 458 Italia, a Ferrari which they call “pimped out,” a Rolls Royce Ghost, a super-charged Range Rover that she could use here to drive through your herds of sheep and your sheepish men. These Kardashian girls would buy Aparan if it amused them.”

“If we journey to America, perhaps they would buy us?” said Apraham, leader of this group.

“They would buy you, use you, and throw you aside, emptied out,” I said.

“God is great!”

“Let us go to America!” Onnig said. “Let us be emptied!”

This is how, when we finished dinner, they came back to Hollywood with me. The results? TMZ reports it all in full.

[Note to readers: Armenia is 97% Christian. Aparan is home to the Kasagh Basilica, build back around 300 A.D. I presume that the Kardashians at dinner were being ironic with their “God is great” exclamations.]

Through Story 3

After I fixed her second flat, Anna parked her bike in my office every morning. I was coming in around noon and at the time and never saw her do it. I’d pass her work area and see her sitting at a workstation in there with the rest of the artists, generating storyboards. I never saw her smiling, but she had a quality that attracted me like a magnet. I made extra trips past the door.

On a Friday, after several weeks of this, I was hurrying back to my office in the late afternoon to balance my drug and alcohol levels. I was having trouble with my head, or my legs, or my fingers. I couldn’t tell which. The uppers and the downers in me were pulling in non-orthogonal directions but I couldn’t think straight enough to know what to do about it. My office door was open and Anna stood just inside holding her bike by the handlebars. She had her helmet on and her pantlegs were gathered up by bike gaiters.

I nodded and pushed past her to my desk. I felt her eyes on me.

“How are you?” I said over my shoulder. “I’m just…”

She was wheeling her bike out the door. I fumbled with my keys, trying to unlock my desk drawer while looking back at her. She pulled the door shut after her, with a click.

I lined up my pill bottles on the desktop and unscrewed their lids. How to proceed? I fished out a bottle of Jack Daniels from the drawer.

The phone on my desk purred.

“What are you doing down there?” Aaron said, when I picked it up. “Get back to the stage. Brad is ranting at the crew. Help him out. Help them out.”

“I’ll be there in a minute.”

“You’ll be there now.”

He hung up.

I dithered, took several deep drags from the bottle, and left it at that.

“I can’t say these lines,” Brad said to me when I got back.

“You can’t say Don’t go. I love you?”

“I can say Don’t go. I can’t say I love you.”

“Why not?” I said.

“This guy wouldn’t say that.”

“Well, then, just say Don’t go. Say it like you mean it. Say it like it will make her stop. Say it like you mean you’re in love with her.”

“I need more than that. Give me some words.”

“Don’t go. I… I’m hungry. Make my dinner first. Don’t go… I’m horny. I need you. That’s it, Brad. Don’t go. I need you.”

“Nah. He wouldn’t say I need you, either.”

“I want you?”

“No.”

“Don’t go. Stay.”

“Lame.”

“Don’t go. I… I have something to tell you.”

Brad perked up.

“Ok,” he said. “Now then.”

“So she hesitates,” I said. “She doesn’t look back but she says What?”

“Yeah,” Brad said. “And then what do I say?”

“You say, Come back in here. You say it strong. She comes back in. She says What? again.”

“Yeah? And?”

“And you say, I love you.”

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” Brad said. “Get the f**k out of here, will you?”

Later Aaron came down to my office.

“Miramar Palms,” he said. “I won’t take no for an answer.”

“I’ll write him the damn lines. I’ll do it right now. I’m feeling better.”

“Too late. He could see the shape you’re in. I can see the shape you’re in. Everybody can see the shape you’re in. It’s a useless shape. I can also see into that open drawer. Your visit to Miramar will be the studio’s treat.”

“I can’t go back there, Aaron. It almost killed me last time.”

“I’m driving you over there now.”

“Just like that? Without a suitcase? Without a toothbrush?”

“They’ve got plenty of your stuff from last time. You room is ready and waiting. It’s all set.”

I was already sweating. I reached into the open drawer and opened a random bottle and took out a couple of capsules and swallowed them. I picked up the Jack Daniels and drained it.

“That should hold you till we get there,” Aaron said, “barring traffic on the 405.”

“Tell the woman with the bike she can still  keep it here,” I said, handing him the key to the door.

Pinchas the alien

I’ve written previously about Amos and his sister Fruma (here and here). They’re aliens from another planet who work on contract at Universal. I forget how I know that they’re aliens, but there is no doubt in my mind that they are.

I don’t see Fruma much anymore. I asked Amos about her and he told me to forget her, and I feel as if I have.

Amos is a lot of fun to hang with and I asked him to point out others of his ilk.

“There are a number of alien tourists working in Hollywood,” he said, “but they aren’t of my ilk. We aliens all look human here, but back on our individual planets, most of us are just plain repulsive. It’s one more reason we like to spend time on Earth. Back home, drunk or not, you don’t want to screw a two-ton cockroach. Especially if she lives in a public toilet.”

“You’re highly evolved,” I said. “Why would you be replusive?”

“Humans are simple. Two of this, two of that. One schvantz. Smooth skin unless some hair on the back. On my planet, oy vey. Three zayin, minimum. Can you imagine three different painful STDs at once, caught from a damned roach? Evolution. Don’t get me started. Everything gets mixed in, the bugs, the birds, the frogs, you’ve got parts you don’t know what they’re there for. Like those old VCR machines here on Earth, with the knobs and the dials and the God knows what. Good riddance to VCRs.”

Amos introduced me one night to a guy named Pinchas, who was working as a compositor at MGM. We were over at the Power House on Highland, drinking caipirinhas on a hot night.

“You a tourist too?” I asked the guy.

“Damned straight I am.”

“Amos was telling me that you all appreciate the simplicity of the human body,” I said.

“It’s true. A babe has two breasts, in most cases. Genius. One isn’t enough. Three isn’t necessary. You play with one, then play with the other, go back and forth. Of course, here in Hollywood there is way too much gel, but once in a while you’ll turn up a natural pair… But you know what? It’s the simplicity of the human mind that I like most.”

“How so?”

“On my planet, I’ve always got nineteen things at once on my various minds. Whereas, look at you. One brain. A silly smile on your face. Your race strolling toward the cliff of racial oblivion and what are you doing tonight? Cocktails? A couple of lines on this napkin? A joint or two out in the lot? Close the place with a pitcher of beer? Genius.”

“Hey,” I said. “I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’m a worried man.”

Pinchas laughed. He drank. He banged his fists on the table.

“You’re sooo primitive,” he said. “Most of your urges and motivations and worries and fears are located in your unconscious. In your unconscious! You don’t even know what they are. You don’t even know that they’re there. My God, what I wouldn’t give for an unconscious. Can you imagine what it’s like being conscious all the time? Do you know how much booze and weed and crank and shit it takes to shut down my f**king conscious? Just take a hammer to my head. The last day on Earth and you’ll be sitting in here laughing at that joke about the bunch of bananas and the lonely doughnut.”

I reached over and conked him on the top of his head as hard as I could with the side of my fist.

Pinchas groaned.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes. For a second there I almost felt human.”

Top 5 Movies Begging to Be Remade

As a screenwriter in Hollywood, I am constantly confronted with producers begging me to rewrite this movie or that. But will they front some money for my efforts, or are they just crying into their apple martinis as we have a few drinks at some local Hollywood watering hole of an evening?

Then, there are the actors who importune me, seeing themselves in this classic role or that, sure that a remake will vault them into the pantheon of greatness.

Finally come the fans I meet, those folks who watch movies every day, blog about movies, tweet about movies. Zombies walk among us. They are alive, but have no life. Many crave remakes.

Note that I’ve never had a movie itself actually beg me for a remake script. When mixing drinks with various drugs, I’ve had movies talk to me. Also trees, animals, and hookers. But no begging. Well, except for some of the less assertive hookers, who will beg instead of demanding to be paid.

Top movies begged for:

5. The Hangover (2009) – I started working on a remake script of this one the moment it hit big. Unfortunately, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore beat me to greenlight, labeling their version a “sequel” and setting it in Thailand. That’s ok. Mine’s just like the first one and theirs, but set in Honolulu. I’ll label it “The Hangover 3.”

4. Toy Story 3 (2010) – Top grosser of 2010. The producer’s obvious favorite for a remake.

3. Dumbo (1941) – This is the top fan pick. Avatar-like 3D. Flying fracking elephants! Dumbo is a Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen teenage elephant with full-frontal raunchy humor. Female teen elephant voiced by Miley Cyrus. Songs. Elephant dung falling from the heavens onto an irate James Cromwell.

2. Swimming to Cambodia (1987) – My friend, the actor Richard (not his name), wants this one. “It’s a one-man show,” I say. “Spalding Grey’s personal experiences. How is a remake going to work?” “Replace some of his experiences with some of mine,” Richard says. “We’re kindred spirits.” Knowing that Spalding Grey committed suicide and that Richard has tried to do so twice, I’m not touching this one without significant $$$ up front.

1. Cujo (1983) – My personal choice for a remake. I’m working on it now. In my version, the original Cujo is replaced by that Beverly Hills talking chihuahua, but with really, really bad rabies. Angelina Jolie plays Donna Trenton. Instead of a damned Pinto, she’s driving an Escalade, which, it turns out, is no match for the crazy chihuahua.

Thanks to Klaus for the topic.

Top 5 Hollywood Rumors This Week (1)

Note: Tupac was last week.

All rumors heard at Harvard and Stone on Hollywood Blvd.

5. Jerry Bruckheimer’s kids won’t let him throw their birthday parties ever again because of the explosions, the fire, and the time that it takes a skin graft to heal.

4. Paris Hilton is no longer a female.

3. Brad and Angelina are still together.

2. The Mayan end-of-the-world 2012 curse applies in particular to all American Idol winners.

1. Elvis committed suicide last year at the age of 75.

All Vegetables Go To Heaven

Note: This post is not about Pixar.

However, speaking of Pixar, Anthony Lane in the New Yorker: “What is it that drives each employee to take more pains than the next one – to pedantry, and beyond?”

I was called into an indy animation studio in Emeryville to help the writing team work on a new vegetable movie. I was to help tweak the tomato dialog. My agent told the company that I grew my own tomatoes and was famous in Hollywood for my homemade catsup (Ketchup v. Catsup is a landmark Supreme Court case involving tomato-based condiments. You could look it up.) My agent just made up the catsup thing, but that’s what good agents do.

I found a lot of anger and dissention in the fruit team when I arrived. That whole thing about whether the tomato is a fruit or vegetable started it, somebody told me. The other fruits just didn’t want any tomatoes in their group. Also, the script called for a beefheart and the vegans thought that this meaty tomato sent totally the wrong message. The meateaters just grinned and said moo, because the manager of the tomato animators agreed with them, and in the company food chain, the animators are way above the writers. Hoffman’s tomato rant had nothing on any of these guys.

Before I could write a line, I was shifted to the potatoes, because the tomato carnivores and vegetarians both hated those of us who will drink, snort, or ingest anything, irregardless of phylum.

The potatoes were the real heavies in the movie, which initially featured a struggle between the bad guys – roots and tubers – and the good guys – fruits, nuts, and greens. I was to come up with some Irish-type dialog for the head potato, but this was scotched by Brendan Gleeson, who was signed to voice the driver of a honey wagon, because he thought that the bad Irish potato is nothing more than a racial stereotype and slur. So I was told to write the dialog with a Russian slant. An executive producer, a Jewish immigrant or refugee from St. Petersburg, put an end to that. The potatoes were finally assigned Polish accents, as all the Poles in the company were just lucky to be working there. However, it developed that nobody knew what a Polish accent sounded like (nobody ever talked to the Poles), and anyway, the thrust of the movie by then was moving away from the notion of vegetable bad and good guys. “Vegetables are all good, by Christ!” said the V.P. of Vegetables. “You want bad, stick to poison fracking mushrooms or belladonna.”

Then it was The Road meets Toy Story. Rusts and mosaic viruses send most of the vegetables to heaven. A parsley and his son are left on Earth, where Venus flytraps are ignoring the flies and eating any weed they can reach. If you’ve ever tried to grow parsley, with that damned tap root they have, you know how neurasthenic the plant can be.

At this point, most of the vegetable personnel faced layoffs and I expected to be escorted out through the front gate at any moment, especially since instead of catsup, I was showing the writers how to make vodka from potatoes and helping the young kid writing the grass dialog to “mow” his stash. But we were all saved by a corporate decision to focus the movie on vegetable heaven.

What is vegetable heaven like, you ask.

First of all, no wings. That’s an insect thing.

Pollen and seed is spilled on the ground, but this is ok in heaven.

Weeds, sadly, go to Hell.

You know that joke about lying in the sun and having sex all day, and the guy says, “Heaven? No, I came back as a jackrabbit in the Arizona desert.” Well, the cacti are all alone out there, but they’re so used to Hell, they can’t tell the difference.

There are no undocumented workers to be seen.

The century plant doesn’t bother to bloom because a hundred years in heaven is like that little bird that flies a thousand miles and pecks on the granite mountain once a year and by the time the mountain is worn down, there is still an eternity to go, so why fracking bother. In fact, why bother going to the movies, come to think of it.

Frank Zappa:

Call any vegetable Call it by name
Call one today When you get off the train
Call any vegetable And the chances are good
Aw, The vegetable will respond to you

(Some people don’t go for prunes…I
don’t know, I’ve always found that if they…)
Call any vegetable Pick up your phone
Think of a vegetable Lonely at home
Call any vegetable And the chances are good
That a vegetable will respond to you

Rutabaga, Rutabaga,
Rutabaga, Rutabaga,
Rutabay-y-y-y…

(A prune isn’t really a vegetable…
CABBAGE is a vegetable…)

No one will know
If you don’t want to let them know
No one will know
‘Less it’s you that might tell them so
Call and they’ll come to you
Covered with dew
Vegetables dream, Of responding to you

Standing there shiny and proud by your side
Holding your hand while the neighbors decide
Why is a vegetable something to hide?