15 December 2010


The jet arrived just as they had said, but Willie had his head in the clouds long before the plane took off.

A limo was waiting at the landing field, and Willie was welcomed by Carla, a lovely young woman handpicked for this job. She was to make Willie feel just like he belonged. As they stopped for a coffee on the way to the studio, Willie had goose pumps as she told of the possibilities of his story. And so then on to a meeting in the plush office of the CEO of MGM-- writers and a director sat in. Willie took center stage as he began his story. He could not help but notice the genuine interest the writers were taking as he talked. His ego was growing steadily.

“O. K.” said the chief, “that’s enough for now. We’ll give Willie a little rest, and relaxation, and pick it up again tomorrow, same time.”
Carla was waiting outside to escort Willie to his quarters at the Hyatt-Regency. They got better acquainted over a few drinks. Carla left, and Willie took the elevator to his room on the thirty second floor.

Someone was standing outside his door as he approached.
 “I’m Charlie Jacobs, and I know who you are. You’ve become quite a celebrity.”
Willie asked bluntly, “What do you want? I’m tired and don’t feel like talking.”
“Alright. I’ll make it short and sweet. I’m a talent agent and you need me. There are at least two other major studios that would be interested in what you’ve got to sell. You would be smart to sit down with me before your next meeting. I can get you three times the money MGM would offer you. Here’s my card, think it over. Sweet dreams.”
Willie thought long and hard, then called Charlie Jacobs asked him to met in an hour in the hotel bar. Willie was about to get educated about this “dog eat dog“ town, called Hollywood.
Charlie’s very first question to Willie, “Did you sign anything? No? Good. Now we can talk.” Charlie told him just how the game was played, basically by pitting one studio against another to get the highest bid for your property, and Willie’s was a hot property.
Charlie thought the best approach would be to hire an independent screen writer. If they were able to bring to the studios a finished product they could get top dollar. So Willie worked for two weeks with the well-known Jan Morgan, giving her the facts and letting her tweak them just a bit to get the most dramatic effect.
Charlie made the rounds with the completed script, and after some though bargaining sold the rights to Starlight Productions for 50 million. This was all it took to push Willie over the edge. The notoriety and attention became just as addictive as if he was on cocaine-- he couldn’t get enough. But reality hit when he called Carla to tell her the good news. “Hello, Carla, you won’t believe this but I signed with Starlight for 50 million!” 
Willie heard a click and the phone went dead. He called back-- no answer. He called again, and again-- still no answer. Willie went to Carla’s apartment, but she wouldn’t answer the door. Willie was going nuts, it finally dawned on him that her only interest in him was for MGM. Willie knew what time she went to work, so he sat outside her apartment in a cab, waiting for her to come out. When she opened the door Willie jumped out and confronted her. What followed was a devastating scene for Willie. Carla told him in so many words to get out of her life, she never wanted to see him again, etc.. Willie’s humiliating pleas fell on deaf ears. With sagging shoulders he watched as she drove out of sight.
After sulking around the hotel for a few days, Willie realized he had to get on with life. After all, he had the money.
The movie was number one at the box office. How high could Willie go? Of course, all the folks back home were proud of their hometown hero. And all the while in his rise to fame, Pearl deeply regretted her narrow mindedness, and wondered if... but no way. Willie was on another planet now.
What goes up, comes down-- and usually with a crash. It took all of five months before Willie found himself on has-been alley. Besides his money, he had nothing, nothing or nobody. Even Charlie Jacobs dropped him.
He decided to head for Olean and look up Melan and Juan. It turned out to be the one best things he could do, for he found there that he still had two fast and true friends who welcomed him with open arms. They invited him to stay with them indefinitely. For certain, Willie was in no hurry to move on. He settled in as a waiter at the restaurant and mixed with good-old solid middle-of-the-road people. Soon some of the "old" Willie was restored.
He was getting closer and closer to his friends. At least one of them. He decided to ask Melan to dinner and a movie. That’s when Willie got an unexpected surprise-- Melan was engaged and had been for some time. She could see what was happening and had been trying to tell Willie that she had found someone she really and truly loved.
Willie knew he could stay no longer. He packed up the following day and bid a tearful goodbye to two the dearest friends he would ever know. Then he headed home.
Willie had a lot of time to think on the train, and it became crystal clear what he wanted most of all, more than money or fame, was the simple life he had as a construction worker. It even crossed his mind whether or not he could get his old job back again. But that thought was overshadowed by a much bigger one: What had become of Pearl? Not a word of or from her for three years?
One thing was for sure-- he would begin the search his first day home. Willie didn’t have to look very far. When he stepped down from the coach, there she was, more beautiful than he had thought possible. They looked at one another-- no words were needed. After only three weeks of catching up, they were married. So Willie was married and happy for the rest of his days. And if true love wasn't enough, he had one hell of a story to tell his kids.

-by Bud Goldkamp (Grandpa)
-softly edited by Henry Goldkamp

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