Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher


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Episode 37
                                                                                              
Andy Warhol
"Take a letter, Cole," Chris said, raising a page of scrawled notes to eye level.

I laughed. "Must be another memo to Irwin Allen." I turned to my IBM Selectric -2. Flipped it on, watched the type ball shoot from one side to the other and back again as it positioned itself, then said, "Ready when you are C.B."

Looking over his notes, Chris said:

"From: The Desk Of Bunch and Cole. To: Irwin (The Towering Toupee ) Allen.

"It has come to our attention that you have been wearing the same unwashed toupee since the inception of Code Red."

"Inception?" I queried. "Isn't that a rather grandiose word for this piece of dog poop show?"

"That's good," Chris said. "Put that in. Make it read... since the inception of this piece of dog poop show, Code Red."

I hammered some xxx's through the first "Inception" sentence, then retyped it with the inserted, "piece of dog poop."

I nodded to Chris and he continued: "Obviously, you have never washed said toupee, much less traded it in for a new one, for at least a hundred years. Since you are easily older than Methuselah, we estimate that you must have one hundred deceased toupees tossed into the back of your closet.

"With the one currently perched on your bald head, that makes one hundred and one dead toupees. Equally obviously, you have stored those toupees in your closet because you don't know what to do with them. Therefore, your story execs of this piece of dog poop you call a show, generously offer a way out of your predicament, undeserving shithead of a boss though you may be."

"Ah, ha," I ah-ha'ed. "Now I see where you are going."

Speaking aloud as I typed, I hammered out the following title: 101 THINGS TO DO WITH A DEAD TOUPEE

"By George, I think he's got it," Chris said. Then he rattled the piece of paper that contained his notes and dictated:

1. Mow it.

2. Sew razor blades along the edges and use it to hunt kangaroos.

3. Train your cat to retrieve it.

4. Tell people it's a frisbee with a bad case of hyperpilosity.

Chris paused. "That's a hairy virus," he explained.

"I know, I know," I said. "I've read L. Sprague De Camp too."

Chris went on:

5. Roll it and smoke it.

6. Hang it on an alcoholic's wall so the DT's can be really impressive.

7. Tell everyone that it's a tennis ball that you successfully turned inside out.

8. Tuck it in the front of your shirt and hang a gold chain over it.

9. Drag it behind you on a leash and tell everyone it's your pet porcupine.

10. Practice topiary ideas with it.

11. Cover it with cream sauce and tell foreign visitors that it is a great American delicacy.

12. Stuff it with walnuts and bread crumbs and have it for Thanksgiving.

13. Serve it to Turks as the world's first hairy crepe."

I broke in. "Why Turks?" I wondered.

"Beats the shit out of me," Chris said. "Guess I was running out of steam and while searching for some becursed nation I settled on the Turks. I mean they really should have stayed on their side of the Dardanelles, and..."

"Okay, okay," I jumped in, "Keep going."

"Fuck it," Chris said. He crumbled up his notes and tossed them into a wastebasket. Rising, he added, "That's all I've got. We can think of some more later. Besides, it's time for lunch. My treat at the Kosherama Chinese Deli."

We never got around to finishing the list, although I did manage to stuff the page I had typed into my briefcase to save for the ages.

The other day I found it way at the back of the desk, along with some other yellowing Bunch & Cole memorabilia, which I'm sharing with you now to illustrate just how punchy Chris and I were getting only a month or so into the show. We would break into gales of laughter at the slightest thing. No prank was too low. No joke too juvenile.

For example, here's another bit of silly business memorabilia from our Code Red days that I found along with 101 Things To Do With A Dead Toupee.

This one was a petition that Chris and I drew up and posted next to the main exit from the building. It reads:

PLEASE HELP SAVE

THE NUKE THE WHALE PROGRAM

In 1962, then-President John F. Kennedy realized that there was an active danger in the proliferation of sperm whales in the world's oceans.

Whales were not only providing blubber, a probable cancer-causing agent, to deprived Third World Countries at the instigation of imperialist and Soviet exploiters but dangerously contaminating the sea. This, in turn, was endangering the porpoise population - a load of whale shit dropped on a porpoise's head at sixteen fathoms would obviously ensure the death of that intelligent mammal.

For this reason, President Kennedy, at the instigation of Bella Abzug and Ralph Nader, authorized the development of small, limited-yield nuclear devices intended for the painless implantation in sperm whales to reduce the population to manageable levels.

This program continued development under later Presidents and was to be field-tested in early 1982. However, President Reagan, with the cooperation of James Watt, has cut the Nuke The Whales Program almost completely.

Write your Congressman... Sign this Petition.

WE MUST CONTINUE NUKING WHALES. NOT ONLY THE SMALL CREATURES OF THE SEA, BUT FUTURE GENERATIONS WHO WILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH THE NAUSEATING EVIDENCE OF WHALE SHIT ON THE BEACH WILL THANK YOU.

Any questions may be referred to Jeff Freilich, at Flamingo Road, Producers 7, Room 3.

A long, blank signature form was taped below this appeal.

Sure it was stupid. Doesn't even qualify as sophomoric. But within a couple of days the signature form was full. Chris taped another under it. It filled up again in no time. Like-minded folks taped forms beneath the others until the whole shebang reached the floor.

Eventually, we tired of it and I rolled it up and stuffed in my briefcase for the edification of future generations of Bunch & Cole readers.

Larry Heath, our show's executive story consultant, was not immune to all the foolishness - especially since he was getting short. His contract with Irwin (The Towering Toupee ) Allen was nearing an end and he was soon to be off to a cool, well-paying gig writing a Movie Of The Week, or mini-series about Columbus or something.

Even though he didn't have that much time left, Larry was getting antsy and had a tendency to writerly depression, so Chris taught him how to make a GI Reverse Calendar. Basically, if you have - say - thirty days left before discharge from the Army, you start with the number 30 then number down the page until you reach the number 1.

Once that's done, you cross off each day as it ends. So, you go, 29, 28, 27 and so on...

But that's not all. You can hasten the end and really lift your spirits if you go, Okay, I've got 28 and a wakeup. (instead of 29) Then 27 and a wake up. Proceeding to 26 and a wake up, etc. Before you know it you are at one and a wake up (In reality two days) and damn Sam, you are almost out of This Man's Army. Or, in this case, Irwin's backstabbing management ways.

Larry was at about 25 and a wake up when he conspired to avenge ourselves on Irwin by making him throw up.

We'd noticed that Irwin possessed a hair-trigger gag reflex. Chris theorized that it was caused by repressed guilt for being such a shitheel boss; a theory readily acceptable to both of us.

Waiting For Irwin
It seemed that if Irwin somehow got the foolish notion that at least something was going right on the show, the merest dash of negativity would make him start gagging. He'd go, "Umph, Umph," and you could see his round protruding little pot belly reflexively going in and out. And if negative comments continued, he'd go "Umph, Umph," some more, covering his mouth. Then he'd rush into his executive bathroom, slam the door behind him, and spill his guts.

So, the three of us started setting Irwin up. He'd call us to his office for a meeting to announce some new development. For example, one time he said that the Network had requested more air time for Adam (The Beach Ball) Rich.

"Was it really the Network who asked for more airtime, or his mom?" Larry asked.

Irwin paled, then replied, "Oh, I'm sure it's because of the latest ratings results."

"In other words, our ratings are sinking," Chris guessed.

"Well... not sinking... we're still finding our place on the Sunday night schedule." (Our place was opposite mega-ratings king, 60 Minutes.)

"I'm not sure the kid can take it," I put in. "More airtime, I mean. He's already a mess of nerves."

"A wreck in the making if I ever saw one," Larry added.

And we all saw Irwin turn paler still.

"Did you see the Dailies yesterday?" Chris asked Larry.

"Oh, did I ever," Larry said, shaking his head.

Irwin hadn't been there, so he couldn't help but ask, "What was wrong?"

"Adam seems to have developed this twitch," I said.

"A nervous twitch," Chris added.

"What's he do?" Irwin asked, dread in his voice.

"He blinks, is what he does," Larry said. (This was true)

"Constantly and without stop," I said, demonstrating, by rapidly blinking my eyes. (This was also true)

Then it started and Irwin went, "umph, umph."

"It's like he's got sand in his eyes," Chris said.

More "umph, umph's" from Irwin.

"Or some kind of condition," Larry said.

"Umph, umph," and we could see that little pot gut start clenching and unclenching.

Larry gave Irwin a look of deep concern. "Maybe we ought to get him some psychiatric help," he said.

"Yeah, a shrink," Chris said. "Poor kid."

"I don't know," I put in. "Seems pretty far gone to me. He just can't seem to stop blinking."

Irwin groaned, put a hand over his mouth and rushed into the bathroom that had been installed for him at great Studio expense.

As we sat there listening to him spewing his guts, we all imagined him worshipping at the Porcelain Throne Of Asshole Bosses and made with High Fives all around.

Sometimes life can be really, really good. Even at the grimmest of times.

My favorite prank, however, was the Great Fire Extinguisher Caper. It came from the evil genius brain of my partner in Hollyweird crime.

It was like this: Mounted on the wall next to the door leading out of our building was a large fire extinguisher. Just as red as it could be.

One morning when we came to work, Chris spotted the fire extinguisher and paused. He studied it as if he'd never seen anything like it before. Then light dawned and he rushed into our office, dug around in the supply closet and came up with a pack of blank white note cards.

He got one out, went to his desk and fired up the typewriter, inserted the card and typed a few words. When it was done, he hunted up some Scotch tape, and exited our office, with a very curious Yours Truly at his heels.

He taped the card to the wall beneath the fire extinguisher. I stepped closer to read:

FIRE EXTINGUISHER

BY ANDY WARHOL

I shrugged. "Won't work," I said.

"Hide and watch, O ye of little faith," Chris replied.

You are probably thinking the same thing I was - pretty silly, right?

Maybe so, but soon all the people in the building started talking about it. If you recall the occupants included Cheech And Chong, who had the whole second smoke-hazed floor. And we shared the bottom floor with the staff of Flamingo Road, headed by none other than Jeff (The EatAnter ) Freilich. (Among the cast of Flamingo was the beauteous Stella Stevens, mother of Andrew Stevens, one of the regulars on Code Red)

Everybody was going, "Andy Warhol! Wow!" Thinking that it was really cool for the Studio to bless our building with such an important piece of art. The Suits must think we're all important as well.

Pretty soon word drifted over to the offices of Irwin (The Towering Toupee ) Allen. One morning the boss had himself driven over in his Rolls.

Our secretary, Genevieve, could see the front door from her desk and she spotted Irwin enter with his chauffeur.

Irwin glanced around to see if anyone was watching (he didn't notice Genevieve) then strolled over to the fire extinguisher. Put his hands behind his back and studied the faux objet d'art for a long time.

She heard him say, "Amazing. Just amazing." He left without another word, his head-scratching chauffeur in his wake.

That was a Friday. On a Monday when we returned to work, the fire extinguisher and the card were gone.

"Son of a bitch," Chris said. "Art thieves at work."

We both laughed.

We heard nothing for a time, then one day the show's tech advisor - Chief Joe Weber, recently retired from the LA County Fire Department - came into our office chuckling and shaking his head.

"What's up Chief?" Chris asked.

"You have to find some excuse to visit Irwin's office," he said. "Don't go in, but just take a look around."

"What for?" I pressed.

"Just go," he said. "You won't regret it."

So we went. Strolled into the main office with scripts in our hands, as if there for a conference. Everybody said hi, and we kept going, finally getting to the hallway to Irwin's office. The door was closed, so we strolled onward.

Came to a halt at the hallway's end. And there, to our amazement was the missing fire extinguisher. Just as red as ever.

Beneath it, was not a white note card... but a small brass plaque.

And it read:


FIRE EXTINGUISHER

By Andy Warhol

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Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It 
Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.

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Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.