Tuesday, March 20, 2018

We Meet Bill Friedkin And The DEA


The DEA Agent measured us with his cold cop's eyes. "I hope you guys are traveling clean," he said. "If not..." he shrugged... "You're on your own."

Chris snorted. "Just because we maybe look like Hippie Commie Symps," he said, "doesn't mean we're stupid Hippie Commie Symps."

The DEA Agent barked laughter. "You two don't look like hippies," he said, "but you do look like you take a walk on the wild side now and again."

"If we didn't," I pointed out, "Billy Friedkin wouldn't have hired us to write this movie."

The DEA Agent grinned. "Who do you think Billy will get to play me?" he said. "Redford, maybe? Or Warren Beatty?"

Chris said, "If we promised you Redford, then whipped out a Doobie and lit up, would you still bust us?"

The DEA Agent sighed. "Geeze... Robert Redford," he said. "My wife would be all over me like it was our second honeymoon."

"But you'd still put the cuffs on us," I said, starting to like this guy.

"I would," he said. "Although I wouldn't enjoy it... if that makes you feel any better."

"Never fear," Chris said. "Only shit we're holding are a couple of hip flasks of scotch in case Jacksonville is dry."

"Only on Sundays," the DEA Agent laughed. "And that's just until 2 p.m."

Our bags came up on the carousel. We grabbed them and followed the DEA Agent out of the airport into the steamy Florida air.

I won't name the DEA Agent. He was undercover then, and even if he's retired now, I'm sure there are a lot of bad guys he put away who'd relish eating a cold dish of Revenge on his corpse's chest.

The "Billy" Friedkin I'm referring to is the great director, William Friedkin; and no, I'm not going all Hollywood on you with the "Billy" business. That's what he prefers to be called.

The movie he'd hired us to write - TARGET: CARLOS - was for Showtime and it was about Carlos Lehder, who along with Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel, pioneered the modern Gazillion Dollar dope smuggling and murder business.

Our nameless DEA Agent was the man most responsible for bringing Carlos to Justice, where he is buried in a federal prison so deep they have to pipe in the sunshine - and that for only an hour a day.

The reason we were in Jacksonville, Florida was to interview the DEA Agent, who was tying up the loose ends after a series of Federal Court trials where Carlos and a group of American Good Old Boy associates had been judged Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.

If you recall from the episode before last, Marc (with a yuppie "c" spelling) Pariser, one of our agents at CAA, had promised to hook us up with Friedkin in return for a favor.

I know, I know... your jaw just bounced off the floor in amazed disbelief that an agent - especially an agent at the infamous CAA - had kept his word.

Well, he did. But in a bassackward way. No surprise there, right? It happened like this:


Chris and I watched in dismay as Suit after Suit filed into the room, each with coffee (or whatever) in one hand, and a napkin-wrapped cruller or bagel in the other.

There was no end to them: You had your TV Suits, your Movie Of The Week Suits, Your Miniseries Suits, your Network liaison Suits, your Production Suits, your Program Practices Suits, your CAA Agency Suits, plus a Three-Suit Business Affairs Team, led by a fat guy with a scabby Friar Tuck dome and a six-inch doughnut bar gripped in his teeth like a cigar. Or, well... you get the picture.

Chris stage-whispered, "There's enough Suits here to start a fucking dandruff farm."

On the other side of the huge board room table, Pariser had picked up on Chris' comment and started to raise an admonishing hand to keep it down... then thought better of it and let his hand flop impotently to the table.

At the head of the table lounged Steven By God Seagal, star of the hour, with his long sheep's face, short pony tail, beady eyes and wearing an unbuttoned silk shirt that displayed a pudgy chest and thick gold chain.

"He's got bigger tits than Orson Welles," Chris whispered.

I don't know if Seagal heard him, but he flinched and rotated his face away. Chris had put him in his place two MisAdventures back (Chris Bunch Vs. Steven Seagal) and he had remained there ever since.

As each Suit entered they stopped to make obeisance before Seagal - who didn't rise. After all, he was the favorite bum boy of Michael Ovitz, then uber-boss of CAA and the most powerful agent in the world. Seagal was also a teller of untruths so outrageous that Hollywood Suits hastened to worship at his feet. One by one he was presented by Pariser, and they all shook his hand and giggled nervously at whatever he condescended to say.

My partner was disgusted. He said, "Look like a bunch of groupies lining up to give him a BJ."

Fortunately, nobody heard him, because just at that moment the Business Affairs Baldy approached Seagal, removed the doughnut bar from his mouth, balanced it across his coffee (or whatever) cup and shook Seagal's hand, a wide grin splitting his puffed-up face.

"Looks like a fucking Cape Baboon," Chris whispered.

Finally, everybody found a seat - as lowly writers we had been shoved into a distant corner - but the meeting did not commence. One person was missing. There was a buzz around the room: Where is he? Why is he late? Should somebody call his girl?

The missing person was William Friedkin, and without him the meeting was pointless, because there would be no project.

Then, to everyone's relief, Friedkin entered. He paused in the doorway, looking every inch The Great Director. He was dressed casually and wore aviator glasses, which he adjusted with one hand as he looked around the room nodding pleasantly at various Suits.

He saw Seagal, smiled and said, "Morning Steven."

Seagal returned the smile and the greeting, then motioned for Friedkin to sit between him and Pariser.

But Billy had spotted us. His polite smile turned into a wide grin and he announced to the room: "I think I'll go sit with my writers."

Chris and I had lunched with Friedkin a couple of weeks before and had been impressed. But with those words - "I'll go sit with my writers" - he climbed to the very pinnacle of our admiration.

With that statement, he not only boosted our status, but declared the three of us the only Creative People in a room crowded with expensive suits, power ties and pockets full of beans to count. An aside: The glass ceiling was very much in place - not one woman was to be found among all those Execs. (Q. What's the difference between and a Male Suit and a Female Suit? A. Dandruff)

Somebody from Warner's opened the meeting with the usual blah, blah. Honored to have a director of the stature of Friedkin in their company. Praise for their new action star, Steven Seagal. And a few words about the writing team of Bunch & Cole who had been laboring hard on the project.

Then they kicked the ball over to us. Asking first, how long we envisioned the project to be. We had roughed out a movie with Friedkin in our meetings, but before I could say anything, Pariser caught my eye and spread his hands apart. Meaning CAA was on the hunt for a four-hour mini-series, not just a movie of the week.

(CAA perfected the art of "packaging." Meaning, they'd put together a team of their clients - writers, directors, actors, producers, composers, etc. - and strong arm the Studios into swallowing the whole thing. Loosely speaking, this meant CAA got many, many ten percents for one project. That this practice led to the manipulation of their clients and their clients' paychecks - and entire careers - was something Ovitz vehemently denied.)

Back to the meeting and the two-hour movie that had just been transformed into a four-hour mini. In my mind I was quickly expanding the story that was supposed to be about the Yakuza (Japanese mafia known for their elaborate tats) invading Hawaii, to an adventure that started in Hawaii, where it remained for the first two hours, then jumped to Japan for the exciting two-hour conclusion.

We'd agreed that I'd take the pitch - mainly because I had lived in the Far East for some years - and Chris would jump in with bits of martial arts and underworld flash.

It was a helluva pitch, if I do say so myself, and according to the clock on the wall - which I took occasional glances at - we completed it in a little over seven minutes. Everybody seemed pleased; Friedkin put his hands together, leading the applause from all the others.

All, that is, except for the Scabby Domed Business Affairs guy. Baldy's face was swollen in apparent fury. His two sycophants had started to join in the applause, but immediately ceased and desisted when they saw their boss's reaction.

Before anyone could speak, he growled, "I can't believe that I had to sit through all this shit! What a waste of my God Damned time! I thought we were here to meet on the deal. But, no. I have to sit here and listen to the story! Who gives a fuck about the story? What's about the deal, God damn it!"

Total silence. I felt like shit. I was thinking, Jesus, what did I do wrong? Did I somehow let The Side down? Wasn't I supposed to pitch the story? And if I was, did I go on too long? And on, and on.

Chris whispered, "Fuck him."

And I think he was about to say it again, but louder, and addressed more personally, but we heard Friedkin clear his throat.

Everyone turned to him - expectant. He was looking at Balding Fat Boy with amusement. "If this was a meeting about the deal, instead of the story," he said, "then it would be a waste of My Time. My lawyer talks deals. I talk stories."

He turned to us and said, "Great job, boys! When we met, it was just a germ of an idea that we discussed. Now, we have Real Story and for a four-hour mini to boot."

Baldy started to say something, but the Warner Bros. Big Shot jumped in with effusive praise and agreement with Friedkin. Baldy, meanwhile, stuffed the whole doughnut bar in his mouth and chewed. Unfortunately, he didn't choke on it.

Friedkin tipped me the wink and I realized Baldy's rude comments had been a ploy to get the upper hand on any deal discussions with the director and his team. A ploy that had been turned back on him. Next to me, I heard Chris laugh - and knew that he'd picked up on it too. Well played, Mr. Friedkin.

A week passed. A chubby check for our work thus far on the Seagal mini had arrived, putting us in the best of moods. I think we were working on Sten #5 - Revenge Of The Damned - so we certainly weren't idle. The previous Sten novel, Fleet Of The Damned, had ended in a cliff hanger and our publisher and loyal readers were practically hammering on our door for the next episode.

The phone rang. We were expecting a call from Shelly Shapiro, our editor at Del Rey Books, so Chris punched the speaker button before he picked up. He delivered his favorite greeting: "This anybody with good news or money?" Usually he'd immediately add, "No! Then fuck off." And pretend to hang up.

But he was quickly brought up short. Over the speaker phone I heard Friedkin laugh, then say, "God, I loved A Thousand Clowns."

"Shit, you're about the only guy to ever get it," Chris said.

"In this case," Friedkin said, "the question was right on the mark."

"How so?" I asked.

Friedkin said, "I've got some good news, and some bad news guys. Which do you want to hear first?"

"Let's hear the bummer, first," Chris said.

Friedkin said, "In a little bit you're going to get a call from CAA. Your agent is going to tell you that Warner Brothers passed on the mini-series deal. But, that's not the real story. The real story is that after looking over our pony-tailed friend (Seagal), I had second thoughts."

We got the idea that he thought Seagal was a walking, talking time bomb. He'd worked with the best in the business - Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Al Pacino - a whole galaxy of really talented stars. And Seagal would be a definite comedown. So, no dice.

But before we could despair, he said, "Now for the good news."

Chris said, "Shoot."

Friedkin said, "You boys ever see The French Connection?"

"Of course," I said. Every ink-spattered wretch of worth had seen Friedkin's brilliant tale of "Popeye" Doyle's battle against a mysterious drug lord.

Friedkin said, "How would you boys like to write something similar for me?"

"Far fucking out," said Chris.





A True Story About A Boy,
A Teacher, An Earthquake,
Some Terrorists And The CIA

LUCKY IN CYPRUS is a coming-of-age story set in the Middle East during the height of the Cold War. An American teenager – son of a CIA operative – is inspired by grand events and a Greek Cypriot teacher. He witnesses earthquakes and riots and terrorist attacks, but in the end it is his teacher’s gentle lessons that keep him whole.

Note to Audible.com subscribers: Lucky In Cyprus will be available there in a few weeks. Save a credit!

Meanwhile, here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 

Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke, Bookloons.com
  • *****




Can't wait to read the blog each week to find out what happens next? No problem. Click the following link and buy the book. 

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.

Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India

Hear voice artist Colin Hussey's 
Bring all the stories and people 
To life in the audiobook version
Of My Hollywood MisAdventures.


Ever since my British publisher put all eight novels in the Sten series in three omnibus editions, American readers have been clamoring for equal treatment. 

Well, my American publisher – Wildside Books – was listening and has issued all three omnibus volumes on this side of the Atlantic. Here are the links to buy the books:

THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.


A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.




What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 



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.

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