Friday, October 12, 2018

Summoned To The Black Tower

FADE IN: 
EXT - AERIAL - DAY - THE TURBOCYCLES 
Hurtling through the sky. Troy and Dillon aboard. 
DILLON
Two more hours to the turboshowers and bed. 
TROY
First I'm going to devour a five kilo soyastreak. Then -- 
His LANGUATRON beeps. Troy reacts.
TROY
We've entered a radar blanket… On the ground… Fast! 
THE TURBOCYLES 
Swoop down toward a highway. 

EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY 
The turbocycles… hauling along a deserted highway. They round the curve and see… 
U.S. ARMY CONVOY 
A long line of two and a half ton trucks and other vehicles. 
THE TURBOCYCLES 
Move out to pass. 
THE BACKS OF THE TRUCKS 
Filled with a detachment of Rangers. Camouflage fatigues. Black berets. Armed… Near full battle gear… including M16's. One Ranger grins at them and waves. Dillon waves back. 
ON THE TUBOCYCLES
Speeding away. 
DILLON
Why do you think there are so many soldiers around here? 
Is someone expecting a war? 

(Opening of GL-80 Episode: Earthquake by Allan Cole And Chris Bunch.)


*****
If you are a couple of freelance scriptwriters working out of Santa Monica, and you have a pitch meeting on Galactica 1980 with its Showrunner, Jeff (The EatAnter) Freilich, at Universal Studios here's what you do:

1. Grimace and groan and curse because the @#$%@ show has such a stupid premise that you have been stumped for days, and haven't a scrap of an idea to present when you get there.

2. Self-medicate with a pop of single malt, then lie to your partner that two geniuses like yourselves will surely come up with something on the way to the meet.

3. Spritz mouth with Famous Producer's Breath Spray to neutralize the odor of single malt.

4. Douche eyes with Famous Producer's Eye Wash to get the red out from a night of tossing and turning, thinking up ideas that shriveled up and died at dawn's early light.

5. Hit the Santa Monica Freeway (the Ten) and take it East to the 405. Force yourself into the traffic going North to the 101 (Ventura Freeway) East/South. Taking care to follow the signs that say to Los Angeles, or you will be royally fucked and off to Oxnard or maybe Santa Barbara and if you really screw up, San Francisco.

6. But, just before you reach the above mentioned Venture Freeway East/South, I double-damn guarantee you that some semi full of oranges, or chickens, or in our case - avocados - will go upside down somewhere ahead of you and you will be stuck, fuming and cursing, along with umpty million other stranded drivers all headed Nowhere at No Speed whatsoever.

Everybody's Ass Is Stuck In Traffic
Behind us, somebody relieved his frustrations by laying on his horn. Chris relieved his by flipping him the middle finger salute in the rear view mirror.

I said, "The bad news is that we're going to be late. But, that's also the good news because I don't have the foggiest idea what we're going to pitch."

Chris grunted, then said, "Maybe the Gods Of Bullshit Premises are smiling on us. Maybe they whipped up all that freeway guacamole the KFWB Eye In The Sky twit is going on about - big joke, ha, ha - just to delay us long enough to finally think of something."

I nodded. I'm as ready as the next guy to see the glass half full if that's what his partner wants.

I said, "Let's go over them again."

And so we did. One by feeble story idea by one. Inching ahead toward the Venture Freeway, ignoring the horn-happy son of a bitch behind us as well as we could.

PAUSE FOR A TEENSY BIT OF BACKSTORY

The big problem was that Galactica 1980 was a stupid idea spun off from a show - Battlestar Galactica - that had been Cancelled With Cause the previous season. (Neither Galactica mentioned here should be confused with the excellent remake done a couple of years ago starring the brilliant James Olmos, among others.)

In the first incarnation, the remnants of the Human Race fled across time and space with some very nasty guys (Cylons) on their heels. Their goal: to find Earth, the mythical birthplace of Humanity. It starred the supremely talented Lorne (That Voice!) Greene as Adama, the Colonial Leader, as well as several other damned good actors and actresses.

What killed it? The super lousy management of the creator, Glen (The Rip Off Artist) Larson, who also wrote most of the awful scripts that no actor or director - no matter how talented - could transform into a higher element than Leaden on The Periodic Table Of Words.

The GL-80 Condemned
The second incarnation - Galactica 1980 - kept Lorne Greene as the lead. But this time around, the good guys have… Ta Da - Found Earth. But - and here's the twist, folks - it's not any old Earth. But "Present Day" Earth. See, Adama and his noble band of heroes punch through time and go back to 1980, way, way before humankind abandoned Earth for the Stars. (Trivia: 1980 A.D. was 7378 on the Galactica Colonial Calendar.)

There are many reasons that this idea sucks, some of which can be found in the previous episode, The Galactica 1980 Fiasco, and others that will become clear over the next several MisAdventures.

Tick, Tick, Tick - Kapow!
What's worse, Glen Larson was still the man at the helm. Worse still, the show was scheduled by ABC (The Anything But Class Network) during the Sunday night "Children's Hour" - in the 7 p.m. slot opposite the Serial Competition Killer: 60 Minutes. Even worse, since it was the Children's Hour, Galactica 1980 would have its very own censor overseeing production - one Susan Futterman, sworn to uphold the purity of America's tots.

But at that moment, Chris and I thought the only problems we had was a traffic jam and a supremely empty Story Bucket.

As Chris was wont to put it: "Ignorance is a mother fucker."

RESUME TRAFFIC JAM

So, we were going over out list of (ha) possibilities, ditching them one by one as we went. Then Chris scratched his head and said: "Didn't Jeff say they had some kind of human bad guy? A Colonial who turns traitor, or some such?"

I nodded, glanced at my notes, then said, "Commander Xavier. Kind of a fallen angel sort who wants to expose Earth's inhabitants to Galactica's superior technology. Deliberately shake things the hell up."

Chris muttered, "Shake things up. Hmm. Shake things up."

The guy behind us did his horn number yet one more time and Chris automatically gave him the finger flip, but his heart wasn't in it. He was too busy thinking.

Then he said, "What if this Xavier cat wants attention so badly that he deliberately triggers a Big Mother Earthquake?"

I said, "Is that possible?"

Chris said, "Who gives a fuck. It's Science Fiction ABC style. That makes it possible."

Starting to get a glimmer, I offered - "So, he gets this earthquake machine - or whatever -  going. But, then… well, damn, what if the whole thing spirals out of control and instead of just a little scare-the-shit-out-of-you earthquake, he gets one that sets off the whole damned San Andreas fault?"

New Beachfront Property
"Fucking California might fall into the sea," Chris said, getting enthused.

"Arizona and Nevada become beachfront states," I added.

"But, Lorne Greene and his guys ride to the rescue," Chris said. "Bonanza in space." And he made bump/ bump/bump/bump Bonanza theme music noises.

Just then the traffic cleared and we were on our way again. Took the Ventura East/South turnoff and headed for the Lankershim Boulevard exit where the Black Tower loomed over the entrance to MCA Universal Studios.

By the time Scotty cleared us through the gate and we got parked, we had the rest of the story worked out, with a nice little Earthbound subplot, involving a young geology professor who is on the outs with his colleagues because of his radical ideas for earthquake detection.


Earthquake! Earthquake!
 I'd recently read a Scientific American article about how the Chinese were touting ancient quake prediction methods that relied on nature. Barking dogs. Chickens going to roost in the middle of the day. Dropping water levels in wells. That sort of thing.

By the time we got to Freilich's building, we'd added a Children's Hour angle, that made the professor a widower with a teeny-bop daughter.

As we stepped out of  the elevator onto the third floor, we heard a delighted female voice say, "Bunch and Cole!"

Nice voice. Just ahead, outside Freilich's office, we saw the source.

Nice source.

It was the red-headed beauty we'd first met when Jeff was on Mrs. Columbo. Still just as sexy. Still just as smart. And she had a smile guaranteed to put a spring in any man's step.

She said, "You're a little late, boys. But, not to worry. I heard about the Guacamole Traffic Jam on the 405 and alerted Jeff. I'll ring him and you can go right on in."

As we started for the door and she added, "No beer this time around, guys. Jeff's with Frank, and he's pretty much of a teetotaler."

"Who's Frank?" I asked.

"Frank Lupo," she replied. "He's Jeff's co-producer. Glen Larson's man."

At our frowns, she hastened to add, "Don't worry. He's not a spy. Seems like a nice guy and his girl (meaning Frank's secretary) says he's a good boss. He just doesn't drink, that's all."

In the office, we found Jeff smiling behind his desk and Frank Lupo sitting in a chair pulled up next to Jeff's. He was Italian stocky and young - shit, maybe 25. Which is really damned young for a TV Show Runner. He had a great cynical smile, and an I'm-in-on-the-joke glint in his eyes and when he rose to shake our hands, he spoke with a gravelly voice right off the streets of Brooklyn.

"Glad to meet'cha," he said, sounding like he meant it.

The Man With The Plan
(Down the road we'd learn Frank's fascinating Cab Driver To Hollywood Producer/Writer story and work for him on everything from The A-Team, to Hunter, to Werewolf to Walker, Texas Ranger. With a Magnum PI and a couple of others thrown in for good measure. Our very best experiences were working with Frank - the exception being Galactica 1980, and that wasn't his fault. I consider him a close friend to this day.)

After a couple of friendly preliminaries, we got down to the pitch. We had to ignore Al Godfrey's dictum that you should always pitch your best story last. (See Episode # 9 - Buck Rogers Is A Fatty - Ardala Definitely Isn't.)

Problem being, we only had one story. That Earthquake sucker we'd figured out in the middle of the traffic jam.

And son of a gun, it went down like bacon through a goose. In short, Jeff and Frank enthusiastically bought into our con… uh, No, I mean our most excellent story premise.

But before we were told to go thou and write, Jeff dropped the bomb. He asked if we wanted to be story editors on the show.

Chris said, “Do we still get the sale if we pass?”

Jeff said, “Sure. No problem, boys.”

Chris looked at me, I looked at him - both of us remembering the shit we had shoveled to come up with even one story.

I said, “Thanks, Jeff. But I think we’ll pass.”

It was my job in those days to announce the bad news to the boss class. Jeff argued a little, but I told him very firmly that we were writing the first of a new series of science fiction novels (Sten) and besides, we were making a ton of money free lancing. Who needed a regular staff job? Jeff seemed to take our turndown well, and we left feeling pretty good about things. Frank appeared to be amused by the incident, and I think it was then that we really started to stand out in his mind.

*****

DISSOLVE TO:

It was the next day and we were working merrily away. We'd moved our setup into the living room of my Santa Monica apartment because it was such a hot day. All the windows and the patio doors were open, trying to catch whatever faint breeze that might be coming off the Pacific - about 15 blocks away. We

This Is A Schtickup!
were finishing up a story about a bank robbery for some show whose name I've forgotten. Clearing the decks so we could tackle the monster that was the Galactica 1980 story.

I said, "Okay, so when we go into the bank, we've got seven minutes tops, so we go in guns blasting. Shoot the shit of out the ceiling, scream Everybody Down On The Floor."

Chris said, "The bank guard is a stupid old shit - thinks the money's his - and goes for his gun so we blow him away."

I shook my head and said, "No, no. Give him a whap across the chops with your gun stock. We don't want any fucking murder raps."

We argued the point a minute, Chris wanting some blood. Me saying one of the bad guys has to be redeemable, so he can't kill anybody.

Then, just as we were getting back to the blowing the vault business, there came a knock at the door. Shit! Talk about Scriptus Interruptus.

I answered, and it was my landlady - Terry. I started to think something was wrong - maybe she lost the rent check - but Terry was chortling about something, so I invited her in to see what was so funny.

She said, "You owe me, Allan. I just saved you from the Santa Monica police kicking in your door."

Chris and I goggled at her. What the hell?

Terry pointed to the apartment building next door. It was identical to ours. Shaded balcony. Open windows and patio doors to catch the puny sea breeze. And in that neighborhood, the lots went for such a premium that they were very narrow. The balcony across from my place couldn't have been more than thirty feet away.

"That's Mrs. Grady's apartment," Terry said. "She's a gentle old soul of 75 and you boys have scared the Geritol out of her."

We still didn't get it.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Well, Mrs. Grady just called me," Terry replied. "She said did I know that I have rented an apartment to a gang of bank robbers? She said she could hear them plotting their next job right this minute. And she was going to call the police, but she thought out of courtesy she should alert me first."

Chris and I erupted into howls of laughter. Pointing at the script page rolled into the typewriter. And the other script pages scattered across the table.

"It's for a television show," I managed to get out.

Terry joined us in the laughter. "I know, I know," she said "That's what I told her… But… but… she didn't believe me at first… She insisted that she should call the police right this very minute…Finally… I convinced here you were just a pair of goofy Hollywood writers."

And the three of us laughed and laughed until our sides were hurting and we could laugh no more.

Joke over, I saw Terry out and turned back to Chris.

Chris said, "Fuck me, did we just dodge a bullet!"

"Don't I know it," I said. "Santa Monica cops have a hair trigger. They'd have booted in the door and commenced firing. Bang! Halt! Bang! Halt! - Like that."

Still laughing and feeling really lucky, I headed for the kitchen to build a couple of drinks.

But just then the phone rang.

I answered. Listened to what was being said. Face falling as I realized that we'd used up all our luck with Terry's intervention.

I hung up and told Chris that I'd just spoken to Peter Thompson's office.

"We are requested and required," I said, "to show up at Peter's office tomorrow afternoon. And we're supposed to bring out agent with us."

“The fucking EatAnter went and whined about us to Peter,” Chris surmised.

I thought so too.

*****

DISSOLVE TO:

Bunch and Cole making their second visit to the dreaded Black Tower. (The first visit was reported in Episode #5 - What's The Story Boys?) But, this time we had our agent in tow, a sweetheart of a man named Larry Grossman.

Peter's office, if you recall, was on the very top floor. We checked in and after a small eternity, Peter’s exquisite executive assistant summoned us. Once again we found ourselves following her lovely, silk-clad posterior into Peter’s Office. 

It was a marvelous office. As head of production at Universal, Peter commanded a space only a few places under the legendary Lew Wasserman and Sid Sheinberg and their phone-fisted Knights Of The Golden Box Office. There were so many floor-to-ceiling windows, you felt like you might fall off the face of the Earth.

And, although you couldn’t see All The Way To Tomorrow, the view did offer a scary glimpse of your immediate future – if All Did Not Go Well.

Peter rose from his fabulous Prince Something Or Other Desk and favored us with his extra special smile of pure roguishness. Like the glint of a highwayman's teeth in the night.

“It’s good to see you again, my dear boys,” he said in his best plummy English accent.

Then, his smile transformed into a frown.

And he snarled: “Now, what’s this bloody shit about you boys not coming on board at Galactica 1980?”

NEXT: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK TOWER 

*****
NEXT: SUMMONED TO THE BLACK TOWER


 *****
S.O.S. ALLAN'S NEW NOVEL

Between February and May of 1942, German U-boats operated with impunity off the Florida coast, sinking scores of freighters from Cape Canaveral to Key West and killing nearly five thousand people. Residents were horrified witnesses of the attacks—the night skies were aflame and in the morning the beaches were covered with oil and tar, ship parts and charred corpses. The Germans even landed teams of saboteurs charged with disrupting war efforts in the factories of the North. This novel is based on those events. For my own purposes, I set the tale in the fictitious town of Juno Beach on the banks of the equally fictitious Seminole River—all in the very real Palm Beach County, a veritable wilderness in those long ago days. Among the witnesses were my grandfather and grandmother, who operated an orchard and ranch in the area. 


*****
A DAUGHTER OF LIBERTY

The year is 1778 and the Revolutionary War has young America trapped in the crossfire of hatred and fear. Diana, an indentured servant, escapes her abusive master with the help of Emmett Shannon, a deserter from the desperate army at Valley Forge. They fall in love and marry, but their happiness is shattered and Diana Shannon must learn to survive on her own. From that moment on she will become a true woman of her times, blazing a path from lawless lands in the grips of the Revolution, to plague-stricken Philadelphia, to the burning of Washington in the War Of 1812.
*****
TWO NEW AUDIOBOOKS ONLY $4.95!




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.

*****





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.

*****
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF

THE HATE PARALLAX


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.)

*****
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:

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. 

*****

TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK!

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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