|Coming Full Circle At The Ritz|
By J.S. Kierland
On a warm July evening Michael D. Robbin's life came full circle. He was handed the missing piece as if it'd been there all the while. A young movie producer approached him as he ate dinner in the Ritz Carlton and asked him to star in a film about an old Jew who loses his faith after the death of his wife. A best selling author, hot new screenplay, and the project fully financed. The producer even picked up the tab for his dinner.
Michael's real name, Morris Rubinski, had suddenly been validated like a punched parking ticket. The young producer knew who he was, where he came from, and why he could play an old Jew better than anyone else. Contracts were signed, schedules set, and on the first day of shooting a scrawny kid, in a seersucker suit, showed up at his hotel room with a pile of papers.
"They sent me up from the office, sir," the kid said, standing in the doorway trying to look relaxed.
Michael was used to people being nervous when they saw him. "Hope there aren't too many rewrites in that pile you got there," he said, trying to joke with the young man. "Got it all up here in my head. Memorized front to back. Up. Down. Sideways too."
"Oh, I don't have anything to do with that," the kid said, handing Michael the pile of papers. "I'm just the--"
"Helluva script," Michael said.
"Yes, sir," the kid muttered. "But that's not the script. Those are printouts. Copies, actually."
"Uh-eh, the script's been frozen since last Tuesday."
"Have we met before?"
"Yes, sir. I'm one of Mr. Cameron's assistants."
"You're not with the hotel?"
"No, sir. Mr. Cameron is your New York agent. Remember? The Morris Office?"
"Of course. Errrr, Sammy, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir," the kid said in a short squeak, surprised at being remembered.
Michael waved the kid toward a mustard colored chair in the middle of the room. "Can I order you some breakfast, Sammy?"
"No, sir. I've eaten, thank you. Special mix. Cereal. Fruit. My mother makes it for me. Health thing."
"How 'bout some coffee?"
The kid shook his head. "I'm not allowed." Michael realized he still had the printouts in his hand and tried to give them back. "Oh, no. That's your copy, sir. The originals are at the office."
"Look, kid, I've got a lot to do this morning and--"
"I know but you better check those over, sir."
Michael glanced down at the loose papers as if they were stuck to his hand. "Just a lotta numbers," he said.
"The last page, sir...under summary."
"It's insurance stuff, sir," the kid said, getting up out of the chair to show him the essential paragraph. "Right here, sir. Under defined risk. I'm supposed to waait for any message you want to send back to the office."
"They're expecting me over on the set. Ready to roll. Got the whole script up here," he repeated, tapping his head and giving the kid that famous smile.
"I know, sir. Under summary. See?" Sammy pointed at the last page and Michael stared down at it. That's when he noticed the boy's finger was shaking. "Basically it's saying you won't make it through the picture. That's why they can't insure you," he said, backing away and sitting in the chair again.
"What the hell're you talking about? The computer's not doing the movie...I am!" Michael said, throwing the printouts into the kid's lap.
"It's your heart, sir."
"I'm in perfect health! Do you know how many movies I've made. Forty...fifty! Big hits!"
"You don't understand, sir," Sammy said, looking for the summary page again. "You see? Right here. Your rating is a ten with a little black minus mark after it."
"Yeah? So? What about it?"
"When the computer puts in that little balck minus mark...it means...it thinks...you're dead."
"Do I look dead to you?!"
"Please, don't yell," Sammy said.
"Why are you curling up like that?"
"You threw the printouts at me...now you're yelling. Loud. I have a problem when people--"
"Screw your printouts!"
"Don't yell. Please."
"Sit up like a man and tell me who sent you?"
"No one else wanted to do it."
"Are they cancelling the picture?"
"They're using the backup, sir."
"Nobody backs up Michael D. Robbin!"
"You're yelling again."
"I'm not yelling!"
"Solly Morton's doing the picture, sir."
"Solly morton? He's too young...too light...all wrong!"
"That's right, sir."
"You agree? Now we're getting somewhere!"
"I agree but-- but--"
"I'm only the assistant, sir."
Michael backed away from the boy curled in the mustard chair like an overdone hotdog. "Stop cringing," he yelled. "Some agent. You're a messenger boy!"
"I kdon't want to be an agent," Sammy said, bringing his hands up to protect himdelf. "And most of all I don't want you getting a heart attack. I mean, right now. In front of me."
"What the hell kind of an idiot are you?"
"I needed a job and my uncle--"
"Oh, so Cameron's your uncle?"
"No, sir. Levitz is my uncle."
"You're Izzy Levitz's kid?"
"That's it! Izzy's playing a joke, isn't he? I knew it! He's out in the hall right now, laughing."
"My uncle never laughs. Not ever."
"You're right. Not a muscle moves."
"You know him?" the kid asked.
"We were dragged up in Brooklyn together. He didn't laugh ten either. Get your Uncle Izzy on the phone and tell him to straighten this out. He's the big honcho. Let him do a little work for a change."
"There's nothing he can do, sir."
Michael picked up the phone. "I'll do it myself. Get me Los Angeles. 310-555-2856."
"That's my Uncle's number."
"That's right. The horse's mouth."
"Please don't tell him I'm here. He might think--"
"Izzy? This is Michael. What do you mean, Michael who? I know it's only four AM out there but this is an emergency. No,no,no. I'm in New York trying to make a goddamn movie and they want to break my contract. The bastards are going with Solly Morton and he's all wrong. I know Solly's your client! So am I!"
Sammy slumped in the chair like he'd been shot. He was Michael D. Robbin go through the same anger, denial and torture he'd witnessed when they told Gloria Bishop she'd made her last movie. That same vacant stare had come into her eyes and she'd gone back to her apartment, took an overdose of sleeping pills, and on a rainy afternoon in midtown Manhattan she faded into movie history.
"You know about this and didn't tell me?" Michael yelled into the phone. "You should've called me. Instead you send your nephew. I don't want to see a doctor. I want to make this movie. It's important. I'm perfect for the goddamn thing. It completes my entire life. Brings it full circle!" Sammy could hear his Uncle's voice on the other end. A disconnected head trying to explain the unexplainable to a man who didn't want to hear it. Then Michael said, "We go back a long way, Izzy. Maybe too long. Yeah, he's still here. Nice boy." Michael dropped the phone in the kid's lap. "He wants to talk to you."
"Aren't you Sammy...the nephew?"
"Yes, sir," the kid said, up the phone. "Uncle Izzy?" he stammered. "No, sir...no,sir...no, sir..."
"Try saying yes to sofmething!" Michael yelled.
"Don't...please," Sammy said, squeezing the phone. "No, not you, sir. Mr. Robbin was yelling and I-- Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir..." he said, and hung up.
"What did he say...your wonderful Uncle Izzy?"
"He told me to bring you home."
The early morning traffic stirred in the streets below. A blare of horns rushed into the room in short bursts and a siren wailed somewhere uptown. Michael stared at the kid curled up in the chair.
"They want to put me out to pasture," he said. "Buy me lunches. Give me awards and pat me on the back."
"I'm sorry, sir."
"Ever been out to Hollywood, kid?"
"We'll go. You'll stay at my house. I'll take you for chili at Barney's. Crazy crowd. Even the Ivy has its moments."
"I don't drive."
"I don't know how to drive."
"I'll teach you."
"I don't like the beach either."
"You don't have to drive or go to the goddamn beach!"
"Don't yell. Please. Remember your heart."
Michael saw the concern in the boy's eyes. The word about his heart would spread fast. It always did in this business. If you sneezed at eight you had pneumonia by noon. "Don't say anything to anybody," he said a little too quickly. The kid nodded. "It'll be our secret. You, me, and Uncle Izzy."
"My Uncle said they've got the best cardiologist in the world out there. A miracle guy. He also said that he'd take care of everything."
"Izzy said that?"
"Yes, sir. He said you'll make another fifty movies when this guy gets through with you. I forgot his name but--"
"Feingold. His name's Feingold," Michael said.
"That's right! Dr. Feingold. You know him?"
"See him all the time."
"Then you knew...even before--"
"And what about you?"
"There's lots of pretty girls in Hollywood."
"Oh, I don't know, if it wasn't for my Uncle Izzy--"
They both turned at the knock on the door, staring at it as if some terrible force might be on the other side. Another knock. Michael went to open it. A little man wheeled in a cart with breakfast on it. Michael signed the bill, tipped him, anc closed the door. He lifted the silver-plated lid, and said, "Hope you like scrambled eggs and bacon. I've lost my appetite."
"I don't eat bacon. I'll just have a little of the orange juice and a piece of bagel," the kid said.
"Help yourself," Michael told him, heading for the bedroom.
"Where you going, sir?" Sammy asked, jumping out of the chair.
"Gonna put on that new blue suit they got me for the movie. Perfect fit. Tailored," he said, closing the bedroom door to get away from the fear in the boy's eyes.
He sat down on the bed and looked in the mirror. An old man stared back at him looking pale and a bit frightened. For a moment, he didn't know how the man had gotten into the room with him. Then he started to feel sick again. He went into the bathroom, knelt down, and wondered if this was the way it happened. On your knees. Not praying, heaving.
A knock hit the door behind him. "Would you do me a favor?" the kid asked from the other side. Michael tried to get up off the floor. "It's about my mother. She'll never believe that I have to take you back to Hollywood. She'll think I'm running away with some girl. She calls them floozies. I was hoping you'd come home with me and explain the situation. My mother's a big fan. Seen all your movies."
"Where do you live?"
"Haven't been out there in years."
"Hasn't changed much."
"Two story brick house near Kings Highway?"
"How did you know?"
The traces of blood circled and disappeared around the bowl when he flushed it. He crawled over to the door and listened to the kid's frightened breathing on the other side.
"Maybe you better call your mother...tell her we're coming," he said.
He heard a gentle rustling movement on the other side. The kid was still there. The pain in his arm seemed to get worse and he crawled back over to lean on the bowl again.
"You all right?" the kid asked.
"Yeah. Don't forget those plane reservations."
"Hey, that's why I'm your agent."
"B3est one in the Morris Office," Michael said, rubbing his aching arm.
He waited for the kid's footsteps to move back into the other room before pulling himself up and opening the door. The kid was on the phone in the next room. Michael popped the light on in the closet over the dark blue suit they'd given him for the movie. He laid it out on the bed. All it needed was a white carnation.
"It's not every day they give you a suit like this," he muttered. "made to order."