Saturday, February 18, 2006

Talking Italian

People are staring and following me.
This is my only escape from it all:
Watching a film or a face on the wall.
Robert DeNiro's waiting,
Talking Italian.

All right, my friends. The twins are tucked in their beds "sleeping", hubby and eldest are shopping for shoes and I am sitting at the computer drinking a glass of wine, listening to the Bananarama song captioned above. Inspiration for a fairly uninspiring story.

So, one of my greatest brushes with fame was when I met Robert DeNiro and a subsequent phone call placed to my house in September 1986.

The story goes like this... My father worked for a New York advertising agency that had "client" tickets for Cuba & His Teddy Bear, a Joe Papp-produced drama starring Mr. DeNiro, Ralph Macchio and Burt Young. The agency had extra tickets, so my sister, a couple of our friends and I went to fill what would have otherwise been empty seats. We all took the train into the city and went out to dinner. This was the first time that I had sushi, I remember that factoid VERY distinctly. My friend, Amy, was able to procure a very nice glass with a Japanese beer logo on it. My sister made a perfectly timed comment about a teapot and I snarfed in my bowl of noodles because I was laughing so hard. From dinner, we raced toward the theatre.

We moved to Connecticut in the Fall of 1985, so I'm quite certain I had seen a couple of Broadway shows by that point. I believe, however, this was my sister's first. It quite possibly could have been her first trip into Manhattan. The whole time she kept asking everyone if we were going to see any stars. Ironically enough, it must've been opening night or a special event of some sort, because it was a star-studded evening. As we arrived at the theatre, winded by the run from the restaurant, a white stretch limousine was pulling up in front of the theatre. From the limo emerged Sylvester Stallone and a towering, pre-Surreal Life, Brigitte Nielsen. My sister began to jump up and down: "It's Rocky! It's Rocky!" And Sly smiled, which was cool. Other celebs that we spotted that night were Robin Williams, Richard Chamberlin and Albert Finney. I think that those are the others we spotted. Williams I know for certain, because my sister, always the charmer, managed to procure a kiss from him. He wasn't doling out autographs that evening because if he gave an autograph to one person, he'd have to give one to everyone. It think this right before Dead Poet's time.

So, I went to see the show a second time. This time I sent a message to Mr. DeNiro that contained an invitation. Youth has no fear (and I hadn't seen The Untouchables or The Godfather: Part II yet). After the show, the guy at the Stage Door said that Mr. DeNiro was not seeing anyone that was not on the list. So I waited on the "other side" of the police barricade with other eager fans, watching the celebs exit the stage door, jump into their limos and take off into the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

My father's career at the aforementioned ad agency was what put food on the table. At heart, my father was, and continues to be, a writer. During the Summer of 1986, my father was working on the production of Occam's Razor, a play that he had written. It was being produced in Manhattan by the Seventh Sign Theatre. I thought that it would be really cool if Robert DeNiro saw the play, as my guest. So, being the ballsy, 17-year-old that I was, I invited him.

So the limited engagement of the show was coming to an end. One Saturday, I went into the city with my father, who had to work on the weekend in a time that preceded telecommuting. As an aspiring actress, I would often stand on line and get half price tickets from the TKTS booth. This particular wait resulted in tickets to the final matinee performance of Cuba. Again, preceding the performance, I sent a message backstage, inviting Mr. DeNiro to attend Occam's Razor. As luck would have it, the person that I sat next to knew someone involved with the production. So, simply by virtue of proximity, I was able to tag along back stage. We stood waiting in the inner sanctum outside the Stage Door, where the guests/groupies were corralled. DeNiro came downstairs with the others and spoke to those that had assembled there. When he turned in my direction, I explained who I was: "Hi, I'm Alicia Burtt. I sent you a message." I handed him my program, eager for an autograph. This man was a film legend, after all.

He took my Playbill and scrawled his name across the front. "Oh, you're here! I just took care of that upstairs." And he glanced upward in the direction of the Long Acre dressing rooms. He said, "Just send me a program for the production and I will get in touch with you. If I'm not otherwise engaged, I would love to attend." And with that, he, the Karate Kid and Rocky's manager headed off. To somewhere more exciting than Grand Central, I'm sure. Which was where I was headed.

I met my father in one of the no-longer-there bars in Grand Central. I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Robert DeNiro, acting legend, was willing to accompany me to a production of my father's show. I sat down at the small table where my father was waiting and said, "I'm glad you're sitting down. You'll never believe who may be accompanying me to Occam's Razor!"

And he replied.

"I'm glad you're sitting down. You'll never believe who called the house looking for you."

Apparently, taking "care of that" upstairs, went something like this:

DENIRO: Hello, may I speak to Alicia, please?
MY SISTER: Ummm, she's not here right now.
DENIRO: When do you expect her return?
MY SISTER: Dunno. She went to New York to see a show.
DENIRO: Okay. Well, I will call her back later then.
MY SISTER: Could I tell her who called?
DENIRO: Bob. Bob DeNiro.
MY SISTER: Okay. (pause of realization). OH! OKAY!

And that was that. Because he talked to me live he did not call back. But I got to speak to him live, which was very cool.

He never came to see Occam's Razor. I never sent the program and I don't know if my father ever did. So, I don't think he ever received one. He was also filming The Mission at the time. So, it is likely that he would not have been able to come anyway. Perhaps, someday, Bob and I will get together after a screening of my award-winning film at the TriBeca Film Festival and I will say, "Remember back in '86 when you did that show?"

Hey. It could happen.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Light Reading

I've been told that with each film you make you should be thinking about the next one that you want to make. It is like that, too, with screenplays. While I continue to work on Harvest Home, I have a list of ideas for screenplays that I want to write. If only the day were not filled with so many other obligations. I feel for ScriptWeaver when he laments having an 8-5 non-screenwriting job that takes him away from screenwriting activity. I certainly do envy those individuals who have both the time and the dedication to write. Something that I tend to struggle with. Oh well, c'est la vie, n'est ce pas?

Again, I find myself off track... But I always find my way back.

One of the things you'll learn to love about me that hasn't made the list yet is that I am the penultimate multi-tasker. I very rarely find myself doing only one thing. Very rarely. Just as I'm thinking of multiple screenplays at once, I find similar tendencies to be exhibited in my reading patterns. I am usually reading several things at once - a couple novels, magazines and several non-fiction books. Most often, the non-fiction is research of some sort - not always about screenwriting or filmmaking - but lately, that has been the focus.

There are two books that I have lying around the house that my husband must scratch his head and wonder about...

The first is a book called The Bastard on the Couch. It is a collection of essays by men on various topics - being a father, being a son, being a husband, being a man... you get the picture. Anyway, there is an essay in the book that I saw in New York Magazine a couple years back and it struck me as being so honest. That article and this book have inspired some similar topics that are addressed in Harvest Home. But from the woman's perspective. The author's name is Sean Elder, who I find to be a very insightful writer. Last week I was thinking about the article (entitled "The Lock Box") and thought - he seems to be just the type to have a blog. And I was right! See my sidebar for the link.

So, not knowing what the actual book is about, I'm sure my husband sees it lying around and thinks: "Oh great, some feminist rah-rah book. I liked it better when she was reading Our Bodies, Ourselves."

And the other book. I checked it out from the library last week. It was one of those books where you wonder what the librarian is thinking when she passes the bar code under the scanner. I did have two books but put one back after thinking: "I don't want anyone thinking I'm a weirdo." and had it on my bedside table for a few days, wondering if my husband would comment. Nothing.

Last Friday night we were watching some magazine show about some guy who killed his wife and the ensuing mystery (a unique premise for a magazine show, I know). There has also been a lot of coverage about the Internet and the different types of people that frequent it, more specifically Internet predators. I was listening from the other room andcould hear the journalist saying something to the effect of: "then it was discovered that he conducted the following Google search - "how to kill someone and not get caught". I started laughing and said something to my husband like, "Yeah, that's never good." When confronted with the evidence, the accused alleged that he was conducting research.

So a day or two goes by. I'm out in the kitchen doing dishes, getting dinner, feeding the dog. You know, the usual evening routine. My husband comes into the room and looks down at the floor and says: "Um, I have to tell you what a warm fuzzy feeling it gives me to see that my wife is reading a book about female serial killers."

I chuckled and said: "It's research for one of my screenplays." He just shook his head and walked out of the room. How he puts up with me I'll never know.

I know you're wondering now, aren't you? Honestly. Research. And it is very interesting, too. As you will see when I someday sell the screenplay.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It's Time To Change

When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange
Move your heart to what you're gonna be
Sha na na na na na na na, sha na na na na na
Sha na na na na na na na, sha na na na na na

Ah, gotta love those Bradies, don't cha?

Taking the lead from Christina at Development Hell, and upon a suggestion from David Anaxagoras, I am changing the name of my blog to Things You'll Learn to Love About Me. The new title is based upon a posting I did a few weeks back. One that I have been extremely remiss in adding to daily. There is also a Robert DeNiro post that is long overdue. I'm just waiting for a sound byte for that one.

Also, I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on this whole RSS feed thang? I see it on my Safari browser and it looks like it might be something that could make life in the Scribosphere a wee bit easier. If there is a blog that's covered this already, just point me in the right direction. I seem to remember seeing something, somewhere...

Hope everyone is enjoying V-Day. Quite honestly - I'm not a real fan of this holiday. For a girl that spent most of her life as a four-eyed geek in Husky jeans, a holiday about boyfriends and candy wasn't a chart-topper. Now it means addressing Valentines (complete with candy) for three girls, finding red and pink clothes to wear, dealing with aforementioned girls as they sustain a sugar high during bathtime and, somehow, managing to let my husband know that he is my Valentine (although I believe we've rescheduled that for this weekend).

But for those of you who are hopeless romantics out there and get a kick out of today... Happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Capote and Cocktails

Sometimes you see a film and something about it stays with you. Oftentimes, for me, it is dialogue. Last night, my husband and I were watching the Bueller... Bueller Edition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off and I found myself doing that annoying thing I do: uttering the line seconds before the actor. I have pretty good recall. Not 94% like Truman Capote but pretty high up there. It is a talent I don't put on my resume but one that makes for a decent tip when you are serving a drink order for 20 taken without a notepad.

Then there are those movies with stories and characters that forever remain. They serve as a frequent reference point for how you relate your own life to others. They are the stories and the people that strike a chord. As I mentioned in my previous post, I did not know much about Truman Capote before seeing the recent biopic. There was something about Capote - that story and that man - that just sat with me. I was struck not only by the situations that he found himself in but the way he handled them, things he said, the life he led - so very flawed and so very real.

It also struck me how much he drank. I find it interesting that they are so many revered authors that had drinking problems or struggled with some sort of addiction or depression: Capote, Hemingway, Williams, Poe, Woolf... the list goes on. Of course, when you look at their collective lives, the tragedies they endured would surely move one to seek any means of escape. War, lobotomies, suicide, abandonment, sexual identity issues - I mean really, do you blame them?

Then I wonder, are these precisely the tribulations that one must suffer through to become a great writer? Must you feel to the point of detachment in order to create something that connects? Perhaps such intense experiences drive a writer to the darkest places, where escaping the shadows is not as easy as shaking off a bad day.

There is a reason that we are writers. Because we feel the story, we live with the characters, we are the witness to their greatest joys and deepest sorrows. And once we've lived the story, it is our duty to tell it. Quite honestly, I don't know what is more maddening for a writer - telling the story or not telling it. I suppose there is a strong argument for both.

As for me, I've lived for so long without telling the stories, and I know how that has affected me. Telling them may bring exaltation or it may just begin the descent into madness. I suppose it is a risk that all writers take. And, really, what would life be without a little risk and adventure, eh?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Reactions, Reviews and Reverie

Well - I certainly have been a naughty blogger... I've not updated or read in over a week. There are a few things to blame... Our crazy life, work, the Screenwriting Fortnight and, the biggest reason of all, the delivery of the new iMac to our house. The hugest injustice was that the computer was delivered Monday AM, so the opportunity to play during the week was at a premium. I absolutely love it! The girls love it, too! They run to it when they get home and want to play. As for my husband... he hasn't even had the chance to explore. He's going to love it! Of course, we now have to find Mac compatible software and transfer all our files, which is a project in and of itself.

A brief reaction to the Oscar nominations, which no doubt have been discussed ad nauseum, but I have to react anyway: I am extraordinarily happy that Brokeback received so many nominations. I really enjoyed that film (as I might have mentioned a few times). I'm also happy that Crash was well-recognized. I feel Capote deserved the nominations it got all-round. I understand Match Point is excellent. And politics in Hollywood got its fair share of recognition thanks to Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Clooney. I think George Clooney's triple-nomination is such a wonderful accomplishment. Overall, I'm quite happy and look forward to a good race. Don't feels any of the top "snubs" were really snubs -- Russell Crowe deserves to do a little time for being a brat, Scarlett Johanssen has had and will continue to get her fair share of nominations and Maria Bello will has some choice roles on the horizon that will get her a nod in the future. OK - that's enough for now on that.

As for the Screenwriting Fortnight, I've been working the rewrites for Harvest Home and continue to do so. I'm hoping to have 120 pages by the end of next week. I've finally got all of the necessary software installed so that I can actually get everything synched up. While it is a chore, it is well worth doing. I will be happy to have that rewrite completed. I've been living with the characters long enough. Plus, I've got some new ones creeping into my noggin' and they don't belong in this particular story.

My husband and I saw Capote last weekend. I found it to be a fascinating performance and an interesting story. I think it is absolutely staggering that Harper Lee and Truman Capote lived next door to each other as children. What serendipity! To Kill A Mockingbird is actually one of the books that I was required to read in the substandard secondary school I attended. The book is a favorite of mine, as is the film. It will be interesting to see them again with the knowledge that Dill is said to be based upon Capote and that there are allegations that Capote ghost-wrote some of it. I am also inspired to read In Cold Blood. I remember watching a portion of the film my senior year of high school in a Law & Government class. The teacher was so overwhelmed by its violent nature that he shut it off. Of course, I know how it ends now. Odd, yet distinct, In Cold Blood memory, such as it is.

Oh, and my husband's reaction? "I don't understand why all of the Oscar nominated movies need to be these depressing, true-story types of movies." My husband, you see, is a glass half-full type. :)

So, there you have it... I will try to catch up on some reading to see what's going on in the Scribosphere and will be back sometime soon.