Roxxy and Laddy Go To Hollywood
It was a non-descript Hollywood high rise conference room. Oddly, there was no long, wide table bisecting the room, as is the norm. Just 5 or 6 steal-framed chairs, backs and seats padded with coarse, rough-hewn material.
Mark Wahlberg was at the side window, looking down at Wilshire Blvd. traffic, his hands in the back pockets of his jeans. He had on a tight black knit sweater, long sleeved. He’d kicked off his flip flops and was now barefoot.
The purpose of the meeting was a typical Hollywood sitcom casting cattle call. Wahlberg had stumbled on the script and liked it. Since nothing happens overnight in Hollywood, (there is no ‘fast track’, it’s a myth), it took him six months to get studio approval and financial backing, which is a long time, especially for an A-list actor and mover-shaker like Wahlberg. The hardest part for him was procuring artistic control. That was the deal breaker. He was out without it.
He got it.
As he usually did. The show had a rather unique plot. Sort of a racially mixed, edgier Three’s Company. Two white guys, late 20s, answer a “Roommates Wanted” ad in the L.A. Times. Turns out it is a good looking black women of roughly the same age. And she wants to live with people. And she prefers men. So initially, it all looks good on paper. But TV success almost never depends on things looking ‘good’. Conflict, conflict resolution, sharp-edged humor, and in this case, racially-charged humor; all of those went into the definition of what could make this show work.
Wahlberg liked it for several reasons. He knew the script writer and trusted him. He loved when racial dynamics were depicted with humor and sarcasm, and even thinly veiled racism.
One of his favorite examples of this was “Die Hard: With a Vengeance”, in which Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis exchange barbs and sentimentality in equal doses throughout the movie, all while trying to save Manhattan. He loved the chemistry they had onscreen. It was easy and it flowed throughout.
Sure, everybody loved Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in “48 Hours”, but there was more nuance, Wahlberg felt, with Willis and Jackson who he thought, to be blunt, were just better actors.
The other three men in the room had also yet to take a seat. Bobby Sallavant was a producer, with a solid resume that included ‘Two and Half Men’. He was thirty years old and considered on the rise. Jack Horford worked for Bobby. Not quite in the sycophantic role people assumed, but he did get his dry cleaning and book his travel. And finally, Alex Corcoran, the script writer and Wahlberg’s friend. He carried himself with the confidence of a man who had the “in” with the A-lister on the project. His job and future was secure, and in Hollywood, that was akin to winning the lottery.
It was 10am. There was a knock on the door, then it was opened and in walked a guy, about 35, blonde hair, tan, neatly trimmed goatee with specks pf grey, blue jeans, white collared shirt, navy blue linen sport coat, and gleaming white tennis shoes. He also had a dog, unleashed, which walked in alongside him. The chairs did not have arm rests and were arranged with one facing the window and the other four facing the solitary chair. No furniture between them. Nothing to do with their hands. Wahlberg felt this was important.
He turned from the window and immediately noticed the dog, a fair haired medium sized dog, maybe with some Collie in him. He looked at Bobby and mouthed “What the fuck?”
Sallavant shrugged and took a seat on the end of the row of four chairs.
Mark Wahlberg walked over to the man and extended his hand. “How do you do.”
The man shook it firmly, making eye contact. “I’m good, Mr. Damon. I love your work.”
The dog had obediently sat down next to him while the two men faced each other two feet apart. Wahlberg pulled his hand back and again looked at Bobby.
“Bobby, is this some kind of joke?”
Again, all Sallavant could do was shrug. Wahlberg turned back to the man, whose name was Radcliffe Oxnard. Bobby had told Mark he went by Roxxy.
Mark looked at him and said, “Roxxy, do you know who I am?”
He nodded. “Sure. Matt Damon. Oh, wait, Shit! My bad, you kind of look like him. I met with Mr. Damon yesterday. I’m sorry. It’s Donnie Wahlberg, right?”
Wahlberg spun away in frustration .He hated wasting time. Bobby was going to hear about this.
Bobby stood up and said to Oxnard, “Uh, this is Mark Wahlberg, Roxxy.”
His eyebrows shot up. “No shit! Marky Mark? That’s you? Are you still doin’ rap, Marky?”
Wahlberg turned and gestured toward Bobby. “Get this fucking clown outta here.”
Then Roxxy did an odd thing. His voice changed, and he immediately became Paul Newman in ‘The Sting’:
“Ah, come on Liniment, I was just startin’ to do good.” The Sting was Mark Wahlberg’s favorite movie of all time. He’d seen it at least 50 times.
He turned and stared at Roxxy. “What did you say?”
Again in a flawless Newman doing Henry Gondorf, he said “You come to a game, you bring your MONEY!” His inflection was flawless.
All three of the other men laughed, stunned.
Wahlberg felt himself starting to grin. “What the fuck is your gig, Oxnard?”
“You owe me fifteen grand, pal. If you don’t pay up, it’ll be all over Chicago you welched. You won’t be able to get a game of jacks.”
“Ok, Ok, I got it. The Great Henry Gondorf. You gonna sit down and talk to us, or do you already know how to interview?” The dialogue was spot on, but Mark couldn’t do the Newman imitation.
“Not bad,” Roxxy said, reaching down and scratching his dog behind the ear. “Didn’t sound like Paul, of course, but not bad.”
The other 3 men sat. Roxxy and Mark remained standing, watching each other.
“This here is Shea, Spelled like the Irish Shea. He only bites if you fuck with me, and he only bites once….that’s usually all it takes.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Mark asked, absently putting his hands in his front pockets.
Wahlberg was both intrigued and annoyed with this character.
Finally Roxxy spoke up, as he turned and sat in the lone chair facing the men. He gestured toward the remaining chair for Mark to join them. “Have a seat, movie star.” Wahlberg shot him another look, and then sat down.
“Of course I know who you are. You think I’m a fucking idiot? You turned 41 yesterday, ate lunch at Spago, how’d you come up with THAT idea, Jesus? I know you love The Sting. Your parents were both part Irish. Shea is not my dog’s real name. I did that to score points. But, his name is Laddy, which is also an Irish term. And yes, he does bite if you fuck with me. And let me clear that up for you. I define fucking with me very simple under these circumstances. You don’t give me the job, Laddy goes to work on your scrotal sack. Capeche?”
Wahlberg’s shoulders were shaking as he tried to stifle his laughter.
He leaned forward, elbows on his knees., “Continue Roxxy, assuming that is your name.”
“Yeah, that’s my name. Who the fuck would voluntarily give themselves a fake name like that? Anyway, I know your career, I’m a huge fan of Entourage, and I could write funny shit for this show in my sleep, and I just might.”
“You ain’t got the job yet,” Mark said calmly.
Roxxy reached down and hooked a finger under Laddy’s collar. He looked at Mark and put his raised index finger in front of his lips, vertically, in the “quiet” gesture.
Mark decided to try and regain a modicum of control of the interview. “So, tell us about yourself?”
Roxxy laughed right in his face. “That’s your opening gambit? Is that the kind of flabby, cliche-riddled writing you want for this show? Because that I can’t do, in my sleep or otherwise.”
Mark laughed again. “You crack me up. You got a pair a balls on ya, I’ll give you that.” Wahlberg’s Boston accent was creeping into his increasingly street-wise patois.
For the first time, Oxnard showed a shred of humility. “Thank you. I figured you do this shit a lot, and if you remained in your comfort zone, I didn’t stand a chance.”
”You ever do standup, Roxxy?”
“Once, back up in the Bay Area. Open mic night in a little hole-in-the-wall down on the Peninsula.”
”Oh yeah, where?”
”Emerson Street Bar & Grill in Palo Alto. I was a semi-regular there for about six months. Open mic didn’t start till midnight. Lot of drunk Stanford students.”
“Don’t know the place. What happened?”
“Nobody noticed. I went undiscovered. Tragic story, when you really think about it.” But he was smiling as he said it.
“Are you from the Bay Area?”
”Jesus, my commendations to your crack research team. Didn’t you clowns look into me before bringing me down here? But I am looking into a place over in Oxnard.”
Mark looked at Bobby, who shrugged again and said, “Karen had the resume. She was supposed to verify and book the appointments. I’ll talk with her.”
The Oxnard reference was lost on the Hollywood four.
Roxxy waived his hand. “Don’t fuck with Karen. She’s a sweetheart; we talked for half an hour. She did fine. In fact, we’re having drinks later.”
Mark couldn’t tell if he was kidding.
Roxxy remained poker faced. He was clearly enjoying himself. He’d taken control of the room since the minute he and Laddy had strolled in.
Mark leaned back and watched Roxxy with a quizzical look.
Then he leaned forward again, trying take a more proactive pose.
“Great. You come in here, balls swinging from the chandelier. Terrific. You’re funny. You’re gutsy. Original even. Now what? How can you make this show work?”
Roxxy came right back. This guy could really think on his feet. It was amazing he flopped at standup.
“Funny, gutsy, original. Your very own words, Movie Star. What the fuck else you lookin’ for in your writers? I think God is probably above your pay grade.”
Bobby piped in. “He’s got a point Mark. Besides, I’ve really grown attached to my scrotal sack.”
All five men laughed. Laddy had lain down.
“Give me an off-the-top-of-your-head potential scenario for the first 10 minutes of the pilot.” Mark wanted to cut through the posing and bullshit. This guy was good. It was time to find out how good.
“The opening ten minutes? You mean the most important ten minutes for the entire life of the show? That’s all you want? Shit.”
He remained quiet; reaching down to stroke Laddy’s soft looking blonde coat.
Mark sighed. “Yes,” he said.
“Anybody else in this seat would be wondering how quickly you guys would notice they were pissing themselves. Me? I’m cool. Ok. Let’s spitball it a little. You guys can be interactive in this if you want. Feel free to butt in.”
“That’s awfully big of you,” Mark said sarcastically. Roxxy ignored him.
“So, two 30ish white dudes show up hoping to get a 3-way, no sexual stuff implied, roommate situation with this female. She did NOT say she was black in the ad, so they are naturally expecting a white girl. You asked for the first ten minutes? I think you better grab them in half that time or you’re history.
So, this puts a lot on the opening, as it were, of the door and the sudden realization by all 3 actors that the race card is gonna HAVE to be played. That’s gonna involve non-verbal acting on all 3 of their parts. You haven’t cast those parts, have you?”
Mark shook his head.
“Ok, I’ll have some thoughts on that later.”
Mark and Bobby looked each other and rolled their eyes.
“So, the door opens. Is she supposed to be a hottie?” He scans across all four men facing him.
Mark nods. “Of course. And the guys are supposed to be good looking in a nerdy kind of way. No pretty boys, at least not stereotypical pretty boys.”
“Okay, so the guys’ll look like Marky Mark here, and the girl…”
Mark laughed. “You are fucking relentless. But you’re starting to grow on me. I’ve never smacked a dude named Roxxy.”
Roxxy was unphased. “Yeah, well I’ve never used a golf tee to pick chunks of wanna-be Boston tough guys out of my dog’s stool before, either. A barefoot wanna-be Boston tough guy, no less.””
All four men broke up. Bobby was holding his stomach and laughing so hard it almost sounded like keening.
Mark was slapping his thighs.
“Ok, back to the girl,” he said.
Roxxy nodded. “So the girl is a hottie, but not over doing it. Got to avoid even a whiff of that black hooker thing. Tight white t-shirt, maybe. Tight jeans, barefoot. And a Jeri-curl afro…no straight shit. She needs to look ‘down’.”
Mark nodded. “I’m good with that. Sort of Diana Ross, 1969. Link from Mod Squad.”
Roxxy continued. “Whatever. You got an actress in mind? I’d like a young Halle Berry, but who the fuck wouldn’t, right? Anyway, cameras get a good 3 or 4 seconds on each of their faces. These got to be evocative looks….the director’s gonna earn his salary on this shot alone. There has to be shock on the dude’s faces, then slow realization that she’s hot; then the girl is clearly disappointed, but tries unsuccessfully to cover it up. It’s awkward. In fact, it has to stay awkward for the first two or three weeks, if you ask me. I think that’s the best way to attract black and white viewers together. By the way, that hasn’t happened very often.”
”What, mixed racial audiences liking the same show?” It was the first time Alex had said anything. Mark watched him, curious.
“Hasn’t happened since the Cosby Show, that I know of. Before that, Good Times, The Jeffersons. Nothing this millennium, that’s for sure. And you’ll notice those were all black shows. Whites did the migrating over. There’s no data that I can find showing blacks will migrate over to a white show.”
”Reality TV gets everybody,” Alex said.
”Apples and oranges. Who is this guy?” Roxxy asked, annoyed, pointing at Alex.
“His name is Alex Corcoran, He wrote the original script. He’s gonna write the scripts each week. It’s his idea. You might want to let him keep his scrotal sack.” Mark grinned as he said it.
“Oh. Hey Alex. You in market research, too?”
Alex shook his head no.
“Like I was saying,” and Roxxy glared at Alex, “keep it slightly awkward. Don’t introduce any sexual tension for a while. That has the potential to make both sides uncomfortable.”
“Sides?” Alex asked.
Roxxy turned slowly. He was acting as if he was doing the interviewing. It was fascinating to watch.
“Listen, A-Cor. I got your far left liberal whiff already. By ‘sides’, you know exactly what I mean. You don’t think, for the most part, black and white people take sides, at least on the inside, against each other? Where’d you grow up, Malibu?”
Mark got up and stood between the two men. “Roxxy, relax. You’ve proven yourself. You’re quick witted, sharp tongued, all of that. But if you’re an asshole, then get the fuck out.”
Alex leaned his head to peer around Mark and look at Roxxy. “What’s the Great Henry Gondorf got to say about that?”
Roxxy leaned down and stroked Laddy gently.
“Let me tell you a story. Ever heard of Jeffrey Sweet? He’s a pretty well-known writer, playwright, critic and teacher. Lives in Manhattan. I’d never heard of him. Until yesterday. I’m on this woman’s Facebook wall, and she’s posted one of those inspirational boards, about raising kids’ correctly, before they get older, because adults are harder to fix. And the board ends with, “Choose your word’s carefully”, accept ‘words’ is spelled apostrophe S. A grammatical error, right? So fucking what, right? I got the message; uplifting and all that shit. Plus I like the woman. She’s brainy and a looker. Anyway, this Sweet character posts up immediately. No comment on the sentiment of the board, just a snarky two sentences about the grammatical error, ending with “Talk about choosing your words carefully”.
So, gallant fuck that I am, I rush to her defense and type: “Jeffrey, with all due respect, Fuck Off”. He comes back with, and of the 3 or 4 exchanges we had, this is the only funny thing he wrote. He says, “Roxxy, do you kiss your own ass with that mouth”. I laugh. Surprised, but not daunted. He continues with a weakly worded defense of the correct usage of the English language. I type back with, “Well, it’s the fucking internet, fucktard. There’s typos everywhere. Jeffy, I sure hope you get laid this millennium, but I gotta tell ya, it ain’t lookin’ good.”
He comes back with some weak shit I don’t even remember, but intended to be a put down. I type, “Don’t get into a battle of wits with an empty holster, ok Sparky. Think Clint Eastwood versus Don Knotts.” Again he comes back with something stupid. Time to finish him off. I type, “Jeffy, I gotta go, your mom is threatening to spit it out if I don’t. Toodles.”
All of the Hollywood four were laughing hysterically.
“So I move on. An hour later, the Maiden whose honor I so courageously defended absolutely tears me a new one on MY wall, about messing with the Great Jeffrey Sweet. So, Sparky must have tattled. Famous Playwright my Irish ASS!”
Mark had finally stopped laughing. “Great story. Yeah, I know Sweet. Not well. We’re not friends or anything. He’s supposed to be an arrogant twit.”
“Bingo!” Roxxy says.
“So,” Mark continues. “What does this little story have to do with anything?”
”It shows I’m fucking fearless.”
“We’re not trying to frighten you here, Rox.” It was Alex, who couldn’t contain the creeping condescension in his tone.
“Nor could you, pencil pusher. Or is it Al?””
These two guys might have a lot of trouble co-existing.
Roxxy went on. “It’s going to take some balls to make this storyline work. Things aren’t exactly copacetic in America in the race game these days, or do you guys not read the papers. Trayvon Martin? Hello?”
Mark spoke up. “Yeah, we know about Trayvon Martin.”
“Okay then. I can skirt that very fine line between making blacks and whites laugh. Making the two white dudes fodder for jokes is easy, it’s been done for years. Whites accept other whites being foibles for black people…on television. But it’s the other angle, coming back, where you will need me.”
“Making whites like the black chic?” This time Alex was genuinely curious.
“Simply put, Al, yes.”
Mark stood up. “Okay, Rox, can you cool it in the lobby for a few. We wanna talk.”
He got up, as did Laddy.
Mark said to him as he was walking out, “And try not to anal-rape the receptionist while you’re out there.”
Roxxy turned back as he grabbed the door handle. “Damn…need a new plan. Can Laddy have a go at her?”
There were peels of laughter as he closed the door behind him.
Once ensconced in the lobby, Roxxy knew the receptionist would be safe from any unwanted sexual advances, be they canine or otherwise.
She was built like Ray Nitschke, with a hint of a mustache and a dark brown, unbroken caterpillar running the exact length of her browline. Her pinched visage looked like an oil-smothered ancient boxing glove left in the Saharan sun too long.
It’ll be short in there, Roxxy thought. I’m either in like Flynn, or there are six beefy security-types right now zig zagging out of the elevator, coming straight for me, automatic weapons at the ready.
When the phone buzzed on her desk, she picked it up, listened, said “Certainly Mr. Wahlberg,” and hung up. She sounded exactly like Abe Vigoda.
“You may go back in, Mr. Oxnard.”
Roxxy nodded at her and as he and Laddy went past her desk, he leaned over and told her, “I loved you as Tessio in ‘The Godfather’.” And as her mouth formed half of the word ‘what?’, she hit an unseen button and Roxxy went through the buzzing door, back into the hell chamber.
As he walked in, all four men were once again seated. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Roxxy almost said, “You summoned me, My King?”
Instead he said, jerking his right thumb back over his shoulder. “Somebody please tell me that Humvee out there is NOT Karen.
I only talked to her over the phone. I never knew that Jamey Farr and John Goodman had a bastard child.
More laughter. Alex asked, “What makes you think they’re not married.” Even Roxxy laughed at that.
“Laddy just told me he wouldn’t fuck that swollen hirsute corpuscle with any of your dicks. In fact, if Ed Asner bathed in the septic tank of a bran muffin factory in Bogota, Columbia, in late August, I’d still have a go at him before I’d take on Dick Butkus out there.”
Wahlberg was wiping tears out of his eyes. Alex had his face in his hands, convulsing.
Bobby was simply looking at the ceiling, mouth wide open, with no sound coming out, like his voice box had been severed.
His assistant was making every effort to be the only one in control, but failing.
Mark Wahlberg finally spoke up.
“Okay, Roxxy Oxnard, Mr. Triple X. That is NOT Karen out there. Consider that a bullet dodged. You better put a deposit down on your new place in Oxnard, because you got the job.”
Laddy promptly rose, walked over to Alex, and peed on his snakeskin boots.