Rex Stout

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic


An insufferable egotistical actor

Submitted: December 11, 2017

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Submitted: December 11, 2017

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Not Reedited: LLOONNGG!

 

Silence, nothing but silence--for over six months, nothing. Talent agent Hamilton ‘Ham’ Pounder was getting edgy. As the agent for Rex Stout, “Hunk of the Silver Screen”, it had been on his advice the fee for Stout’s services had gone up to over 5 million per picture. Maybe he’d misjudged the market for his client’s services. He was starting to worry, when at that very moment, the phone rang. At long last, he thought to himself.

 

“The Offices of actor Rex Stout, how may we help you?”

 

“Yeah, hello Ham, it’s just me.”

 

“Oh, hello Rex.”

 

“I’m just checking in--any new offers?”

 

“Oh, there was an offer to star in a remake of “Dirty Lovers” but their offer was way short of our asking price, so I told them no,” Pounder lied.

 

“Oh, that’s disappointing. You know, I’m running a little low on money, so hopefully something will come up soon. Maybe we ought to think about dropping the asking price a little.”

 

“Oh, we shouldn’t do anything hasty. I’ve got an appointment with Legacy, and let me see what they’ve got to say first.”

 

Stout immediately perked up. “Maybe it’s the lead in ‘Fountain of Doom’”.

“Fountain of Doom” was Legacy Pictures highly-anticipated romantic swimming epic.

 

“Ah, yeah, maybe, Rex. I tell you what, the meeting’s set for tomorrow, so I’ll be calling you with news by tomorrow evening.”

 

“Great, good work, Ham. I knew it was just a matter of time before you came through for me, buddy.”

 

Pounder answered with a confidence he did not feel, “Okay, buddy, until tomorrow.”

 

They both hung up, and Pounder began to form his strategy for getting into see Harry Drake, President of Legacy Pictures. Why had he told Rex he had a meeting tomorrow?

 

 

He finally got up the nerve to call Legacy Pictures, and was put through to Harry Drake’s office.

 

“Hello, this is Harry Drake, how may I help you?”

 

Pounder almost floundered to find the words, “Yes, Mr. Drake, this is Ham Pounder. You may not remember me, but we were introduced at a cocktail party.”

 

Drake replied, “If you say so, what’s this call about, Pounder?”

 

Oh shit, he’s pissed. “Well, Mr. Drake, I represent Rex Stout, and I’d like to give Legacy the chance to work out a deal.”

 

Drake answered, “Rex Stout? Why, he’s yesterday’s news.”

 

“He’s very much in demand. If you’re not interested, that’s your loss. I’m sure other studios would jump at the chance to have his name in association with one of their movies.”

 

“Well call them, then, and good luck with that,” Drake replied.

 

“Wait, Mr. Drake, before you hang up,” pleaded a very-desperate Ham Pounder “I’d like to offer you a deal--he’ll work for considerably less that our asking price, just to prove to you he’s still bankable.”

 

Drake responded, “Considerably less? What’s your client’s asking price?”

 

Pounder would be glad for any offer at this point. “Around $5 million per picture, but like I said, we’ll take less.”

 

All Pounder could do was endure the laughter. “$5 million, for him? Eh, ha, ha; I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ve got a small, but important role in my new low-budget slasher movie “The Hacker”. If he’ll take the role for, say, $2000, the part is his.”

 

 

“Rex, good news--Legacy wants you for a role. The only thing is, it doesn’t exactly pay what we were asking,” said Ham Pounder, upon calling Stout.

 

Rex Stout replied, “How much is not exactly?”

 

Pounder was scared to tell him, “Just keep in mind, it’s your chance to play a meaty character the audience will identify with.”

 

“How much?”

 

“$2,000” replied Ham, meekly.

 

“$2,000 what, as a down payment on the rest of my fee?” Stout then said.

 

“No, $2,000 dollars, total.”

 

“Your fricking kidding me. You must be kidding me. $2,000 fricking dollars? Eh, ha, ha!”

 

“I’m not kidding, and I think you should do it, for the prestige,” replied Pounder.

 

“Prestige, prestige, screw prestige, I want money. Don’t they see what a huge star I am? $2,000 dollars? Ha!”

 

Pounder tried to break it to him gently. “They seem to think you’re past your prime. They think you’re too expensive for this level of movie.”

 

Stout yelled, “Why, what level is this movie? It must be horse-shit if they’re on the cheap.”

 

“Oh, I wouldn’t say horse-shit exactly, but it doesn’t have a huge budget.”

 

“They can shove this cheap-ass movie up their back-lot. I’m way bigger than this crap.”

 

“Which is precisely why you should do this movie--prove them wrong, call their bluff--see, they don’t think a big star like you would stoop so low as to take this movie. You’ll be so good in this part, they’re going to hire you for another, at a much higher salary, say $5 million.”

 

Stout responded, “Oh, I don’t know, $2,000 dollars?”

 

“Think of this roll as a springboard to incredible riches.”

 

Rex mulled that over, and replied, “Hey, when you look at it that way, it makes good sense. By gumbo, I’ll do it.”

 

 

When Rex Stout learned the part he’d be playing, he screamed, “What kind of part is “Extra # 3”?

 

Pounder explained, “Believe me, you’ll take this part and make it your own. Sure, it doesn’t sound or look like much on paper, but it’s a critical role. Without “Extra # 3”, there is no movie.”

 

 

They had been filming for almost three weeks, and the whole movie was slated for only three and a half weeks of shooting. Rex Stout had been on the set every day, and had yet to be used in one scene. They had told him to be ready, but he didn’t even have a script yet. How was he supposed to be ready, if he didn’t know his lines? He’d asked the director, but he’d only been told,

 

“Look, you’ll get your line when we shoot the scene, okay?”

 

He’d seemed to be perturbed by Rex’s question. Rex couldn’t figure it out. He didn’t think that a professional actor, an actor who’d been in the business for a long time, should be treated with such disdain.

 

 

Finally. The director had called out, “Extra # 3” please.”

 

Rex said, “Right here,” and the director said,

 

“You, over here. When the star comes into your store, and up to your register, you say, “Your total comes to $52.56, will there be anything else?” and when he says “no” you’ll hand him a sack, and he’ll take it, and run out without paying. You’ll chase him out the door, and I’ll yell “cut.” That’s all you have to do.”

 

Rex stared at him angrily, and said, “Okay, but it seems a little unrealistic. I mean, what kind of store owner would hand him the groceries before getting the money, and, what’s my motivation for the scene?”

 

Not quite believing what he’d just heard, the director said, “Motivation? For this scene? How about this--If you don’t just do what I ask, you’ll be shit-canned--how’s that for motivation?”

 

Rex was adamant, “I’m telling you, this scene doesn’t ring true.”

 

“Okay, pal, you’re outta here. It’s not like a movie named “The Hacker” is supposed to make people think. This is pure drive-in double feature crap, and is only a paycheck for me. I really don’t give a shit if it “rings true”, I just want to get this piece of crap over, so I can go home. Now, take a hike and let’s get someone else in here to get this bitch done with.”

 

 

Ham Pounder was once again listening to Rex Stout bitch and whine about his lack of work. Since his run-in with the director of “The Hacker” he had been blacklisted as “confrontational”, which in this town, was poison.

 

 

Rex Stout was angry. They’d dropping his asking price to well-below scale, he still wasn’t getting parts. Why? Maybe he should fire Ham, and go with someone else?

 

 

Rex Stout couldn’t understand it. He couldn’t get a fricking job. He had switched agents several times, all to no avail. No one wanted to hire him. Once, he had been a successful leading man in Hollywood, in demand all the time--in fact, getting so many offers, he’d had to tell his then-manager, Ham Pounder, to turn almost all of them down. Then, they had decided to increase his asking price to match his status, and the phone had stopped ringing. Surely, this was only a temporary setback? But no, even after they’d dropped his asking price, below scale even, still no calls. Stout wondered how suddenly, he’d gone from the top to the shitter so quickly?

 

 

Rex’s phone was ringing, and he answered it, “Hello, Stout Enterprises, how may we help you?”

 

There was a hesitation on the other end, then a voice said, “Ahh, Rex? This is Hamilton Pounder calling. I was going to tell you I have a line on a job I thought you’d be perfect for, but it sounds like things are going well for you, so never mind.”

 

Rex quickly answered, “Wait, Ham, that was only to impress a studio into thinking I was still in demand. I could really use a paying gig right now. I’m surprised you’ll even talk to me, since I treated you badly.”

 

“Well, you did treat me like crap, but Ham Pounder never forgets a friend, or at least someone who used to be a good friend.”

 

Stout sheepishly answered with, “Ham, I was wrong to let you go. I’m sorry.”

 

Embarrassed, Pounder quickly replied, “Oh, forget it, its over and done. Let me tell you about what this job entails. It’s only an infomercial for “Everlasting Underwear”. It’s a new self-cleaning underwear.”

 

“I’d be selling crap-stained underwear? Perfect.”

 

“Well, it definitely beats what you’re doing now, nothing.”

 

“I suppose you’re right. What choice do I have? Okay, I’ll do it.

 

 

Well, he was here, Stout thought. how degrading was this? Oh well, he’d make the best of it. Suddenly, a young punk who looked like you could purchase him in a children’s catalog came over to Stout and said,

 

“Hello Mr. Stout, it’s an honor to meet you.”

 

Stout felt his chest puff out. At least this guy knew of and appreciated his work.

 

“I can’t tell you the enjoyment I got from watching your old movies on television when I was a kid.”

 

Stout’s pride was quickly replaced by anger. So, this punk thought his best work was behind him, huh? Well, he’d show the upstart. He knew this was only an infomercial, but he’d make it his.

 

 

Stout had been told to just read the cue-cards, but he had a different idea. The punk of a director said, “Okay, Mr. Stout, are you ready?”

 

Stout nodded yes, and the director called, “Action!”

 

Stout read the opening lines. “Hello, and welcome to all you viewers. In the next half hour, I’ll be telling you about a revolutionary new product--a product that allows you the piece of mind, that, if you’re involved in a tragic accident and have to go to the hospital, at least you’ll know that, at least your underwear is clean? What kind of crap is that? I hope that’s not the line you’re planning on using to grab people’s

attention,” Stout asked.

 

“Cut--that’s not what’s written on the card,” interjected the director.

 

“Yeah, but what’s written on the card is lousy,” answered Stout. “I mean, was this written by a 3rd grader?”

 

The director’s face turned crimson, and he shook with rage. “The ad was written by my wife.”

 

Oh. Stout apologized, and they moved on to take two. He was supposed to just read the lines on the cue-card, but though he had some better ones. “To buy, or not to buy, that is the question,” he began.

 

“Cut, what the hell are you doing, Stout?” screamed the director.

 

Stout replied, “Trying to make it better.”

 

The fed-up director answered, “Just read what’s on the fricking card. No ad-libbing.”

 

Stout replied, “Okay, but I’m an actor. Let me act.”

 

“Look, we hired you for your name recognition, not to improvise, or to treat this ad as some sort of springboard to promote your acting, it’s just an ad. If you’re not going to treat it as such, we’ll get somebody else who’s washed up.”

 

Washed up? That statement really hacked Stout off. “Okay, let’s do another take, and I’ll just read what’s on the card.”

 

The director responded with, “Now, that’s more like it,” then after another ten seconds, “Action!”

 

Rex waited until they held up his cue-card, and began once more. “This product is revolutionary. It allows you to take a big ‘ol dump, whenever you have to go. That’s right, I said unload whenever you feel like i—”

 

“Cut!” screamed director-boy. “What the hell are you doing? You’re fired.”

 

Stout responded, “Oh no, please don’t fire me, I love the product.”

 

 

“Now what are you going to do?” asked Ham Pounder.

 

Rex Stout replied, “Oh, I don’t know, but that lame infomercial blew.”

 

“Rex, I’m saying this as your friend. You need to get over yourself. You seem to think you’re still a huge star, that everyone wants to hire you, but in truth, you’re a washed-up nobody, and you’re just embarrassing yourself.”

 

“Man, a true friend indeed--I don’t want to hear that negative stuff from anyone, let alone someone who purports themselves to be a friend. If you don’t believe in me, then maybe making the break was the right thing to do. I think I’ll try stage acting, and represent myself, so goodbye Ham, and screw you!”

 

 

Rex Stout walked purposely into the open auditions. With a flourish, he announced “I’m Rex Stout, and I’d like to audition for a part in your upcoming play “The Temptation of Santa”, if I may.”

 

His appearance at an audition for a tiny town’s theater seemed unreal to the plumber, the movie usher, and the like, who would comprise the cast.

 

“What the hell are you doing at a tiny town theater? I mean, you’re a big Hollywood movie star.”

 

Stout’s chest puffed out, and he replied, “Well, thank you for saying that, you’re too kind. And whom might I be speaking with?”

 

The unknown actor replied, “I’m Carl Davies, and in my regular life, I work over at “Lu-Lu-Bell’s Market. I’m a storeroom clerk.”
 

Stout froze when he heard those words. What the hell was he doing here, in this amateur play, with amateur actors? He was a professional actor. He was thinking all kinds of horrible thoughts about this loser he was addressing, but said only, “You say you work at a grocery store? I assume that’s amazing.”

 

“Well,” the loser said in response, “I’m just working there to put myself through acting school--then I hope to act for a living.”

 

“Good luck with that. Now, if you’ll excuse me?” and he strode quickly away from ‘Loser-Boy’. Ha, ha, keep on dreaming, pal--if he had a dime for ever time he’d heard that from absolute freaks who had exactly no shot. Why would a producer even look at such a loser? He might act wonderfully, but “owehooo!”

 

 

Stout had claimed sickness, so opening night would be his initial performance. He wasn’t really sick, but he thought that a star of his magnitude shouldn’t have to attend all those dreary run-throughs. As he looked out at the opening-night audience, Stout thought to himself, not bad, for a nowhere town in the middle of nowhere.

 

 

Stout was about to take the stage, and there was a buzz in the audience, because he, a huge Hollywood star, was to act in their humble little play. Stout thought, you’ve good reason to be excited, I’m here!”

 

 

At last, he heard the hairdresser say, “Why, look, it’s Mr. Johnson.” That was his cue, so he walked onstage with a dramatic exaggeration, and proclaimed,

 

“Hello, you must be Mrs. Crane. How doooo you do?”

 

The woman who was portraying Mrs. Davis was caught off guard. “Ah, don’t you mean Mrs. Davis?”

 

Stout swore silently and replied, “Why, Mrs. Davis you are. For a minute, I thought you were Mrs. ah, Crane.”

 

Her next line was, “Well, hello Mr. Johnson. Funny seeing you here today,”

 

To which Stout answered, “Yeah.”

 

The hairdresser quickly tried to cover for his blown line. “You must be here to go Christmas shopping.”

 

Stout answered, “Ah, yes, I am in town to go Christmas shopping.”

 

The hairdresser playing Mrs. Davis gave him a dirty little look, and said, “Oh, it’s a lovely day for Christmas shopping.”

 

“Yeah,” Stout replied.

 

 

At that point the curtain fell for act one, and a livid director flew over and got right in Stout’s face, yelling, “What kind of joke was that? You blew the whole scene, calling Sally “Mrs. Crane”, instead of “Mrs. Davis”. Then, at the end of act one, you were supposed to say,

 

“Yes, it sure is, Mrs. Davis. Might I walk with you? I do hate shopping alone.” Instead, you said “Yeah.” Yeah what? Now, the audience will wonder why you and Mrs. Davis are walking arm-in-arm. Your last line, which sets up the whole rest of the play, was flubbed. I would have thought a 'professional' would never make mistakes as bad as yours.”

 

Stout immediately saw red and yelled, “The only mistake I made was agreeing to star in your little rat-hole of a play, in your little rat-hole of a town!”

 

The director screamed, “Screw you, you egotistical jerk,” and charged Stout, both of them landing on the side of the stage. Stout got to his feet, and ran across the stage just as the curtain rose for act two. Instead of the play, the perplexed audience saw 'Mr. Johnson' being chased by a man wearing modern clothes, screaming,

 

“Come back here, you cowardly bastard!”

 

 

Rex Stout dejectedly picked at his meal. He was in jail, for inciting a riot, after a man in the audience of Stout’s play stopped Stout, who was being chased by the play’s director, and, screaming that both of them should watch their mouths with women and children present, had charged Stout. They had both flown into the audience, where they had jostled a man wearing a white shirt, and holding a full grape pop. The guy spilled his pop down the front of his shirt, the pop went flying, and the several men who’d been spilled on, Stout and the director, who’d followed Stout and his attacker out to where they had landed, were exchanging both blows, and colorful language.

 

 

Stout had called everyone he could think of, and none of them would bail him out. In desperation, he called Ham Pounder, his ex-manager.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Ham, it’s me, Rex Stout. How have you bee—hello?” Stout heard only the dial-tone. Shit!

 

The End

 

 


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