Teaser 095: Meeting the President of the Chicago Group

Serena had ordered our breakfasts and they were delivered about a half-hour later so we ate with little conversation, mostly Serena and Jennifer chatting. When finished it was time for Jennifer to leave and I hugged her tightly. We had our plane to catch and all my stuff was in Serena's room. We left together about forty-five minutes later, flying to Chicago, with Ray, of course. Serena had some idea for us to get together in Chicago but I had crushed the idea. I was getting paranoid with Ray and at dinner I brought a sticky note pad with me and a pen and wrote things for Serena as we ate. I thought it was well within Ray's expertise to bug even Serena's clothing. She thought I was crazy but I was not putting anything past him. I told her he worked for her husband. Ray's loyalty is to her husband, not her. I wrote further once we return to Los Angeles, we should discuss it with John and maybe some others. Serena needed a new security man. Ray should go back to France. Serena was unconvinced but I said I knew someone in Los Angeles I trust and I could bring him out to her place and check for bugs and other devices. We already knew there were bugs in the bedroom the first night. Who would be responsible, or maybe more importantly, who was lacking in not discovering such a device?

With all this swirling around we still kept our focus. We had a ten o'clock meeting with the president of the Chicago group and we had to be at our best. We both went to bed early.

We met with the president of the Chicago group as he came out to the reception area and escorted us back to his office. As we all sat down, to make small talk, he asked if this was our only reason for coming to Chicago. Serena told him she would also visit with Oprah since they were good friends. The president turned to me and asked if I was going to meet with Oprah.

“I think so. Serena said I was with her and Oprah wants to meet me so I think I'll go and check out her mansion.”

“It's quite impressive. I've been out there before.” He paused and looked to Serena. “I had a talk with one of your people, Serena, but she didn't seem too interested in doing business.”

“I want to apologize,” I responded, and he turned quickly to me, “because it seems like we're not on the same page, but it's why we're here today. I hope you'll overlook your initial contact and give us a clean slate and hear us out. We want to do business with your company which makes money for you and us, and it's what business people do, is it not? Keep expenses low and revenue as high as possible?”

“True,” the president replied. “So, how do you propose doing it?”

“By starting with a question. You know I wrote the screenplay and play one of the male leads in the movie, so...did you read my bio?”

The president smiled. “I was going to ask you about it, because I saw you were born and raised in Springfield.”

“I was.”

“I was born and raised in Springfield.”

“I know.”

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the expression on Serena's face change from plastic pleasantry to intrigue. She was starting to get what the ace in the hole really was.

“I don't recall ever meeting you, though, but Gregory Hess is not your real name, is it?” I pulled out the pad in the clipboard I carried and wrote a name on it. I passed it to him. He looked at it. “That is an unusual name but it seems familiar. How do you pronounce it?” I pronounced it the old way. There was a look of recognition which crossed his face. “That name sounds familiar.” I reached for the pad and wrote a given name and initial before the surname on the page and handed it back to him. He pronounced the whole name and looked at me with a familiar smile. “I've heard this name before. It's your father, isn't it?” When I nodded he nodded back. “I remember hearing his name from my father. He always respected your father. He was a...”

“CPA,” I finished. “More, though. Two years as president of the Illinois chapter of the AICPA, two years president of the United Way, and he was the financial officer for the board which modernized the airport. It's why his name's on the plaque. My father always spoke highly of your father and uncle, they knew how to run a business the right way, no shenanigans, straight up, honest, know the product you're selling and do it through hard work, dedication and effort. And my dad would know. He had the opportunity to find out about a lot of the business people in the Springfield area. He would know.”

The president smiled like he was taking a pleasant journey down memory lane. “I do remember both my father and uncle talking about your father, that he really knew not just numbers but how to run a business the right way, too.” He smiled again at me, big and wide. “Well, then, Gregory, it seems like we have a mutual admiration society, at least about our fathers.”

“I was their paperboy for a while, when both lived on East Hazel Dell.”

I had him looking down memory lane again. “God, I remember those days on the lake...Didn't your family live out there, too?”

West Hazel Dell. Sure did.”

“And we didn't meet?”

“Perhaps we were meant to meet now,” I responded and he chuckled. “I don't want to waste your time. We can save you a little money, at first. We'd like you to test market the movie in twenty-five screens at five percent off the normal rate for one week. This saves you money on the expense side. As an incentive on the revenue side, I have a commitment from Will, Ken, Drake, John and Serena, all of whom will appear once each in one of your markets. I have suggestions for each but we can talk later about it, although Serena and I have discussed Chicago for her appearance. I will appear in a number of locations, more than one, and we'll talk about it later, too. What we expect is we'll fill more seats in your theaters than your average, and the combination of lower expense and higher revenue becomes an easier business decision for you to make. And it helps us. We could sign with a studio for distribution. This would be easy, but it gives the competition the ability to make money on our product with no risk on their part while we continue to carry all the risk. This, in my opinion, is a stupid business decision. If I can help you get our movie in your theaters and distribute it properly and in a timely fashion, we can do it all over the world. We can't crack the monopoly the studios have with the theater chains in the U.S., but they don't hold up internationally. Showing theater owners all over the world that your group can make money, good money, with our movie gives me an additional incentive to dangle in their faces. I'm only asking you to take a one-week chance with us to show you our movie can compete with whatever else you have to show.”

I could see the wheels turning. He stared at me intently. “I haven't seen the movie. I want to see it first.”

I pulled out a case from my clipboard and handed it to him, saying, “There's the Blu-Ray version, the entire movie, the complete release. It's yours to keep if you go with us, but look at it at your earliest convenience and call me to let me know.” I pulled out a sheet of papers stapled together. “Here's the contract with our proposal for the first week. It's signed by Serena and me and we have binding authority. To make it easier for you, sign, date it and fax it to the number on the front page. Are there any theaters which need film?”

He smiled. “No, we're all digital. There are some theaters which have both, but we still prefer digital.”

“Perfect. You can use this copy and upload from here. If you'd rather do it a different way, we'll discuss it and work it out. We want to distribute our own work. Yes, it's more effort, but I find it absolutely disgusting to work as hard as we all have and give the gravy to the studios because they want to put out the same old thing.”

“It is getting that way,” the president said and he shook his head. “I'm going to look at this right away. I've heard good things about it, and some bad. I want to see it myself.” I gave him my cell number and we brought an end to the meeting. He escorted us back to the reception area. “You know, I was really thinking when I read your bio about Springfield, if it was some coincidence or if it meant anything.” He held up the case and waved it. “I guess I'll tell from this.”

- Just Desserts, Segment ElevenRepercussions” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com