Teaser 156: Express Your Sentiment, Gregory

It soon was obvious Oprah's intention for this show was to highlight the seeming improbability of all of us coming together to make, in her estimation, one of the best movies of the previous year. This, naturally, would put me front and center. I threw it out there, calmly and certainly not in an effort to be contentious, and I had already apologized to Oprah concerning our last encounter. “You know, I hate this stuff, Oprah. It's like a retrospective, looking in the rear view mirror, and maybe patting ourselves on the back, but I can't focus on what's ahead of me, what's in my immediate future, if I spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror. I don't think anyone can.”

“That's why I insisted you be on this show, Gregory. I want you to express your sentiment, your opinions, because they not only will add to the show, I think they will greatly enhance it. You have a way about you, young man, usually polite, mannerly, quiet and respectful, until you do speak and then it's earth shaking, in my opinion. Your show here still astounds me.”

“Yeah, it was special to me, too. Maybe I'll walk out after you introduce me, Oprah, carrying a car horn and honk it twice. You'll get it, won't you?”

With everyone laughing at this imaginary scene, Oprah, finally getting a grip since she was laughing the most, said, “Oh, I not only would get it, Gregory, I think I would be disappointed if you didn't walk out with a car horn.”

“That settles it! I now have a mission to complete before Friday.”

The questions and discussion started from the very beginning, the infamous meeting at the rest stop between John and me, the screenplay I cranked out in six days, my refusal to fly and instead drive, making Serena have to wait an extra day, all of it. Most of the time I sat quietly listening to everyone else explain the insanity and the incorrigibility, and when I did speak it was always to emphasize how insane and incorrigible I truly was. The mania of the first day and Lord Pacifico making an appearance. Everyone had something to say about Lord Pacifico and I sat there amused. Occasionally, I would lean and glance over to Jana and watch her return my smile.

Oprah grabbed my attention. “Now, I have heard from the others, Gregory, you have created these characters, and you go into them every once in a while. Where did Lord Pacifico come from, by the way?”

“Oh, that's easy. Serena wouldn't let me use her big shower.” There were many laughs, Serena's the loudest. “She said I wasn't special enough for the big shower. I said, 'You take great pleasure in crushing a man's ego, don't you?' You shoulda seen her, Oprah, she's got this look of total seriousness on her face when she says, 'I live for it.' And I said, “That's it. You leave me no choice but to bring out the big guns.' And I shouted, 'Let's party!' I walked into her Great Room where all the others were, said something and added, 'And I believe I have a beer in here with my name on it.' Will said, 'Over on the table, Pacifico.' And that was it, Lord Pacifico, who stayed for a few minutes to make his demands for the party. 'We shall have drinks, music, dance, all manner of drugs, needles by special request.' Ken says, 'Needles by special request?' 'Serena, my dear, this man requires needles.'” Laughs everywhere. Oprah is in fits. “It's what I do, Oprah. That's how Lord Pacifico got his big break, because Serena wouldn't let me use the big shower, the Hollywood party shower. I get you back.”

“I missed all that,” John shouted.

“John missed the Lord Pacifico show because he was pining for his new bride somewhere.” I smiled with my eyes narrowed to John. “You could have stayed, buddy boy.”

“I should have stayed, as much as everybody keeps reminding me.”

Oprah asked, “What about...Jasper?”

Antonio laughed and volunteered, “Jasper T. Roseberry!”

“Enrico Rodriguez!” I shouted back. “Do Enrico, Antonio, and roll those r's.”

Antonio went right into it and the laughter kept coming. When it finally subsided, Oprah asked, “You two actually went out together and did that?”

“Oh, yes, Oprah!” Antonio exclaimed so seriously. “It was one of the best times I have had out in the public. I wasn't Antonio. I was Enrico Rodriguez,” and he rolled those r's with great exaggeration again, “former bartender from Barcelona, now working for Jasper T. Roseberry.”

“I could barely keep it together, Oprah,” I said, laughing at the memory. “It's why I chose the name, Enrico Rodriguez, because Antonio could roll those r's with such exaggerated emphasis, and he always wanted to say it, so with the least provocation, 'I am not Antonio! I am Enrico Rodriguez!' And I am doing everything I possibly can to keep from bursting out laughing and giving it away. He was trying to make me burst out laughing.” We both laughed. “That was the first thing he asked me, Oprah, when we finally caught up with each other last week. 'What's this I hear about Jasper's retired?' Not, 'How have you been, Gregory? How's the world treating you?' Nope, he's gotta know about Jasper.” I turned to look to Antonio and smiled as I wagged my finger at him. “You wanted to go out with Jasper again, didn't you?”

Antonio laughed heartily. “Oh, no, not me,” he protested...

Another change in subject and Oprah pulled out a sheet of paper. “A couple months back, Gregory, William McConnell was quoted as saying this. 'Gregory was the most prepared actor I have ever worked with. He knew his lines inside and out, he knew exactly when and how to make his movements, and he always delivered the proper emotional impact to every one of his scenes, so much so I was often in awe because he has no acting experience? I would never have believed it.' This from an actor who has garnered some well-earned praise for his acting ability, too. I know some have stated or published comments you may have been slighted not having received a nomination or appropriate recognition for either of your roles. How do you feel about it?”

It grew quiet, eerily quiet. I took a sip from my beer and looked at the bottle with a sly grin. “May I do the show drinking from never-ending beer bottles, Oprah?” Everyone laughed. I smiled contagiously and looked to Jana. “We could have Jana bring me a new one and take away my empty. Then she has something to do.” More laughs while Jana tried to suppress her smile. “I don't do anything for awards, Oprah. I don't care about them. I'm not going to keep the one I have. You'll find out what I'll do in good time...I never had any intent to act. Serena pressed it. We did a screen test and everyone liked it. At that point my only intent was to keep up with everyone so as to not let anyone down. That's what drove me, so when I'm doing a scene with Jennifer, I can't let her down, with Serena, I can't let her down, with Antonio, I can't let him down, with William, I can't let him down. It's what drove me, what pushed me to, hell, Oprah, stagger through the long days of shooting, sometimes fourteen, sixteen, twenty hour days. And there were many days when I was wiped, just beaten, but I got up on time and did it again the next day because I would not let these people down, but I will tell you this. I am horrified at the hours these people put in and I think it's wrong. Other than my relatively good-natured complaints about those hours, because you all remember I frequently called you 'slavedrivers,' right?” I waited for the various acknowledgments. “I never have voiced my extreme disapproval about the hours I put in, which we all put in, but I do disapprove. Here's why, Oprah. Three people were hurt making our movie, hurt on the set. All had been working more than twelve hours when they were hurt. I have never discussed this with anyone from the movie, but I think it's wrong. John would have a difficult time changing it, because everyone in the business says that's how it's done. That's how it's always been done. You've made movies, Oprah. You know exactly what I mean. To those established in this business it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, only that it's how it's always been done. With that attitude you make no progress at all. You improve nothing. So I will be adamant about it: if I ever make my own movie, there will not be a single day which extends beyond twelve hours. Period. I will fire the director who does it. Twelve hours is enough, because if that had been the rule on our movie, not one person would have been hurt. I was there on the set when all three of those people were hurt. I didn't think it was funny or necessary.” I scoured the faces of all of my entertainment brethren in attendance and not a single one could face me longer than I faced them down. Since everyone knew I was right it made it all the more imperative I add, “I will want you to ask me that question, again, Oprah, on your show. I want the world, and therefor, everyone in this business to know exactly how I feel about it, because I find it disgusting, appalling and depraved. Does that make my attitude pretty clear about it?”

“Why didn't you discuss this if you felt so strongly, Gregory?”

“Because I love these people I worked with, Oprah, and they weren't prepared to so dramatically change their work model. We already had changed a lot. How many screenplays has this guy written? One. How many times has he acted? Never. John stuck his neck out, quite possibly to have it chopped off. Serena stuck her neck out, with the same possibility. How far can I push these people, Oprah? When are they gonna crack? It's easy for you to be skeptical now about why I did what I did, but can you imagine reading in one of the trade rags, 'first-time screenwriter and actor demands limit to twelve hour days on shoot.' You would have thought, who the hell does this guy think he is? But I can do it now, and most will pay attention. Everyone in this room is paying attention right now, because I have a track record of enormous success behind me which garners attention, it commands attention. Sometimes, Oprah, it takes a complete outsider, someone who has no attachments to a business whatsoever to examine it, take it to places it's never been, and so thoroughly shake it, everyone else pops out of their perpetual daze and realizes, yeah, that makes sense. Because, often, trying to do it from the inside means you are working against yourself and your career and all the objectives and dreams you have. They constantly keep knocking you down. The one from the outside though, has no ties, no bonds, nothing anyone can hang over their head as some persistent threat to their continuing livelihood. The outsider can throw everything into the pot. I call your bluff. I'm all in. How about you?” I looked at Oprah with the eyes of Grigori Rasputin. I had made my case, and quite successfully I might add.

- Just Desserts, Segment NineteenAnother Show in Chicago” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

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