I was really nervous while I waited in the Green Room, back stage on the “Tonight Show”. This was my first time on television and I was invited to appear because I’d written a short novel about surfing that was then made into a movie. I remember watching the wall-mounted monitor as Jay’s first guest, the handsome movie star Rock Studstones, looking larger than life, appeared to promote his latest block buster action movie.
Jay made the introduction. ”Please welcome a good friend of the Tonight Show, Rock Studstones!”
The curtain parted and Rock peacocked out, giving that little pistol finger point over to Kevin, the band leader.
Rock looked super cool in his tailored black blazer, designer blue jeans and white skin tight shirt, his highlighted pecks appearing as if they were made of hard plastic, which they probably were.
As the audience screamed its approval Rock strutted over to Jay, looking like the big dog in the proverbial junkyard. They shook hands and gave each other a friendly hug, like old friends do. And I had to follow that!
Jay continued, “Rock, it’s always good to see you. How are you, my friend?”
“I’m fantastik Jay,” Rock replied, in his Austrian accent.
“You look great. I see you’ve been working out.”
“Ya, you know, I do vat I can to look good for da ladies.”
“Speaking of ladies, how’s your girlfriend, Chi Chi Gigante?”
“Jay, you kan’t believe everyding you read in da tabloids. We are nodding but best friends, you know.”
“Best friends with benefits!”
The audience chuckled, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Rock smiled his electric silky-smooth used car salesman way. You know the kind that seems three quarters genuine and one quarter deceitful. Man, was he cool.
“So Rock, tell me about your new movie. I love the title, ‘Everyone Dies’”.
“Ya Jay, it’s an action movie. The main character, me, is a mild manner account, Jack Numbers. He stumbles across a money laundering scheme and discovers you know, dat da money is koing to a group of midget terrorists who vant to destroy da world.”
“Dwarfs want to destroy the world? Sounds like a really short story!”
That Jay, he really cracked me up with that one.
“Why do they want to do that?” Jay continued.
“Day are angry because all da fast food chains super size everyding. Da leader of da midgets, Jumbo Shrimp, had a terrible incident vid a super-sized meal. He fell into da drink cup and almost drowned.”
“Oh waiter, what’s that dwarf doing in my drink?”
“The back stroke!” the audience yelled back, da dum.
“So, you take on the dwarf terrorists?”
“Ya, da’s vight.”
“I watched a preview earlier and I really enjoyed it. But there seems to be a lot of gratuitous violence.”
“True. I vouldn’t recommend taking da kiddies. Vait for da video game.”
“Who else stars in it?”
“Jay, we have a great kast. The beautiful Martha Pumphandle plays my love interest and da African-Mexican actor, Pacito Jones plays Jumbo Shrimp.”
“Alright, well, let’s take a look at a clip. Do you need to set this scene up?”
“Ya Jay, in dis scene I’m in da terrorists’ secret underground hideout. I’ve been captured and tied to a conveyor belt dat’s slowly winding toward a buzz saw, you know.”
“Sounds like the Lilliputians have an axe to grind. Let’s take a look,” Jay said, swiveling his chair to see the flat screen behind him.
The monitor cuts to the clip. I watched the scene. And like Rock said, he’s tied to a slow moving belt headed toward a spinning screaming buzz saw. I couldn’t see the dwarf terrorists. All I could see were the tops of their heads, little hands and arms flailing from behind that belt, looking like a wheat field waving behind a fence.
“Well, Jack Numbers, seems as if you’ve met your match,” Jumbo Shrimp said, even though I couldn’t see him.
“Ha! It vill take more dan you to best me. I vill never let you destroy da world.”
“Soon you’ll be cut down to size, Jack Numbers.”
“I do not dink so. You vill always be half da man I am.”
I watched as Rock wiggled his hand free and using his diamond studded Rolex sliced away his ropes, sprang off the belt, somersaulting as he did, wrestled free a machine gun from one of the small guards and began spraying bullets all around. The dwarf terrorists scampered away to hide behind scattered boxes and in the darkened corners, like cockroaches suddenly caught in the light. All the while Rock was screaming, “Hasta luego, you vittle terrorists.”
Afterward, the audience exploded with cheers and applause.
“Mr. Attola? You’re on after the next commercial break,” one of Jay’s interns then informed me.
I looked up to the monitor just in time to hear Jay say, “We’ll be right back with the author Parc Attola after this commercial break.”
So, I followed the intern to the back of the stage and waited. I could feel the sweat begin to gather under my arm pits, like dew hanging from a tree. I was glad I wore a tee shirt.
“Okay, Mr. Attola, once we come back, Jay’ll introduce you. After he does, walk on out, over to Jay and take the seat next to his desk.”
Finally, we’re back on air.
“You may not know my next guest, but he wrote the novel ‘Bigger than Big Wednesday’ that’s just been made into a movie and it’s getting rave reviews. Please welcome Parc Attola!”
That was my queue. I swallowed hard, feeling my neck muscles push down the little saliva I had like a snake choking down a rat, and walked out into the bright lights. I couldn’t see the audience. All I saw was a black abyss. Yet, I could feel hundreds of eyes scanning over me. I wanted to be cool too, so I gave Kevin that same pistol finger point. Kevin looked at me like I’d just peed in his corn flakes. It wasn’t a good start.
I walked over to Jay and we shook hands. His was cool and dry. Mine was wet and clammy. As I walked around his desk and sat down, I noticed Jay wiping his hand on his pants. Rock was sitting next to me. So, I shook hands with Rock and said, “Midget terrorists, man that’s too funny.”
Rock merely nodded his head in that you’re a loser kind of way.
“Parc, welcome to the Tonight Show.”
“Thanks Jay,” I said, as polite clapping dribbled from the audience.
“I’ve read your book,” Jay continued. ”I thought it was very exciting and emotional. Are you a surfer?”
“Yeah, but I’m not very good. Not much surf in Florida.”
“Accept during the hurricanes!”
“So, how does it feel to see your book on the big screen?”
“Well Jay,” I began, crossing my legs and noticing the lint on my dark socks, “it’s not exactly the same story. After I sold the rights, the producers told me that there needed to be some changes, to appeal to a wider audience.”
“Oh really? What changes did they make?”
“Well, for one thing, there’re no Killer Whales off the Florida coast. Also, in my novel, the main character doesn’t drive a Ferrari.” I continued, uncrossing my legs and sitting back. ”He’s a sixteen-year-old kid, abandoned by his father as his mother struggles to make a living and raise him to be a man. And he definitely doesn’t hang out with Laird Hamilton. But, the producers thought the movie needed a big name surfer in it. They even have the kid involved with the pop star, Britney Spirits.”
“How’d that make you feel when you heard about that?”
“Like a virgin in a prison shower with a new bar of soap!”
The audience actually laughed at that one as Jay tee-heed like he sometimes does when he hears a sexual innuendo. Things were looking up.
“What a crazy world,” Jay commented.
“Yes it is, with the war and everything,” I replied, trying to make small talk, as old friends do.
“Speaking of the war, what do you think is the number one problem facing this country?”
“Well Jay, it may not be as important to everyone as, say, the war, but I’d like to see universal health care.”
The audience clapped approvingly. So, I continued, encouraged.
“I mean, I can’t understand how the richest country in the world can’t provide decent health care for its citizens. People can’t afford prescription drugs any more. They now have to go to Canada or Wal-Mart to buy them.”
“Kevin, you know something about drugs and Canada.”
The audience snickered as Kevin smiled at Jay.
“Parc, do you smoke pot?”
“I’ll take the fifth on that one. By the way, Kevin, is it 4:20 yet?”
Now the audience began to whoop and holler, cheer and clap. Things were going great. I was funny and the audience seemed to like me.
“What would you do about the war?” Jay continued.
“I don’t know Jay. I’m not a movie star.”
Oops! Well, that did it. I never should’ve mentioned the war or dissed the Hollywood elite. That’s when I’d inadvertently stepped over that line into the thick sand of politically incorrect free speech. This is where my story actually begins.
After my slight of the beautiful people, Jay, I guess, wanted to stir things up. He turned to Rock and said, “Rock, haven’t you come out against the war?”
“Da, I have,” Rock answered, his square chin jutting forward from beneath his mouth, looking like Mount Rushmore. ”Da Bush administration has done noding but lie to da American people. Da President stole da election and his fascist regime has driven dis country down da vong path, you know. I know for a fact dat dis President planned 911 to get us into da vor.”
Now, I try to stay out of politics as much as I can. In my opinion, all politicians really want is to attain and maintain power, kind of like organized religion. I’m convinced that they really don’t care about anything else. But, I couldn’t let this go.
“Rock,” I turned and said, “didn’t you say that if the President was elected, you’d move out of the country? Yet, here you are. What’s with that?”
The audience became silent. It felt like I’d farted during a church sermon. Jay sat there looking like the cat that’d swallowed the canary.
“I vas speaking metaphorically, you know. I can do more to fight dis vicked administration vight here.”
“Get out. You’re just like that other actor who raged about getting out the vote. And he wasn’t even registered. What a bunch of hypocrites.”
Oops again! But, that did actually feel good to say.
“Now Parc,” Jay said, trying to regain a modicum of control.
But I couldn’t stop. I felt the situation going down hill and like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver I struggled to regain the audiences’ approval.
“What kind of name is Rock Studstones anyway? Sounds like you’ve got pebbles for stones.” Hey, I thought it was funny. Nobody else did as the silence from the audience grew steadily louder.
“Ha dare you!” Rock responded, his ears turning red.
“Yes I do, you pussy.” I really had no idea where that came from.
“Vat did you call me?”
“Vi I ought to.”
“Stand up Nancy and I’ll shove my foot so far up your ass, you’ll be tasting my toe jam for a week!”
They cut to a commercial after that and my time on the “Tonight Show” ended. Jay called for security. Rock gave me the finger, even after I’d asked him for his autograph, and I already had the twenty dollars he charges right in my sweaty hand. They wouldn’t even let me stick around and listen to the musical guest, the Pewbs. The only person who said anything nice to me was Kevin, and all he said was “Goodbye”.
“The Baby in the Bag, A Politically Incorrect Tale”
By Doug Hanau