Any Seeker of Truth, I believe, would like to think that once he's climbed to the Top of the Mountain, the words of wisdom so painfully attained at last are transmitted ceremoniously
, with some sense of ritualistic
human continuity of the spirit
by a Wise Man
who is happy to be of help.
It doesn't always happen that way.
My mentor was an alcoholic. Which is not to say he wasn't a good teacher. Every day for four years we had lunch in the same Mexican restaurant around the block from Warner Bros. in Toluca Lake. The food was good and under the circumstances not driving was good too. My mentor always had the same meal--something Mexican and three double vodkas.
One day, quite unexpectedly, we changed our habit. I had some black and white dupes that I needed to get made down in Hollywood, and my mentor liked the little Mexican restaurant across the street from Paramount where our sound editors worked. He and his wife were going through some stuff and I guess he didn't want to be alone at lunch, so we drove in together.
He drove. Which, believe it or not, was a Good Thing.
I dropped the work print off at the dupe lab and we went to lunch.
By the second double vodka he was really on a roll, regaling me with hilarious stories about drunken lunches of the past. It wasn't the first time that it had occured to me that all film editors were drunks. There's something about sitting in a dark room all day, playing with pictures and sounds and making magic, and then having to protect your work from assholes and sharks that...wears...on you. All the Original Gangster editors I knew drank. Happily. It came with the territory.
We were on the cusp of the modern film era, however, so not only did my mentor drink but he also liked to pick himself up after, brighten himself up so to speak, illuminate the still-dingy recesses of his booze-besoddened brain, with cocaine as well. Before, during, and after the meal.
We took a longer lunch than usual, because it took time to make the black and white dupes. Nonetheless, dues had to be paid. There was work to be done, and he called for the check. He picked up the tab a lot. A great guy.
We had actually paid and were pushing our chairs back when my mentor glanced past me and his mouth fell agape:
"Oh my God!"
I turned and saw Orson Welles and two young studio types in suits gregariously blustering their way into the room, as though they had come to celebrate a three picture deal between the man who brought us Citizen Kane and Paramount Pictures. They sat at the table next to ours, a respectful distance away, and the waiter showed up immediately.
"We can't leave," my mentor said. "I love Orson Welles."
And so did I, of course. We ordered Mexican coffees, made a trip to the men's room, and settled in.
I literally remember nothing of what Orson Welles said to those two young executives. I was certainly drunk as the proverbial film editor after a bad preview, and my mentor must have been catatonic--vodka and tequila and coffee and the men's room for hours and hours.
My sense, however, of Orson Welles in action is acute. He was performing for those two guys. Selling them on whatever it was they thought they were selling him. He was flattering and bequiling, flirtatious and conspiratorial. And he included us, the obviously loopy film editors in the corner, in his performance.
The executives glanced over our way too from time to time, smiling in their snakey little supercilious way. I think we were all grateful to him, for allowing us to be up there, on top of his Olympus with him for a little bit, even if all he was actually doing was trying to hustle a picture out of Paramount.
My mentor was positively blissed out by the experience, but reluctantly, after three Mexican coffees et al, he agreed we needed to leave. The waiter had delivered two more bottles of good red wine to Orson's table, so it was obvious--if we didn't go we'd pass out.
Orson Welles reminded me of Charles Foster Kane himself, thunderingly creative in the back of that little Mexican resturant, and it was on electrical clouds of laughter and delight that we managed to find the door and, eventually, our car.
We went to pick up the dupes, had to wait a little bit, and then drove back down Melrose to drop them off at the sound editors on the Paramount lot.
We were two or three blocks away from the studio, and on the radio Mick Jagger was singing that great syncopated line "I saw her today at the reception...", when I glanced out of my window into a little side street with a Spanish name:
Halfway down the block was Orson Welles, leaning against a palm tree,
puking lunch into the Hollywood gutter.
On Hollywood and filmmaking:
Below the Line
sex drugs and divorce
a little life, interrupted
- Hecho en Mejico
- Sam's Song
- Hemingway and Fortuna
- Hummingbird on the Left
- The Long and Drunken Afternoon
- Safe in the Lap of the Gods
- Quetzal Birds in Love
- Angela in Paradise
- And the machine ran backwards
a secondhand coffin
how to act
Right. Me and Herman Melville
Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
snowflakes and nylon
I could've kissed Orson Welles
the broken dreams of Orson Welles
the last time I saw Orson Welles
The Other Side of the Wind
Below the Line
Final Cut Pro
king of the queens
Kubrick polishes a turd
movies from space
Persistence of Vision
Apocalypse Now Redux
The Jazz Singer
We Were Soldiers