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ELEVEN

Send In The Goons

dennis_edited.jpg

A couple hours after sending the email to Christine Russell, Susan Mindell, and my attorney Leslie, I walked to the Coffee Bean on Sunset Boulevard to get lunch.

 

By this date I’d ceased caring about my appearance, as I barely saw anybody. I’d given myself a crude haircut, swiping carelessly with the clippers, not bothering to double-check the back.

 

My decline almost felt good. Safer. The way that vulnerable prisoners become decrepit in order to deter predators.

 

At the Coffee Bean I got a latte and a "protein pak" lunch box, took a seat at a table on the northwest corner of the outdoor patio, and began to eat, scrolling on my phone.

 

Then I heard a voice.

 

“Nice haircut.”

 

I looked up. A scary-looking, ragged man stood over me, his stained T-shirt covered in dog fur. He was unshaven with thick, greasy greyish-brown hair.

 

“You know that Weinstein ring of spies he sent after those actresses?” he sneered. “They want you to drop your interest in that project.”

 

I was stunned. Mutely, I gestured for him to repeat it, which he did, word-for-word:

 

“You know that Weinstein ring of spies he sent after those actresses? They want you to drop your interest in that project.”

 

He stood leering as if he expected me to cower. But I knew I was good in a fistfight - for years before, I won a man-to-man scrap on the NYC subway when I stood up for a little old lady being bothered by a 6’4” drunk guy.

 

Flight? Hell no. "Fight” it was. I’d had it with these bullies. I stood up to my full six feet and yelled, “WHO SENT YOU?”

 

The thug froze, backed away, then scurried to the parking lot - a pissed-off playwright hot on his heels, screaming “WHO SENT YOU? WHO FUCKING SENT YOU?”

 

He got into a crummy sedan that had signs and writing plastered all over it, including the words “Actor For Hire.” The goon backed out, lurched forward, and swung right on Santa Monica. I chased him a full block until he was out of sight.

 

And then I lost my shit. The “Weinstein Ring of Spies” was the talk of the industry, as Ronan Farrow had recently dropped the story of Black Cube, a shadowy Israeli “intelligence agency” that stalked and harassed the Harvey Weinstein whistleblowers.

 

Now the awful confrontations of the previous few months made sense. They'd hired people. Easy enough to do when you're the agency and law firm of Hamilton.

 

Was the creepy guy telling the truth? It would explain the frightening threats I got in New York the previous August, and the 24 hours of terrifying encounters on September 20-21, and a few other “Huh?” incidents with the shady guys who hit me up for meetings. But this was different: an implied threat to my safety, a two-minute walk from my home.

 

They hired people? A quick look at the Black Cube website shows that they specialize in silencing corporate whistleblowers, the unfortunate position in which I found myself.

 

I shall repeat once more: a hit Broadway musical can be worth a billion-plus dollars nowadays. If I had the equivalent stolen in jewels, the threats would seem more plausible.

 

It was my curse that my stolen property was in the industry that brought us Jellicle Cats. It all sounded too ridiculous to be true, which I knew all too well, which they surely did too.

 

I stood, shaking with anger, on the corner of Sunset and Horn. I called John Buzzetti, getting his voicemail. I rained down epithets as I bawled him out for his cowardly shitty bullying behavior.

 

Then I called Leslie on the brief walk home to my apartment. I was still terrified, my words pouring out fast and furious as I described the scene. And Leslie was patronizing me. As though he knew something that I didn’t.

 

“Are you sneering at me?” I couldn’t believe that he was minimizing what just happened, as if it was funny. “You’re fired, then!” I yelled and hung up.

 

Leslie was my last line of defense. I counted on him so much.

 

Thus ended my engagement with - and my faith in - members of the New York State Bar Association.

 

In nature specials, when an apex predator has captured their prey, the exhausted hunted animal often reaches a point where they stop running, stop fighting, stop resisting, and just give in to being dinner. They lay down, hoping death comes quick.

 

A lot of my fight died that day. I felt something die in me. There was no point in retaining another member of the New York State Bar, for all they did was use me. Leslie had started off strong, giving spirited defenses of my position, but by degrees he got sucked into the weird cult mentality surrounding my stolen show. Leslie eventually began describe his position to me as “mediator” as he complained about how hard his position was. But if he was the “mediator” in this exploitation scenario, where was my lawyer?

 

A broke artist can be controlled.

 

A broke artist in fear of his life can be owned. Like a slave.

 

FAST-FORWARD

 

I knew I’d seen the thug’s crappy “Actor For Hire” car around town, and my intuition told me that I could ascertain his identity with a little sleuthing. The guy seemed to style himself as a “character” and surely such a “character” had some publicity, however meager.

 

I did a Google image search for “’actor for hire’ car los angeles” and lo and behold, the results page was populated by my mercenary goon.

 

His name was Dennis.

 

AUGUST 3, 2020
21 Months Later

 

Over the following couple of years I saw Dennis at the Coffee Bean and did not engage. He had a scattered, spacey energy – perhaps deliberate, a bit of an act. Then on August 3, 2020 I was at the Bean on the back patio, walking toward the parking lot, and saw him beckoning to me from beside his car.

 

I turned away, facing the very table where he'd threatened me before, hit “record” on my phone, and exited the patio, balancing the phone in the same hand as my coffee:

The harassment only grew scarier after the Coffee Bean incident, occurring at regular intervals. I remember many of these incidents moment-by-moment even years later.

 

I remain incredulous at the soullessness of those people. 

 

On January 29th, I was at home on my sofa, which I left less and less with every passing incident. Then a Head Over Heels Google alert crossed my desktop.

 

"HEAD OVER HEELS ANNOUNCES BROADWAY BOW"

 

I burst into tears. According to the linked article, it was set to open at the Hudson Theater on July 26th, 2018 - 25 years to the day after I arrived in New York City with dreams of making it in the theater.

 

The article also noted that there was a big announcement party underway in New York City with the Go-Go's playing live at the Bowery Ballroom. At that exact moment.

 

It hurt so badly. Such days are glorious for an artist. I worked for two decades for such moments - but this was maliciously disfigured by so much greed.

 

They hadn't bothered to tell me.

 

Or rather - they deliberately withheld the information from me.

 

I got a text from an acquaintance congratulating me. And then another. In grief I texted everyone that I could on the show, producers, agents, lawyers, all, begging them to please tell me before they made such announcements so I wouldn't be blindsided.

 

After their party was over on the East Coast, I got a call from Donovan Leitch, who claimed to be in his hotel room. He seemed in his cups and began sneering at me, telling me how much fun the party was. I detected that I was on speakerphone and asked him why.

 

"Nobody's here, I swear," said the producer who stole my work, and then I heard someone else snicker in the room.

 

It was the most disappointing phone conversation I have ever had. They were headed for failure, but blinded by their vanity and ego.

 

And what had I ever done to deserve such sneering scorn? I delivered Head Over Heels with zero fuss like a consummate pro, after which they put blinders on as my self-dealing agent and lawyer whisked my ownership into their inexperienced, Dunning-Kruger hands.

 

The next day, Michael Riedel, the gossip columnist for the New York Post, published an article about the previous night's event. One section was especially ugly:

 

It did hit a bump in the road when the original writer, Jeff Whitty, left the production. Whitty, who wrote the script to “Avenue Q,” is a talented writer. And at the Go-Go’s concert Monday night, people involved in the show told me much of his original script was “great fun” and “brilliantly theatrical.”

 

But it was long. “Head Over Heels” ran three hours in Oregon, prompting one of the Go-Go’s to remark, “I love the Go-Go’s. I’m in the Go-Go’s. But I can’t take three hours of the Go-Go’s.”

 

Jesus. I delivered a show whose structure worked at the first preview, which almost never happens. After years of hard work I made something beautiful with their music - and this was how those celebrities spoke of me in public. The inexperienced, spiteful members of the band did not understand that a first production of a musical is not the final product. One learns what to cut from watching with the audience.

 

Their statement implies that I put my foot down and refused to change my work - but why wouldn't the Go-Go's say that, as their lawyer was lying to them, after all?

And Head Over Heels wasn't just about them. My Lord.

 

So the lies continued to spread. And I had no one in my corner to advocate for me.

 

I would never hear from the Go-Go's after that. This very public comment was their shitty kick out the door for the artist who did nothing to harm them. I crafted a show with their music that audiences adored. I worked assiduously to make them hip again - only to be vilified for my years-long efforts to put a quality product before the public in order to make an income.

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