Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Chapter 24 Down and Out in Palm Beach

Excerpt from DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB

Another Opening, Another Show


The Royal Poinciana Playhouse Where the Elite Meet and Greet

"Another job that you hope will last
Will make your future forget your past.
Just another opening of another show."
Cole Porter

February 5, Thursday   5th DAY OF OUT OF TOWN TOUR ENDANGERED SPECIES
Still in Atlanta
Read till 4am. World Without End, Jimmy Breslin. Up at 1:30. Had breakfast and read reviews. I was not mentioned. Oh well.
Met Dallas in lobby. He is still sick and very weak, but seems a lot better thank God. I took him for a little walk. Took a walk, looked through old antique shop. Tried to call Dennis, (the playwright) he was not in. Got my dry cleaning and spent the rest of day reading. Wrote a letter to Marcy. There's not much to do here. As a matter of fact, there's nothing to do here. I think I'm going to read a lot.
Show tonight went terrible for me. I felt off. Dennis said it was good. I really dislike doing this part, the part of a jerk. Oh Well. Only 2 ½ weeks to go and I'm home free.
February 6 Friday    6th DAY OF TOUR   PAYDAY
Marcy called this morning at 8 about going to meet Eileen Ford. She was really worried and nervous. I'm afraid I wasn't much help. I was so tired. We talked a little, than I went back to sleep. Marcy called again at 12:30. Sounded really depressed. After she told me what Eileen said, I told her Eileen was all criticism and no real help. Anyway, she will call me tonight.
Well, I am elated. Both shows went very well today. I think I'm a lot more relaxed and not killing myself over doing this part, and I've gotten over my self-consciousness, which makes a big difference. I'm actually enjoying doing the show. It has occurred to me that maybe I was preparing far too much before going on stage. I was rehearsing for at least an hour during the first act. Maybe I had a severe case of overkill. Anyway, all I can say is I'm doing well, and I hope it continues.
After the show I met Bob Burgos in the Bongo room in the lobby. What weird place, a real downer. I have to talk to Lloyd about commissions when I’m out of town. 15% is too much.
February 7 Saturday   7th DAY OUT OF TOWN TOUR
Pick up time for show is 5 pm. Dennis Brite gave me a mountain of notes before show. First show went fast and well. I got into a hassle as Equity Deputy with theater over the god damn rotten food they give us between shows. Some of the cast wanted money instead of the greasy chicken. The theater offered $1.79, an insult. I'll take the matter up with Equity. Second show went well. I read most of the time.
February 8 Sunday  8th DAY OUT OF TOWN TOUR

Show went quickly and well, except that the door bell for our entrance on stage didn't work right. Richard Green made up a line. "I wonder where the Champagne is. I’ll check the hall." Well it worked, sort of.
We all went to dinner at a place called ??? , nice, no liquor in Atlanta on Sunday, but they gave us white wine in water glasses. It was an enjoyable meal. Bill came to $16.00 a person. Extravagant for me, but I needed a good meal. I'm really working for next to nothing in this show.
February 9, Monday   9th DAY OF OUT OF TOWN TOUR
Day off. Thank god. Had breakfast and called Dennis Brite. I went over to Stouffer's where he's staying to get my notes. Instead, he starts me into a full scale rehearsal, 3-4 hours. I finally told him it was my day off and I had things to do. He seemed crushed that I didn't want to spend the day with him rehearsing. He lives in a building 25 stories tall on the 20ieth floor. Everything else around the hotel is 2 stories high. He's getting a Hitler Berchtesgaden Complex. Thinks he's an Eagle or something. Height can be heady.
Tried to call Marcy at 12. No answer. She called me at 1 am, told me she had been to dinner with some guy she met on a commercial. God was I pissed. Could not sleep. I really felt shitty. Did not fall asleep till 5:30 am. Read "Dreadful Lemon Sky" John D. MacDonald.
February 10 Tuesday   10th DAY OF TOUR
Up at 10 am. I'm exhausted. Did not fall asleep till 5:30 am. Had breakfast in hotel then off to rehearsal. It is a bright cool springlike day, a glorious day. Arrived theater at 2pm.
Rehearsal did nothing but confuse people. We all arrived enthusiastic, because Dennis had told us he had a lot of changes and rewrites, but all he did was put back in a lot of bad jokes that never did work and change the blocking, totally confusing matters. We rehearsed 4 hours without a break. I told him of Equity rule, he ignored it. Stopped rehearsal at 6 pm.
I had to have dinner across the street. No time to go back to the hotel. Had dinner in another lousy Italian restaurant, cost a lot.
Show went lousy thanks to Dennis's brilliant blocking and line changes. We lost a lot of the laughs and nice moments.
I am totally exhausted, even as I write this. I tried to call Marcy at 5:30, 6:00 and 6:30. I want to apologize for last night. I don't like the idea of her flying and my last words to her being angry stupid ones. I love her so much. I was just exhausted and irritable and stupid last night. And I'm lonely and miss her so. Back at hotel at 11:15. No message from Marcy. Called Florida about housing. Finished "Killer Angels".
February 11 Wednesday  11th DAY OF TOUR
Up at 1 pm. I was really exhausted. Had another difficult night. Had breakfast in hotel coffee shop. Then picked up my dry cleaning and went on a long walk to the laundromat. Thought I could save some money doing my own laundry. Took a long walk while the laundry went around. There are such beautiful large houses here that are in disrepair and could probably be bought at a reasonable price and redone magnificently. Well, I'm off to get a bite to eat before the show.
I arrived at the theater to find the local underground newspaper on my dressing table and guess what? I got a GREAT REVIEW! God, I'm so happy.
The show went really well. After the show, we all went to the Pleasant Peasant for dinner, and I had the first good meal of this tour "Poulet Marengo" and salad. A little expensive, but what the hell. Back at hotel 1:15 am. Left wake-up call 9 am. Tomorrow I talk to Marcy. I can hardly wait to hear her voice.
February 12 Thursday   12th DAY OF TOUR
Up at 1pm. Had another terrible night sleep.
Off to theater at 6:45, dressed in my grey suit. Show went so so.
After show Barbara Rush took us all to a really fantastic restaurant for dinner. A place in a new hotel called Mimi's. I had Steak Tartare and fried mushrooms and broccoli with Hollandaise sauce. Was great. Two Bloody Mary's, an Amaretto and Irish Coffee. A good time was had by all. She must have spent a couple of hundred dollars, easy. Got home at 2 am and collapsed.
February 13 Friday   13th DAY OF TOUR
Up at 1 pm. Had breakfast with Richard Green. Walked around downtown. Bought another Trav McGee book.
Got to the theater at 5pm. Sat around and read. The show went well. I was really good in second show. I was really rolling. Got back to hotel at 11:50. Today was Payday, thank god. Although I owe the hotel $97. God where does the money go?
February 14 Saturday   14th DAY OUT OF TOWN TOUR
Slept fairly well. No nightmares for a change. I seem to be suffering from terrible anxiety.
The show went really fast. One more performance to go here. I’m glad.
There was a terrible shooting at 4 am this morning in the place next to the hotel, the Electric Light bulb or something like that. And another one the parking lot at 5 am or so. I slept right through it, it seems. They say there were police cars everywhere.
Read Royal Flash
February 15 Sunday  15TH DAY OUT OF TOWN TOUR
I'll be really glad to get out of here. Show went well. Everybody (crew) was sad we were leaving. Couldn't say the same for the cast. I am a new man. I feel refreshed.
On to Marcy my baby and Palm Beach.
The money situation is becoming critical and a pain in the ass. I'm really tired of worrying about money. Time to make a lot and buy Marcy and me a house.
Well, like I said, I'm really elated over getting out of here. I'm almost finished packing and we're off to the airport.
Plane left on time. Arrived Palm Beach after an hour and half flight. Boy, is it great here! They drove me to my apartment on Royal Poinciana Way. It's beautiful, large kitchen and bedroom, TV, living room and beautiful furniture. Boy, this is really living.
Met Richard Green for dinner. We had frog's legs. Then we walked down to the beach and watched the breakers roll in. We were both giddy with joy. The sea, ah the sea, and Marcy arrives tomorrow.
February 16 Monday   16th DAY OF TOUR TODAY I SEE MY BABY YAH
Palm Beach is absolutely fantastic, expensive, but fantastic and pretty. All the rich folk are here and the sun always shines.
Started rehearsal at 1 pm till 4:30. My dressing room is terrific, and the theater itself is magnificent. Asked about a ticket for opening night, cost $15.
Marcy's cab arrived in front of theater at 5:40. God, I was nervous. She looks so young and is so beautiful. We were like a couple of kids giggling every time we looked at one another.
She loved the apartment. Marcy stayed home while I did the show, then I picked her up for party at Royal Poinciana Club next door. She looked great in a low cut, full length skin tight dress of turquoise. We left the party at around 1am and walked back with Richard and Lynn.
The show went terrible. Actually it wasn't the show but the people. They all sat there in their tuxedoes and minks and diamonds and never laughed or anything. God, what bunch of stiffs. I never worked so hard on a stage in my life. The worst audience I ever worked in front of.
It's so good to be with Marcy again.
February 17 Tuesday   17th DAY OF TOUR ENDANGERED SPECIES PALM BEACH
Woke up to the maid knocking on the door. Marcy was thrilled to discover that we have a maid every day. I'm so glad I can treat her to this trip. It makes doing this show worthwhile.
Today we explored Palm Beach. Went to the beach than back home, than to Henry Dinkels for drinks, Pina Coladas. Then off to Worth Street and saw all the fancy shops, Cartier's, Bonwit Teller, Saks, Gucci, etc, real lush, real Spanish, real money, all you could see were Cadillac's, Rolls Royce's. Lots of rich folk down here, but they make a terrible audience.
After the show, we had a lovely dinner at Testas. Spaghetti with white clam sauce, Heineken beer and Artichoke with lots of butter. Then we joined Barbara Rush and Dennis the playwright and the rest of cast in the garden for a drink.
Last night, opening night, was a disaster. They told us to really yell on stage so we could be heard because a lot of the old people are deaf. Well it turned out to be Bullshit, and we all looked like we were greatly overacting. Shit, the reviews creamed us.
I jumped all over Marcy today about money and demanding what she is worth and what is fair. Fords has her booked in Miami for 2 hours for $150 plus travel. That’s $100 for 4 hours travel time. I told her to demand her day rate, $500. She did and got it. She was amazed and thrilled. Well, hell, she deserves it. She has been sold short for too long.
February 18  Wednesday   18th DAY OF TOUR
Marcy made us a delicious breakfast. Sort of a lazy day. I have to do the matinee at 2:30, half an hour is at 2. Show was alright. Marcy saw it for the first time. Said it really stinks. It's just not a good play. Second show went better. I played it a lot looser, enjoyed myself more. Walked home with Richard. Marcy and Lynn were waiting, drinking wine. We had a chat and I read a castigating review of the show in the Miami Herald, the first bad review of my career, but the review was right.
Dennis Brite stopped by my dressing room to say goodbye. He was crushed by the review. I felt so bad, my heart went out to him. He had such great hopes for this play. So he is going back to NYC tonight defeated and rejected. I hope he bounces back. There's a good play in him somewhere.
February 19 Thursday   19th DAY OUT OF TOWN TOUR
Up at 10 am. Marcy left at 6 am for Miami and job. Had breakfast and let maid in. Then I bought some new Travis McGee books and off to a beach spot for 2 ½ hours. Then stopped by old bookstore on my way home. I can never resist a bookstore. Bought 3 books.
Have to take shower to get rid of oil and sand. Then out for lunch. Waited at home reading till 7:45 for Marcy to return. I was getting a little worried, but my gal showed up at the theater at 9 pm all smiles and giggly. I was glad to see her safe and sound.
Show went so so. I'll be glad when it’s over. 3 more performances to go. Home 11 pm. Had spaghetti, then to bed. Both of us were a little tired.
Today was PAYDAY.
February 20 Friday  20ieth DAY OF TOUR OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
Up at 10 am. Breakfast. Off to bank to cash my check, then to Palm Beach Towers pool to meet Richard, Lynn and Bob. Biff Liff and Barbara Rush were also there.
I went to theater early, 1:30 to do laundry, but all the machines were in use. Two shows today, 2:30 and 8:30. After today, only one to go.
Have to call director and Jonathan in NYC tonight to find out when I start rehearsing new show.
After the first show, Marcy and I had dinner. Enchiladas and tacos. Then to see the beautiful Spanish Gardens of the Bradley House for Pina Coladas.
My scenes went well. After show I walked home with Richard.
I called Jonathan in NYC about new show. He said it had been cancelled. Marshall Mason didn’t like it. I am crushed. I'm so disappointed, I can hardly believe it. I was so looking forward to it. Marcy was asleep in bed.
February 21 Saturday  21st DAY OUT OF TOWN IN SHOW ENDANGERED SPECIES
Today is the day of the last show. Marcy and I had breakfast around 11 am, then walked down to the beach and found a hidden place and sunned. I had to leave at 1:40 in order to be at the theater at 2 for half hour.
The show went well. I think we are all glad it is over. Marcy watched my scene from back stage and thought I did a lot better. At 4:30 the show came down. I feel a little sad. I'm the only cast member going back to NYC on the Sunday morning flight. Kendall is going to her parents in Fort Lauderdale. Richard Green and Lynn are going to his parents in Miami. Barbara Rush is going to LA, Bob Burgos is going to his mother in Miami.
After the show Marcy and I and walked to our apt. Richard and Lynn came over, and Richard got on the phone and gave his reservation to Marcy so she and I could fly home together tomorrow.
Had a nice dinner at Testas. I had frogs' legs, than we took a midnight stroll on the beach and talked and stopped for a drink. Home to bed at 1am.
Well, it is all over but the flight home.
February 22 Sunday 
Leave for airport 7:20 am. Flight home really rough. Marcy was a nervous wreck. I felt terrible for her. Arrived LaGuardia at 10:30 am. Good to be home. Marcy had waxed the floors before she left. They look terrific. Went over and got Wister. She seemed thrilled to see us home again.
NOTE – Never again will I tour for that little money. I came home owing $150. That is for shit. I can't pay 25% commission when I tour. It's ridiculous. Thank God I was getting residual checks from my commercial.
MARCY'S MEMORIES OF PALM BEACH
I have three memories to add about our stay in Palm Beach. The first is that for one show, I waited in Tom's dressing room with him while the audience came in and took their seats. There were speakers in each dressing room so the actors could hear what was happening on stage and didn't miss their cues. The noise coming over that speaker was truly a ROAR from the audience. I felt so bad for poor Tom because he was about to be thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. Tom said he'd never heard an audience make that much noise in his entire career.
My second memory is of attending the show. I was given a seat in the front row next to two elderly people who were very nice and friendly and introduced themselves. Their name was a household name that I could not fail to recognize for an appliance that everyone uses. No wonder they were in the front row. They were fascinated to hear that my husband was a member of the cast. But, best of all, and it still makes me laugh today, the minute the curtain when up, down went the Mister's head onto his chest. He slept through the entire performance. His wife was very apologetic. I hope I was gracious in accepting it.
The last memory is of going grocery shopping near our apartment. As I browsed through the fabulous aisles of the gorgeous supermarket, a universe or two away from our 90ieth Street D'Agostinos, I slowly became of aware of the other shoppers around me and realized I was the only person not wearing a maid's or chauffeur's uniform.

  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A True Story with Mystery, Suspense, Spirited Confrontations,Plus Some Bits of Dialogue That I Think Will Provoke a Few Chuckles



Tom co-starring with Sandra Bullock in WORKING GIRL TV series

Tom as recurring judge on Law and Order, SVU
From the movie UNITED 93
With Will Smith on FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR
The Sparky the Dog episode made Tom famous in Philadelphia


A man's man


Justin Marler on THE GUIDING LIGHT

Poster for DESERT HEAT the movie Tom wrote

101st Airborne MP 19 year old tough guy who decided to
become an actor on the GI bill
It's a movement class at Goodman Theater School, then part of Chicago University. A tall, muscular, GI bill student and ex paratrooper has already caused an embarrassing scene by wearing his dance belt wrongly outside his first pair of tights instead of underneath. Now, he is manfully executing a leg stretch at the dance bar, when, in his firm grip, the whole bar pops out of the wall stopping the class. "Get out! Get out now!" his teacher hollers in exasperation, and the class dissolves in laughter.

How about a New York City summertime opening night in an historical costume drama with all the top critics in the audience and the steam heat comes on causing an elderly actor to pass out into the orchestra seats. And the director caustically points out that was the high point of the show.

Or the revamped postal jeep radiator that sprang a leak on Fourth of July night on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu resulting in a very long ride home under the stars through expensive and fragrant real estate that became an unforgettable, mystical romantic journey.

Earthquakes, notice the plural, the Whittier and the Northridge to shake things up a bit.

Would you want to star in FROST ON THE PARSNIP? I thought not, neither did Tom. Or PORNO STARS AT HOME, at least he got to keep his clothes on.

The modeling shoot with the German model who spoke little English picking his nose during his close up, "I haf an animal in my nose", referring to a gnat in his nostril.

Yes, it was a wild and wonderful life, crazy ups and downs, Guest Star back to taxi driver, the constant terror of trying to get the next job, living not only paycheck to paycheck, but audition to audition. Always in Survival Mode. Stressful, yes, exciting always, the phone rings you got it or you're fired. Laughter and tears, lots of both.

DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB is Tom O'Rourke's journey to becoming a successful actor. How does someone become a working actor? If you want the answer to that question, you have to examine an actor's life, because his life is his laboratory. An actor is an artist in motion. Tom O'Rourke is gone and was far too modest to have allowed his story to be told while he was alive, but it's too good not to share. So here, compiled from my popular blog. is Tom's rollicking, no holds barred life story from his wry, candid private diaries, his personal photo collection, and the memories of his wife of 38 years, Marcy Casterline, a former model with Eileen Ford.


Tom and Natasha Richardson on the PATTY HEARST set
with Director Paul Schrader

Tom was the first child of a teenage war bride and a sailor, who later deserted his family. He had an impoverished childhood in New York City raised by his grandmother and his Merchant Marine grandfather, then off to the Army as a paratrooper instead of college, finally working in Chicago in a custom photo developing shop while he studied acting at Goodman Theater.


Tom and his Grandmother in NYC in the Seventies
On the road to success in show business, there are no quick fixes, no short cuts.  DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB has all the behind the scenes stories of Tom's years on national tour with a Broadway musical, backstage in the New York theater, the big break on the daytime soap THE GUIDING LIGHT creating the role of Justin Marler, the long rocky road to Hollywood, finally costarring in the nighttime TV series WORKING GIRL with Sandra Bullock, then on to his extensive work on LAW AND ORDER, and L&O, SVU, MAID IN MANHATTAN, AMERICAN GANGSTER, and UNITED 93. And then there was the movie he wrote, DESERT HEAT, shot in the desert heat 108 degrees; but his movie got made, starring Jean Claude Van Damme which doesn't happen very often in Hollywood.

The book has lots of photos because pictures, moving and still, were how we made our living and are very much a part of our story, a story of a love that grows through the shared passion for each other and struggle for success.

To Quote a New Yorker cartoon Tom loved, "It's a long story, but it's got everything--mystery, suspense, intrigue, two extremely spirited confrontations--plus some bits of dialogue that I think will provoke a few chuckles."





Tom and Marcy gone fishin
Tom in a sitcom with Nancy McKeon



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Desert Heat - from Don't Quit Your Day Job

Eddie Lomax and the bike


JUNE 2, Sunday 1974

We met May 1, 1974. June 2, a month later, was a beautiful day, according to Tom's Diary. 

We were up early, had breakfast, read the Times, walked through Central Park, watched the end of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Then we'd wandered up Madison Avenue around 85th street and bought some records and cookies. (Who would have ever thought that records would become obsolete? Cookies are apparently immune from ever disappearing.) We went to Tom's sublet apartment and drank some wine. Then because he'd talked about his writing, and I was interested, he showed me one of his screenplays. Diary entry - "Let her read part of my screenplay. That I think was a mistake" is what Tom, in a very tactful understatement, writes at the end of his June 2 entries. Fortunately, he was not in the least upset or influenced by my opinions. However, I continued to suffer from my own erroneous ideas, feelings and understanding of how the world works for many, many years after this event.

I actually remember that moment like it was yesterday. I remember the perfectly and professionally typed up scripts, nicely bound, one even in leather. I still have them. Was I impressed with all the work he'd done and with the scope of his imagination and vision? Was I proud? Was I amazed at the effort he'd put into these scripts, all on his own initiative? Was I awed by the time, energy, the thought, the heart, the intelligence he'd displayed? No. Not for a second. Indeed, quite the opposite. I was appalled, overwhelmed, dismayed. Here was another windmill to tilt, and I was actually furious.

What I did not remember correctly was how soon this big blowup occurred after we'd met. We had known each other just one month and one day, and there I was passing judgment on his talents and hopes and dreams, raining on his parade and crushing his ambitions. Who the heck was I? This was such a combination of breathtaking arrogance and ignorance that even now I am deeply ashamed to remember it.

How could I have been so stupid, so misguided? I was very much a child of the middle class ethos, and the very essence of that ethos is to be self-effacing. Never overtly calling attention to yourself or your achievements or taking yourself too seriously is the first commandment of being middle class. The second is 'pass the martinis'. However, being self-effacing will not get you anywhere in the arts. The lens lice, strutting popinjays, narcissists, and exhibitionist all have a head start in the artist game. Tom was none of those, of course. But still, my whole nature revolted at claiming the right to not only be an actor, but also trying to thrust yourself forward as a screenwriter. The effrontery!!

Of course to Tom, who was not hampered like I was by the excessive vanity of such overdone modesty, it seemed perfectly natural that an actor should write a screenplay.



On the High Desert in California to see the'Desert Heat' shooting.
Tom's dream come true.
And I made another miscalculation; I naively believed that before Tom should dare to write a screenplay, before he wasted more time and effort chasing another rainbow, he must earn the imprimatur of someone of theatrical authority. Then he would be justified in 'wasting' the time involved. I was firmly in the camp of its being everyone's moral imperative to work a nine to five job, unless you raised your hand nicely and teacher said you could be excused. Teacher, of course, being some recognized authority in the culture world.

In my view, he'd proved he had an acting talent by landing a great acting job first time out doing "Promises, Promises" for David Merrick, but writing? Who was he to pick up pencil and paper? What hubris!

I wasn't wholly ignorant about theater and movies. I was studying with Lee Strasberg, working at the Actor's Studio as house manager, auditing acting sessions there, watching all of their productions that I could, studying with Uta Hagen and had been for several years, and going to all the classical and contemporary theater that I could manage, and in New York City, there's always quite a lot of theater.

Though being blessed by those of high reputation in your field is a practical and financial benefit to your artistic ventures, for me, it went beyond practical. I looked up to those who'd achieved successes that I and the NY Times admired, and I revered and respected the opinions of those who seemed worthy. I felt they must have earned their place in the pantheon of greatness because they had demonstrated competence; you know, they passed the exam and their name was inscribed on a stone tablet somewhere so everyone would know they got an A. To me, they were founts of wisdom whose judgment was beyond question, certainly by the likes of me.

That may sound like becoming humility, but I think it was really just a way of avoiding putting myself on the line artistically, basically, cowardice on my part. Putting yourself on the line is tough for anybody. Your ego can end up taking quite a beating. There are creeps out there who live for doling out malicious criticism, merited or not. 

However, I did not fully grasp what was different about the arts until many, many years later. The difference is that working in the arts is not like the usual job. There are no objective standards against which to measure the integrity or perceptiveness of those who are at the top in their fields. Acting is not accounting or engineering or marketing or running a shoe factory. In those fields of work, it's perfectly obvious who is worthy, because there are measurable results. Plus, those who are unworthy usually go out of business.

But artistic professions are different. Lots of people in the arts can get wealthy without doing much of anything of any immediate or lasting value. For instance, there are Critic's Darlings, artists who some besotted critic has decided can do no wrong and who, as a result, go on to reap fortunes at the box office because of people like me who slavishly follow the critics; there are the trend following artists who hop on any bandwagon, 'you want vampires, I've got a vampire that will knock your socks off'; then there is stunting, a ploy which involves hiring celebrities of the moment like football players,(OJ), or politicians daughters, (Bristol, Chelsea) to get ratings, or one of Tom’s favorite Hollywood stunts, which he experienced firsthand, Smell-O-Vision, movies accompanied by evocative fragrance spayed into the theater, - however, the combination of odors drove the audience out, so it didn't last very long; and lastly, the very obvious and ubiquitous publicity hounds who decorate the tabloids every week, extolling themselves. Perhaps the most prevalent form of cheating is nepotism. As Moss Hart once said, "Nepotism runs like a giant river through show business." Those are a few of the types in show biz who are out there wasting everyone's time and money. This is not meant to disparage the study of art history or the practice of art criticism. But scholars look back and explain the brilliance of the past, not the present, and great contemporary critics are even rarer than great artists.

For instance, in Shakespeare's day, playwrights were supposed to adhere to the Greek classical standard of unity of time, place, and action. That Shakespeare did not attend university or follow the dramatic unities led to his being critically underrated by the intelligentsia of England for almost 100 years. Samuel Johnson was the first literary critic to look seriously at Shakespeare's work and accord him genius status.


So Tom was right and courageous in pursuing his dream and his vision. And I was just as wrong and misguided as a person can get. No one can actually say who is a great artist and who is not, who is worthy or who is a waste of time. Some great artists die broke, some hacks make millions. Some of the most popular artists of an era are entirely forgotten in ten years, some rejected works of art go on to everlasting greatness. You just have to do what you do and sail by your own lights. Tom always knew that. And he knew it because he was an inveterate moviegoer. I used to kid him that he'd seen every movie ever made, and I was not far wrong. There was hardly a movie that we ever heard about, American or foreign, that he hadn't seen and remembered distinctly and was able to discuss its best scenes, good points and failings. He loved movies.




He did finally have a movie made from one of his scripts, which is a rare honor in Hollywood. It's called Desert Heat starring Jean Claude Van Damme, and it has done very well. Tom was a fan of Jean Claude Van Damme and of all good action/adventure movies. Desert Heat is a quirky action picture with a lot of comedy and some interesting characters in a script Tom wrote during our frustrating days in Hollywood. He loved reading people's comments about the movie on Amazon. I share a couple of them here below:

Van Damme Like Never Before, April 20, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Desert Heat (DVD)

With regular Jean-Claude Van Damme movies I expect a movie with no plot and pointless action, but Desert Heat was a hysterical action packed adventure of suicidal loner Eddie Lomax (Van Damme) on pursuit to reclaim his motorcycle from a gang of vicious outbackers. Meeting along the way unforgettable characters and of course killing those who got in his way. Van Damme actually does some good acting in this movie with punch lines that kept me laughing the whole time (ex."can't we all just get along") Those who expect regular Van Damme martial arts to used in this movie will be surprised because Van Damme uses character development and revenge as more of an approach to the key element in this movie (except for the end). I loved Desert Heat and recommend it to those who like funny action movies that are very entertaining!

Damme good movie., June 11, 2002
By Chris G, Willhoite - See all my reviews

This review is from: Desert Heat (DVD)

Based on the 1962 Samurai film, Yojimbo, Desert Heat captures the story well in a modern, desert setting starring none other than Jean-Claude Van Damme. Eddie Lomax{Van Damme} tries to escape the horrors he faced in the war, in the form of nightmares, by riding out into the desert to end his life and is also trying to deliver a gift to an old war buddy who he saved in the war. The action heats up when his gift is stolen and thus frees a small town from two rival gangs using war games and acting like a one man army. Even near the end a character asks a person out to a movie called Yojimbo as kind of a humorous hint as to what the movie was based on. An action packed movie with comedy, a touch of romance, and a bit of Native American lore, Desert Heat is an awesome flick for any fan of action, comedy, and/or Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The Sonic Motel set for Desert Heat with very good friend Randy Hall, stunt coordinator. Desert Heat was a very apt title. That day the temperature was about 108 F. the movie was also released as Inferno.

Thank God he didn't listen to me all those many years ago. He kept right on writing. Here's looking at you, Tom.