Jason Hazard, once a respected member of the Hollywood elite, finds himself, after a series of flops, known only as the husband of his very successful actress wife.
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Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing
By William Peter Blatty
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1996 William Peter Blatty
All rights reserved.
THE PSYCHIATRIST SPEAKS
Did you hear that mysterious rapping, Siggie? —Carl Jung, Correspondence with Sigmund Freud
TAPED MEMO TO FILE
May 20, 1994
The forty-year-old subject, Jason Hazard, a serious and highly acclaimed auteur on the American motion picture scene, presented today as acutely hostile, suicidal and paranoid with delusions, thus marking a major and welcome improvement over our previous appointment in which he completely denied my existence, a position he abandoned solely for the purpose of suggesting that I emulate piblockto, a bizarre and hysterical pathological outburst commonly seen among Eskimo women in which they dash madly about the igloo destroying the furnishings and decorations, and then run outside, rip off their clothes, throw chunks of ice at their pursuers and finally plunge into freezing waters. Seemingly reasoned, alert and well-focused, Hazard paints an anomalous and aggravating picture, interweaving real persons and actual events with fantasies, masks and delusional flights that are obviously camouflaged attacks upon myself: for example, his complaint of "DeMillephobia," a "paralyzing fear of talking to extras" which he sought to control, he doggedly insists, by attending a ten-day camp in Ojai set up by the Directors Guild for this purpose, not to mention his claim that we are in "Happydale," the asylum, if memory serves, in the comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, and not in my office on Central Park West. He appeared for his three o'clock session today in the regalia of a corporal of the Bengal Lancers, circa 1881, and brought me a gift, if one relies upon the label, of something called Mother Kali's Own Gin, with the further enticement and allurement underneath it: "A Favorite of Stranglers All Over Mother India." Clearly, this is more of his ferocious resistance in the guise of convincing me that he is ill and in the hope of prolonging these futile proceedings. My initial suspicion, therefore, remains—that Hazard is a man who has solved his problem but utterly loathes and detests the solution. However, this weekend I'll review our first session; maybe something's on the tapes that my notes have missed.CHAPTER 2
THE PATIENT SPEAKS
THE FIRST TAPE
Some men need adversity to shape them; others respond to shapes adversely, especially in cases where the shapes are unseen. —The Suppressed First Draft of Shakespeare's Hamlet
I'm a quiet-spoken man, a man of taste and modest judgments and not given to hyperbole or passion, but I want to state as clearly and as firmly as I can that my involvement with the seeming demonic possession of Barbra, my wife's Himalayan cat, and the subsequent and vivid attempts at exorcism by a legion of Jesuit priests, Warren Beatty and the Giant Rat of Sumatra, were all part of a mad fucking plot to destroy me, Doctor, a hideous and fiendish conspiracy which, as I recount it to your dumbfounded ears, will doubtless seem to you more tortured, labyrinthine and brazen than any one attempt at self-justification since Attila the Hun met Pope Leo I in the middle of a river and explained to him his concept of "eminent domain."
May I smoke? I hear you scribbling again: "Paranoia." Fair enough: that I once mistook Salvador Dali for a private eye could be true, I suppose, in some limited and esoteric technical sense, and is in any case a rumor that I'm tired of denying, though what Dali would be doing in the Russian Tea Room watching me intently in the midst of my divorce is a circumstance that also deserves to be mentioned. There are sometimes two sides to these stories.
Oh, God, I'm so tired. Where do I begin? The Big Bang? "Christ, we made that," Harry Cohn would have growled: "Lana Turner, Errol Flynn. I said bring me something fresh!" Good old Harry: at Columbia he put in a time clock—swear to God!—and the writers had to punch in and out, they had to prove that they were working from nine until five. One day the Epsteins—Phil and Julie, Casablanca—well, they turned in a screenplay that Harry didn't like. "You bestids," he shrieked at the brothers, "this is writing? How the hell could you wound me like this, how could you sheft me when I've been like a patron to you boys, like a father, you esps, you goniffs, you stabbies in the beck!", raving endlessly on and on like this while spinning upward toward the ceiling in a cyclone of curses and making things somehow a Jewish King Lear until, finally, panting and frothing, he stopped, the huge whites of his eyes glaring up at the brothers like in one of his early zombie movies. "Mr. Cohn, I feel ashamed that the script is so rotten," Julie offered contritely, all earnest and abashed, and his kindly elf's face had this puzzled, lost look as he groped, "but I'm sure that I'm speaking for Phil here as well when I say that I really just can't understand it: check the cards—we were here from nine to five every day."
Harry's well-known creed was, "Give the people what they want!" When he died, they held the funeral service on a sound stage, stage Number Five on the old Gower lot. Groucho Marx leered around at the crowd in attendance, so many there was hardly air to breathe, the place was packed, and said, "You see—you give the people what they want and they'll turn out." There are eight million stories in the naked city, Doctor. Is that your red Rolls out in front? The Corniche with "ID DOC 1" on the license plate and the voodoo doll dangling from the mirror? I think you would have liked Harry Cohn, he was given to excess. On his deathbed he said "Rosebud" twice.
"Get to the part about Warren?" Nice. Ta guele espece de connard, you who sits there with all of the moral authority of a surreptitious fart, looking rapt and concerned while pretending to be listening and all the while anxious for this day to be done so at last you can hie yourself over to Sotheby's to bid on the garter belt worn by Freud and then fondle it nightly in that secret little room where you pen all those blackmail letters to your patients, the ones signed anonymously, "A Friend." This is my analysis, Doctor, my story, and I'll pace it as I please. Understand that? Good.
I first met Warren in the Egyptology Room of the British Museum in London where he was browsing while taking a break from his arduous study of the comparative incidence of "moveable nu" in the Odyssey and in Greenblatt's Delicatessen. Glancing up coolly from the silent ponder of a curiously nonresponsive sarcophagus, he fixed me with squinty ice eyes as he softly inquired, "You fuck my sister?", a theme which he would frequently come to revisit as our friendship thickened on our march through the woods and to which we may return for explanation later on, for this is neither the time, I would think, nor the place.
"Is any of this true?" Are you utterly cracked, my liege? If I knew what was fact from froth would I be here in this private little laughing academy chatting it up with Norman Bates? Maybe it's illusion versus reality. Yes. Did you ever see a movie called Blow-Up? It's about a photographer who obsesses about what he suspects is a murder in the park where he was doing a shoot a few days before. He repeatedly enlarges a section of a photo where he thinks he sees the murderer lurking in some foliage. The film was a smash, I loved it, but some of the reviewers said there never was a murder, that the theme was illusion versus reality. This made me feel dumber than wheat. One night at Jim Bellows's house in Brentwood I met the director of Blow-Up himself, the most pleasant Michelangelo Antonioni. "Was there really a murder?" I asked him bluntly after shaking his hand and praising the film. He looked at me oddly, and then answered, "Well, yes; I mean, at least I thought so." I hauled out Life magazine's big clincher about "illusion versus reality"—the scene at the end where some revelers are playing an imaginary game of tennis with invisible rackets, balls and net. "What about that?" I said; "what did it mean?" Antonioni gave a diffident shrug and said, "Nothing. I once saw some people doing that in Hyde Park and I just thought it might turn out to be interesting footage."
Exactly. There is more to the eye than meets it. The truth is I've never met Warren, I don't know him. I lied. I did it to get your attention; Warren is "interesting footage," Warren's "hot." Does that mean you're going to punish me again, Doctor Larry? more shock treatment curiously focused on the anus without anaesthesia or a cigarette afterwards? Well, alright then, I have staggering news to air out: yes, it's true that Warren Beatty didn't figure in this story; but in fact it was someone even grander than Warren: a giant, an immortal and legendary swordsman who surely would have toppled every one of Warren's records were it not for his startling and bizarre disappearance while alone on a private submarine ride at Disneyland: Yes, that's right, Doctor Larry—Floyd God!
Remember all the hullabaloo? The sub surfaced, but Floyd wasn't in it; they found only his clothing in a neat little pile, a list of the Rockettes in alphabetical order with all but the bottom two names checked off, and an unopened packet of "pre-owned" condoms that mysteriously vanished from the evidence locker, spawning rumors of a sinister murder conspiracy and tasteless allusions to "the smoking gun," even talk of a UFO abduction, which I daresay is the champion of mind-ebbing concepts: Floyd screwing his way through another whole planet? Never mind, he is dead and now a stamp but not forgotten. It was Floyd who helped me out with the Himalayan exorcism. Are you satisfied? Now may I smoke? That's alright, a non-filter would be fine, Herr Settembrini. Oh, how nice—I don't think I've seen a Domino since grade school. Your Grace, do you collect these or just pass them out to paranoids to help them feel they're probably on to something big?
I met Floyd through his sister, Sprightly God, who at the time was more celebrated than Floyd. I'd written a script or two that got made, and I somehow wound up in Sprightly's studio dressing room pitching an idea for a thriller with laughs. Sprightly was bankable; if she liked it, the film would get made. "How are you?" she said to me when we met. This of course was precedent to her days as a "channeler," or else she would have told me, "Good seeing you again," having known me from a previous life in Egypt when she was a pharaoh constructing the pyramids and I was a salesman from outer space selling antigravity devices to help with the lifting of "all those blocks." "Things really haven't changed all that much," she would have added with that waiflike pixie dimpled grin that made you want to immediately pick her up and unambiguously slip her the Constant Admirer while holding her aloft with both your hands so you could hear the steady clicks of the four-inch heels on her kiss-me-fuck-me shoes against the floor. Of course, I said nothing of this at the time. Instead, I was doing my Scheherazade act when the trailer door opened and Floyd stared in, looking somehow distracted and worried, yet inscrutable. When Sprightly introduced us, he nodded at me curtly, and then gravely and deliberately instructed Sprightly that if anyone identifying herself as either "Ramona or Trixie Montenegro" were to call to confirm that Floyd was really her brother, "Just be sure you tell her yes no matter what the hell she says." He then asked for the keys to Sprightly's new Jag so he could "take it for a spin" to the Springs "to buy dates." Accepting the jingling keys in silence, he threw me an unreadable, enigmatic look, and then quietly closed the trailer door and was gone. I finished my story, Sprightly liked it and in days we had a green light at Artery Studios, which happened to be run by Sprightly's husband, that ever-iridescent mad sonofabitch and destroyer of movies, Arthur Zelig. More of this amazing beauty later. Anyway, that's how I came to meet Floyd.
I saw him again at Sprightly's Christmas party. I found him to be bright and engaging and soon we were buddying around together; in fact, for six stupefying months we were roommates. On the eve of divorce, I'd packed a bag and left my wife in the wilds of the Valley. Correction—it was really my wife who packed the bag. Her problem, if you really must know, was jealousy, which is the feeling we tend to experience when someone we utterly loathe and detest is having a wonderful time without us. Never mind. In the meantime, Floyd had rented this house, a stately colonial mansion on Carrolwood Drive in Beverly Hills in advance of a visit by a young French actress, the gaminous and beautiful Lili Malraux, and I knocked on his door with my suitcase in hand looking miserable and happy and rich and broke and just asked him if he minded if I stayed with him awhile. Floyd didn't hesitate, he motioned me in. I was soaking; I had planned this for a stormy day.
The house had two wings, three pools and two tennis courts. Floyd kept a wing and gave the other one to me. That's the way Floyd was, spontaneous and generous. I hear your pissy silence, Doctor. That isn't what you wanted to hear? Very well—I was also the author of a script that Floyd wanted as a vehicle for Lili and himself and he wanted me under his eye and control until the deal had been made and the contracts signed; Floyd wasn't himself at this point, not God, just as I was not America's Ingmar Bergman yet, and he feared that I might sell out without insisting on approval of the film's director. But now listen to this, my idealist, my optimist, my Miranda of the Deeply Disturbed Ward: As it happened, Columbia wanted the script, which at the time was in something referred to as "turnaround," a term of art that is used when a studio decides to abandon a project and lets the author try to set it up somewhere else. Columbia'd agreed to Floyd and Lili as the leads but they craved a director that Floyd didn't like. Mike Frankovich, the head of the studio then, had invited me to come to his office for a meeting that had somehow been scheduled for eight P.M. when the building was certain to be otherwise empty. "Let's relax without the phones ringing," Mike had said gruffly. At the news, Floyd squinted and asked to come along. When I said, "What for?" he slouched away and shook his head, meantime breathily muttering in that leaf-rustling tone of his that makes half of what he says indecipherable; it could have been either "For luck" or "They have Kleenex."
When I entered his office Mike Frankovich exploded. "What the hell is Warren Beatty doing moosing around up and down the damn halls at this time of the night!"
"Warren Beatty, Floyd God, what's the difference?" Mike bellowed. "Neither one of them was asked to this meeting!"
"Sir, he really isn't at it," I meekly evaded; "we're headed for Martoni's after this, he's just waiting."
"He's lurking!" the executive thundered.
This was true. In the silence of the building at that hour, you could hear Floyd's crepe-soled shoes squishing softly up and down along the carpeted studio corridors. Once I heard the water fountain running down the hall. Iron Mike tried to get me to focus on a deal, but I found I couldn't think. I was a nervous wreck.
"What happened?" Floyd asked me when the meeting was over.
I said, "Nothing."
Floyd grunted and might have said, "Good."
The next day I slipped away undetected from Manderley and returned for a meeting at Columbia, this time with a man that the studio had chosen to be the producer of the film; I had promised Mike Frankovich I would do this. The canny producer went straight for the groin. "I've got a contract right here on my desk," he smiled warmly; "if you'll give us the rights to the script right now, I've been authorized to write you a check immediately for eighty-five thousand dollars." He must have seen the blood drain away from my face because all of a sudden he was smiling like Iago in a Cosmo ad for silken handkerchiefs. He took a checkbook from a drawer and started writing. A million things occurred to me; one was an image of me grabbing the check and then running from the room without signing the agreement. The rest of the images were modeled on that one.
I said, "I can't do it." I heard my voice quaver.
The shithead looked up at me blandly, full of hubris, as he toyed with the poison-tipped platinum fang that Columbia issued to all its producers for purposes of honorable hara-kiri should one of their pictures fail to open. How did they know that Sony was coming?
"You can't?" the producer echoed, bemused.
I said, "No, sir, not unless it's written in blood that no TV director is assigned to this movie, most especially the one that Mike Frankovich mentioned as your absolute far and away first choice."
The producer's frozen stare was impenetrable; he looked like a stunned Sitting Bull after hearing from a scout that General Custer had snidely referred to him as "that spic."
Excerpted from Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing by William Peter Blatty. Copyright © 1996 William Peter Blatty. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Table of Contents
Part One: The Psychiatrist Speaks,
Part Two: The Patient Speaks,
Part Three: The Unspeakable,
Part Four: Ah, Mephistophilis!,
Part Five: Greenlighted Into Hell,
Part Six: Go Not to the Set Today, Caesar!,
Part Seven: Deliverance,
Part Eight: Epilogue,
By the Same Author,