Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dream Fluff Donuts, Martin Scorsese and I

 This morning, Roxie the Lab and I—suffering from cabin-fever thanks to two rainy days in a row—went for our morning walk through the neighborhood, making a stop at Dream Fluff Donuts, a local landmark. Although there were only four people ahead of me, service was slow, and my mind wandered to a moment in the early 90s, a time when I was writing a nonfiction book and a screenplay based on the book, which was called “Tin For Sale,” about a crooked NYPD detective who went to work for the mob. Universal had bought the rights and assigned me to adapt the book, all because Martin Scorsese and Nick Pileggi were attached to the project (it was Nick who had brought me in as a writer, an act of kindness I will never forget).
When word got out that I was writing for Scorsese and Pileggi, two young, enterprising agents contacted Sterling Lord, my literary agent, and asked to represent me in Hollywood. One of them was Ari Emanuel (yes, the brother of Rahm and now the co-head of William Morris Endeavor). Meetings were set up with development executives all around town, including a producer who worked at Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg’s company.
The producer ushered me into his office, dispensed with the usual formalities and got right to the point: “So what do you know about’ The Flintstones?’”
This was not a question I expected, since the screenplay I had written and the producer has presumably read—or at least a summary provided by a minion—was a dark, violent, curse-filled story with no redemption at the end. Reading it would not trigger the thought: we gotta get this guy to do a rewrite of a live-action version of “The Flintstones,” which at the point had gone through about a dozen frazzled writers.
I asked him if he had read my screenplay. He admitted he had not. I briefly told him what it was about. The producer feigned embarrassment, then asked me where I was from.
The producer’s face lit up. “I went to college there,” he said, meaning Cal. “Have you ever been to Dream Fluff Donuts?”
Another question I was not expecting. I told him I lived a mere two blocks away.
“I love that place,” he said. “I took LSD a lot when I was in college, and Dream Fluff donuts were the best donuts when you were coming down from a high.”
For one of the few times in my life, I had an epiphany: could I really put my future and that of my family in the hands of people like this guy? Could I pay the mortgage in the future, pitching movie ideas to a parade of silly asses? Get my daughter through college? Build a nest egg? I’m not saying every studio executive was like this guy, but enough were in different ways.
The producer and I parted. “The Flintstones” opened in 1994.
William Morrow published my book. Universal never made the movie. I made some money. But I never wrote another screenplay, and when the opportunity arose to get back into the world of a weekly paycheck, I took it. All because of Dream Fluff Donuts.
Which brings us back to the present. After fifteen minutes of waiting, I turned to the ladies behind me and said, “No donut is worth this, take my place, I’m leaving.”
Roxie and I made our slow way home. About ten minutes later, someone behind us said, “Mister!” I turned. It was the two women who had waited behind me, each with bags laden with donuts for their families.
“We want you to have a donut,” one of the women said. I thanked them but demurred. They insisted. So I reached into one of the bags and took a donut, thanking them again. We went our separate ways. It was a lovely, modest act of generosity that made me feel better than I had in a long time.
Rox and I got home. I made tea. The donut was delicious. And I was on my own kind of high.


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