Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Posts Tagged ‘revenge

According to Hollywood folklore, the words in the title of this post are what a studio functionary is supposed to have written about Fred Astaire’s screen test for RKO Pictures in the early 1930s.

That quotation comes more and more to mind as Shakespeare Incorporated and several of my other plays begin having some success.  Each of these plays was  rejected — occasionally quite rudely — by quite a number of the theaters and contests to which I submitted them.  I’m also reminded of another Hollywood executive who had an option on the screenplay for ET and sold it to Steven Spielberg.  And of the guy from Decca Records who turned down the Beatles.

OK, so I may not be in the Beatles’ class in terms of recognition any time soon, and Shakespeare Incorporated may never rival ET for commercial success.   But  just in case, I’ve decided to follow the lead of the Lord High Executioner in The Mikado, and I’m compiling a little list (they’d none of them be missed).   If Shakespeare Incorporated ever wins a Tony or a Pulitzer, I’ll be ready to look up each and every person who rejected the play and make them eat their words.  Preferably, I’ll force them to ingest the rejection letters they sent me.   (If they ignored me and didn’t even have the decency to send a rejection letter, I’ve saved up some old scripts that should be particularly appetizing.)

Yes, I do take all this very personally.  But hey, I’m a crusty old fart; that’s my job.

I know it’s not the Boulder way.  Instead of being bitter and twisted and savoring thoughts of revenge, I should be grateful for whatever success I achieve, and we should all hold hands and hum and frolic semi-naked in the snow of a Colorado January.  Screw that!  You must be mistaking me with someone else.

Those of you in Boulder, don’t expect to see me any time soon.  No doubt when this post becomes public, they’ll rescind my visa to the People’s Republic.  Again.

A couple of days ago Rhonda and I rented two superhero movies — “Iron Man” and “Hancock.”  It got us to thinking about what superpowers we would choose.

At first Rhonda said she’d always wanted to be able fly.  But then she saw a movie actress who had recently starred in a superhero movie being interviewed on TV.  That actress was asked the same question and she said that her choice would be to be able to eat as much as she wanted without gaining weight.  Rhonda immediately changed her mind.  She now wants to be “Consequence-Free Gluttony Woman.  After all, she says, how much time would she spend flying.

I’ve thought about it for a few minutes  (very few), and here are some ideas of the superhero I’d like to be.

1.  Able-To-Sleep-All-Night-Without-Getting-Up-To-Pee Man: self-explanatory.

2.  Loud-Music-Revenge Man: able to cause boom boxes, car stereos, restaurant and store radio CD players and radios which play loud, obnoxious music to be inserted into the anal cavities of the people who play them.

3.  Comeback Man:  able to think up clever comebacks at the time they are required, and not hours, days, or weeks later.

4.  Genitalia-Enlarging-Spam-Reversal Man:  causes the genitalia of people who send out spam offers to enlarge my  genitalia to shrink with each spam shot they send.

5.  Lawyer-Destructo Man: needs no explanation or justification.

You get the idea.

Let me know ideas for superpowers you’d like to have.


The day before yesterday I went to the theater for a costume fitting for the role of Darwin in my play, “The Debate.” I told the theater’s artistic director about the latest award for Shakespeare Incorporated. I then made a comment to her similar to the one I included at the end of yesterday’s post. I’m afraid I delivered it with a great deal of animosity and more than a few expletives.  “I hope those &^#$%$# @!#$*#s at the XXX playwright’s club that wouldn’t let me in last year are feeling really stupid!”

“You shouldn’t focus on revenge,” she responded. “You should be happy about what you’ve accomplished.”

It got me to thinking. She was right, of course. It can’t be healthy for me to work for six months on a play, and then spend a year or more marketing it, primarily for the purpose of exacting petty revenge on people who never cared about me to begin with, and have certainly long since forgotten the offense they gave me.

It can’t be healthy, but I’m afraid it’s a large part of what inspires me and why I write. (Along with it enabling me to be “Large and In Charge.”)

I’m one of those after-the-fact geniuses. Come on, admit it, you are too! After any sort of confrontation or unpleasant situation, I start “shoulding” all over myself as I think of all the clever things I should have said or done. (“Shoulding” is pronounced disconcertingly similarly to “shitting”.)

“I should have told him to [Clever Response 1].”

“No, I should  have [Clever Response 2].”

“What I really should have said was [Clever Response 4,873].”

It goes on for days or weeks. Or years. And the more I feel that someone has won a point on me, or even worse, given me a personal affront, the longer I’m going to obsess over it.

Given that I can’t help myself and am going to obsess about it anyway, being productive and creative to achieve revenge seems to be a more mature, socially acceptable alternative than, say, putting burning bags of feces on their porches and ringing their doorbells at 3 a.m.

I’ll give you an example.  The first short play that I wrote was presented in a single performance at a fringe festival in February, 2007. Note that when I write I spend hours working on every line of dialog to get them perfect.  But the actors in my play were either unwilling or incapable of learning the lines. At some point, I imagine they had probably read the script, but they seemed determined just to take the general idea and ad lib their way through the play. When they questioned a line at the end of the second scene that didn’t make sense, my response was often, “Of course it doesn’t make sense. It might have if you’d used even some of the lines that I wrote for the first scene!”

The lead male was the worst offender. In addition to being unable to remember the lines, he had a crippling case of stage fright.  It might have been helpful if he had told us about that before we cast him!

Then, 36 hours before the performance, he showed up to a rehearsal with a machete and threatened to start “cutting” people. The director immediately fired him and went out and bought a shotgun. I ended up having to play the part myself, which I couldn’t come near to perfecting on such short notice. In the performance, one of the other actors had a wardrobe malfunction and didn’t come out on time, so the rest of us stood around like idiots for what seemed like hours.  Overall, it was a nightmare.

On the airplane flying back to Denver the next morning, I was so angry and upset that I realized that I was either going to kill somebody or I was going to have to find some other way to exact revenge. So I came up with the concept for Red Herring, and the first outline was done before the plane landed. In Red Herring a frustrated playwright starts playing dirty tricks on the cast and crew of his latest production. But the tricks all go drastically wrong, and the victims are more seriously injured than the playwright had intended. The lead actor of the “play within the play” is the one who bears the brunt of the damage.

Red Herring is having its world premiere in June, 2009. Of course I’m excited about having a new play produced, but it will be particularly satisfying to see that lead actor take it on the chin again and again.

There is an old Afghani saying that has made it into Western culture in numerous books and movies.  “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” I say, serve it hot or serve it cold, but make them EAT IT!

evil-car-company. . . and die lonely.

Forgive me, but I take vast delight in the current troubles (and impending demise) of a particularly evil U.S. car company.  It couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of guys.  (To keep from being sued, I shall refer to it simply as the “Evil Car Company,” or “ECC” for short. )

When I first got into the market of looking for cars in the early 1970s, I quickly realized that ECC wasn’t interested in trying to satisfy the demand of its customers.  It was intent on shoving down their customers’ throats what it wanted them to buy.

“But you advertised this car for $2,999.  How come it’s $4,500?” I complained to the ECC dealer.  (Remember, this was 1972.)   “But that’s because this car has the Luxury Decor Option.”  “What’s the Luxury Decor Option?”  “That’s the interior floor carpet, a strip of chrome on the side, and a mirror in the passenger sun-visor.”  “And how much does that cost?”  “$600.”  “What if I don’t want the strip of chrome and the sun-visor mirror, but I just want the carpet?”  “You can’t do that.  It only comes as a package.”  “What comes on the floor if I don’t order the package?”  “Rubber floor mats that cover only part of the floor.  The rest is bare metal.”  “For $600, I’ll buy my own mats.”  “In that case we’ll have to order it special, and it will take you 4 months to get it.”

And so it went.  If I wanted a radio, I had to get the Comfort Package (or some other euphemism), which cost $500 and also included a lock and key for the glove compartment, and variable speed wipers.  If I wanted a heater with temperature control, I had to buy the — well, you get the idea.

So I went to a Datsun dealer and looked at the B210, which was advertised for $2,999.  “How much does this car cost?” I asked.  “$2,999.”  “And with the carpet on the floor and the strip of chrome on the side and the visor mirror?”  “$2,999.”  “And the air conditioning and the radio?”  “$2,999.”  Needless to say, I bought the Datsun.  It was 15 years later before I drove another ECC vehicle.  But that’s the beginning of the good part of the story.

In the early 1980s I was working in England for an I.T. services company when it was announced that my company would start a long-term, “special relationship” with ECC.  I was immediately transferred to work on the ECC account — they were looking for people in my company who could speak a variety of European languages to work with ECC’s European subsidiaries, and I was at the top of a very short list.  Over the next 10 years, my company did a large amount of work for ECC.  As an employee of a company with a “special relationship,” I was partly protected from the filthy business practices to which ECC regularly subjected its vendors, but not so much that I wasn’t aware of them.  (Sorry, but if I gave you any examples, ECC may become recognizable.  Anyway, you probably wouldn’t believe that anyone could be that unethical.)

Fast forward to the mid 1990s, when the special relationship between my company and ECC was winding down and we were negotiating an arms-length contract for ongoing services.  There was a book at the time by Chester Karrass entitled “The Art of Negotiating.”  In it, Karrass listed a large number of unethical negotiating tactics.  He wasn’t recommending them, mind you, he just wanted you to be prepared.  According to my colleagues who spent nearly a year negotiating the wind-down contract, ECC’s negotiators ran down the entire list, using all the unethical tactics, more or less in order.  Once the contract was signed, ECC immediately began to treat my company as it was treating its other vendors.  Namely, it would decide: a) if it would pay; b) when; and c) how much.  When my company complained, ECC’s response was to trump up spurious financial claims (which it would drop if my company dropped its demand for payment) and to say, “If you don’t like it, sue us.  We’ll squash you like a bug.”  My company chose not to poke the 500 pound gorilla in the eye, and let them get away with those tactics for a number of years.

After I left my company, I went to work for another I.T. services company that had aspirations to do work with ECC.  Much to my credit, I worked mightily and nearly single-handedly to convince them not to pursue ECC’s business.  I succeeded.  I say, nearly single-handedly.  According to the executives at my new company, ECC helped in the job of dissuading them by finding excuses not to meet many of its obligations for a number of projects that the company was doing for them at that time.

During all the time I worked with ECC, their executives never even had the decency to be embarrassed at the way they were behaving.  Everything was always everybody else’s fault.  If their suppliers weren’t acting “like that,” ECC wouldn’t have to either.  I’m sure they haven’t changed their tune, especially now that they are finally getting what they so richly deserve.

I spent 15 years of my life in that environment, and for quite a while after that I was bitter, mistrustful of everybody and everything, and profoundly depressed.  As a joke — OK, a really sick one — I used to say about ECC’s executives, “May they all get cancer and die slowly and painfully.”  Unfortunately, I used that line once at a party at which two of the guests were suffering from cancer.  So I’ve cleaned up my act, and now I say,

“May they all get Halitosis and die lonely.”