Patsy Dreckenheimer opened up the Daily News and flipped through the headlines. Iced green tea and fiber bar to the right, list of clients, monies owed and deliverables due on a napkin to the left. Dreckenheimer took a long, cold swig when a headline about aspiring comedienne being carted off to the funny farm for stalking a local politician caught Patsy’s eye.
“Oy vey- what has this fakaktah schlumperdink done now?,” the 75 year old personal manager muttered to himself. He had thought he had seen it all by now.
The article read:
“Selena Markowitz, a former homeless woman whose comedy career peaked when she appeared on VH2’s stand-up Comedy Slam Showcase a couple years ago, was taken to Bellevue Hospital earlier today for observation after security guards arrested Ms. Markowitz for allegedly stalking Democratic Presidential Candidate Stacey Smith’s office dressed in a bathrobe.”
Dreckenheimer had discovered Markowitz performing on the subway—but in fairness—it was actually Markowitz who had zeroed in on “The Dreck.” Patsy Dreckenheimer had a fail-safe shit detector or radar—that led people who were bat-shit crazy right to him-- and his little management/talent company. Why they sought him out instead of the big boys, the real players in the industry was not too difficult to figure out. They were all losers. The dregs. The deluded. The almost- talented. They were all minor leaguers toiling in obscurity with one and only one burning desire. The desire to not be the butt of life’s jokes anymore. Andy Warhol called it 15 minutes of fame. Dreckenheimer- who liked baseball—the Yankees in particular, called it a Cup of Coffee. A call up to the major leagues and chance in the Big Show. A chance for redemption- a golden shining moment. A dream fulfilled. A heroin shot full of adrenaline and a dance with fame. That is what Patsy’s Worldwide Prestige Talent Agency offered all his clients- a cup of coffee. The golden moments are fleeting an old high school girlfriend once wrote Patsy in a poetic love note before she took his virginity senior year and then unceremoniously dumped him. Luck be a lady.
“Shut up already you talentless Fuckin Assholes” Dreckenheimer shouted to no one in particular as he pounded his fist against the peeling paint on the wall.
Patsy’s small office had paper thin walls and he was right next to a telemarketing company that offered terrible business advice. It was like Chinese water torture every day. The telemarketers were all commission-based bottom of the barrel cretins that looked and sounded like circus freaks from the Glen Garry Glenn-Idiot factory. Their phone pitches were loud and dumb and never-ending.
“Hello Mr. Jones, how are YOU today? It’s Charlie from Marine Financial—how is YOUR business doing today”
“It’s all FUCKED up just like YOU Charlie- you USELESS excuse for a human being,” screamed Dreckenheimer as loud as he could--hoping that Charlie would finally hear one of his sarcastic responses to the telemarketer’s oft repeated phone shtick through the old walls.
If Dreckenheimer had kept a gun in his office he would have been locked up for murder years ago. “I swear I gotta get out of this office before I kill someone,” Patsy emoted in a guttural moan of frustration. Frustration and disappointment were Patsy’s constant companions along with hope and perseverance. Patsy Dreckenheimer was a glass half full kind of guy- he was a lover of people and art and most of all challenges. If you told Patsy he couldn’t do something- that meant he would have to try. Some would call this sort of behavior the definition of a real schmuck.
Patsy preferred to see himself as a Mensch. A George Bailey in Pottersville. Unafraid of failure and capable of finding the silver lining in any person or situation. It was what made the detritus of society seek out Worldwide Prestige Talent Agency and rely on Patsy to guide their careers and lives to a better place.
Over the years they had all paid Patsy a call—the politicians, the showgirls, the TV/Film stars, the faded legends, the artists, actors, the models, comics, musicians, authors—all looking for the spotlight like a wild animal looking for a saltlick. Patsy opened his heart every time and out of his mouth poured words that he had heard himself speak over and over again, famous names, jokes, venues, stories, wisdom. Before he knew it WPTA had a new client on its roster and a new problem child to manage. Would he have to walk to a familiar apartment to find a policeman telling him to clear the area because they were investigating a dead body? Would the person on the other end of the phone tell him to come down to the courthouse because his client was just arrested? Would the conversation be about suicide, depression, poverty, the unfairness of life and fame?
The Dreck put on his headphones and started to listen to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Such a beautiful song. So full of hope and humanity. Music was better than any drug. Even fame. Dreck walked to the diner near his small office for lunch. As he got into the elevator he looked at the five young people surrounding him all studying their smart phones intently. The air still had a chill and the promise of the weekend made Patsy smile as he went over his to-do’s in his mind as he grabbed a booth, ordered a lean pastrami sandwich and started to scribble notes on his napkin. His BlackBerry vibrated. It was Mushkin.
“What’s up Mush?”
“Same Schmageggies, you?”
“I’d complain, but who would listen—you read the News today, Page 15?”
“Markowitz- Yeah I told you she was a waste of your time, Dreck…sometimes I think you just take on asshole clients sometimes because you’re one yourself.”
“Maybe you’re right Mush-I should have read the writing on the subway cars on that one—but what the fuck- you only live once- at least I helped a homeless women live out her lifelong dream of appearing on TV as a professional comedienne.”
“That’s great Dreck, but do you think anyone else really gives a fuck about that- did your accountant?”
“Oy vey’s meer…don’t mention that incompetent motherfucker—why do you think I’m still dream-weaving and humping it every day with these broken toys.”
“Just saying kid, at some point when are you gonna finally give it up?”
“What- so you can steal all my shitty clients? Never, Mush…or how about this… whenever they get rid of the fucking IRS…then I’ll quit”
“Alright fuckface talk back at ya”
“Yeah go fuck yourself too…see you at card night”
Dreckenheimer smiled and then bit into his Pastrami sandwich.
He swallowed, washed it down with diet cream soda and then finding a bit of courage he punched the numbers into his BlackBerry. No answer. Won’t leave a message. He knows he owes me money. It can hold til Monday I guess. The Dreck sighed at the impossibility of it all. The BlackBerry was torn on top he could actually look inside it and see the green plastic and silver metal innards—one of these days it would be time to switch to an IPhone.
One of these days it would be time to learn how to tweet or to drive a stick or to own a dog or to stop grieving or to shut it down and start over on something else. Maybe publish one of those dust covered manuscripts or become a professional horseplayer or fade into the NYC sidewalks like gum or pigeon shit. One of these days Patsy Dreckenheimer was gonna have to wake up and smell the coffee. He wasn’t getting any younger as his doctors kept reminding him. He didn’t feel alone but he was. He was alienated from his family and his clients were too poor, ungrateful or dysfunctional to help elevate The Dreck from his morass. He could lift them up and get them a top gig as a headliner but it was never a two way street. He was a giver and a magician but the rabbits he pulled out of his hat always ended up getting slaughtered and his princesses always turned back into pumpkins after the ball.
“Well, at least she’s getting the help she really needs now” Patsy Dreckenheimer thought to himself as he turned the pages of the Daily News to the section in the middle with the crossword puzzle.
Upon returning to the office the receptionist Yoriku informed Dreck cooly,
“You got another one waiting for you in your office”
“Thanks, Ms. Tanaka,” replied Dreck with a wink.
“So who do we have here?”
“My name is Daphne Merola, I’m applying for the internship”
“So you are …so you are. Picking up her headshot from his desk without making eye contact—seems you’ve done a fair bit of acting yourself Ms. Merola, some modeling…why would you want to intern at a talent agency like WPTA?”
“Well Mr. Dreckenmayer—it would be a sincere honor and a privilege to learn the talent business from such a legendary name in the business and I am currently taking night courses in business at Baruch.
Dreck chuckled to himself at whether or not he was really a legend in the business or a cautionary tale. Whatever, she was pretty enough and that didn’t hurt- seemed smart and eager too.
“Alright, Ms. Merola—this talent agency is like a lifeboat…we only have two rules here-- treat each other with kindness and respect. The rest we’ll make up as we go along. Our clients are like family to us. ..And that’s a good and bad thing. We’re a small business so my job is to focus on sales, delivery and account management. Your job is to help me with everything and to learn the ropes as we go along. Ask questions. Mix it up, kid. Get involved. Take the initiative. There’s a magical quality to helping people achieve their dreams and a tragic aspect to it as well once that dream has been fulfilled. I know this is a lot of information for your first day but I want you to know what you are walking into –your desk is over there by the window. That’s an ancient computer so if you have your own laptop you’re probably better off. Do you have an IPhone?”
“Do you know how to tweet?”
“Of course, Mr. Dreckenmayer”
“ It’s Heimer..actually … Drecken-heimer-- but you can call me Dreck…believe me, I’ve been called a lot worse.”
"Where are you looking?"
"Sweet Pines Middle School", "Riverside Country Day", "Ethical Morality on the Upper West Side"
"All top notch--if you don't mind me asking...how can you afford that?"
"Oh, Tom just got promoted and we've saved a little from his inheritance."
"Good for you guys."
"So, Mitchie , um, likes Public School?"
"Let's just say we've been pretty lucky so far."
"You know--good teachers and we're in a pretty solid zone."
"Ah... got you. That's makes all the difference...listen, Hon, I've got to scoot. I just realized my Pilates class starts in 30 minutes...you should really try it sometimes. Let me pick this up.
"But you only had cantaloupe."
"That's ok, my pleasure."
"ok, but I get the next one."
"I love your nail polish, by the way what color is that?"
As the two ladies left the Cafe they passed two other women having an animated discussion. One was wearing a hairnet and rollers.
"Oh no she di'int..did that fat ugly ching chong lady try to show me up with her nasty lookin' albino gorilla?"
"Oh yes she did girlfriend"
"First off, listen up you wannabe prostitute with no ass and no self-respect--you need to stop your Uncle Tomming ways."
"Preach it, sister"
"I don't know how it goes down in whitey-town but being a cheap ass ho sell-out ain't getting you respect from where I come from."
"You think that making out with Mr. skanky Albino is gonna set me off? Puh-lease... go back to chink town or whatever massage parlor or mail-order bride this nasty Albino fug found you at...you come to my hood and I'll show you what we think of your trifling flat ass and face.
"That's right bee-otch."
Meanwhile, at the bar across the street. Two men were watching the latest news report.
"A blowhard is better than a lying rug-muncher...at least he's got a pair of balls...and wants to build a wall to keep out the spics."
"Anything's better than what we got now"
" You ever wonder why O-Dumba won't attack Isis"
"It's either because he doesn't want to admit he removed the troops too soon ..."
"... or because he studied Islam as a child --and we got a terrorist loving asshole as our President... at least with W-- we knew we were safe."
" It's all that slick -car salesman- asshole- who has bangin' Monica Jew-insky's fault anyway--he totally ignored all the warnings about Osama."
"Now we got O-bama instead of Osama."
"Merry Kwaanza Syrian Refugees..."
"... Welcome to O-Bummer's America-- come on in and blow up whatever you like"
Down that same street, inside a small, pop-up t-shirt stand.
" Did you see that tattooed slut shoving her diseased womanhood into the camera like a prostitute?"
"It's called "twerking" Auntie, and the racists who produce SNL don't ever put Asian Americans, Indians or Latinos in the cast. They only have blacks because of Sharpton."
"I always tell you...don't trust those Jew and white bastards. Your promiscuous girlfriend from school who is dating one shames us all."
"You're coming to my Super Bowl Party, right?"
"Not sure yet...got a couple invites already."
"Dude, you got to come...so many hot women...amazing food...all the weed you can smoke... there's the indoor pool...I'll pick you up and drive you back..."
Manfred Gogol always knew how to sell one of his parties.
Door to door service, a fully-stocked mansion on Long Island loaded with interesting people, beautiful women, all you could smoke or drink...an indoor pool and transportation back and forth.
He had me at hot women, of course.
What was interesting to imagine, were the types of orgiastic bacchanals that took place at Casa De Gogol--twenty years before his family took over the sprawling compound off the Sound from the estate of a deceased, world-famous athlete, who died tragically inside the house under mysterious circumstances.
The autopsy of the house's former owner ruled out foul play but no one knew for sure...as he had moved with a fast crowd and was always making headlines on Page Six with a conga line of models du jour and A-list celebrities. He had partied hearty and lived the very good life--as most athletes who are known to the public by simply a first name generally do-- and if the walls of Casa De Gogol could tell the tale, the soundtrack behind the narrative would be one of ecstatic moans on shag carpets and Seventies Disco and Funk in stereo surround sound. So, it was with a sense of higher purpose that Manfred Gogol, Art-World Bad Boy and son of a media mogul saw it as his birthright to throw extremely cool, off-the wall parties. The guest list would include a sprinkling of downtown chic and old-school power-players. Wall to wall women , homeboys, hangers-on and some mysterious characters who had back-stories way too long to tell here. Always, danger seemed to lurk around the corner whenever and wherever Gogol went--like a nuclear submarine breaking the surface of the ocean, there was an awesome and horrific quality to Gogol. He described the bizarre events that circled him throughout his life in a theory that he self-published as a 500 page manifesto called Paranormia. Black magic, voodoo, a spider's web of unlikely occurrences, call it what you will, but Gogol was the sorcerer and anyone who tagged along for fun became an unknowing apprentice.
Such was the definitely case, in regards to a later incident that was to take place at Casa De Gogol to which I am now finally at liberty to discuss, after all these years. As for the Super Bowl Party part of the story, that was off the hizzy. I was glad I had gone. I was younger at the time so I was up for any sort of action; good, bad or dangerous. Rochelle was known as The Violator--she definitely looked like Madonna and I was eager get some of that. We started chatting about music and other surface stuff as the hydroponic chronic hit us both at just the right time and then we started looking for a nearby bedroom. Of course, there were plenty of those to choose from.
Rochelle, worked at a music label and confessed that she was into hot and heavy B&D sessions.
“Let me see your tight little body you little bitch”, I instructed her.
Rochelle was dirty like Madonna is dirty with a hot body and a wild look in her eyes. I pulled Rochelle into what looked like an office and proceeded to take her t-shirt off…pull her shorts down and started to ravage her over the desk like a hungry wolf... I was going down on her when someone knocked on the door…
”what are you doing in my mom’s office? ”
“Uh, we'll be out in a sec...”, I choked out and scrambled to my feet.
"Yeah...um... no one is supposed to go in there, Dude...move it somewhere else"
It was Gogol and he sounded pissed and he rarely got pissed about anything.
Rochelle and I never finished what we started but we made a plan to hook up in the city and quickly snuck back outside to the party.
Gogol gave me a look.
"What happened to you?”
”Just finding out stuff about the music business”
”yeah, I bet you did....hey, my mom doesn't like anyone in that office...comprende?"
"Got it now...sorry bro. Won't happen again."
As I walked away from Gogol I noticed a sketchy looking bald man staring at me intently. I asked Gogol who he was. "Oh that's Boris" He's does maintenance on my Dad's boat and other construction stuff around the house. He took me to little Odessa for a schvitz a couple weeks back it was crazy there. He's a super cool guy...loves boxing... big time gambler.
"Yeah, he's got 10 G's on the game."
That's some serious cheddar."
"Ya think? ...speaking of cheese--let's go smoke some stinky cheese and watch the second half"
"Sounds like a plan."
It was a late night that moved to the indoor pool and into the early morning the game was a blowout and so was the party. I got my ride back the next morning and my boring life carried on.
I guess you probably want to know if Rochelle and I ever ended up violating each other. Well, a gentleman never tells and since I'm no gentleman. Yes, we shared a couple of hot and heavy sessions way too dirty to write about here --but I am very grateful to her for the memories, certainly.
So, when Gogol one day invited me to a weekend pool party at the Mansion a couple months later and told me the The Violator was gonna be there and was hoping I was going show up too- I circled the date. As luck would have it--and when I say luck I mean bad luck... I ate a bagel with cream cheese that had been sitting in the sun for hours at a brunch the day before the big pool party and I spent the day of the pool party stuck in my apartment with an awful case of food poisoning. If you've never had food poisoning, trust me, it sucks.
Anyhow, not only did I miss out on Rochelle --I also missed all the drama. The Police. The Robbery. The Jewel Heist.
The details I got the next day from Gogol were scant and fuzzy. He was leaving town immediately for the West Coast. He would be gone for a month unless called back for additional questioning. None of his "friends" at the party knew anything. The police were trying to figure out who had broken into the safe in Gogol's mom's office and had stolen a diamond necklace, earrings and other jewelry worth half a million dollars. Was it insured? Who was in the house? Was there any video surveillance? Was Gogol really a suspect? Immediately, I had a sense of who it could be. I told Gogol on the phone and he told me that I was way off base and that we'd catch up on his return.
The consequences and memory of that robbery eventually disappeared into the ether like all Gogol stories and legends--making one wonder if it actually ever happened at all. You hung around Gogol long enough you also started to wonder if you were simply a random pawn on an other-worldly chess board or one of the many disparate strands that he seemed to dream-weave together at whim. Strange events would happen all the time around Gogol like killer bees swarming around a patch of Tiger Lilies. It was just the nature of things.
It wasn't until 15 years later --well after Casa De Gogol had been sold off, during the first recession, for a ridiculous amount of money...that I finally got Gogol to address the subject of The Robbery at the Pool Party over an iced coffee at Starbucks.
"It was Boris all along wasn't it--he had been casing the place just like I said, right?"
Gogol gave me an inscrutable smile and said simply in his best Russian accent, "I don't know nothing about dat--all I know is dat the vuckin insurance covered it --and dat some types of people you just don't mess vit , even ven cops are involved....if you get my drift."
He was one of those guys you just automatically liked.
He knew how to make you laugh and laugh at himself. He was clever like that but he had a huge heart and spread his mirth like Santa Claus.
Who else but Henri-Pierre could bang a hot waitress at Spillane's Senior year in High School or win the dance contest at our summer camp 5 years in a row. The kid had style and the kid had personality.
He was handsome and athletic and never had a bad word to say about anyone unless it was a the type of inside joke that friends and comrades share and enjoy in moments of youth that outsiders might not understand. The type of bawdy humor that brothers and close male friends share without second thought.
Henri-Pierre was popular alright. So it was no surprise that some years later on a snowy New York night I would walk by a packed bar with a French flag in the window and the letters HP in gold leaf with fleur de lies in accompaniment. I asked the Maitre D who the owner was and of course as it turned out it was my old friend Henri-Pierre. I quickly ran across the street to an old curiosity shop that was still open and I found a small silver statue of a smiling monkey --perfect I thought. I gave the gift to the Maitre D with a note that read "for continued good luck & success--your old friend Craig."
Two weeks later I got an invitation plus a guest to a wine tasting event at HP's with a little note from the marketing executive that told me how much "HP loves his little monkey"--Clearly, Henri Pierre was going places. After the event I convinced a wealthy artist pal of mine to book his birthday party there and Henri ever the convivial host made sure to speak with all the guests, charm the ladies at the table- the old scamp! and offer complimentary champagne. A wonderful night. Manfred Gogol, a trust funder who was rarely impressed by anyone did not share my enthusiasm for HP.
"Small Potatoes" Gogol said echoing a line from The Godfather.
Dismissive as Gogol always was about anyone but himself getting attention, I knew in my heart he was totally wrong about HP.
Henri-Pierre wasn't small at all-- he was as big as a mountain when it came to making other people feel good.
There was value in that I was sure of it.
As time moved on, HP grew into HP2, HP3 and finally HPX. Henri was all over the society papers. His bars were getting great write-ups and his smiling face would pop up in high end magazines that could be found lining the lobbies of 5th Avenue. It was nice to know. He was an old friend.
So it was with great delight to run into Henri Pierre on the West Side of New York not too far away from his first bar with my wife. He was in a hurry but he asked if I would like to grab a quick drink. Of course I could not refuse. My wife was not pleased to be left to take a cab home in the snow but she understood, eventually.
As it turned out one of my other old pals, Attorney Harlan Strundley had just been with Henri Pierre--getting him out of a place--where he was stuck overnight--a place I prefer not to mention here---because of a business dispute relating to one of his bars out east.
During our conversation I could tell that Henri was out of sorts and all over the place. He told me about his plans for a new bar and asked me my thoughts on decor and location and all sorts of business matters that I truthfully was ill-equipped to provide much valuable feedback on. The whole time we spoke I felt like Henri was fishing for something but I wasn't quite sure what it was.
So I just said straight out, "Henry, we're old friends--are you in trouble? Can I help you in any way?"
" Oh Craig, you have no idea how much I appreciate having a friend like you--the bar business is full of snakes and scorpions and all sorts of individuals with colorful nicknames that want a piece of my businesses--if you know what I mean. This is no affair for you to be involved with. Harlan is a killer in the courtroom but these people who want my businesses they do their killing elsewhere."
"Are you going to be ok?"
"Henri Pierre is always ok my friend," he said smiling, "beautiful bartender!! two shots of Los Arango Tequila Blanco--and please-- hold the worm!...just like my old friend here. " We hugged and laughed and drank our shots and the years quickly fell away...and just as quickly he was gone again-- back out onto the snowy streets of New York City-- going who knows where.
I know what the newspapers all wrote about Henri Pierre after all the legal battles and scandals that followed the shuttering of all his bars--I know how he was painted as a bad businessman who wrote bad checks--but I also know he probably trusted the wrong people. Bad people. I know that because the same thing--trusting the wrong people-- once happened to my dad. That's business. It sucks, but the more successful you become, the greater risks become for something to screw up. Also, the economy completely tanked so there was really nothing Henri Pierre could do--people just weren't going to go out and celebrate and buy wine and champagne.
Or maybe that little silver monkey was only good luck for 10 years I guess. If you believe in that sort of stuff. Who knows?
I tried to reach out to Henri Pierre to see if I could do anything to help him in some minor way. He accepted gratefully. If I could have done more I certainly would have. I think we all would have He was that kind of guy.
The kind of guy you just automatically liked.
"Pam, I can't believe you were able to get me an appointment so quickly"
"This time of year..."
"a personal reference goes a long way."
"It is actually a great time to do it with all the publicity surrounding similar types of surgeries--the price went down significantly."
"I can't wait...I'm been wanting to pull the trigger for years."
"What was the final straw?"
"Oh you know better than anyone...it was just an ever-growing laundry list."
A gentle knock was barely perceptible on the kitchen door.
"Would you and your guest be more comfortable in the living room while I start preparations for dinner?'
"No! Actually, we're still finishing our wine...but do come in I wanted to talk to you...I'm very unhappy."
The middle-aged man timidly inched his way into the kitchen nodding to his wife and her guest.
"Don't sweet talk me--look at these counters...I see cookie crumbs all over. I certainly didn't put them there."
"Don't you but me..and don't backtalk me in front of my friend..."
Suddenly, Marvin's wife filled her wine glass with cold water from the sink and then threw the cold water violently into her husband's face.
"There! Maybe that will wake you up to what I expect from now on.... you did not stack the plates in the dishwasher the way I like it. When I tell you to do something a certain way in the kitchen I expect you to follow instructions. Or are you trying to get me angry."
"Yes dear, I mean NO dear, Marvin replied with water dripping off his emotionless face."
"And remember...the refrigerator is organized a specific way. Don't start putting food on the second shelf. That's only for water. How many times do I have to tell you that."
"I'm sorry, honey."
"And don't think I didn't see that one of my yogurts was missing. Those are mine. You have your own food. Leave my food alone. You're fat enough as is. You don't need to be eating yogurt. You should be working out more anyway."
"I know I'm right...I'm like a broken record player. Why don't you go clean up my shoe closet for the next hour until we're done here. That ought to help you break a sweat."
"Yep, I'm on it."
"This dish rag is all wet....were you planning on leaving it here in the kitchen? Yeah, I'm sure you were. It's goes in the clothes hamper with the other dirty laundry you should be washing...right NOW....you can get to the closet after"
As Marvin quickly left the kitchen, Pam's friend was pantomiming an enthusiastic applause with her hands. On her face was a huge smile .
"Pammie, you've got that one almost totally housebroken."
"I can't take all the credit, they do offer tremendous after-treatment consultations at the clinic if you ever need them."
"Seems like you have everything well in hand here...can't wait to get Fred in the operating room."
"Timing's great, Nan...I'm here too if you ever have any questions."
"I've got one question actually...It's kind of personal."
"Go ahead, shoot."
"What do they do with them--you know, after the operation I mean?"
"Oh those useless things...I keep Marvin's in a jar in the cabinet above the fridge."
"You do NOT!"
"You BET I do... that lazy prick sometimes needs a good reminder of who's the boss now."
"Great wine by the way"
"Isn't it? Sheila recommended it. I really love a good Chardonnay."