Today is my stop on the Apotheosis blog tour, I have an extract from the book to share with you all. I hope you enjoy reading it!
When a patiently-waiting firearm is aimed right at your face, you can get all sorts of cinematic images blasting into your mind. That is, if you’re blessed with a few seconds to consider them. Well, maybe you’re a hostage or something, so you might be staring at one all day.
There’s always the obvious: when you’re in the audience, looking down the barrel of the suicide scene in Hitchcock’s ‘Spellbound’ (Selznick, 1945), with its gunmetal b&w transformation into bloody color when the trigger’s pulled. Pretty easy to imagine what happened.
However, depending on the nomenclature of the gun, quite a few non-weapon thoughts can also occur. A train tunnel surrounded by a fine metallic gateway. An electrical conduit awaiting wire. A telescope with the glass busted out. A dark jewel in a navel. A skull’s sightless eye socket. A mouse-hole, even. Holes can draw you in, but it’s more likely that something is going to come crawling, or hastening, or spewing out. Mice, spiders, dust… sewage… or even more dangerous objects. But when the firearm is one of those blunderbuss/matchlock/flintlock jobs, the associations can turn tuneful. A trombone’s bell, like in a Glenn Miller musical, but without a mute. Or a Rudy Vallee megaphone. Or blaring brass in a film biography of John Phillip Sousa. Or any one of seventy-six euphoniums. In any case, there should be music to accompany the image.
But there was no music now. Not with the type of trombone aimed at Butterbugs’ face at this moment in time. Of course, the instrument in play wasn’t musical at all, but a real instrument of death. Indeed, it was one of those blunderbuss-type things, polished, cleaned, primed, loaded, ready to broadcast shot as surely as an old Victrola’s limited-spectrum sound waves could.
Only it wasn’t just this deadly museum piece with which he was now having such an intimate relationship. Another kind of inanimate object usually focused on him, also known to shoot things – through a lens rather than through a barrel. To be brutally frank, it was a kind of ‘Fuck it; fuck it all’ moment that had come squarely face to face with Butterbugs, the world’s one true ultrastar. Ultrastar meant above and beyond anyone else on Earth. Nevertheless, right now, it was all… just… too… much.
Things, that is.
To Butterbugs, suicide had always been a tangible concept. Reasonable, sensible, realistic. And specifically scripted, documented, written down or spoken or transcribed somehow. If a given role required it, he would indeed write something actual down while the cameras rolled, as every self-respecting suicide pens a farewell note before the self-slaying begins. It’s all part of the great tradition of the human need for communication.
Of course, with Century 21’s new standards, the courtesy of note-leaving has been largely replaced with mainstream media coverage, social media momentum, and pretty much live documentation by the end-it-all ones themselves. Indeed, showbiz temptations have swept the intimacy of shuffling off the coil aside, to be replaced by global online stardom, just because of an exit with a bang. Mass murder suicides are of course the most heinous division of chosen death, especially those who do not do the right thing by committing the suicide portion first.
At any rate, how many times, and in how many fine scripts, had Butterbugs been required to enact the ‘offing one’s self’ commitment in his career? That’s why suicide was such a ‘safe’ notion to him. Always somebody else, never him, even though he had, like 98% of humanity, indeed contemplated it. Like that time when he almost…
Nevertheless, exercising distance was one of the easiest parts of doing acting for a living.
But whoa – there wasn’t any scripted safety net under him right now. Some genuine reasons had piled up, reasons to say ‘fuck it all’. For starters, the film he was starring in, the biggest ever attempted in the known universe, was in severe jeopardy. Long story that cannot be made short. And then, get this: he was on the run from his home country, and maybe even from the President and Administration of that country. First-hand attempts had just been made on his life by intelligence agency forces, in which his assaulter had been reduced to a bloody pulp (some of which still remained on his person). And another agent, too late a friend, had been murdered before his very eyes, as a result of his own brain-dead conduct. To top it off, his lover, the woman he cared about more than anything else in the world – never mind that he’d achieved unprecedented ultrastar status and was one of the richest individuals who had ever strode the globe – had left him for another. That was the big stuff, and there was plenty of small stuff too, to link everything together, like shrouds of suffocating cobwebs.
Preposterous and inexcusable, but true. He had fucked up. Fucked it all up. Funny, some people have done themselves in over losing five bucks in a poker game, or having failed to deliver a packet of meth-making supplies by going to a trap house instead of a safe house. So he figured his own woeful lineup rated consideration for taking a fast escape route out of such a collective mess. For an actor so well schooled in many a classic monologue that featured endit-all language of much stateliness, he was coming up embarrassingly dry as far as farewell addresses were concerned. Not even the epic simplicity (or simplemindedness) of Gary Gilmore’s ‘Let’s Do It’ crossed the blank cue-card panels of his mind. Granted, his present situation was no great example to project upon his public, from either an æsthetic aspect or even a scripted one (made out of whole cloth). This was probably because he knew how ignoble his position was, not to mention indefensible. Especially when everything was added up. In other words, there wasn’t one of his problems that couldn’t be successfully resolved in itself, but when taken collectively, the sum total was a little – overwhelming, even for a very human ultrastar. Thus, with no defense possible, no other action was probable.
It was a cultural fact: when things get overwhelming, bail. Don’t answer the phone. Ignore emails, texts, tweets, sprinkles. Remain silent in discussions. Declare bankruptcy. Etc. Accountability was for losers, weaklings and perverts.
It’s not as if he were actually suicidal, or even depressed. As a professional picture show actor, his primary job in life was to respond to the dual commands of ‘action’ and ‘cut’. Never mind the ‘creativity’ that may lie between. The simplicity of this imperative is certainly a reduction that makes the lowest military person’s operatives look complex. But the problem was, Butterbugs’ psyche, mind and character were as big as all outdoors, so no one, least of all the man himself, could get off the hook by relying on a few banal-isms like ‘stress’ or ‘sleep deprivation’ or ‘cuckoldry’ or ‘career disaster’ or ‘politically subversive target’, or ‘violence trauma’ to define his desperation at this one gun-barrel-staring point in time.
It was just that a whole lot of shit had added up for this ultrastar dude, and in ways that went beyond the capabilities of a ‘two-command’ kind of guy. For once it was a relief to fall back on the notion that all actors are mere dumbos who do just that: e.g. follow dog commands with all the fidelity of an earnest puppy. Thus, in such a process, in the name of the Industry that spawned him and the Bottom Line that propelled him, he was ready to finally screw the ‘Method over-intellectualizing of every syllable’ crap.
That, of course, is actor-speak for ‘take the money and run’, versus ‘take the role and be true to it’. Butterbugs, who had always been basically unclassifiable in every way, was of course way beyond this debate. Yet the compound impacts coming at him at this juncture made him scoot back to a few time-honored (and out-of-date) arguments for just cooling-it. Like when things were so much simpler and resolves more possible after everybody simmered down with a few beverages and remembered the pleasures of humbleness. For it was genuine, heartfelt humbleness that usually cured most of an actor’s ills.
He did chuckle for a second though, as he thought of a pleasant and dog-oriented eatery called Fred’s on Broadway in NYC. Their advertising gimmick was ‘Come. Sit. Stay.’ If only he could!
There were many times in the past when he’d show up at old Fred’s, often accompanied by his amiable and intellectual dogs Hugo and Hudson, in town from their Lazarushian wilderland bliss, in order to catch a few shows. Usually acting as his best friends’ Obedient One, the human liked to kick things off before grub by prefacing his conversations with, ‘We dogs…’ And he’d always manage to pull off a delightful conference with many engaging persons, aided by his chick-magnet pups of course.
‘We dogs… have our gravy rights, you know!’ declared man, fondly watching his masters yick their trays, shake rangy brush-mouths, realign big jazzy lips, then cuzzle their haunches before two or three circlings, and elegant flumps on the ground, capped by satisfied exhaling in harmony.
Afterwards, a couple of Shakespeares (in the Park), new Yampsterdam perambulations, over to Henery Hudson, chats with the Roerich Museum gals, Gothic moments below Riverside’s high gargoyles, replaying the tape of MLK’s electrifying ‘A Time To Break Silence’ speech, Columbian symposia with the Ms. Alma Mater statue, McKim, Mead & White contemplations, progressive sermons at divine St. John, mouth harp lessons with TABP’s dad under the Cotton Club, and late soul fude at Grabby’s above the Golden Goon in Harlem.
What fond memory didn’t he have of those halcyon New York City days, in which he rediscovered his urban imperatives and spread his purposeful endowment amongst so many who needed it?
About the author:
Brian Paul Bach is a writer, artist, filmmaker and photographer; he has worked across the entertainment business. He now lives in central Washington State with his wife, Sandra. His previous works include The Grand Trunk Road From the Front Seat, Calcutta’s Edifice: The Buildings of a Great City, and Busted Boom: The Bummer of Being a Boomer. He writes a regular column for Kolkata On Wheels magazine.