I hope you all enjoyed today’s Sunday New York Times Magazine which was all about me. Well, sort of about me. If you knew what you were looking for. I’m not talking about how the general theme of the issue, “Hollywood Goes West (Again),” is clearly a statement by the New York Times about how I’m supposed to be writing a Western pilot for NBC right now, but instead I spend my time standing on a street corner encouraging people to honk their horns as they drive past the network offices in order to disturb the executives who bought the project. Very nice of The Times to do that.
No, the real tribute to my career is deep within the issue itself, contained in this week’s fashion spread inspired by the Coen Brothers and the actors who’ve appeared in their movies.
Open the magazine on the dining room table to pages 76 and 77, or go online to www.nytimes.com
There you’ll see two pictures. On the left, a photograph of Holly Hunter, and on the right, a photograph of Jon Polito.
The only mistake the editors made is that these pictures are in the wrong order. Jon Polito was one of the first actors to perform something I wrote. He appeared in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of my play Digby in 1985, so his picture should appear before that of Holly Hunter, who is one of the most recent actors who has performed something I wrote. Holly Hunter plays the title character on Saving Grace, a series on TNT. I write for the show. Or did till the WGA strike started.
Two actors who bookend my work as a writer…to date. It would have been perfect if the magazine had been able to sandwich the picture of Julianne Moore on page 81 between the other two since I got to write for her between Jon and Holly and gave her one of my favorite lines: “Who died and made you Jiminy Cricket?” but, really, The Times did a great job and I don’t want to nit-pick.
My career as a writer was just getting started when the last Writers Guild strike happened. My writer’s affinity for structure had me worried that my career as a working writer could come to an end with this second strike… if things don’t come to a equitable conclusion (meaning a fair contract and protection of the rights and incomes of all writers now and in the future). The fact that these two labor actions feel very different to me, that the first one was laced with fear and acrimony and this one is charged with organization and resolve, didn’t do much to ease my anxiety at the fearful symmetry of the situation.
Which is why I’m so grateful to The New York Times for running those pictures today. They’ve wised me up and allowed me to see past the picket lines. Whatever happens with the strike (and we’re going to win and get a fair deal) the contract negotiations are not going to be the true measure of what I’ve been able to do. Those facing pictures of Jon Polito and Holly Hunter are the real bookends, in the sense that between them are all the words I’ve written for all the actors I’ve had the great good fortune to work with. It’s the work that I’ve done that counts. Not the machinations of studios, but the sweet intangible joy of having somebody tell a story I wrote. And, now that I think of it, The Times was right not to put Julianne between them. Just because Jon and Holly represent the landmarks of a twenty-year plus career, doesn’t mean there won’t be things beyond; words past the bookends. Why should a symbolic bookshelf be any more orderly than my real bookcases?
My thanks to Holly and Julianne and Jon and every actor who’s ever said anything I’ve written or walked through a door because I typed “enters.” If my pages have a legacy, it’s because you performed them.
How about we do some more? Soon.