As a teenager, I was moved by the nervous breakdown that Franny Glass experienced in J D Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. The “fanastically rocky” Franny was sitting at a bar in the midst of Yale with Lane, her self-content boyfriend. Lane was droning on about his academic achievements and his stature at Yale. As Lane continued his veiled self congratulatory musings, Franny become paler and sweatier. For Franny Glass was in the midst of a spiritual crisis. She had been influenced by a book written by a Russian peasant back in the 18th century called The Way of The Pilgrim. It is about the peasant’s search for enlightment through the unceasing praying of the “Jesus Prayer.” Salinger, himself, was a seeker most of his life, heavily influenced by Buddhism and the Judeo Christian lifestyle. At the end of the novel, poor Franny has fallen unconscious onto the floor of the brasserie, caught in the turbulence of the demands of the world and the passion of her own spiritual search. The last image in the novella is Franny on the floor mouthing silently as if a mantra, the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”
I have been asked by many, including publishers, about when I am “going to write the book” on Hollywood. The world doesn’t need another Hollywood memoir, that’s for sure. However, the world does need to hear the truth. So I thought to myself that if I could tell the story of my own spiritual transformation from pagan to a child of Christ in the world of Hollywood and that might be an interesting book. Having taught worldview to students these past years, I thought I could bring bring a new voice to the Hollywood memoir.
To reach back into the past, I reread books about the Hollywood past I knew including, Peter Biskind’s wonderful, Easy Riders and Raging Bulls , Dawn Steel’s enigmatically titled, They Can kill You But They Can’t Eat You in which there is a chapter dedicated just to the horrible me, only again enigmatically entitled, You Can’t Teach A Pig How to Sing. The point, I guess, is — why bother teaching a pig — they’ll never be able to sing. There is also The Keys To The Kingdom by Kim Masters and the tragic expose on my mentor, Don Simpson, High Concept by the insightful Charles Fleming. Also rereading about the culture on those times was so eye-opening including Julia Phillips’ book, You’ll Never East Lunch In This Town Again and You’ll Never Make Love In This Town Again by “Robin, Liza, Linda and Tiffany” . The Memoir as it is shaping up is all about the people, but only through the lens of how we look, treat and misunderstand God. The book is entitled, I Heard The Wind Call My Name, which refers to a quote from Jesus when he said to his student, Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”(John 3:8).
Currently, there are scenes involving the gallery of characters above. I am not sure that real names will be used. The text has a more profound, lyrical quality without them. It is really a much bigger story than any individual, and bigger by far with myself, for it is a look at how a number of confused, talented people shaped culture without really knowing who they were or what they believed. It’s not grotesque like The Day Of The Locust or romantic like The Last Tycoon, dare I say it, it is encouraging like The Way Of The Pilgrim .Optimism is an attitude, not a value; and so I would call it very hopeful!
Here the “Magic Kingdom” does not refer to Disneyland or the Disney Empire, but to the Postmodern world where the only truth, to many, is whatever feels right. Below a scene in Galveston, Texas: