As a young adult, I was moved by the nervous breakdown that Franny Glass experienced in J D Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. The pretty 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, feeling ” fantastically rocky”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, that might be an interesting book. I might be able to create something unique. 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 enigmatic ally 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. There is also The Keys To The Kingdom by Kim Masters and the tragic expose on my mentor, Don Simpson, High Concept by the astute 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” . Certainly it is 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 himself 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 this gallery of characters.
It’s not a tell all in the least and I am not sure that I will even use the real names even though they were real situations. It is really a much bigger story than any individual, for it is a look at how a number of confused, talented people shaped culture without really knowing how they were or what they believed. It’s not grotesque like The Day Of The Locust or romantic like The Last Tycoon, and I believe it is encouraging like The Way Of The Pilgrim is. Optimism is an attitude, not a value; and so I would call it very, very hopeful!