Heaven, Hell, and Hollywood

by Steven H. Cullinane
on March 29, 2001
(the birthday of Eric Idle and Elle Macpherson)

Part I .... The Screenplay from Hell, by Joe Eszterhas

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn (1998)....
BOMB (starring Eric Idle, 58 today)....
"As one character says of the film-within-a-film,
'It's worse than SHOWGIRLS.'"
-- Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide

The spiritual ancestor of this work is the following passage by Nathanael West:

"Despite the agony in his leg, he was able to think clearly about his picture, 'The Burning of Los Angeles'.... Through the center... came the mob carrying baseball bats and torches. For the faces of its members he was using the innumerable sketches he had made of the people who come to California to die; the cultists of all sorts, economic as well as religious, the wave, airplane, funeral, and preview watchers -- all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of miracles and then only to violence."
-- The Day of the Locust, 1939, concluding pages

Part II .... Automatic Writing

"We have suffered anonymity far too often."
-- Screenwriter Ernest Lehman accepting an Oscar on March 25, 2001

"DreamWorks SKG executive Jeffrey Katzenberg said that meeting the Writers' Guild of America demands even halfway could bankrupt the studios." -- AP story, March 2001

"You can be replaced by some ping-pong balls and a dictionary."
-- Anonymous source, March 29, 2001. The source gave as an example the following brief account of the less-than-immaculate conception of Eric Idle, aka "Alan Smithee" --

Pennsylvania Lottery of March 28, 2001:
Webster's New World Dictionary, College Edition, 1960,
page 492:


Lest this brief, vulgar epic seem too vulgar as well as too brief, the following reflections may perhaps help supply the touch of class beloved (and, some would say, desperately needed) by studio moguls like Jeffrey Katzenberg and the late Jack Warner. These reflections are based in part on Vanity Fair magazine's April 2001 account of Hollywood's Devil's Night, 2000, tribute to Richard Gully. Gully was a British quasi-aristocrat who helped shape the dreams of those who shaped America's dreams in the 30's, 40's, and 50's.

Part III .... Concluding Reflections

Recall that Erato (like Sharon Stone in a recent production) was a Muse. As Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch remarks in his 1939 preface to The Oxford Book of English Verse, "The Muses' house [not unlike Beverly Hills] has many mansions." Even though the conception of Eric Idle (like that of his fellow Brit, Gully) was less than immaculate, it may, as the Pennsylvania Lottery number of March 28 indicates, have been divinely inspired. He should, therefore, not abandon all hope of mansions in the afterlife. As John O'Hara observed in his 1938 novel Hope of Heaven, "Heaven is a state, a sort of metaphysical state." Not, perhaps, California, but a pleasant state none the less.

(Among those who have kept Hope of Heaven alive even in Los Angeles is Joan Didion; recall, in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the L.A. piano bars in which the hymn "Mountain Greenery" is performed.)

Should the late Richard Gully, following in the footsteps of Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas" (1995) and "City of Angels" (1998), be assigned as the guardian angel of Eric Idle, he would do well to point out to Eric that the March 28 lottery number of the Mountain Greenery State, Pennsylvania, is also the number of selection 492 in the 1939 Oxford Book of English Verse:

On parent knees, a naked new-born child,
Weeping thou sat'st while all around thee smiled:
So live, that sinking to thy life's last sleep,
Calm thou may'st smile, whilst all around thee weep.
-- Sir William Jones, 1746-1794

Should Gully get his angel's wings for conveying this sentiment to Idle, the blessed event might best be accompanied not by the usual ringing of a bell, but, as in the sardonic but apt conclusion of The Day of the Locust, the wailing of a Siren -- played, let us hope, by Elle Macpherson, modeling her March 29 birthday suit.

Page created March 29, 2001 shc759. Return to Journal.