(Originally posted March 28, 2013)
In my last blog, I informed you that my screenplay project “Margarita” departed this life unexpectedly. I realize in re-reading the blog that I only provided you with few specifics concerning Margarita’s demise. I mentioned that a changeover in studio project management dealt the death-knell to the venture. That is only part of the story. For you to get the whole picture of this project and its unexpected demise, I need to tell you all about “The Mexican Connection.” I feel I owe you a fuller explanation of all things Margarita than I provided in my last blog.
My fortunes as a writer in Paris blossomed shortly after my sixth play TIUANA LADY opened. The plot at the time was shocking. It dealt with a transsexual, who goes home to her father’s funeral. No one in the little southern hometown in Arkansas realized that their hometown homo “he” had become a super sexy “she” porno star by the name of Clytee de Khunt. All sorts of social farce and satire were explored. The play was my take on small town fascism in the United States.
All of a sudden I became a rather hot ticket. The reviews, especially in the International Herald Tribune, were glowing, and I even got asked to speak at UNESCO on the new and totally not understood topic of sex changes. I must admit I was far from an expert on the topic but I did wing it the best I could at the conference in order not to make a total nincompoop of myself. It must have worked because the next thing I knew a British film company optioned TIJUANA LADY for a film.
The most unusual thing about The Paris English Theatre’s production of TIJUANA LADY was its opening. After I wrote the play, I realized that I was asking the audience to accept that this sex-change person could be a porno star. It came to me that if perhaps I began the evening with a short 6-minute “preview of coming attractions” film geared for porno theaters, it possibly might make the leading character more believable. It seems here in the United States, ordinary people only begin to take on their god-like mantels when the public sees them on film. Up until that point, they’re dust—but film somehow deifies them. So I decided to make the film.
That was the turning point in my career. That six-minute film idea actually kicked my career into high gear. What did I know about making a film at the time? Where would I get the equipment? So many questions. For help, I threw myself onto the good graces of Thomas Quinn Curtiss, the drama critic from the International Herald Tribune who had given me very good reviews on my earlier plays.
He put me in contact with Giuseppe Hibler, the last protégé of the great Italian Motion Picture Director, Luchino Visconti, of films like The Leopard, The Damned, Ludwig and Death in Venice. Giuseppe was an extremely personable and handsome young man. He was also a sparkplug in that he made things happen. Before I knew it, he had taken over this little six-minute ersatz porno preview and brought on board Wallace Potts, who not only was the partner of the famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev but a professional porno producer. Wallace secured the help of his good friend and Oscar winning cinematographer, Nestor Almendros of the excellent films Days of Heaven and Kramer vs. Kramer.
Suddenly everything seemed like overkill but I simply stepped back and let the pros do their thing. After about two weeks, the film was made and the play opened. Indeed it did establish “Clytee” as a star and as a result all sorts of good things began to happen.
Out of nowhere Giuseppe put me in contact with a Mexican lady by the name of Irma Salinas Rocha. She belonged to one of the richest and most powerful families in Mexico. (Steel, beer, glass, television and you name it.) That was on her husband’s side. On her side, her father had founded the largest department store chain in Mexico. Irma’s family wealth one could say was on the mega side.
She had heard of me through all the good things that were happening with TIJUANA LADY. After all, Tijuana is in Mexico. She was connected with Giuseppe’s family in Mexico. She asked him to put her in touch with me.
Long story short. Irma and her in-laws on her husband’s side got into a major conflict over the mysterious and accidental death of her husband, who was to have become the head of the family’s operations. She did a lot of investigation and wrote a tell-all book called NOSTRO GRUPO that was a mammoth hit in Mexico. She wrote a second book on its heels named TAL QUAL and it too did well. Her in-laws were furious. She decided to make them even more furious. She wanted the two books to be made into a film in Hollywood. The problem was she needed an American writer who knew Spanish, could read her books and put all of their drama into an English scenario. Before I went to live in Paris, I had been an instructor of Spanish at New York State University in Plattsburg and earlier at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. I had a Masters Degree from The University of Madrid. So I seemed a perfect fit to her.
Irma hired me to go to Hollywood and turn her two books into a blockbuster. In the last blog, you read about my going to Los Angeles and working on this project. All systems were really on go. We had Martin Jurow aboard, who was producer of the films Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, and The Great Race. We also had as producers Barry Brown and Fritz Holtz of Broadway hits such as Mame, Gypsy and La Cage aux Folles.
Things apparently couldn’t be better and the outlook brighter for my screenplay MARGARITA. My Parisian muse was having a ball. Then life threw in a monkey wrench. Irma and her in-laws made a truce contingent on the film’s getting junked. So, there in a matter of a day my muse went from Cloud 9 to the Hollywood Scrap Heap. This is how Roger entered my life. Meet him in the next blog. Really, ROGER SHOULD HAVE SAID YES!