About your Book:
When Oscar winning producer Marty Maltzman’s non-fiction series Lights and Sirens is suddenly cancelled after a glorious, award-winning 16 year run, the quirky documentary filmmaker and his staff of loyal camera people, directors, writers and editors find themselves unemployed and out on the streets in a confusing new Hollywood filled with Kardashians, Survivors and Real Housewives. How they adapt to a surreal world in which the lines between truth and lies are constantly blurred both on and off the screen is the engine for a character-driven tale in the tradition of the Hollywood Novel. “Broadcast News” meets “Bonfire of the Vanities” meets “What Makes Sammy Run?”, Reality Boulevard tears open the curtain to take an unsentimental (often shocking) look at how Reality TV is really made. At it’s heart, it’s a poignant look at how a collection of oddball dreamers learn to reconcile the hard facts of an eternally changing business with the ideals that attracted them to it in the first place.
Targeted Age Group: Adult 18 and up
Genre: Contemporary fiction; satire
The Book Excerpt:
Excerpt from Chapter Two:
“Don’t you think it’s time we make this a permanent merger?” Marty Maltzman’s voice trembled as he spoke, and he wobbled a little, kneeling on the chalky sand.
Crimson Fennel’s bottomless brown eyes grew wide and wet when she saw the ring. It was a 24- carat, oversized pink diamond flanked by two smaller white diamonds, set in a circular rope of white gold. Ostentatious, yes, but just ostentatious enough. It was a ring that trumpeted the message: “A very wealthy, very successful, very important man will flush a lot of cash to take me off the market.”
Marty couldn’t remember the last time he’d kneeled. No one had ever mistaken him for an athlete, and now, at 56 years of age, his joints were more than a little bit creaky. But this was an important moment in his life. He’d never proposed marriage before. Crimson was well worth a couple of achy knees. This would be a moment he’d remember for the rest of his life. If she answered correctly, the rest of their lives.
Marty hadn’t informed anyone in his inner circle that he was planning on proposing. He knew what the general reaction would be, and he didn’t want to hear it. Three months earlier, when he’d first told his mentor and best and oldest friend in the business that he was dating Crimson, he’d gotten an earful.
“Three months with the same actress?” gasped retired game show impresario Jerry Stone. “Three whole months?”
“It’s not as if it’s serious,” Marty lied.
“Marty,” Jerry sighed. “Twenty five years ago I gave you the lecture. Don’t make me go through that again.”
Jerry was referring to back in the day when Marty first became his protégé. Jerry was producing the classic game show, Whoʼs The Liar?, and Marty was a lowly production assistant, just 22 years old, drooling with ambition. One week’s celebrity guest contestant was the ’80s television actress and celebrated beauty, Mitsy Foxworth, who seemed to take quite a liking to the young Marty. They shared a couple lunches on the set, and after her week-long appearance was over, she gave him her home phone number. When Jerry got wind of what was going on, he summoned Marty into his office.
“You want to fall into an emotional black hole?” he’d asked Marty bluntly.
“Huh?” Marty had asked. He was still thinking about Ms. Foxworth’s petite figure and her teeth: tiny, evenly spaced, pearly-perfect white. Exceptional teeth had become erotic objects for Marty, probably because his own parents had never been able to afford to get his straightened when he was a teen, leaving him pathologically self-conscious about them.
“Kid, I’ve been around this business over thirty years. I’ve been engaged, married, celibate, and a fucking rabbit. I’ve been with some of the world’s most beautiful women. And I’ll tell you what – an actress is great if you want a date to a restaurant opening or a premiere or a red carpet awards show. Or a red-hot fuck when you’re far away on some location. But never let an actress think you’re really interested in a relationship. Because the tiny wheels in her crafty little actress brain will get to turning. And she’ll start working out ways to pluck out your balls so she can use ‘em to feather her future nest. There is no creature on God’s earth more manipulative than a single actress on the prowl for a man she thinks will fix her life all up for her. Once she’s hooked you, stick a fork in you, you’re done. Trust me on this one, kid. I got the alimony bills to prove it.”
Jerry Stone had been a legend in the television business, a famous ladies’ man, and he was Marty’s biggest hero at the time, so Marty took his advice as seriously as scripture. He stifled the tender heart that had begun to beat for Ms. Foxworth and emulated his idol by playing the field wide and loose. As he rose through the television ranks, he dated production coordinators, script supervisors, camera assistants and PAs. At just 30 years old, he won the Best Documentary Oscar for Death Row Days, and just as Jerry predicted, the actresses started to circle his success like ravenous, shimmering sharks. Marty reveled in the attention and the easy sex, but kept his mentor’s sage counsel in mind. As his fortunes mounted, the women multiplied. They were beautiful and not so beautiful, on the way up and on the way down. He enjoyed them and they enjoyed him, but he never crossed the line into a real relationship. And while he spent a few pathetic holidays at his aging mother’s house in Alhambra, wondering if his life of all work and play but no real intimacy was worth it, for the most part, he felt pretty good about his varied and active love life. Until about eight months ago.
The day that Crimson appeared.
Marty was sitting on a bench outside his office on Prime Studios’ storied back lot, eating a tuna fish sandwich. The spot he chose was on the corner of a major pedestrian thoroughfare, a much- used walkway leading from the sound stages on the hill down to the office buildings, front gate and commissary. Marty was absently eyeing the flock of crew members, actors and, of course, actresses making their lunchtime pilgrimage down to the main lot, when he glimpsed the vision of a long, lean woman in a diaphanous green dress. She seemed to be floating down the hill toward him. Her skin was pale to the point of translucence. Her hair was long, black and silken, bouncing behind her as if she were in a shampoo commercial. Her features were delicate as a china doll’s, and when she came close enough to look up and meet his fascinated gaze, he saw that she had the roundest, deepest, wettest brown eyes he’d ever seen. They were nearly black, more like a seal’s or a horse’s than a human’s. This vision smiled shyly at him, revealing a row of tiny, perfect teeth. Oh, it was the teeth that clinched it.
Normally, Marty’s reaction to seeing a beautiful woman was simple lust, followed by a mental calculation of how he would or would not proceed down the familiar path of flirtation, flattery, and seduction. At this moment, he didn’t feel the attraction in his groin at all. He felt it in his gut. Marty only remembered feeling that way once before, when he was 14 and first caught sight of Nora Weisman, the most desirable girl at San Gabriel High School in Alhambra, California. His female classmates described him as “cute” back in those days, but he was – then, as now – decidedly unathletic, slight of stature, terminally nerdy. Nora dated Jocks and rich kids. And back then, Marty wasn’t an important Oscar and Emmy-winning producer – he was just another face in the crowd; a wallflower with an untested idea of boundaries when it came to adolescent social customs. Nora rejected his advances – in fact, she let it be known they repelled her. Marty didn’t like to think back upon the incident because more than the usual amount of humiliation had been involved. Ever since then – except perhaps at the cusp of his Mitsy Foxworth flirtation – Marty had never again allowed his heart to beat out of control. But it was fluttering now, like a captured bird’s wings against the bars of a cage. He sat still, tuna sandwich in hand, gaping. The woman drew closer. She was coming right toward him.
“Isn’t this weather divine?” she said, still smiling with those teeth. Those teeth. She drew out the word “divine” into nearly three syllables, sounding like a cultured movie star from the ’30s. Her voice wasn’t a human voice at all. To Marty, it was a purr, a chime, a series of angelic major chords.
“Is that tuna fish?” she asked. “I was thinking of getting tuna fish. Did you get that from the commissary?”
“No,” Marty managed to stammer. “I brought it from home. I make my own lunches.”
“Oh, how darling of you! And it looks very appetizing,” sang the vision.
Bringing his own lunch to work was one of Marty’s many habits left over from his leaner years. Hecould have afforded to buy many, many tuna sandwiches from the commissary. He could have afforded a private chef to make him custom tuna sandwiches every day for the rest of his life. Not only was his show one of the longest-running programs in television history, it had been syndicated on three cable networks and aired overseas in 81 different countries. International markets had bought the format rights to create their own version of the show. Marty had a piece of all of that, as well as Lights and Sirens toys, coloring books, home safety kits and video games. His Malibu dream home, a mid-century architectural landmark perched high on a bluff with a spectacular view of the sparkling Pacific, was bought and paid for – the property taxes astronomical but not a penny on the mortgage. Marty’s investments had their own investments.
Yet as the only son of a hard-toiling Alhambra upholsterer and his bookkeeper wife, Marty was comically penurious, even in an industry known for its miserly executive producers. Marty had a recurring nightmare where he would wake up back in the job where his career began: producing a 6 AM public affairs program from a windowless, basement office at the local PBS station, with linoleum floors, metal desk and filing cabinet, a rotary phone and an assigned parking space in Lot D – about three miles away from the studio and in the center of the most crime-ridden section of Hollywood. In Marty’s mind, he was always one failure, one budget line item away from that metal desk and rotary phone. He obsessed over pennies and balanced his checkbook obsessively, calling the bank personally to protest two-dollar late fees and twenty-five cent discrepancies. He refused to hire a business manager, both to avoid the commission and because he didn’t trust anyone else with his finances. More than one of his office staff had witnessed him re-bending twisted paperclips for reuse.
When Marty saw this ethereal creature admiring his hand-made tuna sandwich, he discovered a well of generosity.
“I’m not really very hungry,” he’d said. “Do you want half?”
Introductions followed from there. The vision told him her name, Crimson Fennel. She had a supporting role with a several episode arc on one of the Prime Network’s only hit primetime dramas, The Cul De Sac, shooting on Stage 9 on the other side of the lot. From that tuna sandwich forward, Jerry Stone’s admonishment about dating actresses never once entered Marty’s mind.
That wasn’t entirely true. It did enter his mind. It entered his mind on a daily basis. It was just that he became more and more adept at pushing it right back out again.
After all, on their very first date, Crimson went out of her way to convince Marty that she was much more than your average LA actress. Over lobsters at Ivy at the Shore – Marty had never in his life happily sprung for two lobster dinners – she told him about her upper-class childhood in Manhattan and the Hamptons as the daughter of a Boston-born war-hero turned investment banker and his blue- blooded socialite wife. Before the main course was even served, she made sure he knew that she had a genius-level IQ and had been invited to join Mensa. “But the people in it are way too creepy for my taste,” she said by way of excuse. Following high school, she told him, she was inundated with scholarship offers to such stellar drama programs as NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Emerson College, Carnegie Mellon, and USC – but she’d been too impatient to start her acting career and, despite her parents’ disapproval, had set out on her own, driving across country with only an old Volkswagen Rabbit and a couple hundred dollars in her pocket, landing her first television role and an agent after her very first audition. She was now 26 years old, she told him, and had been slowly building a solid career for herself, without accepting a penny from her wealthy family.
Marty was not a particularly sensitive man, but many brutal years in the business had sharpened his intuition about people. There was something about this girl that went beyond the surface blatancy of her good looks and unwavering confidence. She was hiding something. He thought he might just recognize what it was.
“Are your parents behind you now?” he asked softly. “Now that they can watch you on TV every week? Now that you’re well on your way?”
Her face went dark, and for a moment, Marty saw a layer peel away. The bravado was gone. Just for a split second, it was gone.
“They don’t even know me,” she said bitterly, in a distinctly huskier voice than he’d thus far heard her use, one dripping with resentment and hurt. “They never did.”
His heart stopped. “I know just how that feels,” he said.
She looked at him, blushing deep. “I can see that you do.” She lowered her eyes. They were quiet for a moment, picking at their decimated crustaceans. Marty was so wired, so overstuffed with feeling, that he could barely eat a morsel.
“How is it that a world class beauty such as yourself is still single?” he blurted into the silence.
“Well, I’m not exactly single…” she began, in the other voice, the sing-songy one he’d become used to hearing.
Marty’s heart dropped to his Ferragamos. His lobster cracker clattered to his plate.
“You’re not single?!” he cried, his voice cracking like a teenager’s. Heads in the Ivy snapped around.
Crimson looked mortified by the attention. “No, no, I’m technically single. I’m just – I just sort of became single, or, less un-single, if you know what I mean. It’s still up in the air. It’s, you know, complicated.”
She went on to tell the tragic tale of her four-year long relationship with Damon Orsino, a young director whose recent low-budget independent feature, Briartown, had won the audience award at Sundance and catapulted him into the ranks of the hottest, the hippest, the up-and-comingest of comers. Damon worshipped the ground she walked on, Crimson explained. But she had left him because she felt he didn’t take her seriously as a separate and equal individual.
“It was all about him, his career, his opportunities. He always told me I was the most talented actress he’d ever met, of course. He’s in awe of my beauty and my brains and my abilities. But I actually think he is threatened by me. Because when it came down to it, he acted like his directing career should come before my acting. This was our ongoing struggle. It’s a terrible thing to feel marginalized by the person who should be your biggest supporter.”
“Young guys like him,” Marty said, “they’re insecure. I was like that once, too.”
“You? Insecure?” She laughed. Such a delightful laugh, revealing a glimpse of the teeth. “Oh, I find that very hard to believe.”
“Guys like Orsino aren’t ready to have a relationship with an equal – their egos are too fragile. You need someone who won’t be threatened by your talent. Someone older. Someone who’s already successful, who can stand back and let you blossom.”
Crimson nodded thoughtfully. “That’s what I’ve been thinking. But Damon calls me every day, begging me to come back to him. He says he’ll do anything. He tells me I’m the most beautiful person he’s ever known, inside or out.”
Bile bubbled in Marty’s intestines, tweaking his semi-dormant ulcer for the first time in years. Damon Orsino! Damn him! What was the guy, 30-something years old? Marty had seen photos in the trades: a good-looking kid, scruffy, bohemian, multiply tattooed. Probably wore an earring. And Orsino was a movie director. That alone stirred up instant antipathy. On the family tree of Los Angeles Entertainment, television remained eternally the ugly stepchild to its firstborn golden offspring, feature film. And in the hierarchy of television, drama slotted far, far above non-fiction in any form. As rich as television had made him, Marty knew that his success had forever banished him to the cheap seats, the toy-like knee-high chairs of the children’s table. Marty may have been a household name to Lights and Sirens fans; he may always have far more in the bank than Orsino. But in the adolescent social order of Hollywood, Crimson would do better, status-wise, with someone like the Briartown director. Orsino was on the football team and Marty would forever be in the marching band.
“So, are you thinking about it?” said Marty, suddenly feeling very small.
“About going back to him. Orsino.”
Crimson delicately fingered her lobster claw. “He’s very persuasive. And he really is a wonderfulperson in many ways. We were so very close. I don’t know. I know I’m easy to worship. But I need to be respected as well. I just don’t know if Damon is able to do that.”
“He’s not. I’m sure of it.” Marty almost shouted. And at that instant, Marty knew exactly what he wanted most of all in life. He wanted Crimson. For a highly competitive overachiever, the insertion of this young and rising boyfriend into the mix made Marty even more determined to win her for himself.
Excerpted from “Reality Boulevard: A Hollywood Insider’s Satire Of Reality TV [Kindle Edition]” by Melissa Jo Peltier. Copyright © 2013 by Melissa Jo Peltier. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.