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Chapter Thirty-four: That’s Hollywood!

As mentioned, when Frank arrived at my door, I was surprised at his appearance.  His deep baritone voice on the phone gave the impression of a large, portly – and most especially, very masculine – man.  Frank was very tall and gangly, and most definitely gave an almost immediate impression of androgynous character.  He reminded me, more than anything, of an oversized child who, having just experienced a recent growth spurt, had not yet learned to manage his limbs gracefully.  It seems, in retrospect, to have been merely an impression of a lack of comfort in his own physical structure.  Yet Frank was an attractive young man with his blond hair, strong square chin, symmetrical features and generally pleasing proportions.  The attractiveness of his face was diminished slightly by small, close set eyes and a mouth that formed a natural frown when in repose.  I had always heard that one should not trust a person with such narrowly placed and proportionately small eyes, and Frank most definitely had them.  I was immediately on guard.

However, Frank had a very engaging manner.  I don’t mean that one was “engaged” by being charmed, but rather that he exerted himself considerably to engage me in conversation by asking many, many questions to which he listened attentively and nodded understandingly at the appropriate junctures.  The feeling of being understood was amplified by occasional comments.  The impression given was that he was most definitely en rapport.

I had the idea that he was a healthy young man, while I was a middle aged “hausfrau” with five children, and he certainly ought to be going out on weekends and socializing with friends his own age.  But, apparently, he didn’t have that many friends, or if he did, he was not motivated to have a “good time” in those ways.  He seemed to be perfectly happy to come to my house and sit and talk for hours on end.

Very early on, I shared the manuscript of Noah with Frank.

“It’s fascinating,” he said.  “Brilliant.  I couldn’t put it down.”

“Great!”

“But there’s only one problem.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“You failed to include the UFO and alien phenomenon.”

“No I didn’t,” I insisted.  “It’s right there in the chapter about The Rapture!” I had alluded to the New Age belief, shared in part by some fundamentalist Christians, of miraculous rescues off the planet during some end time event.

“There is nothing on the planet more important and worthy of study than the alien problem.  Trust me, I’ve been studying it for years!”

“Nonsense!”

Frank responded with a long monologue about aliens that gave me serious doubts about the stability of his intellect.  It was so hard to reconcile his brilliant expositions on so many subjects with this silly, childish belief in “little green men!”

I was, I admit, a flaming skeptic about aliens.  I had spent so much time poking around in people’s heads in therapeutic ways, that, with only a cursory examination of the issue, I’d decided that sightings and claims of abductions were strikingly similar to past life dramas.  After reading Whitley Strieber’s Gothic book “Communion” and Ruth Montgomery’s patently ridiculous “Aliens Among Us,” I refused to give any serious consideration to the subject.  The stories were so crazy I simply could not consider them to be real in any context other than as useful metaphors that the subconscious cooks up to explain unhappy events in childhood or whatever.

I was trying to keep an open mind from a clinical and scientific viewpoint.  I wasn’t sure that our whole existence, as we perceived it, wasn’t simply a series of chemical reactions in the brain of the Cosmic Dreamer.

In short, stories of aliens and abductions seemed an archetypal drama of the subconscious mind.  I called it the Millennial Disease, and saw it as a form of mass hysteria.  I attributed the physical scars and traces of abduction to stigmata-like effects, or poltergeist type events.  Clearly, there was very little about UFOs and aliens that couldn’t be explained by these theories.

So, when Frank wanted to discuss the alien business as a reality, we fell into disagreement.  We were at an impasse on this subject.  I even became contemptuous and sarcastic when referring to it as The Alien Rapture Theory.  I held it to be about as reasonable as the various Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation Rapture theories of the fundamentalist Christians.  Frank was not deterred by my rejection of the subject.

***

Frank had interceded on my behalf to get me the job as scriptwriter for his employer, the “television producer”.  This turned out to be a most entertaining and instructive experience.  We’ll just call Frank’s boss “Dane”.

I was very surprised to discover that Frank literally hated Dane.  He unashamedly expressed his dislike of the man.  One day we were driving up to Dane’s home and studio for a meeting.  Frank suddenly expressed all his resentment and anger at Dane for years of unspecified abuse of some kind.  As we got closer to Dane’s, Frank said  he was literally getting sick to his stomach at the thought of being in Dane’s company. (Shades of Keith Laumer!)

“I go through this every day,” Frank said.  “Some day I won’t be able to take it any more and I’ll just snap!”

“Well, Frank, if you really feel that way,” I said, “wouldn’t it be easier to quit your job?”

Frank launched into a long monologue why that was impossible, and how the job working for Dane was so ideal for him and his “special nature”.

This “special and unique disposition” was a regular subject of Frank’s discourse.  He was, it seems, convinced that fate, destiny, or whoever was in charge of deciding who has to be “incarnated,” had most definitely made a mistake in his case.  He cited reason after reason he was simply not suited to this world, this environment of human failings and foibles.  Most of these reasons related, in some way, to his conviction that he was a “higher being” or “didn’t belong” with the rest of the hoi polloi on the planet.  And, of course, because of this, he was most definitely regularly and repeatedly victimized by those of less delicate and refined sensibilities.  He was “too good” for this gross and materialistic world where a person was expected to earn a living and put up with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But, based on what he told me, Frank had never really suffered anything serious.

This led, inevitably, to his consideration of suicide as the ultimate solution for his misery in this life.  He spent hours telling me all the logical and reasonable ways he had thought his way through it and had come to the conclusion that it was, indeed, the correct action in his case.

“The religious and mystical literature claims no one is born by accident,” I reminded him.  “Some even say we actually choose our parents and the circumstances of our lives for the very lessons that we, ourselves, have decided to study in the school of earth.”

Frank buttressed his arguments with scholarly references and citations proving he was right and my cited sources were wrong.  He seemed enormously invested in my agreement with his assessment of the issues.  This discussion continued for months with neither side willing to give in.  Even if I ran out of arguments to convince him that suicide was not the solution, I insisted if he was patient and open-minded, the Universe would reveal a purpose to him and he would inevitably realize that I was right on this one.  I pointed out that I had once been in so much despair that I had wanted to end my life, though for a somewhat different reason.

I was, of course, quite impressed by his endless scholarly references and allusions, though I was a bit put off by his need to be the center of attention.  He brooked no interruption in his outpouring of words.  It was, in the end, a very unequal exchange.

By this time in my life, having had some experience with my mother and her campaigns against so many people, I was not inclined to take Frank’s word about Dane, but rather thought that I would try to form my own opinion.  In fact, Dane was quite intelligent and charming and I enjoyed talking to him immensely.  In private, Frank warned me direfully about the fact that I was being “taken in” by Dane as everyone else had been, to their sorrow.  He endlessly, and in great detail, described Dane’s exploits in the world of con artistry, beginning with the kidnapping of his own son from the country of his origin.  This nefarious deed was intended to use his son as a “cover” and to garner sympathy from women who were, in the end, his chief targets.  Dane’s most heinous sin:  he had later brought his own parents to this country and had lived on their pensions for years – even after they had been long dead!    Frank nearly crowed with delight at being able to produce this clear evidence of decidedly criminal behavior.

Hearing all this, I was ready to just walk away from the whole project.  Frank begged me to stay.  I was the person, he claimed, who could make it all work.  He recognized in me that “drive and dedication” that could make a success.

Would I stick with it for his sake?

Put that way, I couldn’t refuse.  Frank assured me, with his guidance, I would be able to navigate the tricky waters of Dane’s cunning and underhandedness.  He, Frank, would protect me and ensure my interests were looked after.

I went to work on the assignment and produced a script.  I submitted it to Frank, who went over it with Dane.

“Not quite what we wanted, Laura.  Can you give us a rewrite?”

I was a bit surprised.  I had most certainly fulfilled every outlined requirement we had discussed at length, right down to the timing.

Frank shook his head sadly.  He said I was embarked on my first lesson of what a rotten guy Dane really was.  He most certainly would ask for rewrites a dozen times and finally reject the whole thing.  Then I would learn, to my sorrow, just what a skunk Dane was.

I was not in a position to spend weeks and weeks working on something and not get paid for my effort.  I was perfectly outraged this man had the nerve to treat anyone that way!

“I’m calling Dane this very moment,” I said.  “I am just simply telling him he can get another writer!”

Frank calmed me down.  “Be patient.  I’ll work everything out.”

He was prepared for the occasion.  He’d already written a check that very day from the company expense account to make good all the time I’d put into the script.  Dane didn’t know.  This would be our “secret”.  I was very grateful, and my doubts about Frank receded.  Frank was clearly the “good guy” in this drama!

Enter Nancy.

Frank and I both met Nancy at a  metaphysical discussion group meeting at the home of another hypnotherapist.  Nancy quickly attached herself to us and, being divorced and without family obligations to restrict her, and very much interested in discussing any and all aspects of metaphysical things, she began to hang out with us during our Friday or Saturday night discussions.  These visits were becoming quite regular.

If Larry was jealous of my friendships, it was not in the ordinary way.  He would frequently make disparaging remarks about my “fruity” friends, but I could see that he also welcomed my little weekend “salon” because it gave him an excuse to spend more and more time fishing.  Additionally, even if he always made some remark that diminished the fact, he was glad that I was making money while still being at home to cater to him when he made his erratic appearances.

As the project for the infomercial proceeded, Frank, Dane and I had a planning meeting one night and decided that we needed an actress who was not an actress and who could project that “freshness” on camera.  Frank suggested Nancy.  I agreed that she was a possible, and Dane wanted to meet her.  We confirmed the plan with Nancy and made a date for a dinner meeting at the usual out-of-the-way restaurant.  Frank pointed out that Dane always selected such places to eat or meet because he was constantly avoiding the people he had defrauded in other schemes.

Whether or not he was a scam artist, Dane had made a great deal of money on his numerous selling-on-TV projects, and Frank was determined to see this success repeated.  He intended to be cut in on the profits after working like a dog on the last one.  This time, Dane wasn’t going to get away with treating him like dirt.  And, of course, if I stuck with him, I would surely become quite well off myself.

At the meeting, Frank and I noticed an instant physical attraction between Dane and Nancy.  Before we knew it, they were ordering more wine, laughing and moving closer in the booth until, finally, Dane walked Nancy to her car.  Frank and I, walking in the other direction to our cars noticed they ended up in an embracing liplock in the dark.  Whether they thought we couldn’t see them or not, I don’t know, and whether or not they cared if we did, I don’t know.  I was rather pleased to see Dane and Nancy expressing interest in one another.  Both of them seemed singularly lonely.

Frank, on the other hand, was perfectly livid when he saw Dane kissing Nancy.  “I can’t believe him!    He’s never done this before!    Has he lost his mind?  She’s a slut!” and so forth.  It was like witnessing a child having a fit because his single parent has found romance and his own place as the parent’s beloved is threatened.

Well, by now the reader is sure that I am being sucked into some sick melodrama, and that assessment is exactly right.  I couldn’t imagine what was so bad about a little romance between Dane and Nancy, but I knew it was deeply disturbing to Frank.  In our next discussion, I probed gently to attempt to discover what terrible thing had happened in his life to make him so sour about human relations, particularly the relations between men and women.

Well, to Frank, romance of any kind was utterly and totally revolting.  His disparaging remarks about the carnal desires of human beings, the “hot and sweaty absurdity of copulation”, made me question my own human nature!    Again, with scholarly incisiveness, Frank managed to present arguments that demonstrated his own superiority as a  “higher being”.  He was completely beyond such lusts of the flesh!

I was confused at this point and the only other person to talk to was Nancy.  So, I discussed the nature of spirituality and carnal lusts.  During the course of the conversation I told her what Frank had said about such things and the sources he had cited.  “Piffle!” she said.  “There’s more to that than meets the eye!”

I asked her what she meant.

“It ought to be obvious!”

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

“Obviously Frank is gay and he’s in love with Dane.”

I was shocked at the very thought and immediately defended Frank, sure that Nancy had misjudged him.

“We’ll see,” she replied.

I wasn’t sure what she meant.  I was soon to find out.  One day soon after, Nancy and I drove to Dane’s house for a business meeting.  Nancy smoothly asked how Dane’s relationship with Frank had come about.  Dane explained how Frank had attached himself as a friend of his son’s (they attended the same school) and Dane had given him a little job taking orders and shipping.  After that, he said woefully, it was impossible to get rid of him.  Frank had told him he wished Dane was his father because his own parents had been so abusive.  After that, Dane said, he never had the heart to send Frank packing, even if he was “as useless as tits on a nun”.

I was very, very confused.  If Dane was telling the truth, then what happened to all of Frank’s claims about Dane as an evil and manipulative monster?  Could it be true that he was in love with Dane, or, at the very least, working in some subversive way designed to isolate and control Dane?  If so, what did he want?  Dane’s money?

Then Nancy suggested that if Frank had been just a “hanger on” at the beginning, he must be quite valuable  now, since Dane was paying him so generously.  Dane looked at her in a puzzled way.  “He doesn’t get paid you know, though I’ve promised him a percentage of the income from the new show.”

“Oh!,” Nancy said.  “From the way he spends money, he must have made a bundle working for you!”

“Yes, I was very generous with Frank.  Besides,” he waved his hand nonchalantly, “he lives alone and has no expenses.  He doesn’t go out with women, you know!”

On the drive home, Nancy announced to me that Dane was being “had” by Frank.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Just my intuition,” she said.

Nancy was, in the end, no match for Frank.  By moving in on Frank’s declared territory, Nancy became the enemy.  In the end, I think she wisely decided not to pursue a relationship with Dane, overshadowed with the constant presence of Frank.  Nancy became a casualty.  That should have warned me this was a war, though a very subtle one.  But I thought I was clever enough to navigate this minefield.  Hah!    Famous last words!

After Nancy had moved on to new territory, we needed to find a new star for our program.  Dane wanted a well known, but older actor of some considerable repute.  Negotiations were underway to obtain his services.  I was required to do some rewrites with this man in mind, and the whole project took on a new flavor and life of its own.  But, this actor died suddenly and Dane was apparently desolate at this blow to his plans.  He felt it was just a sign from God that the whole project ought to be shelved.

Frank was utterly frantic.  He saw the promises Dane made about his future wealth and success dissolving before his eyes.  Frank could not endure any more repeats of Dane’s formula: Dane would start projects.  Frank was promised that he would become wealthy.  Dane would just suddenly drop it.

But, he assured me, he knew Dane.  Dane couldn’t function without Frank.  He’d taken over all the detail work Dane hated to do.  If Frank just holed up in his apartment and stayed away, soon Dane would beg him to come back.  This time, he would refuse, until Dane gave absolute proof, in writing, that the project would be finished and he, Frank, would benefit significantly.

By this time, I was so disgusted with the whole thing that I didn’t care if the script ever made it to film or not, and I said so to both of them!

All in all, it seemed pretty sick to me.  But, again, Frank’s lengthy explanations and interpretations of everything he perceived, backed up by citations of events and proofs that he was correct, persuaded me of at least one thing:  he needed help.  Whatever was going on here, he needed someone who would not abandon him.

At this point, Dane asked what I knew about Frank’s financial situation.  He definitely wanted to reward him for faithful service, he didn’t want to leave him hanging, but since Frank wouldn’t talk to him, would I please act as go-between?  If Dane were to present Frank with a nice reward for faithful service, then they would be able to move forward through this barrier to their friendship.  I was convinced that, even though he had much anger against Dane, that Frank truly loved him as a friend and mentor, and healing the breach between them seemed to be a worthy goal for me to assist in any way I could.

The answer, when it came, shocked me to my core.  For years, Frank had been manipulating Dane’s bank account in order to pay not only himself, but Dane’s son also – who was apparently in on the fraud.  Dane had tormented them with promises of future projects, while they were expected to dance attendance on him, give endlessly of their time and effort, for an occasional lunch at a low-class restaurant or a tank of gas for all their running around.  They had managed, between the two of them, to set up a situation in which Dane trusted Frank (though he would not trust his own son in this way) enough to make him a signer on the business account.  The two of them had been literally embezzling funds sufficient to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle all this time, unknown to Dane who truly didn’t wish to be bothered with the details of how and when the bills were paid as long as somebody else took care of it.

Nancy had been right.

Frank pointed out that neither of them had been greedy – they hadn’t been buying cruises or fine art or taking trips to the Riviera  – merely paying themselves reasonable salaries for their time.  Well, actually, Frank was doing it, but he was being helped to cover it up by Dane’s son.

What was I going to do?  This was clearly the item that acted between them to prevent any progress in either the relationship or any possible work that might have been accomplished.

Finally, I came to a decision.  If Dane truly had Frank’s best interests at heart, Frank would be able to resolve the issue only with full disclosure.  I urged Frank to confess.  He was utterly panicked at the very suggestion!    Dane would seek him out and destroy him!

I believed the only resolution was the truth.

I dialed the phone and when Dane answered, I took a deep breath and explained to him why Frank was shutting him out, and how terrified he was that Dane would destroy him.

Dane assured me that what I was telling him was something he already knew, and his major concern was that Frank be assured they could work this out.  He was sorry that Frank had felt he had to be deceptive about the matter – all he had to do was ask and everything Dane could do for him, he would do!    His only request was that I convey to Frank that he did, indeed, know and understand the situation.

Well, what a relief.

I called Frank and told him about my conversation with Dane, that his secret was not really a secret.  He became utterly hysterical.  I tried to calm him down, pointing out how reasonable Dane had been about it, and he certainly had nothing to fear.

Dane attempted over and over again to get Frank to talk to him, but Frank stubbornly refused.  He holed up in his apartment in terror of the imagined wrath of Dane.  This behavior may have been what created the fulfillment of what he feared.  On the one hand,  Dane was telling me how understanding he was while, while on the other, in the background, he had been seeing an attorney with the clear intention of destroying Frank.  The only question is: did he do this because Frank refused to communicate with him or would he have done it no matter what?  Frank said that Dane had every intention from the beginning of “destroying” him.  Whatever the motivations were,  Dane seemed to be sincerely trying to work out the matter, and Frank seemed to be the one refusing to work things out.

Dane had his attorney send a letter to Frank which demanded all funds he had “stolen,” or face further legal action.  Since Dane had told me he wanted to work things out with Frank, this upset me.  I called Dane and suggested that he had been using me to try to destroy Frank.  Dane reasonably pointed out that he was just trying to get Frank to show his good intentions by facing him and talking to him.  As far as he could see, Frank had no good intentions.  He had deliberately and maliciously embezzled funds, and his malicious intent was evident in the fact that he wouldn’t talk to Dane.  I pointed out to Dane that Frank had worked for him for five years or longer.  Did he reasonably expect to have that time for free?  At this point, Dane revealed what he really wanted: he wanted Frank to return to “the fold” in exchange for dropping the embezzlement charges.

What a dreadful muddle.  Now what was I supposed to do?  Frank was literally suicidal.  He called me one night, half drunk on whiskey, and declaimed Hamlet’s lament in modern terms.  He was sitting there with a loaded pistol in his lap.  And as soon as he finished getting completely drunk, he was going to put a period to his existence.

I was perfectly terrified.  What’s more, it would be all my fault!    Or at least, I perceived it to be so.  I begged him to not do anything.  I would see what I could do to sort the whole thing out.  Just give me a day or so.

Dane said he wanted his money back.  That was it.  Money was Dane’s god.  If Frank could pay him off, Dane would go away and leave him in peace.  (Or, Frank could restore the relationship which he declared he could not ever do.) Frank would be saved if his father would agree to pay Dane back the money.

The only problem was, Frank’s father did not believe that paying Dane back was the solution.  Frank’s father thought Frank ought to face the music (which was actually not unreasonable).  So Frank renewed his threat to shoot himself. I felt it was my job to rescue Frank.

“Don’t do it, Frank,” I pleaded.  “I’ll talk to your father.  I’ll explain to him that Dane is a dangerous and cunning man.  I’ll find a way to convince him that your way is the only way to handle it!    Just give me some time!”

“You will,” he asked incredulously.  “You’ll talk to him?  Oh, if only you would!    It’s the only answer!”

And I did.  Even if Frank had, indeed, been mostly to blame by his own desire to make something work in his life in a certain way. Dane’s approach was evidence that he was just as dysfunctional in his own way and this translated into a  desire to destroy Frank that was all out of proportion to the crime.  Compared to Dane’s wealth, the amount of money was paltry, and Dane wouldn’t even agree to a series of payments.  It was all or nothing.  Clearly, destroying Frank was Dane’s objective by now. But then, as noted, that was because Frank acted the way he did which seemed designed to create the fulfillment of his own prophecy about Dane.

I called Frank’s father and explained to him that Frank was in the clutches of a conscienceless manipulator whose only agenda was to destroy him.  I tried to stick to the facts as best I could, though, in the end, I merely parroted Frank’s spin on them.  I hoped with all my heart that Frank was correct and that, by accepting his version as the truth, I was making the correct decision.

His father listened carefully to all I said and merely thanked me in an embarrassed, but courtly way.  “I’ll take care of it,” was what he said.

An attorney was consulted to act as go-between, the money was paid, Dane signed a waiver of prosecution, and Frank decided not to kill himself after all.

I didn’t realize, however, that with the words I spoke to Frank’s father, pleading for him to save his son, that I was destroying forever any hopes he had held in his heart for his son to be successful in life, to be a real man.

Continue to Chapter 35: The Crane Dance

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