Friday, November 23, 2018

Blind Items Revealed #7 - Anniversary Month

February 7, 2018

Hi there, folks. You won't know who I am, and that's okay. You're better off that way. But to introduce myself very briefly: I am a producer, mainly in the world of theater, but hoping to move increasingly into film and television. In this era of #MeToo, and Enty's exposure of general unpleasantness in the industry, I thought I'd share some tales from the dark side of Broadway, because if anyone thought we were immune, you don't know jack. This story, I'm privy to because I was a negotiator on this project at a later stage. In the words of Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night."

It all starts with two artists. In one corner, we have a fellow I will call H, a respectable family man and widower trying to support two kids with profound health conditions and his elderly mom. He has been a noted wunderkind in certain circles since the mid-to-late Seventies - you name a hat, he's probably worn it, which has been both a blessing and a curse for him for different reasons at different times. He is known to the entertainment industry at large as a workhorse at the level of a project machine and has enjoyed an illustrious professional career as a venerable veteran auteur (director, writer, producer, mainly for the stage). He has a reputation for being a "bad boy" which has landed him in hot water (at one point, his college tried to spuriously expel him in spite of sterling, exceptional academic history), but though I'm biased because I happen to like the guy, I'd argue that this comes from being persistent and argumentative, and if you were working for three decades and had amounted to Spielberg without the money, you'd be entitled to cause a little stir. He has never committed a crime of any kind ever in his life, and in this town, that's saying a lot. The only vice I've witnessed is a little pot and booze now and then.

In the other, a guy I'll call K. K is a composer, lyricist, occasional performer, and director of an annual awards ceremony that only anyone on Broadway cares about, and not as any sort of "ace in the hole." The biggest musical he ever had, to which he made endless unnecessary revisions after freezing out his collaborator, was nominated for six Tony Awards in a very lean season a few decades back and won none of them; it could have been more successful if he had any idea how to properly exploit his work (the only serious coin it's ever made is in the high school/community market, and that coin is a very thin dime). K is also a temperamental psychopath with more demons than you can shake a stick at, among them a sex life that consists solely of barebacking with barely legal male escorts. Before they go out with him, they should demand a copy of his blood test; God only knows how many have been given an unwelcome surprise gift that no one would be delighted to receive or be stuck with for a lifetime. (At 20 looking 16, I once had K size me up like a Second Avenue hooker at a reading. It felt as though a snake had crawled over my foot.)

During the late Eighties / early Nineties, H (unaware of K's proclivities at the time) and K teamed up to collaborate on an original show, and the combination of two rare talents turned out a terrific musical, a killer futuristic adaptation of a lesser-known Shakespeare play. (Of the two, H was arguably the mover-shaker / conceiver / problem-solver who brought the show into being. There's one more driven member in every team.) It was staged in workshop with a performer who went on to become a Tony winner/nominee (you guess which), and it got serious attention: to this day half the League wants it, and many argue seriously that it's a shoe-in for Best Musical if it ever hits Broadway.

There's just one problem: K wanted (still wants) absolute control of the project, never mind that he'd be incompetent to exercise this control if he got it and that he's not entitled to it by any industry standard, and to that end he has consistently gotten in the way of getting everybody (including himself) paid. H has never requested such control from K, and is still by no means trying to divorce him from the project, if only because it's easier to work with a finished score than solicit a new one.

At one point, H learned of K's proclivities, and combined with their increasingly poor business relationship, he understandably slowed his roll. Things broke down to a point that the only solution was to draw up an ironclad contract that both of them must sign off on all decisions related to the show. This didn't sit well with K, who then conveniently forgot he was part of a team. He suddenly started making deals on his own, going around town, with bravado, raising development money without H's consent, and using it to make demo recordings with Broadway stars, breaking union rules by paying his friends and not paying others, and sending out these recordings without H's permission.

Anybody who's serious about this field knows that this behavior would get both of them disgraced and blacklisted, so naturally H rang K's phone off the hook, imploring him to cease and desist, that he would disgrace them, and finally pointing out that their contract wouldn't allow him to get away with this. Unfortunately, when K did pick up the phone, it wasn't to call H back; the call he placed was to the NYPD, lodging accusations of harassment (although when questioned, he said that he didn't feel physically threatened) and playing them a number of H's phone messages, which were mostly begging him to stop.

This might have gone nowhere, but there were extenuating circumstances. At that time, about a year prior, in the same general area, a fight had broken out between two other known writers, about the same status in the industry as H and K, and one threatened the other; the threatened party went to the police, who did nothing, and one writer ended up killing the other, with the cops catching flack for not taking it seriously. So, when K called them and played them H's messages, the boys in blue weren't about to be caught slouching on the job again. H got locked up on misdemeanor charges, along with his aging mom who refused to leave his side. After 12 hours in lock-up with the seediest NY has to offer (terrifying, to say the least), they were let go, and the charges were ultimately thrown out, with Equity ordering K to destroy his illegal demos.

(This wasn't even the last time it happened. By the time I came to the project, K had tried and failed to name his negotiator, a regional theater director who thought you could solve the world rights of a major property in a fifteen-minute conversation; H's side had wiped the floor with him. K appealed to a mutual friend of his and H's, the wife of a major former star of coming-of-age films, for help. She hooked him up with a so-so NY lawyer who tried to strap us with a contract outlining the same deal K wanted since day 1. When H wrote a single email to her husband hoping to explain his side of the situation, and possibly hook both of them - and their daughter - to play parts in the show, the star's beastly side came out, and he threatened in writing to falsely report H to the cops for harassment. Guess that's a general M.O. for K and his crew.)

Needless to say, over 20 years since its inception, the project remains stalled because of K. What would you do?

H - Richard Haase/K - Barry Keating/Musical - Pericles

7 comments:

Brayson87 said...

So we finally got the answer to this one.

sandybrook said...

This is so airing of grievances, especially here where I doubt anyone knows of these 2 or gives a shit about a play that was never produced.

gauloise said...

Who are the feuding authors, one who murdered the other?

cheesegrater15 said...

So who were the two writers in the fight and was the actress and her husband?

Sara, Making It Work said...

Heh. My ex (and still dear friend) has a cousin who's an actor that worked with K. 100% chance he got couched for the role, and it was pretty much the high point of his career.

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Unknown said...

JESUS ... so glad I didn't read that NOVEL for someone I've never heard of

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