By Karl J. Niemiec
Author of “Alien Made” – proceeds from book sales benefit Indiana Youth Group (see below for novel excerpt, Chapter 7)
My guess is that there not a lot of writers in Indiana who could say they hung out with the likes of these showbiz icons all by themselves for four hours, drinking champagne and telling stories. But I can.
As it happened, in mid-June of 1985, I was still 29 years old and working behind the bar as the other three stood in front of me in Steven’s family room. Honestly, he drank bottled water and I sipped a Coke, but that’s unimportant.
I kept us all full as we told stories about what was current in the world, which was lucky for me, because I was a L.A. Times junkie, addicted to the news ink, and had been since high school. So I read the paper from cover to cover every day, cut out articles to take home, and was able to keep up with them as just one of the guys trading news.
And that’s how they treated me, just four guys hanging out. In fact, Quincy and I hit it off and spent three other times talking together. My overall opinion of them was that they were just normal, everyday, down to earth, nice people, who were living life just like me, even though they were successful and rich and I was neither.
On this particular day, George and Quincy were hanging out with their good friend Steven, waiting for Steven’s wife, Amy Irving, and first son, Max Samuel Spielberg, to come home from the hospital in Santa Monica. He was becoming a dad for the first time. I was making a few good bucks and watching it happen.
When the lunch was ready, I brought out their plates and they ate at the bar. Steven picked at his food; he was a little nervous, I guess, about being a new father. Quincy and George finished quickly enough as we went on telling stories. Eventually, Quincy and George left, leaving Steven and me alone, and still waiting. He just sat quietly, sometimes pacing, and I read a book on screenplay structure I found on his coffee table, “STEAL THAT PLOT,” that he hadn’t read. But I owned a copy, too, so I was able to pick it up and continue reading where I had left off.
Eventually, Max and Amy came home, and I had a chance to congratulate her before she went to bed.
From there, Steven went on to another part of the house, and I cleaned up, and helped the cook pack up out through the garage to the van, and we left.
Months later, I was introduced to Steven at the opening of his studio offices on Universal Studios and he shook my hand and smiled, not letting on to the women introducing us that we had spent those four hours hanging out at his home. But he nodded to me, and we left it at that.
I never saw George again, but Quincy and I saw each other at the reunion of the “We Are the World” recording and at Penny Marshall’s home on New Year’s Eve, where he introduced me to Nastassja Kinski. I also got to meet Robert De Nero, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino that night, but the real connection was with Quincy.
Yes, I was bartending once again. But it was very cool. Quincy and Nastassja came in late, as the crowded room was already full of stars and movie makers, and Quincy looked about the room, saw me, raised his voice above all the others and said, “Karl!” and proceeded to walk across the room to me, as everyone turned to see who “Karl” was, planted Nastassja before me, and asked if I’d keep her company while he went and said his hellos. So I did. Trust me, it was a special New Years.
What was even more special to me was I hadn’t seen Quincy in about 10 years, he remembered my name, and it was as though no time had passed – you know, like good friends do. Shortly afterward, I ran across them both at the music reunion; again while working, and then another nearly 10 years later, but just Quincy alone that time at one of his daughters’ Tinkerbell events for Disney, where I was actually a guest, to screen an original print of Peter Pan, just before I left L.A. for Indiana in 2006.
Again, it was as if no time had passed between us so we hung out together talking about world events and what was going on in the Middle East. He was rather saddened by it all because Quincy had seen the cities before they were destroyed by us, and we both agreed that nothing good would come of it and that we’d all live to regret what we had done over there. And we were both right.
We joked around about me writing his biography a bit because there were things he told me that he had no intentions of telling the world. And after about 45 minutes, I and my friend Nance Mitchell, God rest her soul, said our goodbyes. Quincy had his driver to look after him; he has never learned to drive. So into the night Nance and I went.
You never know when a chapter of your life comes to a conclusion until you’re into the next one and you look back and realize things will never be the same. That night was one of those chapter endings.
I had turned a page in my life. Shortly afterward, I had agreed to leave L.A. to take a job and raise my family in the Midwest. Nance, who was my first girlfriend when I came to Hollywood at 20 and met her where I worked at Double Day Book Store in Beverly Hills, was by then one of my long time best female friends. But tragically, she died alone in her shower within the first year after I left L.A., and I was gone, on to fathering my third child, and life was a whole new crazy book.
Needless to say, I haven’t seen any of the three Hollywood icons since moving to Indiana. But with all my script projects that I’m pitching, I’m still dreaming that I’ll need to someday. You never know. It’s happened to someone from Indiana before, though he was younger and in L.A. at the time. I even had breakfast with that person’s mother, who is still writing and producing her own projects here, and she told me the whole story about how her son sold his works to Steven Spielberg.
The moral of her son’s story? “Be Prepared.”
This is why. When I met the three Hollywood icons, I had my computers for almost one year and hadn’t started spitting out screenplays yet. I only had the one done and was planning on leaving it on the bar if I didn’t see Steven again to say thank you and goodbye. Not sure if I would’ve given it to him in person. I was bartending, but I was also managing. But Steven was on to other things somewhere else in the house.
So when I went into their bedroom before leaving to check to see if Amy wanted anything and to let her know we were leaving, I found her with her eyes closed, seemingly asleep.
So, I put my copy of The Polish Gang script on Steven’s bedroom fireplace mantel, and looked back to find Amy smiling up at me from her pillow. I almost took it back. But her smile made me feel it was okay. What the hell, right? So I just smiled back and left it there, as I let her know we were leaving.
My guess, if I ever do see Steven again, good or bad, he’ll remember. And that would surely be a whole new adventure trilogy.
“The Polish Gang – Detroit 1929” in paperback is available at http://amzn.to/karlniemiec.
Thanks for reading.
Below is “Alien Made: Chapter Seven.” If you decide to jump ahead and read the whole trilogy and buy copies on Amazon, either in paperback or Kindle Books, at http://amzn.to/karlniemiec, know that portions of the proceeds from those sales will be donated to Indiana Youth Group, which supports LGBTQ in ages 12-20.
If one never experiences sitting on a wet smelly floor of a prison’s holding cell, filled with alleged thieves, rapists, murderers, carjackers and drunk drivers, then one will never feel the self pity I’m suffering right now. Of all the lowdown things that have infested my near thirty years to date, joining this cast of wasted humanity in a morbid docudrama is by far my most humbling experience.
The young guys all seemed glad to see me, knowing I’ll get passed around first. And if anyone thinks I’m exaggerating, then come sit beside me and listen to the punctuated topic of conversation amongst the delightful young men. We are all doomed for a trip around the world.
But I’m not about to respond to them even though they know my name. Honestly, I haven’t managed the courage to mumble a single syllable to anyone, or make eye contact; I sit in the middle of the floor and feign nonentity, gazing blankly at the bars before me.
Thank goodness for a few acting classes and having somewhat of a demented writer’s mind. Only, my pal Mooky squatting next to me, because of not wanting to get stains on his jeans doesn’t seem to get my non responsiveness as a sign to leave me alone.
Mooky, a young black man from Watts, allegedly, if not proudly, in for stealing six and a half pickups all in one day, is beyond strange. He smells neither drugged, nor of alcohol, and judging from the light in his yellow-green eyes, he’s far from stupid. Just out there beyond the realm of reality, in touch with his personal universe. And, as he promises, about to be let free due to his ingenious, villainous mental faculty, and the lack of evidence. Plus he has power over commoner human minds like mine and has the capacity to telepathically free himself from any human sector. I don’t care. If he starts Blipping in and out of here, maybe he’ll take me with him.
Until that happens, I don’t give a damn what he claims on his criminal resume, as long as he doesn’t touch me. However, I’ve always felt that if one really desires to control the human mind. One should start with their own. But Mooky is intellectually way beyond all of that.
Oddly enough, besides the speck of moonlight, the adjacent cell is empty. Though here we are packed thirty to a crate. The truth of which is that I am still breathing on my own…and somehow that thought makes me okay with the less than four star accommodations.
The cops want the spooky dog. They know about its weirdness. Why? If they want the dog, so does someone else. It could possibly be the person who borrowed my gun and set me up by fulfilling my darkest dreams. But how did they know about the blindfolding and shackles hand and foot? Was I thinking aloud at the coffee shop? Did someone read my torrid mind? Did I talk in my sleep? What have I gotten myself into?
Mooky looms in front of my face, smiling ear to ear, as though he can hear my every thought. He stares me in the eyes, willing me to see the truth. He nods his head in agreement because I suspect him. He’s so weird that he almost seems inhuman. My eyes water trying not to focus on his face. I’ve got to get out of here.
(To be continued)