Back in ’91, you may recall H-town was abuzz with Julia Phillips tell-all “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again.” Years later in Paris, I shoplifted a copy at Shakespeare & Co. and no sooner had I parked my ass at the nearest bistro in St. Michel than I flipped to the index with excited anticipation. Sadly yet predictably, yours truly was nowhere to be found. No biggie, J.P. I know the media blackout was standard operating procedure in post-JX Tinseltown.
Anyway, that’s only part of the story. You see, Random House excised about a quarter of the original 1000-page manuscript because the lawyers felt the material vibed lawsuit-bait. As fun a read as “Lunch” may be, the juiciest bits are contained in the 250 or so pages that never saw the light of day. I wanted them. I needed them. I got them. It took years. Strings were pulled. Chains were yanked HARD. But money talks. Always the fucking money.
Regarding the unpublished sections, I must say J.P. had some choice words for some guys that even I wouldn’t fuck with. Going after Geffen is just one thing but… I just don’t want to go there. I also take pleasure in yanking skeletons out of the closet but not when the decomposing bodies are still riddled with maggots.
But do not fret, dear voyeurs! J.X. won’t let you walk away without a couple table scraps. Now up, boy! Sit! Stand! Roll over! Beg! OK, good dog!
Buried away in her epic screed was the passage I had hoped to read all these years – my two pages of fame under the mean-spirited microscope of Ms. Phillips.* And though she can no longer vouch for the authenticity of the following passage, let’s just say I don’t plan a libel suit…
“Eddie Nash pushes shit coke,” grumbles the grizzled little man hunched over the table Rottweiler constructed from a saw blade. He affects the dour demeanor of a know-it-all editor eight-hours deep into an ADR session. Instead of a Steinbeck, his furrowed brow hovers over a makeshift laboratory of beakers, test tubes, Petri dishes, apothecary scales, and a Bunsen burner at the ready. He pours chloroform into a test tube, adds a pinch of blow, shakes the concoction, and awaits the result.
“That stuff is browner than my last bowel movement. I think Ed sold you lidocaine or something.”
J.X. Williams, a never-was B-movie director with a mean streak and incredible access to pharmaceutical-grade cocaine, has dropped by for a visit. Even compared to the rogues’ gallery of dealers who have darkened my doorway over the past year, none of them hold a blowtorch to the notorious Mr. Williams. He has been pimping, hustling, wheeling, dealing, puking, duking, snorting, and cavorting up and down Mulholland for over thirty years. Give the undead their due. This vampire had seen it all.
“Now check this out,” he beamed, pulling out a baggie from the inside pocket of his second-hand Brioni. “I got this shipment straight off the Cessna from Medellin. We don’t even need to bother with the Acetone. This blow is as pure as the white driven snow.”
Before you can say “cosmic ecstasy,” J.X. puts the stem to my mouth. Not quite the ultimate mindfuck but I’m seeing bells and hearing stars. Life is good.
Then Williams starts in with his inevitable spiel. We have conflicting agendas. J.X likes to talk movie deals. I prefer to limit our meeting to drug deals.
“You know Colombia is financing my next three pictures.”
“Columbia Pictures?” I chortled. Don’t shit a shitter, Drac. Count Williams had such a bad reputation around town that the front desk at ICM taped a Polaroid of his ugly mug beneath the bank of security monitors. The photo bore the magic-marker epitaph: “DO NOT ADMIT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.”
“No, Colombia as in Juan Valdez, baby,” he explains after taking a hit. “Foreign investment! My associates from Medellin want to plant their flag in Hollywood. They’ve got the bread. You’ve got the access. Let’s make it happen.”
“Well, I am sort of on hiatus.”
“HIGH-atus more like it,” he retorts. “Not that I mind. That’s your business. In fact, the cartel keeps my productions on their toes so to speak. If you want to get a sixteen-hour day out of a grip, a chemical incentive often comes in handy.”
J.X. slowly waves the pipe to and fro like a satanic priest with a censer, the trail of smoke zig-zagging through the air. He knows how much I want it. His pipe. My turn. His drugs. My connections. He knows I am dying for another hit but waits for me to beg. We reach an impasse. My pride. His desperation. Then he throws a curveball.
“Just one of those things…”
“Let me take a guess,” he interjects, finally relinquishing the magic pipe. “He couldn’t set you up in an office with a private bathroom where you can do your blow without freaking out the secretary.”
I cough out my hit, pretending I inhaled too much but genuinely surprised. Who tipped him off? Norman? Ray? David? Or was it just good old-fashioned junkie intuition? In our game of base-ball, the old pro just struck one out of the park. He knows I can’t ask about his source without affirming his hypothesis. Either way, it’s a home run. Williams demonstrates he is very clever or better connected than I thought.
“J.P., as far as I am concerned, you can snort lines off the conference room table. You work with me, we make our own rules because I don’t give a fuck. I get things done by any means necessary.”
J.X. continues his diatribe as the second onrush of freebase jingle-jangles through my nervous system. His voice mutates into the sound of a trombone squiggle like one of the teachers in a Charlie Brown cartoon.
Time crawls by leaps and bounds.
“Jesus Christ, J.P., take it easy!”
We’ve almost exhausted his delivery and haven’t negotiated a price yet. His drugs. My money.
“You’re whizzing past me on the downslope of your career and I’ve got a 15-year head start!”
I feel his cool palm on my knee. The gesture is paternal. Paternal in an incestuous way…
“You wanna fuck?”
“Huh?” The drugs have withered my will to take offense.
“Just kidding,” he mumbles before removing his paw. “It would have been cute though. We’d have made a great power couple.”
More like a pariah couple. J.X. was truly the end of the line. Not just the line of blow that led into the smoky chamber of a freebase pipe either. When he lunched alone at Ma Maison every Thursday, industry execs would slip the maître d’ a twenty to not be seated at a table adjacent to his.
“Anyway, first taste is free. You want to talk further, gimme a call.”
He limply shakes my hand and exits the room. I wait to hear the slam of the front door. A minute passes in silence.
Then, I hear music from the living room. “Gimme Shelter” plays on the turntable. When Mick reaches the penultimate chorus, Williams cranks the stereo full blast:
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
He lifts the needle at the end of the song and quietly shuts the front door behind him, leaving my home and my life never to be heard from again.
1. Rottweiler was a handyman who became Julia’s live-in lover after she hired him to remodel her home. He had already broken up with her when J.X. Williams visited. Refer to You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, Julia Phillips, (New York: New American Library, 1991), 389-91.
2.Ray Stark was a powerful producer who wanted to set up a production company with Ms. Phillips. However, at a late stage of negotiations, her drug addiction scuttled the deal. Refer to Lunch, (pgs. 393-400) for the entire story.
3. J.X. Williams claims his hypothesis was a “shot in the dark.”
4. Ma Maison was a restaurant on Melrose that became a popular dining spot for film industry executives in the 1970s.
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Posted on March 14, 2011 in Blogs, Cineleaks by J.X. Williams
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