I have always been an opportunistic journalist. by "opportunistic," I mean willing to embarrass myself in whatever way it takes to make sure I have the biggest byline in the magazine. I'm not sure what I mean by "journalist." So when I read that Sony Pictures created the persona of David Manning of the Ridgefield Press in order to quote him in its ads for The Animal and A Knight's Tale, I shook my head in disgust, knowing that this is valuable free press I should be getting. I also felt bad for Mark and Jonathan Schumann, who really do write film reviews for the Ridgefield paper in their "Take Two: A Father and Son Go to the Movies" column, and whose careers may never recover from this blow. Mostly, though, I just thought about myself.
Since Sony had to remove Manning's blurb--HEATH LEDGER IS THIS YEAR'S HOTTEST NEW STAR!--from the ad for A Knight's Tale, I figured there was a blank space the perfect size for my name. I called Susan Tick, Sony's senior vice president of corporate communication, and offered, "I'm not gay, but one night with Heath Ledger would flip me like a Vermont legislator!" And to replace Manning's quote from The Animal--THE PRODUCING TEAM OF BIG DADDY HAS DELIVERED ANOTHER WINNER!--I suggested, "I'm not gay, but one night with Rob Schneider would flip me like a Vermont legislator!" Tick, nervous about these ideas, did not want to comment: "I don't want to say anything about Rob Schneider's not being as good-looking as Heath Ledger, because that might insult Rob." This is a man who tries to have sex with a goat on film.
Having been at press junkets where studios lure writers from small papers by flying them into New York City, putting them up at the Essex House, taking them to dinner at Le Cirque and even giving them free popcorn at the film, I knew there was money to be made. My name, after all, must be worth more than Manning's, owing to my being real. So I figured I'd publish a small, photocopied newspaper called Film Times, sell subscriptions to the major studios for $50,000 a year and fill the page with lots of quotes from me and people with names like Roger Ebert and Richard Corliss. Unfortunately, when I ran my plan by Roger Ebert, the owner of a sign company in Lewisville, N.C., he declined. "I wouldn't have time to fool with that right now," he said. When I asked if I could use that quote, he said, "Yes," and hung up. Thus my first issue contains this review for Evolution: YES! YES! YES!--ROGER EBERT. Likewise Richard Corliss, who works at a patio-door factory in Toledo, Ohio, and was also wary of the time commitment, said, "I don't see many movies. The last one I've seen was the one with the fishing boat, The Storm. It kept me on the edge of my seat." This, I figure, will be perfect if anyone ever releases a movie called The Storm.
Nobody has picked up any of my quotes yet. In fact I'm having a hard time getting the studios to plunk down $50,000 for the newspaper. But no one on my staff is doing it for the money. Like Gene Shalit and Joel Siegel before us, we just get a big kick out of seeing our names in the paper. That's what drives people like us into this business. That and the free popcorn.