JOHNNY CRUISE


1 INT. MANSION - LIVING ROOM. DAY 


“Johnny, all I gotta say is SPEED meets LETHAL WEAPON! Hit me back, brutha!”


John rips a hit of weed from his bowl and snuggles into the worn upholstery of the Victorian couch. The couch as a whole exudes an unsettling energy, as though it’s possessed by some sort of negative entity from the past. This is likely to happen in a town like Hollywood where most people rarely die in peace. After they overdose or blow their heads off with a shotgun or die in a disturbing car accident or get murdered by a member of the Manson family, fragments of their soul become lost and attach themselves to objects that they liked or used a lot or don’t want to let go of or (of course) died on. This is what the metaphysical-types claim, anyway.


The haunted couch (as it shall henceforth be referred to as) is surrounded by other haunted-looking pieces of furniture that look like they were purchased at a movie studio’s prop warehouse auction. The Moroccan-styled coffee table looks like it could have been in Casablanca. The ‘lamp-stand’ is really a file cabinet used in The Maltese Falcon. The lamp on the lamp-stand looks like the sexy leg-lamp used in that movie A Christmas Story. On one of the room’s walls, there is an old-fashioned bicycle – basket mounted on the back – that looks like it could have been ridden by the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. This bike is adjacent to Pee-Wee-Herman’s red bike from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. 


On another wall, there is a pair of scissor-hands from the movie Edward Scissorhands and the red ‘Rosebud’ sled from Citizen Kane. There is also a half-smoked cigar mounted in a glass frame. Supposedly, it’s the cigar Groucho Marx was smoking the night he immortalized himself in the cement of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater forecourt. The cigar even has saliva stains at its butt end from where Groucho would have chewed on the thing.


“I got you booked on Leno for the thirteenth, Oprah for the fourteenth, Conan for the fifteenth, Dr. Phil for the sixteenth, Howard Stern for the seventeenth, Larry King for the eighteenth, ‘The Today Show’ for the nineteenth, ‘60 Minutes’ for the twentieth. All right, brutha.”


John sits amidst - what he refers to as - his ‘Movieland’ and packs another nugget of weed into his bowl. He brings the bowl up to his lips and cooks the nug with a lighter that looks like something Humphrey Bogart would have used back in the 40s.


The flick of the lighter is about three times louder than it should be due to the vacuity of John’s ridiculously enormous living room, not to mention the vacuity of his mansion in general. No amount of movie memorabilia could ever fill the space to this unnecessarily gargantuan home. The house is so damn big that even the sound of silence creates its own eerie echo.


But John didn’t buy the mansion for its size. He bought the place because it was once owned by his favorite movie director of all time: Stanley Hitchcock. Not only did Stanley and his family live in the place for about thirty years, but the ten-time Oscar-winning director also used the home as a setting for a number of his films. In fact, the first time John stepped foot in the place, he felt as though he were stepping foot inside one of Stanley’s movies. This gave him a high better than any nugget of marijuana could ever provide.


Stanley, however, wasn’t the only previous owner of the home. The house was actually built in the 1930s for a young child actress by the name of Shirley Garland. Garland was under contract to MGM for a number of years, mostly starring in musicals, but also in an occasional screwball comedy or two. Louis B. Mayer (head of MGM) wanted his precious little star to live like a princess - not necessarily as a reward for making his studio shit-loads of money - but mainly to give the general movie-going audience the perception that his stars lived like gods. See, Mayer wanted to create the illusion that his studio had “more stars than the heavens”, implying that his studio was the REAL heaven, further implying that - as studio head - Mayer was God Himself.


Thus, the house was built in plush Spanish-Colonial-style high up on the tallest hill of Laurel Canyon’s Mt. Olympus Drive. And each room had an exotic theme to it, like the kitchen had an Ancient Rome theme with Corinthian columns resembling something like the Parthenon; and the garden had a Japanese theme where the non-Bonzai trees were groomed into a shape that resembled Bonzai trees; and the foyer had a Transylvanian castle-like theme, complete with candelabras and fake cobwebs and also organ music playing over a hidden phonograph. In fact, the rooms looked more like movie sets on a sound stage than rooms in a house. The interior designers thought this would be fun for a little girl like Shirley Garland.


But they were wrong. The diverse themes ultimately created an uncomfortable clashing of energy inside the house, totally antithetical to any kind of contemporary “Feng Shui” philosophy. Psychologists would later speculate that the poor Feng Shui more than likely contributed to Garland’s mental breakdown that came a few years later. 


Yes, the “breakdown” (to use the most euphemistic term) was the usual, clichéd story: Child-star hits puberty and doesn’t look cute anymore; general audience grows tired of her; studio terminates her contract; child-star realizes she’s peaked and has nothing more to look forward to in life; ex-child-star then resorts to an unprecedented amount of drugs (mainly cocaine and morphine) to help her deal with the pain of such a realization; ex-child-star gets so twisted out of her mind on drugs that she feels it’s a perfectly reasonable idea to “do like Lizzie Borden did” and bludgeon her parents to death with an axe, for it was those damn sons of bitches who turned her into a commodity they could profit off of and live vicariously through; and then, of course, the ex-child-star subsequently overdoses on morphine while standing knee-deep in her parents’ blood. 


That’s right: all this happened in the very house John now sits and smokes his weed in; but John doesn’t really care too much about this morbid history. All that matters to him is that he’s sitting in the very house Stanley mother-friggin’ Hitchcock shot some of his greatest movies in. Being in this house is like being in a Stanley Hitchcock movie...ALL THE TIME. It’s the closest John could ever get to making the REAL world a REEL world, which has been a goal of his ever since he was a child.


“Johnny, this is gonna be the next NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET! Think BLAIR WITCH PROJECT meets THE RING!”


John blows out a really good hit of weed and brings the steaming bowl away from his dried, flaky lips. For a man living in an enormous palace formerly owned by Stanley Hitchcock, John looks like complete...well, SHIT. If a zombie from a George Romero movie and a wino on Hollywood Boulevard ever coupled and had a son, John would probably look something like that son. 


He wears a mustard-stained Super Bowl XXX shirt and a holy pair of frosted jeans that look like they were either stolen from a Salvation Army thrift store or from an unattended drier at a Laundromat. His oversized tennis sneakers are of a brand that nobody ever heard of, except for the poor bastard in the China factory who was paid three cents an hour to manufacture them. 


As for John’s hair, it’s long, snarly, oozing with grease, crusted with dandruff and contaminated with lice. His teeth are a lemon-yellow: that is, what’s left of his teeth, as the two front incisors are missing due to chronic gum recession. His skin is the color of a brown baked potato due to the unprecedented amounts of marijuana smoke that he clouds his aura with all day. In short, John looks like he belongs on Skid Row, not in one of the nicest mansions ever constructed in the Hollywood Hills.


He nurses his bowl in his lap and zones out for several minutes on end, staring at a “Kit Cat” wall-clock that – in his mind – always has the little hand pointing at four and the big hand pointing at twenty. (Incidentally, the wall-clock was in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). And, then, after maybe five or six minutes, a minor jolt of energy will trigger motor activity – just enough for John to bring his bowl back up to his lips and spark up another delicious toke.


“Golf benefit on the twenty-second. Children’s Hospital on the twenty-third. Police Ball on the twenty-fourth. Special Olympics on the twenty-fifth. Help an old lady cross the street on the twenty-sixth. Be seen with a black person on the twenty-seventh. Peace, brutha.”


John holds the hit of weed in his lungs for as long as he can hold his breath, which is getting shorter and shorter every day that goes by. After all, he’s been smoking marijuana just about all day, every day, for about the past ten years now - ever since he came to Hollywood, in fact. Well, of course he had smoked on occasion with his friends back home in the East, but it wasn’t until he came out to Hollywood that he found it absolutely essential to smoke on a daily basis. This was basically because everybody and his brother was smoking the shit and the only way NOT to feel alienated was to join the ranks. 


But to say it was “peer pressure” that made John get into the weed would be a little bit off the mark. It wasn’t to be “cool” or to “fit in” or some baloney of that nature. It was more because everybody who smoked weed seemed to be functioning on a slightly different plane of reality than he was. They were tuned into a slightly different frequency. And John realized pretty early on that he couldn’t participate within the Hollywood environment in any functional way unless he, too, tuned into this frequency. And smoking large amounts of weed was the only way to do this. So he smoked weed. And tuned in.


“WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S meets DRIVING MISS DAISY!”


Click. John cuts the power to his Blackberry, which has been spewing voice mail out of its monaural speaker for what-seems-like hours now. The messages have been one big blur to John. His agent, his manager, his lawyer, his publicist, his agent’s lawyer, his manager’s manager, his agent’s manager’s assistant, his manager’s agent’s assistant...they all talk like the bald guy with the mustache who used to do those Micro-machine commercials. In fact, everybody in the “industry” talks this way: fast enough so that the people listening don’t have time to detect the bullshit.


For all John knows, he’s listened to a couple hundred messages while he’s been sitting there on the haunted couch, blazing like a fiend. But if he’s heard one message, he’s heard them all. Hundreds of messages on his voice mail a day, and they’re all just saying the same thing. Different, but same. Wait a minute...Mr. Miyagi said that about Daniel and the Elisabeth Shue character in Karate Kid. The two were different but same, so they made a good couple. But that really has nothing to do with anything right now. Perhaps John is just baked out of his gourd. Or maybe he’s seen so many movies that everything he thinks of reminds him of something he saw in a movie. Probably a combination of the two.


Anyway, now that the messages have stopped, there is finally silence in the house. Nothing but the drone from the air conditioning and the sporadic moans and groans from the house’s inner bodily functions. Some of the moans are probably from the ghosts, too. Although the horrible Hollywood massacre occurred several years ago, the intense energy of the “Shirley Garland murders” undoubtedly still lingers inside the mansion. Experts of the paranormal would attribute this to a phenomenon called a “residual haunting”, where a tragic event plays itself over and over again in the same space that it occurred - kind of like a skipping record. In other words, the moans John hears may be Garland’s parents dying over and over again...or Garland herself dying over and over again. This isn’t the most uplifting thought in the world, but whenever John feels depressed about it, he takes a hit of weed and everything feels better. In fact, now might be a good time to do just that. Or maybe he’s just looking for an excuse to smoke some more weed....


He brings his bowl back up to his lips, but - shit! - he’s smoking soot. The bowl is cashed. Got to pack a new nug in that fucker.




2 INT. MANSION - LIVING ROOM. LATER


The small hand is still on the four. The big hand is still on the twenty. John is still on the couch.


He lights up a fresh bowl of weed and feels the THC run through his bloodstream. For a moment, he has a brief OBE (i.e. outer-body experience), so he feels very fortunate. He used to have a lot of these when he first started the weed, but his body has grown more desensitized to the drug, and, thus, its effects. In layman’s terms, an OBE is basically the sensation that you’re floating out of your body. Your spirit or soul or consciousness - whatever you want to call it - is detaching itself from the flesh. 


John loves a good OBE every now and again. The further he gets away from his body, the further he gets away from the pain.


“RRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEoooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeee!”


There is a long groan in the far distance of the house - almost a growl. Maybe it was in the parlor. Maybe in the kitchen. Maybe it wasn’t even on the ground floor. It could have been on the second or third. Maybe even the fourth. Everything echoes so much in the house that you can virtually hear everything in every room. 


The groan startles John for a split moment, but he still hardly moves from his place on the couch. He does, however, wrap his lips around his bowl and cook up another hit for himself.


‘Damn restless souls’, he says to himself as he sucks in a semi-decent toke. John’s lucky if all he hears is an occasional “reeeeeeeeeeeooooowwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeee” from those doomed spirits. Some days they’re so loud that they sound like Axl Rose at the beginning of that song “Welcome to the Jungle”.


“Whoooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaoooooohhhhhhhhhhhh...oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo....oooooooo

oooowwwwwwwwwwwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”


It’s probably no coincidence that Axl wrote “Welcome to the Jungle” in reaction to how he felt when he first moved to Hollywood from Indiana. Maybe Axl heard the moans of restless spirits as well. They’re everywhere in the town if you listen carefully enough.





3 INT. MANSION – LIVING ROOM. LATER


By now, at least some time has passed. Instead of being 4:20, it’s now...oh, wait: it’s still 4:20. A pile of marijuana soot has grown to about the size of an anthill on the Casablanca coffee table. 


John allows one last hit of weed to seep through the gaps in his rotting teeth and then he shows the first significant signs of life. He lays his bowl to rest on the coffee table and slowly rises from the couch, like the dead becoming the living dead in some zombie movie. He pivots, moves away from the couch and walks past the amplifier Marty McFly explodes at the beginning of Back to the Future.


He leaves ‘MOVIELAND’ and enters the foyer to the house, which still has the Transylvanian theme from the Shirley Garland days. The wax candles are lit and the cobwebs are still fake and there’s also an L-shaped staircase running up to the second floor, looking almost like an exact replica of the one Bela Lugosi descends in the original Dracula. The room even has a thin layer of dust on the floor that looks suspiciously placed, like a set-designer comes through every hour or so and sprinkles some flour around to help maintain the castle ‘feel’.


He leaves Transylvania and enters a room with a very New-Englandy feel: the parlor. The chairs and couches are made out of oak frames and there are some model ships in a corked bottle, lobster-trap-type coffee tables, a (whale) oil-lamp or two, as well as buoys and fish-netting decorating the walls. The interior designer said the inspiration behind this room was Cape Cod; she wanted to create the illusion that one was sitting in a cottage during a summer vacation in Hyannis or maybe Chatham. John thought this was a good idea, seeing that some of his fondest childhood memories were of his vacations spent on the Cape. But the energy didn’t turn out to be the same. Even if one of the mansion’s rooms were designed to look like heaven – whatever heaven looks like – there would still be a feeling of imminent doom, as though somebody was about to come around a corner and chop off your head with an axe.


He leaves Cape Cod and enters Ancient Rome (i.e. the kitchen). This is another room preserved from the Shirley Garland days, looking exactly the same as it did when the psycho child actress went Jack Nicholson (circa Shining) on her parents. The entranceway to this room is framed by the (aforementioned) Corinthian columns while the room’s walls were built with stone that was supposedly dug up by archeologists at some Ancient Roman ruins site that John never really gave a shit about.


In terms of its functionality as a place to prepare food, the kitchen is Julia Child’s wet dream realized. In fact, it looks like it could probably be used as a set for the Julia Child show, and this is maybe what stands out the most about it: that is, it doesn’t quite look like a real kitchen. It looks like a kitchen SET. Even the view in the rear window of the room is a little too pretty. It’s like the fake green trees and blue skies you would see outside Child’s window as she was doing her show. 


Hanging from the kitchen ceiling are the best pots, pans and colanders a chef could get his hands on. The brick oven is big enough to feed the whole Brady Bunch. The state-of-the-art “touch-screen” range is something out of that sci-fi movie Blade Runner. And the stainless steel refrigerator is large enough to stock a whole nursing-home’s-worth of food...but instead of having Tapioca pudding and Breakfast shakes, there are sodas, water bottles, Vitamin Waters and enough Red Bulls to give a person a heart attack.


John opens this amazing fridge, grabs one of the Red Bulls, cracks it open and guzzles enough of the drink to substitute for a decent line of cocaine. 


“Oh, that actually DOES go pretty good with the weed,” he can’t help but comment aloud. The Red Bull’s sugar takes him to an even higher place than he was before.


He sips the remainder of the beverage as he makes his way out of Ancient Rome and finally arrives at his destination: the “library” or “study” - whatever you want to call it. 


This room has world maps on the walls, as well as spinning Globes atop wooden bookshelves, and also wooden podiums with open atlases collecting dust. More noticeably, the room is filled with tall bookcases full of leather-bound books - everything from WAR AND PEACE to TALE OF TWO CITIES to LOLITA to HUCKLBERRY FINN to PARADISE LOST to WORDSWORTH to POPE to STUART MILL to SHAKESPEARE. First editions. Rare editions. Signed editions. John always liked the vintage-looking leather binding these books more than the books themselves. In fact, he’s never successfully finished reading one page of them (and realizes he probably never will, no matter how much he tries to convince himself otherwise).


But John isn’t in the library for the books...or the atlases or the maps or any of that stuff. He’s in here for the super-duperly-large personal computer that’s nestled in the far corner of the room - one of the most high-tech, state-of-the-art computers in existence. Enormous twenty-four-inch flat-screen monitor. State-of-the-art Bosé speakers with insane subwoofer. Wireless mouse. Thinner keyboard than a Matzo wafer. Wireless Internet. DVD-R drive with DVD-R burner. Blu-ray player and burner. Blue tooth something-or-other! Firewire 800 port. USB ports up the wazoo. 


The computer’s hard-drive itself is three Terabytes in size. In simple terms, this means the hard drive has 3,000 Giga-bytes of memory. In even simpler terms, this means the hard drive is so big that John will never possibly come anywhere close to filling even one-eighth of it. But this is Hollywood; and in Hollywood, bigger is always better.


John plops his bony bum into a leather office chair that has the ability to massage your back while you sit. He awakens the computer from its sleeping state. He palms the wireless mouse and drags the mouse arrow up to the Google Chrome web browser. He double-clicks. The browser opens...


John immediately goes to his bookmarks...or maybe it’s more accurate to say ‘bookmark’, because he only has one of them entitled “Heather”. He clicks on “Heather” and a Facebook profile opens up onto the page. In the top left corner of the profile, there is a wonderful photo of a beautiful girl named Heather Huckle. John stares at the photo for a good twenty or thirty seconds. A watery mist of love materializes in his eyes, momentarily burning away the marijuana fog like drops of Visine.


Heather Huckle has long, chestnut hair running down to her shoulders and green eyes that have ‘Libra’ written all over them (or so John would say). Her pink lips surround a set of perfect, white teeth with just the perfect teeth-to-mouth ratio (meaning she doesn’t smile like a horse). Her skin is pale, but not in a pasty kind of way, which would be a bad thing. It is more like milk. Sweet-tasting skim milk. Warm, skim milk...no, let’s say two-percent milk. The kind of milk your mother made you drink to settle your stomach before you went to bed. And maybe there’s some honey mixed in there as well.


In short, Heather is an angel sent from heaven-above and John can’t take his eyes away from her angelic Facebook pic. He knows it sounds cheesy, but every time he looks at her photograph, something inside of him vibrates that no woman has ever made vibrate before. He’s come to believe that this is his soul and that it vibrates at the sight of Heather because she is his soul mate. There is a theory that when a child is born, he or she exits the womb as a half-spirit: that is, not as a complete being. And the point of life is to find the ‘other half’ of his or her spirit so as to exist in a state of completeness. This, of course, is where that cliché “she makes me feel complete” comes from. 


John is convinced that this is the case with him and Heather: that is, he exists right now as half-a-spirit and he needs to be with Heather in order to be complete. Of course, there’s one little problem...


He clicks on the ‘info’ tab, scrolls down the page and comes to the “About me” section:


“Hi, I’m Heather. I love my friends. I love my cat. And, most importantly, I love my husband!”


Husband!


Husband!!


Husband!!!


O Horrible! The word “Husband” is a hand with sharp fingernails that pierces through John’s chest, rips out his heart and chucks it onto the floor where it lies for days and rots and is eventually consumed by maggots.


Husband.


Husband!


Husband!!!


The love drains out of John’s eyes. Sheer rage replaces it. The rage builds and builds and builds like the finale to an orchestral overture. It crescendos. It peaks. O Horrible! O Terrible! O Misery! John can’t take it anymore! He explodes out of his chair like a cannonball and runs the hell out of the library.





4 INT. MANSION – HOME THEATER. DAY


The home movie theater deep in the bowels of the mansion has an old-cinema theme going on, like something seen in Cinema Paradiso or The Last Picture Show. Old-fashioned 16mm film reels are mounted on the walls, as well as original movie posters for films like Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, It Happened One Night and other posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood. More notably, there is a one-of-a-kind, six-sheet Frankenstein poster that is estimated to be worth about three-million dollars. It is known amongst Hollywood memorabilia people to be THE most valuable movie poster in the entire world.

In the back of the theater, there is a mini-refreshment stand, complete with popcorn-maker and soda fountain. There is also a glass display case filled with Goobers, Milk Duds, Good N’ plenty and Jujubes. (The latter candy is John’s favorite because it brings back pleasant childhood memories of seeing The Muppet Movie with his mother at the local multiplex.)


John kneels beside the theater’s 75-foot, hi-definition, plasma, back-projected movie screen and places a DVD into the tray of a five-disc DVD player that also possesses the ability to play Blu-rays. He allows the movie a few seconds to start up and goes to sit down in one of the theater’s blood-red recliners. The seats were supposedly used in 2001: A Space Odyssey during the International Space Station scenes, but John has always been skeptical as to whether that was actually true.


A DVD menu pops onto the movie screen. It’s for a movie called E.T. meets EDWARD SCISSORHANDS - John’s breakout film, the one that made him a star. John grabs a box of Jujubes from his chair’s cup-holder, pops a few into his mouth and presses ‘play’ on the DVD remote.


The epic Universal Studios logo is the first thing to come onto the screen; now, this is the early 1990s version - the one with the earth spinning and the yellow ‘Universal’ logo orbiting around it. Underscoring the logo, of course, is that epic music:


“Da-dum da-dum...da-da-dum.....Da-dum da-dum...da-da dum da-dum.....daaaaaaaaaaa-duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum.”


The music successfully creates a feeling of significance and importance. It’s almost as if it says, “The following movie is God’s gift to the world. It is the most important thing ever created. It will change your life. You’ve seen a lot of movies, but THIS is the one. This is THE movie. The movie of all movies. This thing is going to alter the Universe FOREVER.”

 


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