PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Four: How He Grew Up: 16

The following Friday afternoon Gorman had called everyone that was to play a prominent role in Last Orgy for a pre-production meeting taking place in Gorman’s large conference room across the hall from his office. Present were Gorman, Gil, some other technical people whom Gil had yet to meet, and about a dozen or so of the scruffiest-looking individuals he had ever laid eyes on, with the exception of his few nervous jaunts through Skid Row. Gorman called the meeting to order then, noticing Gil’s obvious discomfiture, waved a hand at the assembled motley crew, some of which were seated at the long conference table while many others were slouching against the walls or sitting cross-legged on the plushly carpeted floor. “Don’t let their appearance fool you,” Gorman said to Gil. “These are all professionally-trained actors from the Improv Workshop. Plus they’re union.”

“Yeah man,” one of the scruffier ones who was seated at the table across from Gil spoke up. “We’re like, uh, real professional actors, man. Can you dig it? This is what we like to call getting in character. Far out, huh?”

Gil agreed that it was indeed far out. He began to scan the multitude of bodies more closely. They all sported various permutations of Southern California hippie drag which mostly consisted of thin ragged T-shirts (with or without love beads), various lengths of cutoff denim and other fabric shorts, revealing an expanse of hairy legs (men and women), descending to rather grimy feet enclosed in sandals or torn canvas sneakers.

Gorman again waved a hand at the alleged actors. “Why don’t you introduce yourselves, people?”

One by one they spoke up as if answering with their names to a role call. They all seemed to have adopted some kind of nom de film which ranged from cute to ironic. Gil soon found himself shaking hands with the likes of Penny Arcane, Barry Necessary, Cliff Hanger, and a trio of aggressively black women who called themselves Bertha Vanation, Mary X, and Frieda Peeples. There was also a Tommy Gunn and Justin Thyme.

There were several more, but the last one to speak was perhaps the most impressive. At the far end of the table in a large black leather executive office chair which both swiveled and rolled was a huge black man who now slowly got to his feet. There was a collective gasp from the people in the room who obviously hadn’t met him previously, for he was fully six feet and eight or nine inches tall, and must have weighed well in excess of three hundred pounds. He was attired in a black leather motorcycle jacket with the arms cut off but with the required complement of chains and spikes. This jacket opened to the waist, barely enclosing a huge hairless chest which gleamed as if it had been oiled. Below that were tight black leather pants. He had a ferocious scowl on his face which would have done Mr. T credit, and his bald head gave out a blinding reflection under the harsh ceiling florescence only a scant foot or two above his body. He spoke however in a deep rumble that was somehow surprisingly soft. “My name,” he said solemnly, “is Trigger Mortis.” He inclined his head to look down at his body rather self-consciously then continued, “As you may have guessed, I’m the heavy.” This earned him a round of chuckles and applause from the assembled multitudes at which he nodded his head a few times modestly, then carefully lowered his bulk into the chair again which nonetheless gave a sharp squeal of protest.

“Okay then,” said Gorman, “that takes care of it for the actors. As you all know, this production is an experimental improv exercise. We don’t expect a lot out of it, so just have fun with it and let’s see what happens. You’ve all been given what we laughingly call the scripts for this film, which really contain only some brief suggestions for the various scenes. So, you actors go ahead and brainstorm with each other while I get Gil your director here—stand up and take a bow, Gil.” He did as he was told, standing up and waving his hand modestly in greeting. “Folks,” continued Gorman, “This is your director, Gil Hall.” His voice took on a tone of mock sternness. “And don’t let his clean-cut wholesome appearance steer you wrong.” He placed a hand firmly on Gil’s shoulder. “I have every confidence in this young man, and he will be in total charge of the filming. Anyone has any complaints or problems, call my office. Got that?”

There was a general murmur of assent as Gorman, seemingly satisfied, sat down again. The actors then busily broke up into groups of three or four, talking in hushed tones to each other and leafing through the thin script, now seemingly oblivious to the half-dozen or so other people still gathered around the table.

Gorman pointed at a man sitting a few chairs down from Gil and motioned for him to stand up. Unlike most of the other people in the room, this man appeared to be in his middle thirties and dressed in Hollywood casual—thin sports coat and slacks and a polyester shirt open at the neck. His dark hair was rather shorter than that of the average Hollywood hipster and he was clean-shaven. “Introduce yourself to Gil,” ordered Gorman.

The man remained standing and held out his hand to Gil who stood up and shook it. “I’m Richard Ellsworth. I’m your cinematographer.”

“Glad to meet you,” said Gil, to which Ellsworth merely nodded his head, sat down and said, “We’ll talk later on the set.”

“And this,” Gorman said, indicating a woman who had appeared at Gil’s shoulder, seemingly materializing out of thin air. She too was very thin, small, almost wraith-like and was clad in what could only be called beatnik attire; though it was the end of July and ninety degrees outside she wore a black turtleneck shirt and black capri pants with sandals.

She patted Gil on the shoulder and said in a soft slow drawl that seemed somehow to combine elements of both New York and the Deep South, “Hi Gil. I’m your AD, PA, general gofer, whatever y’all need or want, that sort of thing. They call me Holly Stigmata.”

Startled, Gil turned around and took her limp cool hand. “Uh, glad to meet you, miss, uh, Stigmata.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, boss,” she said in a voice that made Gil wonder if it was ironic or sexy.

“Okay then,” said Gorman again, “you technical people get to know each other, talk among yourselves. I’m outta here. I’ve got things to do and people to laugh at. Sooo, just to make things clear before I go, here’s what’s going to happen. We get the beach house and the private beach behind it starting August second. The first few days however, the set designer and decorator will be redoing the house to meet our specifications. So Richard and Gil, you’ll be doing establishing shots, scenic shots, shots of the actors wandering up and down the beach, stuff like that. Ellsworth knows what I want so he’ll be working with you on this part. Then you’ve got until about the twenty-seventh to get this thing filmed and wrapped. Any questions so far?”

Gil and Ellsworth looked at each other in a sort of what-can-you-do moment, then looked back at Gorman and shook their heads no. It was, Gil thought, going to be a long or short—depending on how you looked at it—month.

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