Miss Julie Makes a Movie

My first name has inspired quite a few screen gems over the years. Much of the early credit for my nominal popularity belongs to August Strindberg, who wrote a 1888 stage play about love, lust, power, class warfare and death before dishonor. Though the movies were decades away -- courtesy of those judgy French of all people -- this Miss Julie is here to tell you that's the plot of pretty much all of them.

If you don't believe me, look no farther than the poster outside every brand of world theater. This time of year it's a sure bet I'm being mounted, forgiving the innuendo, on a summer stage near you. While the community player crowd can't get enough of me, how is it nobody's after new material with my name on it? Et tu, Main Street?

A longtime favorite at the cineplex, I was once played by Doris Day, according to what has to be the coolest piece of key art ever. Boy, they really laid it out for you back in the '50s, when enticing the masses into the cheap seats meant painting an extra disturbing portrait of the female psyche. "What happened to Julie on her honeymoon?" You'll have to pony up a quarter for the answer to that freaky diagnosis. Something tells me Hitchcock passed on me, the fat bastard. So what if I'm not an icy blonde with a kitchen knife? "Run, Julie, run run run for your life!"

In the seventies, Julie went to Bollywood, where I naturally became a huge blockbuster among all four quadrants of the lucrative Younger Older Sikh Sunni audience. I am a girl next door from Goa who gets dumped by my boyfriend and moves to Mumba to become a call girl. Mayhem ensues when my boyishly handsome millionaire industrialist boyfriend (think President of the Senior Caste) uncovers my checkered past. Still a very hot ticket, I likely incite many a  hallway skirmish in the rougher Punjabi film schools.

Judging from the poster pimping his good name beneath my own, Peter Sellers plays either my dad or my boyfriend in John and Julie. I'm a cheeky English schoolgirl who runs off to London to see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Eerily similar to my real life story, my journey to that big party to which I was never invited is seriously impeded by the many questionable characters I encounter along the way. I ask you, how can one name in all its various derivations enjoy so much significance in film and so little in filmmaking?

Call it Romeo & Juliet, Gnomeo & Juliet or Homeo & Juliet, the all-new queer film certain to open a future fringe festival.
Call it Fröken Julie from Ingmar Bergman's bunch or Mademoiselle Julie of the French New Wave.
Call it blog-based The Julie Julia Project,the rare one hundred percent inconsequential Meryl Streep spot-on cultural icon vehicle. And yes, I do have an ax to grind, since I formally answer to both Julie and Julia -- and also have an eponymous blog overdue for a big screen debut. Or a small one. Seriously, would it kill someone to fund, cast and shoot me for free streaming in some obscure web series nobody's talking about?

Though that pretty much wraps it up for my on-screen credits, I also enjoy remarkable irrelevance in pop music. Look no farther than Bobby Sherman, who never once bothered to meet, date or marry me. Though I highly doubt he actually wrote "Julie Do You Love Me," that guy built an entire career on my name -- which sure makes one of us.


I Dream of Julie

Here in Hollywood, we have many theories about how to get material into the right hands. An old film school friend once told me if you're convinced you have a great screenplay, toss it out the window on the freeway to make sure. His name was Greg, and he had been a successful musician, touring the world with any number of jazz legends before setting his sights on screenwriting. Like me, he had been living a dream life, just not his dream. Having stumbled into our earlier creative successes, we felt reasonably confident about sitting back and letting Hollywood happen.

Sadly, while there are plenty of stories about starlets discovered only by happenstance, it turns out not a single movie has been made after its script was found sitting on a stool in Schwab's Drugstore. We do love our underdog stories, and those of us charged with dreaming them up have an unnerving talent for putting a plausible spin on the unlikeliest scenarios.

For example, I am always in awe of writers I came up with who are still out there entering screenwriting competitions. Designed to discover newcomers, for the most part, the more prestigious of these generally don't allow anyone who's formally reached professional status to enter. Yet here these folks are, year after year, refusing to give up. I guess there's the prize money to be considered, along with an expected flurry of interest from agents and producers. Probably most important, though, is the tangible proof we all crave that we are not stark raving mad.

The other day I came across some studio coverage of an early script of mine. "Pitch perfect," the story analyst pronounced it. "A little gem."

Having indeed won a big competition back in the day, the script earned me an offer of representation by my longtime former manager, who'd served as an industry judge. It landed me a bunch of meetings around town and secured my first feature assignment.  What it didn't get was produced.

"Whenever a script has this many laugh out loud moments, it's got my vote for development consideration," the analyst concluded. I never met this random fan, before or since, though I did Google her name to learn she's now a professor of creative writing. You can read the rest of her coverage here. It's old and it has a big coffee stain on it, but I uploaded it just as it is.

Hollywood is anything but a meritocracy, so good writing has little if anything to do with making a good living nor heaven forbid making a good movie.  Once you've been told you've got talent by someone other than your mother, it's very hard indeed to walk away.

I haven't spoken to Greg lately, but I heard he's back in the music business on the East Coast, and that he recently self-published his first novel on Amazon.


Panties Are Not a Punchline, Honey, Just Shut Up and Bring the Funny

I've been thinking about what it is to be a funny, female writer who  gives it all away in these pages as though hostessing some budget-friendly girlie show in the sky. The way I figure it, a humor blogger  should really shoot for adorable, self-styled glamour-puss over bitter little misanthrope when welcoming a crowd gathering for a laugh. Not that any of that happens much here. Stop me when I'm overreaching.

"The definition of 'crazy' in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to sleep with her anymore," Tina Fey tells us.

In that case I'm in a pretty good position, as positions go, since I mostly write quietly and for my own amusement. Then again, there's only so much navel-gazing you can do and hope to become as relevant as say, Leah Dunham's anus. However ass-backwards, maybe the rest of her only got into the game because self-deprecating humor was her birthright as a direct descendent of Manhattan's post-feminist gliteratti. There's a crowd that kept right on gabbing long after the sexy came and went.

Back in the day, a midwest housewife named Phyllis Diller was actually too hot for this job, and only came up with the whole crazy chicken look to take your mind off wanting to nail her. Joan Rivers felt Johnny Carson both brought her up and took her down as though she'd belonged to him on both ends, like a disposable early wife. To check the strength of current ties between comic appeal and sex appeal, count up all the comediennes -- from Kathy Griffin to Molly Shannon, Sarah Silverman and even Sandra Bernhard -- whose underwear you can describe in some detail. Now try this with the guys -- until you get to a single goofball who looks any good in it.

In life as in comedy, most girls will do what it takes to draw an audience, and the truth is we don't care how you got here as long as you pay for your own drinks and stay awake for the show.

At my level, even bothering to read my work earns you the right to rip into it at leisure. My mother told me that my brother didn't care for an online novella I wrote about a sexually adventurous former panty model who goes to work for L.A.P.D. Hollywood Division. To me this is the perfect comic set up, but he found it inappropriate for children, of which he has three, apparently comprising the remainder of my readership. The whole brood gathers around the family laptop in the evening to read Auntie's uncensored internet musings. And I'm inappropriate? Seriously, get an X-Box and some boundaries.

Mom herself dismissed my brief foray into smut writing with a snort. "You're better than that," she announced. Really? Who knew? I figure in the absence of any monetary recognition (or really any other kind) in this digital cabaret of mine, I am entitled to some authenticity of voice. As I tell the students in my on-again off-again film professor gig, there's all kinds of talent in this town, but nobody brings you but you.

Though there are many schools of thought as to whether comedy can be learned, I see my whole life as a sketch in search of its rightful pay-off. "I think if you have a comic perspective, almost anything that happens you tend to put through a comic filter, " Woody Allen told The Paris Review in an interview on the art of comedy. "People think it’s very hard to be funny but it’s an interesting thing. If you can do it, it’s not hard at all."

While you'd expect a few choice pearls of "hisdom" from the guy behind the loopy, self-doubting humor of Annie Hall, his comic perspective is remarkably free of gender bias:
It would be like if I said to somebody who can draw very well, My God, I could take a pencil and paper all day long and never be able to draw that horse. I can’t do it, and you’ve done it so perfectly. And the other person feels, This is nothing. I’ve been doing this since I was four years old. That’s how you feel about comedy—if you can do it, you know, it’s really nothing.
"Is he still shtupping his daughter?" Mom inquired, as if that were right on point with today's topic. I saw him in a Q&A a few years back and told her this hadn't come up. But the two them have been married awhile now, so I doubt it. See, now that's funny.


What Not to Do When You Meet a Rolling Stone

I was introduced to one of the Rolling Stones at a dinner party. Apparently he's the fifth one, though he's not skinny, old, or even English, so I'm not sure he really counts. Also he didn't have a supermodel on his arm, but rather a perfectly lovely conceptual artist around my age.

We talked local architecture, earthquakes and heart health, but I can't say I found him all that fascinating. Hollywood parties are about figuring out who has what you might want, and I'm just not looking for a backstage pass. I gave up champagne with the rest of my illusions, weed is something to be whacked in the garden, and I can put together my own late night snack table, with or without glutens.

What I am after is a lasting connection. To my mind, that means either a very big job offer or a request for my hand in marriage. Either or, I'm really not picky.

Imagine my reaction to a second pair of party guests visiting the same home on another occasion. He's a network executive credited with saving a certain ensemble sitcom from implosion after the cast created a mafia. She's his wife. They met on a bus tour of the Holy Land shortly after her starter marriage to some lesser specimen fell apart. "We were just friends," she said of the gem at her side in four brilliant words, translating from the Yiddish, "no chuppah, no shtuppah."

I could not decide which of them I loved more. He was a king. She was a goddess, and also a lawyer, which is a pretty cool combination in any town. Forging a friendship with either half of this power couple could only mean promising introductions and the sharing of well-guarded secrets. I would finally learn where to winter in Maui when Aspen gets snowed in! Oh, the laughs we'd have about the time I was single and on a budget.

Wouldn't you just know I'd be stuck on the far side of a huge table beside some ass yakking at me about his political opposition to Twitter. "All that 'liking' and 'following'?" he offered up like a stock tip. "Corporate conspiracy, look into it."

A delightful elderly lady on my other side suddenly began gushing about having found not one but two great dresses on sale somewhere for sixty-nine bucks each. Then again, she may have been visiting another era, since she was said to be suffering from advanced dementia, but given the right cut and fabric her enthusiasm made perfect sense to me.

This is around when I caught Tweetboy checking a baked salmon for extra eyeballs. With the steely determination of a Nazi hunter, he laid out the inevitable world domination of Norway's fish farmers, snapping a picture for his files. "Be afraid," he said. "Be very afraid." I definitely was.

The evening was over before I could reel in either one of my own catches. I vaguely remember a desperate attempt to pull focus with an off-color joke about some sexually ambiguous filmmaker, followed by a weak request to pass the potatoes.

I later reached out to the husband on Linkedin, though he has yet to accept. Like it or not, there is a food chain in Hollywood. It must be respected, even after you make your way into the right parties -- where rambling old ladies understand you completely, and rock legends are dismissed with the full-fat cheese, and the only thing certain your future holds is looking back at you from a beautifully polished silver platter.


Djulie Unchained

Luckily there are no rules in Hollywood, or I definitely would have broken one by telling Darren Star he should be reading my blog. I also told him I would be referring to him here only as "Mr. Bigger" which was both a bald-faced lie and not terribly clever, simultaneously breaking two more rules that don't exist in the span of six seconds, give or take.

In my defense, the chances of Darren Star actually reading my blog aren't much better now than him doing so had I never spoken to him at all. He has people and minions who have people and minions of their own to not read my blog, so I can't imagine him wanting to not want to read it himself. Then again, if there's one thing I've learned about Hollywood it's that anything can not happen at any time.

We were at a Writer's Guild event where famous writers gather to tell the rest of us how that happy event comes to pass, and apparently it has something to do with following your instincts, except when it doesn't. Also it's about luck and timing, except when it isn't, and at the end of the day, it's about story and character except when it's about other stuff. One of these is being in the right restaurant at the right time with the right network president prepared to pitch a high concept medical procedural. "It's not a who done it, it's a what done it," you are supposed to lob across the table with the bread rolls. "The germs are the bad guy," you should add. You might want to use both your napkin and the finger bowl at this point, though both are optional.

This was apparently how "House' was sold, and though I never saw "House," I am impressed by the fact that the TV show, rather than say the United States House of Representatives, comes up first when you Google the word, with or without quotes. I didn't even stay to hear the "Breaking Bad" guy speak, since I never never saw that, either, and the sum of what I know about both series is 1) They are about guys,  2) They win awards and 3) None of this has anything to do with me.

Darren Star, on the other hand,  created an iconic show about four separate and fully-formed women, all around my age. One of them is a writer. Who writes about sex. And the city. He created Melrose Place even as I lived all that right here in these pages.  He gave the world Beverly Hills, 90210; I got a parking ticket there meeting with an agent who never signed me. On top of all that, he's a fellow Bruin, who told at least three anecdotes I'd heard or read elsewhere, including in the pages of a UCLA doctoral thesis around his work.

Really, there comes a point when failure and success are just a hair's breadth away from one another, and there is something incredibly liberating about being the one without a single thing to lose.

"Darren Star to produce irreverent new comedy based on unknown blog discovered en route to the men's room!" Variety would declare once we get our cast-contingent pilot pick-up after a lucrative network bidding war. "Not That Much Sex in This City," Nikki Finke would sniff come awards season, in the event it ever becomes legal for her to live snark the red carpet again. Oh, the early morning quips the big deal producer and his overweight sensation will trade with Al Roker about our kooky friendship that would have never happened but for my inappropriate stalking  old school Hollywood moxie.

I told Darren Star I had no idea why I'd shown up to this event, which was probably the nuttiest thing possible to have shared, being the painful truth and all. I write unproduced features and I write them alone at Starbucks, where we screenwriters don't even look at one another, let alone tweak pages meant to be shot in the morning while simultaneously knifing one another in the back.

"The name's Djulie," I wish I'd added over a shoulder, blowing on an imaginary six shooter and walking off into the sunset with my head held high. "The D is silent, hillbilly." He would have forgotten it either way, but he might have had someone who was anyone call the police first,  and you can be dead sure one or all of them would most certainly not check out my blog.


Manager & Me: A Love Story

It begins like any other Hollywood romance. You, perched on a bar stool, dangling a brand new, high concept feature spec like a femme fatale with a cigarette between her lips, awaiting the flame of a passing Zippo and a memorable quip. You know very well how to play it coolJessica Rabbit, Lauren Bacall, Olivia Newton-John "Bad Sandy" cool. You could write cool in your sleep, and often do just for kicks.

Unfortunately, this describes pretty much every unagented screenwriter in every Starbucks up and down Ventura Boulevard, desperately available, quietly dying inside, hellbent on forging that elusive bond certain to change everything forever on the sheer force of your God-given gift for wordplay.

You were with your former manager for nearly ten years, a virtual lifetime in Hollywood terms, before the light went out in your eyes. Oh sure, you flew solo for a time, content to ignore your own calls, offer up your own indecipherable script notes and buy your own Pan Asian noodle bar lunches.

You might have accepted a casual reference or two from a writer friendwho'd mysteriously declined representation from some prize catch or another herself. Seriously, if some bozo with a resume can't find the time to read you during a twenty-one hour flight to Club Med Phuket, what possible hope could the two of you have for a future?

Then one day you look up and there she is. Of all the gin joints in all the world. Okay, so there's no gin, because gin is about as passe as gluten and Range Rovers. Also, it isn't a joint, but rather her fancy Beverly Hills offices with the exposed pipes and the polished concrete. An exceedingly polite male assistant bears a passing resemblance to Steve Urkel, grown up now with a light English accent and a Wharton MBA.

You honestly couldn't say what she's wearing when your eyes first lock, beyond an air of confidence and a shimmering coat of that long-wearing lipstick that looks great on her and Halle Berry in the magazine but ridiculous on you. "I didn't want to read you and I didn't want to like you," she says. "But I did and I do."

The Zippo, the quip, the spark, the flameyou, my friend, are a goner. Everything feels new and alive and all things are possible. Not so fast, agent lady, you will suddenly think, dialing it back a notch.

No stranger to relationship mechanics, having failed at so many over the years yourself (see here, here and here), you know very well a girl can't just give it away. Certainly not in Hollywood, where honesty is the hallmark of a rank amateur, does one start throwing the truth around in the company of a virtual stranger with blindingly white teeth.

A formidable opponent indeed, she's lined her walls with books, real ones with hard covers filled with actual paper and words printed on them in ink. You remark on one whose title you like and she writes it downwith a real live pen on an honest to God notepadin the event you want to attach to the screen rights. "Are you real?" you want to cry out.

Instead you slip in a little indie project that would have made your ex's head explode, given the amount of sweat equity required of her. "On it," she says, jotting that down, too, in the prettiest cursive you've ever seen. It turns out bypassing the studio system is how she broke in not one but two recent Oscar-winning clients she is far too humble to describe as such, despite all that being Hollywood legend. 

She seals the deal with an anecdote about once stopping a pitch meeting with Oliver Stone upon the discovery of something sparkly on a client's ring finger. "I'm not the type to sit there and ignore a rock that size while talking deal points," she says.

"I'm yours!" you blurt out. "All yours! Forever!"  So much for Jessica Rabbit. Under her firm but gentle guidance, you've already become Betty Boop, the world's oldest fresh young thing, who just wants to be loved already. 

The plan is to start at awards season and work backwards to the part where the light might very well some day die in your eyes. Like love itself, Hollywood is anything but linear; we go round and round in circles here until the dizziness drives us mad. Another thing they won't tell you in film school is, yes, your story must have a beginning, middle and end, but it doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. 

Boop boop be do.


Diary of a Mad Screenwriter

One of the best ways to tell if you're a real writer is you don't feel normal unless specifically engaged in the act or writing, which is to say hardly ever. Certainly there are days when I spend virtually all of my waking minutes working, but this only happens once the characters have sprung forth fully formed from the bare bones of my story. At that point, they're pretty much running the show until they've dictated every last one of their assorted wants and needs, which I'm expected to serve like a scullery maid between brief and fitful bouts of sleep.

What would seem to most people a disturbing psychiatric diagnosis indeed is in fact the writer's version of an overall sense of well-being.

It's hard to explain all of this to "regular" people, such as my brother, although in his case I use that term loosely. He chooses to live on some tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where they frequently run out of important staples such as diet Coke and cheese.  To my mind this is where they ship guys named Chuzzleworth to go away and die in Dickens novels.

He returns stateside only occasionally to buy electronics at Wal-Mart, complain about the traffic and question the veracity of this supposed little Hollywood career of mine spanning the better part of two decades now. "I've got something going with Forest Whitaker," I'll report brightly. "The Forest Whitaker. That guy."

"Call me when the funding comes through," he'll sniff. Somehow convinced I'm supported by space aliens who drop little wads of cash around the garden for me to dig up on the full moon, he's equally mystified by this blog. "I don't see the point," he said during a recent visit. "What kind of writer writes for free?" 

Did he really not know that some of Mark Twain's most memorable work comes from his journals? Oscar Wilde wrote his diaries behind bars, as did Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, Václav Havel and pretty much every Russian with a pencil. To translate the tenacity of the genre in a more familiar language, I considered offering up some free porn from the memoirs of Anaïs Nin, Henry James and Simone de Beauvoir.

I settled on hitting him with the monetary potential around getting noticed in Hollywood. "If you build it, they will come," I said.

"No they won't," he scoffed. "Get out of the fairy tale."

Though most of our conversations end with these last words of advice, part of me had to wonder if he was right. I've been "building it" my entire life -- hellbent on getting into the fairy tale. This is where my Oscar awaited, along with my beloved Prince -- the artist, not some idiot on a horse -- eager to compose the imaginary soundtrack on the imaginary movie of my imaginary life. "I'm just creating an online repository of my work," I sighed.

"Why didn't you say so?" He returned to his laptop, presumably to scan some real work by real writers paid real money to put it there. Maybe I should be writing Wal-Mart ads instead of this nonsense. Nah. It looks like a full moon tonight, and the aliens are bound to deliver.


Snow White and the Seven Screenwriters

A little known fact about Hollywood screenwriters is we don't tend to like each other much. We don't really like anybody, actually, which is why we sit alone in a room all day every day making up stories about much cooler people living in way better worlds.

Although television writers do hunker down and work together over the course of a given season, I suspect their physical proximity is the primary source of both the comedy and the vitriol you hear so much about. It is likewise the probable source of the drama and the vitriol among one hour writers, although even they tend to break off alone at the first marginally socially acceptable moment possible.

As for satire and vitriol, that would be film school. Here not only writers, but also directors, producers and yes even those happy pants little animators must converge to blow up or die trying. Picture four years' worth of The Hunger Games only with more Oreos and just about the same amount of quad squirrel to chase in circles.

You see, when your mother warned you Hollywood was a scary place full of mean people, she didn't mean another wicked witch ensconced in a studio tower demanding some poor bastard in a headset bring back your still beating heart. Nobody wants your heart, of all things; this being Hollywood, you can check that crazy thing at the door. Anyway, you're not getting anywhere near the type with the power to crush you, who actually tend to be pretty awesome once they figure out you've brought along something they want, such as the lunch delivery from Panera.

No, not even the huntsmen (agents) scanning the forest (daily trades) in search of fresh meat (any passing reference to themselves) are the folks out to get you. It's the dwarves, people! Our own kind, an entire tribe of us overtaking every Starbucks up and down Ventura Boulevard by daybreak, endlessly pecking at laptops which may or may not even be turned on.  Sleepy, Grumpy, Bashful, Dopey, Happy and the dreaded Sneezywe're not a very original clan, all things considered.

Obviously, I am Doc, the one who knows everything and is all too pleased to share it with you right here and naturally everywhere else. I view this not only as an extension of both my prickly personality and longtime survivor status, but also my job as a part-time film school instructor. In fact, I routinely look parents in the eye and assure them everything is going to be alright, despite that being a bald-faced lie.

This is partly why, when my partner Fabulous and I were recently named one of five finalists in a filmmaking competition, I reached out to the other four with offers of Facebook friendship and congratulatory re-Tweets. Only one responded in kind, however, an obvious Happy who is also Young and Adorable. There's been nary a peep from Preoccupied or Self-Sufficient, though Cautiously Optimistic recently emerged, quietly following me on Instagram. Should we meet, I plan to present each with a Pez dispenser in his or her likeness, along with a passive-aggressive joke about Doc's happy pills.

Like I say, we screenwriters aren't exactly extroverts, but some of us are better than others at pretending these woods of Holly are ever so warm and welcoming. I, for one, will surrender neither my satire nor my vitriol, since I am hostessing this party, and we are all going to have fun if it kills us.

Pictured: Right, the late Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White; Above, Marge Champion (now 93) the dancer used as her model. Although I have no proof, I can only assume they hated one another for life.


Friends Don't Let Friends Write at Starbucks

According to Hollywood mythology, a local video store clerk took a regular booth at House of Pies to lay down the bones of an opus he was calling Pulp Fiction. Perhaps driven by some sense of originality, another unknown writer headed north a few blocks to join the hip counter crowd at Cafe 101, inspiring the world of Swingers. And then there's the Brooklyn comic who wrote Annie Hall. In the absence of his trusty typewriter, he scribbles bits of Oscar-winning dialogue on a small notepad in his shirt pocket, carrying the muse -- along with that tenacious little Asian girl, one presumes -- wherever his travels take him.

I can't actually confirm any of this, since I write in bed, where I am right now, coincidentally, watching the closing arguments of the Jodi Arias murder trial on HLN. Convinced I've developed a close personal relationship with the live Tweeting, phone-sexting, manifesto-authoring Lizzie Borden of our time, I suppose I'm cultivating my own legend.

That's not to say that this reclusive writer never leaves the house to form actual relationships with real people who aren't both overtly homicidal and remarkably telegenic. Why just this morning I stepped out to grab a footlong egg and cheese sandwich -- unconcerned that the counter guy at Subway knows my order, down to the light shaking of extra salt and careful slicing into four equal portions. Combine this with the pound of grapes and fresh pack of Dentyne I picked up, and I'm pretty well hunkered down for the day.

Obviously I bypassed the herd of wannabes shirking a real workplace in pursuit of high creativity -- only to invest our scant pennies in an establishment as unimaginative as Starbucks. I buy Folger's Classic Roast -- memorably dismissed by my Serbian communist ex-mother-in-law as "black water" -- in oversized plastic tubs on sale at Vons. (I find it's important an anecdote be equal parts colorful, confessional and specific in an age when your garden variety death row murderess fancies herself a significant literary voice).

Speaking of life sentences as only a writer can, I once saw a picture of Dorothy Parker hard at work while inadvertently dating herself in the dim light of a mid-century lamp, stubbornly studded with stars. Years beyond the Jazz Age glamor of the Algonquin Round Table, she appears to be at home, lost in thought and chewing on her pencil with an anemic houseplant in the shadows and yet another blank page staring her in the face.

Though she must have been around my age, seated there alone she seemed old before her time. A martini just out of frame might have been her only form of companionship, since she'd surely scoff at the notion of coming up for air to visit an inferior square table at some weenie internet cafe. Today we can compulsively check e-mail for a sense of connection, however false; or dial into Facebook with a quick quip in exchange for a word of recognition -- where Parker's crowd had to surface for an afternoon cocktail. "I like a good martini," goes her familiar toast, "Two at the very most. Three I'm under the table. Four I'm under the host." You don't get that kind of gem down at the corner Coffee Bean.

The thing about being great with dialogue is that's the easy part. As for the rest of the story -- and mind you I am no breast-augmented murderess with a built-in audience and a seven figure book deal in the works -- that's the part that drives a girl to drink. Of course, the only thing you'll find in my cup today is some weak and pathetic yet very reasonably priced coffee.