Jon Hansen

Yo, Gene babe, this is Howie, Howie Allen, from the Allen and Cross Agency. Good to hear from you, how ya been? How's the missus? FABulous! How're things at the studio? Yeah? How's things with the new picture, what's it called, Curse of the Elder Sign? Really? You hire that girl? You know the one I mean, the little redhead with the -- yeah, that's the one! Oh, Gene, I knew it, I just knew it! I had a feeling about her, let me tell you.

Gene, let me tell you the reason I'm calling. Got myself a new discovery that I think you oughta see. He's gotta fresh look, fresh moves, he's fresh meat. Major talent, I'm telling you. Major.

What's his deal? Well, he kinda looks like a young, funny Marty Feldman, only he ain't dead. Who? Feldman! Marty Feldman! You know, the Brit with the weird, bugging eyes! From Young Frankenstein, Brooks's picture! Whattsa matter, don't you know history? Yeah, that's the guy!

Whoa, whoa, settle down, Gene! Yeah, he's funny looking, but I'm telling you he's unbelievable! He'll kill 'em, have 'em rolling in the aisles! He'll absolutely SLAY them, trust me, babe.

Spotted him when I was back east last month, can you believe it? Yeah, the Manhattan trip! Well, it was the damnedest thing. I'd been cruising the theaters and clubs, you know me, looking for talent for you -- thanks, Gene, that means a lot coming from you -- and I'd been coming up with nothing, nada, zilcho. It was like all of New York had just dried up! So I was at this party at Reege's place, complaining about it, and one of the Baldwin boys -- I don't know which one, I can't tell 'em apart -- he says, "Why don't you go outta the city and look around? Check out the talent outta town before anyone else starts sniffing around?" I know, I know, stupid idea, but I figure what the hell? Ain't nothing happening here. So off I go.

So I fly out to Boston, figure I'll drive on out to Cambridge and sniff around Harvard. Yeah, Harvard! You know, they've got that Hasty Dessert thing people're always talking about, I figure they must know talent out there. So anyway, I'm out there and I catch a couple of local things. Nah. Saw a coupla longshots there, a blonde with nice hooters, but no one really interesting, know whatta mean?

So anyway by the time intermission comes up, I'm thinking 'bout sending my card back to the blonde, y'know, give her a thrill and maybe get myself a little coed action out of this trip, when this old geezer comes up to me. How should I know? Never seen him before. He was old, bowlegged, thick glasses. Had a funny smell, y'know? Kind of swampy. That's not the point. The point is he comes up to me and says, "Mr. Croft, if you're looking for real talent, I suggest you try here," hands me a card with an address on it, and just walks away.

Yeah, I thought he was trying to scam me, too. Sure, the local yokels always used to try that kind of crap with me, all the time, everywhere I went. That's my point, Gene. I don't tell anyone who I am or what I do. I walk quiet, go undercover, I blend, baby. Yeah, I know I was gonna announce myself, but I hadn't done it yet, Gene! I hadn't said word one to anyone, and that old guy still knew who I was! I know! Freaky!

Anyway, he didn't try and hardsell me or anything like that. The card said -- I got the card right here, actually -- it says, "Theater of the Yellow Sign, 10 Pickman St., Miskatonic University, Arkham, Mass.," and on the back it had a show time and date. I dunno, some Neil Simon thing, doesn't matter, but the show was the next night. So I decided, why not? That's right, baby, I'm a man of action!

So I meet with blondie for dinner, we go back to my room for dessert -- oh, she was unbelievable, Gene. Yeah. I know you want to hear more, but it'll have to wait for next time. Anyway, the next day I'm off. Rented me one of those sport utility vehicles -- oh, they're great, Gene, you should get one -- got me directions and headed out to Arkham.

Wasn't a bad drive. Nah, I wouldn't recommend it, Gene, there's some creepy looking country out there. Stick to the Vineyard. Anyway, by the time I made it into town it was dark and getting close to curtain time. I drove around a little, trying to find the street, but it wasn't easy. Spooky little town, Gene. At one point I'd be damned if I didn't see an old woman in a brown bathrobe with a rat on her shoulder run right out in front of me! That's right, I kid you not. I thought I'd hit her, but when I looked behind me, she was gone. Weird.

Anyway, eventually I find the theater, right across from ol' Miskatonic U. Yeah, weird name, Indian or something, I dunno. Anyway, the theater's just this hole in the wall, smells all smoky and dead, but there was a pretty good crowd. Mostly the college kids, y'know, but some locals, too.

So the curtain comes up, and it started -- now I remember the play, The Odd Couple, that's right! And out came that boy! Gene, I'm telling you, I thought he was a funny looking bastard, too, but that boy was something else! What? I don't know, Oscar, I think. Or maybe Felix. You know, the neat one! Felix, fine, whoever. So I'm watching him, and I can feel this excitement start to build in my gut. He just blew everyone else away. He had some kinda presence. The whole time I'm sitting there I'm thinking, 'this guy, he's the real deal!' I know, I know, local theater is small potatoes, but I'm telling you, Gene, he is the guy! It was all I could do not to charge up on stage, shove a pen in his hand and get him signed.

I grabbed a program and found out his name was Freddie Marsh. Yeah, that's his real name. I know, it's terrible, no ring to it at all, but he'll change it, I promise I'll get him to change. Can I finish?

So anyway, by the time intermission rolled around I was desperate. I tried to get backstage to see him, but this big goon wouldn't let me back there! I begged, I pleaded, I threatened, tried everything I knew, but he just kept standing there and glaring at me. Finally I settled on playing it cool. You know me, Gene, I'm Mr. Smooth. I gave Kong my card, asking him to deliver it to Mr. Marsh with the message that I was wondering if he'd mind meeting with me after the performance, and sat back down. Oh, yeah, Kong growled, but he delivered it!

Then, when the show started back up and he came back out, he was even better than before! I laughed, I cried, my God, Gene, this kid pulled all my strings! As soon as the curtain fell, I was there waiting for him to come out and talk to me. Sure, laugh all you want, but I'm telling you . . .

Anyway, he came right out, shook my hand and off we went. We had dinner at this seafood place -- I know, New England is covered with them. Right, right. So we talked, and get this: he's some local kid, totally untrained, a complete natural. Oh, from some jerkwater town. Innsmyth, I think he said it was. Wait, that's not right . . . No, I don't remember, but he said he was "very interested in listening to what I had to say." He's a smart boy, let me tell you!

Oh, you shoulda heard me, Gene! The sell routine I gave this kid! I waved visions of fame, fortune, and all the girls he wanted under his nose, and he went for it like a dolphin leaping for a tuna! Sat there with those big, staring eyes at me, his smile getting wider and wider as I told him how I'd make him a star, get everyone to hang on his every word and want his autograph! By the time the waiter brought us our lobsters, I had him signed on the dotted line! Oh, it was great, Gene! I love bringing on a new client, especially one that's gonna go places!

Well, I was thinking about you maybe looking him over for that picture you're doing with Greer and Thompson. You know, that MacBeth thing! Yeah, I know that's a big drama piece! Whattsa matter, you think just 'cause he's funny he can't be serious? Oh, yeah, right, tell that to Hanks, Williams, and Crystal, they can't be serious at all, sure. Okay, okay, fine, I understand. Buddy him with Shore? Shore couldn't get arrested in this town! All right, fine, some other has-been, just get my boy some ex-po-SURE. Yeah, he's still a nobody, he won't know any better, and it'd be good for him.

Well, he's flying in tomorrow afternoon, so I'll get him to the studio bright and early Thursday; you can look him over then. I talked to him last night, and can you believe it, he's thinking he's got a movie of his own he'd like to make. What is it about this town, everyone wants to direct! He's trying to pull a Cameron! Says he's got a screenplay of his own he'd like to make, he just knows the whole world'd be interested to see it!

No, no, I wouldn't expect the studio to back that right away. First picture from a total unknown, no, no. Let him get some word of mouth going first, get some interest up. I don't know what it is exactly. Some kind of sci-fi end-of-the-world thriller, set in the South Seas, I think. Sounded like Gilligan's Island meets Godzilla, kinda sorta, but with a different ending. Should really pull in the teenyboppers.

Wants to film it on location, says it'll add authenticity -- what? What's it called? Call of Cuhtoo . . . Cuhthoo. I dunno, Call of something. What?

Yeah, we can change the name.


© 2000 Edward P. Berglund
"Casting Call": © 2000 Jon Hansen. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1999 Erebus Graphic Design. All rights reserved. Email to: James V. Kracht.

Created: May 16, 2000; Current Update: August 9, 2004