“A guy walks into that same restaurant and sees the girl he’s gonna marry.”
Over the next couple years, I continued to work at Johnny Rockets. All of that original crew of waiter/actors moved on. I don’t know where any of them are today. They were replaced by new waiter/actors. Such is the cycle of life. I watched a lot of movies. I also wrote a lot of “things” (poems, short stories, scenes) about a shy guy getting his dream girl. Go ahead, cringe. It was even worse than it sounds. Boy, was I a pathetic loser. And none of it helped me get a girlfriend.
OK, that’s not entirely true.
September 1997. I walked into the restaurant and saw a new girl. A pretty blonde. A California Girl by way of Boston University, here to make it in the big, bad city. (But she lived in Weehawken, because she couldn’t afford to live in the big, bad city.) It was my senior year, and I had made a recent life choice to stop being the tortured, shy, weird guy and try on some false confidence for a change. I flirted with her. I blurted out that I was writing a play. Which was a lie. I was thinking about writing a play. I told her maybe she could be in it. Now, this girl, who is the mother of my children, she didn’t really fall for it. But there was something there that interested her. Thank god for that. (And I did write the play, and she did act in it. And it was about a shy guy getting his dream girl.)
“A guy walks into a restaurant… in Los Angeles.”
By the fall of 2000, I wasn’t doing jack shit with my life. I worked an office job. I went to happy hours. I watched every inning of every Yankees game. Every minute of every Knicks game. And every minute of every Jets game. Fortunately, I was never that interested in hockey. I still dreamt of writing and making movies, but I wasn’t working toward making that dream a reality.
I was about to turn 24 and I knew my life was at a crossroads. If I didn’t do something fast, I’d never do anything. So, I decided to apply to NYU, UCLA, USC and Columbia University film schools.
By the spring of 2001, I was soundly rejected from those film schools, and from film schools I didn’t even apply to. Normally, this would have been a signal from the universe that making movies was just not meant to be for little old Alexander Drummond from Dumont, New Jersey. But I was feeling feisty. Maybe it’s the Jersey in me. I also knew that I had spent a lot of time thinking about writing movies and making movies, but I hadn’t worked on the dreams. Deep down, I just knew that if I dove into the deep end, moved to Hollywood, and applied myself, like really applied myself, I’d write and sell a screenplay within a year. Then I’d be on my way, and I’d be able to make movies.
I needed money for the move, so I got my old job back at Johnny Rockets Hoboken. I had grown soft, and this was like when Rocky would go back to his old school training methods before the big fight. I remember being embarrassed when guys I went to high school with came in to eat, because, well, I was their waiter. Turns out it was good preparation for what lay ahead.
Rachael and I drove my ’86 VW Jetta across the country and arrived in Hollywood in September 2001. I got a job at the Johnny Rockets in Century City. I was ready to win. I even had a screenplay in hand called THE BOUNTY HUNTERS! It was about a group of friends from NJ who become bounty hunters so they can capture one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Criminals, who’s also the bully from their childhood. I figured it was a great vehicle for Adam Sandler and would open all the doors a Jersey boy could want opened.
I sent out query letters and people responded. They wanted to read the screenplay!
And they read it. And it was terrible.
TO BE CONTINUED…