The lights went on and we all blinked. I heard the sound of clapping behind me and I stood up and joined them.
"Well, what did you folks think?" the director asked, standing before us.
"Oh, Mr. Hughes, it was great!" I laughed. "You did a wonderful job on the screenplay. And the directing was perfect - - just as I'd imagined it!"
"Great. I'm glad you liked it. The studio's pleased, too."
I looked at my family, waiting for them to say something, anything, but they just stared off into space.
"Oh, and the opening..." I laughed, trying to think of something to say to cover up for my family's lack of enthusiasm. "John William's music was great and all those pictures of famous people... there were so many...like, let's see, uh...John Wayne, John Adams...Mom, who else was there...uh...John Kennedy, Jack Benny, John Housemann....Dad, who do you remember...Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Pope John Paul II...John Lennon...Mom, Dad, aren't you going to say anything? This is John Hughes. The famous director."
My family sat with folded arms and dumfounded faces. I swallowed. "Uh, sorry, Mr. Hughes, I uh...they...well...they hadn't seen the story till now...I um...."
The famous director gave me an understanding look, and shrugging, wished me luck.
"Look, you guys. Look's who's in the screening room with us," I said, pointing to the laughing faces as they rose and slowly wandered out of the room. I'd never seen so many famous people all in one place at the same time. "Look, there's Johnny Carson...and Johnny Mathis, and Jack Nicholson and Jack Lemmon, and Sean Penn and John Tesh...Look, even Juan Valdez is here with his burro..."
They didn't even turn around. They just stared up angrily at me.. "I got them all to autograph these screenplays..." I stammered, shoving them into their hands.
"Honey," I said, turning to my daughter. "You liked it, didn't you?"
But she was asleep on my wife's shoulder. My wife wasn't looking at me either.
My family just got up and walked out of the screening room, single file, without turning back.
"Come on, it wasn't that bad!" I yelled after them and dashed out of the room. I took too wide a turn and crashed into the wall. A bunch of hands lifted me up.
I looked up. Oh, boy. All my sports heroes, and they'd just seen me be super-clutz. "Johnny Bench...Johnny Unitas...Ivan Lendl..Jack Nicklaus...Jackie Stewart..." I stammered.
They were laughing. "Did you like the movie?" I stuttered.
"...a real home run."
"...a hole in one..."
"...a flying finish..."
"Thanks!" I gasped, feeling a little better. I waved as I ran down the hall after my family. "Mom, Dad, wait!" I called.
"If you need a lawyer, I played one once..." John Travolta chuckled as I ran as fast as I could and saw my family disappear out the door.
Dozens of other celebrities blurred by before I finally reached the parking lot.
They were still steaming. Mom turned away from me with a growl and dashed into the closest car -- mine.
My older brother squeezed in after her. "Like, when do I go around philosophizing?" he snapped, turning back to me before he slammed the door. He rolled down the window part-way. "I'm a lawyer, for goodness sakes -- you know lawyers don't have any deep thoughts...And I open a motorcycle maintenance shop in your movie...and hand out philosophy tips? How trite!" They sped off with my wife at the wheel.
Dad was pulling out in his car. Fortunately he forgot to lock the passenger door, and I whipped the door open as his tires screeched to get away from me.
Safely inside, and gasping, I turned to my younger brother and sister in the backseat. "You guys aren't really mad, are you? I know I exaggerated a little..."
"Mad?" my sister laughed, a screechy, hideous laugh. "Are you kidding?" She scorched me with a blinding sneer. "We're not mad, we're furious! Our lives are ruined, thanks to you. Ruined!" She growled and shook her head viciously.
"It's just a story, hun..." I pleaded.
"A story...uh, huh. What do you know about stories? The whole thing is full of holes a mile wide. You're supposed to be an artist in the story. First of all, that's a laugh. And second of all, what's the artist telling the story for? The mother's supposed to be the writer, how come she doesn't tell the story? Not that the story is worth telling...at least the way you told it!" she screamed.
"Well..." I stammered.
"Yeah, and thanks a lot!" my little brother said, sticking his tongue out at me. "You really gave me a winner character. How am I supposed to go to school and face everyone now. A dancer? Thank goodness you said in the end that I was straight. But even so, school's going to be a living hell for me. And I've got a whole 'nother year to get through!"
"You guys don't understand. It's just a story. No one..."
"What's the world going to think of me!" Dad was seething. "I've never seen such a pathetic character. And I don't even wear a watch, you know that! How am I supposed to look anyone in the eye now? You've really done it this time!"
"And we don't even have a brother named John..." my sister burst out.
"I...I needed some reconciliation scene -- a little tear jerker, you know."
"Humpf!" they all sneered.
"Look, you guys are missing the whole point. It's not supposed to be about us. At the end they have this blurb about how the characters are fictitious...you know..any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental..."
"Like people aren't going to think it's about us?" my sister moaned, and she pulled out a pair of dark sunglasses and folded her arms in disgust. "The characters may have different names, but the actors and actresses even looked exactly like us, for Pete's sake...Oh, and thanks for making me Miss Sleaze USA, by the way. I REALLY appreciated that!"
"But I wrote it under a pseudonym. No one will even suspect..."
"Oh, that'll really do the trick!" Dad roared. "How many books named 'John, Your Name Is Famous' do you know about?" he growled. "Of course they're going to think it's about us! And they're going to think we're rich or something, and here we are just struggling to survive."
"YEAH!" the backseat jeerers growled.
"What makes it worst of all," Dad sighed, "what really rubs it in, is that you're telling the world the book was a success, when you know damn well we only sold 627 copies!"
"But it has to have a happy ending. That's Hollywood. Besides, maybe some big exec will see the movie, and sign up a series of Names Books, and it'll work out happily ever after for real..."
That made them laugh. "RIGHT!"
"It could happen..." I muttered.
Dad pulled up out front of the house, and everyone got out, except me -- I was having trouble with the seat belt. I think they had sabotaged it, somehow.
"Hey, can you sue your brother?" my siblings mumbled as they stormed up the steps to the house.
"All the celebrities are doing it. I don't see why we can't too!" my sister concluded.
"Hey, you guys!" I yelled.
They moped up to the front door.
"Don't be so mad at me!" I called, still trapped. "It's only a movie!"
My wife pulled up, and she roared up the steps after Mom, tightly clutching my daughter, and whispering into her ear not to look at Daddy. My daughter waved meekly.
I finally got myself free and ran after them.
The door closed firmly in my face. I knocked a few times, then sat down on the front steps with a sigh.
I sat there for a while, and then the door opened and my daughter stepped out and knelt down beside me. "I love you, Daddy," she whispered and kissed my cheek.
I hugged her. "I love you too, honey."
"Daddy's famous?" she asked innocently.
"Well, Daddy's sure not famous, but his name is infamous around here, right now."
She shrugged, then pointed up into the air. "Hnow, Daddy. Hnow!"
I looked up and saw them throwing their ripped-up autographed copies of the screenplay out the window. The pages floated down like snow and fell to the ground, all around Mrs. Filburn as she inched along down the sidewalk.
"JOHN, Your Name Is Famous"
is a real book, but it was a complete financial flop, selling a little
over 600 copies over 10 years. Everything else in this story is completely
fictitious, including all the characters. No similarity to anyone living
or dead is intended nor implied.
No celebrity endorsement
of this book or JOHN, Your Name Is Famous should be inferred.
The inclusion of celebrity names in this account is strictly for humor
and wishful-thinking daydreaming on the part of the author.
If you still harbor daydreams of getting your can't miss book published -- GOOD LUCK, but don't say you haven't been warned!
But then again, maybe your
self-published book will be the one-in-a-million that does turn into
a best-seller and your name will be famous. You never know. If not,
you can always turn your experience into a far-fetched fictional account
like this one. Then no one but you will have to know that your real-life
experience was even stranger than your re-told fictional account.