by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from True Romance, screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
Inside Stretch and Maggie O’Brien’s room at the Hollywood Holiday Inn, Dick Ritchie’s jaw dropped when he saw the suitcase full of cocaine. Stretch smiled, watching his friend’s reaction.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God,” Dick said.
“Honey, you got your blade?” Stretch asked Maggie. Keeping her eyes on the TV, she pulled out from her purse a Swiss army knife with a tiny dinosaur on it and tossed it to Stretch.
“This can’t be real,” Dick said.
“It’ll get ya high,” Stretch said, tossing Dick the knife.
Using the knife, Dick tasted some of the cocaine. He jumped back. “It’s real!”
“I certainly hope so,” Stretch said.
“You’ve got a helluva lotta coke there, man!” Dick said. “Do you have any idea how much coke you got?!” Dick exclaimed.
“I don’t know — a lot! This is Drexel’s coke?” Dick asked.
“Drexel’s dead,” said Stretch. “This is Stretch’s coke, and Stretch can do whatever he wants with it. And what Stretch wants to do is sell it. Then me and Maggie are gonna leave on a jet plane and spend the rest of our lives spendin’. So, you got my letter. Have you lined up any buyers?”
“Look, Stretch, I’m not Joe Cocaine,” Dick said.
“But you’re an actor. I hear these Hollywood guys have it delivered to the set,” Stretch said.
“Yeah, they do,” said Dick. “And maybe when I start being a successful actor, I’ll know those guys. But most of the people I know are like me. Now, if you want to sell a little bit at a time–”
“No way! The whole enchilada in one shot,” Stretch said sharply.
“Do you have any idea how difficult that’s gonna be?” Dick yelped.
“I’m offering a half a million dollars worth of white for two hundred thousand,” Stretch said. “How difficult can that be?”
“It’s difficult because you’re sellin’ it to a particular group,” Dick said, “big shots, fat cats, guys who can use that kind of quantity, guys who can afford two hundred thousand — basically, guys I don’t know. You don’t know. And, more important, they don’t know you. I did talk with one guy who could possibly help you.”
“Is he big league?” Stretch asked.
“He’s nothing. He’s in my acting class. But he works as an assistant to a very powerful movie producer named Lee Donowitz. I thought Donowitz could be interested in a deal like this. He could use it. He could afford it.”
“What’s this acting class guy’s name?” Stretch asked.
“OK, call ‘im up and arrange a meeting, so we can get through all the getting-to-know-you stuff,” Stretch said thoughtfully.
“Where?” Dick asked.
“The zoo,” Stretch said.
“The zoo…” Dick said thoughtfully.
“What are you waiting for?” Stretch said impatiently.
“Would you just shut up a minute and let me think?” Dick said.
“What’s to think about?” Stretch said.
“Shut up!” Dick snapped. “First you come waltzing into my life after two years. You’re married. You killed a guy.”
“Two guys,” Stretch corrected.
“Two guys. Now you want me to help you with some big drug deal. Jeez, Stretch, you killed somebody, and you’re blowin’ it off like it don’t mean nothin’.”
“Don’t expect me to be all broken up over poor Drexel. I got no pity for a mad dog like that. I think I should get a merit badge or somethin’.”
Dick rested his head in his hands. “You know, I… also read about a guy that sounded a lot like you fighting the Junior JSA.”
“Yeah, there was that, too. It’s been a busy year. Look, buddy, I realize I’m layin’ some pretty heavy stuff on ya,” Stretch said sympathetically, “but I need you to rise to the occasion. Get used to the idea, and get your friend to the phone.”
At the Los Angeles Zoo, a black panther paced back and forth. Stretch, Maggie, Dick, and Elliot Blitzer were walking through the zoo. One look at Elliot, and they could see what type of actor he was, a real GQ, blow-dry boy. As they walked and talked, Stretch was eating a box of animal crackers, and Maggie was constantly blowing soap bubbles.
“So you guys got five hundred thousand dollars worth of cola that you’re unloading–” Elliot said, thinking.
“Want an animal cracker?” Stretch asked.
“Yeah, OK,” Elliot said, taking one.
“Leave the gorillas,” Stretch said.
“–that you’re unloading for two hundred thousand dollars,” Elliot continued.
“Unloading? That’s a helluva way to describe the bargain of a lifetime!” Stretch exclaimed.
“Stretch…” Dick said, trying to chill him out.
“Where did you get it?” Elliot asked.
“I grow it on my windowsill,” Stretch said. “The lights really great there, and I’m up high enough so you can’t see it from the street.
Elliot forced a laugh. “Ha-ha-ha. No really, where does it come from?”
“Coco leaves. You see, they take the leaves and mash it down until it’s kind of a paste…” Stretch said.
Elliot turned to Dick. “Look, Dick, I don’t–”
“No problem, Elliot,” Stretch laughed. “I’m just playin’ wit’ ya, that’s all. Actually, I’ll tell you, but you gotta keep it quiet. Understand, if Dick didn’t assure me you’re good people, I’d just tell ya none of your business. But as a sign of good faith, here it goes: I got a friend in the department.”
“What department?” Elliot asked.
“What do you think, eightball?” Stretch said.
“The police department?” Elliot said, wide-eyed.
“Duh. What else would I be talking about? Now stop askin’ stupid doorknob questions. Well, a year and a half ago, this friend of mine got access to the evidence room for an hour. He snagged this coke. But he’s a good cop with a wife and a kid, so he sat on it for a year and a half until he found a guy he could trust.”
“He trusts you?”
“His little brother and I were in 4-H together. We’ve known each other since childhood. So, I’m handling the sales part. He’s my silent partner, and he knows if I get nabbed, I won’t drop dime on him. I didn’t tell you nothin’, and you didn’t hear nothin’.”
“Sure. I didn’t hear anything,” Elliot said, more than satisfied.
Stretch made a comical face at Dick when Elliot wasn’t looking. Dick was wearing his I-don’t-believe-this-guy expression.
Later, in the snack bar area of the zoo, Maggie, Dick, and Elliot were sitting around a plastic outdoor table. Stretch was pacing around the table as he talked. Maggie was still blowing bubbles.
“Do I look like Solomon Grundy?”
Elliot hadn’t the slightest idea what that was supposed to mean. “What…?”
“Do I look like Solomon Grundy?”
“No. No, you don’t.”
“Then why are you treating me like you think I’m brain-dead?” Stretch said.
“Stretch…” Dick cautioned.
“Let me handle this,” Stretch said.
“Get it straight,” Elliot said. “Lee isn’t into taking risks. He deals with a couple guys, and he’s been dealing with them for years. They’re reliable. They’re dependable. And they’re safe.”
“Then riddle me this, Batman,” Stretch said. “If you’re all so much in love with each other, what are you doing here? I’m sure you got better things to do with your time than sitting here sharing my animal crackers. Your guy’s interested because, with that much at his fingertips, he can play Joe Hollywood till the wheels come off. He can sell it, he can snort it, he can play Santa Claus with it. At the price he’s payin’, he’ll be everybody’s best friend. And, you know, that’s what we’re talkin’ about here. I’m not puttin’ him down. Hey, let him run wild. Have a ball, it’s his money. But… don’t expect me to hang around forever waitin’ for you guys to grow some guts.”
Elliot sat in silence. He nodded his head in agreement.
Movie producer Lee Donowitz drove his Porsche through the winding Hollywood hills, just enjoying being rich and powerful. His cellular car phone rang, and he answered. “Hello… Elliot, it’s Sunday. Why am I talkin’ to you on Sunday? I don’t see enough of you during the week I gotta talk to you on Sunday? Why is it you always call me when I’m on the windiest street in L.A.?”
Elliot was on the zoo payphone. Next to him stood Stretch O’Brien. Dick stood next to Stretch. Maggie was next to Dick, blowing bubbles.
“I’m with that party you wanted me to get together with,” Elliot said. “Do you know what I’m talking about, Lee?”
“Why the hell are you calling my cell phone to talk about that?” Lee yelled from the other end. His attention was briefly diverted to a billboard with the image of Jade of Infinity Inc.
“Well, he’d here right now, and he insists on talking to you,” Elliot said.
Lee immediately regained focus. “Are you outta your mind?”
“He said if I didn’t get you on the–“ Elliot started.
Stretch took the receiver out of Elliot’s hand. “Hello, Lee, it’s Stretch. At last we meet.”
Virgil knocked on Dick’s door. Floyd, Dick’s roommate, answered.
“Hello, is Dick Ritchie here?” Virgil asked.
“Naw, he ain’t home right now,” Floyd said.
“Do you live here?” Virgil asked.
“Yeah, I live here.”
“Maybe you can help me,” Virgil said. “Actually, who I’m looking for is a friend of ours from Gotham — Stretch O’Brien? I heard he was in town. Might be travelling with a pretty girl named Maggie. Have you seen him? Are they stayin’ here?”
“Naw, they ain’t stayin’ here,” Floyd said. “But I know who you’re talkin’ about. They’re stayin’ at the Hollywood Holiday Inn.”
“How do you know? You been there?”
“No, I ain’t been there. But I heard him say Hollywood Holiday Inn. Kinda easy to remember.”
“You’re right. It is,” Virgil said, smiling.
Back at the Los Angeles Zoo, Stretch continued to talk on the phone with Lee. “Lee, the reason I’m talkin’ with you is I want to open Doctor Zhivago in L.A., and I want you to distribute it.
“I don’t know, Stretch, Doctor Zhivago is a pretty big movie,” Lee said, stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard. From the tone of his voice, he obviously got Stretch’s real meaning.
“The biggest. The biggest movie you’ve ever dealt with, Lee,” Stretch said. “We’re talkin’ a lot of film. A man’d have ta be an idiot not to be a little cautious about a movie like that. And Lee, you’re no idiot.”
“I’m not sayin’ I’m not interested,” Lee said. “But being a distributor’s not what I’m all about. I’m a film producer. I’m on this world to make good movies, nothing more. Now, having my big toe dipped into the distribution end helps me on many levels.” Traffic on Sunset Boulevard broke, and Lee speed along. “But the bottom line is: I’m not Paramount. I have a select group of distributors I deal with. I buy their little movies. Accomplish what I wanna accomplish, end of story. Easy, business-like, very little risk.”
“Now that’s a crock, Lee,” Stretch said. “Every time you buy one of those little movies, it’s a risk. I’m not sellin’ you something that’s gonna play two weeks, six weeks, then go straight to cable. This is Doctor Zhivago. This’ll be packin’ ’em in for a year and a half — two years! That’s two years you don’t have to work with anybody’s movie but mine.”
Lee sped down a benchside road. “Well, then, what’s the hurry? Is it true the rights to Doctor Zhivago are in arbitration?”
“I wanna be able to announce this deal at Cannes,” Stretch said. “If I had time for a courtship, Lee, I would. I’d take ya out, I’d hold your hand, I’d kiss you on the cheek at the door. But I’m not in that position. I need to know if we’re in bed together or not. If you want my movie, Lee, you’re just gonna have to come to terms with your fear and desire.” Stretch handed the phone to Elliot. “He wants to talk to ya.”
“Mr. Donowitz?” Elliot said nervously. “I told you, through Dick… He’s in my acting class… About a year… Yeah, he’s good… They grew up together… Sure thing.” Elliot hung up the phone.
“He says Wednesday at three o’clock at the Beverly Wilshire. He wants everybody there,” Elliot said. He pointed to Stretch. “He’ll talk to you. If after talkin’ to you he’s convinced you’re OK, he’ll do business. If not, he’ll say to hell with it and walk out the door. He also wants a sample bag.”
“No problems on both counts,” Stretch said. He offered Elliot the animal crackers. “Have a cookie.”
Elliot took one. “Thanks.”
“That wasn’t a gorilla, was it?”