Time For A Change. ( A Writers Lament.)
For that last two years I've been a contributor to the website Red Hot Planet. And I have had to put up with more than my fair share of idiotic horseshit. To put it bluntly,not only has there been a lack of any financial remuneration, but I've had my hard work extensively rewritten to the point of my particular writing style being completely eviscerated. And then,on top of that to be told I should be grateful for his improvements to my submissions.
But, let's start from the beginning: I first met Bill George in 1977 when he sold movie memorabilia from his parents home in Baltimore. Every few months I would make the trek from Delaware to Maryland to buy posters, stills, 16mm tv spots and other movie collectibles from him.During my formative years as a collector, Bill was a major source for my purchases.
It was in 1983 that Bill enlisted my help in a book he was writing called EROTICISM IN THE FANTASY CINEMA. I interviewed actresses Victoria Vetri(also a former Playmate of The Year), PJ Soles and Angelique Pettyjohn. I was paid with movie memorabilia instead of cash,something my then wife was not very happy about, but Bill painted a rosy, pie in the sky picture claiming this would be great exposure for me and that next time I would see money!
But the big fly in the ointment for me was: when the book came out my name was dumped inthe acknowledgement section where you put the names of people lent a still or a movie ad for illustration purposes.This did not sit with me at all because I provided three interviews and as such rated a byline beside the interviews.Bill gave some sort of bullshit rational which I have long since forgotten, but promised (he's a past master at making empty promises)that I would get full credit on his next book called DRIVE-IN MADNESS.
Here's a fun fact: Bill wasn't entirely sure some of the actresses I contacted would want to be featured in a book titled DRIVE-IN MADNESS, so he instructed me to tell them that the book would be titled: CHEESECAKE:BEAUTIFUL WOMEN. I wondered about the ramifications when the book was published and these actresses got a gander of the real title,which was a far cry from the one I had described to them. But Bill never thinks about such negative aspects,he's too busy chasing his dreams no matter whose toes he steps on during said chase.
To make a long story short,due to publication delays(engineered by The Imagine Publishing Company)the book never saw the light of day. Now for me this was a crushing blow because I had five complete interviews which also featured my byline next to them. This could have been a big stepping stone for me,but I guess it just wasn't meant to happen.(I tell myself that when I'm waxing philosophically.)
For some odd reason, Bill was always working for foreign horror movie magazines who paid in posters instead of money. I had an interview published in a French magazine called Mad Movies and when I received a package of stills and posters in the mail as opposed to a check, my wife was not exactly jumping up and down for joy. She always thought that Bill was more talk than action and felt I was wasting my time dealing with him. But I naively kept going down this path because I thought that Bill probably knew what he was doing. Little did I know he was flying as blindly as myself,but Bill had a talent for convincing me (as well as others ) that he knew more than he actually did.
It was in 1993 that we had a big falling out. He sent an interview I did with Producer Sam Sherman that was originally to be used in DRIVE-IN MADNESS to a French publication L'CRAN FANTASTIQUE and once again swore that I would be paid monetarily and not with a pile of paper memorabilia. Again, I put my trust in Bill(or as I've come to regard him: Three Dollar Bill ) It was at this period of his life he became editor of an American magazine(What happened? Did Bill finally run out of foreign magazines to work for?) called FEMME FATALES. He also developed quite an ego, because when I asked him to send me a copy of L'CRAN FANTASTIQUE, Bill said he was too busy and I should write to them to get it. I pestered him for a couple of weeks before he grudgingly sent one to me in the mail.
Then I waited for my payment. And waited. And waited some more till I started getting rather peeved about not receiving any financial compensation for my interview. When I called Bill, he once again stated that he was much too busy with his magazine to help me out and told me to write to the French publication myself.
Now wait a damn minute, he's the person I sent the interview to who in turn sent it out the people at L'CRAN FANTASTIQUE. Bill communicated with them,not me. So it was his responsibilty to see I got the money due to me. But, God forbid, he was too engrossed with his new pet project to give an ounch of shit about me and my problems. You see, I was in the fiscal shithouse and needed the money very badly. I ended up writing to the French people and requesting payment for my work. And if you think I ended up with a check for my endeavors, you'll also believe that the Easter Bunny visits my house every April and supplies me with endless amounts of candy. For Bill to hang me out to dry like that was unconscionable. As my friend, Bill was supposed to watch my back,not stab me in it. I felt as if he'd turned his back on me and it sucked.
I broke off contact with him for about eight years. I saw him a couple of times at some horror film conventions but kept my distance because I was still in a state of rage about the dirty deal that had been done to me and knew if I had the opportunity I'd do something he'd end up being sorry for. My anger reached a level when at one convention, in 1998, I saw him out of the corner of my eye and thought he was heading for the mens room. All I could think of was how I'd gotten ripped off as he stood on the sidelines doing zip,zilch,nada, nothing. I felt it was about time Bill got some payback, so I went in the mens room to confront him. Thankfully, he wasn't there .
But still, I was anxious to extract my pound of flesh and was extremely disappointed I wouldn't be collecting it on that day. So I spent four more years stewing in my own juices while hating Bill George, fervently wishing I could shove my foot so far up his ass, it would've taken every person who lived on his street to remove it. Or barring that, perhaps major surgery.
Anyhoo, sometimes it takes a tragedy to soften ones point of view. Bill's mother died in 2001 after a bout with cancer. When I heard about her death, that Bill was having a difficult time coping with it , I called him up because my own mother died in 1999 and I knew exactly the sort of hell he was going through. Besides, eight years had passed. I was never going to receive any money for my interview; that was ancient history. But most importantly, a friend needed my help.
So we renewed our friendship. I must admit that I like Bill. True, he has a tendency to lie or at least exaggerate. And he's not the most giving human being I've ever come across. In other words, there are times he'll do something for me but only if it benefits him. But still, he's a charming, sometimes helpless kind of a guy and one cannot help but like him.
But then in 2004, along came Red Hot Planet where egos and creative differences began rearing their ugly head once again. Bill asked me if I would do interviews for the website. This time was going to be different, I would definitely see payment and I'd be paid by the end of 2004. The trouble started when my interviews, both introductions and questions were completely rewritten without my consent. When people who had read my contributions would complement me on them, I'd be honest and say that the interviews were not mine,that they had be rewritten. I refuse to take credit for something that isn't mine. One time Bill rewrote a question I asked of an actress who was on an episode of CHARMED to read, " Did you have a blast with the cast?" Now, I would never in a million years ask such an asinine question. That's the kind of question a twenty five year old would ask, not a guy in his late forties. From there it only got worse.
When director Irvin Yeaworth (THE BLOB, THE 4D MAN and DINOSAURUS ) died, I submitted an interview I'd done with him in 1988. Bill rewrote my introduction even though he wasn't present at the interview and never met Yeaworth.Feeling angry, humiliated and heartsick over the mutilation of my work I emailed Bill and said I quit Red Hot Planet. I told him I felt my talent as a writer wasn't appreciated and that my function seemed to be limited to turning the tape recorder on and off. He emailed me back and pledged that things would change. They didn't.
The same thing happened over and over again. And I quit over and over again, and told my friends not to read the interviews because I didn't write them. Bill kept telling me I should be grateful that he improved my work,while I insisted no improvements were required. He even took one of my unaltered interviews to the webmaster(the sneaky little bastard) and showed it to him in hopes he would agree that my writing was in desperate need of Bill's special auctorial magic.He unfortunately has a puffed up,overrated opinion of his gifts as a writer. What a dick!
The webmaster ,J.B, told Bill that there was nothing wrong with my writing, that he was a control freak and should leave my interviews alone. I hoped this would be the turning point, but I still had to fight tooth and nail to keep my style from being buried by Bill's overdramatic, bombastic, didactic, purple prose.
As for the supposed pay date of 2004, it was pushed up to 2005 which was then changed to 2006. As of this day, July 19, 2006, I haven't seen one freakin' penny for my two years of hard work. And two free movie previews , free admission to two horror movie conventions and a handful of free dvd's from a video company is hardly proper compensation.
A few months ago, Bill pushed Red Hot Planet on the backburner, where it presently languishes in cyber limbo, to embark on a new endeavor: Local Flavor magazine. Again, he enlisted my participation.And as before,(this is really getting old and tired) I've been promised money. However, Bill has gone back to his old ways and is brazenly rewriting my material while telling me I should put up with the situation because that's how it goes down in the world of publishing . Following another heated argument, he has given me his word,as usual, that as of the 4th issue of Local Flavor magazine, he won't rewrite my interviews any more.
Here's how it's going to be from this day forward: if I open the 4th issue of Flavor and it's business as usual, I'm quitting. This time my proclamation is for real as well as being etched in stone. And no placating words,no lame explanations nor any more transparent promises will sway me. My writing style is something I will no longer compromise with . I put my own individual personality, my humor and my creativity into my writing. I told Bill if he feels my work is lackluster and not up to his epicurean standards, then let me go and get someone else who won't mind when The Bard of Baltimore performs his wizardry with words on their article. I truly believe that he is attempting to put me in my place and show me who the big boss is. But I steadfastly refuse to be treated as a monkey who operates a tape recorder.I think he should f**k off and leave my writing alone.
I've let Bill know that if Local Flavor magazine does not pay me by the end of this year, I'll no longer be working for free. I'm tired of busting my ass and receiving only a pat on the back and a heart felt ," Good job , Joe." Bill once told me that it shouldn't matter if I get paid, it's the idea of getting my name out there that matters. Uh, uh. I'm not playing that ridiculous,time wasting game anymore.
As far as Red Hot Planet is concerned, if and when Bill starts it up again I won't do any more interviews until he can present me with a clear and definite timetable of when and how much I'll be paid. He can get as mad at me as he wants. There'll be no more freebies from Joe. Either cough up the cash or thanks but no thanks. And if my decision negatively impacts our friendship, then it wasn't much of a friendship to begin with. It's time for me to take a stand.