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Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist. -- Emerson

Gadfly Novels


Excerpt from The Hollywood Caper and the Lost Kingdom of Prester John

The Holly Caper
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        "My guest this evening is Oscar Chaser, three time winner for Best Director. His movies have given him entrance into the hall of fame of movie directors alongside movie greats such as John Fort and William Willy. The public has been waiting for a long time to find out Mister Chaser's latest brain storm, and I'm thrilled and honored to be the one he chose to present his newest sensation. The scenes of the movie are a closely guarded secret but rumors suggest the movie will be a blockbuster."

        Ben Burgoyne, famous for his edgier repartee, smiles as the sappy audience of three hundred applauds on cue at the command of the studio audience prompter. Burgoyne, svelte, suave, and savoir faire, stands to greet his guest, bedecked in his usual immaculate suit and tie, perfectly groomed from his pedicured nails to his perfectly arranged pompadour. He's slick, smooth, smug, and self-assured. At forty-two and just under six feet, he's reached the top of the food chain in prime time television, number one in the vast array of night time talk shows.

        "And now," Burgoyne, in a melodramatic voice and in the best tradition of hyperbole and suck-up, introduces his guest. "Ladies and gentlemen, the high priest of Hollywood, the newest hottie in tinsel town, the man every belle amie wants in her passionate embrace in the buff, the one, the only, Mister Oscar Chaser!"

        Oscar Chaser, fifty-six, advances from behind a screen and shakes Ben's hand. He's six-two and in fighting trim, as if he owned the elixir from the fountain of youth. Oscar is just the opposite in appearance from the ebullient Burgoyne. His face wears a scruffy beard to match his long hair beneath an LA Dodgers baseball cap. His faded jeans and sweat shirt seem more appropriate for a hippy reunion. His face features circular wire-rim glasses from which he peers out into the darkness of the audience and grins like a school boy kid.

        They sit in opposing comfy chairs, separated by a glass-topped round table and face each other, The audience continues their raucous greeting, mingled with shouts and whistles. Studio lights wash the set, and the heat forms miniature beads of sweat on Burgoyne's forehead. Chaser seems unaffected, having just emerged from an undisclosed desert location.

        "Good to see you again, Oscar. So, shall we get right to the point of tonight's topic? Everyone is waiting to hear about your next movie. This is going to be a seminal moment in movie history. I can't really say film any more can I? You've told everyone that it would be revolutionary. Not since the days of David Keene and his epic film, 'Richard of Arabia' and yes, even, 'Gone With the Stars', if I may go back that far, has there been such excitement."

        Nonchalant and with an arrogant smile, Oscar leans back and crosses his legs. He's known for his exuberant irreverence for anything conventional. "Thank you, Ben. Glad to be here. I've been given a lot of creative freedom, thanks to Nick O. Lodean and his wonderful people at Palisade Pictures. The man is a legend in his own time."

        Burgoyne drools. "The pundits are predicting that 'The Hollywood Caper' will make twice as much gross income than your last movie, 'The Scarlet Bandit'. So, are you ready to tell us about your great new invention?"

        "Speaking for the industry as a whole, we've been through quite a revolution, as you know. First, there was virtual reality, cyberspace, and what I like to call artificial reality. Lots of experimenting with special effects that changed movie making forever, or I should say, until now. I can't thank enough those amazing innovators who came before me; people who gave us the multiple-phased holodeck, and the groundbreaking movie, 'The Digital Master'. And of course, we shouldn't forget 'The Second Coming' as a great milestone. But the naysayers claim I've gone from mind expansion to mind control. I reject that."

        Ben picks up a cup of java from the table and sips some brew before speaking, his adoring eyes intently on his guest. Now he goes into his signature habit of dominating the interview. Chaser, always well within himself, merely smiles and listens as Burgoyne pontificates.

        I agree with you. Face In The Crowd and others computer innovations created an artificial reality that scientists now admit clogged the cognitive abilities of the human brain and ironically, caused a significant disconnect from personal contact with people. And the social network was responsible for digital addiction, and the overkill that evolved from the totality of the electronic revolution. Smarty Phones led to Smarter Phones, Blueberries led to Raspberries. And the world forgot about living vicariously in the real world. Tech turds and hackers took over. And psychologists have proven that people who owned Smarter Phones went from dumb to dumber.

        Not surprisingly, a revolt began against all the gadgets that produced the famous Logout Movement, a demand for a detox recipe and a return to nature, a move away from high tech and back to high touch. But the touchy-feely people never imagined that the light at the end of the digital tunnel would be D.U.N.C.E. It replaced the need for anything electronic including television. Quite unexpected.

        And we've witnessed animated characters becoming movie stars in their own right that replaced real humans. But the ultimate achievement was your techno wizardry that invented D.U.N.C.E. and the Nanonaut."

        Oscar waits to see if Burgoyne is finished and nods. "Yes, that is why I've decided to return to the old star system and use real people. My belief is that people who can afford this new technology will be even more involved in the actual movie if the people are real."

        The audience produces a collective gasp as they wait for more detail. Even the cameramen and the other members of the stage crew become more alert.

        "Real people? Really?"

        "That's the essence of being a Nanonaut, isn't it? Getting real people involved again in the story. In many ways, as you so succinctly pointed out, our culture has become a world of isolated beings. Our high-tech gadgets were supposed to bring us closer together but we know the experts were wrong.

        The social network, so highly touted, brought down the dictators in the Middle East, but after that surprising event, there was no positive movement to replace the dictators. And that resulted in tribal disputes that had been simmering for centuries. Every tribe had their social network but they didn't interconnect to form a national identity. Now anarchy is the order of the day."

        Chaser pauses and smiles at his clever use of words.

        Now we have the idea of perception depending on the blend of biology and technology. Making the real surreal, the exploitation of juxtaposition, that is, blurring the line between the physical and the metaphysical." Chaser leans back and crosses his arms like a satisfied preacher.

        Ben shakes his head in wonderment. He seems ready to get on his knees and supplicate. The audience waits breathlessly. Millions of viewers wait for the sage on the stage to continue, but Ben intervenes.

        "As you know, many of your critics are saying that your latest invention, D.U.N.CE., goes too far. But I think it may just be the most amazing invention of all time. We now have as many realities as we can imagine."

        "No, D.U.N.C.E. hasn't gone too far. Revolutionary, yes." Oscar speaks defensively. "The world needs D.U.N.C.E. because people crave the human element or else there's no reason to have entertainment as we know it. And that's why I decided it was time to bring back real people as actors. I think you can understand the ramifications."

        Ben's eyes glow with devotion for his guest. "Oh my, yes! This is going to be fantastic. People who can participate in D.U.N.C.E. and become a Nanonaut, if they can afford its lofty price, will be even more involved. Amazing!"

        The audience stands, claps, and cheers before sitting back down to hear more from this amazing man. Chaser has been crucified before only to return from the cross of failure to defy everyone.

        This new movie," Chaser beams, "will be the second coming of reality."

        Burgoyne rubs his hands together. "I guess we're going to be the first to see the preview. That's what you said you'd do. Please say yes."

        Benevolently, Oscar signals for the technician to start the preview on the large screen behind Oscar and Ben. The studio lights dim and all eyes gawk in breathless anticipation.

        A white screen changes into a slow swirl of kaleidoscopic colors moving counter-clockwise, hypnotic. A soft, serene feminine voice, seduces the audience.

        "Welcome to D.U.N.C.E. Perception defines reality. What is real is an illusion. An illusion becomes hallucination, and the line blurs between life and fantasy. We are a dream within a dream. Reality is anything you desire."

        The screen explodes into a dazzling display of epic scenes and real people move about as they take part in the preview. A powerful male voice replaces the female voice, a voice perfect in its dramatic tone.

        "And now D.U.N.C.E. proudly brings you, 'The Hollywood Caper.' This movie returns to the old tradition of using real people. Join in the adventure and discover 'The Lost Kingdom of Prester John' as Palisade Pictures and Nick O. Lodean reprises their biggest hit movie of 2015. The movie, completed on location in the vast and mysterious sweltering heat of the Persian Desert, brings together a cast of thousands.

        "Witness our two stars. Be amazed at the raw power and charisma of Joe Granite, private eye, in his most intriguing case. Be awed by the seductive beauty of Karla Del Marco. She won the biggest prize in movie history since Lee Vivian played the lead in 'The Scarlet Bandit.'"

        The two stars are shown together under an oasis date palm, dressed in tan expedition clothes. Pudgy Joe, looking out of sorts, has his arm around Karla, a perfect angelic face and a perfect voluptuous body. Showing off her twin attributes, she's looking fondly at Joe.

        "Enjoy the surprising acting sensation, Oscar Chaser, as he acts and directs the movie. Thrill to the remote beauty of the Persian Desert as never before seen since David Keene."

        Oscar sits astride a camel holding a rifle and peering into the desert. His face emits courage and defiance.

        "Observe the amazing performance of Desmond Marine as he becomes the evil villain, a man of enormous demonic appetites. And in his best role yet, Jilani ben Jilani becomes Baqtir, the shaman, the Story Bringer."

        Desmond and Jilani, stand beside an oasis pool and face off in a stare-down clutching curved daggers in a confrontation at a cave entrance behind them.

        "And now, in the grand spectacle of great movie making in the tradition of 'The Roman Legions'..."

        The voice fades out and the stirring sound track of "Richard of the Arabia", recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, and the audience watches in rapture at the vast austere pictures of the desert leads to the mysterious Temple of the Nine Masters chiseled from the mountainside. The preview ends and the lights come back up.

        The audience cheers as Oscar tips his baseball hat and smiles sheepishly.

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