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Authors: Tom Matthews

Like We Care (7 page)

BOOK: Like We Care
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She had expected more of Hutch Posner, who had been a decent boss prior to the birth of the network, and with whom she had actually shared her bed several times in the dizzying early days of pre-production. She had admired the way Hutch had nurtured his germ of an idea into a potential industry, and in the early going she had thrilled at his eager acceptance of her ideas and concepts. She felt that they could very well go forward as partners, in business, though definitely not as lovers. (“Too long to raise the flag and then nothing to salute,” as her dotty Aunt Felicia used to say.)

But as the network rocketed toward reality and the bully boys began elbowing for titles and corner offices and positions on comp lists all over Manhattan, Annie realized that nothing of note would be given to her. She took her complaints to Hutch—regrettably,
after
she had drawn shut her legs—and only through persistent badgering and well-placed guilt did Hutch come up with VP of Special Projects.

Which, for the past year, had translated into just one thing: Casey Lattimer.

It wasn’t that Casey wasn’t popular. True, Mimi SoWett got most of the press in the early days, particularly once enterprising teens figured out that with a picture-in-picture television they could simultaneously watch Mimi interviewing Snoop Dogg while being gang-banged on DVD. Even
Newsweek
ran a “What has the world come to?” piece about this internet-fueled phenomenon.

The zeitgeist was strummed; the conquest drew nearer.

But Casey was hanging in there, holding down the early evening shift when latchkey kids were home from school and able to hook into R
2
Rev before their parents got home. Hanging with Casey Lattimer was like being left in the care of the dopiest, most degenerate outlaw at school—the kind of kid who would’ve been Ritalin-ed down or booted out for spouting the kind of idiocy that flowed from his mouth. And yet, here he was, set loose before a TV camera four hours a day to bust things up between videos.

The problem was that Casey was stupid—book stupid, life stupid,
hygienically
stupid. Hutch knew Casey was stupid when he plucked him out of the open casting call, which drew every aspiring actor, musician, and miscreant within a 1,000 mile radius of Manhattan.

It had been both the most exhilarating and depressing day of Hutch’s life—this horrid stew of narcissistic kids, each raised with the promise that somehow celebrity was owed them, all looking to ride R
2
Rev to a life of fortune and mass adulation. Hutch needed just a handful of the perfectly tattooed, pierced, and sneer-laden to populate his world. The rest would have to be sent away to suckle their delusions somewhere else.

Casey had stood out because he really didn’t care, kept insisting that he was there to audition for
Wheel of Fortune
, which, the staff kept telling him, was taped in Los Angeles and, regardless, would turn a hose on him before allowing him within 100 yards of Vanna White.

“Vanna White,” he crooned. “Vanna
Wet
. Heh heh heh. I gotta buy me a vowel, Pat!”

From the observation suite next door, Hutch watched Casey over the live feed and detected something fresh and raw in the kid. Every other auditioner had some kind of shtick—wizened club slut, rap-sheeted rap slinger, white boy slacker. But few were able to ape the demographic as effortlessly as Casey. If R
2
Rev was to mirror its intended audience, then this was precisely the kind of kid who could deliver a daypart.

Casey was brought back for a series of interviews, during which he entertained Hutch’s selection team with a mortifying lack of candor and a reasonable knowledge of current pop culture. His prime negative was that he stank—literally—to the extent that the interviews were finally moved out of doors, where the dank and gritty winds of 52nd Street could blow Casey’s less favorable qualities in someone else’s direction.

Hutch observed it all—the interview sessions, the mock video links that Casey taped with goggle-eyed wonder—and began to sense that this was his man. It would be a gamble, throwing someone this unstable before a live camera, but Hutch knew that victory would come only from walking that razor’s edge between canned, demo-stroking anarchy, and actual garbage.

After insisting that someone steer Casey toward a shower and a bar of soap, Hutch met with his future star for a one-on-one.

“Can I get you anything?” Hutch asked as he relaxed casually in a chair across from Casey. He noticed immediately that the kid’s stench was only slightly bettered by a summery waft of apricot shampoo.

“Know what I’d like?” Casey began. “I’d like to be inside a bomb when it goes off, right? But in slow motion. Right? It’s, like, black inside there, all quiet and nice, and then—boom!—I’m flyin’ out. Flyin’
up.
I’m lookin’ down at the hole I’ve made and the people I’ve fucked up, but I’m flyin’, right alongside all the dirt and rock and shit. And I’m getting higher and higher, and it’s getting quieter and quieter. It’s beautiful, dude.

“And then I’m falling, but it’s cool because I’m light, like a feather, right? I’m floatin’ and I’m fallin’. And I touch down, and it’s peaceful there, too. I’m miles away from what I’ve done. But nothing’s the same anymore. Something blew up, dude. Blew up bad. You don’t never put things right after that.”

“Something to drink, maybe? Water? A Coke?”

“I’d
like
a beer.”

“Mm, not cool, really. You know, we’re trying to run a business here.”

“Yeah,” Casey rolled his eyes and snorted disdainfully. “I get it.”

“Christ,” Hutch thought. “It only took fifteen seconds for this kid to bust
me
as the Establishment. And I’m barely thirty-five!”

He pressed on. “You’ve got a great look, very street. Ever done any modeling?”

“Nope.”

“Any acting experience?”

“Nope.”

“Been in a band? Been before an audience for any reason?”

“Nope.”

“Given a speech in a speech class?”

“Nope.”

“Played around with a home video camera? Maybe done some goofing around on camera?”

“Nope.”

“Any store surveillance tape we could get our hands on?”

Casey just stared at him. For all his proclamations of ballsiness, Hutch hadn’t had to make any nervy calls yet in the network’s young life. If he were to go with this hunch, give this skanky, silly young man a potentially global platform with which to do God knows what,
that
would be ballsy. That would be R
2
Rev.

Establishment, my ass.

Hutch studied Casey, trying to picture him bouncing off a multi-million dollar satellite, into homes with doors locked to protect themselves from just such street trash.

Point man for a revolution.

It got very quiet.


Boom!!!
” Casey screamed, then cackled delightedly. Once again, he was a feather, freed from a bomb.

So Casey Lattimer had been there when R
2
Rev made its debut three years back, part of the veejay team that also included Mimi SoWett and Dr. Poon, the hip-hop firebrand whose profane hit albums and string of felonies brought much street cred to the new net.

Keeping Casey on a short leash—meaning on tape—Hutch packaged the kid brilliantly, sending him out into the street for engagements with the fans, unleashing him, Howard Stern-style, at stuffy gatherings, and setting him up with the occasional celebrity interview, during which Casey would invariably try to score drugs. Hutch now had over seven minutes of video trims, offering nothing but his young star trying to mooch dope off famous people. He imagined such encounters going out live, and he shuddered.

After several months of study, Hutch knew that Casey simply could not serve R
2
Rev as a live entity. True, there was something scintillating and scary about letting him loose on-air. Early on he did an entire four-hour block built around stepping in dog shit and trying to get it off his shoe. It was, in a train wreck kind of way, terribly compelling television. (The fetching NYU grad riding the tape delay that day didn’t let a single “shit” get through and was honored accordingly. If Annie McCullough had thought to look, she’d have seen that this kid was nearly on the same salary track she was.)

No, Casey was to be caged on tape for the life of his involvement with the network.

Finding venues for his very special talents, however—
that
became Annie’s problem. Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs were quickly ruled out, both by the fact that Casey’s antics had half the city wanting to throw his scrawny little ass in jail, and the fact that Letterman and all the other TV wise-asses had been milking New York backdrops for decades.

Hutch didn’t want his network confined to the coasts, where trends have such a short shelf life. He wanted to take R
2
Rev straight into the heartland, where lives were dull and teens less inclined to notice that their latest Shiny New Thing had become a joke out in the real world.

“Swear to God,” Hutch would laugh, “they’ve still got Farrah Fawcett hair out there!”

So it was decided that Casey Lattimer would be the network’s emissary, spreading his special magic at inappropriate gatherings like state fairs and Shriner parades, where he could be parachuted in and then yanked out before some good ol’ boy snapped his neck.

The rubes in the sticks, at least until they came to hate him, could goggle at the celebrity in their midst and maybe even get themselves on the tee-vee. The sophisticates in the major markets could dine on Casey’s oafish debasement of small-town institutions and beliefs. Everybody wins!

Annie’s job—her Special Project—was to find new canvases on which Casey could smear his genius.

It was best, she decided, to send Casey into cornball events in nowhere burgs that drew the town’s most easily offended residents: all-you-can-eat pancake fundraisers, statue dedications, Junior Farm Queen pageants, and the like. The announcement and coverage of such events were the lifeblood of small-town newspapers across the country, but—no surprise—such papers often had neither the reason nor the sophistication for establishing themselves on the internet. That meant Annie had to gather her information the old-fashioned way: poring over out-of-state phone directories, making cold calls, and building a network of young volunteer stringers across the country who would make her aware of potential “Casey environments” in exchange for R
2
Rev hats and T-shirts.

And so there she was, the week of her father’s fiftieth birthday, holed up in her old bedroom in suburban Ann Arbor, tying up the family’s phone line for hours on end, trying to schedule Casey’s next six months. The sense at the network was that they were under-utilizing their star, and that his act was starting to take on a troubling sameness. The pressure was on Annie to subtly reconceptualize Casey Lattimer while leaving his engaging abrasiveness intact.

She had told her mother it was a bad time, and apologized to her father as best she could for her preoccupation. She hoped he would appreciate that she was as committed to her career as he was to his (her father was a cop, earning only slightly more than his daughter after 25 years of service; she spent sixteen hours a day trying to find trusting people who could be humiliated on TV for sport).

BOOK: Like We Care
13.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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