When most people part ways, they take a few photos or fall into a great big bear hug.
Me? I make a movie.
Or – at least – that used to be my M.O. Back when I was young, dumb and surrounded by chums. Those glorious college days when I thought nothing of cobbling together a screenplay overnight and then coercing my buddies to drop everything they were doing in order to do my bidding – turning UMASS Amherst and the surrounding Pioneer Valley into our own private soundstage – all so I could add a few more memories to my synaptic scrapbook.
By now you’re all well-versed in my collegiate career. I entered UMASS Amherst in September 1990 and graduated 4 years later, on a beautiful warm mid-May morn, with a degree in Journalism that to this day has reported on nothing but dust bunnies and dashed dreams. 😉
The shear size of that school sends many inbound frosh headed for the hills the moment they lay eyes upon it. Post-Labor Day, the enrolled population hits 20,000 strong once you factor in the Grad Students and kids on the 10-Year Plan… but enough about my buddy Joe. 😉
Not me, though.The second I stepped on that campus, I knew I was home. And then I entered the hallowed halls of my dorm, Thatcher, and came face-to-face with my roommate Rich. This was the same dude I shared a locker with my Senior Year in High School and laid claim to the same lunch table for 4 straight years leading up to graduation. He’s the Barney Rubble to my Fred Flintstone. The Luke Skywalker to my Han Solo. It sorta’ helps that he looks suspiciously like both of those characters and I like neither. But y’all know what I look like already – the bald and the beautiful.
A quick run through the dorm uncovered 2 additional refugees from my high school – Casa (short for his last name, Casagrande) and Buzz (short for his haircut). They were rooming together a floor above us. A few dorms over, two more guys from that fabled lunch table had also shacked up together – Brian and Dan. This put 6 of us all within throwing distance; meaning we weren’t heading into the great wide open with only our wits about us. We had our newly minted Fellowship of the Class Ring to help guide the way through those hazy, crazy first few days.
At UMASS, many people in the dorms eventually emigrate to the world of off-campus housing; where a couple of weekend nights hosting a kegger and the total and complete destruction of every possession you own and hold near and dear essentially pays your room and board for the semester. So what if the party happens to result in the mysterious disappearance of your wallet, your stereo and a roommate or two. Hey, these human trafficking rings ain’t gonna’ staff themselves!!! A few parties gives you enough scratch to buy your books, some cheap beer at the Amherst Pub and a couple slices of Chicken Bacon pizza at Antonios.
I totally get the allure in heading off-campus but never flew into that light. I stayed in the dorm all four years; as did so many of my close-knit yet ever-expanding circle of friends. Sure, I found that little security blanket stitched from home town cloth when I first moved in but I made so many new friends and alliances quite quickly – some that linger long and to this very day have graduated from mere being old college friends to true brothers from other mothers. The fact that none seemed ready to mosey downtown made the decision nice and easy – stay in the dorm and keep jockeying for a better room – and on weekends, go trash somebody else’s pad.
I’m not going to rehash all 4 years of college – that’s fodder for other stories… some of which I’ve already recounted on these pages and others I’m saving for a rainy day. If you need to read all about my streaking habit, click this link.
So, let’s do the time warp again – onward to Senior Year.
As I said at the beginning, when the end is near and you know you’re not going to see someone for a little while – or forever (who ever really knows?) – you fall into those hugs and try to hold on tight to blissful sweet memory, making damn sure someone snaps a pic or two. Me – I decided to go in the opposite direction. Knowing we were nearing graduation, I thought it would be fun to make a little movie and not just some little talking head documentary where everyone acts crazy in front of the camera and one out of every two dudes flips it off. I thought it would be more interesting to write a little screenplay, casting all of my friends and our dorm acquaintances in little roles and then just let the camera roll.
Of course, this was the front-end of the mid-Nineties when home video cameras were the size of a Boeing Dreamliner and battery time was approximately 2.3 seconds before needing a charge – so we were constantly running through the dorm with a life-line of extension cords, racking up the lawsuits with every student and breaker we tripped. All in service of the asinine story I cobbled together for the occassion.
We open on the bucolic campus of Turner Cove College (the same fictional institution that got a shout-out in The Monkeybar Mafia – it was the setting of the screenplay the lead character, Ryan, was unsuccessfully writing in that play). My long-time friend and roommate Rich played Chaz Perkins – the lothario with a secret yearning for pin-up photos of Winona Ryder and a penchant for dressing in women’s lingerie. My great buddy Justin was Juice Sawyer, the hockey-crazed member of the group who finds himself on the business end of a Sharpie. And playing the leader of this motley crew – ME WITH HAIR – as their ring leader, Ed Winters. You have no idea how much we spent on CGI to get that dome feathered just right.
As this intrepid trio goes about their days having fun and occasionally going to class, the plot twists when Winters’ gets a new roommate – the mysterious Joe Roma; a silent but deadly assassin played by my great friend Joe. (And yes – I realize I just described him as both a ninja AND a fart).
A series of murders has rocked the campus and suspicion quickly falls upon Roma; who is seen night after night fleeing the dorm room and returning with a strange, bulky military rucksack. In a third act twist, we discover that Roma is actually an FBI Agent who has been tracking this serial murderer across the country – the trail of blood ending at Turner Cove College. It’s there that Roma comes face-to-face with the true guise of pure evil; a dumb guy – or specifically, ME – Ed Winters… who in the coda is revealed to be a multi-path; a psychological term I made up out of thin air aimed at describing this psycho’s condition. As Roma explains – “a multipath cobbles together a personality from other personalities – most of the time from characters found in movies” – to which Juice Sawyer offers “That would explain his Crying Game phase”. Here’s where I should say, “Don’t blame me – I don’t write this stuff” – but then I remembered, unfortunately – I DO!!!
The film finally ends with Ed Winters unmasked and tossed off a cliff (or – gentle rolling hill) – a stunt that I performed myself. (Take a gander and pay no attention to my young punk’s potty mouth). Hey, I don’t write this stu… errrr, JUST WATCH THE CLIP!!!
I titled the film ‘Dumb White Guy‘ – a play off of the Bridget Fonda/Jennifer Jason Leigh thriller ‘Single White Female’. I guess that makes me Jennifer Jason Leigh which for anyone who ever saw Fast Times at Ridgemont High can attest – ain’t so bad. Although my kingdom for Phoebe Cates. 😉 We premiered the film to a full house in our dorm rec room. The crowd loved it. Since that day, nobody else has – EVER – and for good reason…
Now, I know my limitations. I’m no world class writer. I’m passable. I can get by. I can strong words together to form a sentence and occassionally pull the right punctuation from the pile BUT I’m not Shakespeare nor Tarentino. I’d like to think I’m a step above whoever wrote Saw and Spooky Buddies. That said – I am shocked that the same guy who wrote The Monkeybar Mafia and The Lost World (both of which I am genuinely proud of), once upon a time scribbled Dumb White Guy on a cocktail napkin and then suckered a group of guys to give up their free time to film it. The same guy who once upon a time wrote:
“Yeah, I studied abroad. I studied a BROAD last night. Human anatomy. Biology. You know – the bare facts!”
– later wrote –
“Mike happened. I met him – one night as me and a few of my cast mates trekked halfway across Manhattan in search of the World’s Best Mojito. We never found it. But I went one better. I came home with Mike. And then – you know – a girl’s fairy tale. He was my white knight. Swept me off my feet –so high I never saw my dreams come crashing down. Not his fault though. It was my choice. I was in love.”
Poor Rich. If only he’d met me later, he could have had a meatier role as a Mafia Wife rather than the sick deviant I saddled him with all those years ago. You’d think that if I was going to coerce him to wearing a pink silk teddie for his role (which strangely took very little negotiation), I could have written him something a little more substantive like the latter and a little less foolish than the former. Oh well, I can’t take it back now – and he can NEVER run for public office EVER! You people owe me for that.
So we finished the film; one that currently sits degrading on ancient VHS tape. A few more years and Rich will be able to walk the streets comfortably again – presuming nobody gets wind of the sequel I wrote and directed post-college titled Dumbguy Forever that found Rich running for his life through a strip mall parking lot while wearing the biggest pink woman’s sweater I could find.
Alas – that’s a story for another day.