As I stumble along the narrow goat path of my so-called career, I keep getting smacked in the face about how fungible the lower orders are considered to be by Tinseltown's hierarchy. And part of me is always surprised ... or shocked ... or disheartened.
I'm finally catching onto the fact that a small corner of my psyche is going to be naive and doltish in perpetuity, no matter how many industry depravities I witness. Which is surprising, because as a college student a hundred years ago I used to listen to a veteran Hollywood screenwriter (Niven Busch), describe Hollywood's abrupt firings and dismissals in gruesome detail, so it's not like I don't know it's part of the ongoing culture. And yet...
I got ticked when a Warners exec laid off dozens of artists after assuring them "We've got plenty of work." (This was in the first half of the nineties, when I was still a starry-eyed romantic) ...
I was surprised when Tom Schumacher cut hundreds of Disney staffers loose after assurances that "everyone's job were safe" (Even though I was more battle-hardened by then) ...
I had a bad reaction when David Stainton told John Musker and Ron Clements "We're just an anchor around your feet" as he was laying them off.
And over the past few weeks, when board artists and directors told me about the write-ups and dismissals after years of service, I still found the bile rising in a sour column in the back of my throat, even as I thought: "Yeah, there it is again." One artist was particularly poignant:
"You know, I never moonlighted. The other guys took outside jobs but I gave them 100%, didn't take outside work. And a few weeks after I got dismissed, an exec called and said: 'I feel a little bad about this. I'm not sure we did the right thing letting you go, but we can't undo it now...'
The only remarkable thing about the above is that somebody called and admitted to second thoughts, even though nothing changed. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Hollywood elite clings to John Wayne's edict in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:
"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."
And yes, this sort of thing goes on so frequently and with such regularity that it's almost not worth posting about. Almost.