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An imprint of Double Dragon Publishing

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Tinsel Wilderness
John Klawitter


Our Price: 5.99 USD

ISBN-10: 1-55404-487-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-554044-87-0
Genre:  Non-Fiction/Self Help
eBook Length:  219  Pages
Published:  October 2007





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From Inside the Flap

EBook Format

True stories from John Klawitter, Hollywood writer-producer-director. Whether you’re pitching some famous old witch doctor who owns a big animation production company, or sending a query letter to a 25-year-old cannibal prince who lucked into being the head of acquisitions at a giant publishing conglomerate, the stories of discovery and survival in TINSEL WILDERNESS can be a source of inspiration and encouragement. From the book-lined offices of Random House and Doubleday to the West Coast movie studios with their wide views of palm trees and the blue Pacific, the wilderness is a strange place for those not expecting the weird, the unpredictable and the rough-and-tumble. To you, storytelling is as important as life itself. But to the natives it’s often little more than trinkets and beads they can exchange for furs and scraps of meat. The trick is, you don’t want to be the meat. As the natives often say with a wise nod of the head, It’s too late to moo when you’re hamburger. You’re a talented person, a creative writer, an artist in your own right. So as you take the first steps off the beaten path and into the tall grass toward the distant blue mountains, remember to stay alert, keep your weapons handy, and always expect the unexpected...you’re in the TINSEL WILDERNESS.



Reviews
Winner of the 2009 Eppie for Non-Fiction, General:

“The real stuff of Hollywood.  What it’s really like to write, produce and direct in the industry.”
 -Wally Burr, Director & Famous Voice Over Talent on over 2,000 animation shows  (G.I.Joe, Transformers, etc.)

“Glorious Broadsides!  Harold looks down from the pearly gates beaming approval!”
-Hal Hamilton, English Actor, Documentary Filmmaker and friend of Harold Orton. 

“I can’t wait to read it!”
 -Dick Cook, Chairman of Walt Disney Studios

“I can still beat you at racquetball.”
 -John Jensen, designer and long-time Disney Art Director

“And I can draw better than you.”
 -Roy Alexander, fine artist and long-time Disney Art Director

“Tinsel Wilderness is really the nuts and bolts, the smell and feel and taste of the Hollywood I know.”
 -Tom Pope, Hollywood Writer who has worked for Studios, Networks and Ad Agencies

“It is all very lively and, I think, very useful.  Thank you for including the stuff about me”
-Franklin McMahon, Sr. , World-famous artist-reporter

“Anyone who reads the book feels it's taken from the authentic fabric of a life, and finds it is just as much about the anonymous "Chinese grandmothers" as the stars like Natalie Wood. Aside from the priceless info on the ins and outs of the industry, there's a lot that stays with the reader.”
- Mary Rae, professional musician & poet, former editor of Romantics Quarterly.

“I hate writing.  It’s hard work.  You have to pay me to do it.”
 -Mike Spenser, writer and ex-Editor, L.A. Times

“Writing’s easy…relationships are hard.”
 -George Petlowany, promo & TV spot writer around Hollywood.

“You writers are all the same.  You say, ‘Pay me and I will write for you.’ Where’s the love there?”
 -Phil Mendez, animation genius, pitch-master, creator of Kissy Fur, Monster Tales and Black Santa, among others.

“So some day you’re going to write this down and you think people are actually going to read it?  (The year is 1969.  The wiry old man looks up at me and grins as he doodle-sketches a squiggily bird with long legs and goof-ball eyes on a cel on the animation desk in front of him)  Well, remember Babbitt is spelled with two ‘t’s’”
 -Art Babbit, long time Disney and Hanna Barbara animator, and the man who married Snow White




Excerpt


Foreword

Tinsel Wilderness is one of the most inspirational books I’ve read in a very long time, and it was with a feeling of exhilaration that I edited these wonderful stories by John Klawitter. As I read one true story after another, I felt like an explorer having come upon exquisite treasure, or a kid on Christmas morning.

We are, in many ways, living through a time in history filled with much bad news and very little inspiration. Grace and manners have been tossed aside in favor of rudeness and petty bickering. Major news channels cover the bickering of celebrities alongside--and, in some cases, in place of--harsh world realities that really matter. Tinsel Wilderness offers quiet, thoughtful refuge from all that.

John Klawitter remarked in an email to me, "Everyone has at least one story...the story of their life." In this book, he meets the challenge head-on of extracting the important threads from individual events in his life and weaving them into individual stories about himself and other people he has known. Within each story, the reader will find wisdom and life lessons as rich as solid gold.

This book opens with First Flight, set in John’s teenage years within the struggling town of Chicago Heights. He describes the memorable day in which author and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner came to town, and recited poetry and short excerpts from dramatic pieces at his high school. He describes in beautiful and haunting language how unusual an event this was for Chicago Heights. He also reports an event with a teacher following that recital that forever changed his life:

And then Mrs. Wilson tugged at us like so many little boaters, reminding us the magic hour was over. I was bewildered. Time had never slipped by so fast. I could see the auditorium was nearly empty. Amazing! For a moment I didn’t budge. Old Mrs. Wilson smiled sympathetically, and I saw she was looking directly at me. "It’s not a life for any of you," she said firmly, and she shook her tired old mop of gray curls. Not to be. It was not to be. She was right; it was late, it was time to grab our noses and jump in the warm puddle and swim back to our safe little coves.

I tried to dog-paddle along with the rest, I’m sure I did. After all, the route was wide, clear and well traveled, and we were all taking it together. It was, after all, the only pond in sight and the only way to be taken. And yet somehow, in spite of all that help and good direction, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back. I remember a turning--a sudden, irrational fury--and how I stared hard-eyed at poor, unknowing Mrs. Wilson, staring purposefully, like the Virginian had when he set aside his poker hand and said, "When you say that--smile", glaring until it was she who turned away. And looking back over all the years and all that has passed in between, I can recognize now that it was at this improbable moment that the impossible boat with its awkward rigging and all its outlandish airs, like a newborn bat or insect half-crazed with the first upward taste of flight, unfolded its gauzy wing-like sails and launched itself into the bright and shiny seas.

Tinsel Wilderness continues from there, taking the reader on a journey through John’s years in the Vietnam War--both in intelligence and as host of a radio show called "The Happy Jack Platter Shop", then on to cover his experiences as a cub copywriter following the Army, his years in advertising, eventually as an advertising executive, his many fascinating experiences working for Disney Studios and both the Hollywood and independent movie industries, his experience writing the approved biography of NFL Hall of Famer Deacon Jones, and his present determination to thrive as a published author. He writes fascinating stories about his experiences with movie stars and directors, always drawing life lessons from those events.

I strongly advise that you read each and every story in this volume. The complete title--TINSEL WILDERNESS: Lessons in Survival as a Professional Creative Person in Hollywood & Other Extreme Climates--meansexactly what it says. The world is full of extreme climates in which creative and decent people are too often practically endangered species. Tinsel Wilderness is a survival guide to the "Tinseltown" that is Hollywood and to all other tinsel and plastic climates in which we find ourselves struggling for authenticity.

After I read Tinsel Wilderness, I felt forever changed and deeply inspired. I wish you, dear reader, the same experience.

Marilyn Peake

Author of Adult and Children’s Literature

http://www.marilynpeake.com

First Flight

I remember the day Cornelia Otis Skinner came to town to "declaim upon the stage" as her mimeographed one-sheet billboard declared. There she was up on that theatrical poster in all her grandeur, one arm thrown dramatically in the air as she gazed off into some distant horizon only she might see. This was back in the time of hot rods and bobby socks, and the grand old lady of the theater was due to sweep down past the dark and sooty brickworks, the tall, black-belching chimneys and rusting junkyards into our town of Chicago Heights like a pale spirit from a long-forgotten era, the time of Victorian gentility, to cast a few civilized lines to the intellectually impoverished sons and daughters of the working class. The grimy puddle of our reality offered the Hotpoint factory, the Ford body stamping plant, the DeSoto Paint Company, Victor Chemical, Acme Tool & Die Works, Industrial Welding, and the Inland Steel mill where they melted down old railroad tracks and turned them into new re-bar and steel fence posts. We didn’t have much in the way of dramatic recitals.

I was the eldest son of a loving, alcoholic welder and a strict, rosary-thumbing mother who saw God’s hand in all events; I was gawky, dreamy and nearsighted, a somewhat less-than-average teenager who loved to lose sight of himself in books of romance and high adventure. In Darkest Africa. The Coming of Cassidy. A Princess of Mars. Daredevils of the Air. The Virginian. I had this ant-horde of brothers and sisters, and due to the economic necessities of existence at that level, was destined for a short scholastic career followed by a hot and lusty career in the steel mills, or perhaps at my father’s side in the welding firm. In my dreams I may have been holding the wheel to drive the pirate schooner, sails fully set and cutting through the waves across a churning ocean, but in the real world I was rowing my dinghy across a muddy pond, preordained to paddle out my days filling paint cans with Aztec Tan latex or Peppermint Green oil base, bolting fenders on Falcon body frames or catching new iron up on the fiery hotbeds where the furnaces roast your skin and the cherry red re-bar is spun.

This special one-night event was a one-woman show, entirely Cornelia, and would feature poetic readings--and short excerpts from dramatic pieces, to boot! Very intense for the time and place, which was 1956 in the Bloom Township High School auditorium. I don’t know that I’d have thought to go, but that was my sophomore year and I was in Speech class, and Mrs. Wilson stood at her desk with her spectacles down around the end of her nose and declaimed it a mandatory attendance.

Today I remember this tall, stately lady standing in a pool of light emoting in her tremulous voice, "Ghost Lake’s a dark lake...a deep lake...and old..." She also did Lady Macbeth’s bloody hands scene, "Out, out, damned spot!", and to tell the truth that’s about all I remember. It didn’t matter; the pieces themselves weren’t what I found important about Cornelia Otis Skinner. It was the fabric, not the text. I was hearing the great roar and the little whispers of actual life up there in front of those lights. I didn’t have the words or the understanding for it back then; all I knew was that I was experiencing something big, real big, mighty big.

After the show, Mrs. Wilson led the Speech and the Drama classes backstage as a special privilege. I was surprised to see that Cornelia may have been grand, but she certainly wasn’t that old--maybe in her mid-fifties. There I was, bare wrists hanging out of last year’s shirt, wide-eyed under a cowlick of unruly hair that no Vaseline Tonic could ever tame, chalky scuffed white suede shoes under my frayed roll-cuff jeans. I stood right next to her, still as a statue, hardly daring to breathe as she took a few questions from her admiring fans. Is what you do hard? a freshman girl in pigtails asked. Where do you go next? The others crowded around. Did you ever act in a movie? I just stood there, frozen under the hot orange stage lights in the electricity of the moment like a humble fly in amber while Cornelia politely answered as best she could. She smelled slightly of sweat and greasepaint, and there was something wonderful about her, I’m not sure what...to this day, I’m not sure what...I do know that there was a moment when, in her reflected light, to me all things seemed possible and even the iron manacles of absolute reality could be questioned as if they might, like the chains of gravity holding John Carter, Prince of Mars, magically fall away.

And then Mrs. Wilson tugged at us like so many little boaters, reminding us the magic hour was over. I was bewildered. Time had never slipped by so fast. I could see the auditorium was nearly empty. Amazing! For a moment I didn’t budge. Old Mrs. Wilson smiled sympathetically, and I saw she was looking directly at me. "It’s not a life for any of you," she said firmly, and she shook her tired old mop of gray curls. Not to be. It was not to be. She was right; it was late, it was time to grab our noses and jump in the warm puddle and swim back to our safe little coves.

I tried to dog-paddle along with the rest, I’m sure I did. After all, the route was wide, clear and well traveled, and we were all taking it together. It was, after all, the only pond in sight and the only way to be taken. And yet somehow, in spite of all that help and good direction, I wasn’t going to be able to make it back. I remember a turning--a sudden, irrational fury--and how I stared hard-eyed at poor, unknowing Mrs. Wilson, staring purposefully, like the Virginian had when he set aside his poker hand and said, "When you say that--smile", glaring until it was she who turned away. And looking back over all the years and all that has passed in between, I can recognize now that it was at this improbable moment that the impossible boat with its awkward rigging and all its outlandish airs, like a newborn bat or insect half-crazed with the first upward taste of flight, unfolded its gauzy wing-like sails and launched itself into the bright and shiny seas.