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Burt Prelutsky / Oct. 21, 2019

Small Men, Big Shadows

It was Yin Yutang who observed "When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means the sun is about to set."

It was Yin Yutang who observed “When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means the sun is about to set.”

That being the case, it is difficult to regard the current political scene in this nation as anything other than twilight. I can’t recall another time in our history when so many mental and moral midgets have been so actively pursuing a single goal. That inexplicable goal is to bring the noble experiment begun by men like Madison, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, to a grinding halt.

The remarkable thing is, one, that anyone would think this country needed to be radically transformed, either politically or economically, considering how well this democratic republic has been able to deal with the peaceful transference of power for all these years and how prosperous its citizens have become. Even those living in what we refer to as poverty have luxuries that those in most other countries would regard as fantasies.

Most urban blacks, even those who survive on welfare, have refrigerators, washers and dryers, cars or trucks, color TVs, clean water right out of a faucet and cell phones. They also eat well, thanks to the taxpayer-funded SNAP program, formerly referred to as food stamps. Also, their kids always seem to be wearing the most expensive sneakers turned out in Asian sweat shops by Nike.

Yet it is nearly impossible to convince half the people who are fortunate enough to call America their home that, like the song says, they’re the luckiest people in the world. You would think their own experiences would have immunized them from the lies told by those who resemble the snake lurking in the Garden of Eden. And yet they actually believe they are living in a racist cesspool where everyone who isn’t a white heterosexual male is being oppressed.

It was no accident. It took a concerted effort by educators, members of the media and politicians, over the course of many years to subvert truth and to bamboozle people from an early age to believe, as in Orwell’s prophetic “1984,” that black is white, weakness is strength, up is down, emotions trump facts, that there are more than two genders and that slavery was not only invented in America but existed nowhere else on earth.

I’m pretty sure that Lin Yutang didn’t have any specific small men in mind, and I’m equally certain that he wasn’t excluding small women from the equation.

What’s more, I suspect that if I presented him with a laundry list that included Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jerry Nadler, Eric Swalwell, Andrew McCabe, Maxine Waters, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Mazie Hirono, Robert Mueller, Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, Elijah Cummings, Ilhan Omar, Eric Holder, Richard Goodstein, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Lawrence O'Donnell, Gavin Newsom, Loretta Lynch, Cory Booker, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Eric Swalwell, John Brennan, Peter Buttigieg, Rashida Tlaib, Bruce Ohr, Beto O'Rourke, James Clapper, Lois Lerner, Chris Cuomo, Paul Krugman, Don Lemon, Chris Hahn, Leslie Marshall, Sheila Jackson Lee, Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein and Al Green, he would have nodded and then probably added: “Don’t forget James Comey. Just because he’s 6-foot-7 doesn’t mean he isn’t just as small as all the others.”

There was a time when I had a hard time enjoying conspiracy movies because they nearly always involved rogue agents of the CIA framing innocent parties or even killing them in order to conceal their villainy. That sure seems like a long time ago.

These days, there is nothing evil I wouldn’t believe about the FBI, the CIA, the NSA or any of those other alphabet agencies whose members have sworn to defend and protect the Constitution. From everyone but themselves, apparently.

I know we’re supposed to believe that it was only the folks at the top of the hierarchy who were trying to bring down President Trump, but I didn’t notice any of these allegedly dedicated men and women stepping forward to blow the whistle on the Comey’s, the McCabe’s, the Strzok’s, the Page’s, the Ohr’s, the Brennan’s, the Hayden’s or the Clapper’s. It was only when it came to President Trump that these schmucks remembered where they’d stashed their whistles.

Recently, I was told that Rush Limbaugh reported that as hard as it’s been for ill-educated millennials to find gainful employment after they’ve graduated with their pathetic degrees in Black Studies, Lesbian Studies and Rap Music, a great many are now quitting their jobs.

I didn’t hear what reason he gave, but Dan Parker guessed it’s because the youngsters have been convinced by the likes of Al Gore and A O-C that the end is near for mankind, and they figure they may as well just make the best of the short time left to them. And that definitely does not involve punching a clock.

It occurred to me that the group that will be hit the hardest are those folks selling life insurance.

Speaking of selling, even now that I’ve put scriptwriting in the past, I occasionally hear from someone who has written a movie script or, more often, has an idea for a movie script, and wants to know if I can recommend an agent.

The fact is, even when I was actively involved in the business, I couldn’t have recommended anyone. There was one I liked better than the others, but even he was never able to get me an assignment. I got all of those on my own, and then, adding injury to insult, I had to pay some schmuck 10% of the money.

The worst agent I ever had was a guy named Elliott Webb. After writing a TV movie script that starred Jean Stapleton, was nominated for a Writers Guild award and that scored high in the ratings, I found myself being pursued by Elliott. He was with a major Hollywood agency and therefore had an expense account, which enabled him to woo me with dinner at a nice restaurant. But what really won me over was that he said: “You’re too good a writer to be writing TV movies for Jean Stapleton.”

I did point out to him that if you’re going to write TV movies, writing them for Jean Stapleton was a pretty good way to go. For one thing, she was a fine actress. For another, every network wanted to be in business with the former Edith Bunker of “All in the Family” fame, so you had a good chance of getting your script produced.

He corrected himself and said I was too good to be writing TV movies and should be writing features. I agreed and therefore signed with his agency.

The one thing I came to learn about Elliott was that he hated reading scripts. He would always have an intern read the script and write what is called coverage, a half-page or so that spelled out the plot, the characters and its chances of being produced.

It got so bad that one day, when we were having a breakfast meeting, I reached over and took the menu out of Elliott’s hands. I suggested that he wait for coverage.

About a year passed and I still wasn’t getting a shot at any feature assignments. One day, I heard from a friend who worked at CBS that I was going to be getting an offer to write a TV movie for, of all people, Jean Stapleton.

A few days later, I received a phone call from Elliott to tell me he had gotten me an assignment to write a TV movie for Jean Stapleton. If I hadn’t already heard from my friend at the network, I would have thought, miracle of miracles, that an agent had finally earned his ten percent.

Instead, I reminded him that he had told me I was too good to write such things for Ms. Stapleton.

And now you know how it is that in a TV writing career that lasted roughly 35 years, I had over 20 agents.

Fred Allen once famously said: “You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, place it in the naval of a fruit fly and still have room for three caraway seeds and a producer’s heart.”

What he neglected to mention was that, on average, a producer’s heart is ten times the size of a Hollywood agent’s integrity.

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