This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
A friend of mine just signed a big deal at a studio. He's deserved one for years -- he's a talented, funny, writer but even more, he's a born show-runner -- but he hasn't had the best luck -- he worked on some shows that never quite caught on, his timing in the business wasn't lucky (he missed the bonanza overall deal years of the nineties) and so when I read in the trades that he had landed a big, multi-year contract, I felt a strange, odd, unfamiliar sensation.
I was happy for him. Actually happy. Not pretend happy, not send-him-a-basket-of-muffins happy, or furiously work the keys of my calculator happy, trying to prove to myself that my deals back then were better than his deal now. Not strained cheerful voiced happy -- "I guess that's good for him; I don't know about the studio, I mean, he hasn't really ever created a show... but whatever whatever it's all good I'm happy for him."
No, honestly, I was genuinely happy that something good happened to someone I like.
I know: weird, huh? And this was a real, verifiable emotion, not some kind of neurological event or tiny stroke, because I went to the emergency room and had that checked out. I told the nurse there that a friend of mine had recently experienced some wonderful success, and that I was genuinely happy for him, and that that had alarmed me. She was pretty blas- about it until I specified that I was a writer, working in the entertainment industry who was happy for another writer, also working in the entertainment industry, at which point she screamed for the crash cart and I was hustled into the shock/trauma center.
Turns out, blood in the brain sac-wise or imperceptible nerve-damage wise, I'm okay. But it still doesn't explain why, for some reason, I'm no longer affected by the Hollywood "I am not really happy for you" virus.
Maybe it's the yoga. Or, maybe, it's the book I just finished, written by an old college friend, Keith Ferrazzi. It's called Never Eat Alone, and part of his credo is, in order to succeed at business and life, you have to be willing to do things for people without also thinking about what they can do for you in return. I know: weird, huh?
So I called up my friend -- I mean, why waste all of this good feeling, right? I call him at the office, his assistant answers, and a few minutes later, he comes on the line.
"Oh, hey. Listen, I just read about your deal in the trades and I wanted to say congratulations. I think it's great that you got this deal, you've deserved one for along time, and I'm really happy for you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I repeat to him what I said, and it take him a few go-arounds to really believe me. "Listen," he says, "don't take this the wrong way, but have you seen a doctor about this?" And I tell him about the test data. So, finally, he accepts my congratulations and good wishes at face value.
"Well, thanks. I guess."
And we hang up. An hour or two later, he calls again.
"Seriously, though, was that a bit? Kind of a deadpan thing?"
"I was just calling to congratulate you. I know you've been wanting a big deal for a long time, and it almost happened a few times before, and-I was happy that it finally happened."
"You know what I mean."
"So you think I was lucky? Is that it? You're congratulating me for being lucky, not for being good. Right?"
"I'm congratulating you for being both."
"You're sick. You know that? You just can't be happy for someone, can you? That's sad. It's sad that a guy who's had a good career and has made some money and is now at the tail end of it, winding down, string almost run out, ready for a rest, can't just let it go, the bitterness, the toxic competitiveness."
"The tail end of it? What's that supposed to mean?"
"I think you know."
And we hung up. It was nice to share some good feelings with a fellow writer in the entertainment industry. And you know, when you really get out a calculator and crunch the numbers, my deals back then were much better than his deal now. But, you know, whatever.
That's it for this week. Next week, we'll go on Craig's List. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.