The ballad of a local kid who loved movies and comic books so much he moved to Hollywood...where he writes movies and comic books
Published: July 27, 2011
I'm still troubled by one L.A. memory: A dirty morning crashing hard on blow in that Hollywood apartment above Franklin Avenue while my then-wife was in rehab. I was wrecked and alone on the wrong side of night with the sun rising on my flawed existence through fake French doors that opened to the sky. Century City sort of quivered in the distance to the west ... faint flashes of the Pacific beyond. A gray L.A. morning, but eerily clear.
Through an east-looking window I froze on the beautiful Spanish-revivalist tower and neon of the Alto Nido apartments. That's where failed journalist-turned-scriptwriter Joe Gillis lived, William Holden's character in the Hollywood-consumes-Hollywood classic Sunset Boulevard. It felt more real than it should've in lovely old Tinseltown, in its spectral visions of dead silent-film stars and alcoholic casting agents and spent scriptwriters, in the bars, arched entries and flora-rich hills that lie east of La Brea. Man, I didn't stand a chance against a city so full of cocaine and self-belief.
My little scene felt like a title sequence in a film adapted from a lost Hubert Selby Jr. novel, maybe one in which the protagonist ultimately self-immolates or something. God, I thought, how does anyone win in this shithole?
I was a cliché.
Aside from using L.A. as launch pad into a screenwriting career, Cole Haddon is conspicuously opposite old Joe Gillis. Instead of floating face-down in a swimming pool, he's still expressively fresh-faced — slightly cynical maybe, but barely sullied. And, aside from a handful of music and film publicists he'd "met" via e-mail, which doesn't mean jack, he really didn't know anyone in L.A., except a college bud and a dude in a band.
When he left Detroit not six years ago, I refrained from revealing my earlier personal experiences, but I told him that everyone and their grandpa writes movies and TV in L.A. — that's what the time between AA meetings is for. I don't think he understood. (Hell, I don't even think he drinks.) I sympathized because pain and suffering are harder on the innocent saps — they never see it coming.
Well, I'll be damned if Haddon didn't move to L.A. and become a rising screenwriting star, a kid "to watch" who film producers want to meet. (He's even getting married to a lovely screenwriter-producer.) Haddon is a writer with Hollywood heat whose "team" includes a killer manager (whom he met through his future sister-in-law) and a set of agents.
Even Thomas Jane, the star male prostitute of HBO's hit series Hung, is a Cole Haddon fan. He wrote me saying that Cole has what "we in Tinseltown have come to call 'an authentic voice.' He's not trying to copy anybody. Yet there is also something old-fashioned about Cole's work — a touch of the pulp novelist between the lines."
In fact, Haddon got somewhere around $100,000 for the first script he sold in 2009 loosely based on Thieves of Baghdad, which director Guy Richie is now circling. Haddon's mini-series of Victorian horror comic books, The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde, all came out this year on major comic book publisher Dark Horse, the last of which drops the day this story appears. His scripted movie version of said series is a heavily buzzed-up Hollywood project simply called Hyde, for which he got another low six-figures.
I met Haddon in person about six years ago while strolling inside the Cobo Center at some music festival, one of those let's-make-Detroit-like-L.A. things that are really about someone else's ego, not giving musicians a boost. The cavernous show areas were basically empty, of course, and I was talking with some smart guy in some dumb band when Haddon walked up and immediately began selling himself. OK, we'd traded e-mails once or twice, and I've no idea how he knew what I looked like — as if anyone should care — but because he exercised so little social grace with an air of slight desperation I knew he was a motherfucker. Band guy quickly receded into the dull backdrop as Haddon launched into self-hyperbole: "C'mon, Brian, let me do an interview with so-and-so. It'll be the greatest 1,200 words you've ever read." He actually said "the greatest 1,200 words you've ever read." Who could forget a line like that?
Funny, Haddon looked less like a "journalist" than he did some burb-y dude working his way toward a mid-level management career at Best Buy — freshly shaved in a pressed button-down shirt, khaki trousers and reddish-brown hair cut above the ears, but good-looking like a young Matthew McConaughey crossed with a youthful, less creepy George Michael. He did, however, carry a notebook and a little recorder, which, in these days of Internet self-appointment, can make anyone a "journalist."
"Dude, Why are you carrying the notebook?"
"To take notes."
"Notes for what?"
"I'm writing about this festival."
"Don't know. Maybe you could use something on this?"
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