Authentic ’80s Experiences
Something kind of neat that one of my friends from the ’80s groups I follow reminded me of:
In my office sits an original script for St. Elmo’s Fire.
I worked at Columbia Pictures in the late ’80s, my first real job out of college. I did script research and had access to a library of hundreds of scripts at the offices in New York and in California, which was where my bosses worked. I was kind of the East Coast end of the script research department. Although I didn’t work on this script (it filmed before I was hired there), I had my bosses send it to me because I identified with it, having just graduated. It was not one of my favorites at the time.
It’s marked third draft, dated October 8, 1984, as received for archiving. My old boss’ name is stamped on it, Donna Brainard, who was head of script research in the legal department in Los Angeles. She lived in Venice Beach with Henry Colman, the producer of the shows Hotel and The Love Boat. I had drinks at their home the week they flew me out to meet the LA staff. My head was spinning at the time, at 23 years-old, only six months before having been drinking beer at frat parties, suddenly meeting Hollywood producers.
Sometimes it’s cool to be the kind of semi-hoarder who keeps absolutely everything. I also have the script for Spike Lee’s “School Daze” and a Jodie Foster movie called “Stealing Home.” Not sure why I kept those two of the ones I worked on– although Spike Lee was a big deal at the time and that film was a musical. (I think I had to research something about the sorority names at Howard University for that one.) These items are now 30+ years-old, and St. Elmo’s– although not exactly art–has become an iconic piece of ’80s cinema.
The daily research work at Columbia Pictures was tedious sometimes to the point of driving me to the brink insanity (which is one reason why I left), but it had certain advantages. My boss in California got me an autographed photo of Tom Cruise in Top Gun one day when he was on the studio grounds, because they knew I was obsessed. There was a screening room in the building where the staff could view movies once a week, before they were released to the public, so we could see the results of the work we were doing–even if it took more than a year to sometimes see the final product. They showed other studio’s movies as well there, since we were in fact educating ourselves about the competition in watching these films, too. I saw Oliver Stone’s Platoon there, Fatal Attraction, La Bamba, The Big Easy (I worked on those last two), a thriller called Sea of Love with Ellen Barkin that was popular at the time.
Now and then, someone famous would come through the building. We employees had our own little network wherein we’d call and alert each other when someone was aware of a celebrity passing through. Me and my buddy would then ride the elevators up and down repeatedly trying to catch that person. I took a ride with Dustin Hoffman once, and Kevin Bacon. My buddy caught Michael J. Fox. Similarly, if one of us saw someone famous on our lunch breaks, we’d call up to the rest of the girls in the building, and everyone would come out to see. Me and the girls followed Sylvester Stallone down Fifth Avenue one day when he was shopping for engagement rings for Brigitte Nielsen.
I rode the elevator up and down for about an hour the day Tom Cruise was rumored to be on-site.
Back to St. Elmo’s, below you’ll see the page with the moment that I ironically related to most closely at the time. It’s where Jules (Demi Moore) sits rocking on the floor of her empty apartment, wrapped in a sheet (and in Rob Lowe), and says…
“I’m so tired, Billy. I never thought I’d be so tired. At 22.”
New Adult angst at its finest.
This also resonated with me, just out of college, since at the time I had a bit of a
Demi Moore look going on, one of the few times people ever said I looked like anyone famous. You can kind of see the parallel in the following rock-and-roll headshot, and a clip from Demi Moore in “About Last Night.”
A few more pages for your viewing pleasure:
Love this scene, where Wendy brings Billy to dinner at her house with her family and her franchisee brothers-in-law.
Mrs. Beamish:Where did you and Wendy meet again? Billy:*Prison*
Title page, closer view. Not a bad perk at all. Wish I had taken home 20 scripts.
I like having been an authentic part of this era, and having memorabilia that has seasoned into something that’s meaningful to people. And having memories and experiences of pop culture that were more exciting than I gave them credit for at the time.