They were all minor leaguers toiling in obscurity with one and only one burning desire. The desire to not be the butt of life’s jokes anymore…”
by adam kluger
Patsy Dreckenheimer opened up the Daily News and flipped through the headlines. Iced green tea and fiber bar to the right, list of clients, monies owed and deliverables due on a napkin to the left. Dreckenheimer took a long, cold swig when a headline about aspiring comedienne being carted off to the funny farm for stalking a local politician caught Patsy’s eye.
“Oy vey- what has this fakaktah schlumperdink done now?,” the 75-year-old personal manager muttered to himself. He thought he had seen it all by now.
The article read:
“Selena Markowitz, a former homeless woman whose comedy career peaked when she appeared on VH2’s stand-up Comedy Slam Showcase a couple years ago, was taken to Bellevue Hospital earlier today for observation after security guards arrested Ms. Markowitz for allegedly stalking Democratic Presidential Candidate Stacey Smith’s office dressed in a bathrobe.”
Dreckenheimer had discovered Markowitz performing on the subway—but in fairness—it was actually Markowitz who had zeroed in on “The Dreck.” Patsy Dreckenheimer had a fail-safe shit detector or radar that led people who were bat-shit crazy right to him and his little management/talent company. Why they sought him out instead of the big boys, the real players in the industry, was not too difficult to figure out. They were all losers. The dregs. The deluded. The almost- talented. They were all minor leaguers toiling in obscurity with one and only one burning desire. The desire to not be the butt of life’s jokes anymore. Andy Warhol called it 15 minutes of fame. Dreckenheimer—who liked baseball, the Yankees in particular—called it a Cup of Coffee. A call up to the major leagues and chance in the Big Show. A chance for redemption, a golden shining moment. A dream fulfilled. A heroin shot full of adrenaline and a dance with fame. That is what Patsy’s Worldwide Prestige Talent Agency offered all his clients—a cup of coffee. The golden moments are fleeting an old high school girlfriend once wrote Patsy in a poetic love note before she took his virginity during senior year and then unceremoniously dumped him. Luck be a lady.
“Shut up already you talentless fuckin assholes!!” Dreckenheimer shouted to no one in particular as he pounded his fist against the peeling paint on the wall.
Patsy’s small office had paper thin walls and he was right next to a telemarketing company that offered terrible business advice. It was like Chinese water torture every day. The telemarketers were all commission-based bottom of the barrel cretins that looked and sounded like circus freaks from the Glen Garry Glenn-Idiot factory. Their phone pitches were loud and dumb and never-ending.
“Hello Mr. Jones, how are YOU today? It’s Charlie from Marine Financial—how is YOUR business doing today?”
“It’s all fucked up just like YOU Charlie, you USELESS excuse for a human being!!” screamed Dreckenheimer as loud as he could, hoping that Charlie would finally hear one of his sarcastic responses to the telemarketer’s oft-repeated phone shtick through the old walls.
If Dreckenheimer had kept a gun in his office he would have been locked up for murder years ago. “I swear I gotta get out of this office before I kill someone,” Patsy emoted in a guttural moan of frustration. Frustration and disappointment were Patsy’s constant companions along with hope and perseverance. Patsy Dreckenheimer was a glass-half-full kind of guy. He was a lover of people and art and, most of all, challenges. If you told Patsy he couldn’t do something that meant he would have to try. Some would call this sort of behavior the definition of a real schmuck.
Patsy preferred to see himself as a Mensch. A George Bailey in Pottersville. Unafraid of failure and capable of finding the silver lining in any person or situation. It was what made the detritus of society seek out Worldwide Prestige Talent Agency and rely on Patsy to guide their careers and lives to a better place.
Over the years they had all paid Patsy a call—the politicians, the showgirls, the TV/Film stars, the faded legends, the artists, actors, the models, comics, musicians, authors—all looking for the spotlight like a wild animal looking for a salt lick. Patsy opened his heart every time and out of his mouth poured words that he had heard himself speak over and over again, famous names, jokes, venues, stories, wisdom. Before he knew it WPTA had a new client on its roster and a new problem child to manage. Would he have to walk to a familiar apartment to find a policeman telling him to clear the area because they were investigating a dead body? Would the person on the other end of the phone tell him to come down to the courthouse because his client was just arrested? Would the conversation be about suicide, depression, poverty, the unfairness of life and fame?
The Dreck put on his headphones and started to listen to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Such a beautiful song. So full of hope and humanity. Music was better than any drug. Even fame. Dreck walked to the diner near his small office for lunch. As he got into the elevator he looked at the five young people surrounding him all studying their smart phones intently. The air still had a chill and the promise of the weekend made Patsy smile as he went over his to-do’s in his mind as he grabbed a booth, ordered a lean pastrami sandwich and started to scribble notes on his napkin. His BlackBerry vibrated. It was Mushkin.
“What’s up Mush?”
“Same Schmageggies, you?”
“I’d complain, but who would listen—you read the News today, Page 15?”
“Markowitz—Yeah, I told you she was a waste of your time, Dreck…sometimes I think you just take on asshole clients because you’re one yourself.”
“Maybe you’re right Mush—I should have read the writing on the subway cars on that one—but what the fuck, you only live once, at least I helped a homeless woman live out her lifelong dream of appearing on TV as a professional comedienne.”
“That’s great Dreck, but do you think anyone else really gives a fuck about that? Did your accountant?”
“Oy vey’s meer…don’t mention that incompetent motherfucker—why do you think I’m still dream-weaving and humping it every day with these broken toys.”
“Just saying kid, at some point when are you gonna finally give it up?”
“What, so you can steal all my shitty clients? Never, Mush…or how about this… whenever they get rid of the fucking IRS, then I’ll quit”
“Alright fuckface, talk back at ya.”
“Yeah, go fuck yourself too…see you at cards night.”
Dreckenheimer smiled and bit into his pastrami sandwich.
He swallowed, washed it down with diet cream soda, and then finding a bit of courage he punched the numbers into his BlackBerry. No answer. Won’t leave a message. He knows he owes me money. It can hold til Monday I guess. The Dreck sighed at the impossibility of it all. The BlackBerry was torn on top he could actually look inside it and see the green plastic and silver metal innards—one of these days it would be time to switch to an iPhone.
One of these days it would be time to learn how to tweet or to drive a stick or to own a dog or to stop grieving or to shut it down and start over on something else. Maybe publish one of those dust-covered manuscripts or become a professional horseplayer or fade into the NYC sidewalks like gum or pigeon shit. One of these days Patsy Dreckenheimer was gonna have to wake up and smell the coffee. He wasn’t getting any younger as his doctors kept reminding him. He didn’t feel alone but he was. He was alienated from his family and his clients were too poor, ungrateful, or dysfunctional to help elevate The Dreck from his morass. He could lift them up and get them a top gig as a headliner but it was never a two-way street. He was a giver and a magician but the rabbits he pulled out of his hat always ended up getting slaughtered and his princesses always turned back into pumpkins after the ball.
“Well, at least she’s getting the help she really needs now” Patsy Dreckenheimer thought to himself as he turned the pages of the Daily News to the section in the middle with the crossword puzzle.
Upon returning to the office the receptionist, Yoriku, informed Dreck cooly, “You got another one waiting for you in your office.”
“Thanks, Ms. Tanaka,” replied Dreck with a wink.
“So who do we have here?”
“My name is Daphne Merola, I’m applying for the internship.”
“So you are …so you are.” Picking up her headshot from his desk without making eye contact—“Seems you’ve done a fair bit of acting yourself, Ms. Merola, some modeling…why would you want to intern at a talent agency like WPTA?”
“Well Mr. Dreckenmayer—it would be a sincere honor and a privilege to learn the talent business from such a legendary name in the business and I am currently taking night courses in business at Baruch.”
Dreck chuckled to himself at whether or not he was really a legend in the business or a cautionary tale. Whatever, she was pretty enough and that didn’t hurt. Seemed smart and eager too.
“Alright, Ms. Merola—this talent agency is like a lifeboat. We only have two rules here– treat each other with kindness and respect. The rest we’ll make up as we go along. Our clients are like family to us. And that’s a good and bad thing. We’re a small business so my job is to focus on sales, delivery and account management. Your job is to help me with everything and to learn the ropes as we go along. Ask questions. Mix it up, kid. Get involved. Take the initiative. There’s a magical quality to helping people achieve their dreams and a tragic aspect to it as well once that dream has been fulfilled. I know this is a lot of information for your first day but I want you to know what you are walking into –your desk is over there by the window. That’s an ancient computer so if you have your own laptop you’re probably better off. Do you have an iPhone?”
“Good girl. Do you know how to tweet?”
“Of course, Mr. Dreckenmayer.”
“It’s Heimer, actually…Drecken-heimer, but you can call me Dreck…believe me, I’ve been called a lot worse.”
(illustrations: adam kluger)
Adam Kluger is a New York City born street artist & writer. A direct descendant of famed British sculptor Jacob Epstein and a past art student of renowned artist, Ion Theodore. Kluger went to the same high school as Jack Kerouac, and spent some time studying the great artists throughout Europe before settling back in New York. Kluger draws his inspiration from diverse sources that include Jean Dubuffet, Marc Chagall, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Bob Ross, Eric Payson and Pablo Picasso. A collection of his fiction is due for publication in 2016. More from Adam Kluger in Smokebox here.