The Kid Slays in the Picture
I first met the Zodiac Killer in the fall of 1970 at a dinner party given for him by Grace Malley and her husband, Yezny Finkelblatt, head of Motion Picture Studio’s security cameras deivision. My wife of the moment, Corrida Mexia, was seated next to a lovely young co-ed who would later end up starring on the front page of the Examiner‘s crime section, and I was at a different table. Every time I took a peek to make sure that Ali wasn’t coming after her with a bread fork, she was giggling. Could the guy be that funny? It was hard to tell. He had a potato bag over his head.
Towards the end of the toast given by Francis Ford Coppola about the blockbuster movie he was hoping I would make for him in a couple of years, the bag-headed character stood up and gave me a little wave, what perfect timing on this kid. “Bobby,” he says, in that crazy egghead voice of his, or maybe it was just the bag. “I’ve always wanted to meet you.”
“You and me both,” I said, although I was thinking, I’m glad I didn’t meet you while making out with some young totsie from the Catamount back lot in the front of my ’68 Ferrari sports coupe. Corrida went to get me a glass of bleach.
“Can I get you something, Zodey?” One glass of Gulliver’s beet-root gin and she was already calling him Zodey. I made a mental note to divorce someone and we sat down to palaver.
“So you’re the king of Hollywood,” said the dashing little man with the leather apron and the penchant for poetry. I liked him. He reminded me of me, or of Charlie Manson, or of a me who was like Charlie Manson but in a movie-making sense instead of in a killing-people sense.
“You can make me the king,” I said, shaking his hand. He had one of those watches with a ship on it. It reminded me of when I used to go sailing with Zalman King, who I believe was the king of Zalmania. “Star in one of my pictures.”
“Which one?” he asked, with a breathy kind of wheezing athsmatic phlegmy cough.
“The Godfather,” I said, which was, like my new friend’s victims, being shot at the time.
“For the lead?” he asked. All business, that one, plus homicide.
“For the role of Sonny. He’s a hothead. Goyish temperament. Curly hair, kills people. You’re a natch.” I was buttering him up. He liked butter, if the plate in front of him was any indication and it always is.
“I’ll have to have a word with my people about it. I’m pretty well locked into the whole killing-people thing. Business is good.”
What charm. What panache. What that other word that’s like panache, only not so French. He didn’t quite cut the same figure but he reminded me of a Errol Flynn with murder instead of rape. The next day I showed enough cojones to invite him to lunch at Megalith. I never thought he’d take me up on it, but they were serving shrimps.
Touring the studio, I pulled the whole A.C. Moikenschmitz routine, trying to wow him with the glitzy history of the place. He seemed as impressed as I would have been if he’d showed me how to crack those wacky codes of his. When I told him Jack Lemmon was on the lot making It Takes Nine to Baseball It, he said, “Do you think he’d like to see me shoot a guy in the face?”
That’s how our friendship started — we recognized in each other two adult male human grown-up normal man’s bodies into which were stuffed a couple of google-eyed kids who liked making movies and serial-killing, respectively. (I’m the first, movie-making guy.) It wasn’t long before we were on the phone with each other every night, giggling like schoolgirls over our latest escapades. Surprise! He had a lot of brushes with the law.
It’s been said many times many ways, but it ain’t merry Chrismas: show business and mass murder are really two sides of the same coin. Or one side of two different coins. Or a two-sided coin where it’s the same on both sides, like those ones you used to could get at Frappington’s along with a vanilla egg cream or a cabinet chocaroo. The kind of show business that I did, and the kind of mass murder that Zodey did, it was the most same-coinedish of all, because we both went for the gusto. After all, as Zodey often said, making the decisions over whether your picture is going to be a boffo or a floppo is pretty much the same as savagely executing random strangers to be your mindless slaves in the afterlife.
I’d joke that our phones were tapped, and then he’d hang up and I’d find a severed finger in my morning coffee. Zodey would say to me, “Bob, the bloodstains are really hard to get out of a smoking jacket.”
“Tell me about it. You’re talking about a guy who once had martinis with Bob Hope’s writing staff.”
“Bob, that comment, as do so many that come out of your mouth, made no sense whatsoever. And people call me crazy. Tell me, is Jane Fonda’s vagina all it’s made out to be?”
Crazy kids, I tell you. I never did get him into The Godfather, but he did take care of some pesky A.D.s for me down the line. But I’ve said too much, until next chapter.