LB: Live! From Paradise #237 – “Just Another Chinese Adventure Part 1”

(The Intro above is from this column's previous web incarnation)

by Larry Brody

The way I look at this life and the work we do in it boils down to this:

The reward for doing a good job is you get to do it again.

Whether you want to or not.

A couple of years ago, I went to China as a consultant to a Hong Kong production company. I must have done a good job because they asked me back, as a writer and producer this time. The company supplied the concept and source material—the true World War II story of the sinking, in the East China Sea, of a Japanese ship loaded with Allied prisoners who had to fight against desperate odds to survive.

Once I agreed to take this on it was up to me to build the premise into a film.

The first step was for Gwen the Beautiful and myself to return to the exotic East so I could talk to survivors and visit the places where the events occurred.

I figured this would take about a week. The Boss of the company disagreed.

“We need you here for at least a month,” he said over the phone.

“A month? I’d love to stay a month, but I’ve got a zillion responsibilities at home. No way I can be gone that long.”

Beside me, Gwen was listening closely. She whispered, “A month in China and you’re saying no? Remember what a great time we had there before?”

“It won’t be the same,” I said. “Consulting is…consulting. Writing is work.”

The Boss laughed from 9,000 miles away. “I understand marital compromise. I’ll set the trip up for three weeks.”

A month later, after a travel time of 27 hours, from our front door to Hong Kong Airport, Gwen and I arrived and learned why The Boss needed us to be there for so long.

Turns out that in China, just as in Hollywood, socializing is a major part of the job. And the socializing began the first night, when Gwen, The Boss, and I attended a charity show at the largest venue I’ve ever seen, a live theater-music multiplex in one of the smaller buildings on the formerly pastoral island of Kowloon.

By which I mean it was “only” 50 stories high.

After two hours of professional entertainers from all over the world doing Broadway song and dance, we went back to our hotel and collapsed.

The Boss roused us the next day. Lunch at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, where they had a buffet spread in a room so vast it looked as though the entire racetrack would fit inside it. And after that we were off to see the last day of shooting of The Boss’s current film, the project on which I’d been consulting two years before.

That night The Boss, The Boss’s Assistant (who also happens to be one of the major directors of TV commercials in that part of the world), The Coordinator Who Got Her Start On Enter The Dragon, The Cute Accounting Intern About To Leave To Study For Her Ph.D. In Urban Planning At Cambridge, and I went to a party given by Hong Kong’s Most Important Entertainment Attorney In A Restaurant He Owns.

To her disappointment, Gwen couldn’t make it. She fought bravely but couldn’t fend off her body’s need for more sleep. The only reason I can give for my ability to stay awake is my insatiable curiosity. Was this really going to be just like the L.A. Scene I’d so happily left behind years ago? I had to see.

And what I saw was about 40 people sitting at three large tables in a private room. At the head table were HK’s Most Important Attorney, his Fifth Wife, his three unmarried sisters, and half a dozen suitors for the sisters (and, I’m pretty sure, for the Fifth Wife as well. At the other tables were various Hong Kong film luminaries, including a Lovely Hong Kong Oscar-Winning Actress, and, of course, us—The Boss and his entourage.

Wine flowed. Spirits splashed. And as the 14 course meal progressed The Lovely Hong Kong Oscar-Winning Actress explained its Prime Directive to me:

“If you raise your glass you must down it in one sip. And you must raise it every time someone makes a toast.”

Over 14 courses, that’s a lot of toasts.

Ah, Hong Kong, you are indeed Hollywood East!

I’d salute you, but after that night I don’t think I’ll ever dare to raise my glass again.

More to come.

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