Damien on… Chuck Barris: Secret Agent
This writer’s wish to be contemporary won’t be helped by the following piece, since it concerns Stuff that occurred a while back – but he did not have a COMPUTER then…
He is speaking of “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind” – which “Chuckie-Baby” originally wrote in 1984.
There are, traditionally, three kinds of books. Fiction, non-fiction and the historical novel – which marries the two former.
But an historical novel, while using real characters and events, is always sold as FICTION – which is where “Confessions…” differs from tradition. Chuck claimed that ALL the events portrayed were TRUE.
For those who haven’t read it, it begins as a straightforward account of his career, rising from a songwriter (he wrote “Palisades Park” for Freddy Cannon) to a developer, producer and finally host of some of America’s most execrable game shows of the Sixties and Seventies.
But then things take a bizarre turn, when Mr Barris is recruited as an assassin by the CIA!
The book had two lives. It sold okay when first published – then again, when Gorgeous George Clooney made it into a movie.
While the movie had a LONG life. In the late Eighties, Columbia green-lighted it as a vehicle for Richard Dreyfuss – but Dreyfuss thought it too dark. Then it passed through various hands, before finally being made by George.
The film was a critical success, but a public flop. Even with the principals working for scale, it still cost $30M to make and only grossed $33M (a movie needs to make DOUBLE its production budget just to break even, as the theatres get about half the gross).
But I LIKE “Confessions…” – many have poured scorn and derision on it and some have been OUTRAGED by the whole premise. But as a writer m’self, I can see what Chuckie was DOING with this project.
Imagine: you are a writer – you have material for an autobiography – and material for a pulp thriller. As Chuck Barris, you are known to a fair number of people. So some will buy your autobiography. And some will buy your thriller.
But cobble them TOGETHER and EVERYBODY will buy it!
Sure, it is against all of the conventions of writing – but then, no-one could EVER accuse Barris of being conventional!
And while admittedly it took eighteen years to come together, it did eventually spawn a movie – which would NEVER have happened to the original two propositions.
So as a writer, I say good luck Chuck! Well done, for turning the rules of writing on their head and creating something truly original (something rare in this day and age).
Oh, and for anyone who still thinks the original story might be TRUE – read the book and watch the movie – and note how the climax of the book works as a book – and the climax of the film works as a film!
For a LOOK at Chuckie-Baby at his height – click THIS… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Cw8od97P4