A Hollywood True Story

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A Hollywood True Story
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Narrative Monologue, 25 minutes
Preceded by: A Conversation
Followed by: Reality Check

Behind the desk there's a wall of pigeonholes, each one bearing a room number.

A Hollywood True Story is a radio program produced by Joe Frank and broadcast on KCRW's UnFictional Series. It was originally broadcast on March 29, 2013.



'Behind the desk, there's a wall of pigeonholes, each one bearing a room number. You sign the guest register and walk outside by a small fenced-in swimming pool and pass an ice machine and a laundry cart and walk up a stairway to your room. You unlock the door and find rows of dead bodies stacked up to the ceiling. Should you call the front desk to complain? These things are hard to decide. Courage and wisdom in conflict. Rain falls on the roofs of the other motel rooms where your enemies sleep.'

2:10: Joe tells a story about hearing a story about 2 professors at Caltech who developed a valuable Internet technology.[1] a few months after he moved to Santa Monica in 1986. The professors fought over the patent, one fraudulently defamed the other; a student involved in the former's machinations confessed; both had their careers destroyed.

3:50: Joe told the story on his show, which attracted the attention of a big-shot director, Winston, who wanted to make a movie out of it. Winston tried to cheat Joe; Joe hired a lawyer who got him a better deal. But Joe thought he was being being cheated still, because he was doing all the work in their sessions.

6:40: Winston got a wealthy producer, Gustav Weinberg, interested. Over breakfast, Weinberg recommended additions to the script which Joe disliked but felt he had to accommodate, 'and began that insidious slide down the road of compromise'

7:50: A few weeks later, at the Four Seasons, they got a Universal executive to approve the project. Joe imagined becoming wealthy, a Hollywood big-shot.

10:40: Winston called, invited Joe on a trip to Auschwitz with his Zen Buddhist order. Joe accepted.


'You're alone in a motel room. You've just finished driving from a town you left that morning. Your room faces a parking lot, a field, with cars and trucks passing on the highway in the distance. You're tired and go into the bathroom, where you see glasses covered in plastic, each bar of soap individually wrapped, and a paper seal over the toilet. You gaze into the mirror and hear a toilet flush in the next room. The motels and gas stations and fast food joints all seem the same, and you get the feeling you're going nowhere, making no progress, traveling on a revolving road.'

13:30: 'From the beginning and throughout the trip, I experienced recurring headaches and nausea.' After the long flight to Warsaw Joe rode the local train to Krakow. The weather was cold and wet. Joe was miserable the whole time.

22:20: When Joe got back to LA, he realized that he hadn't bonded with Winston, as he had hoped. The Universal exec was fired, the film project disappeared, Joe didn't hear from Winston or Weinberg again.


'It's winter, the sky is gray, your car is pleasantly warm, your instrument panel with light green colored needles is backlit in blue, the air outside is filled with light swirling flakes of snow. Where are you going? What can you possibly accomplish? You could turn around, but what would be gained by going back? Maybe you should just stay on this road and avoid making any decision at all.

'At a red light, you stop next to a storefront. In the window, you see statues of the Madonna, a copy of Leonardo's painting of the Last Supper, decorative crucifixes, rosary beads, chalices, prayer books, everything old and dusty. Later, at a truck stop, a fly falls into your cup of coffee. You lift it out with a spoon and lay it down on your napkin. It dries itself and flies away.

'Back on the road, you see what appears to be the carcass of a dead animal or a baby wrapped in a blanket, and you feel a hollowness in the pit of your stomach, but it turns out to be a shredded rag, and this hallucination of seeing death on the highway repeats itself again and again.'

Legacy Synopsis

In an attempt to advance his career in Hollywood, a screenwriter finds himself implausibly in Auschwitz. As his film project -- which has nothing to do with the infamous death camp -- implodes, the screenwriter sees his life unraveling on a revolving road to nowhere.


  • Original music over drone - Kenny Lyon (piano and bass) [Intro]

Additional credits

External links


  1. The professors and the technology are fictions, as is the show.