Saturday, 23 April 2016

Boom Frumela-la by Naomi Elana Zener

It was 2:30a.m. The steel door slammed shut with a thud. “No one is leaving this room until we have five working titles for new movie offerings for the distributors,” Lids advised. Lids, short for Lidar, was a forty-something, reformed former Orthodox, petite, slight slip of an Israeli Jewish woman, whose strawberry blonde curly wig was off-kilter most days, revealing scant glimpses of silver slivers trying to break free from their synthetic hair prison. She’d moved to Los Angeles two decades earlier in the hopes of becoming the world’s first powerhouse modern Orthodox Jewish female producer—a female Robert Evans if you will—of TV and film, only to find herself producing TV commercials and the occasional sappy movie-of-the-week when the Hallmark Channel called her up every few years requesting some moral fare made on the cheap. Lids was an expert at making content on the cheap, but dolling it up to look like a million bucks. Lately, Lids wore her Orthodox Judaism when it suited her, mainly to convince investors to give her little company-that-could a cash infusion when she needed more capital. Today was one of those days, hence her wearing of the wig that caused her head to itch more than a lice infestation, to play the pious Jewish princess role her investors needed to see so she could get what she wanted.  This time, her sacrifice was well worth the bother. Lids would shave her head and wear the wig permanently if it meant that her company would continue to produce hits and secure financing. She finally churned out something innovative that was a hit with an untapped demographic, and she was ready to stoop to conquer.

The two male and a solitary female writers sitting around the table groaned. In a dingy non-descript building in Culver City, with cardboard covering the windows and a buzzing fading light overhead, Shiri, Yonni, and Chaim could barely keep their heads up or eyes open, lest use their fingers to bang out any new scripts on their refurbished, obsolete Mac Airs. They’d already pulled an all-nighter writing revisions for the final pages of the film that wrapped that evening. Now, they were being asked to continue to burn their post-midnight oil to churn out new film titles for a big presentation to distributors the following morning.

“Quit your groaning. This is what success tastes like. It’s a necessary evil—like chocolate matzah,” Lids advised. “Just be happy you have jobs.”

“Honestly, Lids, we’re exhausted. We have no more creative juice left in us,” Shiri cried.

“Mishuge hur,” Yonni muttered. Lids charged toward him.

“Don’t call me a crazy bitch!” Lids slapped Yonni’s kippah off his head. “You all wanted to be screenwriters. You came to me begging for work when you didn’t make it in Hollywood. I gave you jobs. And, you’ve written well--lots of little Klezmer musicals, biblical short education films, even a successful hit show about interfaith Jewish-Muslim marriages, all of which translated to critical acclaim, and bubkus in the bank. Well, now you have the opportunity to make real money, and you’re telling me you don’t want to write. Who’s mishuge?”

“We got you one script, wasn’t that enough? You swore to us it would be a one-time deal!” Chaim declared.

“We were facing bankruptcy. We all agreed that it was better to make some money to put the kugel on the table than to watch the company go down in flames. The idea was so aoys fun dem velt—out of this world—that never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be such a hit. Who could’ve thought that my little R.E.M.-cycle dream would be anything but khazeray?”

Lids circled the table sermonizing to her captive audience. Shiri, Yonni, and Chaim couldn’t complain. They needed the money and were eternally grateful to Lids. After they’d met at a secular Chanukah party at the Jewish Community Centre, she’d plucked them from the obscurity and financial mire of the unending hamster wheel of production assistant jobs, from which they could not break free and into a writers room. Raised as ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews, who knew inherently life had more to offer than the scholarly study of Torah and making babies, Shiri, Yonni, and Chaim were siblings who, as children, secretly watched reruns of The Brady Bunch, The Love Boat, and other American forbidden entertainment fare at the home of the Shabbos Goy—their non-Jewish neighbour who helped their family on the Sabbath—when their single father, the Kabbalah scholar, went out to meet his friends to study Jewish mysticism in the evenings. Having run away from one cult to join another—the pop culture cult of Hollywood—the siblings fled from their Hasidic upbringing when the youngest, Shiri turned eighteen. The three toiled doing a series of odd jobs around Los Angeles, living in subsidized housing, finally winning scholarships to attend college. They managed to graduate as the top 3 of their class as USC film school and they celebrated their achievement together. Had they not met Lids when they did, they were ready to return, shtreimel in hand, to their father’s home to beg forgiveness, finding them good marital matches and forget all about their silver screen dreams. They knew they couldn’t say no to Lids. She was their salvation. And, if she wanted five new titles, they would give her five new titles.

“Fine,” Shiri gasped. “We’ll do it.” Shiri bowed her head and began hammering away on her keyboard, but Chaim and Yonni did not immediately follow suit.

Lids clasped her hands together. She beamed. “Of course you will. Not because you owe me for your careers. Or, because if it weren’t for me you’d be pregnant with your eighth baby. But, because you’re talented. All three of you are. I would never have hired you if you weren’t.”

“We may not be observant Jews like we were as kids, but we’re not writing for The Facts of Life here,” Chaim stated.

“It just feels like were sinning. It feels wrong,” Yonni added.

Lids marched over to where Yonni was sitting, his feet propped up on the boardroom table, next to his laptop.

“You listen to me. No one here, most of all me, is judging any of you. We are giving people the entertainment they want. We are fulfilling a need. We’re not breaking any laws. So, drop the guilty act. ”

“She’s right,” Chaim conceded. “We’re using our God-given talent to create something people want. It was in Deuteronomy 8:18, where God said ‘But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth.’ Since he gave us our talent to write, then he must want us to use it to create wealth.”

Lids slapped Chaim on the back. “You see, so it was written, so it shall be.”

Yonni nodded his head. As he and Chaim turned to their computers to start writing, Shiri slammed hers closed. The printer whirred and sputtered out a solitary sheet of paper.

Shiri stood up. She walked over to the printer.  She picked up the document and handed it to Lids. “Done,” she announced.

Lids surveyed it. It contained the list of five titles, as requested. Lids expression conveyed a mix of surprise and delight. “Shiri, you’re a genius.”  Shiri blushed. “Boys, you could learn a thing or two from your sister.”

“So, let’s hear what the genius came up with,” Yonni demanded.

“Drumroll, please,” Shiri chirped.

“Just read the list already,” Chaim declared.

Lids cleared her throat.

The Ten Orgasms of Pesach.
A Kosher Cock in the Sukkah.
Semen Tov and Anal Tov.
The Chanukah Miracle Orgy: It Lasted 8 Crazy Nights.
The Purim Penis Party.

The room went silent. Chaim and Yonni had to pick their mouths up off the floor.

“I know you only asked for five, but I threw in a few more for good measure.”

Lids embraced Shiri, kissing her on both cheeks.

“Mark my words, boys. This is a historic moment, for we shall remember this day as the one when your sister gave birth to Hasidic Porn.”

© 2016. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved