Tour Stop No. 3--It's Show Time
Promptly at 9 the next morning, the trial began. Judge O had a strong, deep, sharp voice, and he called us to order (we skipped the optional bailiff, I guess) in something that approximated an impatient bark. To the relief of our mutual wallets, he would dispense with the services of a court reporter, relying instead on his notes and his memory. His Honor had read the moving papers, in which the opposing attorneys argued their theories of the case, and questions remained in his mind that he hoped the trial would settle. I've had better warm-up acts in my show-biz career; I've also had better time slots. Around 10 a.m., I strode briskly to the witness stand to the right of the bench, stood and faced Judge O as he swore me in, and took my seat.
It's dismaying to admit--but, after having immersed myself in two Simpson trials, I was still surprised to relearn one of the melancholy precepts of our jurisprudence: the notion of the three concentric circles. On the outside, there is the truth. The facts constitute the middle ring, and the tiny circle on the inside is the evidence. One comes to the witness stand feeling that, to the extent memory allows, one knows the truth. Only some of it is available in the form of facts. But the rules of evidence strictly limit the kinds of facts that can enter the record. So, I was able to testify about my meeting with the Partners, and about their apparent interest in the project I was bringing to them, but a hearsay objection ruled out my testimony about what happened next: In the basement of their building, after a brief delay, my then-agent joined me and Manager S and reported, on the basis of that brief 15-minute meeting, "I think we've got a deal." The Partners'odd alacrity to buy in would have contrasted nicely with their similar haste in queering the deal, but no dice. What surprised me on reflection was that, in our rehearsal of direct examination, neither of my attorneys had posed a hearsay objection to that bit of testimony. That, as sportscasters insist on saying, is why they actually play the games.
That detail aside, my story came in as planned: I testified about optioning the book; briefing the partners in January 1989; meeting them again in February to flesh out my approach to adapting the novel; having a weird social lunch with the Heiress across Sunset Strip from her office (in which, I was able to testify, she told me about her background anchoring a short-lived Paramount TV series called, heh-heh, Taking Advantage--Attorney G always loved that detail); my manager's and my own scrupulousness in revealing--hell, bragging about--other commitments in line ahead of this one; a meeting in August to which I brought 3-by-5 cards outlining the proposed script as per their request; their subsequent insistence that I not begin writing because Producer B had suddenly decided he did not like the form of the murder in the book; the two-month delay in satisfying Mister Murder; beginning to write in mid-October; and a telephoned request that I come to their offices in mid-November to show them what I had written up to that point. I testified that I agreed to that request, even though no such sharing was contractually required, because I'd had a good experience in showing pages mid-draft to a producer on my previous screenplay. Odd: I'd also once had a good meal in a Polish restaurant, but I didn't make that a habit.
Cross-examination from Attorney T was less harsh and confrontational than our rehearsal crosses had been. Clearly, their strategy wasn't focused on breaking the plaintiff. Some questions about dates, about how terribly busy I was (too busy to take on this project, perhaps?), about whether I was aware of a deadline in this matter, about whether I normally adhere to deadlines, about whether I'd ever had writer's block (as the length of this report may suggest, that's not one of my problems). The cross was so comparatively gentle, in fact, that in the men's room post-mortem, Attorney G speculated that his opposite number "doesn't really have his heart in it." These conversations were the functional equivalent of the recesses spent with the O.J. commentators or, to use the Simpsonian phrase, "the pundants": We evaluated the performance of witnesses and the strategy of attorneys, traded notes on the apparent state of the mind of Judge O, reviewed our options--all the while being careful to check for the presence of tell-tale feet dangling beneath stall doors. It was in this sanctum that my two attorneys sternly reminded me that in testimony, as in midcentury architecture, less is more. I was, they suggested during an early break, too eager to talk, not restricting myself to my only job: answering the man's questions.