A few years ago, I was really bored. Then, I had a brainstorm. I scoured various websites such as highschoolalumni.com and reunion.com and collected the e-mail addresses of people I went to high school with. Then, I posed as another one of my classmates. I wrote a letters to our fellow alumni asking for help as I faced a series of personal crisis. Here is one of those letters.
Dear Fellow West Orange High School Mountaineer,
Hello. Please allow me a moment of your time to re acclimate myself back into your lives. It is I, Near Zahavi, a fellow Mountaineer-in-arms who calls upon you– his spiritual and extended family– in a time of need. If you cannot immediately recall who I am, close your eyes and harken back to a time when school spirit coursed through your veins as you sang the lyrics that oh-so accurately have defined our generation... "Runaway train on a runaway track / Runaway train never coming back."
Yes. 'Tis me, Near! Your friend, Near. Friend to all Mountaineers, Near. The same Near Zahavi who served as an inspiration to our entire school by overcoming so much with so little. The same Near who once saved former principal and current superintendent Mister Jerry Tarnoff's life on a rafting trip down the Delaware River by wrestling an 8-foot alligator to his death. The same Near who once walked the entire length of Eagle Rock Avenue with a packed school bus chained to his scrotum– just because he could, while also raising money for the West Orange First Aid Squad.
Yes, Mountaineers. I was a proud man– once. But today, I come before you, hat in hand, asking for your help. After high school, I pursued a career in the theater arts. I eventually landed the lead role in HOLDEN, an off-Broadway musical adaptation of Catcher in the Rye. After a brilliant five month run which garnered rave reviews, I signed with an agent who told me he could bring me to even greater fame and fortune, if I followed him to Hollywood. This is where my story, a story which should be about an Israeli immigrants search for the American Dream, takes a cruel twist and more accurately reflects life in this, the American nightmare.
Upon reaching the City of Angels, my agent told me the news. While he actively searched for roles fitting for a man of my Mediterranean good looks and boyish charm, I would be employed as a personal assistant by another one of his clients-- one Mr. Emilio Estevez, star of The Breakfast Club, Men at Work and Young Guns 1 and 2. My duties started off innocently enough, cleaning Estevez’s pool, mowing his lawn and answering his fan mail for him. Our relationship was both cordial and professional. I would do my job and Estevez would chat briefly with me, in a friendly tone, about the craft of performance, thus allowing me a glimpse into his method acting techniques that have garnered him a record six Best Actor Oscars.
But exactly 60 days after employment, the good times ended. As I was living at the Estevez estate, all my food, housing and cost of living expenses were being paid for by Emilio himself. On the 60th day, I was awoken with a harsh and powerful backhanded slap by Mister Estevez and was told that, quote unquote, the party was over.
I had been duped by my agent, who has since fled to the lawless mountain region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. After two months, I was no longer working for a living. I was working for my life. Apparently, I had signed a contract that said if I displeased Mister Estevez in any way, shape or form, he had the legal right to snuff my life immediately.
This began a series of embarrassing events that stripped me of both my dignity and freedom. First, I was told that I could no longer have the privilege of calling Mr. Estevez by his Christian name. From now on, I would have to refer to him by the moniker of Master Destiny. That day, I had to wash Master Destiny's Alfa-Romeo in the Staples Center parking lot, wearing nothing more than a hot pink pair of Spandex Bike shorts with Master Destiny's face airbrushed on the rear. A busload of tourists watched me and mocked me as Master Destiny led them in jeers from a megaphone.
"Look at how poor this person is! Look at him! I am a rich person and he does what I say because he's poor," Master Destiny announced from the bus that he was driving. I also had to stand hopeless in nothing more than a soiled diaper as Master Destiny and a teenaged girlfriend pelted me with seedless grapes and loose change. And I also once even had to shampoo Master Destiny's feet with my hair as his friends– including Beverly D'Angelo, Olivia D'Abo, and Malcolm Jamal W'arner– stood over me, hooting and hollering as they poured spiced cognac all over my pleather clad body.
One fateful night, about two weeks ago, I decided to no longer live this freakish nightmare. Master Destiny had me sleep in a life sized doll house, chained in my bed with stainless steel. Using bodybuilding techniques I learned at the Phase III Fitness Center on Main Street, I shed my bondage and crawled my way back to freedom through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, before hitchhiking a ride with fellow West Orange, New Jersey native Ian Ziering back to our hometown.
But now I am in desperate need of your help. The cruel taskmaster Emilio Estevez is arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood. He has already made sure that I will never work again...in ANY industry. As such, I need YOUR donations to get by. While I, Near Zahavi, may have always been listed alphabetically last, I know that in your hearts I was always first. Please give.
Gregg Gethard is a Philadelphia comedian and writer. His live show BEDTIME STORIES will be on Wednesday, February 18th at Connie's Ric Rac (1132 South 9th St).