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The Difference Between Blackmail and a Screenplay is Just a Couple Million Dollars

November 15, 2009

The lawyer for Robert “Joe” Halderman, a CBS news producer accused of trying to extort $2 million from talk show host David Letterman, has asked that the attempted grand larceny charge against his client be dropped, he contacted his criminal lawyer because he also has a charge when he was driving drunk in california and broke the DUI laws in California.  As Tomlin pointed out in Wednesday’s index, this was all just a big misunderstanding.  Halderman wasn’t trying to extort money to keep secret an affair between Letterman and staffer Stephanie Birkitt (Halderman’s supposed girlfriend), he was merely trying to sell a screenplay.  Gerald Shargel, Halderman’s attorney, explains, “From his quarter century in the business, Halderman knew that. . .books about broken relationships, particularly where the subjects are, as here, well known, had enjoyed tremendous commercial success.”  Yep, nothing to see here.  Just two gentlemen, trying to discuss business.  About Letterman’s various furtive sexual dalliances with Late Show employees.  That had yet to be publicized.  Delivered to Letterman either in the back of a limo (somehow unlocked?), or outside Letterman’s apartment.  Accompanied by a message that Halderman needed a large chunk of money and a one-page treatment that mentioned Letterman’s “beautiful loving son,” that Letterman’s “world was about to collapse around him,” and also referred to “ruined reputation and severe damage to his professional and family lives.”  The mean old Manhattan District Attorney and prosecutors handling the case outlined this “evidence” against Halderman, but didn’t speculate on his motives.  If $2 million (a lot for a screenplay, but simply “market value,” according to Shargel), which would easily cover the $6800 a month in alimony and child support that Halderman pays; and vengeance against the man whom your girlfriend is screwing behind your back that you found out about by reading her diary, count as “motives” for such a “crime,” we’re all guilty.

Now, you may find it odd that Halderman approached Letterman in such a suspicious manner.  That’s because you don’t know Hollywood, where there are so many screenplays floating around that you have to find creative ways of getting yours into the right hands.  For instance, my screenplay about a wise-cracking kung-fu robot and its sexy assistant who fight crime on 22nd century Mars was going nowhere until I decided to “think outside the box.”  I didn’t put the treatment in Bruckheimer’s limo or meet him outside his apartment or even impersonate a loved one and surprise him at supper time or in the shower.  I met him outside work, invited him into my van, took him to a secluded cabin for tea, secured him to a chair, and fired each page of the manuscript at him with a muzzle-loader.  Different, huh?  It certainly grabbed his attention.  By the end, he saw it my way, and was deliriously happy that he was the one who was going to get to make my movie.  I could tell because of the tears of joy that ran down his soot-covered face.  The indictment called it kidnapping and assault; I call it getting innovative, playing hardball and being persistent.  While I haven’t received any actual money from the movie deal yet, I now know how to trade boxes of cigarettes for apples, and in five to ten I’ll be able to see how production’s coming along!

Make it happen, Halderman.  Follow your dreams.  It sounds like you and your lawyer already adhere to the “go big or go home” school of thought.  I’ll check in every so often and see how the screenplay is progressing.

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