It’s Over!

Published: June 16, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

With the rate of vaccinations continuing to rise and the number of COVID-19 cases declining, Americans are jumping back into life.

Yesterday, California’s governor announced that the state was open for business with a few guidelines.

“Californians who are two weeks removed from their last vaccine dose will be allowed to go mask-free in nearly all settings,” The L.A. Times reported (June 10).

“Unvaccinated individuals, on the other hand, will still be required to mask up in public indoor settings — including restaurants when not eating or drinking, retail stores and movie theaters.”

But, how to determine the vaccinated from the unvaccinated will largely depend upon the honor system. Business owners will have to trust that anyone walking into their establishment has been vaccinated, not only to protect the safety of other patrons, but their staff, as well.

Reading the phrase – the honor system – caused me to remember a story in my book, What Do You Stand For? that involved honoring a promise.

Dave Parker had been a TV producer-director at NBC and writer for numerous award-winning programs. At the time, he was president of a documentary film company at Universal City.

“Back in the ‘60s, when much of America was terrified of ‘kids-using-drugs,’ our film production company was hired to create a film that would really turn the kids off about drug use of any kind. But because we all knew that so-called ‘scare tactics’ really didn’t work, and any phony ‘Hollywood’ approach would be hooted off the screen, I set out to find a real drug-using girl who would let us join her life and see what drugs had done, and still doing to her!

“Clearly, she had to be appealing, and willing to let us film her drug-using moments as well as her daily routine. For legal reasons, she had to be at least 20 though I hoped she’d look younger. I didn’t want a last stage burnout who’d been living in the gutter, but someone the kids would find authentic, someone who’d appear honest and trusting – a person with whom high school kids could identify; someone who was still using drugs, preferably some hard-core stuff like heroin.

“After searching the known hangouts of drug using kids like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury, I finally found her with some other kids in a rundown coffee house. She was everything I’d been hoping for – sad, forlorn, vulnerable, with a waif-like sweetness I knew would really ‘read’ for the audience. She told me her name was ‘Marcie’ and she’d run away from home. The more I interviewed her the more appealing she became. I asked her what kind of drugs she used, and she admitted she was hooked on heroin or ‘smack’ as she called it.

“Marcie was great for my purpose, and I simply had to have her story in the film. After I gained her trust, I told her about the film and asked her if she’d be willing to let us shoot some of her experiences in the drug world.

“ ‘Yeah, I guess,’ she said. ‘You’re a really nice guy – not like those other film jerks you see around here.’

“Back at the studio I rejoiced. We had found our STAR! She’d actually let us film her buying a variety of drugs and best of all, using them! And she was so honest and believable! Yes sir folks, this film was going to win a ton of prizes and help our little company get famous.

“ ‘One thing I won’t do for you, though,’ she said. ‘I won’t shoot up on your camera. Grass, other stuff, okay, but no way am I going to shoot up on your camera.’

“At that moment I’d agree to anything as long as Marcie would be in the film ‘Hey, no problem!’

“ ‘That’s cool,’ she said. ‘I wouldn’t do this for anyone else. But I trust you.’

“So, we filmed Marcie all over the place. We filmed her buying LSD and mescaline, and grass by the bushel. We filmed her hitchhiking and sleeping on a park bench. We saw her smoking pot and dropping acid. We saw her panhandling for money and wandering aimlessly on the beach at Santa Cruz.

“But the story needed a solid payoff, something really dramatic – a real climactic moment that would leave the kids in the audience shaken. Something that would loft our little company into national attention. Shooting smack would be ideal.

“We’d get Marcie in a sleazy motel room with dim lighting, sitting all alone on a bed with her candle, needle and spoon. She’d tie off a vein and stick the needle in as we zoomed in for a real scary close up, then we’d cut back to a wide shot showing her almost in silhouette as she nodded off as the music rose to a tender tag. Yeah man, tears!

“But she’d said she wouldn’t do that!

“With deadlines approaching, I finally determined the solution. I could fake it. I’d get another girl with a similar build and hairstyle and shoot her in silhouette. Nobody would ever know the difference. And of course, I’d never tell Marcie who’d feel betrayed and hate me forever if she knew. But hey, she was just a run-away street kid. What difference would it make?

“So, that’s what I did!

“The scene was terrific. Everything I’d imagined. The perfect payoff that would tell the horrific drug story like it really was.

“As I sat in the editing room, visions of awards flickered in my head. Film editors are almost never impressed with the footage they work with, but this time was different.

“ ‘Just great!’ said my guy. ‘How’d you ever get her to do that?’

“ ‘Oh,’ said I with convincing humility, ‘sometimes you just get lucky, I guess.’

“Bottom line – I had a great show with the promise of many sales nationwide if I left the last scene intact. It was highly unlikely I’d ever see Marcie again; she was just a ‘street kid.’ Nobody would ever know.

“Nobody but me! I’d know and I’d hate the deception that brought me the awards and the money. Besides, Marcie trusted me. I just couldn’t betray her.

“So, the show went to its final printing without the scene I’d shot. The show was much weaker, and it didn’t win any awards, and it didn’t do very well in sales, and those few who knew what I’d done asked, ‘Why in God’s name did you toss that great scene? It would have made all the difference!’

“What do I stand for? Maybe the simple honesty of giving my word — maybe the wish to see myself as a guy with some sense of honor. Marcie trusted me and I couldn’t betray her, even though she’d probably never know. I know THIS – I’ve never regretted my decision.”

Will the unvaccinated act honorably?


Leave a Comment

Read More Articles
The Latest... And Sometimes Greatest