Pictured above: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal and writer-director Dan Gilroy on the set of Nightcrawlers.
The Promise (1977)
Dan Gilroy (“Danny”, yes, the same writer/director Dan Gilroy married to actress Rene Russo.
During the midsummer of 1977, though, we were gliding down a country road after midnight in his parent’s Monte Carlo. The drinking age in New York at the time was 18. That evening we celebrated that right by slamming down pitchers of gin and tonic at a local bar in the historic district of Middletown. Freshly graduated from high school with our careers nowhere in sight. But on that night – which froze in time for me – it didn’t really matter. We were headed for meteoric success, and all we had to do is survive the drive home.
“What are you gonna do?” Danny asked.
“Race motorcycles and write screenplays. I thought about being an astrophysicist, but I hate math.”
“You going back to California?”
“How about you?” I asked.
“Dartmouth College. English major. Be a writer. Same as you.”
Danny and I were wannabe writers. Shit-faced at the moment, yet still on theme – youthful optimism, talent to burn, and gobs of ambition. The Pulitzer (won by his father in 1964 for his play The Subject Was Roses), Oscars, Tonys, Golden Globe awards were waiting for us. The only question, which one, and how many?
We were at the crossroads. All we had to do now was grab the severed head of the devil, raise it high over our heads, and aim our gas-guzzling beast toward the la la land. Hollywood.
The Monte Carlo bottomed out and then sprung up like “The Hammer Ride” at the county fair. The barge-like hull felt like it levitated toward the shoulder. Another second or two in that direction and we’d be plowing timber.
“Careful. We get off road. Hit a tree. No more you -”
“No more me!” he shouted, laughing.
“We’re fucking poets, man,” I said.
“Fucked up poets, you mean.”
“Really fucked up.”
“We’ve been down this road before.”
“Yeah, feels like forever.”
We glanced at each other.
“Fucking poets,” we said, laughing.
Danny and I could only see as far as our headlights, but we knew the township of Blooming Grove was coming up fast. We were less than a mile from my home. Our last night together before leaving for college.
Danny pulled into the driveway.
I flung open the monstrous door without it swinging back severing a limb like a guillotine, then staggered around the casket-size trunk and massive chrome bumper to arrive at Danny’s lowered window.
“Whatever we do…do…let’s promise to make it big in life,” he said.
“Promise, Danny,” reaching in for a handshake.
My parent’s driveway was straight as an arrow, long, flat and smooth kind of like a drag strip. Danny liked to peel rubber in reverse; that night was no different. The scent of burning rubber rose in his fading headlights. I pumped my fist in the air.
Once inside I headed straight for the porcelain throne. But I remember that night perfectly.
Mostly because it mocks me now.