Chapter One

They sat at one of the sidewalk tables at Swingers, on the side of the coffee shop along Beverly Boulevard: Chili Palmer with the Cobb salad and iced tea, Tommy Athens the grilled pesto chicken and a bottle of Evian.

Every now and then people from the neighborhood would stroll past the table—or they might come out of the Beverly Laurel, the motel nextdoor—and if it was a girl who came by, Tommy Athens would look up and take time to check her out. It reminded Chili of when they were young guys in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and Tommy never passed a girl on the street, ever, without asking how she was doing. Chili mentioned it to him. “You still look, but you don’t say anything.”

“Back then, Tommy said, “I went by the principle, you never know if it’s there you don’t break the fuckin ice. It didn’t matter what they looked like, the idea was to get laid, man. Our young bodies required it. Now we’re mature we’re more selective. Also there’s more quiff in this town per capita, you take into account all the broads hoping to get discovered. They act or they sing, mostly bad, either one. Turn around and take a look—walking her dog, the skirt barely covers her ass. Look. Now she’s posing. The dog stops to take a leak on the palm tree it gives her a chance to stand there, cock her neat little tail. She ain’t bad, either.”

“Yeah, she’s nice.”

Chili turned to his salad. Then looked up again as Tommy said, “You doing okay?”

“You want to know if I’m making out?”

“I mean in your business. How’s it going? I know you did okay with Get Leo, a terrific picture, terrific. And you know what else? It was good. But the sequel—what was it called?”

“Get Lost.”

“Yeah, well that’s what happened before I got a chance to see it, it disappeared.”

“It didn’t open big so the studio walked away. I was against doing a sequel to begin with. But the guy running production at Tower says they’re making the picture, with me or without me. I thought, well, if I come up with a good story, and if I can get somebody else to play the shylock…if you saw Get Leo you must’ve noticed Michael Weir wasn’t right for the part. He’s too fuckin short.”

“Yeah, but it worked,” Tommy said, “because the picture was funny. I know what you’re saying, though, a little guy like that into street action isn’t believable. Still, it was a very funny picture.”

“Also,” Chili said, “I didn’t want to have to deal with Michael Weir again. He’s a pain in the ass. He’s always coming up with ideas for a shot where you have to re-light the set. So I said okay to doing a sequel, but let’s get somebody else. The studio asshole says, in this tone of voice, ‘If you don’t use the same actor in the part, Ernest, it’s not really a sequel, is it?’ He’s the only person in L.A. calls me Ernest. I said, ‘Oh, all those different guys playing James Bond aren’t in sequels?’ It didn’t matter. They’d already signed Michael and had a script written without telling me.”

“This is Get Lost you’re talking about?”

“Get Lost. The guy’s in a car wreck and wakes up in the hospital with a head injury. He doesn’t remember anything about his past life, his name, anything. Has no idea he’s a shylock with mob connections or the car wreck wasn’t an accident. I said to the studio guy after I read the script, ‘You serious? You want to make an amnesia movie? It’s what you do when you don’t have an idea, you give the main character amnesia and watch him fuck up.’ The studio guy says, ‘Ernest,’ like he’s the most patient fuckin guy in the world, ‘if you don’t want to produce the picture tell me, we’ll get somebody else.’”

“So you made it and it stiffed,” Tommy said. “So? Make another one.”

“I suggested that. I said to the studio guy, ‘While we have our momentum up why don’t we try it again? Call it Get Stupid.’”

“It sounds like,” Tommy said, “you aren’t as tight over there as you were.”

“What, at the studio? I’ve got a three-picture deal at Tower, one to go, and I got a good friend. They fired the nitwit was running production and hired Elaine Levin back. She’s the one okayed Get Leo, then quit for different reasons, like doing sequels; they ironed out the problems and she’s back. The other day I ran into her having lunch. She asked if I had anything worth putting into development. I said, ‘How about a girl works for a dating service fixing up lonely guys?’ Elaine goes, ‘And this lonely shylock who happens to be short comes in?’ I told her no shylocks of any size, and that’s all I told her.”

“Why? That’s all you had?”

“You don’t want to tell something you’re thinking about, hear it out loud yourself for the first time, unless you know what it’s gonna sound like. It has to have an edge, an attitude. So you have to know your characters, I mean intimately, what they have for breakfast, what kind of shoes they wear…. Once you know who they are they let you know what the story is.”

He could tell Tommy didn’t know what he was talking about.

“What I’m saying, I don’t think of a plot and then put characters in it. I start with different…”


Be Cool

Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, 1999
Edition: First Edition
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 292 Pages
Original Price: $
ISBN: 0440235057
Genre: Crime/Contemporary
LocationsLos Angeles
Special Notes: Sequel to Get Shorty.  Filmed as Be Cool (2005).

Be Cool is an unforgettable, hilarious and dead-on insider’s look at Hollywood as only Leonard could write it; Leonard takes readers on a back-side tour of Tinseltown’s other big business—the music industry. Chili Palmer’s follow-up to his smash hit film Get Leo bombed, and in Hollywood you’re only as hot as your last project. Once again outside the system, Chili is exploring an idea for his third film by lunching with a former “associate” from his Brooklyn days who’s now a record label executive. When lunch begins with iced tea and ends in a mob hit, Chili finds himself in an unlikely alliance with one of the LAPD’s finest, Detective Darryl Holmes; he also becomes the very likely next target of Russian gangsters. With a hit man on his trail, Chili tries to pull together his next movie, the story of Linda Moon; Moon is a real-life singer with dreams that go further than her current gig performing Spice Girls songs with Chicks International. Moon is also desperate to tear loose from her current manager, an erstwhile pimp named Raji. Orchestrating his movie as he goes along, Chili wrests the reins of Linda’s singing career away from Raji, basing the plot of his new film on the action that unfolds as a result. As he fakes his way to success in the music business with his trademark aplomb, Chili manipulates his adversaries and advances his friends, proving to all that he knows how to be cool when the heat’s on.