I’ve been meeting my clients at the Cheesecake Factory. Well, not my real clients. My real clients, the ones who are going to keep this agency afloat in the years to come, I take them to fine dining restaurants. Places where they make things into foam, and give us food in tiny portions. But for the ones I’m letting go, well, taking them someplace where leftovers are a foregone conclusion, it’s the least I can do. Let them have lunch on me, and then a little something for dinner too.
That’s why I’m encouraging the Roller Skater to order a steak. He’s been leaning towards a salad, and yeah, the salads are huge, but he’s not going to want a pile of soggy lettuce later.
“Fine, I’ll get the steak, you always know what’s best for me. How long have you been my agent?”
“Twenty years, you were one of the first clients Father handed off to me.”
At the time, the Roller Skater had just given up on an attempt at rebranding himself as the Roller Blader. While he did gain a ton of recognition, it was due to how close Blader looked to Bladder. Jokes about an incontinent superhero making a comeback was a late night show staple for a week. (He was only 43 at the time, but superheroes are even more of a youth market that pop singers). Giving me the Roller Skater as a client was one of Father’s tricks to keep me in check. He thought he was tying a stone to my neck and throwing me into the water. I spent 15 years cleaning up Father’s messes before I forced him into retirement.
“20 years. You know, when your dad first told me that you were going to take over for him, I thought I was on the way out. But you got me on that show, encouraged me to come out. Yeah, I don’t really take out the baddies anymore, but I feel like my career has never been stronger.”
They always do this. Is it denial or do they think they can convince me that they still have value? Yeah, getting him on Celebrity Apprentice had given him a bump, but that bump is now a toxic association for his prime demographic.
“Chet, you have to know why we’re here today,” I say.
“Not going to pass me on to an underling?”
“That was Father’s way of dealing with this, that’s not my way.”
“There has to be something. Roller skating is on the verge of a resurgence. I could do ribbon cutting at mall openings or something.”
“Nobody is opening malls, Chet. Retail is dying.”
“You got me that gig as an MC at Gay Pride. I could do that again.”
“Not after the transphobic things you posted on Twitter.”
Chet smacks the table.
“Is that what this is about? You’re going to cancel me because I’m too real for the snowflakes of today.”
Our waitress starts, and I see her freeze, trying to decide if she should intervene or call her manager. But I have this. I take a sip of my water, then lightly dap at my lips with my napkin and place it on the table.
“I will explain this to you once. Cancel culture is a myth. There is not a mob or secret cabal deciding who is in and who is out. There is just me. I decide that you are no longer worth the effort of propping up, so you’re not. But if I choose, I could also decide that you’re the most hated man in the country. So, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to leave now. Our food is going to be placed on the table in three minutes. You’re going to eat your steak, have them pack up mine, and you can take it with you. Do what you want with the day, and tomorrow, you start figuring out the mess that is your life without me holding your hand, because you are far too old to throw a tantrum in a fucking Cheesecake Factory. Understood?”
“Good. Now thank me for lunch.”
“Thank you for lunch.”
I stand up and head over to the waitress who finally decided to call over the manager, though both are staying well away from the table for now.
“He should be fine now,” I tell them, and I hand the waitress my company credit card and a $100 bill, “The cash is for you. I’ll add something on the card as well, but that’s just a buffer if he wants to get a drink. He needs one, but just one. I don’t want him to be a problem,” I look directly at the manager, “Do make sure he’s not a problem for her.”
My daughter calls me in the evening.
“How did it go?”
“It went fine. You can’t have superheroes without a little drama, but nothing of note. How about you? How is that philosophy paper going?”
“It’s done. I just wanted to call you before I go to the studio.”
“My daughter the sculptor. I’ve never had to market a sculptor before. Well, there was that hero, The Sculptor, absolute pompous windbag. I don’t even remember his powers, was is turning people to stone by talking to them?”
“Mom, I just like to sculpt. I have time to figure out what I’ll actually do.”
“Just promise me one thing.”
“Don’t be an agent.”
“Or a superhero. I promise.”