The Hiatus

 In photography and filmmaking, the term ‘The Golden Hours’ refers to two windows of time – the first immediately after sunrise, and the second immediately before sunset – when the glow from the sun’s light is optimal for capturing spectacular aesthetics on camera.

At these times, the sun is still so close to the earth’s horizon that it casts an exquisite hue, which adds an extra layer of radiant beauty to a scene or photograph.

Class disburses outside the Actor’s Playhouse at just about Golden Hour.  The setting California sun illuminates Anthony as he walks to his car.  Jessica catches up to him.

JESSICA: Hey, you were great today.

Anthony is startled for a moment, but stops in his tracks, obviously smitten by the beauty standing before him.

ANTHONY: I don’t know, I don’t think I’m getting it…

JESSICA: You’re getting it, Anthony, it just takes a little time.

ANTHONY: I guess so.

Jessica shifts gears quickly.

JESSICA: Have you made any progress on our other matter?

Anthony shuffles his feet uncomfortably.

ANTHONY: I’m working on it, Jess.

JESSICA: Have you talked to him yet?

ANTHONY: Not yet, but I will.


ANTHONY: As soon as possible, Jess.

A convertible Mercedes-Benz pulls into the parking lot and stops near them, revving its engine.  Sheldon Whitestone, a real-life Ken Doll from Malibu, beeps the horn obnoxiously.  Jessica moves closer to Anthony, whispering in his ear seductively.

JESSICA: Good, ’cause when I get what I want, you’ll get what you want…

She saunters away, hops in the Benz and it peels out, leaving Anthony in the dust.
Uzi Bendor is a shifty, middle-aged Israeli, and the manager of a brand new 200-unit complex in the heart of Hollywood.

Uzi is a first generation ‘Sabra’, born in Israel after it’s liberation on May 14, 1948.  He loves to tell stories of how American Jews were fascinated by him when they realized he was a sabra, with one woman in particular yelling to her husband, “Harry, hurry up!  Take a picture, he’s a Sabra!!”

He peers through his blinds from the Manager’s Office like an alligator waiting for a fawn to drink from a lake.  Across the hall, out of sight several feet away, Anthony watches Uzi’s blinds until they close, then sneaks by quickly.  Uzi hears the footsteps and opens his door, but the hallway is empty.

UZI: (heavy accent) I heard you Antony!  You’re late wit dee rent, again!
UZI: You can’t hide forever, Antony!
Uzi slams his door closed.

Large snowflakes drift down, lightly blanketing a small street of tightly packed Philadelphia row homes.  A gray, cement building, which seems oddly out of place, is in the middle of the block.  A bright streetlight illuminates a sign on the wall of the building, “Emanon Social Club”.  On the door, a homemade sign reads:

Inside the club is a plush, gold-leafed bar with classic stools, a regulation pool table, a leather sofa and small tables and chairs scattered about.  Various pictures hang on faded, wall-papered walls: Marlon Brando in “The Godfather”, a velvet portrait of Frank Sinatra, and Al Capone’s mug shot.  The décor is a tacky homage to the decadence of the 70s and 80s. 

Photos of past and present club members dating back to the 1930s provide an unintentional visual record of men’s fashion through the years.  Three large televisions play sports programming. Club members are involved in the usual activities – shooting pool, playing cards, drinking, smoking and watching television.  The atmosphere is slow and relaxed.

In the rear of the large room is a staircase which leads down and out of the building.  Adjacent to the stairs is a door which opens into a back room that buzzes with activity.

Two men, Jimmy and Geno munch on cheese steaks while taking sports bets over the phone.  Jimmy is an Italian-American beefcake with thick black hair and bushy eyebrows.  His over-sized muscles and veins pulsate with supplement infused blood.  He’s more brawn than brains, but is a sensitive giant beneath his formidable exterior.  He’s also the nephew of a mob capo, which makes him a feared man on the streets of South Philly.
Jimmy talks into the phone.
“I told you Pittsburgh is seven and 38.  I don’t make the lines, I just give them out.  You want the seven or not?”
Geno D is a fit, overly tanned, middle-aged man, who’s been bookmaking since he was in diapers.  Geno overhears Jimmy and jumps in.
“What’s the problem, Jim?”

JIMMY:  Mikey says Pittsburgh is six and a half online.

GENO:  Then tell him to bet it online!
Many bettors still prefer betting with a bookie to online sportsbooks for one simple reason: they don’t have to put the money out upfront.  They only pay when they lose and if they don’t have the cash to pay, most bookies are more than happy to put them on a payment plan – at usurious interest rates.

Jimmy barks into the phone, “Okay, Pittsburgh minus seven for a nickel.”  He hangs up, “Man he’s a pain in the balls!”
He chomps a big bite of the cheesesteak, squirting globs of cheese and grease onto his shirt and the floor.  He gets up to grab a napkin.

Geno continues his work and gives out point spreads, “Pittsburgh minus seven and thirty eight, Eagles plus four and forty-four, Miami minus two, and forty-eight.”

Upstairs, in a private room, a poker game is in progress.  There are six players.  Four are out of the hand, with their cards folded in front of them.  They watch the other two players.  A pile of cash is in the middle of the table.  Silence is thick as tension builds.
Tony Carto is both a man’s man and ladies’ man.  Husky and masculinely handsome, with a likable face and happy, smiling eyes, he pushes more money into the pot:

TONY: Raise.

His opponent is Vito ‘The Libido’, a diminutive, sinister-looking character with dark eyes and an explosive temper.  Word on the street is that Vito’s ex-wife caught him in his Cadillac getting head from a prostitute and in the argument afterward she kicked him in the balls, crushing one of his testicles and rendering him impotent ever since.  So Vito’s enemies, and some of his friends, kindly labeled him The Libido, though no one is stupid enough to call him that to his face.

Vito studies his cards, then peers across the table at Tony.

VITO: You hit the flush.

Tony just stares back coolly with a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile. 

Vito forces an awkward smile.

VITO: I know you hit the flush.

TONY: I’m not sure; I haven’t looked.

Vito’s anger simmers.

VITO: Bullshit.  Who the fuck are you kidding!?

Tony smiles pleasantly.

TONY: Okay, I looked.

They stare at each other for a long, heavy beat. These two don’t like each other. The other players are wary, and wisely silent. Vito aggressively pushes money into the pot.

VITO: Call.

Tony grins deliciously as he turns his cards over.

TONY: Flush.

Vito grumbles as Tony takes the pot and laughs heartily.

TONY: That’s it for me fellas, gonna call it a night.

Vito hisses back.

VITO: Hit & run, Tony?

Tony stands up from the table and weighs his options.

TONY: Let’s see, play cards or go get laid?  Play cards or go get laid?  Oh, what to do, what to do?

The other players chuckle, causing Vito’s frustration to boil over.

VITO: Fuckin’ asshole!

Tony stops and leans toward Vito tensely for a moment.  Tony’s face turns to stone, his eyes burning through Vito.  Then he relaxes, and his pleasantness returns.

TONY:  See ya, Vito.

VITO:  Come back when you’re not wearing that cunt collar.

At that, Tony spins around.  The humor is still there, but it is pushed back by anger.

TONY:  Vito, I just fucked you.  Now I’m gonna go fuck my girl.  I’ll bet she takes it better than you.

Vito jumps up, enraged.  Tony moves toward him, but the players hold them back from each other.  The Dealer stands between them.
DEALER:  Hey, guys, please.  We’re here to play cards.  Can we just play?”

The tension is broken.  Vito sits down.  Tony puts on his topcoat and leaves the club.

Once outside, Tony is framed by the streetlight. He looks left, then right.  He looks up at the large, falling snowflakes landing on his face. He smiles happily and disappears down the dark street.

When Tony is out of sight, several police cars pull up slowly and block off the street from both ends. Plainclothes and uniformed police officers move quietly up the street, lining both sides of the building.  Officers man alleyways at each end of the street and signal silently to one another.  When all police men and women are in position, a plain-clothed policewoman rings the doorbell.

Inside the club, the doorman, who’s been dozing on the couch, rises and looks at the doorbell camera. He sees a young woman holding a bag.

DOORMAN:  Can I help you?

POLICEWOMAN:  Delivery from Chick’s Steaks.

DOORMAN:  Hang on.

He turns to the guys in the club.

DOORMAN:  Anybody order food?

They don’t even acknowledge him. He pushes a button on the wall which rings a buzzer in the back room. Jimmy pops his head out.

JIMMY: What’s up?

DOORMAN: Did you order cheese steaks?

JIMMY: “No, I picked them up half an hour ago, why?

As he says this, a battering ram crashes through the door, missing the doorman’s head by inches.  He jumps back, startled.

DOORMAN: Holy shit!

In the back room, Jimmy yells at Geno.

JIMMY:  Cops!  Raid!!

Geno grabs the paperwork and scrambles to the bathroom, where he starts flushing the papers down the toilet.

Jimmy jumps down a flight of stairs and runs out the back door.  He exits into a small yard, and jumps awkwardly over the fence into a neighbor’s yard. He jumps the next fence and continues hopping fences until he reaches the end of the alley.  Exhausted, he peeks around the corner to see a Policeman manning his planned escape route.

Geno looks out of the bathroom to see police filling the room and lining men up against the walls. Uniformed cops rush into the bathroom and and grab Geno.  They bring him into the main room and line him up against the wall with the rest of the crew.

The cops and gangsters are familiar with each other from years of cat and mouse.  In the yard, Jimmy is backtracking through his own footprints in the snow, so it will look as though he vanished into thin air. He knocks softly on a neighbor’s back door. A housewife opens the back door.  Jimmy knows her.

JIMMY:  They’re raiding the club!

She opens the door.

HOUSEWIFE:  Hurry, get in.

Jimmy rushes inside. He’s freezing.

HOUSEWIFE:  Upstairs. Back bedroom. Get in the closet.

Jimmy runs upstairs into a bedroom and hides in a closet.

Cops have the men lined up in the main room of the social club.  Lieutenant Rafferty, a weathered, career Philly cop who knows this crew well, addresses them.
RAFFERTY:  You all have the right to remain silent, although I know how hard that is for some of you, who can’t keep their mouths shut.  You have the right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.  Vito interrupts him.

VITO:  I didn’t see a warrant.

Rafferty walks over to Vito slowly, and stares him down.

RAFFERTY:  Shut your face, Vito.

Outside, a cop follows the trail of footprints in the snow until they disappear.  He looks back and forth at the tracks trying to figure out where Jimmy went.  He notices a screen door slightly ajar at the back of a house.

Inside, the housewife picks up a phone and dials.  A uniformed police officer answers the ringing telephone inside the busy fourth precinct.  The Officer presses the hold button and walks over to the desk of a plain clothes detective, Billy the Cop.

Billy grabs the phone.

BILLY:  Hey babe, what’s up?

HOUSEWIFE:  They just raided the club.

BILLY:  Yeah, and?

HOUSEWIFE:  And the cops are at the door.  They want to come in.

BILLY:  So let them in.

HOUSEWIFE:  But Jimmy’s here.

Billy is puzzled.

BILLY:  Jimmy who?

HOUSEWIFE:  Tony’s nephew.

BILLY:  Where is he?

HOUSEWIFE:  Upstairs, in the closet.

BILLY:  I’m on my way. Don’t let them in!

Billy slams the phone down.  His wife does the same.

HOUSEWIFE:  I wasn’t going to!


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