By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Scene 1: A summer day in present time, early morning, a quiet neighborhood in central Scottsdale.
The movie opens in the rambling ranch house of our main character, accomplished screenwriter Steven McKay.
The camera pans the house--living room, with plastic sheaths on the lampshades and an expensive German piano no one ever plays; backyard patio with two fireplaces, crystal-blue pool, two purebred Belgian Tervuren dogs slumbering in the grass; office decorated with posters from McKay's big break in the screenwriting business--Hard to Kill, starring Steven Seagal--and a subsequent script sale--Diggstown, starring James Woods and Lou Gossett Jr.
Throughout the house, the furnishings, fixtures and pieces of artwork match, as though they were all purchased in a single weekend. Nouveau riche.
The camera pans to a room that, unlike the rest of the house, is notably cluttered. The floor is piled with legal pleadings, video and audio tapes, indexed notebooks, photocopies of letters, notes, check registers, snapshots.
The scene cuts to the kitchen, which is decorated--as are the other rooms--with dark wood and Southwestern tchotchkes. More legal documents are piled on the kitchen table, next to plates of bialys, lox, cream cheese and fruit salad. Breakfast.
Steven McKay is seated at the table, dressed casually but immaculately in a white tee shirt, elastic-waist pants and Tretorns. Fortysomething, he's tall and slender with Newman-blue eyes, a mane of gray hair and capped white teeth. His skin is rough from years in the sun and last weekend's trip to Prescott on his Harley-Davidson.
McKay's eyes bore into the camera.
He is, he says, a man on fire--a man unable to write, unable to create, unable to concentrate on anything but the legal battle that has consumed him for the past three years, cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer's bills and precious hours in law offices and courtrooms.
And all over a woman. A woman he doesn't want. A woman he didn't want. In fact, his troubles began when McKay finally told Jean Caperonis to get out of his life forever.
McKay and Caperonis lived together for nearly eight years, their finances kept so separate that she didn't think to list his assets when she filed for personal bankruptcy in 1991.
That changed two years later, when McKay asked Caperonis to move out. Caperonis sued for breach of contract--citing a verbal co-habitation agreement supposedly made in 1985--and asked for half of McKay's houses, pension, car, everything. Even one of his dogs.
McKay tends to think of himself as Michael Douglas in Fatal Attraction, with Caperonis as the rabbit-boiling Glenn Close. But, truth be told, it's McKay who's obsessed, and McKay who has allowed the financial and professional erosion of Steven McKay.
McKay appears to be correct in asserting that he owes Jean Caperonis nothing. Arizona does not recognize common-law marriage. And case law shows that a plaintiff in a palimony case must prove pooled assets--joint tax returns, joint checking accounts, joint purchase of a house--before a judge will rule in her favor.
But if he has the law on his side, McKay has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks common sense. He could have offered to settle the case many times in the last three years, could have simply written Caperonis a check and walked away.
Most likely, it would have been cheaper. It definitely would have been faster. Of course, it would have meant writing a check payable to Jean Caperonis.
McKay will do just about anything to avoid that.
He doesn't see the dark comedy lurking in his horror story. He doesn't understand why people urge him to base his next screenplay on the legal and personal machinations that rule his life.
"Frankly," he tells the camera, "it's just a civil case. And it's just about some lying bitch trying to steal from somebody."
Aaahh, but that's only a selected part of his side of an involved story. She would not tell her side, but clearly this is not just a civil lawsuit.
It's Scottsdale to Los Angeles to San Diego to L.A. to Palm Springs to Scottsdale.
It's courtroom insanity a la L.A. Law.
It's dog-custody fights.
It's pure Hollywood.
Scene 2: A summer day in the late '50s, afternoon, a quiet, middle-class neighborhood further south in Scottsdale.
Twelve-year-old Steven McKay, dressed in faded blue jeans and an old tee shirt, feet bare, sits on his bed in a small, cluttered room. Steven is scribbling furiously in a notebook. He pauses, scratches out a word, replaces it, chews the end of his pencil.
Hearing the giggles of younger siblings in the hallway--he is the eldest of 12 children--Steven quickly rips the page from the notebook and lifts the corner of the mattress.
As he does so, the camera zooms in, revealing a crumpled pile of poems, song lyrics and prose under Steven's mattress. His hand adds the latest addition to the pile.
Without bothering to find shoes, young Steven heads outside. The camera follows him out of the house and through a typically suburban, newly built subdivision, across an intersection to a dusty plot of land. On it is a tent belonging to a man named Hack, the caretaker of nearby horse property and one of Scottsdale's last cowboys.