Although he wears a white windbreaker and white Stan Smith tennis shoes, and although he has neatly cut red hair and a face full of freckles, he has hard, narrow eyes rigged for unsparing assessments, and his assessment of Leslie Carter's first take was this: It's not enough. She's not feeling it enough and not having enough fun. They are counting on Gregory Dark to make her beautiful, to make her commercially viable, to make her--somehow--perfect. That's what always seems to surprise and excite him, even now. He was good at pornography the way he's good at making music videos. He was sitting in a room with his producer, John Thorpe, and a cohort of digital artists and special-effects people. Tell her we're changing the scenario so that Leslie can wear black.""Gregory--""Tell her we're going to have her sawed in half by a magician, except that she'll actually be sawed in half." "Gregory--""Her intestines will be hanging out, and then all these cockroaches will start pouring out of her body while she looks on in horror. They know where he's going, know that he's going to start talking about naked pygmies poking spears into bloody sides of beef, but they all just laugh and smile, because that's just Gregory, and people, well, people-- "People like me," Gregory Dark says. She keeps going back and forth, and all the while Gregory's there, saying, "So, my world's really changed since I saw you last, right? I used to be surrounded by really stupid people, all the time. I'm good at it."Gregory Dark slumps in his chair and shakes his head while images of Leslie Carter are fed through the skinnyizer."How fucked up is that? They hang around in the background, engaged in some kind of endless sidebar; they stay back, near Leslie's mother and sister--except that every so often, Frances comes forward to ask a question or to make a suggestion, either to John Thorpe or Craig Fanning or even to Gregory himself. Her shoulders slump, her movements congeal, the breath flees her body, and suddenly everybody who applauded her after the first take--Mom and Sis! --is back up again, cheering her through this last impossible one. You keep telling what she's doing wrong, she's going to cut off, like she just did! She just cut off.""Fourteen-year-olds are not stupid," Craig Fanning answers calmly. You tell Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera or Mandy Moore to do something, believe me, they do it, no questions asked, because they're professionals. It's Gregory Dark, and she's too tired to defend herself, but when he reaches her, he touches her shoulder with his hand ... and tells her, in his soft voice, to take a break, to get some rest, that she's doing just fine and everything will be all right. Already too many people know who I am, and I hate it.
Leslie Carter has to do enough in front of the camera to overcome her issues, because the singers she is in competition with--Britney and Christina and Mandy and Jessica--have no issues to overcome. Their hair, their makeup, their clothes, everything is perfect. You see, at first he didn't know that it was his calling--"I just had to make a living! " He had gone to Stanford; he had gone to film school. They were all looking at a bunch of storyboards and color photocopies scattered on the floor, trying to establish the visual language of the "Like, Wow! Tell Frances that--""Gregory ..."Well, what do you want? I used to work for really stupid people and work with really stupid people. They're scared by the weird shit, and you know me--I like the weird shit. It's supposed to star Ice Cube as a guy battling werewolves. And it's probably three hours into the shoot when she and Goldie come up with the idea of asking Gregory Dark to shoot Leslie in profile, the way she was shot for the cover of the "Like, Wow! She's so young that she can't even kiss a boy in the video--she has to hold hands--and can't work more than eight hours without running afoul of child-labor laws, but how many takes has she done, lip-synching "Like, Wow! Even the cameraman is hopping around and dancing, and yet still, what everybody sees in the video monitors is a girl who looks as though she's about to cry and who, upon the last booming note of "Like, Wow! "You can't keep telling her all the things she's doing wrong! What Leslie has to learn is that this is not about her. In fact, she has learn to void herself of Leslie Carter and become a professional."And now Gregory Dark stands up from behind his monitor. IT'S NOT LIKE HE REALLY WANTED to do the Leslie Carter video in the first place. He just wrote a scenario, the way he does when he's bidding on any other job, and Dream Works liked it. I was walking in a mall in the Valley the other day, and two girls came up to me. ..." I went home and wrote an article about him anyway.
That Rolling Stone cover of Christina Aguilera with her shorts unzipped and her athletic tongue licking her lascivious lips?
He even seems kind, although I know he is capable of extravagant cruelty.
I just wish in my heart of hearts that I didn't think he, Gregory Dark, might be the devil. People were calling him the devil back then--in fact, that's exactly what he said when I met him: "People call me the devil"--but I liked him immediately. He talked about surrealism and breaking down the wall between viewer and participant.
That's a porn box cover, though without the usual accoutrement of bodily fluids.
The lure of jailbait now supplies the erotic energy to a popular culture desperate for what's new, what's young, what's alive; and the pornographication of the American girl has proceeded at such a pace that, as curious as the phenomenon of Gregory Dark directing a girl like Leslie Carter in a music video seems even to Gregory Dark himself, it also makes perfect sense. She was wearing a black leather coat, platformy shoes, a shirt that rode up on her midriff. She was eighteen years old, and, okay, she was Leslie Carter's sister. Her mother had introduced her to Gregory early in the morning.
Yes, he said, though there was only so much he could do, because you don't want her to look distorted. John Thorpe answered, and when he hung up, he said to Gregory, "Frances wants to know if Leslie can wear black in the video." "Why? And tell her that if she keeps calling with these stupid questions, I'll push the video. People might call me the devil, but at least I'm not an asshole. Like Britney Spears--she really liked me, even though her record company won't use me anymore, when it came out what I used to do. "When he hangs up, though, his long, creased face is smiling in that hyperventilated way he has. Like all of Gregory Dark's work, the video was going to be curious, visually, so he was surprised when he got the job, and he was surprised when he started putting Dream Works off and Dream Works kept insisting that they liked his scenario, that they liked him, that they were willing to wait, that they wanted Gregory Dark to direct the "Like, Wow! but it's not like he sits around plotting to direct Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, and Leslie Carter so that he can corrupt them and the little girls who idolize them. He took her call, and she told him she had some questions to ask him about the story.