|This is an accurate accounting of a single day in the life of Darryl Mockridge. It is not typical.
TEARS OF JOY and JACK NICHOLSON’S ATTORNEY
Mr. Lawrence is a nice guy; he stays at the hotel, where I work as a desk clerk, maybe two
or three times a month. He’s been staying here for a few years now, so I feel like I kinda
know the man. He’s quiet, intelligent, serious, works for some non-profit doing something
worthwhile which I can never remember. He knows what I do: I’m the guy who checks him
in when he arrives, each time, just after the office closes. Usually, I buzz him in, he stands
in front of the desk while I run his credit card, and we exchange meaningless courtesies.
Then, he goes up to his room and I begin again to shut things down for the night. But, this
time he said, “You look pretty serious…” So, I told him, “Well, I’m being sued by Jack
Nicholson.” Apparently this was delightful news; his face lit up; he broke into a huge smile;
he came around to my side of the desk, and he extended his hand. I extended mine out of
reflex, and he shook it vigorously.
“Congratulations,” he said, “that’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.”
I’d become an instant hero.
Mr. Lawrence had a lot of questions which I didn’t really care to answer; being sued by Jack
Nicholson was not the joy for me that it was for him. Still, there are few things more
entertaining in this world than someone you know being sued by Jack Nicholson.
At that point I’d told three people and they were all jolted into near-ecstatic elation as the
joyous news surged through their minds. My wife and I were devastated however, and
maybe just a bit frightened. It’s one thing to be sued by someone, but quite another to be
sued by Jack Nicholson. She was haunted by the idea that Jack Nicholson was going to
take away our one and only possession, a very tiny unassuming little log cabin in the Blue
Ridge Mountains. When I told these others of her concerns and how upset we were, I
discovered that I have some true friends in this world. Each in turn came to my aid,
expressing sympathy, offering encouragement and comfort. Tom, who is a lawyer, said,
“Send me what you have, I’ll take a look at it tonight.” And he ended his email with the firm
assurance, “Don’t worry about this.” Those four words brought tears to my eyes. That was
the second time in two days my eyes had filled with tears of joy.
Just one day earlier someone on FB told me that Osama Bin Laden had been shot down
dead, and I found my eyes full of tears—tears of joy. I remember saying to my dear wife, “I
had no idea this event would mean so much to me.” I like the idea of the eradication of Evil
of course, but don’t feel invested in the process in any way. Still, there I was, eyes awash in
tears at the news. Thank God—and the Navy Seals—that son-of-a-bitch is dead.
At this point I need to make it clear that tears of joy are not a normal part of my everyday life.
In the 62 confusing years I’ve spend on this planet I’ve shed tears of joy (only) 4 times prior
to these events. In 1970 a judge in Richmond Virginia, with cruel eyes under a stern
unforgiving brow proclaimed, “Case dismissed!” and brought his gavel down with a clack.
With that sound my eyes were instantly flooded; it was the first time I can recall
experiencing tears of joy. The last time was many years later when my father received the
French Legion of Honour. My eyes were filled with tears of pride throughout that entire
ceremony. I have always considered it an honor to be my father’s son. Another time was
when my very dear wife’s father returned from a trip to France and immediately after he
entered the hotel, upon setting his bags down, I came forward and placed a golden
retriever puppy in his arms. It was a surprise. He had had to put down his previous dog—
also a golden retrieve—about a month earlier, before his departure.
(We thought it was time.)
The best time, and the one that fills me with thankfulness and delight whenever I think
about it, was when I stood beside my truly lovely wife, as we pronounced our vows to each
other. I spent that entire ceremony overwhelmed, my eyes filled with tears of joy.
Now some time has passed and I’ve shed tears of joy three times in as many days and
suffered my first migraine in more than 12 years, and I’ve given all of this some thought,
and I’m ready to tell that tale.
It started some time in early 2008 when I began converting two screenplays I’d written into
a more readable format. My thinking was that I’d slap them back to back and try to pawn it
off as a book to my small but dedicated readership. The first one, EARWIG, is basically a
somewhat oblique meandering love letter to my truly wonderful wife which, as all such
screenplays must, involves the recitation of a Gerard de Nerval poem in perfectly nuanced
French, the performance of one of the Bach suites for cello in front of a gathering of
astounded friends, beating my father-in-law resoundingly at ping pong, and a horrendous
car crash. Oh, and there’s an earwig in there too.
The second screenplay is the one that caused all the trouble; it has to do with Santa Claus.
And, because I think Jack Nicholson is one of the most entertaining artists I’ve ever had the
great good pleasure to watch perform in any media—and one of the select few people I can
imitate with recognizable skill—Santa looks and sounds and acts like Jack Nicholson in
that play. It’s actually pretty effective, and I have the testimony of others to confirm that
assessment. People who have read it, like it.
The earliest letter I can produce informing Jack Nicholson’s agent Sandy Bresler of my
work and asking for whatever permission I might need, was written March 23, 2008. The
next was June 16, and then again on August 23. About that same time, because a Bob
Dylan song or two were involved, I wrote to Big Sky Music explaining the project and asking
for whatever permission they felt they could offer me, and got the rights quickly and, in a
casual off-hand sort of way, to use those songs ‘in this highly speculative manner.” It was
in fact highly speculative; I’m the first to admit it. I usually working on 4 or 5 books at a time
and have no idea which will come to fruition or when or even if. I know when they are close
however, and sometime before I started the grueling task of editing Earwig for print, I shot
another letter off into the black hole that is Hollywood.
So, then there was nothing. There is only a great silence from the south while I go through
something like 14 proofs and edits. Then, on March 23, 2011 (precisely three years after
beginning the simple project of converting screenplays to prose) I published EARWIG and
made it available on my website.
Very near the end of April—I usually do these things on a Sunday night for some
unexplainable reason—I printed out a small paper band which said, “Includes: Jack
Nicholson IS Santa Claus”, wrapped it around a copy of EARWIG, boxed it, addressed it to
Sandy Bresler, and dropped it in the mailbox.
The letter that accommodated that book admitted that it was ‘a belated request for
permission’ that I had sent various letters previously with the same request, that Bob Dylan
had given me permission to use his songs, that I’m 62 years old and not trying to sell
anyone anything BUT I would like to be sure I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes. I told Mr.
Bresler that I appreciated his time on such a small matter, printed that out on
EstuaryPublications letterhead, with the logo up top and the slogan: No calls please, I’ve
already got enough of that in my life., at the bottom.
On May 2, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, when I was lying quietly in a fetal position on my bed
in a darkened room I got a phone call from Mr. Bresler. From the opening shot I could tell
that this was a man who was hopping mad but holding himself under restraint.
He said, “I got your letter and you’re kind of asking for permission after the fact aren’t you?”
I said, “I’ve sent letters to you before at that same address and got no response.”
“Well, you’ll be hearing from Mr. Jack Nicholson’s attorney about this,” he said, “Meanwhile,
I insist that you remove that book from your website immediately and stop all sales of the
book until you’ve heard from Mr. Nicholson’s attorney.”
I had no idea what to say to that, and so said nothing, or at least said nothing intelligible.
“It’s really a very naïve thing to do,” he said, and he asked me how long I’d been in
“I’m not really in publishing,” I said, “I mean I’m putting these books in print, but...”
He cut me off and said, “It’s too late to ask our permission. I never got the previous letters
you refer to, they probably fell into the fan mail pile. But you can’t contact me after the fact
asking for permission.”
My side of the conversation was somewhat awkward, because I was really surprised that I
should be speaking to this man at all, and I was still half-asleep. On top of that, even
though I knew that was his sole purpose, I was frightened by what he was saying. At the
same time I got the real sense that this was just a man doing his job.
I tried to explain that when I started writing that piece I wrote to him to ask permission, and
as the thing developed I wrote a couple times more, and, now that it was done, I thought I’d
better at least attempt, one more time, to get permission.
He interrupted me to say, “You started writing… Are you this Mockingridge fellow?”
“And who is your market?”
”Mostly my friends,” I said. There was a silence for a while. I think he thought he was
dealing with an idiot. Perhaps he was, muddled as I was by all of this, I felt like one.
“Mostly your friends?”
“Well, yes, you know, friends and the people they recommend my work to… But, I really don’
t think there is anything in that story that is detrimental in any way to Mr. Nicholson or his
“And who are these others, Henry Fool and Moonsinger and all the others; are they all you
“Well, have you written anything under your real name?”
“Well I suggest [I don’t think he said suggest, it may have been insist, something short of
demand however] that you take that book down from your site IMMEDIATELY and stop
sales immediately until you’ve heard from Mr. Jack Nicholson’s attorney. Mr. Nicholson is
highly protective of his name and his image.”
“I understand that. But I really have no intention of offending Mr. Nicholson.”
“I’m going to put everything I just said here in an email and email it to you. I expect you to
respond by saying you will comply with everything we’ve just agreed to. Look for my email.”
“Thank you,” I said, and he hung up.
I really, honestly believe that the man came very close to calling me a jackass. Perhaps he
saved it until after he hung up. After he hung up I sat up, turned on the light, and held my
head in both hands, stunned by this completely predictable/unpredictable (depending upon
your experiences I suppose) turn of events. Then I went in and told my wife, who first turned
pale and then expressed the fear that Jack Nicholson would soon be holding the title to our
Sent: Monday, May 2, 2011 4:09 PM
Subject: EARWIG - DARRYL MOCKRIDGE
Richard Mansfield, per our conversation, I suggest that you take down the sale of the above
book immediately from your web site immediately until you hear from Mr. Jack Nicholson’s
attorney. As I indicated, you had no permission to put a band around your book indicating a
section that includes “Jack Nicholson IS Santa Claus. I of course have not read the portion
of the book that refers to the Jack Nicholson portion. Please reconfirm that you will follow
what I have written above and the book will be immediately removed. I am sorry that you
did not pick up the phone after you never heard from me, since I never received any of your
stated previous letters. Sincerely Sandy Bresler
I did not take down Earwig from my website. I DID go in and remove the three links that
lead to the opening shot of the Santa Claus story. Then I showed the email to my wife and
spoke with her about whether Jack Nicholson would change the paint colors we’d so
painfully chosen for each of the rooms in our little cabin, or leave them.
And at 5:49 PM I responded.
re: no permission to put a band around your book indicating a section that includes “Jack
Nicholson IS Santa Claus"
My very dear wife finds this turn of events truly frightening, as do I. But, unlike myself she
remains clear thinking and has posed the question: Is your objection to Earwig the band
around the book with Jack Nicholson's name on it? If so, you should know that the ONLY
copy of that book with that band on it was the one I sent to you.
The cover of Earwig has no reference whatsoever to Jack Nicholson. It states only Earwig /
Darryl Mockridge. There is no mention of Jack Nicholson on the back cover or on the spine
of the book either. Additionally, I have gone into my website and removed all links and every
reference to Jack Nicholson from that site.
More importantly, in my mind at least, is that it is clear that I had no intention... well, I don't
want to offend anybody at any time, but I sure as hell don't want to offend Jack Nicholson.
I could not be more sincere,
Then I thought about it. And while doing that I discovered that I was incapable of thinking
about anything else.
On facebook I wrote:
Darryl Mockridge HOLD ON TO YOUR EARWIG. If you've got a copy of Earwig, keep it in a
safe place. If the boys down in LA have their way, it'll become a real rarity.
Tuesday May 2 at 9:14pm
While I was doing other things, I was really thinking about that. I may have been checking
people into the hotel, but I was elsewhere. That evening my wife had to replace me at the
front desk because I was slammed with the first migraine I’ve had in many years. It nailed
me solidly to a sweat-soaked bed for several hours and left me partially blind for a while
afterward. In the past these headaches have only come when the woman I’m living with’s
Aunt, who doesn’t like me one bit, has come to stay in our little apartment for a week, OR,
the woman I’m hanging around with wants to go to the Cow Palace for the evening and
watch Professional Wrestling while surrounded with whatever kind of human beings that
event might attract, OR, when I suddenly found myself the new kid in high school, three
months before graduation, and, now, in anticipation of meeting Jack Nicholson’s attorney.
That night, I may have been in bed, but I was not sleeping. I was thinking about Jack
Nicholson’s attorney. And when I could pretend no more, some time around 5 AM, I got up
and I went into the living room and fired up the old typewriter and I wrote a letter. At some
point I fell asleep from exhaustion and awoke again sometime after 8 AM, and fired off this
From: Richard Mansfield [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 8:26 AM
To: Sandy Bresler
Subject: Re: EARWIG - DARRYL MOCKRIDGE
I’ve given some thought to what you’ve said. In fact, I thought about little else. Thanks for
that: I need more trouble in my life right now.
But, I want to reiterate what I’ve done at your request, because it seemed like the correct
thing to do. I have removed the name of Jack Nicholson from anywhere on my website. And
I’ve removed any links to “Jack Nicholson IS Santa Claus”.
I’d like to say again that there is no reference to Jack Nicholson on the cover of Earwig
anywhere. There never has been. The band that seems to have caused your upset was
placed on one book and one book only, the one that went to you. It was placed there so that
you would know that Earwig contained that story. It was a courtesy.
I think you can tell that I had no idea I was doing anything offensive; Why in the name of
Christ would I reach out to a man I don’t know only to offend him?; there are people in my
life I’d wish into the grave if I had that power and I don’t offend them, or at least not
intentionally. I honestly expected a shrug of the shoulders from you, or the classic: Eternal
As I said to you in my letter, I am not a businessman; I’m a desk clerk. I’m not a salesman
either, and I’m not trying to sell anything to any one. I am a writer however—have written for
more that 48 years of my miserable life (and I don’t think it has helped any)--and I do make
my work available. Somebody wants to buy my work, I’m all for it, but I want them to buy it
because they enjoy my writing, or someone who does enjoy my writing has told them it’s
worth reading. I don’t want them buying my work because it has the words Jack Nicholson
plastered all over it. As said, from the beginning, there was never any mention of Jack
Nicholson on the cover of that book. None. The idea wasn’t once considered; it wasn’t even
As far as all this horseshit about you calling me up during my nap in the middle of the
afternoon and making demands. You have no authority over me. If you think I’ve stepped on
your toes somehow, take it to someone who does have authority over me. If I did step on
your toes, it was fully unintentional and I apologize for that. I’m completely sincere. What I
wrote was a tribute to a man whose work I truly enjoy. I thought he might enjoy it. It’s that
simple. But again, why in the name of Christ would I seek you out only to offend you? And, if
I was trying to get away with something, I’d do it on tip toes not with a brass band.
That said, there’s this. As far as the content of that story goes. I don’t know how you can
determine that it is slanderous or whatever it is you apparently think, when you haven’t read
it. And, I don’t know what could be offensive about blurring the line between Jack Nicholson
and Santa Claus anyway…one of ‘em is quite possibly the most beloved mythical character
in the history of mankind. You want to go around saying I’m Santa Claus, nobody who
knows me would believe you, but I’d have no objection to you doing that. I DO object
however to you saying that I’m trying to sell my work to people who are so goddamned
dumb they’ll buy something just because it has some celebrity’s name on it. I think more of
my work and much more of my readership than that.
You do what you gotta do, Mr. Bresler. I listened to what you had to say, and where I thought
you were right, I complied with your request. I hope you’re pleased. But, I have a difficult
time believing that the only people who can put the words Jack Nicholson into print
anywhere in their work have to get prior consent from you or anybody else.
I could not be more sincere,
That email said everything I had to say on the matter, and as far as I could see, I was done
with it. I didn’t want anything more to do with the damned mess until I had to. Sometime in
the late afternoon, after walking the dogs and forgetting that I had a care in the world, I
forced myself to open up my email and my heart sank when I saw the title From: Sandy
Bresler, but I read it anyway. I had no choice.
To: Richard Mansfield <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: EARWIG - DARRYL MOCKRIDGE
Richard, the coast is clear as long as you never put the banner around the book, keep his
name off the cover and do any advertising about the chapter that uses Jack Nicholson’s
name. This I would think would be easy to do. Please reconfirm that you will follow these
guide lines and you are good to go. Sandy Bresler
From: Richard Mansfield [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, May 03, 2011 4:15 PM
To: Sandy Bresler
Subject: Re: EARWIG - DARRYL MOCKRIDGE
Mr. Bresler, thank you.
I appreciate you getting back to me so soon.
I never had any intention of doing any of that anyway, so consider it done.
Thank you again.
Two minutes later, at 4:17 PM, as I was sitting there pondering the strangeness of
agreeing not to do three things that I never intended to do anyway—an email came in.
Good luck with the sale of the book
…and for the third time in as many days tears filled my eyes.
Suddenly I knew Mr. Bresler to be an extraordinarily kind man.
There is no way I could have predicted such an outcome.
That has to be one of the most peculiar 24 hours I have ever spent.
On facebook, later that evening, May 3 at 6:25pm, I wrote this:
I have to say that the people I've dealt with in Hollywood recently are quite fair.