Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dialling Tony

As of late I've been getting a lot of nuisance phone calls. You know the kind of thing: 
'Have you been mis- sold PPI'S or 
'this is an important message for anyone who has credit card debt'

But lately it’s the one that starts with 'Please do not hang up, this is not a sales call' that has taken up so much of my time. In fact it's got to such a stage that it's turned into a competition to see just how fast I can put the phone down on them after being told not to do so. My mind is consumed by shaving just one more ten billionth of a second off my previous best of 1.00009988867774 (oh yes, I've acquired a mercury clock just so I can time it accurately).

Anyway, just as I had missed my personal best by 0.9889857738 of a second last night, it brought back to me a memory of my old agent Tony Brandt, of whom I talked about in a previous post. I was going to tell Karen, my partner, about the story, but she was off competing in the ‘World Free Running Championships’ in D├╝sseldorf.

Tony was a bombastic and breathtakingly annoying little man who spent most of his daylight hours not getting me any work and his night time sculpting local beauties in the nude.  

As you can imagine, this was a subject I used to take a close interest in as I'd heard that he and Mitzi, Tony's ex-Vogue model wife, used to have an open marriage, so god only knew what went on at these nude sculpting sessions of his.

So I pumped him with questions like: what do they look like, are they local, what shape were they in, etc, etc. Tony eventually got the hint and invited me along to one of his nude sculpting sessions. I clapped my hand in rapt euphoria at the thought of all that slinky, sensual flesh. Tony ignored me as he always did. Instead he waved his hand dismissively and told me to be back at his studio by 9:15 that night when a raven haired beauty by the name of Sophie was going to turn up. 

When I got there my jaw dropped to the floor because there was the girl--- a raven haired beauty indeed, with long limbs and a statuesque posture, shrouded elegantly in a dark velvet drape, while Tony stood in the corner hammering away at a piece of marble with not a stitch on.

Once again it would appear I had misinterpreted Tony's odd, eccentric little mind.

But that's not the ‘Tony’ story I wanted to recall on this week’s post.


Tony and I had this battle going on. Every time I would call him, or on the rare occasions that he would call me, he would end the call with his usual annoying brusqueness and slam the phone down before I could get to say good bye. After a while this began to really niggle at me to such a degree that my only desire in life was to beat him to the punch and get that receiver down first. But try as I might, Tony always managed to thwart my efforts.

So as the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years, the calls from Tony became less and less about the work, or the lack of it, but more about who could slam the receiver down first.

In all fairness I was a young and inexperienced chap in my mid twenties at the time; whereas Tony was a man of the world. He'd seen many things, experienced a life I could only dream of and slammed the phone down on more people than I'd had hot dinners. But I was no quitter; I was determined to win at least one of our phone bouts.

Tony had obsessed my mind with winning--- beating him to the end of a phone call soon became the only thing that I cared about. Life held no more meaning than hearing his voice still speaking as I cut him off with seconds to spare. And it is this mind set, this obsessive nature that had soiled my mind with dark thoughts and swirling clouds of petty petulance, and is the only defence I can give to the childish act I perpetrated. 

After a lot of deliberating and soul searching, I’d hit upon an idea of how I was going to beat Tony to the punch. It was as devastatingly simple as it was devious--- it was a guaranteed win situation for me, and that was all my jarred and chipped mind cared about by this point.

I picked up the phone, dialled his number and waited. The phone purred three times then Tony's Etonian voice cut through the connection. 'Hello, Anthony Brandt' and I slammed the phone down and leaped into the air with the joy of a child whose just received his hearts delight on a Christmas morning.

I punched the air, I screamed at the downed phone. I had won. I had beaten the great Tony to the crunch. All his experience, all his years as champion conversation finisher were at an end; thwarted by the superior agility of a younger and better mind! I was rejuvinated, invigorated and awash with alpha male testosterone. 

All of these and many more thoughts beat the bounds ecstatically around my mind in a swirl of heated, euphoric energy. My ears beat to the pulse of an adrenalin drum. The birds sang outside and I felt their joy. I opened the windows and announced to the world that I had beaten the great Tony Brandt to the end of a phone call and the birds flew away.

I stood, half in and half out of my front room window and basked silently in the glow of my finest hour. The sun beat down on my face and smiled at me, slowing my pulse rate with its gentle warmth.

Slowly but slowly, my elation began to plateau.

I closed the window and moved back inside my darkened sanctuary as some of the joy and exultation began to sink and slough its way back down into my psyche. The feeling of victory was waning with every step I took and by the time I had made it into the kitchen for a valedictory cup of Earl Grey, I was almost back to normal; the only outward sign of my elation was the supercilious smile that had taken up squatters rights on my face.

Then as my mind began to regain its normality and the world came back into some kind of focus, doubt began to creep into my mind. Little thoughts started to gnaw away at my confidence; my supreme belief was being slowly but surely devoured by the deadly knight shade of doubt. And I began to think thoughts like: 

'Was that Tony on the other end of the phone?'
'Did I dial the right number?'
'Was that just an innocent member of the general public?'
'Have they reported me?'
'Is a tap on the door from the local constabulary immanent?'

I began to pace. My nails were being eroded by nervous chewing. I was wearing a grove into the carpet as I paced and thought, thought and paced. Eventually I could take the self doubt no more. I had to know if it was Tony I had called. I'd have to swallow my pride and take my chances and ring him up to explain the whole thing and take the risk of looking like a complete idiot.

I lifted the receiver once again and was about to dial his number when a voice cut through the static. A voice I instantly recognised as the Etonian undercurrents of my agent, Tony Brandt

"HA I KNEW IT WAS YOU" triumphed the voice on the end of the line and the phone went down with a harsh finality.

I howled my anguish, I screamed my frustration and I dashed the phone to the floor. Once again Tony had won. He had sat for an unbelievable twenty minutes waiting patiently for my elation to subside, normality to take over and guilt to kick in.

I knew at that moment that Tony was a master tactician. He knew his man and played the game to win. And from that day on I was forced to accepted the inevitable: Tony Brandt was always going to beat me to the punch. He was always going to put that receiver down first and the sooner I accepted my lot as a phone call ending 'also ran', the sooner I could get back to leading a normal life.

Mind you, I’ve always thought that if Tony had put as much effort into selling my work as he did to defeating me on the phone, I would be a very rich cartoonist by now and I probably wouldn't feel the need to spend so much time trying to outwit a recorded message on the end of a phone line.

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