Wednesday, November 7, 2012

10. The Contract

After the departure of Michael for the USA, Tony had worked for a little while on his own, but eventually had decided that he needed to get a new manager. Whilst guesting on Space Doctor, one of the stars had recommended SMT Management Team, they had helped him to get three starring roles in the past four years, all in well written and produced series.

Tony walked into their Golden Square office for his appointment. He opened the gigantic glass doors and surveyed the ostentatiously peacocking reception area, which had more open space than the sahara desert, and appeared to have just as much character. Two white and two black leather sofas were strategically placed in the middle of the gigantic area, which must have been about one hundred feet wide and at least two hundred feet long, in order to allow anyone waiting for their appointment to realise that SMT meant business, or at least had a keen eye for snobby furniture and design.

As the reception called Tony to his appointment, he walked through the reception to the main office door. He kept walking, and walking, until eventually he got there. Stepping through the glazed glass door took Tony into an incredibly tightly packed office space, he shuffled past the desks and found his way to The Mary Portas Suite, in other words, meeting room 2.

Squeezing his way round the chairs Tony took a seat and waited for the representative from SMT to join him.

About five minutes later a rather chunky man in his mid-fifties walked into the room and sat at the seat opposite.

“Good afternoon Mr James.” he announced. “My name is Andy Smith, the Head of Acting and Performance talent here at the management team of SMT Management Team.”

“Pleased to meet you.” replied Tony, shaking Andy's hand. Andy's handshake felt like the grip of a 1970's wrestler trying to hold onto a fellow wrestler that was hanging off a large cliff by one hand.

“We see great things for you Tony.” Andy continued. “The public love you, and we take the blue sky view that the opportunities available to you are second to none.”

Blue sky view? Tony thought that even old fashioned business managers had given up on that phrase.

“We'll do everything we can to make you a very rich man indeed.” Andy finished.

“Thanks.” replied Tony. “But I'm not too bothered about making a ton of money, I want to do good work and find a way to perform in America.”

Andy looked a little puzzled, and waited a few seconds before a lightbulb went off in his head. “America, that's where the big money is. I see where you are going.”

“I think you maybe misunderstood.” clarified Tony. “I want to perform on Broadway.”

Andy rambled, as if thinking aloud. “Broadway, the streets are paved with gold, big audiences, big money, raking it in...sorry, where was I?”

“Broadway, I want to work on Broadway.” Tony repeated.

“If that's what you want, the management team at SMT Management team will make it happen for you. Just sign here.” Andy announced with significantly better clarity.

In hindsight, Tony would have checked the contract more thoroughly, and made better enquiries as to the quality of SMT Management Team's staff, but happy at the thought of Broadway, he signed the contract there and then.

Things started well, SMT came up with the idea of the 35th anniversary special that brought Tony back to glowing stardom with the public, and they had also negotiated the agreement for The Tony James Show, which three weeks earlier had seemed like a brilliant thing.

Tony and Andy stood outside Geralds' thick oak door. Having explained to Andy that he intended on quitting the show, Andy had tried to talk him round, but hearing that his client was adamant, he decided the most profitable course of action was to accompany him and try and negotiate changes that would keep the cash rolling in, and Tony happy.

“Come in gentlemen.” came the nod from Gerald.

Tony and Andy walked in. Andy surveyed the remarkable blend of brown that filled the large office, resembling in some respects what his office might have looked like seventy years ago. Tony sat down, and as Andy went to sit down, he misjudged the deceptively low height of the sofa and fell backwards in an embarrassingly farcical manner. Dusting himself down and shuffling back to a normal seated position, the meeting was ready to start.

Tony worked up the courage to announce his plans, but as he did so Gerald started.

“Good work gentlemen. Good work indeed. Your figures were up by two million this week, it was your best episode yet by a long way.”

Tony glanced at Andy with slight embarrassment, however Andy was too distracted by the dollar signs in his eyes. Why he used dollars Tony was unsure, after all, the Great British Pound was hardly an undiscovered currency.

“I have decided to...” Tony started.

“I was so pleased that I ordered you a special present to celebrate.” Gerald continued. “It's a remarkable Whiskey from Middlesex. They only make 200 bottles a year, and I buy 35 of them. You two and Steve have earned them with your improved ratings.”

Tony got up and walked across to the desk. As Gerald went to hand the bottle to him, he found his bravery and blurted out. “I'm resigning from the show.”

He could have sworn that the bottle moved at least a foot towards him in a split second, but it stopped before reaching him.

Gerald handed the bottle over, cut his cigar, and lit it. He took in a breath of smoke and sat back in his rosewood coloured chair. “Hmm. That's unexpected, I thought the show was doing well.”

Tony explained. “I signed up to make an intelligent show, with popular guests but without the usual reality and talent show stars of the other chat shows. The guests I have been given have not lived up to that promise.”

Gerald took another breath of his cigar. “I see. Of course you do realise that your contract says you have no say whatsoever over the guests?”

Tony look stunned.

“It also says you have no right to resign. That unless we fire you, you are contractually obliged to film whatever episodes of the show we tell you.” Gerald continued. “If you break your contract you will have to pay a ten million pound fee.”

“That's ridiculous. That contract isn't legal.” replied an angry Tony.

“I'm afraid it is.” continued Gerald. “Didn't your management team check it over?”

Tony turned as scowled at Andy, who in return thought to himself, and said nothing.

“Let me see that contract.” demanded Tony.

Gerald opened his creaky chocolate coloured filing cupboard and pulled out Tony's contract. Handing it to Tony he proudly declared, “It's watertight.”

Tony scanned through the main points of the document slowly and carefully, his eyebrows raised so highly they looked as if they might fall off from his head. “That is not a legal contract. I'm no lawyer, but no court would allow this contract to stand.”

“I'm afraid not.” replied a slightly smug Gerald.

“No court in the UK would allow this to stand.” argued an increasingly irate Tony.

“That's irrelevant.” explained Gerald. “Look closer.”

Tony investigated the small print. His eyes widened. 'Whilst the contract shall be enacted in the United Kingdom. This contract is bound by the laws and statutes of the Republic of St. Gerald.'

“St Gerald?!” exclaimed Tony. “What in the name of god is this going on about?”

“The Republic of St. Gerald. A fine principality, with an incredibly strict legal system that makes that contract impossible to get out of.” Gerald chuckled.

“But I've never even heard of the Republic of St. Ger... hang on.” muttered Tony.

Gerald smiled.

“But that's impossible surely?” exclaimed Tony. “Surely that can't be true.”

Gerald's smile grew bigger. “If you wish to test it, feel free to sue. I have the best lawyer in the business. In fact, I have all the best lawyers in the business. You'll be lucky to have the clothes you are wearing left by time I'm finished with you.”

Tony was speechless.

“So I'll see you on next weeks show. I've already told Steve who your guests need to be. You may kindly leave now gentlemen.”

With that a stunned Tony and still silent Andy walked out of the big oak door into the reception area.

“Andy.” remarked Tony. “You are fired. The management team at Star Management Team Management Team, which is a stupid bloody name by the way, are all fired.”

Finding his voice at the prospect of lost income, Andy retorted. “Actually if you check your contract you will find that...”

“Andy. If I get another bill or email or letter or call from SMT, I will go in and tell Gerald that you forced me to try and resign in order to get more money out of him.”

Andy paused and thought to himself for a moment. Tony looked back towards the oak door in a state of disbelief at what had just taken place, when he looked back Andy was nowhere to be seen.

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