40th Anniversary

The Best of Mr. Chatterbox: Fame and Fortune on the Book-Tour Circuit

Mr. Chatterbox reflects on the success of his book, Love Junkie, in October 1992.

By Robert Plunket February 26, 2019 Published in the March 2019 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Image: Shutterstock

It certainly was nice to have all that interest in my new book [Love Junkie], but one thing continues to bother me. Why was everyone so surprised at my success? Actually, surprised isn’t the right word. It’s more like flabbergasted or dumbfounded. What did people think was going to happen? When they ask me about my sudden fame and fortune, I just say “long overdue.” 

And guess what? I was recognized at the mall!

Anyway, the book seems to be selling very well. More people have bought it than live in Bent Tree and Laurel Oak combined. And let me tell you, some days I feel like I sold every copy personally. If you think I work hard at self-promotion in Sarasota, you should see me when I am let loose on a national level.

My publisher—how trippingly those words now come to my tongue—said she had never had a client like me. “Most people draw the line somewhere. There’s always some show they won’t go on. But not you. You’ll do anything.” Praise indeed, particularly when you remember that her other big client at the moment is Patti Davis.

Just to give you an idea—my very first public appearance had to be halted by the police. Incredible but true. There I was, reading a selection from my book to a small but appreciative audience at Tower Books in New York when all of a sudden two cops rushed in and announced that an angry mob was converging on the building. See! I knew I was controversial. Unfortunately, it turned out the mob was just protesting the Rodney King verdict and not “Love Junkie,” but still, we made the front page of the New York Post, always a dream of mine. True to the Post’s reputation, they were wildly inaccurate, neglecting to mention me by name and describing my audience as a “small handful of customers still in the store.” Too bad, since I certainly did rise to the occasion, if I do say so myself. To calm the crowd I continued reading from the book and the effect was amazing. Some people became so calm they actually dozed off.

A day or so later I was thrown one of those fancy “book parties” in a glamorous apartment overlooking Central Park. The trick here is to get as many celebrities as possible to show up, and let me tell you it was not easy. I did manage to “bag” a couple (see photos), though; the trouble is, they are the kind of celebrities where you have to explain who they are, and even then people go, “Huh?” (Just kidding, celebrities.)

Anyway, after this whirlwind of appearances—two in as many weeks—I flew back to Sarasota, and even here the pace never slackened. First there was a gala wine and cheese book signing at Kingsley’s on St. Armands. I would have to say that this event was the most fun of all, possibly because, as the St. Pete Times reported in a lead story, I was drunk. Then it was on to Dick and Linda Dickinson’s home on Siesta Key for a party in my honor. My, the fights we had about the guest list. I never realized just how many of “my crowd” are personae non grata in the nicer homes in town. But the evening turned out splendidly, except, of course, for the man who fell off the dock. (He was your friend, Linda.) 

However, all of this was but prelude to my California tour. The times I had! Just to give you some idea, my hotel bill was $6,000. (Those snacks from the mini-bar sure add up!!!) The publisher is furious and is trying to get me to return $4,000 of it, but as anyone who knows me can attest, this is highly unlikely to happen. 

Anyway, in between eating, I criss-crossed the Golden State wildly, signing books for anybody with a pen and appearing on such prestigious and important shows as “Connie Martinson’s Books,” “Bookworm” on NPR, and “Around the Town with Ken Boxer.” But I would have to say that my most memorable experience by far was undoubtedly the Skip E. Lowe show.

Have you ever seen it? It’s shown on cable TV at various locations around the country, and also on Virgin Atlantic Airlines as a sort of comic short before the movie. On the show, Skip E. interviews various has-beens, old movie stars and weirdos. I was sitting on the fence about whether I should be on it because I always find the people on those shows so pathetic, but then I saw it advertised on the side of a bus and for some reason that gave it instant credibility. “Sign me up!” I told my publicist. (Her name is Judy.)

It turned out that Skip E. was also having doubts. He said he never booked novelists because they are so boring and people hate them. True, Judy said, but this guy wrote a novel about a porn star, so we could get a porn star to appear with him. That ought to liven things up. 

Skip E. was immediately taken with this idea. The only problem was, I had to find the porn star. Not only find the porn star, but talk him or her into appearing on TV for free and discussing our respective careers in a stimulating and articulate manner, all the while pretending we were the greatest of friends. Here was a challenge.

Fortunately, this was Los Angeles; and within 24 hours a porn star had fallen into my lap, so to speak. This gentleman was named Jon Vincent, and I have a feeling many of my readers are already familiar with him, since he has appeared in countless films of every possible genre. He is very big in the industry, in every possible way, if you follow my meaning and I think you do. Anyway, I was a little nervous at the thought of meeting such a person, but I kept telling myself that he would probably turn out to be surprisingly normal.

Boy, was I wrong. We rendez-voused in a bar on Santa Monica Boulevard, but after five minutes he got into a fight with a fellow patron and Jon and I were kicked out on the sidewalk. So we went to another bar and then another and after that the whole thing became a bit fuzzy. I seem to remember a wild ride on a motorcycle, but this couldn’t be true as I recall distinctly that Jon told me his driver’s license had been revoked. I do remember that he took me home to meet his wife. They lived in a building in Hollywood where they also served as managers. Unfortunately, the wife was out at her waitressing job—girls, never marry a porn star—but I do remember that the living room was full of Jon’s weights. There were also pictures of his daughter back in Louisiana, who lived with her grandparents, and a big hole in the front door. Jon explained that he tried to kick it in one night when he was drunk. 

I was thrilled at my luck. In fact, my only worry was that Jon, due to his good looks and charisma, might “steal my spotlight” during the taping. I was still fretting about this when I called him the day of the show to confirm and discovered that he was down in San Diego making a movie. Oh, well, I thought, I’m sure the viewers will be more satisfied with me alone. We called Skip E. to give him the news.

“Whaddya mean, just him alone?” Skip E. screamed. “If he doesn’t show up with a porn star, tell him not to show up!” 

By now it was six o’clock. The show taped at eight. We had exactly two hours to find a new porn star. Sitting there in Judy’s office across from the Beverly Center, it seemed like the most daunting task imaginable. Where do you start? 

In case you’re ever faced with this situation, here are things you might want to try. First, run down to the corner and buy a couple of those cheap sex tabloids. Then turn to the ads in the back. You’ll notice that a few of the “models” and “escorts” who advertise are touted as porn stars. Jackpot! I made Judy make the call. She got through to the manager and explained that we needed a porn star pronto to appear on the Skip E. Lowe Show.

There was an icy silence from the other end of the receiver. Then the man said, “I would never let one of my porn stars appear on the Skip E. Lowe Show,” and hung up. It was not a happy moment. In fact, I think it may have been the low point of my life. Imagine—booked on a show that even porn stars won’t go on. I stared out at the gathering dusk that was overtaking Los Angeles, filled with acute despair. But, as Richard Nixon used to say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. 

He was right. Within five minutes we had located another porn star who said he was busy that night but just happened to have some other prom stars sitting right there on his couch. Would I like to speak to them? Yes, I would. Within minutes, a deal had been struck. I then dashed over to Judy’s for a quick shower and changed into my talk show outfit.

Skip E. Lowe was taping at a restaurant on La Cienega, right in the middle of the dinner rush. The place was packed with fashionable denizens from Beverly Hills as I rushed in and tried to get the “lay of the land.” Skip E. was easy to spot; he was at a table right in the middle of everything, brightly lit and holding a microphone. He was interviewing the oldest woman I had ever seen. It was explained to me that she was Zsa Zsa Gabor’s press agent.

Waiting for me at the bar were not one but two porn stars. One, B.J. Slater, was quite prominent in the industry, having appeared in over 30 films, while the other, Jay Corey, was a relative newcomer. They had met on the set of Sexpress, B.J. explained, and were now the greatest of friends, palling around Hollywood together and looking for ways to further their careers. I must say I was rather fascinated with Jay’s outfit. He was dressed all in black, except for a chain that looped around his neck and then disappeared down the front of his pants. 

In what seemed like only seconds we were called over to Skip E.’s table for our interview. I must say that after all the chaos and confusion, it came off splendidly. I, of course, am always witty, but I gave the porn stars a chance to “shine” too, and they regaled Skip E. (who was quite taken with them, if truth be told) with interesting stories about comic mishaps on the set, like the time the bed collapsed. Skip E. was an elfin little man with silver hair and a merry laugh. During a break in the taping, he confided that the last time he had been in Sarasota he had been arrested at the Orange Blossom Hotel. “Join the crowd,” I said. There was only one little problem, hardly worth mentioning, actually—it seemed that Jay’s chain was pinching something inside the pants and that he was in a great deal of pain. But he was too much of a trouper to stop taping, although the minute the director yelled “cut” he ran off to the men’s room to repair the damage.

How appropriate that I should “cap off” my book tour with the Skip E. Lowe Show. Now I truly feel like a has-been. Yes, I have had my “fifteen minutes” of fame; I have “won the worship in their eyes and I have lost it”; now I am planning to coast for the rest of my life. (And I certainly have found the right town to do it in.) And it could be worse—I may be a has-been but at least I’m a has-been with a new Lexus in the driveway. That’s what really matters. 

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