By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Back at Residuals, Hanks and Valis continue their dual monologue. Speaking the lingo of their latest target, they merrily recount tales of series bonuses and pay-or-play and good-faith renegotiation clauses, how they leveraged some option renewal for more money or withheld key literary or feature rights from negotiations. Looking back over their odd peripatetic history, now entering their fifth act when most American lives supposedly don't even have two, they make the obvious comparisons between their many rivals.
"I'd rather deal with the mob anytime, because you can believe what the mob tells you," says Valis. "The difference with the mob is that there are set rules -- they're etched in stone. Hollywood is just full of crap. You can't believe a word they say."
"Well, actually, Mafiosi are a little bit more honorable than Hollywood agents and producers," concurs Hanks when asked independently. "I look at the average Mafioso as an amateur, compared to typical Hollywood agents."
But in fact, they've been telling these same stories for most of their half-century in harm's way -- first to the Queens or Orange County bullies who would otherwise have made short shrift of them; then to the spooks and black-ops cowboys they crossed paths with on the fringes of military intelligence; the radical politicos and prison hotheads they fell in with as Vietnam vets; the chiselers and shysters they rooted out as P.I.'s-in-training; the coke dealers and knuckleheads they bought from and sold to; the Mafia fucks who took to them as long-lost paisan; and now, finally, to Hollywood proper. The stories never change, except as they grow deeper and more resilient with time. Only the backdrops shift, as each new audience gets reeled in, and can't wait to revel in the gullibility of the last. The arbiters of Hollywood, especially, who like to imagine themselves from any number of these previous worlds, can never seem to get enough of guys like Dan and Fred, no matter how hardboiled or overheated they may come off to the rest of us. “You have to look at the rules of whatever culture you’re in and find the loopholes, and then give them a whole new spin again.”
"There's something still kind of childlike about both of them," says Gallo. "Once you get to know them, they both have a little twinkle in their eyes; they're like devious kids. I mean, they definitely play by their own rules. But there are certain things they would never do. It's their own moral code."
For all their bluster and bending of the rules, Valis and Hanks have been partners for 27 years. They have no contract between them, and no legal binding in the company they run.
"We're like family," says Valis. "There's no other way to explain it. We're closer than family. My kids never knew a time when Uncle Dan wasn't around. It's a partnership, like two cops riding in the same car, where we're partners but we're not business partners. Where we share everything. And I trust Dan with anything I own -- my kids, my wife, my dog . . ."
"Fred's motto," says Hanks, "and he's taught me well, is: 'Do not eat the cow; milk the cow.'"
They claim to have only had two arguments in all their time together -- both of them over women, and both of them women that Hanks was involved with, whom Valis felt were unfairly exploiting his partner and threatening their delicate equilibrium. One of these was Hanks' three-year marriage, which finally ended in tragedy when his wife died of a heroin overdose. "I'm a callous son of a bitch," claims Valis. "But since his wife, I've taught him the no-baggage rule. In the words of the immortal Frank Zappa: 'Broken hearts are for assholes.'"
Valis credits the secret of their survival to a simple strategy that governed his life undercover: "Learn the rules, and find out how to pervert the rules and manipulate them to your benefit. You have to look at the rules of whatever culture you're in and find the loopholes, and then give them a whole new spin."
Now, as they prepare to dip once more into the warm bath of celebrity, to deal with the world-class hustlers that make their way to Hollywood for the stakes and the quarry, and to once again tell their secrets and hope that no one gives them up, this creed may be put to the test as never before.
"We've reinvented ourselves I don't know how many times," says Valis. "We've been really lucky."
"Yeah," says Hanks. "That's the strange thing."
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