This story about Brian Dennehy and his agent is touching, terrifying and hilarious
A former talent agent tweeted out a tale that is truly funnier than fiction, right down to the twist ending
Twitter can be a pretty toxic corner on the internet (shocker), but every now and then a story goes big and actually leaves you feeling good inside. Yesterday, Quinn Cummings (@quinncy) tweeted a story thread about her time as a Hollywood talent agent, and it's touching, terrifying and hilarious.
Cummings, who also acted in film and television in the '70s and '80s but makes her career as a writer now, begins as any writer would.
Gather round, Gentle Readers. It is time I tell the story of the worst decision I ever made in an office. Some of you have heard this. Some have not. Whatever you do in your office today, this week, the rest of this year, you can console yourself by recalling this tale.—@quinncy
The story that unfolded involves her boss, Susan Smith, a respected talent representative in the industry who passed away in 2013, and beloved actor Brian Dennehy. We'll leave it to her to tell the rest below, although it doesn't end with her initial thread. Even the twist ending has a twist ending that sounds right out of a TV script. It's a really long story, but definitely worth it. We've provided a condensed version of it below. If you want to see the full thread, go to Cummings Twitter profile here.
A long time ago, I was a talent agent. I worked for a woman named Susan Smith, who had her own small boutique agency. She was known for three things: 1. She had fantastic taste in clients. If there is someone you admire, odds are good that at some point, she was their agent. 2. She could negotiate a deal like few who have ever trod the earth. Casting would give her all the money they had budgeted for that part, plus a little more, plus promising to get her dog Barnaby groomed. She was magnificent to watch. 3. She was insane.
... Volatile, capable of toggling between rage-screaming and whispered tears in 90 seconds. An unerring instinct at knowing exactly what you doubted about yourself and musing aloud about it. A level of vitriol to subordinates that was outlawed by the 13th Amendment. ...
But oh, did she love her clients. She had no husband, no children; her clients were everything. Specifically, Kathy Bates and Brian Dennehy. She had discovered both of them when they were doing off-off-off-Near Hackensack-Broadway. She adored them. One could argue she made them.
For years, Brian had wanted to do DEATH OF A SALESMAN on the stage, in Chicago. For years, for a number of reasons, it hadn't happened. Finally, with superhuman strength and negotiating prowess on Susan's part, DEATH, with the perfect director on the stage Brian wanted, went up. Brian got the kinds of reviews he deserved. ...
Susan was ecstatic. But the real joy came when Brian won the Tony for his performance. I watched it at home and I was 99% thrilled for Brian and 1% thrilled for us at the office. Susan had a tendency to walk in the door screaming instructions and grievances. I was now an agent, not her assistant, but Susan didn't hold with such distinctions. We all got screamed at, we all became miserable, we all started whatever self-soothing behaviour allowed us to not cry in the hallway. At the very least, Brian's win would delight her.
And then Brian forgot to thank her.
The next morning, we walked around with the resigned despair of a tank of sentient lobsters. We were all to be boiled alive, it was just a matter of when. Susan flew in the door, raced to her office, slammed the door shut. The quiet was actually worse.
At lunch, her assistant "Chet" slid into my office. He had the look of a man who had been screamed at for five hours. He asked a favour. Brian had called him; he was aghast he had forgotten to thank Susan, the woman who had made his dream come true. He thought he had a solution.
He would put a full-page ad in both VARIETY and HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, the daily trade papers read by everyone, thanking her. It was to be a surprise. The only thing Brian had needed from the Chet was a picture of her to put in the ad. Problem was, Chet couldn't find one.
I had been on her desk six months, did I know of one? I smiled, because I did. ...
We got it, Chet slid it out [of its frame on Smith's desk], overnighted it to Brian, we crossed our fingers she wouldn't notice the picture was gone for a day. Even if she did, the ad was to appear the following day; after such a loving gesture, who could be angry with us?
The next day, we all waited breathlessly for her to walk in the back door from the parking lot, down the long hallways, past each of our offices. For once, she wouldn't be screaming. I wondered if she would hug me. I decided it was a small price to pay.
The door opened. I swear to you, even the phones stopped ringing for a second. Susan inhaled.
"Who the fuck," she screamed, "Gave Brian a picture OF MY MOTHER."
If that wasn't enough, Dennehy's daughter also replied on Twitter, corroborating the story, but also adding how much her father loved his agent.
Quinn, you might not remember me but we met at the office. Susan repped me for a little while until I also 'had to move my car'. But as Brian Dennehy's daughter, I can tell you this. You describe Susan perfectly and my dad misses her every single hour of every single day. Thx.—@jakedenn23
And if you thought that was it, there's even another twist to the ending that Cummings left out of her original thread.
Did you know Susan & her mom hated each other? Apparently her mom was beautiful & told Susan her whole life that she wasn’t beautiful. Which is partially why Susan was so fierce & so nuttastic. That’s partially what’s bittersweetly funny about this. I’ll read it to my dad. ❤️—@jakedenn23
Sometimes the truth is funnier than fiction.