Fact or fiction: The one person to ever have the most Oscars was a 61-year-old man named Willie Fullgear. He had no ties to the Hollywood industry at all and made his living repairing and recycling unwanted objects.
In a conclusion fit for the big screen—as far as the most silly crime stories of the new millennia go—Mr. Fullgear reportedly came across 10 unmarked packing crates that contained (you guessed it) 52 gilded statuettes. He found them while digging through a trash bin near a coin laundromat in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Here’s the issue: The famous scandal involves 55 stolen Oscars. So, where are the remaining three? Wilmington author Joel Perry has a theory in his debut novel—just in time for the Academy Awards, which will screen this Sunday night on ABC at 7 p.m.
In “Stealing Arthur,” released by Bear Bones Books, Perry concocts a tale that takes the reader through Hollywood on the day of the biggest party of the year: awards night. There’s intrigue, murder, humor, sex, romance, celebrity dish, and most importantly, redemption that plays out for Perry’s characters. From Skid Row to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (including all the desperate wannabes in between), “Stealing Arthur” is a jaunt through the boulevard of broken dreams that gives an amusing suggestion regarding where the missing three statues are.
“My favorite stories involve storylines when characters intertwine in ways that are surprising, fun and tragic,” Perry explains. “I want to feel like I had a really good meal when I finish a book. I want some violence, because I like to be shocked. I want to laugh, so I like humor in there, and I want to cry, so I like some sadness, too. When I write, I want all these things in my work as well. I want people to laugh, gasp, cry, and even have their eyes wide open and a hand over their mouth thinking, Oh, my God!”
Originally from Jacksonville, NC, Perry has been writing for 30-plus years. His previous works include several how-to guides and a host of humorous essays, like “Funny That Way” and “That’s Why They’re in Cages, People!” Of those 30 years in writing, he spent 28 years living in Los Angeles, where he wrote and produced syndicated prep material for DJs in the Hollywood area. Comedy not only runs deep in his writing (there’s a scene in “Stealing Arthur” that involves Angelina Jolie, the bathroom, the award show, Dolce & Gabbana, and a tampon that will leave you rolling!), but it seems to flow easily through him onstage as well. Readers also can watch Perry on YouTube performing as a stand-up comedian. It’s no surprise he was a comedy writer within the company of Washington’s Gross National Product either.
“With $700 in my pocket and all my belongings that I could fit in my father’s WWII duffle bag, I traveled to Hollywood from New York City,” Perry says. “Before that I lived in Washington, D.C. There’s a bus station in New York that (maybe still) has two crates of my vinyl records I left behind, because it weighed me down.”
After a convergence of personal and unfortunate events, it would be Wilmington that eventually would call Perry and his husband home again. He maintains that even East Coat dwellers can appreciate his West Coast-centered read. “Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles, you’ll know where the places are,” Perry insists.
He’s a man who writes simply for the joy of writing and telling a good story. It’s not about the money (Perry just received his license to sell insurance in order to make ends meet), and it’s not about the fame. To Perry, it’s about delivering memorable characters that somehow end up feeling like a family, because to him, that’s where the humanity is.
Perry confesses a personal dream about his work—one he hasn’t told anyone else. It begins with a lonely trip inside a cab in a city he cannot name with certainty. Every character he has created in “Stealing Arthur” sits beside him.
“They all lined one side of the street and were looking at me as I sat in the cab,” he recalls. “They were watching me leave. Each one followed the cab down the road with their eyes; I could feel them looking at me through the glass window. It was as if they were wondering, Well what now? Where do we go from here? What do we do now without you? I’ll never forget it. It was sad.”
Perry’s voice trails off. In every way possible his characters within the novel mean a lot to him—perhaps,have in some way have become a part of his world. He has spent years perfecting the story and though he never agonized over researching details about the original event (partially, because the heist was so massively covered by the media, there was no secret left unturned), Perry instead concentrated heavily on making sure each and every character weaves their way in and out of the story seamlessly. They all, as he explains, are composed of those he knows personally, those he has known of, and bits and pieces of himself.
“Everyone is looking for something that will make them whole, and that to me, is a story most people can relate to,” Perry says. “[When reading, ‘Stealing Arthur’] I want readers to have a really good time. It’s all about the glamour, the glitz and the gutter.”
On February 22, Perry will be hosting his own version of Hollywood’s biggest night at Old Books on Front Street at 3 p.m. H e’ll have fun Oscar trivia, treats, a reading from “Stealing Arthur” and of course, a copy-signing session. It’s bound to be more entertaining than an A-lister’s accidental wardrobe malfunction—promise.
Visit the novel fan page at: www.facebook.com/pages/Stealing-Arthur/754046297977840
Celebrate the Oscars: ‘Stealing Arthur’ by Joel Perry
Old Books on Front Street
249 North Front St.
Sun. February 22, 3 p.m.