It Was Bad Writing at Its Very Finest


The Scene: Monday's "Judgement (sic) Night," as it's lightly called, of the International Imitation Hemingway Competition. The contest is about writing "one really good page of really bad" Ernest Hemingway. It was held in Century City at Harry's Bar & American Grill, a clean, well-lit place that validates for parking.

Who Competes: Eric Lax described the ideal competitor as "a guy who bullfights in the shower."

Who Was There: The contest judges were Ray Bradbury, George Plimpton, Jack Smith, Digby Diehl, Paul Keye, Bernice Kert, Barnaby Conrad, and Hemingway's son, Jack. The 140 guests included F. Lee Bailey, Tony Bill and Helen Bartlett, Ed Ruscha, Anwar Solomon, Mollie Gregory, Judy Hennings and Charlton Heston, who led the toast to Hemingway, "his work, his memory."

In the Spirit of the Evening: When told that David Curtin, a Newport Beach veterinarian had won, losing finalist Dave Klass graciously said, "I'd like to put him to sleep."

What It Takes to Win: Jack Hemingway said, "The style should be reminiscent--I like a little prurience myself--and it should be humorous. That's the one thing we all agree is the major factor."

Overheard: "I read, like, three or four Hemingway stories in high school and then I moved on to Danielle Steel," said a stockbroker.

Money Matters: Tickets were $125, and $15,000 was raised for the professional writers organization PEN Center USA West. The winning faux Hemingwayist received a trip to Italy on American Airlines and will have his entry published in the airline's magazine, American Way.

Really Bad, Real Hemingway: Plimpton talked about how the author wrote 42 endings to "The Sun Also Rises." Among the unpublished: "She died and then she was dead."

Scariest Thought: Someday the world might see an imitation Bret Easton Ellis competition.

The Last Word: Two judges mentioned that Hemingway once said parody writing is "one step above writing on latrine walls."

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