Cautionary Christmas Tale From Harry Ellis: Cocaine And Terrorists Don’t Mix

Business is business, am I right? Or so I thought until that fateful Christmas Eve in 1988 when I learned that being a hostage and trying to negotiate is not what makes someone a “hostage negotiator.”


Imagine: you’re me, Harry Ellis, one of the hottest real estate brokers for the Nakatomi Corporation, it’s the late 1980s, you’re celebrating not only Christmas Eve but one of the biggest deals in the company’s history, and then the entire building is taken over by German terrorists. They really Krampussed our Christmas.


Now, keep in mind, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast and I watch 60 Minutes. You put my business negotiating skills together with the fact that I watched most of that Barbara Walters’ segment on terrorism and, man, that’s how heroes are made. I figure, business is business. These guys use guns, I use a fountain pen, what’s the difference? It turns out the difference is not as negligible as I’d thought.


I don’t know who came up with the term “the pen is mightier than the sword,” but I can unequivocally say that the pen is not mightier than the gun. That’s one failed negotiation that I’ll never be able to take back. Can you blame me for trying though? I was flying high on the heels of closing an historic deal. That and I was extremely high. I did a lot of cocaine that night. LA isn’t known for its snow at Christmas, but I made sure I had lots of snow *wink, wink* for my nose.


After finishing my last two bumps, I couldn’t just sit there and watch idly as terrorists searched fruitlessly for their detonators. Also, I couldn’t sit still any longer. I was very twitchy after all of that cocaine.


When I learned that Holly’s deadbeat husband, John McClane, was running around the building pretending to be Rambo, I knew I had to step in and broker a deal with the Euro trash who were holding us hostage.


When it comes to business deals you want to let the other person know that you’re on the same page, that you’re speaking their language. I can still see the impressed look on that one longhaired German’s face when I asked, “Hey, sprechen ze talk?” Goddamn I was smooth.


I figured: I go in and schmooze em’ up with my gift of gab. Let my silver tongue do the work. Badda-bing, badda-boom, everybody’s happy. At least that’s how it all played out in my cocaine-infused imagination.


The next thing you want to do is flatter the person you’re negotiating with; let em’ know they’re happenin’. Assure them that you can give them what they want. In this case I knew they wanted McClane, so I announced, “Hans, bubby, I’m your white knight. I can give him to ya!” I’ve since learned that bubby is Yiddish for grandmother, so that might be where things started to come off the rails. Speaking of rails – I can’t stress this enough – I was exceedingly high on cocaine.


It’s not ideal to have to rely on a third party’s cooperation in order to close your deal, but I thought I could talk some sense into John boy and get him to give the Germans their detonators. They wanted the detonators so they could set Nakatomi Plaza to blow. I just wanted more blow.


My negotiations seemed to be going fairly well because my captors were being very nice to me. They poured me a tall glass of Coca-Cola, though I wish they had been offering me the powdered variety.


Thanks to the coke, my confidence was soaring. I was delivering an Oscar-worthy performance, telling John that I was putting my life on the line for him. Do you know how he reacted? By referring to me as a “shit head.” Then he specifically went out of his way to tell Hans, “This asshole is not my friend.” That cut through me like a credit card cuts through a pile of coke. It also didn’t help my credibility with the Germans.


My confidence wavered when Hans took out his gun. I thought about countering by reaching for my fountain pen, but I was hit with a series of epiphanies. One: cocaine and German terrorists don’t mix. Two: staring down the barrel of a gun at your imminent death leaves you parched – it’s a good thing they poured me that Coca-Cola. And three: business may be business, but someone who negotiates with a fountain pen doesn’t stand a chance against a terrorist who negotiates with a gun.