A few years into this, my agent called to put me out of my misery: "Listen, Pete, I learned to never say never in Hollywood, but your story, 'Pain & Gain,' will never be filmed."
There was something more, something about an IRS audit and California residency. I never understood the whole thing. And I didn't care. I just wanted to see my story on the screen.
Then, one day early last year, I was in Tallahassee and turned on an iPad. As I had done many times before, I typed in two words separated by an ampersand. A flood of new articles about Bay possibly, finally, making his "passion project" appeared.
I had never given up believing it would happen. Bay and Paramount were preparing to spend $25 million putting "Pain & Gain" on the big screen. The director, who had been talking about my story for years but whom I had never met, maneuvered an entire entertainment juggernaut into allowing him to make the movie. More stunning was that in paramount's commercials for Pain & Gain, they featured my name. I figured it was a mistake.
Finally, Lennie picked me up in that gleaming black Cadillac on April 11, 2013. On the way to South Beach for the red-carpet premiere, I stumbled into a good, old Jurassic tune as we rode to the theater. Traffic's "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" flowed from the car's speakers. It stung me when I realized that the last time I had been in a chauffeured car with family and friends had been after my Marine dad's funeral service in 1985.
If you see something that looks like a star
And it's shooting up out of the ground
And your head is spinning from a loud guitar
And you just can't escape from the sound
Don't worry too much, it'll happen to you...
The crowd was five or six deep as Lennie glided us to a stop. "This is it," he said. "They're waiting for you, man! Here's your 15 minutes, Pete."
Some lady yanked open the door and grabbed the midnight-blue sleeve of my suit. The frenzied phalanx of movie lovers and celebrity worshippers went silent, got still. Pete Collins, muter of the multitudes.
They looked at me with distaste. Who is this guy? What is he doing here?
But in the collective unconscious of that group, they could never have known the turns, twists, potholes, and flats of my wayward trek to the red carpet. Jesus, I thought, as I made my way into the theater, I only wrote the damn thing. And I wished my movie-loving mom, who died three years after my dad, was there to see this day.