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Archive for the ‘TELEVISION/VIDEO/RADIO’ Category

TV/VIDEO/RADIO INDEX: Teleplays

by David Lefkowitz

MUDDY

1983 (short comedy. Synopsis: A spoof of Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, wherein (ugly) boy meets (homely) girl)

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REAL TO REEL

1983 (short comic radio play. Synopsis: Unscrupulous TV reporter covers a fire)

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UP WITH THE JONESES

1985 (short screenplay. Synopsis: A perfect American family has its Walpurgistag)

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SCREENPLAY – Short Comedy: UP WITH THE JONESES

UP WITH THE JONESES

© 1985 David Lefkowitz

INT. THE JONES’S HOUSE – KITCHEN – DAY

A large, spacious eat-in kitchen with the usual amenities: table chairs, telephone, cabinets, dinnerware, oven, etc.

GRANDPA JONES sits at the table and stares somberly into space.

A nervous GRANDMA JONES stands by the telephone.

The two awkwardly stare at, then away from, each other.

GRANDPA: If it was anything bad, they would have called by now.

GRANDMA: It’s bad.

GRANDPA: You always jump to conclusions. Why do you assume it’s bad news?

GRANDMA: She’s 75 years old—

GRANDPA: I remember your sister being in pretty good shape—

GRANDMA: For her age. Besides, good shape or no, you fall on the sidewalk, it’s . . . not good.

(Grandma and Grandpa both stare at the phone)

GRANDPA: She’s 75?

GRANDMA: Last April, remember? The party?

GRANDPA: Oh, right.

(Grandma looks out the window)

GRANDMA: She’s going to die.

GRANDPA: Don’t talk like that, dammit! Why don’t they call?

(Pause. Grandma draws imaginary patterns on the window pane with her fingers.

The telephone rings.

Grandma and Grandpa give a nervous start.

The phone rings again.

Grandma picks it up on the third ring)

GRANDMA: Hello? Yes, it is. Yes.

(long pause)

GRANDMA: When?

(Grandpa stares down at the table)

GRANDMA: So she never even made it to the—uh huh. (sighs) I guess we’ll fly down sometime tomorrow. Did the doctor sign the—? He did. Yes, I’ll make some phone calls, too. No, I’m all right. I’ll speak to you later. Bye.

(Grandma hangs up the phone)

GRANDPA: You okay?

(Grandma nods. Long pause)

GRANDMA: Come, I need help packing.

(Grandpa rises from his chair.

A pained expression crosses his face.

He grabs his chest)

GRANDMA: What’s the matter?

GRANDPA: My heart.

GRANDMA: What?

GRANDPA: I can’t breathe!

GRANDMA: Oh, my God.

GRANDPA: Call a doctor!

Grandma hurries to the phone as Grandpa gasps for breath.

As grandma reaches for the receiver, she emits a pained groan.

GRANDPA: What is it?

GRANDMA: My arthritis!

(Grandma hunches over, rubbing her crippled hands.

Grandpa lurches across the table, trying to take air into his lungs)

GRANDMA: I need my pills.

GRANDPA: I need my pills! Can’t breathe . . .

(17-year-old BROTHER JONES enters the kitchen)

BROTHER: I heard the phone ring. Is there any news about—Grandma, what’s wrong?

GRANDMA: My pills!

BROTHER: What’s wrong with your pills?

(Grandma motions towards a cabinet.

Brother hastens to it but stops when he sees Grandpa)

BROTHER: Grandpa!

(Grandpa can respond only with vague, fish-like noises)

GRANDMA: My pills!!!

(Brother remembers himself and runs to the cabinet.

He fumbles through dozens of medicine bottles)

BROTHER: The orange ones?

(Grandma nods and gasps.

Brother runs back to her.
She motions to the sink.

Brother hands Grandma the vial as he runs to the sink and fills a glass with water.

Meanwhile, Grandma experiences the frustration of trying to open a child-protected pill bottle with arthritic hands.

Grandpa sinks to the floor, spasmodically clutching at the linoleum)

BROTHER: Here!

(Brother runs back with the overflowing glass of water.

He opens the bottle with ease and helps Grandma swallow the pills)

GRANDMA: More! More!

(Grandma downs almost half a bottle of pills before she sends brother away and leans back for breath)

BROTHER: Are you all right?

(Grandma takes a deep breath and nods.
She starts moving her hands. There is some pain and stiffness, but the crisis has passed)

GRANDMA: You’d better call Doctor—

BROTHER: I thought you were okay!

(Grandma motions towards Grandpa.

He is on his back and breathing erratically)

BROTHER: Grandpa!

GRANDMA: It’s his heart. Call Dr. Cohen.

BROTHER: Where’s—?

GRANDMA: By the phone.

(Brother scans a list hung by the phone and dials.

Grandma rises slowly and approaches Grandpa)

GRANDMA: It’s all right, sweetheart. The doctor will be here soon.

(She starts to move away when Grandpa desperately grabs her hand. Grandma howls with arthritic pain.

Brother slams the receiver down)

BROTHER: Busy!

GRANDMA: Keep trying.

(Grandma moves away from Grandpa and moves to the cabinet.

She is about to put away her pill vial when she notices the label)

GRANDMA: (to Brother) Uhmm . . .

BROTHER: (dialing) Huh?

GRANDMA: These pills.

BROTHER: What about `em?

GRANDMA: They’re not orange. They’re yellow.

BROTHER: What?

GRANDMA: (straining to read) These are . . . valium!

BROTHER: You mean—

(Brother distractedly hangs up the phone.
Grandpa groans and vainly reaches upward for the receiver)

GRANDMA: I’m gonna be sick!

BROTHER: It’s not my fault!

(Grandma begins to cough)

GRANDMA: Murderer!

BROTHER: It was an accident!

GRANDMA: (coughing badly) You poisoned me!

BROTHER: MOM! DAD!

(Grandma bends over and makes heaving noises. Brother rushes to help her)

GRANDMA: Don’t touch me!

BROTHER: What have I done?

(Grandma stands over Grandpa, coughing horribly.

Grandpa moves his head from side to side, trying to avoid the line of fire.

He jerks his head to one side, narrowly escaping a gob of Grandma’s puke)

BROTHER: I’ll be put in jail! They’ll execute me! I don’t deserve to live!

(Grandma falls to the floor coughing and vomiting.

Grandpa, clutching his heart, tries to crawl away.

Brother grabs the water glass and smashes it against a countertop. Sobbing hysterically, he takes a glass shard and dramatically slashes his wrists.

MOTHER JONES appears at the doorway as blood spurts from her son’s wrists.

MOTHER: MY BABY!!!

(Brother laughs maniacally and shows his mother his torn arms.
Mother runs towards her son.

Grandpa, desperate for attention, reaches up and grabs Mother’s leg, causing her to fall forward.

She bangs her chin on the countertop and hits the floor.

Immediately, she springs into a sitting position and goes into shock.

Brother, bleeding profusely, stands by the window, draws a little smile-face, and writes “Have a Nice Day” on the pane with his own blood.

Grandma stare at the catatonic Mother Jones for a second, then throws up in her lap.

SISTER JONES, age 10, enters the room gaily)

SISTER: Grandma! Grandpa! Look what I can do!

(Sister Jones makes a funny face. Nobody laughs.

Grandpa valiantly tries to pull himself up to reach the phone. He almost makes it, but Grandma falls on top of him in a wretched paroxysm of sickness.

Horrified, Sister Jones turns to her mother)

SISTER: Mommy!

(Sister tries to shake Mother out of her shock.

Brother runs over and pulls Sister away)

BROTHER: It’s no use! She’s gonna die! We’re all gonna die! See?

(Brother shows Sister his wrists.

Sister shrieks and runs towards the oven. She turns the burners all the way up, opens the door, and climbs in.

FATHER JONES sees her as he enters the room)

FATHER: What the—Get away from the oven!

SISTER: Look, daddy, I’m a Jew!

(The oven door shuts)

FATHER: NO!

(Father runs towards the stove but slips on a puddle of blood and vomit)

FATHER: Aaaaaggghhhh!!!

(He goes crashing through the window with “Have a Nice Day” on it.

Brother approaches the window and looks down.

BROTHER: Bye, dad.

(Grandpa, his breathing loud and sporadic, lies near death.

Grandma leans against a closet and moans.

Mother makes shivering noises and maintains rigidity.

Sister creams inside the oven.

Brother sobbing, leans over the window, half-in/half-out of the room.

The phone rings.

No one can come to the phone.

We see DOG JONES, the family dog, swing into frame on a noose.)

DOG: Woof.

(Tableau)

INT. THE SMITH’S HOUSE – KITCHEN – DAY

(MRS. SMITH stands, holding the phone receiver to her ear.

After a moment, she hangs up.)

EXT. THE SMITH’S HOUSE – FRONT LAWN – DAY

(MR. SMITH waters the lawn with a garden hose.
Mrs. Smith comes out of the house)

MR. SMITH: Well?

MRS. SMITH: No answer.

MR. SMITH: Maybe they’re not home.

MRS. SMITH: (points) Their car’s in the driveway.

MR. SMITH: You wanna knock on their door?

(During this conversation, four men in white lab coats and oxygen masks walk up the lawn and enter the Jones’s house. The Smiths do not notice)

MRS. SMITH: I’d hate to bother them.

MR. SMITH: It’s the middle of the afternoon!

MRS. SMITH: Well, why don’t you borrow Mr. Wilson’s lawnmower?

MR. SMITH: Mr. Wilson doesn’t have a lawnmower.

(We see two men drag Father’s body onto the lawn and return to the house)

MRS. SMITH: Sure he does.

MR. SMITH: Nope. Broke last summer.

MRS. SMITH: I thought he fixed it.

MR. SMITH: Did he?

(Two men exit the house carrying the rigid body of Mother Jones. They deposit her near Father Jones)

MRS. SMITH: I thought he did.

MR. SMITH: He fixed the snowblower.

MRS. SMITH: No, he sold the snowblower.

(Two men dump Grandma’s body on top of Father’s)

MR. SMITH: Why would he sell a perfectly good snowblower?

MRS. SMITH: Because he couldn’t sell a broken lawnmower.

(Two other men dump Grandpa’s body on top of Grandma’s)

MR. SMITH: I thought you said he fixed it.

MRS. SMITH: Why don’t we just get ours fixed?

MR. SMITH: The season’s almost over.

(In the background, we hear Brother’s bloodcurdling scream as he hurls himself out the window.

He hits the ground, and two men drag him to the pile of corpses)

MRS. SMITH: What are you talking about. People mow through mid-November.

MR. SMITH: I’m not mowing in November.

(One man drops the furry body of Dog Jones onto the pile)

MRS. SMITH: It’s a wonder you mow at all; you’re so lazy.

MR. SMITH: I don’t see you cutting the grass.

MRS. SMITH: What with?

(Another man adds Sister’s dress to the pile. Along with a few bones and a sack of ashes)

MRS. SMITH: You want me to try the Joneses again?

MR. SMITH: Do we still have anything of theirs?

MRS. SMITH: LIke what?

MR. SMITH: I don’t know.

(The four men throw a fishnet over the pile)

MRS. SMITH: We returned the stepladder.

MR. SMITH: What about the folding chairs?

MRS. SMITH: I thought they were ours!

MR. SMITH: Nope. Next door.

(One of the men steps up to the pile. He wears a welding mask and carries a lit acetylene torch)

MR. SMITH: We really should have them for dinner.

MRS. SMITH: Yes, they’re such a nice family.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. (pause)  You smell something burning?

(A ball of flame in the distance.)

THE END

***************

NOTES & BACKSTORY:

I’ve always been inordinately fond of this sick li’l comedy and its cumulative orgy of awfulness. I can see how influenced I was by the classic Monty Python sketch, “Salad Days,” in which an idyllic 1800s family outing turns into a Peckinpah-spoofing bloodbath. (Python would return to the idea with their “Mr. Creosote” skit in Meaning of Life, and Seth McFarlane would take up the mantle in Family Guy’s spectacular “Ipecac Contest” scene.) Alas, this movie was never made, so I hope enjoy viewing it in your mind’s eye.

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TV PLAY – Comedy: Muddy

MUDDY

Television script, (c)1984 by David Lefkowitz

 

TIME: 1950s.

PLACE: Bronx, NY.

SCENE I

(Setting: Small luncheonette-bar.

Camera fades in on Closeup of clock (5:30).

Pull out and plan over to side shot of four men (Grungy, Norton, Ralph, and Muddy) sitting at a table. Hold. Pan to Closeup of Grungy and Norton. Slowly bring dialogue up and over ambient)

GRUNGY (to Norton): So . . . uh . . . feel like doing anything tonight?

NORTON: I dunno, Grungy. Do you?

GRUNGY: I dunno. I was wunnering if you wanted to do something tonight?

NORTON: I Guess. (pause) So what do you wanna do tonight?

GRUNGY: I axed you first.

NORTON: No you didn’t.

GRUNGY: Yes I did.

NORTON: No you didn’t. You axed me if I felt like doin’ something tonight, and I answered you. I said, “Yes, I guess I would.” But you didn’t axe me what I wanted to do tonight.

GRUNGY: Oh. (pause) So?

NOROTN: So what?

GRUNGY: So whaddya wanna do tonight?

NORTON: I dunno. What do you wanna do tonight?

GRUNGY: I dunno. (to Muddy and Ralph) What do you guys wanna do tonight?

(MCU Muddy and Ralph)

RALPH: I dunno. Any ideas, Muddy?

MUDDY: No. What do you wanna do tonight, Ralph?

RALPH: Beats me. All I know is that I wanna have some fun.

MUDDY: (pause) You mean, we’re not having fun now?

RALPH: Uh uh.

MUDDY: Good. If this is having fun, I’d hate to see what despair is like.

(Pause. Cut to Norton & Grungy)

GRUNGY (trying to liven things up) So, like Ralph says, Let’s go out and have some fun!

(All make sounds of general agreement followed by a pause)

GRUNGY: So . . . uh . . . what do you wanna do tonight?

ALL: (in drab unison) I dunno. What do you wanna do tonight.

(Dissolve as the group continue its revelry.

Pull out to MS of whole table as the men keep switching pairs and repeating, “I dunno,” etc.)

SCENE II

(Setting: Spare but clean, old-fashioned living room. An old Italian woman sits at a coffee table with a young man and his wife. He stands, she sits.

MCU of the trio at the table.)

MOTHER: So my sister, she’s a goin’ crazy! She say you trow a pitcher o’ milk at her. And I say, dat’s impossible! Such a nice girl. She wouldn’t do nuttin’ like a-dis. milk is too expensive.

WIFE: No, wait. I did throw the milk—but not at her. You see, I was in the kitchen toasting a steak—

HUSBAND: She’s a wonderful cook!

(The Wife shoots her hubby a deadly glance for his interruption and continues)

WIFE: —for dinner. And it was very hot in the kitchen because the oven was on, so I felt like a cold glass of milk—

HUSBAND: (smiles sweetly) I’ll bet you looked like a cold glass of milk, too!

WIFE: Don’t interrupt, sweetiepie.

HUSBAND: Sorry, lambiekins.

WIFE: Anyway, I take out a glass, and I start pouring some milk when that, that . . . woman bursts in and screams at me because I left the refrigerator door open. I mean, I was going to close it just as soon as I’d finished pouring but no! She has to storm in out of nowhere and pounce on me like she does every time. She —

HUSBAND: (to Mother) Your sister does tend to get a bit overexcited—

WIFE: You’re interrupting again, sugarpuss.

HUSBAND: Mea culpa, mon cherie.

WIFE: (to Mother) She just constantly nags and nags at me and makes my life miserable. You know, ever since she came to live with us, I haven’t had ten minutes alone with my husband. (looks at her grinning spouse) And then, of course, there are the disadvantages.

(Cut to Closeup of Mother)

MOTHER: Look, you gotta understand. She’s a lonely old woman. Nagging and making people miserable is her only joy in life.

WIFE: Maybe, but I just can’t take much more of this. (chuckles) What am I saying? She probably feels the same way. (to Husband) Your mother always hated me.

HUSBAND: (shocked) That’s not true! Why, only—

WIFE: (cutting him off, to Mother) So anyway, I’m really at the end of my rope.

MOTHER: (pause) Well, I’m-a really sorry to hear about all dis, but-a what can I do?

WIFE: I’m glad you said that because, uh . . . uh . . . why don’t you tell her, Pookieface?

HUSBAND (caught offguard) What? Oh, uh, you see . . . well, we were sort of wondering if, I mean, well, if your sister, you know, uh—

WIFE: What Noah Webster here is trying to say is, well . . . (takes a deep breath and says the following with great rapidity) We were wondering if his mother could come and live with you until one of you kicks the bucket. I mean, it’s a big house and, well, with Muddy being a confirmed bachelor and all, there shouldn’t be any . . . I mean, you’re the only person she gets along with, and she has nothing against Muddy, so—

HUSBAND: So what do you say?

WIFE: (snaps) Don’t rush her, honeyballs.

HUSBAND: Sorry, angeltits.

WIFE: (to Mother) So what do you say?

(Cut to Closeup Mother)

MOTHER: (pause, slowly) Well, I’ll have to ask Muddy first, of course. And I’ll have to set up a room for her to stay in. Maybe my late husband’s study—

ALL: May he rest in peace.

MOTHER: I’ll talk to Muddy but . . . I guess it’s all right.

HUSBAND: Oh, thank you! Thank you! (etc.)

WIFE: You don’t know what a lifesaver you’ve been. Your sister’s really a bitch. (to Husband) Come on, Kootchiepoo. We’ve kept the babysitter too long already.

(Husband and Wife rise)

HUSBAND: Okay, Snookums. (to Mother) Thanks again, Mrs. Pusarini. Oh, by the way! (His Wife pulls at his arm, to her:) Just a minute, honey. (to Mother) You know, you should tell Muddy to get out of the house once in awhile. He’s beginning to look more and more like your dead husband—

ALL: May he rest in peace.

HUSBAND: Tell him to check out the Moonshine Ballroom. The place is full of hot twats.

MOTHER (carefully): Moonshine Ballroom . . . hot twats. Yes. (smiles) I’ll tell him when he gets home.

WIFE: Speaking of getting home—

HUSBAND: All right, all right!

HUSBAND & WIFE: Goodbye, Mrs. Pusarini. Thanks for everything! Thanks so much, etc.

(Hold on MCU of Mother and pan with her as she starts to put away dishes. Sound of door opening and closing)

MOTHER: What a nice couple! Why can’t Muddy marry a nice girl like a-dat?

MUDDY: Ma, I’m home!

(Pan with Mother as she puts down dishes and goes to hug her son. Medium Shot of both)

MOTHER: Oh, Muddy! I’m so glad you home. How was you day?

MUDDY: Fine, fine. Look, Ma, I’m really tired. I just wanna sit down with a glass of milk.

(Mother shoots him a surprised look)

MUDDY: And watch Leave it to Beaver.

(Camera follows Muddy to the kitchen)

MOTHER: Muddy, look . . . there’s something I godda tell you.

MUDDY: Yeah, Ma. What is it?

MOTHER: Well, Flo and Eddie were over before.

MUDDY: Oh, that’s nice. Did you give them my regards?

(Cut to nervous Mother, pacing up and down)

MOTHER: Of course, Muddy. Uh, you see, I don’t wanna go intada whole thing, but Flo, she’s-a very unhappy. It’s-a my sister! She’s-a driving da two of them both nuts! So dey ask me if Katatonia could live with us for awhile. I mean, she wouldn’t be no trouble, and we got my husband’s empty room—

MUDDY & MOTHER: May he rest in peace—

MOTHER: And she’s really not a bad woman. Really. Not that bad at all. She’s—

(Cut to Muddy in the kitchen)

MUDDY: Okay, okay! Ma, I’m convinced!

(Mother runs in to hug Muddy)

MOTHER: Oh, Muddy! I knew you’d unnerstand. You got a good heart! (sotto voce) The rest of you ain’t so good, but—

MUDDY: Ma, when’s she moving in?

MOTHER: Oh, don’t you worry about dat. I’ll have to talk to her first.

MUDDY: Well, that’s fine, Ma. Anytime she’s ready is okay with me, all right? Hey, could you put on channel 2?

MOTHER: Uh, Muddy, maybe you shouldn’t watch television tonight.

MUDDY: Why not? (with disgust) The McCarthy hearings aren’t on again, are they?

MOTHER: No, no. What I mean is, why don’t you go out tonight, have some fun?

MUDDY: Aw, Ma, we been through dat hundreds of times.

MOTHER: Muddy, Muddy, listen. (struggling) Why don’t you check out the (elongate) Mooonshiiine Baallroooom. I hear it has a lot of (pronounced carefully) hot twats.

(Muddy smiles, walks over to the table and sits)

MUDDY: Ma, who told you that?

MOTHER: Eddie.

MUDDY: (shakes his head) Good ol’ Eddie.

(Mother sits at the table and clasps her hands)

MOTHER: (concerned) Well, he’s right, Muddy. You should start meeting some nice girls!

(Head on close-up of pained Muddy)

MUDDY: MA! Why do you torture me like this? You know I’ve tried and tried for 36 years to find a girl, but no one wants me.

MOTHER: You can still try!

MUDDY: (rising) I do! Just today, I called a girl from high school and asked her if she wanted to see a movie. And she said, Yeah, she’d love to.

MOTHER: She said yes? Terrific!

MUDDY: Yeah. Until she realized I wanted to come with her. Then she said she’d love to, but she was planning to stay home and wash her hair. So I asked her about next weekend, and she said she wasn’t sure her hair would be dry by then.

MOTHER: Who knows? Maybe she really—

MUDDY: Wait, Ma, there’s more. So I ask her about the weekend after that. And you know what she told me? She told me she was gonna become a nun!

MOTHER: (weakly) Perhaps she really wants to devote her life—

MUDDY: Ma, I asked her what she was doing the week after that. She told me she had a date with the Pope.

MOTHER: All right. Maybe she’s not interested. But she’s not the only girl in the world—

MUDDY: AW MA!!! Take a look at me! Don’t you see? Why would anyone be interested in me? Look at me, Ma! I’m short, fat, stupid, crude, boring, and ugly!

MOTHER: You are not ugly!

MUDDY: I am too, ugly!

MOTHER: You are not ugly! You’re a little gross at dinnertime, but you’re not ugly!

MUDDY: I’m telling you, I am ugly! I’m repulsive! I’m hideous! I’m so ugly, every time I look at my reflection in a pond, all the fish commit suicide. I’m so ugly, when I was born, the doctor tore up my birth certificate and sued my father for negligence. I’m so ugly, when you brought me home from the hospital, Uncle Louie handed out blindfolds. I’m so ugly, when I went to school, they hadda build a new bathroom because they couldn’t tell what I was. Let’s face it, Ma, I’m ugly, UGLY, UGLY!!!

MOTHER: (pause) All right, so you’re a little ugly. But I’ll bet there’s some horribly misshapen girl just waiting for a guy like you to sweep her off her klutzy feet, hah?

MUDDY: (long pause) You never give up, do you, Ma? (smiles) All right, you win. Let me just take a quick shave and change, and I’ll stop by the Moonshine Ballroom for a little while.

(Pan with Muddy as he walks to his bedroom. He stops)

MUDDY: Should I wear my blue suit?

MOTHER: No, wear da green tweed. It goes better with your face.

MUDDY: Thanks, Ma.

MOTHER: Have a nice time!

SCENE III

(Fade in to Moonshine Ballroom.

Couples are dressed up and dancing. Muddy and other loners are straggled against a back wall. Waltz or easy jazz music plays in the background. Slow Pan on the situation.

Hold on a Medium Close-Up of Muddy and Ralph)

RALPH: Not a bad crowd tonight, eh, Muddy?

MUDDY: No, no.

(Ralph and Muddy watch and wait in silence)

RALPH: Hey, Muddy. There’s a couple-a nice pieces over there if you wannem. Let us present ourselves to these fair damsels.

MUDDY: (panics) No! No—not yet. I’ve . . . I’ve gotta work on my charm.

RALPH: I suggest you work on your warts first.

(Ralphs starts to move away but is held by Muddy)

MUDDY: Ralph, wait a minute. Maybe you can explain me something. You’re Catholic, right?

RALPH: Please, I got enough vices.

MUDDY: No, listen. We were taught there’s one God up there (points at the ceiling). He made Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Rudolph Valentino, right?

RALPH: Yeah?

MUDDY: If he could do that, why did me make me look like this?

RALPH: Well, Muddy, He had to practice on someone.

(Ralph moves away. Zoom out and Pan with Muddy as he moves to follow Ralph. Stop and hold on Muddy, Ralph, and two very uninterested young ladies)

RALPH: So, babe. Wanna cut a rug with a dashing, swinging, hip kinda guy?

LADY #1: Sure. (rises) But I’ll settle for you.

(Ralph and the Lady move off to dance. Muddy approaches Lady #2 from behind)

MUDDY: Uh, excuse me. I was kinda wondering, I mean, I was thinking that maybe you’d please have the next dance with me.

(Lady #2 turns around slowly to see her would-be suitor. Pointing in horror at Muddy’s face, she screams and runs away.

Pan with her and catch various crowd reactions. Cut back to Muddy)

MUDDY: I guess not.

(Muddy starts walking back to the wall when a Creep approaches him)

CREEP: Hey, Mac, I got a proposition for you.

MUDDY: Oh, no. I’m sorry. I’m not into that homosapien thing.

CREEP: No, listen. I was put up to this blind date tonight by an EX-friend of mine. Anyway, she’s a real dog.

MUDDY: How ugly?

CREEP: If you put a frame around her, you could sell her as a Picasso. I mean, ugly as sin. So I figured she’d be perfect for you.

MUDDY: Yeah, so?

CREEP: So, look. I’ll give you five bucks if you take her off my hands.

MUDDY: What are you—

CREEP: You don’t have to do anything. Just take her home, that’s all. Ten bucks. What do you say?

MUDDY: You can’t do that! It’s not right. It’s-it’s . . . immoral~!

CREEP: All right, suit yourself. Forget I mentioned it.

(The Creep moves off. Muddy shakes his head)

MUDDY: Nope. It’s not right. Not right at all. (pause. He starts to nod) You blew it again, eh, Muddy?

(Muddy walks through the crowd. He sees the Creep talking with Ralph, who has long since been ditched by the first lady.)

CREEP: So, whaddya say? Just take her home. That’s all ya gotta do. Easiest five bucks you ever made.

(Muddy moves into frame and nudges Ralph) He offered me ten.

CREEP: Thanks. (to Ralph) All right, ten. Is it a deal?

RALPH: (pauses, thinks) Sure, why not?

CREEP: Great!

RALPH: I could really use fifteen dollars.

CREEP: I said ten!

RALPH: (exaggerated) Oh, I’m sorry! I must have misheard you. I —

CREEP: All right, all right! Here! Fifteen dollars.

(The Creep shells out the money)

RALPH: Aw, cheer up. People with no scruples gotta eat, too. (takes money) Thank you very much, monsieur. Now, point me to Godzilla.

(Ralph and the Creep move to an ugly girl sitting alone at a table. Muddy watches from behind as music and ambient drown out conversation. The men finish telling her what’s what and then stand motionless for a second or two.

The girl, IRMA, rises slowly, looks at Ralph and the Creep, then takes a heaping bowl of pasta al dente marinara and dumps it on both of their heads.

Ralph and the Creep quietly move away and pass Muddy as they argue)

CREEP: Gimme back my fifteen bucks!

RALPH: Here’s a quarter. Isn’t that what a horror show normally goes for?

CREEP: You filthy crook!

(Ralph and the Creep trail off, dripping Irma’s dinner.

Muddy looks over at the lonely girl. Cut to close-up of seated Irma. She wears a heavy jacket and is almost in tears.

Irma, bored and sad, dunks a straw into her champagne glass and blows bubbles.

Muddy straightens himself up, takes a deep breath, and makes his way to Irma’s table. She looks up slowly)

MUDDY: Hello, uh, may I please have this dance?

(Long shot from behind. Irma slowly rises and takes Muddy’s hand. Fade out)

SCENE IV

(Fade in on Katatonia’s Living Room. The room is quite a bit like Muddy’s mother’s. The two women sit facing each other on the yellowing couch. There is an uncomfortable silence)

MOTHER: (with false cheer) So-a Katatonia, are da headaches getting any better?

KATATONIA: No, but who’s complaining? I’m a-no complaining. If I was gonna complain, I’d complain about my arthritis.

MOTHER: You having the attacks again?

KATATONIA: It creeps up on you in your old age. Of course, it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the varicose veins.

MOTHER: But Kate, I got vericose veins and dey no bother me.

KATATONIA: Well, they wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the arthritis. To say nothing of this hacking cough.

MOTHER: (leaning over) What hacking cough?

(Katatonia forces out an unconvincing cough)

MOTHER: Oh, dats-a bad! Have you called the priest yet?

KATATONIA: Very funny. Isn’t it wonderful to have a family? My sister insults me, my daughter-in-law throws milk at me. Why don’t you bring Muddy in so he can stick bamboo under my fingernails. (sniffle) Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.

(Katatonia takes out a handkerchief and wipes away semi-fake tears. Long pause)

MOTHER: (quietly) So it’s settled then, ha? You’ll come and live with us?

KATATONIA: (last flash of resistance) SHE put you up to this, I know! The milk maiden!

MOTHER: Oh, Katatonia, we been all troo dis. Its-a no right for a momma to live with a young couple. They need their privates intact. You just get inna da way.

KATATONIA: (pause, sighs) Oh, Helen. I’m a sick, sad, selfish, crazy, lonely old woman.

MOTHER: You’re not old.

KATATONIA: I’m old.

MOTHER: No, you’re not old!

KATATONIA: Yes, I am old! I’m so old, my legs look like a subway map. I’m so old, my only excitement in life is watching my hemorrhoids grow. I’m so old, I make the Grand Canyon feel inadequate. I’m so old, I have to have my teeth cleaned every week—by mail! Face it, Helen. I’M OLD!!!

MOTHER: (pause) All right, you’re a little old. Which is even more reason to leave-a da poor children in peace.

KATATONIA: (calmly) Muddy don’t mind?

MOTHER: No, Muddy’s a good boy.

KATATONIA: He don’t throw milk, does he?

MOTHER: (smiles) No, he don’t trow da milk. He’s a little nauseating when he eats jello, but udder than dat—

KATATONIA: (calculated) You love Muddy a lot, don’t you?

MOTHER: Oh, yes! Muddy’s-a my whole life!

KATATONIA: Uh huh. Where’s Muddy tonight?

MOTHER: Oh, he got all dressed up. He’s over at the Moonshine Ballroom. I hope he meet a nice-a girl.

KATATONIA: Tell me something, Helen. Let’s say Muddy does meet someone.

MOTHER: Yeah?

KATATONIA: And the two of them fall in love, and they wanna get married.

MOTHER: (joyfully) Yeah!

KATATONIA: What happens to you, eh?

MOTHER: Whaddya mean?

KATATONIA: (deliberately) I mean, what’s gonna happen then?

MOTHER: I don’t—

KATATONIA: I’ll tell you what’s gonna happen then. One day, your little Muddy’s gonna come home, and he’s gonna say, “Ma, I just met the greatest girl in the world, and I want you to meet her.”

MOTHER: Wonderful!

KATATONIA: Oh, sure! Until a few weeks go by, and it’s suddenly, “Sis Boom Bah, thank you, Ma.” And you’re left out in the cold feeding the dirty pigeons.

MOTHER: (alarmed) What?

KATATONIA: Just you wait! First it starts slowly. (mimics) “Oh, Ma, I’m gonna be out late again tonight.” “Oh, Ma, where’s my best shirt?” “Oh, Ma, where did poppa keep those long rubber things?” And then it gets serious!

MOTHER: (shock and fear) Serious . . .

KATATONIA: Yes! Then it’s “Stay out of my life, Ma!” “Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in the garage, Ma!”

MOTHER: (aghast) The garage!

KATATONIA: I talk from experience. Wait and see. Girl moves in, mother moves out. It’s the old in-out.

(Hold on Mother. “Trouble” music swells as she shakes her head sadly.

Quick Fade Out and Fade In to the Moonshine Ballroom)

SCENE V

(Music Plays. Muddy and Irma dance)

IRMA: Gee, you’re an awful dancer.

MUDDY: (nervous smile) Aw, you’re not so good yourself.

IRMA (pause) Aren’t you ashamed to be seen with me?

MUDDY: No, I’m not. (proudly) And I’ll bet I’m one of the few men who can say that.

IRMA: (touched) Thank you.

(Muddy dips Irma. Muddy drops Irma. With great effort, he pulls her up, and they continue stumbling the light fantastic)

IRMA: (hesitant) How . . . how old are you?

MUDDY: Thirty-six. How old are you?

IRMA: (sadly) Twenty-nine. (quickly) Maybe this isn’t right. We’re years apart, I—

MUDDY: Aw, that’s okay! You look a lot older than you are.

(Muddy and Irma go into a rather desperate waltz. The fact that the band is playing a polka does not bother them in the least)

IRMA: I hope you’re not doing this because you feel sorry for me.

MUDDY: Are you kidding? You got so much going for you! I mean, aside from being awkward, ugly, and having no personality to speak of, you’re a real find! I’m surprised some guy hasn’t snatched you up by now.

IRMA: You know, I haven’t had a boyfriend since I was in college.

MUDDY: Oh yeah? What happened?

IRMA: It was a whirlwind romance that ended with him joining a monastery.

MUDDY: Oh.

(They begin a slow dance)

IRMA: I guess he wanted to forget me.

MUDDY: Oh, I don’t think anybody could forget a face like yours.

IRMA: Thanks. What about you?

MUDDY: What about me. I’m the fella all the other fellas have to get dates for. And when the girl finally sees me, she comes down with the plague, or Russia invades her homeland, or her mother dies or something like that.

IRMA: (consoling) Well, if it’ll make you feel any better, my mother died last month.

MUDDY: Aw, that’s nice.

IRMA: (pause) I like you, Muddy.

MUDDY: I like you too, Irma. (pause) You know, you’re not such a dog as you think you are.

IRMA: Yeah. And I guess it doesn’t make much difference if you look like a gorilla.

(Muddy stops dancing and wipes his eyes with a handkerchief)

MUDDY: Gee, you say the sweetest things.

(Muddy blows his nose loudly, then grabs Irma’s arm)

MUDDY: Come, I’ll take you to my house for awhile, and then I’ll walk you to the bus stop.

IRMA: Okay, sure!

(The couple collect their things. Cut to the Living Room in Muddy’s house)

SCENE VI

(Sound of a key opening the door. A light goes on to reveal a Medium Long Shot of the Living Room. Pan to the couch as Muddy and Irma enter the frame)

MUDDY: (offscreen at first) So, this is where I live with my mother. Here, sit down, sit down.

(Irma sits on the couch)

MUDDY: It’s kinda big for us since poppa died, but—oh, why don’t you take off your jacket?

(Irma takes her jacket off, only to reveal another jacket underneath)

MUDDY: (uncomfortably) Would you like something to drink?

IRMA: Oh, no. I’m fine, thank you. You’re really so nice.

(Muddy sits next to her on the couch)

MUDDY: Well, I figure, if you can’t be good looking, you better be nice.

IRMA: (innocently) Oh, then you could be a saint!

MUDDY: (laughs) Until tonight, I was a pretty good candidate.

(Muddy moves even closer to Irma. He cautiously attempts to kiss her, and she pushes him away with violent fear and repulsion)

MUDDY: (mutters) I’ve heard of playing hard to get, but—

IRMA: (flustered) I’m sorry! I guess . . . I guess I just don’t know how to react when a man wants to kiss me.

MUDDY: Ain’t that the truth. (waves his hand) Aw, cut the pretending! You don’t have to spare my feelings. I know I’m hideously repulsive!

IRMA: Yes, but looks aren’t everything! You’re kind, you’re humble, you make me laugh, and best of all, you don’t gag at the sight o fme. So . . . so . . . let’s try that over again.

MUDDY: Sure?

(Irma nods slowly)

MUDDY: (nervously) All right.

(Muddy and Irma begins kissing when the sound of the front door opening is heard. Cut to close-up as Mother enters)

MOTHER: Muddy, are you-a home already? Hello—(sees the pair) Oh! And I see you brought a nice tram—uh, girl home wid you.

(Cut to flustered couple on the couch. Pan with Muddy as he rises and moves to Mother)

MUDDY: Ma, I’ve just met the greatest girl in the world, and I want you to meet her. This is Irma. She’s a college graduate!

(Squirming Irma starts to rise)

IRMA: How do you do?

MOTHER: Sit, sit. Don’t trouble yourself on-a my account. So tell me, what did you learn in college?

IRMA: Well, I uh . . . a lot of things, really. I couldn’t begin to, well, uh . . .

MOTHER: She’s very articulate, Muddy.

MUDDY: Ma?

MOTHER: (to Irma) Would you like something: cake, coffee? Pitcher of milk, maybe?

IRMA: Uh, no, no thank you very much.

(Long uncomfortable pause. Irma coughs. Muddy picks something out of his nose)

MOTHER: (cheerfully) So, Irma. Ever been pregnant?

MUDDY: MA!!! (to Irma) Excuse me. (to Mother) Ma, can I talk to you for a minute?

(Muddy grabs Mother’s arm and pulls her into the kitchen)

MOTHER: Sure, Muddy. What’s-a da madda?

MUDDY: I think we should have a little mother-and-son talk. (calls to Irma) Get your coat on, and I’ll walk you to the bus stop.

MOTHER: What’s the matter, Muddy?

MUDDY: That’s what I was gonna ask you! What’s gotten into you? You been eating prunes again?

MOTHER: I don’t like her, Muddy. She’s a-no your type.

MUDDY: She is so! Awkward, dumb, and ugly. She’s the Siamese twin I never had!

MOTHER: But Mud—

MUDDY: Not to mention, she doesn’t fine me repulsive.

MOTHER: Ah, see? She’s blind, too!

MUDDY: Ma, why are you driving me crazy like this?!

(Zoom In on Mother. Sweet violin music swells.

Mother circles Muddy)

MOTHER: Muddy, ever since you was old enough, I been trying to get you to meet nice girls. I even ask all-a my friends, I say, “Hey, you know any nice, not too choosy girls for my son?” You know, my only dream since my husband died—

MOTHER & MUDDY: May he rest in peace—

MOTHER: —is that you should meet a girl and settle down. But ever since Katatonia agreed to come live with us, I been a-thinking: if you get married, what’s a-gonna happen to me? Where will I go? What can I do?

MUDDY: (almost in tears) Ma! I would never kick you out!

MOTHER: (in a lotta tears) No . . . ?

MUDDY: Of course not! What’s the point? You’ll be dead in a couple of years anyway.

(Mother slaps her head)

MOTHER: Dat’s a-right! Oh, Muddy, I feel so much better now! (hugs Muddy) I’m-a so sorry I make you dis much trouble.

MUDDY: (smile) Aw, that’s okay, Ma. That’s what mothers are for.

(Muddy and Mother walk back to the Living Room)

MOTHER: (quietly) She is a nice girl.

MUDDY: Yes, Ma. And you know what? I’m gonna call her up and take her out to the movies tomorrow. And maybe even the day after that! And, and the day after that, even! And maybe—

(Mother pats Muddy’s shoulder)

MOTHER: I get da point, Muddy.

MUDDY: (grins sheepishly) Yeah. (to Irma) Come, I don’t want you to miss your bus.

(A relieved Irma gathers her things and moves to Muddy)

IRMA: Well, it was nice meeting you, Mrs. Pusarini.

MOTHER: It was-a nice meeting you, Miss . . . Miss?

IRMA: Fenstermeyer.

MOTHER: I would’ve guessed it was something like-a dat.

(Muddy opens the front door)

MUDDY: I’ll be home in about an hour, Ma.

(Mother moves close to Muddy)

MOTHER: Have a nice time. (whispers in his ear) Jewish?

MUDDY: (uncomfortable) Ma—

MOTHER: Jewish. (pause) And ugly. The first kosher pig.

MUDDY: Ma!

MOTHER: If your father were alive today, he’d drop dead!

(Changing the subject, Muddy signals to Irma) We’ll be back soon.

MOTHER: Don’t take too long, Muddy. Remember, you godda be up for work early tomorrow. (loudly overdone to Irma) We ain’t a-rich, you know. As a maddafact, we got no money at all—

(Muddy scuttles Irma out the door, gives Mother an exasperated glare and leaves)

MUDDY: Goodnight, Ma!

MOTHER: Goodnight. (pause) May Christ be with you.

(Door slams. Dissolve into same Restaurant-Bar as Scene I)

SCENE VII

(Setting: Grungy, Norton, and Ralph sit around a table and continue their intellectual discussion)

NORTON: (to Grungy) So, what do you feel like doing tonight?

GRUNGY: I dunno. What do you feel like doing tonight?

NORTON: I dunno. What do you wanna do tonight?

GRUNGY: I dunno. (to Ralph) Hey Ralph, what do you wanna do tonight?

RALPH: Hmm. (pause) Uhhh . . . (pause) I dunno, what do you wanna do tonight?

NORTON: I dunno. What do—hey, look! It’s Muddy!

ALL: Hi Muddy! How are ya! Hey, Mud! etc.

MUDDY: (smiles) Hiya, fellas!

RALPH: Have a seat, Pal.

MUDDY: No, thanks. (confidently) Not tonight.

NORTON: What do you mean?

MUDDY: Well, I’m gonna make this phone call, see? And when I—

RALPH: (interrupting) Oh, by the way, Muddy. Who was that rhinoceros I saw you with last night?

MUDDY: Huh?

NORTON: Boy, you must have picked her up in a doggie bag.

GRUNGY: A pooper scooper is more like it!

MUDDY: Irma’s a very nice girl!

RALPH: Are you kidding? If looks could kill, they would have had to bury all the dancers.

MUDDY: Guys—

GRUNGY: No offense, Mud, but she’s the face that launched the Titanic.

MUDDY: (still defensive but shaken) Come on now, lay off.

GRUNGY: Face it, Muddy. She’s even uglier than you are.

MUDDY: (pause) That bad, huh?

NORTON: Worse.

RALPH: (to Norton) Hey, wait a minute. How do you know? You weren’t even there!

NORTON: Well, uh, ahem . . . I can imagine.

GRUNGY: (ignoring) Forget it Muddy. You can do better.

RALPH: Sure. Visit any zoo!

(Ralph is soundly thumped by Grungy. Unhappy Muddy hunches over and sits)

MUDDY: (pause) Well, maybe you’re right.

(Ralph pats Muddy on the back)

RALPH: Of course, we’re right! Stick with us, Muddy. We’ll have loads o’ fun!

(All voice general, spirited agreement for a few seconds. A long silence ensues)

GRUNGY: Boy, that Arnold Stang. He sure can act! He’s gonna win an Oscar someday.

NORTON: Naah. Tab Hunter is ten times better than he is!

GRUNGY: Get outta here!

RALPH: (long pause) So . . . wanna go bowling?

NORTON: We went bowling last week. I don’t wanna go again.

GRUNGY: Of course not. If I bowled a 45 last time, I wouldn’t wanna go again, either.

NORTON: (quietly) I told you, I had this . . . problem.

GRUNGY: (chuckles) Yeah, you got a lot of problems!

NORTON: (steaming) I mean the problem walking—

GRUNGY: Oh! And I thought the reason you never sat down was because you didn’t want to strain your mental fac-yool-tees.

RALPH: You got hemorrhoids of the brain, Grunge, you know that?

GRUNGY: Gee, you’re real witty, Ralph. I’ll have to write that one down.

(Another silence. Norton turns to Muddy with fake cheer)

NORTON: So, Muddy. What do you feel like doing tonight?

MUDDY: You know what I feel like doing? I’ll tell you what I feel like doing. I feel like giving that girl a call and taking her to a movie!

ALL: Aw, not that again! Come on, etc.

MUDDY: Say what you want, but I like her! All right, so she may look like something that grew on a piece of bread, but last night, for the first time in my life, I was happy! (proudly) You guys. What do you do? You sit around and talk. You’re wasting away, getting fat, lazy, and stupid!

NORTON: Nobody’s perfect.

MUDDY: (near tears) Maybe not. But I’ve got a shot at something that’s close enough for me.

(Music swells)

MUDDY: And maybe, just maybe, if I’m happy tonight, and I’m happy tomorrow night, and if I’m happy the night after that, I just may string along enough nights to make me a happy man.

(Long pause)

RALPH: Good luck, Muddy.

(A pause as Muddy stands and surveys the group)

MUDDY: So long, guys.

(Hold Medium Long Shot from behind on Muddy as he walks out of the Restaurant-Bar. Cut to Medium Shot of Ralph, Norton, and Grungy in sad disbelief)

NORTON: So what do you wanna do tonight?

ALL: I dunno etc.

(Cut to a happy Muddy in a public telephone booth. He speaks with nervous excitement as the music drowns out his words.)

FADE TO BLACK

Finis.

 

*****************************

NOTES & BACKSTORY:

I’m not sure if this was something I drummed up for a writing class when I was in my last undergraduate year at NYU, or if it was just fun flight o’ fancy for my own amusement. I’m pretty sure I had recently watched either the TV drama or subsequent movie of the Paddy Chayefsky classic Marty and felt compelled to twist it just a little bit. My spoof follows that story’s contours pretty closely while throwing in jokes, insults, and some raunchy single-entendres (which have aged the least well in the script, IMHOP).

I do know I had proper-script-format syndrome and was obviously caught between telling a story and thinking it was a shooting script I’d actually direct—hence all the notations of Close Ups, Medium Shots, Pans etc.,—that I wouldn’t put in if writing the piece in 2019. I also relied on wayyyy too many adverbs describing how the characters would deliver their lines—quietly, sheepishly, cheerfully: arggh!!—but 35 years down the line, I still got some laughs re-reading this and even a little hurty lump in my throat over Muddy’s final declaration to his pals. If I ever become famous (ha!), I’d love to dig this up for actors to read for a night at some kind of charity benefit. I’ll bet it plays. Playfully.

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RADIO PLAY: Short – Real to Reel

REAL TO REEL

© 1983 David Lefkowitz

 

REAL TO REEL

CHARACTERS:

LaWanda Kellog: TV anchorwoman

Joe: her cameraman

Commissioner Wallace: fire commissioner

Morris: onlooker

Alice Winter: distraught mother

TIME: Present

PLACE: Queens

 

SOUND: Muted sirens wail. Crackling smoke and gushing water. Newscaster’s voice becomes audible.

KELLOG: All right, is the tape rolling?

SOUND: Click of videotape cassette deck.

KELLOG: Is it rolling? (cough) I can’t hear what they’re — (shouts) Hey! You wanna keep it down please, huh? Joe, am I on yet?

JOE: (simultaneously) Three, two, one, cue.

KELLOG: Thank you, Roger. LaWanda Kellog here for Local News at Nine, and I’m standing in the middle of East 85th Street in Queens where a five-alarm fire has been blazing out of control since 7:30 this evening. So far, only one home has sustained major damage; however, the entire block has been evacuated—most of the people here just standing on the street, watching and waiting and hoping their dreams don’t go up in ashes. Ah! Commissioner Wallace? Fire Commissioner Joseph Wallace is with me now. What can you tell us about the situation?

COMMISSIONER: What? I’m busy here. Who are you?

KELLOG: LaWanda Kellog, News at Nine. What is the news here, sir?

COMMISSIONER: There’s a fire.

KELLOG: Can you be more specific?

COMMISSIONER: Well, you got your flames. Then you got your smoke. It’s hot. Fire got a lotta heat. Some damage—

KELLOG: And how would you assess the situation at hand?

COMMISSIONER: Uh . . . bad.

KELLOG: Thank you, Commissioner. And good luck. All right, that’s all we have for you at this point. We’ll be back as soon as there are any further developments. This is LaWanda Kellog. Back to you, Roger.

SOUND: Tape recorder clicks off.

JOE: Okay, you’re off.

KELLOG: (violent, phlegmy cough) Christ. Was my eye-makeup running? I can’t believe they sent me out on this—wait a sec. I think I see someone who — Excuse me! Pardon me, sir, do you live here?

MORRIS: What, what are you, from the news or something?

SOUND: Tape recorder clicks on.

JOE: Rolling.

KELLOG: News at Nine, Channel 4.

MORRIS: No, I watch Channel 8.

KELLOG: Do you live on this block, sir?

MORRIS: I did yesterday, but tomorrow, who knows? Are we on TV? Can I say hello to my brother?

KELLOG: This is not live.

MORRIS: He’s in the hospital —

KELLOG: I’m sorry to hear—

MORRIS: It’s this thing with his prostate, I—

KELLOG: Sir, when did you first discover the fire?

MORRIS: Well, I was sleeping when I heard all these sirens go off. Then I heard a bunch of voices outside, and after that, I started smelling smoke. I ran outside, and that’s when I heard this woman screaming, “Fire! Fire!”

KELLOG: “Fire! Fire!”?

MORRIS: Not very original, but it’s short and it says it.

KELLOG: This woman. Did she live in the house over here that’s burning down in front of our eyes?

MORRIS: Yeah, she seemed upset. I think her kid’s still in the bedroom.

KELLOG: Terrific! Thank you, sir.

MORRIS: Ain’t I gonna be on television>

SOUND: Tape recorder clicks off.

KELLOG: (impatiently) No, I’m afraid we—Joe, let’s move on this. We got a hysterical mother somewhere around here.

MORRIS: But I saw the whole thing!

JOE: I think I see her, Wannie.

SOUND: Footsteps of LaWanda and Joe.

MORRIS: (calling after them) They had me on Channel Ten a half-hour ago. For five whole minutes!

KELLOG: (on the run) You with me, Joe?

JOE: Yeah.

KELLOG: Her name is Alice Winter. She’s divorced with one child. She’s got a `74 Chevy that breaks down once a month, and she’s overdrawn on her bank account.

JOE: She cute?

KELLOG: Cute nothing; I need photogenic.

SOUND: A woman sobbing loudly and crying, “My baby!” etc.

KELLOG: Ms. Winter? Joe, gimme a live feed. We’ve got our victim. Ms. Winter, we’re from News at Nine, and we want to bring your tragic story to millions of people watching at home, all right? Joe, countdown, come on!

SOUND: Tape recorder clicks on.

JOE: Five . . . four . . .

KELLOG: How’s my hair?

JOE: Gorgeous . . . two . . . one . . . Cue!

KELLOG: Thanks, Roger. I’m back again on 85th Street at the scene of this terrible fire, and I’m standing with Alice Winter—the woman whose lovely home is rapidly becoming a pile of rubble. Ms. Winter, are you sad because your house is on fire?

ALICE: (snuffles) What?

KELLOG: Is there any truth to the rumor that the blaze was started by your ex-husband in a jealous rage because you were having relations with several different men right after your divorce?

ALICE: (shocked) I don’t—who are you?—Where’s my baby?

KELLOG: Is it true that your three-year-old daughter is trapped in the upstairs bedroom with little or no chance of being rescued?

ALICE: Sally! Where’s my Sally!

KELLOG: What happens now for you, Alice? Where do you go from here, and is suicide really the answer?

ALICE: LEAVE ME ALONE!

MORRIS: (from afar) Right on, lady! Hey, this show stinks! Watch Channel 10!

KELLOG: Well, that’s about all we have right now, so I’m gonna bring it back to the studio. And, of course, we’ll be right here in case any—oh, Commissioner Wallace! Hello! Any new developments?

COMMISSIONER: (pause, subdued) Yeah. We sent someone up for the kid.

KELLOG: Uh huh, Sally Winter. Uh huh.

COMMISSIONER: Yeah, right, well . . . they broke through the bedroom and, uh, she was already unconscious when they brought her down the ladder . . .

KELLOG: Ladies and gentleman! News at Nine has learned exclusively that Sally Winter has been brought down the ladder, out of the house. She is apparently unconscious, but—

COMMISSIONER: No! Uh, it’s more than that. (sighs) I’m afraid we lost her.

MORRIS: (close by) Lost her? In the crowd? She’ll get stepped on!

COMMISSIONER: That’s not what I mean! (pause) The girl’s dead.

KELLOG: (excitedly) That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. You heard the Commissioner himself recount the terrible fate of little Sally Winter. What can one say in the face of such overwhelming—

ALICE: Sally? Did you hear something about my baby?

KELLOG: Excuse me. (continues) — overwhelming tragic circumstances. No amount of insurance money could recover a loss so great—

ALICE: What about my Sally? What have you heard?

KELLOG: You are insured, aren’t you, Ms. Winter?

ALICE: What about my baby?!

KELLOG: We’ll have more on the causes and effects of this catastrophic fire, as well as a closer look at the horrible death of three-year-old Sally Winter-

ALICE: (screams in anguish and babbles hysterically about her dead child) Sally!! etc.

KELLOG: —on our nightly news program at eleven. For now, this is—excuse me, could you either keep it down or move away from the mic? Thank you! This is LaWanda Kellog signing off for News at Nine. Roger?

SOUND: Tape machine clicks off.

JOE: That’s it.

KELLOG: What do you think, Joe? Emmy material?

JOE: The dead kid clinches it.

KELLOG: Let’s just get one more piece on tape and clear out, okay?

JOE: Fine with me. You got that woman’s phone number?

KELLOG: Get your mind out of the gutter, and wait for the signal. Uh, Ms. Winter? Sorry I was so rude before, but we were live on the air. You wouldn’t mind if I were to tape a couple more questions before I let you go?

(Alice sobs without reply)

KELLOG: You’re a great sport, thanks a lot! Okay, Joe!

SOUND: Tape recorder clicks on.

JOE: Rolling.

KELLOG: Ms. Winter. I know it’s hard, but could you tell us how you feel now that your only child is dead because of your negligence?

ALICE: AUUUUGGGGHHHHH!!!

KELLOG: Uh huh, uh huh. I think we can all relate to that. If you had another child, would you tell her not to play with matches? Uh huh. Would you say your life is over at this point? Uh huh . . . uh huh . . . uh huh . . .

Fade out as LaWanda Kellog continues to probe Ms. Winter for answers to the important questions that make the news.

THE END

***********

NOTES & BACKSTORY:

(2019) This bit of satirical fun was penned in 1983 for a radio production course I was taking at NYU. These one-act radio plays were then recorded and aired as radio dramas on the AM band of WNYU. Because I worked on the casting, directing, and audio/effects of the piece, I remember Real to Real better than quite a lot of my other work.

I particularly love one joke and, nearly 40 years later, can still can hear the performer’s voice doing the punchline: “Lost her? In the crowd? She’ll get stepped on!” Love that.

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